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Through all of life’s ups and downs, one thing remains constant: People need to eat. This tumultuous year has no doubt forced a return to the kitchen, which can be great for so many reasons — healthier eating, memory making, and skill sharpening to name a few. But if you have kids, you know that cooking for the family can get, well, messy.

Gone (or few) are the days of elaborate 20-step Martha Stewart cakes and Bobby Flay flambés. Juggling newborns, or taming rambunctious toddlers can complicate even the simplest of recipes. And don’t even get us started on picky eaters.

And while it can feel like chaos in the kitchen, products exist to make whipping up a meal a little bit easier. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of helpful (and sometimes fun!) kitchen gadgets and tools that simplify mealtime. Plus, a few that might even get the kids involved.

We rounded up some of the most useful and fun kitchen gadgets on the market by reading reviews, looking at ratings, and taking recommendations from the Parenthood editors. As always, we focused on products that are made with safe materials for you and your family.

Price guide

  • $ = under $20
  • $$ = $20–$50
  • $$$ = $50–$100
  • $$$$ = over $100

Kitchy Pizza Cutter Wheel

Price: $

Pizza cutters can be… scary. They’re super sharp, especially when you’re reaching blindly into a drawer. That’s why we like this one from Kitchy. It’s handleless with an easy-grip covering, and uses leverage to cut right through (no more losing toppings).

This pizza cutter also comes apart for easy cleanup and has a blade guard that snaps on to prevent cuts when not in use. Pro tip: If you use the dishwasher, just be sure to stick to the top rack to prevent cracking in the plastic.

Mueller Mandoline-Pro

Price: $

If you tend to avoid intricate meals requiring tedious chopping, a mandoline might be a game-changer for you. A fan-favorite on Amazon, the Mueller Mandoline-Pro comes with five blades: for straight slicing, wavy slicing, shredding, and large and small julienne (it can also dice).

It slices everything into a nonslip container and comes with a safety food holder so even older kids can help with meal prep. When you’re done, it goes into the dishwasher for easy cleanup. Move over, Ina Garten.

This mandoline is currently out of stock, but this option is a good alternative.

Kuhn Rikon Easy Clean Garlic Press

Price: $$

If you’re still peeling and chopping garlic, the only question is… why? With a garlic press, you just pop a clove of garlic into the press, squeeze, and get peeled, chopped garlic into whatever you’re cooking. The sieve even pops out for an easy clean.

One reviewer says, “I paid an astonishing sum for a Kuhn Rikon stainless steel press over 10 years ago, and NEVER regretted it. That thing is amazing: You can insert more than one (unpeeled) clove at a time, the handles are comfortable and require less exertion than any other I’ve ever used.”

Microplane Citrus Zester

Price: $

A zester may not be at the top of your list when it comes to kitchen gadgets, but you’d be surprised how much action this little device gets — especially if you’ve been using meal subscription kits, which always seem to call for lemon zest (who knew?).

This Microplane zester is dishwasher-friendly and made with surgical-grade stainless steel. As the name suggests, you can zest citrus with it (tip: freeze extra zest and add a pinch to soups or sauces to punch up the flavor), grate fresh ginger, or finely dust Parmesan on pasta.

One reviewer says, “After watching countless YouTube cooking videos, I caved and bought one. It is amazing! You get double the amount of zest from a lime or lemon than you previously could and it grates cheese in that fine shaving you can get at a restaurant!”

Takeaway Dice

Price: $

Even if you’re not ordering take-out, this is a fun way to let the kids determine what’s for dinner.

Sure, at first glance the options don’t seem to be the healthiest. But if you’re cooking at home, you’re in charge of what the symbols mean — the bowl with chopsticks might be a healthy veggie-filled stir fry, homemade pizza can be made with a cauliflower crust, and with tacos, well, the possibilities are endless.

One Amazon reviewer says, “Bought this as a joke gift for the other half, however this lovely little cube ends up solving many arguments and burning debates about what we eat on a Friday.”

