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Food & Drink

23 best kitchen gadgets

Fancy yourself as the next Heston, or just on the hunt for tools to minimise effort (and disaster) in the kitchen? We've listed the best gadgets, all of which should be affordable on a student budget.

man cooking with slow cooker, jug and tongs

Credit: Roman Samborskyi – Shutterstock

Every cook (good or not-so-good) needs the right kitchen tools and gadgets. The items don't need to be costly or complicated, but having great kitchenware can make a big difference.

Although you'll have to stump up some cash to buy these cooking gadgets, they'll almost certainly save you money in the long run. After all, you can save a lot of money by cooking from scratch, and you'll be less tempted by a takeaway if you can cook up a storm in the kitchen.

This list reveals some of the best kitchen utensils to get for your student house.

While not all of these are necessarily the best available version of the gadget, we've gone for the models that we think are the best choice for students based on design and price. And, in all instances, we've done our best to find them as cheap as possible.

Must-have kitchen gadgets

Here are the best kitchen gadgets to buy on a budget:

  1. Slow cooker

    crockpot slow cooker

    When we ran a poll in our Facebook deals group about which kitchen gadgets students most want or use, slow cookers were by far the most popular. And it's easy to see why.

    How many times have you got home from a long day and simply couldn't be bothered to cook, despite being hungry?

    With a slow cooker, you can throw raw ingredients in a pot in the morning, leave it for the day and enjoy a yummy, healthy and cheap meal on your return.

    Minimal effort guaranteed. If you spend a few extra quid on some slow cooker liners, you won't even have any washing up to do. This could help when you're busy with revision or writing essays. But keep in mind that it's best to avoid single-use plastic if you can.

    We like the Cookworks slow cooker as it's pretty affordable, costing under £20. It cooks food evenly and has a glass lid so you can keep an eye on how your meal is doing.

    For some food inspiration, check out our delicious pulled pork recipe which uses a slow cooker.

    Get this slow cooker »

     

  2. Defrost tray

    defrost tray with prawns

    You might be surprised to see a flat board in our list of best kitchen gadgets, but this thing is made of some sort of magic material and is arguably the most mind-bogglingly amazing step forward in kitchenware since... well, ever.

    We all know how annoying it is to come home to make dinner, only to realise you forgot to defrost your chicken. You can now avoid the temptation of expensive takeaways with a defrost tray. They cost under £20 and will last a lifetime.

    Check out the VonShef defrosting tray on Amazon. Although they don't defrost things quite as quickly if your kitchen is cold, they're still infinitely more effective than simply leaving things in a bowl.

    In our rather unscientific tests, we found that chicken breasts defrosted in two to two-and-a-half hours, while frozen king prawns thawed in well under an hour. In both cases, turning the food over every 30 minutes or so seemed to help.

    Until you've bought one of these, you won't fully appreciate the importance of modern-day science.

    Get this defrost tray »

     

  3. Blender

    blender

    Feeling healthy? Feeling lazy? Either mood can be easily satisfied if you arm yourself with a blender. Whether you want to whip up some soup or a smoothie, all you need to do is add your ingredients and press the 'on' button.

    Blenders are also one of the most useful kitchen gadgets for house parties. You can make some show-stopping cocktails and firmly cement your position as party ruler supreme.

    Durable and easy to clean, we like this Breville Active Personal Blender which you can pick up from Amazon for around £25.

    The container also doubles up as a bottle, so you can save on washing up and get straight to enjoying your smoothies.

    Get this blender »

     

  4. Spiralizer

    Two spiralizers

    Courgetti Bolognese, anyone? Or how about a stir fry with some butternut squash noodles?

    Our beloved spiralizer gets a place on this list, just because we're still so happy someone invented it. They're so fun to use.

    We tried out a handheld spiralizer from OXO Good Grips and, as well as giving us a real workout on our biceps, it was perfect for making sweet potato curly fries. You can see them here with some homemade air fryer chicken nuggets we made, too!

    Chicken nuggets, peas and sweet potato curly fries

    The lid doubles up as a food gripper, which is useful, but as the spikes didn't always grip the potato that well, we found it was easier to just use our hands. Although this does mean that you have to waste a large chunk, as the smaller the veg, the greater the risk of spiralizing the tip of your finger.

    If you're after something a little bigger (and less demanding on the old arm muscles), you can expect to pay a little more (around £15) for one from Sedhoom.

    Or, for the super lazy among you, the electric spiralizer by Geepas can be picked up for under £50.

    Get a handheld spiralizer »

    Get a spiralizer »

    Get an electric spiralizer »

     

  5. Digital scale

    kitchen scale

    We all like to think we can sail through our culinary lives without having to rely on kitchen scales, but that's a huge mistake. Luckily, this digital scale only costs around a tenner on Amazon.

    No more wild guessing as to what five ounces of flour looks like – this bit of kit gives you a much better chance of producing something magical... or even just edible?

