There’s a specific tool for just about every kitchen task, from avocado slicers and orange peelers to quesadilla makers. Of course, a knife works on both of the former, and you can just use a skillet to cook the latter. However, there are plenty of kitchen gadgets that, while not necessarily necessary, can definitely make your life a whole lot easier.
A “unitasker”—coined by Alton Brown, chef and former host of Good Eats—is a kitchen gadget that can basically only do one thing. Many unitaskers are a waste of money (and precious counter space) because you probably already have a tool you can use to perform the same task.
However, that doesn’t mean every unitasker out there is garbage. For the sake of convenience alone, here are 10 that we think are worth the cash.
Happy Holidays! This article is part of our Holiday 2021 Gift Guide where you can find the best-of-the-best recommendations from LifeSavvy, How-To Geek, and Review Geek to help you pick the perfect gift for everyone on your list!
A Garlic Press
There’s a lot of talk out there about how garlic presses are a waste of money and, on some levels, this is valid. Garlic presses mince garlic super small, which means it gives off a more intense flavor and can burn more easily. And sure, you can definitely just chop your garlic up into small pieces with a knife.
But we think the pros outweigh the cons here. If you’ve ever chopped garlic, you know how annoying it is. The cloves are small and slippery, which makes getting the pieces tiny enough (if that’s how you like them) is difficult.
While we can’t say unequivocally that a garlic press will actually save you a ton of time, it will definitely save you from chopping the garlic yourself, which you’ll absolutely appreciate.
If you cook often with garlic and prefer it to be very finely chopped, then get yourself a garlic press. This one from Alpha Grillers comes with a lifetime guarantee. It’s rustproof and made of 100% premium 304 stainless steel. It’s also incredibly easy to clean: The chamber flips out so you can rinse it out or put it in the dishwasher.
A Rice Cooker
Making rice sounds simple in theory: You throw it in some water in a pot, boil, and then let it sit for the recommended amount of time. In reality, though, it’s just … annoying. The recommended time isn’t always correct, depending on your stove, and the rice always gets stuck to the pot and is hard to clean off.
Can you make it through life without a dedicated rice cooker? Sure. Should you get a rice cooker anyway? Yes! It’s one of our favorite kitchen purchases ever. Your rice will come out perfect every single time—you don’t even have to think about or check on it.
If you have a rice cooker, it leaves room on the stove for you to cook other things. They’re easy to clean, and you won’t destroy any of your good pots with sticky rice.
We like the Cuisinart CRC-400. The four-cup model makes a good amount of rice, but also isn’t very large, so it’s not too annoying to store. It’s so easy to use: Just throw in the rice and water, and then turn it on.
When it finishes cooking the rice, it automatically switches to “Keep Warm” so your rice won’t get cold, but also won’t dry it out. The nonstick pot also couldn’t be easier to clean.
A Salad Spinner
The world is split into two groups: people who say you absolutely don’t need a salad spinner, and those who say they’re essential. Salad spinners do exactly what it sounds like: spins your greens in a colander to get all the water off. Basically, it just dries your greens really quickly.
Can you do this with a paper towel? Sure. Can you just, you know, let the greens sit in a colander and dry on their own? Of course. But the salad spinner speeds up the process and gets way more water out than either of the aforementioned methods. Plus, why waste paper towels? These are must-haves for anyone who makes salad or eats greens on the regular.
We love the OXO Steel Salad Spinner because it works at the push of a button instead of having to churn a dial. The bowl and colander are also quite large, so you can fit a lot in there. You can also use the colander on its own, and the steel bowl can be used as a salad bowl when everything has been dried.
If you like the idea, but aren’t keen on spending $50 on a salad spinner (even for more durable stainless steel), you can get the transparent model for around $30. It works the same way and is just as easy to clean.
An Immersion Blender
If you already own a regular blender, you probably don’t think you need an immersion blender. After all, they basically do the same thing: blend things up. But trust us, an immersion blender is a wonderful thing to have. It just makes blending things much easier and far less messy.
These are especially good for soups and sauces. Instead of dumping boiling hot soup into a blender, and then dumping it back in a pot (and trying not to spill any or burn yourself the whole time), you just stick an immersion blender in the pot and press the button. Same results, but much easier, with less mess and no spilling!
If you cook or bake a lot and/or use a blender often, an immersion blender will be a worthwhile investment.
