Best Kitchen Gadgets

Tried-and-True Kitchen Tools

Best Kitchen Gadgets

Reading Time: 7 minutes

When each of us kids left home, Mom gave us several of the best kitchen gadgets, one of which was a cast iron skillet. I still have that skillet and it gets daily use. Since then, I’ve inherited several more and have given them to my daughters-in-law who cherish them as much as I do.

Grandma’s kitchen “back in the day” had so many hand-powered gadgets and equipment that have stood the test of time. In fact, some of these are true heirlooms, like my iron skillets or my Feemster slicer, or even my aluminum angel food cakepan with “feet.”

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I enjoy using these “off the grid” best kitchen gadgets. I don’t have to worry about replacing batteries or wonder if I can still prepare a meal for my family if the electricity goes out. Here’s some of my tried and true kitchen
items, some of which are older than I am, but still wonderfully useful and accurate.

I wonder how many of you have seen any of these treasures at yard sales, second hand stores, or antique shops? The prices are always much lower than their newer counterparts, plus lots of them were made right here in the good ole USA. There are a few “new kids on the block” here, as well. But only a few. I guess that says volumes, doesn’t it, for Grandma’s kitchen? As the saying goes, “Everything old is new again,” and that makes perfect sense to me.

Adjustable Steamer


No need for a steamer insert for your three-quart pan. This adjustable steamer fits any size pan and opens like a flower. Plus, it has feet on the bottom so your veggies steam nicely. It doesn’t take up much room, as it stores flat.

Apple Corer/Slicer


This makes such quick and easy work when you’ve got a lot of apples to slice. The even pieces make peeling easy. I save my apple peels for drying. They are delicious when added to a cup of tea.

Bench Scraper


This stainless-steel gadget not only chops, but scoops up. It also scrapes dough off the counter.

Box Grater


Sure, I have my microplane rasp graters but honestly, the box grater takes the place of six, count ‘em six, microplanes. You can zest citrus, make Parmesan curls, even grate chocolate on this multi-purpose gadget.

Cookie/Ice Cream Scoops


Used in restaurant kitchens for eons. I have several different- sized stainless-steel scoops. They are indispensable for measuring out muffin and cupcake batter. They are the only utensil I use when making cookies, as well. My large one is perfect for scooping out mashed potatoes or rice. My smaller one digs the cores out of apples and pear halves easily.

Corn Kernel Remover


These are hot items right now, believe it or not! Another heirloom item from my mom. They easily and completely remove corn from the cob.

Feemster Slicer


Take away my Cuisinart, my mandoline, even my Benriner v-shaped slicer, but leave my Feemster veggie slicer alone. No kidding, when I make pickles, this is the gadget I use. It has a carbon steel blade that is still sharp after half a century of use. When my mom taught me how to make pickles back in the 70s, she gave me one, and where did she buy it? At the second-hand store! This slicer makes beautiful, paper thin slices of cucumber for tea sandwiches.

Hand-Dialed Minute Timer


This has a place of honor on my stove. Wind it up, and when it rings, check the food. Even the little ones know how to use it.

High-Quality Scissors


My Joyce Chen scissors can go from garden to kitchen. They are both right and left-handed with flexible, dishwasher-safe handles. They easily cut through the back of a chicken and are efficient for cutting herbs. Oh, and one more thing: they are excellent for trimming hair. But you didn’t hear me say that …

Cast Iron Skillets


Mine are ancient ones, made in the USA by Griswold and Lodge. They are sand cast and the interior and exteriors are smooth as glass. Yes, they require some upkeep, but minimal. And they never wear out when properly cared for and can be used for cooking even over an open flame or in the oven to make cast iron skillet cornbread. If you find a cast iron pan that is rusted or crusty, never fear. It can be brought back to a useful life.

Manual Grinder


The nuts we use for our traditional holiday baklava are ground in this truly ancient grinder. It also does double duty for grinding meat and veggies. Mom would grind up her lamb and veggies for kibbie every Sunday in hers. My mom gave me this a few years after we were married, when she first taught me how to make baklava.

Hand-Turned Peppermill


I wouldn’t trade my heirloom Peppermate® mill for any new electric one. And I have used the electric ones. Don’t like them, either. The Peppermate® has variable grinds. There’s nothing like the aroma of freshly ground pepper.



I like the French wide blade peeler. They used to be sold only in high-end kitchen stores. Now you can find them everywhere. Peels a wide area.

Potato Masher


This was part of my first set of kitchen utensils when I moved away from home and is still the best utensil for making guacamole, breaking up ground meat in the skillet and, oh yeah — mashing potatoes!

Pyrex® Glass Measuring Cups


Yes, I have some high-quality plastic measures that allow me to check the contents easily but I still mostly use the glass ones. Even the oldest ones are heavy duty and microwaving in them is a snap.

Rotary Beater


The grandkids love using these to beat whipped cream. We have contests to see which child gets the cream whipped the fastest. Next on the agenda is making butter with them. And did I mention a rotary beater makes the fluffiest scrambled eggs?



Spoonulas are for me. I started out years ago using these heat-resistant spoon-shaped spatulas with removable handles for easy washing. I remember my mom’s first rubber spatula — it wasn’t heat-proof but it was oh so easy to get into the corners of the jars and edges of the pan.



Wooden spoons are indispensable. I love my olive wood spoons from Lebanon. They are great for stirring sauces since they don’t conduct heat like a stainless-steel spoon.



When I first started making brittles and toffees, I used one pan: my yellow enameled cast iron pan that I bought during our first year of marriage at an outlet store. I could tell by looking inside when I had to pull the candy off the stove. But that didn’t work for caramels, or true hot fudge sauces. My elderly neighbor, John, gifted me with a box of thermometers. I added them to my collection of analogs, old-fashioned stick thermometers which require no batteries.



Here’s where I veer off the beaten track a bit. I like tongs with silicone edges and with narrow “grips” so that I can easily pick up a few items from the skillet or grab a pork roast with them.

If you have any of these best kitchen gadgets, I’m sure you appreciate them as often as I do. If there are any you do not have, I suggest you keep your eyes peeled at garage sales, auctions, or second-hand stores. You won’t regret your purchase!

What are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Originally published in Countryside November/December 2020 issue and regularly vetted for accuracy. 

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