Sometimes you do get what you pay for, when what you pay for is a sturdy, inexpensive kitchen tool. Some kitchen equipment is worth splurging on and some isn’t. Here are 10 items that don’t require serious coin, no matter what the marketers would have you think.
1. Mandoline. We always reach for the Benriner slicer over an expensive mandoline when we want paper-thin cuts or a perfect julienne. Wallet-friendly at around $30, the Benriner is extra sharp, reliable, and compact. (The wider super version is only about $20 more.)
2. Mixing bowls. Mixing bowls get lashed by whisks, beaten by spoons, and subjected to a wide range of temperatures. Plastic bowls can’t hold up against very high or low temperatures, and ceramic bowls are heavy and can chip. Stainless steel bowls are your best bet: They’re nonreactive metal so they can withstand acidic vinaigrettes, they’re highly conductive for use as a double boiler, and they can take all the abuse you can dole out.
3. Paring knives. While you should pay good money for a high-quality chef’s knife, your paring knives can be cheap and plentiful. Why shell out 40 bucks for one, when less than that can buy you five? If one is all you need, we recommend this version from Forschner.
4. Measuring cups and spoons. Measuring cups and spoons do not need to be so expensive. Stick to cheap metal versions with the measurement mark etched or pressed into the metal (that way the demarcations remain no matter how many trips they take through the dishwasher) and they’ll last you a few lifetimes.
5. Corkscrew. The familiar waiter’s corkscrew follows the design that was patented by Samuel Henshall way back in 1795. Some things are best left unchanged. The classic corkscrew costs much less than new-fangled designs, works better (if you know how to work it), and can slip into your pocket for vino on the go.
6. Wok. Two hundred dollars for a wok? For a wok? (And this is the cheaper model!) High-quality, heavy-gauge stainless steel is what you want for sauté pans; it’s not necessary for woks. A good carbon steel wok or a cast iron model will set you back only about $20. (Save the rest of your cash for that plane ticket to China.)
8. Baking sheets. To get reasonably priced baking sheets that never warp, head to a restaurant supply store or website. The half sheet pans that pros use are less than half the price of the name-brand retailer’s version.
10. Pasta machine (electric versus metal manual-crank). It’s mind-boggling as to why an electric pasta maker should cost 40 times that of its manually cranked counterpart. The Imperia hand-cranked machine is so reliable that one of our food editors has a model that has been passed down for three generations.