Fancy yourself as the next Heston, or just on the hunt for tools to minimise effort (and disaster) in the kitchen? We’ve listed the best gadgets, all of which should be affordable on a student budget.
Every cook (good or not-so-good) needs the right tools and gadgets to make the magic happen in the kitchen. They don’t have to be costly or complicated, but you’ll flounder like a dead fish without them.
Although you’ll have to stump up some cash to buy these gadgets, they’ll almost certainly save you money in the long run. After all, cooking from scratch is far cheaper than buying ready meals, and you’ll be less tempted by a takeaway if you can cook up a storm in the kitchen!
This list reveals some of the best-kept kitchen secrets – we’re all about making your life easier so you remember to feed yourself properly!
The best and most useful kitchen gadgets
When we ran a poll in our Facebook deals group about which kitchen gadgets students use/want the most, slow cookers were by far the most popular. And it’s easy to see why.
How many times have you got home from a long day – or a short one, for that matter – and thought that you just couldn’t be bothered to cook despite being hungry?
Whilst, again, the option of grabbing a takeaway might seem like a tempting offer, with a slow cooker you can just throw raw ingredients in a pot in the morning, leave it for the day and enjoy a yummy, healthy and cheap meal on your return.
Minimal effort guaranteed – particularly if you’re willing to fork out an extra quid for some of these slow cooker liners that mean you have absolutely no washing up to do!
We like this Andrew James Premium slow cooker as it comes in a range of sizes (with the smallest costing about £20), has a glass lid that lets you check on the progress of your meal, and most importantly, is red.
For lots of great slow cooker recipes, check out this cookbook which contains 200 for a penny (plus p&p).
You might be surprised to see a flat board in our list of kitchen gadgets, but this thing is made of some sort of magic material and is arguably the most mindbogglingly amazing step forward in kitchenware since… well, ever.
We all know how annoying it is to come home to make dinner only to realise you forgot to defrost your chicken. Well, waste cash on last-minute takeaways no longer! Defrost trays will set you back less than £15 and will last a lifetime.
We tried out VonShef’s defrost tray for ourselves, and can confirm that they’re just as miraculous as they sound. Although we found that they don’t defrost things quite as quickly if your kitchen is cold, they’re still infinitely more effective than just leaving things to thaw in a bowl.
In our rather unscientific tests, we found that chicken breasts defrosted in two to two-and-a-half hours, while frozen king prawns thawed in well under an hour (in both cases, turning the food over every 30 minutes or so seemed to help).
Honestly, until you’ve bought one of these, you won’t fully appreciate the importance of modern day science.
Feeling healthy? Feeling lazy? Either mood can be easily satisfied if you arm yourself with a blender. Whether you want to whip up some soup or a smoothie, all you need to do is chuck some ingredients in and press the ‘on’ button.
Blenders also make an amazing addition to house parties, where you can magic up some truly show-stopping cocktails and firmly cement your position as party ruler supreme.
Durable and easy to clean, we like this Breville Active Personal Blender which you can pick up from Amazon for around £20 (different colours available at slightly different prices).
The container also doubles up as a bottle, so you can save on washing up and get straight to enjoying your smoothies!
Courgetti bolognese, anyone? Or how about some stir-fried noodles (butternut squash noodles, apparently)?
Our beloved spiralizer gets a place on this list, just because we’re still so happy someone invented it. Not only do these contraptions make avoiding carbs a walk in the park, but they’re also undeniably fun to use.
We tried out a handheld spiralizer from OXO Good Grips and as well as giving us a real workout on our biceps, it was perfect for making sweet potato curly fries (seen here with some homemade air fryer chicken nuggets we made, too!).
The lid doubles up as a food gripper, which is useful, but as the spikes didn’t always grip the potato that well, we found it was easier to just use our hands (although this does mean that you have to waste a large chunk, as the smaller the veg, the greater the risk of spiralizing the tip of your finger).
If you’re after something a little bigger (and less demanding on the old arm muscles), you can expect to pay a little more (around £15) something like this one by Sedhoom.
Or for the super lazy among you, this top-loading electric spiralizer from Salter can be picked up for just shy of £20, and comes with three blades that produce different shapes and sizes.
Before using the handheld spiralizer, we tried to use the electric one to spiralize some sweet potatoes, and the results weren’t great. Essentially, the shape of the product means that it’ll only spiralize a long bit of fruit or veg – anything short will just sit in the cone that holds the blade and spin around.
However, when we used it to spiralize a courgette and make courgetti, it was a very different story. Let’s put it this way: it was so good and so quick at spiralizing a courgette that half the job was done before we even realised we’d used the wrong blade. If that’s not high praise, we don’t know what is!
We all like to think we can sail through our culinary lives without having to rely on kitchen scales, but that’s a huge mistake to make. Luckily, this set of digital scales is less than a tenner on Amazon!