    The cherry on top? Unlike other scales, this set is just a flat slab, making it much easier to store.

    Get this scale »

     

  6. Silicone tongs

    silicone kitchen tongs

    It's pretty obvious when you think about it, but cooking does make your food kinda hot. Picking it up with your fingers is a surefire way to Burn Central.

    Fiddling about with standard cutlery is likely to end the same way, with the added risk of dropping your delights onto the floor AND scraping the surface of your favourite frying pan.

    Stop the problems before they start with some silicone kitchen tongs (only a few pounds from Wilko).

    Get these tongs »

     

  7. George Foreman small-fit grill

    George Foreman grill

    It may at first sound like a frivolous expense, but at just under £25, you won't regret investing in this George Foreman small-fit grill.

    Aside from being an easy (and healthy) way to grill meat, a George Foreman grill can double up as a sandwich press too. This means you can spice up boring lunches with more adventurous combinations, such as paninis or ciabattas.

    Just remember that a grill/sandwich press isn't something that's worth scrimping on. Cheaper models carry a greater fire risk, and you'd have to deal with a faint plastic-y taste tainting everything you cook in it.

    Get this grill »

     

  8. Food processor

    food chopper

    It's the 21st century, so why chop a carrot when you can get a machine to do it for you? Why make pastry by hand when all it takes is the whizz of a button?

    At around £30, a compact food processor from VonShef is a real steal.

    Just think – you can bake an entire cake that's GBBO-worthy just by chucking in the ingredients and letting the food processor do the hard work. And you could actually complete one of Jamie's 30-minute meals in under an hour...

    Get this food processor »

     

  9. Air fryer

    airfryer

    Everyone loves chips, right? There are, however, three problems:

    1. They're overpriced at the chippy
    2. They're really hard to make at home
    3. They're pretty unhealthy.

    The air fryer from LOGIK is a great option, and it comes in at around £50. However, it's pretty common to come across discounted air fryers – keep an eye on our student deals page for the best offers.

    These gadgets produce incredible chips with a fraction of the oil. Trust us, the chips taste as good as better than the ones from the local kebab joint.

    If you don't fancy chopping potatoes up by hand, you can pick up a potato chipper from Amazon for under £15. But whatever you do, remember to add some seasoning (e.g. salt/pepper/paprika/chicken salt).

    Air fryers can make loads of different things – not just chips. We tried to make some homemade chicken nuggets with one (see this picture). Plus, it cooks regular oven chips and other oven foods in a fraction of the time it takes an actual oven.

    It probably takes a few tries to perfect the Instagrammability of your food, but we can say that the nuggets were delicious and the air fryer is super easy to use.

    Get this air fryer »

     

  10. Aeropress coffee maker

    aeropress coffee maker

    If you like and value your morning coffee, it's time to stop drinking that instant stuff.

    At around £30, the Aeropress coffee maker is a bit of an investment, but one that every coffee lover should consider. The coffee this nifty little gadget churns out is the BEST.

    It's easy to use, even easier to clean and the result is just as good as coffee from a £100 coffee machine – every time.

    Check out the outstanding reviews on Amazon if you're still not sold.

    Get an Aeropress »

     

  11. Steamer

    steamer in a kitchen

    If you're keen to at least try to stay healthy at uni, grab yourself a Russell Hobbs compact three-tier steamer.

    Unlike most steamers, which are usually oval-shaped, this one is basically a perfect circle (hence the "compact" part). However, we'd argue that it's still more than big enough as you can pile up the food within each of the baskets (which are also stackable for easy storage).

    You pick one up for around £20. When we tried one for ourselves, we were delighted to find that it also came with a rice tray included – perfect if you struggle to make rice that isn't horribly soggy or chewy.

    As well as cooking your veg and rice to perfection, you can also use it to steam fishmeat and, as we did, gyozas too.

    If you want something even more compact, we're big fans of the Sistema microwave steamer pots. Minimal washing up, minimal storage space, minimal effort – ideal.

    Get a three-tier steamer »

    Get a microwave steamer »

     

  12. Pyrex measuring jug

    pyrex measuring jug

    Using cups to guess quantities of liquids can be complicated territory, and it certainly isn't a foolproof method. Allow us to present to you the wonders of the Pyrex measuring jug. Wilko has them in a couple of different sizes and they're reasonably priced.

    Unlike plastic jugs, you can put a Pyrex in the microwave or oven to heat things up without it melting or the number markings fading away.

    Get this jug »

     

  13. Garlic press

    garlic press

    Garlic makes everything taste better. That's just a fact.

    But unfortunately, if you chop garlic by hand, you run the risk of getting the smell all over your hands. If you've never done this before, trust us when we say that it's almost impossible to wash off.

    This is exactly why garlic presses are some of the best cheap kitchen accessories. According to (a lot of) the good people on the internet, the IKEA garlic press is one of the best of the bunch.

