Bench scraper ($2 to $10)
As the name indicates, this blade-looking tool can be used to sweep away messes on your counter — flour you have dusted for pizza dough or, uh, the couscous that spilled everywhere. It is also handy for scooping up ingredients you have chopped on a cutting board and need to move somewhere else. Mine gets a good workout cutting dough for bagels or scones (this is why my husband has nicknamed it the “dough guillotine”).
Cake tester ($2 to $5)
If you bake at all, a cake tester is worth having around. You use it to test for doneness of cakes (obviously), but also brownies, blondies and muffins. Toothpicks are commonly used the same way, but I hated going through so many and also never remembering where I stashed the box or if I even had them in the house when I needed them. Moreover, thin metal testers can help you determine whether your vegetables and even meat or fish are cooked through.
Splatter screen ($10 to $20)
A splatter screen can protect your kitchen and yourself from splatters. (These are well-named gadgets, aren’t they?) It especially comes in handy for pan-frying food such as chicken cutlets, as well as tomato sauce, which is prone to vigorous, explosive bubbling. When set over a bowl, you can use it in lieu of a strainer, such as when you have made broth and need to remove the solids. Or use it to smooth out vegetable purées and even spuds for mashed potatoes.
Spoon rest ($8 to $20)
For years, I would stick my dirty, in-use spoons and spatulas on wadded-up paper towels, plates, the counter, the stove top or, precariously, the edge of the pot. Then we were passed along a beautiful ceramic spoon rest from Italy, and I was immediately sold. It earned a permanent place on the counter adjacent to the big burner on our stove. That first spoon rest eventually cracked in a tumble, and now I treasure its replacement, a blue-and-white one we picked up in London. There are some spoon rests that are just big enough for the end of the spoon or spatula, but I am messy, so I prefer having a full-length version that can hold dirty handles, as well.
Brushes ($3 to $6)
A firm scrubber brush is perfect for cleaning produce, especially fruit and vegetables you don’t plan on peeling. You can also use it for general cleaning tasks — you know, that burned-on stuff you have been meaning to get off your stove top. I really like this Oxo model, which has a nonslip grip and can go through the dishwasher. A bottle brush with a long handle makes cleaning thermoses, tall glasses and water bottles a breeze. I use this one by Dawn to clean other awkwardly shaped items, such as my glass pitcher and teapot.
Do you have a favorite cheap kitchen tool? Share it with us in the comments below.
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