No more wild guessing as to what five ounces of flour looks like! This bit of kit gives you a much better chance of producing something magical… or even just edible?
The cherry on top? Unlike other scales this set is just a flat slab, making it a million times easier to store.
It’s pretty obvious when you think about it, but cooking does make your food kinda hot, and picking it up with your fingers is a surefire way to Burn Central.
Fiddling about with standard cutlery is likely to end the same way, with the added risk of dropping your delights onto the floor AND scraping the surface of your favourite frying pan.
Stop the problems before they start with these silicone kitchen tongs (cheap as chips from Wilko).
George Foreman compact grill
It may at first sound like a frivolous expense, but if you can spare about £15, you won’t regret investing in this George Foreman compact grill.
Aside from being an easy (and healthy) way to grill meat, a George Foreman can double up as a sandwich press too. This means you can spice up boring lunches with more adventurous combinations, such as paninis or ciabattas.
Just remember that a grill/sandwich press isn’t something that’s worth scrimping on. Cheaper models carry a greater fire risk, and you’ll have to deal with a faint plastic-y taste tainting everything you cook in it.
We’re in the 21st century people! So why sweat over chopping a carrot when you can get a machine to do it for you? And why would you want to make pastry by hand when all it takes is the whizz of a button? And no, it doesn’t count as cheating.
At around £25, this compact food processor from Ninja is a real steal. Plus, it’s called Ninja, so that’s pretty cool.
Just think – you can bake an entire cake that’s GBBO-worthy just by chucking in the ingredients and letting the machine do the hard work. And you could actually complete one of Jamie’s 30 minute meals in under an hour…
Everyone loves chips, right? There are, however, three problems:
1. They’re well overpriced at the chippy
2. They’re really hard to make at home
3. They’re pretty unhealthy.
This air fryer from VonShef comes in at under £40 (or even cheaper if you go for a smaller model) – well below the price point of some of the bigger name rivals, but with equally good (if not better!) reviews.
It effortlessly produces incredible chips with a fraction of the oil, and trust us, the chips taste
just as good asbetter than the ones from the local kebab joint.
If you don’t fancy chopping potatoes up by hand, you can pick up a potato chipper from Amazon for under £15. But whatever you do, remember to add some seasoning (e.g. salt/pepper/paprika/chicken salt)!
Oh, and just to clarify, air fryers can make loads of different things – not just chips! We tried out this VonShef one for ourselves and made some homemade nugz (see the pic above). Plus, it cooks regular oven chips and other oven foods in a fraction of the time it takes an actual oven.
It probably takes a few tries to perfect the Instagrammability of your food, but we can say that the nuggets were delicious and the air fryer is super easy to use!
Aeropress coffee maker
If you like and value your morning coffee, it’s time to stop drinking that instant stuff.
At under £30, the Aeropress coffee maker is a bit of an investment, but one that every coffee lover should consider as the stuff this nifty little gadget churns out is the BEST.
It’s easy to use, even easier to clean and the result is just as good as coffee from a £5,000 coffee machine – every time.
Check out the outstanding reviews on Amazon if you’re still not sold!
If you’re keen to at least try to stay healthy at uni, we’d seriously recommend grabbing yourself this Russell Hobbs compact three-tier steamer.
Unlike most steamers, which are usually oval-shaped, this one is basically a perfect circle (hence the “compact” part). However, we’d argue that it’s still more than big enough as you can pile up the food within each of the baskets (which are also stackable for easy storage).
Not only can you grab it for under £25, but we when we tried one for ourselves we were delighted to find that it also came with a rice tray included! Perfect if you always struggle to make rice that isn’t horribly soggy or chewy.
As well as cooking your veg and rice to perfection, you can also use it to steam fish, meat and, as we did, gyozas too!
If you want something even more compact, we’re big fans of the Sistema microwave steamer pots. Minimal washing up, minimal storage space, minimal effort – ideal!
Or, if you’d like even more versatility, we’d recommend the Salter DUOsteam, which can be used both in the microwave and on the hob. We opted for the hob and tried cooking both veg and salmon at once on the stacking trays – it worked a treat, with things cooking even faster than we expected!
Pyrex measuring jug
It’s all very well knowing how much everything weighs when you’re following instructions, but sadly the same rules don’t apply to liquids.
Using cups to guess quantities of liquids can be complicated territory, and it certainly isn’t a fool proof method! Allow us to present to you the wonders of the Pyrex measuring jug (available in loads of different sizes at Wilko, and all reasonably priced).
What’s more, unlike plastic jugs, you can shove a Pyrex in the microwave or oven to heat things up without it melting or the number markings fading away.
Garlic makes everything taste better. That’s just a fact.