Zulay Kids Knife Set

Price: $

Cooking as a family makes dinner time so much fun, but there’s only so many kid-safe activities in the kitchen. Parenthood editor Saralyn Ward is one of the lucky moms whose kids actually love to help her cook, so she lets them have a hand in the prep work with these starter knives from Zulay.

Made from durable nylon with a no-slip rubber handle, these kid-safe knives have a blunt tip and are only sharp enough to cut through softer fruits and veggies, leafy greens, cheese, or bread.

MAMMUT Children’s Table from IKEA

Price: $$

Parenthood editor Sara McTigue considered bringing a stool into the kitchen so her three small kids could reach the counter — then she imagined them “pulling a Lion King” and throwing each other off the edge, quickly deciding against it.

Instead, she incorporated a small kids’ table, like this one from Ikea, into the kitchen space so there was plenty of room for all three of them to help. Just, you know, at a safe height.

Miu Silicone Baking Mats

Price: $

Nonstick silicone baking mats, like these from Miu, are a great, eco-friendly replacement for aluminum foil or parchment paper. Whether you’re baking veggies, cookies, or meat, once popped onto a baking sheet, they can withstand up to 480°F (249°C) in the oven. They’re also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

This is another recommendation from Sara, who likes that these come in a pack of three and include ruler edges and a circular layout (which seems to be intended for macarons) so the kids know exactly where to drop a dollop of cookie dough.

These mats are currently out of stock, but this option is a great alternative.

R2-D2 Oven Mitts

Price: $

These fun oven mitts speak for themselves. If your kiddo is a Star Wars fan, they can “beep boop” like R2 around the kitchen until it’s time to take the casserole out of the oven (safely!). They’re also available in a BB8 design so multiple kids — or you — can get in on the fun.

ezpz Mini Play Mat

Price: $

This is another recommendation from our editor Saralyn, who uses these cool silicone mats with compartments (in a flower shape) for build-your-own-taco night. The placemat suctions to the table to eliminate slippage, while the small silicone compartments are perfect for storing different toppings.

The Mini Play Mat is dishwasher safe, so whether you’re using it for taco night or a finger painting project, it’s a breeze to clean.

These products take the term “gadget” to the next level. A couple are definitely splurges, but they’re designed for efficiency and, based on the reviews, make cooking a more enjoyable experience overall.

Ninja Foodi 9-in-1

Price: $$$$

At the risk of sounding like a late-night infomercial, this may literally be the last kitchen device you’ll ever need. With this air fryer from Ninja, ingredients can be cooked with the speed of a pressure cooker (that’s about half normal cook time) and then crisped, leaving you with “fried” foods containing substantially lower levels of fat.

And this thing does more than just make homemade french fries. The pressure-cooking setting can evenly cook frozen foods, and the dehydrator can shrivel strawberries as a fun afternoon project with the kids. You can also use this to bake casseroles and cookies, sear/sauté, slow cook, and even make yogurt — yeah, it’s kind of wild.

Another pro: The parts are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. Cons include a hefty price tag and it takes up a good amount of kitchen real estate. But one review claims, “This really does do everything. Delivers on its promises, worth the space on my counter.”

Vitamix Ascent Series A3500 Blender

Price: $$$$

A lot has been made about how spendy Vitamix blenders are (and yes, they are expensive), but those who have them swear by them. More than just a blender, the Vitamix blends, chops, crushes ice, grinds, juices, kneads, liquefies, mixes, purees, whips, and emulsifies. You can make fresh fruit and vegetable juices, soups, spreads and dips, or frozen desserts, then throw the whole thing in the dishwasher to clean up.

One reviewer says, “Is it possible to be this excited about a blender? Because I am. The quality of product that it produces has already surpassed ANY other blender that I’ve bought.”

KitchenAid 2-Speed Hand Blender

Price: $$

Parenthood’s market editor, Jamey, says this is one of her favorite kitchen tools. It’s easy to use and store, and perfect for whipping up sauces and blending veggies into soup in a snap. Plus, with a twist, the blade section detaches and goes into the dishwasher.

Her pro tip: Wear an apron when blending liquid into soups or sauces over the stove… a little splatter is inevitable!

