Splurge or Save: Kitchen Essentials

With so many kitchen tools and gadgets out there, picking your essentials can be tricky and needlessly pricey. Undoubtedly, there are certain items you can’t do without. But that doesn’t mean they have to come with a hefty price tag.

Before you invest in your kitchen must-haves, here’s what’s worth the splurge and when you’re better off saving.

Cutlery

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Obviously, you need silverware that’s going to last, but a good set shouldn’t set you back too much.

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A $20-40 set from Target or Walmart will get the job done and last a pretty long time.

If your heart is set on an elegant silverware set, get on Amazon or go to Ikea. They have tons of stylish, but still fairly inexpensive collections to choose from.

High-Quality Knives

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You may not use your fancy knives every day, but you need a good knife set no matter how often you’re using them.

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Once you’ve experienced the difference between an okay knife and a great one, you’ll likely deem it an irreplaceable kitchen asset. Most notably, a nice knife will last for years. The key is having one top-notch knife you can always rely on, even if the others are so-so.

For the sake of sharpness and longevity, splurge on at least one high-quality knife.

Top Chef’s pro-tip: always hand-wash them. Your dishwasher is not a good place for your good knives.

Sheet Trays

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Cooking sheets are not the easiest kitchen essential to take care of. No matter how top-dollar they are, they always end up going through the wringer in some way or another, getting burnt or bent.

Since sheet tray snafus are borderline unavoidable, it’s better to opt for a cheap option. Your dinner guests will never know.

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The good news is, durable sheet pans and pricey pans don’t have vastly different prices. So if you want to pay a little more for the sake of your chocolate chip cookies, it shouldn’t cost you that much more.

A Cast-Iron Skillet

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Some things were built to last, and a cast-iron skillet is definitely one of them. Due to their long-lasting quality and cooking capabilities, they’re a little on the pricey side.

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Not only will a cast-iron skillet outlive a stainless steel skillet any day, but the flavor of your food will be *chefs kiss* next-level delicious. Cast-iron skillets are known for enhancing the depth of flavors in a way that is unmatched. Ask a grandparent or professional chef, and they’ll tell you; it’s worth the investment.

The chef’s rule of thumb is that if it’s worth a splurge, it requires special care. Cast-iron skillets must be taken care of. As with high-quality knives, they should never go in the dishwasher. You’ll also want to wash it immediately after use and be sure to towel dry it to avoid rust. But if you take good care of it, it should last you for decades.

Here’s a helpful beginner’s guide to cast-iron skillet care.

A Good Blender

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For many people, blenders are one of the most essential appliances in any kitchen. And the better the blender, the more it can do. But even if you don’t use a blender often, a really good one might change your ways and inspire you to blend more often.

Because with a good blender, you’ll be able to use it for just about anything.

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Whether you want to make green smoothies, milkshakes, salad dressing, or a homemade soup, you want something that will not only work well but last. Splurge on a blender that’s durable, easy to use, and jam-packed with every setting you could ask for.

The Ninja and NutriBullet are major crowd-pleasers for all the right reasons.

Glass Baking Dishes

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I’m not saying you shouldn’t splurge on a nice baking dish if it’s what you really want. After all, it’ll last for years. But you definitely don’t have to spend the big bucks to get a glass dish that lasts a while.

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From anywhere between $5 and $15, you can find a quality glass baking dish that’ll get the job done just as well.

Spatulas

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At some time or another, we’ve all experienced the frustration that comes along with a cheap spatula. For starters, they’re flimsy. And it’s not just the plastic ones. Cheap spatulas made of wood or metal often fall apart just as easily.

Considering how often this kitchen tool gets used, you’re better off splurging on a spatula.

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The last thing you need is a spatula that melts, splinters, or rusts. For the sake of your dining endeavors, opt for a quality spatula. A quality spatula won’t break the bank. Cooking pros say your best bet will be choosing one made of rubber.

Saucepan

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Most people claim their saucepan is the second most-used pan in their home. With all the use it gets, you should have one that can handle the heavy workload.

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No matter its exact shape, professional chefs say to always go for one with a loop! It makes handling full pots a lot easier. In turn, it’s also much safer.

Non-Stick Frying Pan

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Nothing works harder in the kitchen than a frying pan, except for you. We’ve come leaps and bounds with nonstick technology, and so your options for a durable, non-stick frying pan are more reasonably priced than ever right now. For the same reason, some are notably expensive.

But don’t buy into the hype.

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Chances are, whether you spend $20 or $200, any nonstick pan has about the same life span. But don’t go too cheap.

The sweet spot for a quality nonstick frying pan that heats evenly is somewhere between $30-$40. While that might sound like a splurge, it really isn’t when you consider the fact that you’d be tossing out one for $300 a couple of years later too.

Sponges

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No matter what kind of cook you are, clean-up is an inevitable part of the process. And everyone is looking for the easiest way to get everything done and move on.

And so, a good sponge is important. But it shouldn’t cost you very much to find one.

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Check out Buzzfeed’s scrub-a-dub review of the best kitchen sponges. Most of the best ones are under ten bucks, including the longtime favorite, Scotchbrite for $6. Public Goods also has a really affordable line of great eco-friendly products, like this plant-based Scrubber Sponge for under $5.

If you want a high-quality sponge that people say is worth the extra money, check out the Scrub Daddy. Its texture changes based on the water’s temperature and it won’t scratch surfaces. It’s also odor-resistant and can be rinsed off effortlessly in the dishwasher when you’re done.

Toasters/Toaster Ovens

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No matter how much you spend on a toaster, they’re infamously unpredictable. Whether they short out or start burning your toast all the time, it’s safer to go with something on the cheap end of the spectrum.

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Think of it this way: it’s not a major loss when you have to throw out your $20 toaster. But having to toss out a toaster that costs you $50 or $100 will hurt more. So don’t burn an unnecessarily large hole in your pocket.

Utensils You Rarely Use

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Maybe you use your pizza cutter, ice cream scoop, and cheese grater often. But most people say they don’t use them on a daily basis.

If you fall into the latter category, buying expensive utensils that you’re not going to use all the time is not a good use of your money. So go with something cheaper.

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A cheap pizza cutter may not slice through your Digorno with just as much ease as the fanciest buy, but it’ll be pretty darn close. As for ice cream scoops, their job is an equally simple one and doesn’t require something that costs very much to do it.

In most cases, if the kitchen task is simple and seldom, it’s better to save.

A Cutting Board

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While any cutting board will do, a good one is a lifelong investment worth making. Any chef will tell you; splurge on a wooden one and never look back.

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Personally, I like using this $6 set of cutting mats for quick dicing and keeping one quality board around for bigger jobs. And when meat is involved, it’s always better to have separate boards to avoid cross-contamination, no matter how much cleaning you might do.

Wooden cutting boards are a worthy investment because if you take care of them, they can last for decades. Here are the 10 best cutting boards recommended by chefs. Surprise, surprise. Almost all of them are made of wood.

Also, this OXO rubber cutting board is a great buy. It’s about $20, but it’s durable, easy to clean, harder to ruin than wooden varieties, and top chef-approved.

A Colander

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For rinsing fruits and vegetables or straining pasta, a colander (or “strainer) is your best friend in the kitchen.

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While you shouldn’t go with the cheapest of cheap, you don’t need to spend very much. The key is to opt for a colander mostly made of metal, not plastic. They’re sturdier and will last significantly longer.

Check out the ten best colanders on the market right now, compliments of Heavy.

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