The Tests

  • Fill and check capacity

  • Dispense room-temperature, 145-degree, and 40-degree maple syrup onto circles on paper and onto pancakes to assess control and flow of syrup

  • Heat syrup to 145 degrees in containers where possible, or heat in measuring cup and fill dispenser with warm syrup

  • Pour room-temperature liquid honey from each dispenser to assess control and flow of honey

  • Have right- and left-handed testers of varying skill and size pour room-temperature maple syrup onto paper circles

  • Wash by hand or in dishwasher (as indicated by manufacturer) at least 10 times and check for damage or warping

  • Open and close lid lever 25 times to test durability

Maple syrup and honey can make for sticky fingers, tables, and counters—and if you add kids to the mix, that list can easily grow to include furniture, pets, and houseguests. Maple syrup dispensers promise to neaten up the task of pouring the sticky stuff. Typically designed as a small pitcher with a covered spout operated by a lever, a syrup dispenser should be easy to fill and clean and should pour a controlled amount without undue dripping. We bought five dispensers, priced from $7.80 to $42.00, with capacities between 6 and 19 ounces and made from glass or plastic. Four were pitcher-style; the fifth dispensed from the bottom of the container. We put each one through its paces with warm, cold, and room-temperature syrup, pouring it over both real pancakes and pancake-size circles drawn on paper to assess how easy it would be to control the output and hit a precise target. We enlisted both right- and left-handed testers of varying strengths and sizes to find the dispenser that worked best for the most people.

Testing was an eye-opener. A few dispensers gushed and splashed beyond our paper patterns, and one drowned our pancakes under a tsunami of syrup. “If I had children and this was our syrup dispenser, we would not be having pancakes,” one tester declared. A few models had closures that were too loose—they never fully cut off the flow—or designs that forced the flow of syrup back over the lid, making a mess. The best models had comfortable handles, closed fully after dispensing, and had just the right amount of tension in the trigger to let us pour as much or as little as we wanted without hand strain. But two models gave us perfect control, whether we wanted a trickle or a hefty pour, with almost no dripping.

Pouring syrup from a dispenser shouldn’t be a challenge, but we found several of the models we tested very challenging indeed.

Of the two models that topped our performance tests, one—the bottom-flowing dispenser—may have been a dream to operate, but it was a nightmare to fill: When you remove the top of this hollow glass ball-shaped vessel, it also removes an attached stem that plugs the bottom hole, leaving it open at both ends. So you must balance the vessel upright while pressing the bottom hole flat to a surface as you pour in order to keep syrup in. Once it’s full, you keep the dispenser in that position while screwing on a springy lid that tries to pop up and whose large, curved handle bumps into your other hand each time you twist. Not fun. Another strike: This model can’t go in the dishwasher, unlike the rest of the lineup.

One dispenser set itself apart with its unique bottom-pouring construction that was easy to control, but we later discovered that the design isn’t without its flaws.

That led us to our winner, whose simple design, pouring control, and overall ease of use won the day. The American Metalcraft Beehive Syrup Dispenser ($7.80) holds 6 ounces of syrup or honey and deploys a flat metal sliding cover that closes snugly over the spout, letting you dispense only the syrup you need, exactly where you want it. Its metal top screws off easily to make refilling and cleaning straightforward and simple, and it emerged from our dishwashing tests intact. Its only downside: The manufacturer says the glass container should not be microwaved, so we had to heat syrup in a separate container. But the dispenser’s ribbed surface stayed cool as we screwed the lid onto the warm pitcher. (As an alternative, we could put the filled dispenser in a bowl of hot water to gently warm the contents.) Best of all, it was the cheapest model in our lineup. Next time we serve pancakes, we’ll be pouring syrup from our new winner.

Winning Traits

  • Snug-closing spout cover that allows control of flow and precise pouring

  • No drips

  • Comfortable handle and lever

  • Easy to fill and clean

  • Dishwasher-safe

  • Sturdy and durable construction