But unfortunately it’s also true that if you chop garlic by hand, you run the risk of getting the smell all over your hands (and if you’ve never done this before, trust us when we say that it’s almost impossible to wash off).
This is exactly why garlic presses are such a necessity, and according to (a lot of) the good people of the internet, this IKEA press is the best of the bunch.
We haven’t tried out every garlic press going, but we do have one of these and can confirm that it does the job admirably!
Yeah, we know. This sounds like the most boring and ridiculous thing ever invented, but you’ve clearly not experienced the abomination that is soggy lettuce.
Once you start using one of these babies and realise
how fun it is to spinhow nice it is to eat crisp, clean leaves, you’ll never doubt us again.
And you can snap one up for around £4 from IKEA, which is about as cheap as you’ll ever be able to find them! We love you, IKEA.
There’s nothing more frustrating than cooking the perfect pizza, then having to maul it into submission with a blunt knife or novelty pizza slicer that’s all style and no substance – especially if you’ve gone to the effort of making the pizza from scratch.
The cheap and genius solution is to invest in some pizza scissors instead!
These bad boys are angled to suit your pizza-cutting needs, and if you’re feeling fancy, these ones from Dunelm even have a pizza slice-disher included (with the word ‘pizza’ carved in, so you know what they’re for)! That’s totally useful… we guess?
Knife block set
If ever there’s an invention just crying out to be made, it’s a one-knife-for-every-task-in-the-kitchen knife.
Sadly the multi-purpose knife has yet to materialise, so it’s up to us to tell you that you can’t cut bread with a vegetable knife.
No, really, you can’t. The type of blade a knife has, serrated or smooth for example, makes a big difference when you’re chopping up various food types.
This eight piece knife set can be bagged from Argos for about £20, and includes an additional pair of scissors. The reviews testify that, unlike a lot of cheaper knife block sets, the blades in here are actually sharp enough to do what you bought them for.
What’s more, with a knife sharpener at your disposal, they should last you years!
Digital meat thermometer
Dry chicken and overcooked beef are both among the many serious atrocities in the world. But to be honest, if you’re anything like us, overcooking meat is sometimes the only way to make sure you don’t catch a nasty bout of food poisoning. Well, not anymore!
This digital meat thermometer costs around £7.50 and will transform your cooking habits forever.
If you don’t know what the optimum temperature for whatever you’re cooking is, a quick Google will help you out.
Soups, sauces and other liquidy type food can be very tricky to get from pan to bowl without some serious spillages.
That’s where this nifty soup ladle from IKEA (just 60p!) comes in, with a non-stick coating that means you won’t end up destroying all your pans.
So many great gadgets at such low prices. IKEA, once again, we love you.
Glass oven dish set
So you’ve got the Pyrex jug, but why stop there? Keep making your life easier with these special dishes that can handle extreme heat. They’re perfect for things like lasagnes, pasta dishes, casseroles and most importantly, reheating leftovers!
We like this three piece set (about £10 from Wilko), which includes a range of sizes and lids (which also double as dishes for smaller culinary exploits!).
…or, if you don’t have the cash to splash out on a full-blown grill, grab yourself a pack of these ingenious reusable toaster bags instead!
These bags let you transform your sandwich into a toastie by just popping it in the bag, and the bag straight into your toaster.
Once you give this a bash, you’ll probably never eat a normal sandwich at home again, and that’s ok cause these things are cheap as anything! You can grab a 4 pack of reusable bags for less than £3 on Amazon.
Non-stick frying pans
If we’re making a list of essentials to have in a student kitchen, which it appears we kind of are, it simply wouldn’t be complete without a decent frying pan in the mix.
Whether you’re cooking a slap up meal, or just a hangover fry up, this twin set of Tefal non-stick frying pans is an absolute bargain at around £20 (and trust us, having two makes life a lot easier!).
Once you experience the joy of frying something in a non-sticker (and how easy it is to clean afterwards), you’ll never look back!
In the spirit of efficiency, saving money and being healthy, it’s well worth picking up some of these reusable food containers which you can pick up from Wilko for a little over a quid!
Double up on your portions to save some dollar and whack the rest in the fridge/freezer for a day when you just can’t be bothered to cook anything. Easy peasy.
Double-handed oven gloves
And last but not least, we present you with an absolute staple of any good kitchen: double-handed oven gloves.
Everything, and we mean everything, in the kitchen is out to get you at some point or another, so make sure to take precautions and cover up your mitts.
You can stop using tea towels to remove things from the oven now.
There are literally hundreds of awesome items that could have made this list, but we chose our top picks based on previous experience in terms of what most student kitchens are missing, great value and general usefulness in making life easier.
But please do share any of your own suggestions with us!
You’ll probably get a microwave (the greatest kitchen gadget of all) provided when you rent a property, so check out this list of surprising foods you can cook in the microwave.