I’ll never forget the first time I walked into our equipment storage space in the test kitchen. I was interviewing for my current position, assistant editor for the ATK Reviews team, and when I turned the corner into the room, I was briefly stunned. Aisle after aisle of gleaming equipment was laid out before me, tools and cookware that the Reviews team had diligently tested and recommended over the years. It was a home cook’s dream.
As a longtime ATK fan, I was no stranger to our equipment recommendations. Over the years I’ve purchased some of my favorite tools and pieces of cookware because of our reviews, including our winning food processor, small Dutch oven, plastic cutting boards, and rasp grater. I can attest to how well they’ve held up and how effectively they perform. But I still held on to some less-than-stellar kitchen basics that I’d had for years, thinking that they weren’t worth replacing. They got the job done, so I couldn’t justify removing them from my arsenal.
Then I started working in the test kitchen. I got to use the equipment we keep on hand, and it all stood out in stark relief from the lackluster essentials that peppered my kitchen cabinets. I never realized how truly wonderful it is to have a dry measuring cup set that doesn’t scatter when you push in a drawer, or a wooden spoon that stays smooth and comfortable even after countless washings. I realized it was time to up my game.
Two months into my new job, the pandemic forced us to work from home. The realization dawned that I, like everyone else, would be cooking more frequently than I had been—and I would be spending even more time in my kitchen for work. The need to recreate some elements of the Test Kitchen in my own home became even more apparent, and I made a list of affordable items that I could no longer get by without replacing or adding to my lineup.
Three years later, these tools have improved my time in the kitchen considerably and continue to perform admirably. I think any home cook would benefit from them as well.
Wooden spoon: One of my favorite first few tasks in the test kitchen was getting to help Lisa McManus review wooden spoons. I loved the feel of one of our new co-winners, the FAAY 13.5” Teak Cooking Spoon, in my hand. It offers the perfect combination of a comfortable, soft handle and a nimble head that makes stirring, scraping, and scooping easy.
Squeeze bottles: I have always loved the idea of an heirloom ceramic olive oil bottle nestled beside my stove. But after years of being frustrated with their ill-fitting spouts and unnecessary bulk, I’ve switched to our winning squeeze bottles for my cooking oil and will never look back. They make dispensing oil into measuring spoons or cups—or directly into pots and pans—a breeze, and they double as condiment containers. One note: Olive oil lasts longer if it is stored in opaque or dark glass bottles, so I keep just enough in my squeeze bottle to last a week or two.
12-Inch Nonstick Skillet: We generally do a weekly stir-fry night. Our winning 12-inch nonstick skillet is, without doubt, the best replacement I’ve made since working at ATK. It’s light but sturdy, making it both easy to maneuver and durable—perfect to use with our recipe for Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry. If you are in the market for a new nonstick skillet, this OXO model will never fail you.
Nonstick-safe spatula: I got the opportunity to test a set of nonstick skillets in my first few weeks at work, and frying and flipping dozens of eggs was made manageable by our winning nonstick-safe spatula. My husband and I have looked forward to weekend breakfasts of omelettes, pancakes, or scrambled eggs—and this agile but sturdy tool ensures that they all make it to our breakfast plates safely, without threatening to scrape up our skillets.
Dry measuring cups: I’ve always had a mismatched assortment of dry measuring cups taking up space in my drawer; they didn’t fit together well and they were barely getting the job done. Then I started using our winners in the Test Kitchen, and I realized they were better than my old collection for a few reasons: their markings are easy to read, they fit together nicely, and they have magnets on the end of the handles that keep the stacked cups tidy in a drawer or cabinet.
Bread knife: I’m lucky enough to live near an excellent local bakery, but after destroying loaves with my old, blunt bread knife, I knew it was time for a replacement. The Reviews team adores our winning large serrated knife; its handle is grippy and comfortable, and its sharp blade bites into loaves with ease to slice them cleanly. I can’t wait to use this knife during tomato season later this summer.
Grill tongs and spatula: We just received a grill as a housewarming present in time for grilling season, and I knew I needed to stock up on my team’s favorite grilling tools. The 16" OXO Good Grips Grilling Tongs feel like an elegant extension of my arm; their comfortable grip and precise pincers make for a great grilling experience. And the Char-Broil Comfort-Grip Grill Spatula is great for moving and flipping burgers without getting your hands too near the flames.
Gripper mat: For years I’ve gotten by with the old trick of slipping a damp paper towel under my cutting board to keep it from sliding around while I chop, dice, and mince. It never worked as well as I wanted it to, and after a few days in the Test Kitchen with this spacious and dependable gripper mat, I was sold. Now, my board stays in place whether I’m scoring an onion, breaking down a chicken, or sectioning a butternut squash.
It's been a few years now, and all of these items remain in steady rotation in my kitchen. I'm sure you'll find that they're welcome additions to your kitchen too.