The Breville Control Grip Immersion Blender is popular because it’s easy to hold and the blade blends quickly. It also comes with some nice extras, including a chopping bowl, an extra-large jug, and a whisk. You can use it for baking, or making soups, sauces, or smoothies.
After you use it for a while, it might even permanently replace your food processor or full-size blender. It’s just that good.
A Microplane Zester
At first glance, a large zester doesn’t seem necessary at all. But once you start using one, you’ll quickly change your mind. Not only can you use this to create zest from citrus fruits, but you can also grate cheese, ginger, chocolate, and coconut with it. It’s incredibly handy for cooking and baking.
We don’t even know how you would zest things without a microplane zester. Using a knife is both dangerous and difficult. The Deiss Pro Citrus Zester has a razor-sharp blade and a nonstick handle that’s easy to hold. Plus, because it’s long and thin, so it’s not difficult to store. It’s so easy to use because the edge sits against the counter without moving, even as you’re zesting.
A Baby Food Maker
You’ve probably heard a lot of moms say that baby food makers are a complete waste of money. It’s true that you can probably steam and blend food with the tools you already have in your kitchen. However, baby food makers just make the process a whole lot easier and far less messy. And what busy parent doesn’t want that?
Combo baby food makers are pricey, but if you know you’ll be making your own baby food, they’re worth it. They steam and blend in one machine for easy cleanup. They’re also fast and you can usually work them with one hand, which is very important for a mom. Some of them can even warm bottles and food.
We love the BÉABA Babycook and can’t imagine making baby food without it. It steams, blends, and is small enough that it doesn’t take up too much space on the counter. It’s also easy to clean and will completely streamline your baby-food-making process.
A Citrus Hand Juicer
We know, we know, you can literally squeeze a lemon or a lime with your hands and the juice will come out easily. You don’t need a citrus hand juicer. Except, honestly, you kind of do.
Hand juicers just make life in the kitchen a little simpler. They squeeze citrus fruits until absolutely nothing is left, and you won’t get any of that sticky juice all over your hands. They also keep the pits from getting in whatever you’re eating or drinking, which is another nice perk.
The Bellemain Stainless-Steel Lemon Squeezer is durable and easy to squeeze, thanks to the ergonomically designed handle. It’s also a cinch to clean.
A Salt Cellar
If you cook often with coarse salts, like kosher or sea salt, you should absolutely own a salt cellar. Only use regular table salt? You probably don’t need one of these and can move on to the next item on our list.
Wondering what the heck a salt cellar is? It’s a box (usually made of wood) that holds coarse salt and just sits on your counter or somewhere handy. It doesn’t do anything fancy—it’s literally just a little bowl for your salt.
It’s awesome to have one right next to your cooking area, though. Then, whenever you need a pinch of salt, you just reach over and pinch, instead of having to find the box of salt and shake some out. The lid on the salt cellar also keeps your salt fresh and dry for longer than any other container.
We particularly like the swivel lid on the HTB Salt Box. The lid is magnetic, making it super easy to open and close. It’s also divided inside, so you can keep your salt and pepper in there, or any other spice or seasoning you use often. The little spoon is an excellent addition so you can keep your dirty fingers out of your fresh salt.
A Cookie Scoop
We’re fully aware that you can use any spoon or your fingers to scoop out balls of cookie dough to make your cookies. If you bake a lot, though, a cookie scoop is really handy because it takes the guesswork out of measuring!
Also, unlike a spoon, a cookie scoop magically deposits the cookie dough onto the tray without you having to scrape it off. Sure, it’s more of a convenience item, but once you have one, you’ll wonder how you lived so long without it!
The OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop is perfect! It measures about 1-1/2 tablespoons of dough, which is almost always the perfect cookie size.
An Egg Separator
We’ve always thought of an egg separator as an essential kitchen tool. Sure, you can just use the shell, but these awesome little gadgets separate the egg yolk from the white seamlessly. They just make the whole process easier and quicker.
If you prefer eating egg whites, one of these babies is totally worth it. They’re incredibly inexpensive and small, so it’s not like it’ll take up a ton of space—just toss it in a drawer.
We love the OXO Good Grips Egg Separator. It’s cute and does its job well. The raised edge is also awesome because it keeps eggshell pieces from getting all over whatever you’re eating.