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You have $15...What kitchen gadget to you buy?

So tell me Chowhounds....with your limited mad money....what kitchen gadget is a must have for the kitchen that can be bought for $15?????

Edit: Just some background...I received in the mail one of those $10 off coupons from JC Peneys and if I buy something over $10 I essentially get it free! So I just arbitrarily put in $15 as with tax ...etc...I usually don't shop at JCP but I know that they have a pretty good kitchen section and figured the only thing I could buy would be a gadget of sorts!!

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  1. assuming you have your basic kitchen set up and just want a gadget. . .

    i'd have to go for a microplane, or a flat whisk.

    1. I'll second a good microplane. Barring that, nice long tongs are always handy.

      1. I would buy a set of good tongs. Can't cook without them!

        1. I'd buy a couple of good rubber spatulas. Or a box grater.

            1. re: xnyorkr

              xnyorkr --- silicon...plasitic....wood...bamboo?? Is there a good one for $15 or less?

              1. re: ktcolt

                I buy a lot of my kitchen stuff at TJ Maxx or Marshall's. You can always find things there for < $10, and even better deals on reduced for clearance items. Most people recommend having two kinds of cutting boards, one for meats (plastic, non-absorbant), and one for fruits/vegetables (wood or bamboo). I had a wood cutting board and I found that bamboo is better. Maybe bamboo is harder so it "fights" the knife when you chop, cutting the food better. I think it may wear knives down a little faster, though.

            2. After years of living without a garlic press, I am ready for a new one. I am getting too lazy to mince garlic all of the time.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Megiac

                Check the clearance at Target: I found very good heavy stainless press there for $2.95. Don't bother with plastic, it cracks over time.

                1. re: Megiac

                  I've chosen to throw out all my garlic presses in favor of this amazing garlic gadget that I found for about $12 at a kitchen store in Lake Tahoe. Turns out to be an awesome alternative to mincing:

                  http://www.garlictwist.com/

                  1. re: MSK

                    Buy what you want, but I think that's crazy.

                    There is nothing like a good knife, and knowing how to use it, to properly mince, or paste, some garlic.

                    Bah, I say to all garlic gadgets. They are the work of the dark side I tell you!

                    www.roguefood.com

                2. a microplane and tongs are also my top choices. other gadgety things I use frequently: citrus reamer, tiny bamboo tongs to take stuff out of the toaster, an olive spoon: spoon with holes to drain the brine from pickles and olives, heat resistant spatula, good bamboo spoon/spatula for cooking, a whisk with a second ball and a marble in it (easy to whip small things).

                  1. A Henckels paring knife (can never have too many) or a 5" Henckels serrated utility knife. I love cutlery. I'd have to get these on sale though...seen them in Macy's etc for 16 bucks or so.

                    1. Wow! Lots of folks have posted good suggestions so far.

                      Not knowing what you have or don't have, and your cooking likes and dislikes, here's a list of some things I'd consider essential and within the *$15 budget.

                      Tongs. Okay, so my mother never used them, but I can't live without them... they don't pierce meats like a fork, and they give better control when turning meats than a spatula. Good caterers locking tongs in stainless steel should be easy to find in the $4 - $8 range.

                      Silicone spatula (or spatula/spoon). These can be used like a traditional rubber spoons when preparing cake batter, but do double duty because they can also be used in a hot pan - ensuring every last bit of fond makes it into your deglazing liquid. If you use nonstick bakeware or frying pans, you also don't have to worry about scratches. $5-$10, depending on size/brand.

                      Baker's Parchment Paper. Okay, this is more of a 'consumable' than a 'gadget, but it is something that can be used when baking, roasting, or making fish en papillote. Many people I know think of it as expensive, but the last time I was at Costco, they had three rolls, 40 ft long each, for under $10. This is something I know I would buy and use, as opposed to gadgets that just take up space in my gadget drawer.

                      Mise En Place bowls. Again, some people might not consider them a gadget in the same way as a tool you hold in your hand while using; but for me they're a great way to organize myself and my ingredients, especially if I'm preparing a recipe for the 1st time. I've seen glass bowls which were 2 1/2" - 3 1/2" in diameter, and stacked easily for storage; they were priced at under $1.50 each. Similarly, a gadget store near me recently had a set of four flexible silicone 'pinch' bowls for $8.

