The right tools and gadgets can make cooking a whole lot easier for anyone, but this is especially true for people living with arthritis, who have the kind of joint pain and stiffness that make many movements difficult.
More than 47 million Americans live with these symptoms, according to arthritis statistics, and one of the most common forms is osteoarthritis of the hand. In fact, about half of all people assigned female at birth and a quarter of people assigned male at birth experience hand pain associated with osteoarthritis by the time they reach 85, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
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Unfortunately, this can make everyday activities like cooking significantly more challenging. "If you have arthritis in your thumb, which is quite common, your grip may be the first to go, which can make using a can opener or hand mixer, getting pots and pans out of a cabinet or even opening a container very difficult," says Roger Adams, PhD, doctor of nutrition, personal trainer and owner of eatrightfitness. What's more: "The smaller handles on many cooking utensils may not work as well if you have decreased range of motion in your hands, making stirring a challenge."
The good news is that there are countless kitchen gadgets out there to streamline some of your everyday cooking activities. Here are the ones experts recommend.
How We Chose
We tapped Adams, functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, FNTP and Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, doctor of naturopathic medicine, founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com, and author of Ancient Remedies. Here, these experts explain what to look for in kitchen essentials when you have arthritis and give specific products their nod of approval.
1. OXO Good Grips Egg Slicer
Cutting food is hard enough when you have bouts of joint pain in your hands, but this task is made even more complicated when the food is slippery, like hard-boiled eggs. Luckily, OXO makes an egg slicer that takes two movements — first placing the egg in the device, and then clamping it shut — and delivers 10 even slices to put on a salad or toast.
Rodgers also uses this device to cut mushrooms, strawberries, avocados, olives, bananas and even butter — really anything that can fit under those blades. "Instead of having to grip a paring knife, the simple press-down method with more hand support and strength (without the need to hold a thin knife) is a great tool for arthritic hands," she says.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $10.80
2. Cucina Pro Apple Peeler and Corer
Peeling apples can be a finicky task — not to mention one that takes up a reasonable amount of time, especially for someone with arthritis. Rodgers likes to use this tool to help core, slice and peel not only apples, but also potatoes and other harder fruits.
"Apple peelers also typically suction to the counter, so you don't have to fight against it sliding. And, since you are using a larger-handled crank, it is much more friendly for cooking than a small vegetable peeler," she says.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $22.95
3. WiseLife Kitchen Mat Cushioned Anti-Fatigue Floor Mat
While one might not initially consider an anti-fatigue mat a "kitchen tool," it may prove to be one of your most helpful purchases.
"Standing for a longer period of time can be very uncomfortable, especially if you have arthritis in the knees, ankles, hips, etc.," says Rodgers. "Using a foam mat in front of your sink, stove or countertop helps decrease the pain and discomfort that standing for long periods can create."
This mat is made of a thick foam that's free of phthalates and latex, and it doesn't have a chemical-laden smell. It also has a non-slip backing to help keep your feet firmly on the ground and prevent falls.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $21.99
4. Besmon Electric Jar Opener
Trying to crank open a jar of tomato sauce or a can of beans can be trying for someone without arthritis. Add in the pain and swelling associated with the condition and it can be uncomfortable if not impossible. "An automatic jar opener does it for you, so you don't have to crank and place so much pressure on potentially hurting joints," says Rodgers.
Within three seconds, this electric jar opener opens even the toughest and most stubborn containers. It's battery operated, too, so you don't have to worry about setting it up to charge.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $29.99
5. Kitchenaid Artisan Mini Plus Stand Mixer
Here's another already-difficult task for someone without arthritis: having to stir things like cookie dough, bread dough or cake mix by hand. Luckily, a stand mixer makes this as easy as pressing a button.
Kitchenaid is one of the most reputable brands in the market for a stand mixer because their products are durable and come with the necessary accessories, including a dishwasher-safe stainless steel bowl and multiple attachments.
With 10 different speeds, you can make anything from burgers to bread to brownies.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $349.99
6. Gramercy Kitchen Company Mandoline Food Slicer
One thing you'll have to do a lot in your kitchen if you like to cook is slice up fruits and vegetables. This can be a tedious task, especially if you're dealing with bouts of aches, pain and burning in your hands. A mandoline can streamline the process significantly by slicing your food for you in the perfect proportions that you need for whatever recipe you're cooking.
Whether you're whipping up eggplant parmesan or hoping to make your own potato chips, a mandoline can cut the time and effort by more than half.
This mandoline, in particular, helps prevent injury because it comes with cut-resistant safety gloves.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $37.97
7. Ninja BL770 Mega Kitchen System Blender
A blender combines and finely purees your ingredients, eliminating the tedious task of chopping, making it helpful for soups, healthy smoothies and dressings, Axe says.
While there's no shortage of great blenders on the market, this one has pretty much everything you need to help facilitate any meal or snack you're hoping to make. It can hold eight cups and performs four important functions: mixing, blending, crushing and single-serve. It also comes with two 16-ounce cups with lids so you can take your creations with you on-the-go.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $159.99
What to Know Before Buying
When it comes to shopping for the best kitchen tools for people with arthritis, here are a few key things to keep in mind:
Before you purchase a kitchen gadget, consider how you will use it — and how often. This can help you determine whether or not it'll be worth the purchase and if you will actually make room for it in your kitchen. No one wants an expensive product to collect dust in an old cupboard.
It's always a good idea to consider which materials will help make your work in the kitchen a bit easier. Rubber is a great material for facilitating a better grip. If you are buying something with a handle, Rodgers recommends a ribbed version for better support and grip.
Speaking of grip: The tighter you have to hold a utensil or pot, the more range of motion (ROM) it requires from the joint, Rodgers says. "Pushing joint ROM to the limits can cause a lot of pain and inflammation, which is why finding adaptive utensils and tools that have a wider handle to grip is super helpful," she says. "Or, you can take your own utensils and tools and wrap foam around them to increase the handle diameter and decrease the grip needed."
Larger tools are usually best for people with arthritis, because these require less fine precision and control of your hands, Axe says. He recommends looking for large spatulas and knives that give you more surface area to hold onto.
For tools that you are going to be picking up often, like an egg slicer or a jar opener, it's best to opt for lighter weights.
If the gadget stays in place, however, such as an electric blender or mixer, it's usually OK if they are a bit heavier, notes Axe. "Store heavier tools in a place where you don't have to carry or lift them too far, or keep them on your counter if you use them often."
Adaptive tools can get expensive, which is why Rodgers suggests finding ways to use simple everyday pieces for multiple purposes, like an apple peeler and egg slicer.
While it's true that some of the best-quality gadgets and equipment will be more costly, such as a good blender or mixer, Axe points out that they are usually worth the cost because they work so well and make your tasks that much easier.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.