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Food & Drink

Best kitchen gadgets for students

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.

defrost tray, air fryer and spiraliser

Every cook (good or not-so-good) needs the right tools and gadgets to make the magic happen in the kitchen. They don't have to be costly or complicated, but you'll flounder like a dead fish without them.

Although you'll have to stump up some cash to buy these 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-kept kitchen secrets...

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.

23 must-have kitchen gadgets

We recommend these affordable kitchen gadgets for students:

  1. Slow cookerJudge 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 – or a short one, for that matter – and thought that you 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 – particularly if you're willing to fork out an extra quid for some slow cooker liners that mean you have absolutely no washing up to do.

    We like this Judge 1.5 litre slow cooker as it costs just £22.50 from Amazon, cooks food evenly and has a glass lid so you can keep an eye on how your meal is doing.

    A downside is that it doesn't have a light to indicate when it's on, but for the cost, we think this is a small issue for an overall good slow cooker.

    For some food inspiration, check out our delicious pulled pork and veg recipe which makes use of a slow cooker.

    Get this slow cooker »

  2. Defrost traydefrost tray with prawns

    You might be surprised to see a flat board in our list of kitchen gadgets, but this thing is made of some sort of magic material and is arguably the most mindbogglingly 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. But, you can avoid the temptation of expensive takeaways with a defrost tray. You can get one for under £10, and it will last a lifetime.

    We tried out VonShef's defrost tray for ourselves, and can confirm that they're just as miraculous as they sound. Although we found that they don't defrost things quite as quickly if your kitchen is cold, they're still infinitely more effective than just leaving things to thaw 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).

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

    Get this defrost tray »

  3. Blender

    breville 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 chuck some ingredients in and press the 'on' button.

    Blenders also make an amazing addition to house parties, where you can magic up some truly 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 £20 (different colours available at slightly different prices).

    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

    Spiralizer

    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. Not only do these contraptions make avoiding carbs a walk in the park, but they're also undeniably 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 (seen 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 something like this one by Sedhoom.

    Or for the super lazy among you, this top-loading electric spiralizer from Salter can be picked up for just shy of £20, and it comes with three blades that produce different shapes and sizes.

    Before using the handheld spiralizer, we tried to use the electric one to spiralize some sweet potatoes, and the results weren't great. Essentially, the shape of the product means that it'll only spiralize a long bit of fruit or veg – anything short will just sit in the cone that holds the blade and spin around.

    However, when we used it to spiralize a courgette and make courgetti, it was a very different story. Let's put it this way: it was so good and so quick at spiralizing a courgette that half the job was done before we even realised we'd used the wrong blade. If that's not high praise, we don't know what is!

    Get a handheld spiralizer »

    Get a spiralizer »

    Get an electric spiralizer »

  5. Digital scales

    digital kitchen scales

    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 to make. Luckily, this set of digital scales is less than 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 a million times easier to store.

    Get these scales »

  6. Silicone tongs

    silicone kitchen tongs

    It's pretty obvious when you think about it, but cooking does make your food kinda hot, and 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 these silicone kitchen tongs (cheap as chips from Wilko).

    Get these tongs »

  7. George Foreman compact grill

    george foreman grill

    It may at first sound like a frivolous expense, but if you can spare about £15, you won't regret investing in this George Foreman compact 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 processor with vegetables

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

    At around £25, this compact food processor from Ninja is a real steal. Plus, it's called Ninja, so that's pretty cool.

    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

    vonshef air fryer

    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.

    This air fryer from VonShef comes in at under £45 (or even cheaper if you go for a smaller model) – below the price point of some of the bigger name rivals, but with equally good (if not better!) reviews.

    It effortlessly produces incredible chips with a fraction of the oil, and 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)!

    Oh, and just to clarify, air fryers can make loads of different things – not just chips! We tried out this VonShef one for ourselves and made some homemade nugz (see the pic above). 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 under £30, the Aeropress coffee maker is a bit of an investment, but one that every coffee lover should consider as the stuff 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, we'd seriously recommend grabbing yourself this 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).

    Not only can you grab it for under £25, but when we tried one for ourselves, we were delighted to find that it also came with a rice tray included – perfect if you always 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.

    Or, if you'd like even more versatility, we'd recommend the Salter DUOsteam, which can be used both in the microwave and on the hob. We opted for the hob and tried cooking both veg and salmon at once on the stacking trays – it worked a treat, with things cooking even faster than we expected.

    Get a three-tier steamer »

    Get a microwave steamer »

    Get a microwave/hob 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 (available in loads of different sizes at Wilko, and all reasonably priced).

    What's more, unlike plastic jugs, you can shove 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 (and 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 such a necessity, and according to (a lot of) the good people of the internet, this IKEA press is the best of the bunch.

    We haven't tried out every garlic press going, but we do have one of these and can confirm that it does the job well.

    Get this garlic press »

  14. Salad spinner

    salad spinner

    Yeah, we know. 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 snap one up for under £5 from IKEA, which is about as cheap as you'll ever be able to find them! We love you, IKEA.

    Get this salad spinner »

  15. Pizza scissors

    pizza scissors

    There's nothing more frustrating than cooking the perfect pizza, then having to maul it into submission with a blunt knife or novelty pizza slicer that's all style and no substance – especially if you've gone to the effort of making the pizza from scratch.

    The cheap and genius solution is to invest in some pizza scissors instead!

    They're angled to suit your pizza-cutting needs, and if you're feeling fancy, these ones from Dunelm even have a pizza-slice server included (with the word 'pizza' carved in). That's totally useful... we guess?

    Get these 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 about £20, 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.

    What's more, 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 around £7 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 other liquidy type food 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 pretty cheap compared to a lot of ladles (£2.50 + P&P).

    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 oven 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 this three piece set (£10 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 don't have the cash to splash out on a full-blown grill, grab yourself a pack of these ingenious reusable toaster bags instead.

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

    Once you give this a bash, you'll probably never eat a normal sandwich at home again, and that's ok, because these things are cheap as anything! You can grab a 4 pack of reusable bags for less than £3 on Amazon.

    Get these toastie bags »

  21. Non-stick frying pans

    Tefal frying pans

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

    Whether you're cooking a slap-up meal, making your own pancakes or just a treating your hangover with a fry-up, this twin set of Tefal non-stick frying pans is an absolute bargain at around £20 (and 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

    Wilko food containers

    In the spirit of efficiency, saving money and being healthy, it's well worth picking up some of these reusable food containers which you can pick up from Wilko for a little over a quid.

    Double up on your portions to save some dollar and whack 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

    oven gloves

    And last but not least, we present you with an absolute staple of any good kitchen: 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 literally hundreds of awesome 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 please do share any of your own suggestions 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.