    Get this garlic press »

     

  14. Salad spinner

    salad spinner

    This sounds like the most boring and ridiculous thing ever invented, but you've clearly not experienced the abomination that is soggy lettuce.

    Once you start using one of these babies and realise how fun it is to spin how nice it is to eat crisp, clean leaves, you'll never doubt us again.

    And you can pick one up for around £10, which is about as cheap as you'll ever be able to find them.

    Get this salad spinner »

     

  15. Pizza scissors

    pizza scissors

    There's nothing more frustrating than cooking the perfect pizza, then struggling to cut it into pieces with a blunt knife or novelty pizza slicer that's all style and no substance – especially if you've made the pizza from scratch.

    The cheap and genius solution is to get some pizza scissors instead.

    They're angled to suit your pizza-cutting needs. If you're feeling fancy, loads on Amazon even have a pizza-slice server included (with the word 'pizza' carved in). That's totally useful... we guess?

    Get pizza scissors »

     

  16. Knife block set

    knife block set

    If ever there's an invention just crying out to be made, it's a one-knife-for-every-task-in-the-kitchen knife.

    Sadly, the multi-purpose knife has yet to materialise, so it's up to us to tell you that you can't cut bread with a vegetable knife.

    No, really, you can't. The type of blade a knife has, serrated or smooth for example, makes a big difference when you're chopping up various food types.

    This eight-piece knife set can be bagged from Argos for around £25, and includes a sharpener and an additional pair of scissors. The reviews testify that, unlike a lot of cheaper knife block sets, the blades in here are actually sharp enough to do what you bought them for.

    With a knife sharpener at your disposal, they should last you years.

    Get this knife block »

     

  17. Digital meat thermometer

    digital meat thermometer

    Dry chicken and overcooked beef are both among the many atrocities in the world. But to be honest, if you're anything like us, overcooking meat is sometimes the only way to make sure you don't catch a nasty bout of food poisoning. Well, not anymore.

    This digital meat thermometer costs less than £5 and will transform your cooking habits forever.

    If you don't know what the optimum temperature for whatever you're cooking is, a quick Google will help you out.

    Get this meat thermometer »

     

  18. Soup ladle

    black ladle from wilko

    Soups, sauces and similar foods can be very tricky to get from pan to bowl without some serious spillages.

    That's where this nifty soup ladle from Wilko comes in. It's dishwasher safe and only costs a few pounds, so it's pretty cheap compared to a lot of ladles.

    If that's not enough to convince you, here's a rave review from Wilko's site:

    ladle review

    Helpful? Yes.

    Get this ladle »

     

  19. Glass oven dish set

    glass dish set

    Once you've got the Pyrex jug, why stop there? Keep making your life easier with these special dishes that can handle extreme heat. They're perfect for things like lasagne, casseroles and, most importantly, reheating leftovers.

    We like the three-piece set (usually just under £20 from Wilko), which includes a range of sizes and lids (which also double as dishes for smaller culinary exploits).

    Get this dish set »

     

  20. Toastie bags

    toastie bags

    If you can't afford a full-blown grill, grab yourself a pack of these ingenious reusable toaster bags instead.

    These bags transform your sandwich into a toastie by just popping it in the bag and then putting the bag straight into your toaster.

    Try it once and you'll probably never eat a normal sandwich at home again – and that's ok, because these things are very cheap. You can grab a 4 pack of reusable bags for just a few pounds on Amazon.

    Get these toastie bags »

     

  21. Non-stick frying pans

    Tefal frying pans

    When getting together the essentials for your cupboard, don't forget to add a decent frying pan to the mix.

    Whether you're cooking a slap-up meal, making your own pancakes or just treating your hangover with a fry-up, this twin set of Tefal non-stick frying pans is an absolute bargain at around £35. Trust us, having two makes life a lot easier.

    Once you experience the joy of frying something in a non-sticker (and how easy it is to clean afterwards), you'll never look back.

    Get these non-stick pans »

     

  22. Freezable containers

    freezable containers

    In the spirit of efficiency, saving money and being healthy, it's worth picking up some reusable food containers. Dunelm sells them for just a few quid.

    Double up on your portions to save some money and put the rest in the fridge/freezer for a day when you just can't be bothered to cook anything. Easy peasy.

    Get these freezable containers »

     

  23. Double-handed oven gloves

    cat oven gloves

    And last but not least, we present you with a student kitchen essential: double-handed oven gloves.

    Everything, and we mean everything, in the kitchen is out to get you at some point or another, so make sure to take precautions and cover up your mitts.

    You can stop using tea towels to remove things from the oven now.

    Get these oven gloves »

     

There are countless items that could have made this list, but we chose our top picks based on previous experience in terms of what most student kitchens are missing, great value and general usefulness in making life easier.

But if you have any suggestions, please share them with us.

You'll probably get a microwave (the greatest kitchen gadget of all) provided when you rent a property, so check out this list of surprising foods you can cook in the microwave.

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