How to Shop for Kitchen Tools Like a Professional Equipment Tester

We've determined the qualities that make our winners the best. Here's what to look for when shopping for the essentials.

Published June 13, 2022.

The ATK Reviews Team spends countless hours researching, testing, and writing about an array of kitchen equipment. The winners of our equipment reviews are winners for a reason—we put each piece of equipment through rigorous tests to determine the best of the best.

But what if you need a piece of kitchen equipment right now? Say, your AirBnb kitchen is a little less stocked than you expected, and you find yourself at TJMaxx overwhelmed by the dozens of skillets on display? Or maybe you're looking to save a little money—we often provide "best buy" picks (which are more affordable runners-up to the winners), but the best buy option still may not be aligned with your specific budget.

We’ve got you.

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When we test equipment, we’re not only determining what brand a winner is, but what qualities make it a winner. So, if you ever find yourself in a cooking equipment bind, here’s what to look out for when shopping for the essentials.

What to Look For in Nonstick Skillets

Whether you're frying eggs for a crowd or cooking delicate fish for dinner, you'll need a nonstick skillet that is up to the task. (And if your trusty nonstick skillet is looking a little worse for the wear, it may be time for a new one.) See our nonstick skillet review here.

  • Look for skillets with smooth, dark, and spacious cooking surfaces that give food enough room to brown.
  • Models with gently sloping walls allow you to stir without the food falling over the edges.
  • Ensure that the model is oven safe up to 400 degrees, has a comfortable handle, and is less than 3 pounds with evenly distributed weight.

What to Look For in Plastic Cutting Boards

Sure, they might not be something you display on your countertop, but these utilitarian workhorses are essential for home cooks who don't want a lot of fuss. Best of all, they hardly require any maintenance, and they can be thrown right in the dishwasher to clean. See our plastic cutting board review here.

  • Stability is one of the most important qualities of any cutting board—if your cutting board is slipping and sliding while you're chopping, it could result in serious injury. Look for moderately heavy boards with rubber grips that help anchor them to the counter.
  • Choose a model with at least a medium thickness since thin boards tend to warp over time.

What to Look For in Dutch Ovens

Dutch ovens are perfect for everything from making french fries to even baking bread. What can't they do? (Still not convinced? Here are more reasons why you need a Dutch oven.) See our Dutch oven review here.

  • Dutch ovens with light interiors allow you to monitor browning.
  • Spacious pots with cooking surfaces at least 9 inches across help you cook faster.
  • Avoid pots with flat tab-like handles and purchase one with large looped handles, making it easier to hold.

Cook It In Your Dutch Oven

Many home cooks own a Dutch oven, but often these prized pots get relegated to the back of the cabinet, to be pulled out only for making stews. Learn how you can put your Dutch oven to work every day in so many different ways.

What to Look For in All-Purpose Whisks

Trust us: You need a whisk. Sure, they're essential for making frittatas or whipping up some fresh whipped cream, but did you know they're also the secret to perfect guacamole? But not all whisks are created equal. See our all-purpose whisk review here.

  • Look for a lightweight whisk (less than 4 ounces) with a grippy rubber handle.
  • Models with medium-sized balloon-shaped heads and at least 10 evenly spaced wire loops generally perform well in tasks like beating eggs or making salad dressings.

What to Look For in Oven Mitts

The right oven mitt can save you from a lot of burns in the kitchen. But the wrong one can make picking up hot trays awkward at best and unsafe at worst. See our oven mitts review here.

  • Mitts made from silicone and are at least 3mm (⅛ inch) thick usually offer the most heat protection.
  • Silicone mitts also tend to be less bulky, offering more dexterity when handling hot pots and pans.
  • But whichever material you choose, make sure it's machine washable for easier cleanup.

What to Look For in a Chef's Knife

If you're going to invest in one knife, a chef's knife should be it. But that doesn't mean you necessarily have to shell out the big bucks (although you certainly could). See our chef's knife review here.

  • Design is almost equally as important as sharpness when shopping for a knife. Make sure the knife feels comfortable in your hand.
  • Pick a knife with a gently curved blade that will allow a smooth cutting motion.
  • The blade's heel should be at least 2 inches tall to ensure that your fingers have enough room to grip the handle adequately.
  • As for size, we think knives in the 6- to 8-inch range are best for most folks, and we tend to favor the latter because they're a little more versatile.

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