Walfos Silicone Lid Set

Price: $

Plastic wrap or aluminum foil are tough on the environment and your budget. This set of reusable lids fit almost anything circular, from soup in the microwave to sauces on the stovetop, and are made of colorful, BPA-free silicone.

Included in the pack are lids that are 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 inches. They’re oven-safe up to 500°F (260°C), and dishwasher safe for easy cleanup, and are heat resistant (great for little hands learning to cook).

Most reviewers say these do a great job of covering pots or bowls and like them for storing leftovers in the fridge. But a few reviewers claim they retain the smell of spicier foods for a while, even after washing.

Stasher Reusable Silicone Bags

Price: $$

While we’re on the subject of ridding the pantry of single-use plastic, check out these bags from Stasher. They’re made from BPA-free silicone and are safe to go in the microwave, dishwasher, boiling water, and the freezer. We’re not sure why you’d put one in the oven, but you can up to 400°F.

Stasher bags are expensive for a sandwich bag, but Parenthood’s market editor Jamey says they’re totally worth it. Between the cool colors and the magically effective zip-style seal, these baggies will make storing leftovers a breeze. Mother Nature will thank you, too.

Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Price: $$$$

Lots of foodies have a Le Creuset obsession — the French company makes heavy-duty enamel coated cast iron cookware that comes in a rainbow of colors. It’s ideal for braising, roasting, stewing, even baking bread. It’s also famously easy to clean, so you can pop the entire dish into the fridge knowing you won’t be left scraping congealed pasta off the sides the next day.

Le Creuset has a generous replacement policy and lasts for decades, making it the type of item that gets handed down in families.’ Is it expensive? Yup. One Amazon reviewer who calls it the “Bentley of cookware.” Worth the money? We think yes.

OXO Baker’s Dusting Wand

Price: $

It’s hard to not feel like a fairy princess or magical wizard when wielding this baker’s wand. Pop some powdered sugar or cinnamon into the sphere-shaped dispenser and let your little one dust brownies, snickerdoodles, or whatever recipe you’ve whipped up together.

Reviewers have nothing but good things to say about this little gadget, and claim that it’s easy to use and evenly distributes flour, powdered sugar, etc. onto surfaces and baked goods like it’s supposed to.

Yaylabs Softshell Ice Cream Ball

Price: $$

With summer right around the corner, we really want to love this product. The concept is that you add cream, sugar, and vanilla into one side of the ball and ice and rock salt to the other and shake, roll and kick it around until you have dessert — how fun is that?

It’s made from durable, food-safe, BPA-free, dishwasher-safe plastic and claims to make ice cream in 30 minutes in the backyard. But reviews are totally mixed on this one — some people seem to have had their expectations managed and found it entertaining and yummy, while others complain that the cream and sugar mixture leaked out while kicking or the ice cream was tough to scoop.

We say, if you’re feeling up to a $35 experiment, it could be fun. Just read a few more reviews before making a decision.

Zoku Classic Pops Mold

Price: $

A little more reliable than the ice cream ball and definitely still fun, these ice pop molds from Zoku are a fan-favorite. With six easy-release silicone compartments, you can mix and match the kind of popsicles you and the fam want to make. The plastic handles even have a drip guard to catch juices before they end up down your little one’s arm.

Folks say that these are easy to clean and easy to use, but warn that they need to run under hot water briefly to loosen up. A few people also say they take up a lot of space in the freezer.

Dorai Dish Pad

Price: $$$

Parenthood’s market editor, Jamey, says this is one of those things you never knew you needed until you have it. It’s a dish drying pad made from silicone and diatomaceous earth (we had to look it up too), which fights the growth of bacteria and mold by eliminating moisture on contact.

So, if thinking about the amount of times you place your squeaky clean dishes on a soggy, slightly discolored dish towel grosses you out (just us?), this product might be the fix you’re looking for.

Her one complaint is that, while the pad itself doesn’t need to be washed, the lighter color of the surface shows stains from coffee and oil residue. The company suggests cleaning it with a little hydrogen peroxide will do the trick.