These 5 Kitchen Tools Make My Summer Better, 2021 Edition

The ATK Reviews team's favorite kitchen gear this summer (plus one delicious treat)

Published July 7, 2021.

As a product tester and editor at America’s Test Kitchen, I’m constantly discovering new things about kitchen gear. I’m also learning from the work my coworkers do. And when someone arrives at a team meeting with a special glimmer in their eye, I know I’m about to get the scoop on something good

From my team, I’ve learned that dilution is the key to a balanced cocktail and there’s a right way and a wrong way to use a salad spinner. Cheers to clean greens! 

I’ve also learned which pieces of kitchen equipment are worth my time and money. Here are five test kitchen–tested pieces of equipment that I’ve bought at the advice of my team. Each one of these products was compared with similar models in side-by-side tests and bested its competition. I use all these items throughout the year, but summer is when they shine. 

1. Toddy Cold Brew System

Real Bostonians drink iced coffee all year long, but I am not a real Bostonian. I’m a Midwesterner who thinks you should match your coffee routine to the weather. In the summer, I say a temporary goodbye to hot coffee and start making cold brew. 

Lisa McManus, our team’s resident coffee expert, invited me to help her test cold-brew coffee makers when she reviewed them a few years ago. Some models had teeny-tiny perforated baskets that held only a few ounces of coffee grounds and produced weak, watery coffee concentrate. But the Toddy Cold Brew System has a wide pitcher that holds 12 ounces of ground coffee and produces a whopping 56 ounces of full-flavored coffee concentrate. That’s enough to last me from one to two weeks. Especially on the hottest and muggiest days of summer, I love that it takes just seconds to make a cup of coffee in the morning. All I have to do is pour a few ounces of concentrate into a glass with ice and water and stir to combine. 

2. GIR Suction Lids

In the summer, we do a lot of potluck-style dinners with friends. Our two most requested dishes are esquites and a guacamole-like dip with mango and jicama. I’ve lost most of the lids to my Pyrex mixing bowls, and I avoid using plastic wrap, so I was thrilled when my coworker Chase Brightwell tested reusable silicone lids. The winners, GIR Suction Lids, are a total game changer. They come in a range of sizes that fit every bowl in my kitchen, including my assortment of cereal and snack bowls. It feels a little like magic: I just plop one on top of a bowl and press down slightly to form a seal. The lids are also great for storing leftovers, and they can be cleaned in the dishwasher.

3. Le Creuset Table Model Corkpull

When Miye Bromberg, our team’s resident expert on booze and the tools you need to drink it, was testing corkscrews, she gave models to ATK staffers to test at home. Lucky me, I got the model that won that review, the Le Creuset Table Model Corkpull. And here’s a secret: I never gave my copy back! (I’ve decided to consider it a form of long-term durability testing.) 

I’d always used waiter’s corkscrews, so this style of “self-pulling” corkscrew was new to me. Instead of fiddling about with hinges or pressing down metal arms on the side of a corkscrew, all you do is twist the knob. Miye described it in her review as “astonishingly easy to use,” and I agree. In the summer, when we’re drinking crisp white wine and rosé, this corkscrew gets a lot of use.

4. Nathan LittleShot

It can’t all be coffee and rosé! There has to be water, too. I like our top-rated glass water bottle, but it’s our favorite plastic water bottle that I take with me when I’m running errands or going to a friend’s cookout. 

When Executive Editor Hannah Crowley tested water bottles, the initial results were grim. But then she found the Nathan LittleShot, a clever water bottle that offers the best of all worlds. The two-part lid combines a wide opening (making it easy to clean) and a tiny spout (so it’s easy to drink from). It’s also lightweight. I’ve carried mine around with me every day for several years, and it still looks pretty much like new.

5. Jeni’s Dairy-Free Texas Sheet Cake Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

OK, OK. This isn’t a piece of kitchen equipment. But when it’s scorching hot, what’s better than ice cream? 

This chocolate ice cream isn’t just good for a vegan ice cream. It’s good, period. I was part of the tasting panel for Carolyn Grillo’s review of vegan chocolate ice cream, so I can attest that some options are so chalky or have such funky flavors that they’re not worth buying. This ice cream is one of the exceptions. Its coconut cream base is superlush and supercreamy, and there are lots of big, chewy chunks of chocolate cake scattered throughout the pint. 

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