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Save money and up your cooking game with these surprising finds.

By Stacey Ballis
January 07, 2021
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It is time to pick up some fabulous new tools for your kitchen, and for once, I am not sending you to a kitchen specialty store. I am sending you to a place that has wonderful treasures for your culinary kit, most of which are really inexpensive.

I'm talking about the hardware store.

Kitchen tools at the hardware store?

Yep, the hardware store. Your local hardware store is the home to a treasure trove of delightful and useful gear to improve your cooking. And you know the prices at a hardware store are always lower than what you'll find at a kitchen specialty store. Don't believe me? Check out these items and get ready to be amazed, not to mention thrifty.

Taping Knife
Credit: Courtesy Home Depot

Drywall Taping Knives

How to use them in the kitchen: These wide, flat metal blades with sturdy handles come in sizes from 4 inches to 12 and are one of my favorite kitchen tools. From using as a bench (dough) scraper, to helping me shape my sourdough loaves, to smoothing the sides of an iced cake, they are super durable and dishwasher safe.

Budget payoff: The largest taping knives are usually under $15.

Blow Torch
Credit: Courtesy Home Depot

Blowtorch

How to use them in the kitchen: If you love a crème brulée, or a perfectly toasted meringue-topped pie, you might have a small culinary blow torch already. But those petite and fussy units are expensive and in constant need of refilling with equally pricy butane.  You'll also find it really useful beyond just pastry. Ever cook a sheet pan supper and have the chicken perfectly cooked but the skin isn't really browned or crispy the way you want it? Torch to the rescue. Don't want to fuss with browning those meatballs in a skillet before adding to the pot of sauce? Torch 'em. (Just be sure you store it carefully and properly, and if you do not already have a kitchen fire extinguisher—shame on you—be sure to pick one up.)

Budget payoff: For less than the price of a miniature pastry torch you can buy a full-size propane torch, which burns hotter and faster. Further, the 14-ounce refill cylinders are usually about the same price or less than the butane bottles of less than half the size.

Paint Brushes
Credit: Courtesy Home Depot

Pastry and Basting Brushes and Decorating Tools

How to use them in the kitchen: For all your pastry and basting uses, a brush from the paintbrush aisle of the hardware store is every bit as good. Look for nylon brushes with plastic handles if you want to be able to put them through your dishwasher. Want to have some fun with decorating cakes? Look for tools like wood grain creators for faux paint finishes, which are terrific for chocolate work, or the plastic tools that tilers use to make grooves in the grout for making perfect stripes in batter. Tilers also use disposable plastic grout bags that make terrific pastry bags, and are often more durable, so no more blow-outs when piping stiff cookie doughs.

Budget payoff: Brushes in hardware stores are going to be a fraction of the price of any brush you can find at a specialty kitchen supply store, as are tools and bags.

Wooden Mallet
Credit: Courtesy Home Depot

Rubber Mallet

How to use them in the kitchen: If you ever need to pound meat to make schnitzel, smash cookies or crackers for crumbs, or bust up some toasted nuts for baking, a rubber mallet from the hardware store is both wildly effective and strangely fun.

Budget payoff: These workhorses sell for a fraction of the price of a "meat tenderizer" from the kitchen supply store.

More hardware store finds for the kitchen

Ready to go deep? Check out these great tools you can snag for less at your local hardware store:

  • Painters tape is what pro chefs use to label canisters and leftovers for ease.
  • Cotton twine and cheesecloth, used for all sorts of cooking applications, are both much less expensive at the hardware store, and come in larger scale, so no need to replace as often.
  • Slate and lumber are ready to be your next cheeseboard or grilling plank. Be sure to get untreated lumber and ask them to cut the planks to size for you in-store.
  • Sections of PVC pipe from the plumbing section can sub for culinary ring molds.
  • A length of stainless steel small-link chain makes for a perfect pie weight.
  • Small plastic buckets for painters are ideal for basting liquids when grilling and smoking.
  • Needle nose pliers are far better than a tweezer for removing fish bones.