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The Life-Changing Kitchen Tools That Spark Joy For Our Editors

These are the items that would survive a KonMari cleanout.
By Published Jan. 18, 2019

Like most of the country, the test kitchen is in full KonMari mode. (If you haven’t heard about Marie Kondo and her transformational method of tidying up, you’re probably stuck under a pile of things you don’t need.) Our editors are reorganizing their cluttered desks, the kitchen operations team blessed our storage space, and test cooks are finding new homes for the ingredients they don't need. With all of the purging going on, this year's annual equipment giveaway should have a record number of items. (The photo above is from that event a few years ago.)

One of the touchpoints of the KonMari method of tidying up is only keeping items that bring you joy. And as people who love to cook, there are lots of kitchen tools and equipment that spark joy for us. So I asked some of our editors—including some America’s Test Kitchen TV cast members and folks on our Tastings & Testings team, who can spy a pretty but useless gadget from a mile away—what kitchen item sparks the most joy for them. Here’s what they had to say.

Lisa McManus, America’s Test Kitchen TV Equipment Expert

I KonMari'd my kitchen years before that was a thing. I'd inherited a lot of random equipment and cookware that I had to weed out just to function. But one thing that brings me delight every morning is my small, one-person Bialetti moka pot. After we reviewed them a few years ago, I finally learned how to guarantee good coffee out of it every time—there are a few tricks! Watching the first bit of crema and coffee rise up into the top chamber is a ritual that I relish.

Jack Bishop, America’s Test Kitchen TV Tasting Corner

My manual pasta machine may not be the most essential item in my crowded kitchen—after all, it does just one thing—but nothing in my kitchen provides as much joy. I've owned my pasta machine for 30 years. It's shiny stainless steel and just as beautiful today as the day we brought it home. And the design is just so smart. The machine clamps to the counter and has a hand crank that turns the rollers. It’s made by an Italian company called Marcato. I have an older Atlas model but it's pretty much identical to the test kitchen's top-rated pasta machine, the Marcato Atlas 150 Wellness Pasta Machine. The "wellness" part of the name is a new addition—I guess not everything is timeless.

Julia Collin Davison, America’s Test Kitchen TV Host

I have a thing about napkins. I HATE cheap paper napkins because they’re too small, they don’t absorb much, and I always seem to crush them into a tiny ball within minutes of starting a meal, rendering them useless. The thicker, more expensive paper napkins are better, but they just don’t compare to a napkin made from actual fabric. About three years ago, I made the switch from paper to fabric napkins for everyday use and I’ve never looked back. It just makes me feel good to pluck a clean, folded napkin from the tidy bin I keep inside a kitchen cupboard. Also, I believe they help me appreciate the food more, even if it’s just a little snack, because they bring a little respect to the situation. My favorite napkins are the Buffet Napkins from World Market; they’re 100% cotton, they wash well, and they come in great colors.

Becky Hays, America’s Test Kitchen TV Test Cook

I love my Messermeister 16.75-inch Bamboo Knife Magnet. I actually have two of these in my kitchen, mounted horizontally side by side (yes, I own a lot of knives!). Not only is it super convenient to keep my knives within easy reach, I think it adds beauty to have my entire collection on display—it's a symbol of my love of food and cooking. And this may sound odd, but I get a small spark of joy each time I return a knife to the magnet: The pull as the blade snaps back into place is uniquely satisfying.

Erin McMurrer, America’s Test Kitchen TV Test Cook

A few years ago I never would have guessed that I would own an automated soap dispenser. But after stocking the simplehuman Sensor Pump in our test kitchens and seeing first-hand how easy they are to use and how effective they are at eliminating contamination, I was sold! This dispenser is a snap to fill and quick to dispense—and it dispenses just the right amount of soap, so it gives me comfort knowing we aren’t being wasteful in the test kitchen or in my home. And best of all, I know it’s keeping the kitchens safer from contamination.

Miye Bromberg, ATK Reviews Senior Editor

Look, I'm not sure if any object truly sparks joy in my life, and even if it did, I wouldn't be able to guarantee that it would spark joy in yours. But I am very fond of my Bee House Salt Box, which provides a home for my kosher salt. I use it every time I cook, and find it useful, unobtrusive, and aesthetically pleasing. It is a good thing.

