ATK’s Back-to-School 2023 Kitchen Gear Gift Guide

Our favorite kitchen and cooking equipment to start your school year right.

Published Sept. 5, 2023.

Back-to-school season is underway, as parents, students, and teachers are gearing up for a fresh start. 

While shopping for textbooks and school supplies, many might overlook the fact that their lunchbox or water bottle collections may need a major overhaul. 

Our team has tested of hundreds of products that come in handy when kicking off a new school year and ensuring that everyone is eating well and staying hydrated (or caffeinated) during this busy time of year. The items featured below are all top-ranked models in their individual categories. From the best coffee maker to a top-tier set of travel utensils, here are our favorite ATK Recommended back-to-school kitchen-related products.

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For the Person Who's Vowed to Pack Lunch This Year

ATK Recommended Bento Lunchbox: Monbento MB Square 

A bento-style lunch box can pack different dishes in a compartmentalized container. Our winning bento-style model offers ample space to hold a large amount of food and is leak-proof. It’s microwave-safe and easy to clean, which is great for those who are always in a rush.

Its two 4-ounce compartments can also be used together or individually, giving you a versatile lunchbox that can accommodate all appetites. Both containers were more than 2 inches deep, so it was easy to stir in and eat from them without spilling. The airtight lids sometimes required a bit of strength to remove, but we didn’t mind because it was the only container that never leaked.

For the Meal Prep Enthusiast

ATK Recommended Food Storage Containers: Rubbermaid Brilliance Leak-Proof Food Storage Containers, 10-Piece

If someone you know is trying to get back to a meal prep regimen, now it’s time to give them a durable set of food storage containers that’ll make their fridges look neat and clean. 

With two 1.3-cup containers, two 3.2-cup containers, and one 9.6-cup container, this ATK Recommended set offers a bit more size variety, which makes it great for those who pack lunches for two people or those looking to make a good amount of food for the week ahead. 

The 9.6-cup container is about the size of a textbook, meaning it’s too big for lunch, but it’s a good choice for storing leftovers or large batches of grains or meat.

For the Lover of Good, Strong Coffee

ATK Recommended Coffee Maker: Technivorm Moccamaster KBT

For coffee drinkers, having an abundance of quality coffee is essential on busy school days (especially for parents!). Our favorite automatic drip coffee maker not only brews the tastiest cup rated by our enthusiastic tasters, but it also keeps the coffee piping hot for two hours, thanks to its well-insulated stainless steel carafe. 

A breeze to set up and brew, this simple machine is ideal for those who don’t have the time to fiddle with a complicated coffee maker. The key technology is hidden inside the body of the brewer: Its powerful copper heating element transfers heat rapidly and steadily, so the brewing water quickly reaches the ideal temperature zone and stays there for 91 percent of its cycle.

For the Beginner Chef

A Subscription to ATKs Online Cooking School 

If the student or teacher in your life enjoys cooking and wants to learn more, why not give them our cooking school subscription? Featuring more than 320 courses that’ll cover a wide range of culinary skills (from Sauces 101 to Modern French Stews to New York Cheesecake), America’s Test Kitchen Online Cooking School is designed and hosted by the same test cooks who have developed our fabulous recipes over the years. 

For the Person Insisting on 8 Cups of Water Daily

ATK Recommended Glass Water Bottle: Lifefactory 22 Oz Glass Bottle with Classic Cap

To stay hydrated, a durable, easy-to-clean, and spacious water bottle helps. We reviewed plastic, stainless-steel, and glass water bottles. For those who don’t want to carry a heavy bottle around, we suggest the Nalgene Wide Mouth Water Bottle

But if you’re minimizing plastic usage in your life, we recommend a glass water bottle. Our winner has a lid that’s easy to remove and replace, a wide mouth, and very few parts to disassemble and clean. The bonus point is its durability, as the bottle was durable enough to withstand an indoor drop. 

For the Eco-Conscious Meal Prepper

ATK Recommended Reusable Food Wraps: Abeego Food Wrap

Reusable food wraps are great to keep on hand because they’re convenient and much better for the environment than single-use plastic. We tested reusable food wraps coated with beeswax and other materials. The one we liked the most had a clingy and malleable material, which created strong seals that helped maintain the freshness of foods. It was also easy to clean and didn’t leave unwanted odors.

For Anyone Who Likes Their Food Extra-Cold

ATK Recommended Ice Packs: Arctic Ice Alaskan Series

To keep packed lunches cold, having a quality soft cooler isn’t enough. Ice packs help keep your delicious meals unspoiled. We tested the largest size in the series and were impressed with its performance. 

We needed only one of these packs to line a cooler and keep soda chilled for more than a day, and the pack stayed cold for almost 14 hours when we let it sit out at room temperature. It comes in smaller sizes that’ll be more suitable for lining a smaller lunch bag or a soft cooler. 

For the Person Holding a Beverage at All Times

ATK Recommended Reusable Straws: OXO Good Grips 5-Piece Reusable Straw Set

Reusable straws come in handy when drinking from a travel mug or from a to-go cup of iced coffee. They're sturdy and generate less waste than single-use plastic straws. 

Our winning reusable straws come in a set of five pieces, with two 8-inch-long and two 10.5-inch long straws that are both very comfortable to drink from because of their 3-inch-long silicone tips. They’re also easy to clean and can fit comfortably in travel mugs and tumblers.

For the One Ditching Single-Use Utensils

ATK Recommended Spork and Travel Utensil Sets: Full Windsor Magware Magnetic Camping Utensils Set

We love a good set of reusable utensils. They’re lightweight and easy-to-carry, and the good ones with sharp tines can easily stab even firm foods such as steaks and beets. 

Our winning set not only provides three pieces of essential utensils (spoon, fork, and serrated knife), but they’re also held together by magnets. They come inside a case with a hook-and-loop closure that contains them well.

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