                      Oven thermometer. How many of us have an oven that's true to temperature? An oven thermometer, for $4-$5, could save a lot of grief when baking or roasting. (Similarly, a good meat thermometer, or instant read thermometer, should be around the same price or a little more... they are a great way to prevent undercooked or overcooked foods.)

                      Sharpening gadgets: Yes, a paring knife or utility knife is essential. But if it's dull, it's useless. I've seen a KitchenAid Sharpening Steel for under $15 locally, and that should help keep a blade sharp - making prep a pleasure rather than a pain.

                      (*Pricing note - I'm in Canada and the expected prices I've listed are what I'd expect to pay in the Toronto area; I would think US prices wouldn't be much different, but I could be off by a few dollars.)

                      1. If you shop around enough you can probably find a remote probe thermometer so you can see the temperature of your roast, etc whilst sitting on your lounge chair and sipping a cool one. I bought a Scientific Atlanta unit from Lowes for $4.95 it was a closeout, but you can find various brands around 20 bucks.

                        1. Wow...tons of great ideas! Sadly...I do NOT have any of your suggestions currently taking up space in my kitchen. I have the knives in a block...plastic cutting board...tongs (cheap ones) and the box grater (which I hate). So these will be put on the list for my trip to JCP to use my coupon!

                          Thanks!!

                          1. A silicon pot lid. A real winner. Comes in two or three sizes. Buy whatever size you can get for your coupon. Not sure if Jacque Penney's has them - got mine at Sur La Table. Just moved a half dozen other pot lids to the basement pantry freeing up sooooo much extra space in my kitchen. And space is the most valuable commodity of all.
                            This thing is great. See through. Stays cool. Forms an airtight seal. Doesn't melt even on my cast iron skillet at the highest heat. Flip it over and it works as a spatter shield. DW safe but hand washes easily.Take it off the pot and throw it like a frisbee into the sink. I'm getting a second one for my smaller pots.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: MakingSense

                              More info, please. I've never heard of such a thing. Sounds like a treasure -- tell more.

                              1. re: Sherri

                                Best cheap thrill I've had in a looong time. Unfortunately for the OP, it's exclusive with Sur La Table, but worth a special trip or mail order. Takes up no space in the kitchen! And replaces a bunch of hard to store pot lids.
                                http://www.surlatable.com/product/uni...

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  I don't remember buying ours at Sur La Table, but it could have been. We don't go their very often, but we did buy a few things there one time, so it must have been then if it's exclusive. The largest size comes in handy for a couple of pans that otherwise have no lid. We haven't chucked all the rest of our lids out of the kitchen, but it's still quite useful.

                                  1. re: CrazyOne

                                    I'm speechless. What a fantastic invention. The idea of taking all my lids and putting them in a faraway place is so appealing. I could actually stack pots away neatly in my tiny kitchen!

                                    Also a great idea for Mother's Day. My mom will be getting enough flowers and scented soap, and I can't afford her taste in jewelry.

                                2. re: Sherri

                                  I was thinking the same thing! I've never seen these and they sound great.

                                3. re: MakingSense

                                  Don't for get they make great bowl covers instead of plastic wrap roo.

                                4. My Black and Decker "Handy Chopper Plus" is a mini-food processor for under 10 bucks ( $9.88 at Walmart). Holds about a cup. Perfect for chiles, nuts, pesto, garlic, chimmichuri sauce, smoked oysters for dip w/cream cheese, mincing small quantities of anything. Best 10 bucks I have spent since I won the Powerball lottery.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Yes, yes, yes! Couldn't live without my mini-prep. Also my hand blender, so perfect for soups and for whipping up whipped cream/mousse. And this might sound weird, but my OXO veg. peeler is incredibly useful and much higher quality than the ones you get at the grocery store.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      I prefer the cheap vegetable peeler with the blade that wobbles

                                  2. Tongs - - use them for everything - can't live without them.

                                    1. If you've never used one, consider a Silpat -- a silicone-covered rubbery mat (actually made of a glass material) that is wonderful when baking cookies, melting and baking those little cheese crisps, and other uses. I just bought mine for about $15 from Amazon (11 x 17 -- standard home baking sheet size) and while I'm just learning how to best utilze it, I like it already.

                                      1. Bottle opener/corkscrew ; )

                                        1. One of those screen things that sit on top of a frying pan to catch grease. This
                                          will save you hours of cleaning if you make a lot of bacon or fried chicken.

