Our Favorite Gadgets Under $50
For success in the kitchen, you need more than just a foolproof recipe—you need the right equipment, too. While some tools are big investments, there are lots of useful gadgets that carry a small price tag. So in this week’s buying guide, we’ve selected some of the top inexpensive tools to earn the test kitchen stamp of approval over the years. These gadgets range from fun (an old-fashioned peanut butter mixer) to purely functional (a simple yet good-quality handheld mixer), but they all have one thing in common—they won’t break the bank.
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This mini slow cooker’s trio of temperature settings allowed us to select the perfect temperature whether we were keeping dip warm or cooking a soup scaled for two. Its gentle warm setting meant we could keep queso dip molten and melty for several hours without it getting hot enough to break or scorch. A plus: its bright indicator light, which let us know when it was too hot to touch.
This ice pop mold was the easiest to use of all those we tested. Its detachable molds had clear fill lines and wide openings, making them a breeze to fill and clean. And it featured slender plastic sticks with unobtrusive drip guards and long, textured handles, making the resulting pops easy to grip and eat. Our only gripe? The drip guards aren’t removable, so you can’t make layers.
The Flipside made well-browned waffles that were almost an inch and a half high. On the downside, if we wanted to make adjustments, doneness could only be varied by increasing or decreasing the duration of the cooking time using a built-in timer that must be reset before every waffle. But the timer itself proved quite useful, giving you an audible alert not only when the waffle was done, but also a minute before—a smart feature that helps ensure that you’ll never overcook your waffle. One small safety issue: Like several of the other machines, the Flipside tended to collect condensation in its handle, dripping hot water when flipped.
BUY FOR $40
Featuring grippy rubberized handles and an inner spring with just the right amount of resistance, this portion scoop was very comfortable to hold and squeeze. It also dispensed dough with the neatest and most controlled motion.
This juicer expertly and securely extracted juice with two sizes of medium-ridged reamers. An attached carafe saved us from spills and detached easily for table use. It’s cheap, light, and easy to clean, with a screen for adjusting pulp levels and a quiet motor that won’t wake late sleepers.
Comfortable to hold and plenty powerful, this unit had three fast speeds. It made quick work of all the tests but doesn’t have medium-low or medium-high settings; a good simple mixer for basic tasks like whipping cream.
BUY FOR $46
Simple, intuitive, inexpensive, and stable, the winner of our previous test easily spiralized apples, beets, potatoes, and zucchini with relatively little waste. Better yet, the Paderno Tri-Blade was able to turn almost all of the produce into even, consistent noodles and ribbons. It was one of the only machines capable of spiralizing butternut squash into long, regular strands—although the stress of this endeavor caused the handle to crack on its last round of testing.
This paddle continues to be a terrific choice for cooks looking only for fast, precise slicing (it doesn’t julienne). Changing the thickness requires no blade handling, and it stows in a drawer. We’d prefer a more secure hand guard.
This electric yogurt incubator was easy to use, producing Greek yogurt that was tangy and creamy in 14 hours of almost entirely hands-off preparation. It transforms 5 cups of any type of milk (we tried nonfat and whole milk, as well as coconut milk), plus 1/2 cup of yogurt with live cultures, into 2 to 2 1/2 cups of homemade Greek yogurt.
BUY FOR $38
This simple, well-designed device solves the problem of mixing natural peanut butter, making a messy job easy and neat. It’s basically a jar lid with a hole in the center. A detachable hand crank slips through the hole and into your jar of peanut butter to mix the oil and solids with a few turns of the crank. This effective appliance has a few more nice touches: The rubber gasket inside the lid automatically wipes the crank clean as you slide it back out, and the whole thing stores in a small cloth drawstring bag.
BUY FOR $16
This simply designed, dishwasher-safe grater, with an extra-wide barrel and comfortable handle, blasted through chunks of cheddar and Parmesan and produced perfect chocolate shavings and mozzarella shreds even after stiffening up a bit. Our only complaint: The plastic body created static that made chocolate shavings jump from the barrel onto our hands and clothes.
This rectangular, highly efficient plastic model with comfortable handles was the easiest ricer to squeeze. Its interchangeable disks neatly produce a range of fine to coarse textures, and its sturdy hook rests securely on a pot rim.
Exceptionally fine grind of all spices, leaving very little in lab screen. Even material left in lab screen was fine enough to use.
This thermometer was fast, accurate, and easy to hold. It had a few cushy extra features, including a rotating display and a backlight, which came in handy for grilling. The ThermoPop is an excellent inexpensive alternative to the Thermapen.
The most accurate and customizable model in our testing, this unobtrusive refrigerator/freezer probe thermometer not only alerted us when our appliances strayed from the temperatures we designated but also told us when they stayed outside the safe zone for more than 30 minutes. Our only gripes: The display is a touch small, and you must press an extra button to toggle the view from current to min/max temperatures for each probe.
This handsome, sturdy lid holder held every lid and utensil securely—and, as the manufacturer promised, our tablets and magazines, too. We liked its compact footprint, though a few drips occasionally escaped its removable, easy-to-clean trough.
BUY FOR $19
All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.