Do you really need that "Star Wars" R2-D2 Talking Pizza Cutter, all the rage on the Internet? Or a machine that whips out breakfast sandwiches that look a heck of a lot like Egg McMuffins?

Probably not.

But choosing the right kitchen gadgets and tools can make all the difference when it comes to your culinary creations.

"You don't need to waste your money on a fad," said Trish Jarvis, an associate specializing in the kitchen department at Ace Hardware, 6959 E. 22nd St.

From cupcake keepers to taco racks, this Ace has an amazing collection of cooking gear.

"Having the right tools is the difference between being successful and being frustrated in the kitchen," Jarvis said. "Maybe you don't have the right knife or the right measuring tools and your end product is going to be something you are disappointed with because you don't have the right tools."

Here's the strategy from Jarvis: arm yourself with quality, multi-use basics. Then mix in items you will use often that will make your life in the kitchen easier.

"A lot of people see the latest trends and have to have it," Jarvis said. "Some are great, others are a fad."

To find out what products will really make your life easier, talk with foodie friends, watch cooking shows and do your homework on the Internet. Read product reviews before taking the plunge.

Among popular kitchen gadgets, Jarvis said, are everything cupcake - fancy paper liners, pans, décor and carriers are the rage. Also popular is Lodge cast-iron cookware, and, on the other end of the technology spectrum, items that make microwave cooking a snap, from omelets and bacon to potatoes.

Ace has aisles full of things for baking, roasting, cutting, canning, dehydrating, microwaving, storing, entertaining and cleaning.

"People are coming back to the kitchen and they want to have fun with it," Jarvis said.

There's no shortage of spots to peruse kitchen gadgets, online and in person. National chains such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Target and Kitchen Collection have much to offer.

Locally, Table Talk - which has three Tucson locations - is a go-to for culinary types.

"One of the things that people are looking for in houseware gizmos and gadgets is multiple use," said Morgan Trevers, general manager at Table Talk.

"People are really looking for a bang for their buck," he said. "They like color. And they like things that are made in the USA - especially at our Oro Valley location."

Norpro forged knives, which can be found at a fraction of the cost of big-name cutlery, are popular, as is anything silicone.

"Silicone has revolutionized the houseware world - lids, potholders, trivets, colanders, splatter screens, even a poached egg cup.

"They come in bright colors and they have multiple uses," Travers said.

Ceramic nonstick pans also are popular.

"The Teflon of yesterday is replaced with ceramic nonstick cookware," he said. "It's very durable."

A Perfect Pantry, 21 E. Congress St., offers an entire wall of kitchen paraphernalia.

"Everybody loves kitchen gadgets," said owner Amy Pike.

When you really want it done right, thermometers are key, Pike said. From barbecue to baked goods and fudge, if the temperature is off, it can ruin the works. Pike has just about any kind of thermometer a cook needs.

The store has a wide array of whisks, from the mighty to beat batters to the tiny, for mixing salad dressing.

There are items for the gourmet at heart - including spice grinders and olive stuffers.

"We have a garlic press that presses garlic but it also slices garlic. We have glass rolling pins that you fill with ice water for the perfect flaky crust."

One of Pike's favorite items is a butter spreader for corn on the cob.

"I thought, who really needs that? But it's wonderful. Instead of the butter sliding off and ending up on your plate, it perfectly butters your corn without getting your fingers greasy."

Pike said the economy has caused people to return to the kitchen.

"People are staying home and cooking and they are making it fun," she said. "If you are going to be in the kitchen you need the tools to make it a good experience."

Trish's Top Tools

Here are some of the favorite kitchen tools of Ace Hardware's Trish Jarvis:

• KitchenAid Stand Mixer: This mixer, which comes in a plethora of pastel and bright colors, is "indispensible. You put everything in the bowl, it mixes perfectly and your product comes out wonderfully." $299.

• Three good knives: She recommends J.A. Henckels forged-steel chef's knife ($30.99), paring knife ($17.99) and bread knife ($26.99).

• The woods: Wooden cutting board and wooden spoons. Also necessary is a cutting board that can be placed in the dishwasher for meat.

• Food processor: Starting at $49.99.

• A good whisk: "You don't need anything fancy." $5.99

• Spatula: While colorful patterns are fun, the basic $1.40 model works just fine.

• OXO Good Grips Tongs: $13.99 for a 12-inch pair that locks, taking up less space in the drawer.

• Good Grips Microplane Zester: At $10.99, this item zests citrus easily and grates cheese finely.

Contact local freelance writer Gabrielle Fimbres at