                                          The cheapest mandoline you can find. There's a white plastic no-name brand that's
                                          even cheaper than Benriner and I think I've seen it at JCP (and definitely Macys).
                                          $ten maybe. Works almost equally well as the most expensive Williams-Sonoma
                                          french complexity-laden shiny one for 1/15th the price.

                                          "Ergonomic" cushion floor mat for in front of the stove. If you're going to be
                                          standing there all day, why not be comfy?

                                          Spend the entire $15 on the best waiter's corkscrew you can find. No need for
                                          weird rabbit-shaped fabulosity or or CO2 cartriges or any of that silliness.

                                          A 1 or 2 cup aluminum stove-top espresso maker.

                                          Kitchen scale.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                            there are also VERY good, cheap japanese mini-mandolines-- probably not in penny's though, try the asian market or a well-stocked kitchenware store. have to point out that i've gone thru a lot of plastic mandolines in under a year but the de buyer is still going strong despite wearing thru its rubber treads-- & can bring the blade for sharpening as well.

                                            agree with getting a good wine service (the small, folding kind waiters use, not the ones with the arms)

                                            didn't realize the op wouldn't already have a couple nice pairs of tongs-- she should buy these FIRST, & a couple nice glass measuring cups if she doesn't already have them. get all the basics before gadgets!

                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                              Ok, I have two pairs of cheap tongs and 3 Pyrex glass measuring cups. I also have a cheap silpat and the nice wine opener with the arms but not the folding waiters one. I also have most all mixing spoons and the like!! I just had some mad money in this gift certificate from Jenneys and wanted to get some ideas for good gadget must haves!

                                              1. re: ktcolt

                                                oh sorry ktcolt--i see your 2nd post now. . . well you have a lot of great ideas then, depending on what you like to cook best!

                                                if you really do hate your box grater then maybe you'd like a microplane or a mini-mandoline ( or a cheap electric mini-prep) to do the job of the box grater--donate it & other old kitchen stuff to a local shelter to be put into a box of kitchen essentials for people starting new households.

                                                also if you don't have a good veggie peeler that you LOVE-- that's an essential thing you'll use every day. i like to have 2 or 3 of these so i don't have to stop & wash.
                                                have fun shoppin'

                                                1. re: ktcolt

                                                  Ktcolt, I third the two posters who recommend a mandoline; this is most indispensable tool I have. Mine is just plastic, but it's lasted over a decade,
                                                  and the blade is still sharp. It came with five different inserts, so you can get
                                                  julienne, baton, or french fry widths, plus a waffle cut, and one that gives you
                                                  flat cuts but can be flipped from a "thin" side to a "thick" side. I can shred half
                                                  a head of cabbage for coleslaw in less than a minute. Fries? If you leave the
                                                  peels on (I do), you can do a whole potato in 30 seconds. Cucumber slices? Do a whole cuke in 20 seconds. It's an amazing time saver, easy to clean, and mine came with a handy stand that holds all the blades and the main unit. Takes up less counter space than a paper back novel. I guarantee you will love it!

                                                  1. re: KevinB

                                                    I tried using a mandoline and failed. I guess I just don't get it. Perhaps if I knew how to properly use one, I might see the value. But I was either too slow or too fast. Too slow and careful and it seemed like a useless device to me. Too fast and I hurt myself more than a few times. I'd rather do things with a knife. I took a knife skills class a while back and that, along with regular use and practice, and I can make quick work of almost anthing I need to prep. Who needs a mandoline? Not me.

                                                    www.roguefood.com

                                                    1. re: KevinB

                                                      Can you get a decent mandoline for $15

                                              2. OXO peelers, (either style)
                                                OXO jar opener (they are rare but I would kill for mine)
                                                Swing-Away manual can opener
                                                Forschner paring knives
                                                red handled Rubbermaid spatulas
                                                silicone bowl scrapers, but the best are custom cut from 5 gallon buckets
                                                Micro-plane grater, from Home Despot.
                                                heavyweight 14" aluminum tongs.
                                                flex-cutting mats
                                                3 heavy whisks (standard, balloon, and ball configuration)
                                                side towels (the heavier the better)
                                                digital probe thermo.
                                                Pyrex mise-en-place glass bowls (finger bowls/custard cups)
                                                Wonder adjustable measuring cup.
                                                measuring spoons and cups ( I like Rubbermaid, because they don't dent)

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Kelli2006

                                                  Ok Hounders---

                                                  I was just at JC Pennys and their kitchen dept STINKS...I do have one thing to ask:

                                                  I saw a cast iron griddle that was double sided as a griddle pan and grill by a company named Philippe Richard. It was on sale for 9.99 ....does anyone know this brand and whether is is worth while? Seems like a good deal BUT....

