Top 5 Essential Kitchen Tools for Under $30

When it comes to kitchen gadgetry, many of them are just that, gadgets, but some are surprisingly more than useful. Many I consider essential. I've come to rely on the following kitchen tools because they simply work. The list contains my five favorite tools that I consider indispensable. The results of using these products speak for themselves. Some make preparation tasks easier and more fun whereas others ensure properly baked treats. Any of these tools would find a nice home in a culinary enthusiast's kitchen drawer. They also make excellent stocking stuffers for the upcoming holiday. And to top it off, they're affordable too, all coming in at or under $30.

Flavour ShakerFlavour Shaker, $30. My favorite gadget in the kitchen is the Flavour Shaker from everybody's favorite British chef Jamie Oliver. I've had mine for over a year and always find a reason to use it. The device is basically a mortar and pestle that behaves like a cocktail shaker. Simply twist it open, add whatever you like, close it tightly and shake. Unlike a mortar and pestle, you do not need to exert pressure to smash spices and you won't have bits flying all over the kitchen. The ceramic ball does all the work for you. The Flavour Shaker is easy to use and everything remains inside. I use it to crush all my spices. It's perfect for coarsely crushed black pepper for my steaks. It does wonders on a clove or two of garlic. It can also make pestos and salad dressings.

BenrinerBenriner Mandoline, $20. When a sharp knife seems too unwieldy to do the trick, a mandoline is always the tool I reach for. The Benriner is one of the most affordable mandolines in the market. It's easy to use and produces high-quality results. Create very thin potato slices for gratins, fries, or chips. Julienne carrots and other root vegetables. Great for making thin vegetable slices for many recipes, from the precise cuts required by haute cuisine to the simple execution of stir-frys and salads. Thinly sliced cucumbers or radishes are my favorite. When you need to slice vegetables in large quantities, the Benriner is ideal. That's why restaurant chefs use it so often. Slice countless onions easily for that onion marmalade or pickled onions. A lengthy task is made almost hassle free. Just watch your fingers!

Beater BladeBeater Blade, $20. Bakers know that it's important to incorporate a cake batter completely. That's why many recipes emphasize the scraping down of the mixing bowl between each addition of ingredients. We've all ignored those directions at one time or another, but the result is more than likely a batter with lumps of sugar or flour that when baked makes an unattractive and unprofessional cake. The Beater Blade fixes that. It's perfect for for the lazy baker in all of us. The paddle blade is designed very similarly as the Kitchen Aid Mixer's blade, except that it has squeegee-like fins that sweep the bowl with every revolution. No more scraping is necessary except to remove the batter into the pan of course. The blade is available for Kitchen Aid And Cuisinart machines.

SilpatSilpat Nonstick Baking Mat, $20. Silpats have been around for many years in professional restaurant kitchens. Pastry chefs just can't do without them. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat, and anything that's placed on it bakes more evenly and the best part is it doesn't stick. Cookies slide right off. Silpats also work wonderfully for making brittles and very thin cookies such as tuiles. My favorite use for the silicone mat is for rolling out pastry for pie crusts or cookies. No flour is required and no sticking to the board. Roll the dough right on the Silpat, cut out the cookies, remove the negative space, and the mat is ready to go on a pan to be baked. Silpats are available in various sizes.

MicroplaneMicroplane Grater/Zester, $12. The story of the Microplane as a kitchen tool began when a woman baking an orange cake, who was frustrated with her grater, decided to reach for the new wood rasp her husband had brought home from the hardware store. Ever since then, the Microplane has become a permanent fixture in the kitchen. The greatest inventions are almost always born by accident. The sharp teeth of the Microplane do wonders on zesting citrus fruit and grating spices. It also works wonders on garlic, ginger, cheese, and my favorite, horseradish. From the wood shop to the kitchen, the Microplane is an essential tool. Microplanes are available in various sizes from fine to extra course.