Lauren Savoie, ATK Reviews Senior Editor

I absolutely loathe doing the the dishes, and unfortunately for me my apartment doesn't have a dishwasher. Investing in the simplehuman Steel Frame Dishrack was one of the best things I did for my kitchen. There's something about placing my clean dishes neatly in this gleaming dish rack that just feels luxurious, which is a really nice feeling when you're elbow-deep in a sink full of dirty dishes. Having tools you love can really help make mundane chores just a little bit more enjoyable.

Carolyn Grillo, Tastings & Testings Assistant Editor

Whether I'm mincing parsley, chopping sweet potatoes, or prepping spaghetti squash, my Misono UX10 Santoku makes prep work a breeze. It's light, agile, and razor-sharp. I'm reassured that when I pull it from my knife block it will elegantly and effortlessly make precise cuts through even the toughest foods.

Hannah Crowley, Tastings & Testings Executive Editor

I love my Thermapen! I had a janky old thermometer for years. It had a tiny body that was hard to grip and a tiny screen that was hard to see. I just upgraded to a Thermapen and it just feels so luxurious and secure in my hand. I also trust it to be accurate, which gives me peace of mind; I was always double checking my other one.

Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, Tastings & Testings Assistant Editor

My favorite, most joy-sparking piece of kitchen equipment is my ECM Classika espresso machine. Every morning, I make my fiancé and myself cappuccinos. I love the precision of it: weighing the beans, grinding them, using the right tamping pressure to get the perfect espresso pulls. I will say, this machine is expensive as heck (we have some cheaper recommendations in our testing of espresso machines) and my mom found mine for me barely used at an estate sale, but this makes me appreciate it all the more.

Emily Phares, Tastings & Testings Assistant Editor

I already have two sets of mixing bowls that I really like, but I recently purchased a 4-quart Vollrath Economy Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl and love its versatility. It's much lighter than my other mixing bowls, and less fragile. I've owned it for about a week and have used it as part of a makeshift double boiler (to melt chocolate) and to make a bunch of meatballs. The bowl easily fit everything and offered ample room to toss everything together.

Kate Shannon, Tastings & Testings Senior Editor

I just love the GIR Skinny Spatula. It comes in a dozen vibrant colors—I especially like the teal and magenta—and always stands out in a drawer or utensil holder. The petite blade and long, skinny handle make it perfect for small tasks. I use it whenever I need to scrape the dregs out of a jam jar, mise bowl, or measuring spoon. It's tiny, but it's one of the most-used pieces of equipment in my kitchen.

Lisa's Pick

Bialetti Moka Express

This easy-to-use, inexpensive, classic design quickly brews rich, dense coffee.
Buy on Amazon
Jack's Pick

Marcato Atlas 150 Wellness Pasta Machine

The Ferrari of the pasta machine world, this model is a pleasure to use and can produce pasta with a wide range of thickness.
Buy on Amazon
Becky's Pick

Messermeister 16.75-inch Bamboo Knife Magnet

This handsome bamboo knife strip is easy to install and mounts knives securely and safely.
Buy on Amazon
Erin's Pick

simplehuman Sensor Pump

This model is easy to fill, well-designed, and, with its short stature, less obtrusive than other dispensers.
Buy on Amazon
Miye's Pick

Bee House Salt Box

This sturdy flip-top salt box holds plenty of salt and provides easy access to it, and a small handle makes it convenient to lift for on-the-fly seasoning.
Buy on Amazon
Lauren's Pick

simplehuman Steel Frame Dishrack

This large rack has a swiveling spout that efficiently drains off water and little raised feet that hold it up off the counter.
Buy on Amazon
Carolyn's Pick

Misono UX10 Santoku

In our testing, this santoku wowed testers of all abilities, who raved that it felt "agile, sharp, and really good in hand" and gave users "great precision and control."
Buy on Amazon
Hannah's Pick

Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4

The be stinstant-read thermometer on the market: dead accurate, fast, and simple to use.
Buy on Amazon
Riddley's Pick

Gaggia Anima Automatic Coffee Machine

This expensive-but-worth-it machine is the best option for push-button convenience and fantastic espresso.
Buy on Amazon
Emily's Pick

Vollrath Economy Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

The broad, shallow shape of these inexpensive bowls puts food within easy reach and allows for wide turns of a spatula. They're also lightweight, so you can comfortably lift, scrape, and pour.
Buy on Amazon
Kate's Pick

GIR Skinny Spatula

This flexible head handily maneuvers in tight corners and edges but is strong enough to scoop heavy food.
Buy on Amazon

What piece of kitchen equipment sparks joy for you? Let us know in the comments!