With all-over tiny perforations that don’t allow small foods to escape, our longtime favorite colander has a draining performance that remains unmatched. Its 1 1/8 inches of ground clearance was enough to keep nearly all the drained pasta from getting hit with backwash. The model cleans up nicely in the dishwasher, and its handles are slim but still substantial enough to grip easily.
Still the best—and a bargain—after 20 years, this knife’s “super-sharp” blade was “silent” and “smooth,” even as it cut through tough squash, and it retained its edge after weeks of testing. Its textured grip felt secure for a wide range of hand sizes, and thanks to its gently rounded edges and the soft, hand-polished top spine, we could comfortably choke up on the knife for “precise,” “effortless” cuts.
Update: November 2013 Since our story appeared, the price of our winning Victorinox Swiss Army 8" Chef's Knife with Fibrox Handle has risen from $27.21 to about $39.95. We always report the price we paid for products when we bought them for testing; however, product prices are subject to change.
This perfect, pricey pot bested the competition again. It was substantial enough to hold and distribute heat evenly without being unbearably heavy. The light-colored interior combined with low, straight sides gave us good visibility and made it easy to monitor browning and thermometer position. The broad cooking surface saved us time since we could cook more food at once. The lid was smooth and easy to clean. This pot is expensive, but it was exceptionally resistant to damage.
Our longtime winner excelled, with uniform, steady heating and good visibility inside the saucepan to monitor browning. Its cup-shaped stay-cool handle was easy to grip, and a helper handle provided another grabbing point when the pan was full. Even after brutal whacking on concrete, this model emerged with only tiny dents inside and one slight dent on the bottom, and it still sat flat on the counter.
The scalloped, uncoated pincers on our longtime favorite tongs felt very precise. This model was also comfortable to use, not only because of the silicone-padded handle but also because the tension didn’t strain our hands or wrists. These tongs struggled a bit when transferring ramekins, as the uncoated pincers didn’t securely grip the ceramic, but this is a less common use, and the tongs excelled at every other task. This pair felt like a natural extension of our hands.
Our former winner continues its reign: Its perfectly proportioned head supported foods of all shapes and sizes and maneuvered nimbly even in tight spaces. And because it's also moderately thin and flexible, it excelled at getting under food. The head's pronounced curve provided extra leverage for prying up food and kept our hands higher above hot pans. All users found its handle easy to hold, though some wished the otherwise comfortable plastic were grippier.
Our winning spoons had a simple design that allowed for a continuous, bump-free sweep, with a ball-chain connector (similar to what military dog tags hang on) that was easy to open and close. This set's metal construction felt remarkably sturdy, and ingredients didn't cling to the stainless steel. And while the 1-tablespoon measure did not fit into all spice jars, it was a minor inconvenience for an otherwise easy-to-use set.
Our redesigned favorite is better than ever. Its patented pump mechanism was the easiest to use among the models we tested, and its performance remained superb, holding plenty of greens and getting them drier than rival models. The new, wider base provides more stability, the smaller pump increases the spinner’s capacity, and the flat lid (which comes apart for cleaning) makes the spinner easier to store.
Our old favorite wins again: Its smooth, medium-hard, reversible teak surface provided plenty of room to work, was a pleasure to cut on, and required the least maintenance. It was light enough to lift comfortably (especially since it had finger grips on the sides) but heavy enough to be stable for most tasks, though a few users noted that it wobbled occasionally. It picked up some knife scars but was otherwise highly durable, resisting cracking, warping, and staining, thanks to naturally oily resins that helped condition the board. And it's a stunner: Sleek, elegant, and richly colored, it was, as one tester noted, “less like a Toyota and more like a Corvette.” One caveat: Because teak contains microscopic bits of silica, it can wear down blades faster than other types of wood. But in our opinion, this fact doesn't detract from this board's stellar performance.
We’ve loved this inexpensive industry favorite for years, and for good reason. Its blade is long enough to span large loaves and pastries and tall enough to direct easily through thick sandwiches. It also has just the right number of tall, reasonably sharp serrations, ensuring that it sliced and chopped every food well. A long, rubbery handle was comfortable for hands of all sizes to grip.
A breeze to set up and brew, this simple machine made coffee that tasters described as “very strong but smooth.” 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. (The outer parts are plastic and can be replaced easily and inexpensively if they wear out over time. The machine also comes with a five-year warranty.) A manual cutoff switch on the brewing basket lets users tinker with holding back water to preinfuse the coffee if desired or to slow the coffee drip from the basket when making a half pot (ensuring water spends sufficient time passing through the smaller amount of coffee), but this brewer also operates well without any intervention. The thermal carafe kept coffee piping hot for 2 hours. (Note: Aside from the helpful cutoff switch on the brew basket, this model operates identically to our previous winner, model KBGT.)
Our longtime favorite skillet still beats all newcomers, with a clean design that includes no unnecessary frills. We appreciate the wide cooking surface and low, flaring sides that encourage excellent browning and evaporation; a steel handle that stays cool on the stovetop and won't rotate in your hand; and an overall weight and balance that hit the sweet spot between sturdiness and maneuverable lightness. It resisted warping and withstood thermal shock and outright abuse with nary a scratch or dent. Its three layers of cladding, with aluminum sandwiched by steel, make for deep, uniform browning.