                                                  1. re: ktcolt

                                                    Ktcolt, I have never heard of Philippe Richard until you mentioned it. I did a quick search of their wares, and they receive very few positive reviews.

                                                    http://www.mysimon.com/9000-10976_8-0...

                                                    Cast iron should be very heavy for the appearance. I would be very wary if it is coated with with Teflon, as it is probably too thin, and will burn everything but water. Cast iron pans should never have a rubber handle as that would preclude their being used in a oven.

                                                  2. re: Kelli2006

                                                    I second the digital probe instant thermometer! Saves lots of things from being the victim of under/overcooking.

                                                  3. I also concur with the group, tongs are essential. With summer coming I'd opt for some cutsy patio gear (placemats, napkins, plasticware.) Even JCP can't screw up a bamboo cutting board, which I think we should replace regularly anyway.
                                                    Some JCP's are better then others!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: othervoice

                                                      No bamboo cutting boards. No tongs. No Henckels that were sold separately. NO gadgets to speak of all except the plastic spoons, ladles ,spatulas etc...but nothing by way of fancy silicon spatulas...SIGH. GRRRRRRRRRRR.

                                                    2. Oxo Peeler
                                                      Oxo Tongs
                                                      "Mexican" Lemon Juicer (also good for limes - incredibly efficient -- like this http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/pDetail....
                                                      )Silicone Spatulas
                                                      Dishtowels. You can never have too many dishtowels. My favorites are the "flour sack" kinds.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                        Sounds like some really great ideas from everyone....but looks like my trip to JCP will not include kitchen gadgets as they have none. Thanks to all who took the time with their suggestions! Duly noted and appreciated!

                                                        1. re: ktcolt

                                                          Bummer. They even have an "under $19" kitchen gadget section of their website:
                                                          http://www3.jcpenney.com/jcp/ProductL...

                                                          I wonder how well those Melamine Bowls are selling these days ...

                                                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                            Wow...I saw NONE of those items. NONE! I even asked a sales associate and she pointed me in the direction of spoons and spatulas...the kind I already have. I will try back another day next week.

                                                      2. I would suggest:
                                                        kitchen thermometer
                                                        silicone basting brush(es)
                                                        anything oxo :)

                                                        1. A proper sharpener for knives and tools is a must when they need more than a few whisks of the steel. The Accusharp knife & tool sharpener is cheap, dead easy to use, and it works, even on serrated edges.

                                                          1. I think others have mentioned a good basic cast iron pan. I heartily agree!

                                                            www.roguefood.com

                                                            1. If you have a small to medium size kitchen magnetic knife strip, I have no room for a knife block and no extra drawers and I kinda like having a knife handy to grab.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: ktmoomau

                                                                An adjustable strainer (the kind that has handles that can be pulled out to adjust to the length/width of any sink). A daily use item !

                                                                1. re: ktmoomau

                                                                  I second the magnetic knife strip. Blocks tend to accumulate "stuff", and take up valuable counter space. Knives in kichen drawers get chipped or blunted, and you can slice a finger removing.

                                                                  With a magnetic strip it's against the wall, can be wiped and scrubbed clean, and you can see what you're grabbing. And a block limits what knives you can put in it; i.e., the narrow slots won't take a wide knife. No problem with the strip.

                                                                  The only caveat is if you have heavy knives they can slip -- so I have two 12 " parallel strips and they hold even my heavy knives very securely.

                                                                2. I'd buy a small mortar and pestle. I get a ton of use out of mine, I use it to grind my own spices, reduce sea salt to the right size, make small batches of guacamole and so on. I also use it to store salt so I have a quick pinch handy whenever I need it.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: heWho

                                                                    A Zyliss garlic press, since you don't have to peel the cloves first. (If you use a knife to chop garlic, any miracles for deodorizing fingers?)

                                                                    Definitely a microplane...they work like a dream for citrus zest and hard cheese.

                                                                    A decent instant-read meat thermometer/deep fry thermometer.

                                                                    Silicone spatulas...great for scrambled eggs.

                                                                    A decent set of measuring cups/spoons.

                                                                    1. re: bear

                                                                      With $15.00 to spend, I would buy a good cheese grater if I didn't already have one