Mary Ann's Blog

The 10 Best Kitchen Tools Under $25

Does anybody really cook anymore? I mean really from scratch. Opening a box and adding water to something does not define cooking in my book.

If you're reading this blog post, you probably do cook, but most people I know are so pressed for time that the easiest way to cook something for dinner is to stop at the nearest grocery store on the way home and pick up a ready, set, heat meal. Night after night that adds up to very expensive.

That is why it amazes me that people do not take advantage of the many cooking gadgets and tools are out there for the “everyday cook.”  Here is a list of ten that I would not be without:

  1. Salad Spinner: If you have no time to do anything else in the kitchen, a salad spinner will help you make healthy green salads in minutes by taking all that excess water out of lettuce leaves and leave you with crunchy greens that adhere to salad dressing.
  2. Microplane zester: For all your grating needs from garlic to citrus zests to cheese and chocolate, this tool is a time saver.
  3. Pepper mill: Just a bit of fresh ground pepper makes so many dishes that much more flavorful. Try steeping coarse ground pepper in warm olive oil as a simple sauce for spaghetti. Just add cheese. Delicious and quick.
  4. Flexible spatula: For making and turning quick frittatas in a matter of minutes.
  5. Instant read thermometer: For gauging when things are cooked.
  6. Wire whisk: For beating eggs and smoothing out quick sauces.
  7. Vegetable peeler: Not just for scraping vegetables such as carrots and potatoes, but also for making thin slices of vegetables for casseroles and stir fry.
  8. Steamer basket: For quick and healthy way to cook and reheat vegetables.
  9. Perforated non-stick pizza pan: Even if you buy pizza and bring it home, it tends to be soggy;  reheat it on a perforated pan to crisp it. Better still, get a crisp crust pizza by making your own.
  10. Cast iron pan. Fry in it, use it to cook fish on the grill; even make a pizza, and yes, you can find them for under $25.

Do you have some of these items in your kitchen?


  1. Dan G's avatar

    Dan G

    I love love love my cast iron pan. I use it for almost everything! It really cooks a nice crust on things that you want to be nice and browned like potatoes.
    Peppermill is a must, I agree! The steamer basket is also really nice to have. I also have that collapsable kind that kind of opens up in a round shape, i love it.
    What kind of cookware do you generally use, stainless steel? Copper? Non stick?
  2. mary Ann Esposito's avatar

    mary Ann Esposito

    Dan, I like stainless steel for all cooking; Cooper is a great heat conductor but hard to maintain; Non stick is ok if you do not wan to brown something; I use it for frittata and pancakes
  3. Anne Dare's avatar

    Anne Dare

    I saw on one of your shows that you are browning a roast in a slow cooker insert and then placing the insert in the cooker. What kind of slow cooker is it? Crock pot type cookers say not to put the inserts on a stove top.
  4. Paul Lally, Executive producer's avatar

    Paul Lally, Executive producer

    Anne, Mary Ann used an All-Clad slow cooker with a cast aluminum insert that allows you to use it on the stove top for browning. Here's a link to Williams Sonoma catalogue that carries it:
  5. debby's avatar


    I REALLY need to find a good hand powered pasta maker. I'm having a real hard time as they're impossibly expensive, or get horrible reviews including one that has metal shavings in the dough! Can you help recommend one please?
  6. Claudia Manly's avatar

    Claudia Manly

    Mary Ann I was watching CREATE on SCPBS this morning and you cut cheese with a very cool tool/knife that I would like to know where to purchase it? You also used it to chop herbs so I know it must be a knife.. I enjoy your pasta episodes and the cool way to dehydrate tomatoes/zuchini for the winter.
    Thank You Claudia
  7. Donna's avatar


    Hi Mary Ann. I was watching Episode 1903 and saw these beautiful plates, yellow with what looked like olives on them. I am searching for new dishes and would love to know what those are. Thank you for all you do to keep our heritage alive.
  8. mari's avatar


    in addition to a variety of sizes of whisks i would be lost without my flat whisk which allows me to work into the flat edges of my cooking pots and pans.
  9. Jennifer Glover's avatar

    Jennifer Glover

    Yes, all these are very useful tools.
  10. Mary's avatar

Leave a Comment

Looking for even more photos and recipes?
Order my latest book.

Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy

Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.

Order using this link and receive a signed book plate.

Available now!