Though you may never guess it, these simple beech cubes outperform the average metal nutcracker. Simply rest a nut in the hollowed area of the larger block, place the smaller block on top, and give it a gentle whack. The result is a beautifully shelled nut—intact—every time.
Cubist Nutcracker, $29;
Finally, an easy-to-use whisk that does the grunt work for you. Squeeze the handle, and the whisk head twists to blend. It’s perfect for quickly mixing lighter liquids and for creating peaks on egg whites. An open-ended design—with minimal nooks and crannies—makes it simple to clean.
Joseph Joseph Twisk Mechanical Whisk, $14.95;
Try as we might, our kitchen tools rarely stack this neatly. Here, essential kitchen items—a juicer, sieve, colander, and large and small mixing bowls—are contained in the space of one. They also work well together: empty fresh-squeezed juice into the small bowl and sift flour into the larger bowl. Practical and attractive, it’s one of our favorites.
Nest 5 Kitchen Essentials Set, $50;
For all of those times we have scrambled for oven mitts (only to wind up using a dish towel), it would have been a relief to have such a functional apron. With padded mitts stitched into the front, this cotton twill version keeps your clothes splatter-less and your hands covered at a moment’s notice.
Apron + Built-in Oven Mitts, available in navy or olive, $25;
A true two-in-one product, this snazzy board serves its expected duty when it lies flat for chopping, but as a bonus, the sides snap up to form a chute for rinsing produce. A rubber edge keeps the board from twisting about, and the whole thing takes up the same space as a regular cutting board.
Rinse and Chop Cutting Board, $15;
Reducing the serving size of a recipe can involve more fractional math than we’ve used since high school. This stainless steel recipe divider makes things easy: spin the wheel to half or quarter a recipe and measurements are divided into the appropriate proportions.
Magnetic Recipe Divider, $10;
There is nothing more frustrating than a jar that refuses to open. Instead of banging it on the counter (again), find Zen-like relief in the JarPop. Simply align the tool on the lip of the jar as you would a bottle opener and pull up to break the vacuum seal. The unscathed lid twists off easily, and you still have your hand muscles—and sanity—intact.
When you don’t want to pull out the colander (and wash a second bowl), this tool comes in handy. Hold the strainer against the lip of the pot and tilt to empty liquid without losing any solids in the process. It works equally well for left- and right-handed cooks and fits a variety of pot sizes.
RSVP Endurance Stainless Steel Crescent Pot Strainer, $11.40;
Most of our metal vegetable peelers have dulled or broken before we’ve even had time to consider their general unattractiveness. Thankfully, Slice’s new peeler vastly improves on all of these aspects. Designed by famed product designer Karim Rashid, it features a nonslip ergonomic handle and a super-sharp ceramic blade that easily cuts into potatoes, carrots, and cucumbers without dulling or rusting after hundreds of peelings.
Slice Veggie Peeler, $12;
This Scandinavian-designed tool comes in handy at every stage of pasta preparation. Measure out dry spaghetti portions in the handle, pick up slippery cooked pasta with the teeth, and grate Parmesan on the face. Dinner is served with only one tool to clean.
Pasta Server with Measure and Grater, $15;
Though they may look ordinary, these measuring spoons have winning details that make all the difference. Each spoon has two heads of the same size (which come in handy when measuring two different ingredients) and a flat bottom, so it rests on the counter without tipping over. Hidden magnets keep the spoons neatly stacked together or attached to the refrigerator for avid bakers.
Magnetic Measuring Spoons, $7.95;
Getting a piping-hot casserole to the table becomes tricky when your only tools are slippery oven mitts. Thankfully, Alessi has a stylish answer: an extendable dish holder with heat-resistant handles for easy transportation. The holder is designed to fit a variety of dish shapes—round, square, and rectangle—and folds to a fraction of its size for stowing away.
Alessi Pipiro Extensible Oven to Table Dish Holder, $100;
When free counter space is difficult to come by, this strainer and cutting board combination saves the day. With adjustable arms that fit most sink sizes, it creates a new work area from an underused prep space. Chop produce on the cutting board and slide it right into the strainer for rinsing. The cutting board lifts off for easy cleaning.
Cooks Strainer and Cutting Board, $20;
This adjustable tool eliminates the need for a slew of measuring cups. Sliding the rubber knob raises and lowers the bottom of the cup to change the volume being measured. It works equally well measuring wet or dry ingredients up to a half-cup.
Adjustable Measuring Cup, $18 (small size unavailable);
As much as we enjoy the calming rhythm of chopping vegetables, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of time. Fortunately, this handy chopper is a quick performer. Simply load in fruits, vegetables, or herbs and pull the handle to set the stainless steel blades spinning and chopping. One pull will instantly result in a coarse chop; pull multiple times for finer chopping jobs. You’ll have a fruit salad, salsa, or an herb blend in minutes, with minimal parts to clean.
Three sizes of colorful canisters keep dry goods fresh and attractively stored. While a traditional canister has a spoon attached to—and protruding from—its side, these spoons stay neatly tucked away thanks to built-in magnets. And with see-through lids, you’ll always know what’s stowed inside.
Cooks 3-Piece Canister Set, available in red, black, or turquoise, $19;
Since we love fresh herbs but hate how they wilt within a few days, this herb keeper was an instant winner. Simply fill the bottom of the container with a little water, add cut herbs, and the stems stay fresh for weeks. A lift-out tray drains the herbs as they’re pulled out, keeping things neat and tidy.
Herb Keeper, $20;
With a roast in the oven, pasta on the stove, and bread under the broiler, it can be confusing to remember what’s finishing when. This windup timer unit keeps track of three times individually, with different timing intervals (one-, five-, and ten-minute increments) to ensure that the long and short cooking tasks all come out on time—without resorting to an ugly digital timer.
Stainless-Steel Triple Timer, $48;