A 12-inch nonstick skillet is the most versatile, and this is our overall favorite model. The cooking surface was slick, both when new and after extensive use, and food never stuck. It’s one of the lightest models we tested, so it was easy to lift and maneuver, but it was also sturdy and resisted denting. All of our testers liked its wide, comfortable handle. Like every other model, its surface became scratched when we used a knife as if to cut a frittata, but it otherwise held up well.
While this skillet started out with a rougher surface than those of the artisan pans, its gently nubbly texture quickly gained seasoning, and by the end of testing it released food and cleaned up perfectly. At about 8 pounds, it’s heavy, but that weight helps with heat retention and browning. Its roomy surface and high sides make it a versatile performer—all at a great price for a pan that will last forever.
We’ve recommended this model for more than a decade, and it’s easy to see why. Its lightweight construction and comfortable grip made it a breeze to maneuver around any vessel. Its ventless, bell-shaped blade guard kept food flowing freely and prevented splattering. Its two speeds, which were both powerful enough to pulverize frozen pineapple, are controlled by two simple buttons that we could operate with one hand. This machine was also durable: It blended 25 smoothies in a row without breaking a sweat. We also liked its clearly labeled, easy-to-operate eject buttons. This reliable model would be a great addition to your kitchen.
This fish spatula was nearly identical to our winner, with one small but important difference: Its head was almost flat, lacking the curvature that would allow users to summon extra leverage and keep their hands higher above hot surfaces. It still excelled at every task we gave it and was comfortable to hold, although its handle, like the one on our winning model, was a bit too smooth.
The newest instant-read thermometer by ThermoWorks is the best we’ve tested yet. It has all the features we loved in our previous favorite: a large, grippy handle; a rotating screen with large, highly legible numbers; and a backlight that goes on when viewing conditions are dim. It’s waterproof to a water depth of 39 inches for 30 minutes, it goes to sleep when not in use, and the display wakes up automatically when you pick up the entire unit. The ONE improves on its predecessor, though: As its name indicates, it takes just 1 second to measure a temperature. The backlight is brighter, and you can now use the thermometer when cooking on induction burners—the engineers at ThermoWorks have taken measures to eliminate the electromagnetic interference that sometimes occurs when you use digital thermometers with induction cooktops.
Our previous winner once again aced all our tests, producing evenly baked cookies, golden brown pizza and tuna melts, tender-crisp asparagus spears, and a bronzed, crisp-skinned chicken. Its settings are intuitive and easy to use, and it's programmable, so you can set it to remember your preferences; no fiddling with the dials. Markers on the glass door helpfully instruct you to where to place the rack for each setting, and the interior of the oven that has a nonstick coating for easy cleanup. Though it took longer than other products to toast (about 5 minutes for medium toast) it was capable of making big batches of perfectly golden slices that were evenly browned from edge-to-edge.
Weber’s versatile, well-designed kettle grill is one of our longtime favorites for good reason, allowing you to make great grilled, roasted, and barbecued foods with ease. It was one of the fastest and easiest models to assemble and move and has proved relatively sturdy and durable over the years as well. Its well-positioned vents are easy to adjust, making for great heat control. Its large enclosed ash catcher makes cleanup a breeze, and its cooking grate is spacious, with a hinge that makes it simple to add charcoal during long cooks. (We wish the hinged portion was a tad larger, but this is a minor flaw.) Its lid hooks neatly onto the side of the base of the grill during cooking. You won’t find a better performer for the price; if you want extra features, however, you might want to consider our upgrade pick or other highly recommended models.
We love this midpriced blender from Breville, which makes smoothies and almond butter that are just a touch less fine-textured than our top choice’s but still impressively smooth. It even has a dedicated “green smoothie” button that completely blends fibrous ingredients into a silky drink. It’s reasonably quiet and compact, and it combined ingredients efficiently with minimal pauses to scrape down the sides. It automatically stops every 60 seconds, which can be a little annoying during longer blends, but this wasn’t a big issue during most tasks. Its timer makes tracking recipe stages very easy.
This quiet, high-powered blender has simple, intuitive controls. As for its blending capability, it was top-notch. It was able to produce fine-textured foods without incorporating excess air, thanks to its narrow blender jar. The tamper accessory was helpful when blending thicker foods, and the blender’s 7-year warranty insured our investment. It’s tall, at 20.25 inches, so it can’t be stored on a counter beneath a standard 18-inch-tall cabinet, and its narrow jar made scraping out its contents a minor challenge.
We’ve recommended this cleaner for a decade, and it’s still the best we’ve tested. Its basic bottle design and simple trigger made it easy to hold and spray. Its nozzle dispersed a large amount of product that covered a lot of ground. We chose its lavender scent for testing and found it soothing but not stifling, and we liked that the fragrance lingered lightly to indicate cleanliness without being bothersome. (Other scents have the same cleaning ingredients and should perform the same.) Most important, this spray aced each cleaning test, completely coating and dissolving every mess and rendering stains easy to scrub away. It deposited virtually no streaks or residue and consistently left surfaces clean and dry.