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.
With one of the largest, longest grating surfaces and ultrasharp teeth, our previous favorite effortlessly shredded foods of all sizes and textures, taking the least time to do so and generating virtually no waste. While testers wished this paddle-style grater’s wire handle was a bit more comfortable to hold, its length made it easy to grip in a number of ways. Rubber-tipped feet kept the grater from slipping, and testers also loved how easy the grater was to clean and store.
This dish had looped handles that were easy to grab, whether we were rotating the dish halfway through baking or removing it from the oven. We also thought it had the best capacity in the lineup at 14.25 cups—neither too generous nor too restrictive. Our winner accommodated all foods with ease and felt secure to grip even when full of hot, heavy food. More on this test
This new "multicooker"—a slow cooker that can also brown/saute and steam food—produced perfect chicken, steaks, and ribs, with no scorching or hot spots. Its programmable timer can be set to cook for up to 24 hours and then automatically switches over to “keep warm." We liked its lightweight, easy-to-clean, unbreakable metal insert with extra-large, comfy handles, and its oval shape, clear lid, and intuitive controls. The brown/saute and steam functions both work as promised. A nice bonus is that the browning function, with adjustable temperature control from 150 F to 400 F, lets you sear food before slow-cooking, or reduce sauces afterward, without dirtying a second pan.
This electric model heated every type of fondue evenly and consistently and its wide crock made simultaneous dipping frustration-free. Its temperature controls were clearly labeled with both degrees and type of fondue, allowing us to set the perfect temperature without looking at the manual. Its electronic parts detached so the crock could be washed in the sink, and fondue wiped easily off its scratch-resistant nonstick surface.
Our favorite cutting board impressed testers with its rock-solid stability and excellent durability. Thanks to its moderate weight and four small but capable rubberized grips, it never budged on the counter. At about ½ inch thick, it didn’t flex during use or warp; while it did scar somewhat over the course of testing, the damage was comparable to that seen on the other boards. And any stains and odors cleared up after a wash or two. Our one quibble: It was a little heavy for some testers, making it a touch harder to maneuver and clean by hand.
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.
The broad, shallow shape of these inexpensive bowls put food within easy reach and allowed for wide turns of a spatula. These were also the lightest bowls in the lineup—the combined weight of all three that we tested was less than 1 1/2 pounds— allowing us to comfortably lift, scrape, and pour.
This extremely sturdy, warp-resistant baking sheet turned out evenly cooked and browned chicken, cauliflower, and focaccia. Its lightweight, compact size made it easy to maneuver into and out of the oven. Its size is ideal for preparing recipes that serve two and for kitchen tasks that require only a small amount of space, such as toasting a handful of nuts or a few tablespoons of sesame seeds.
Although the grid pattern on this rack is slightly larger than on the other two models, it’s reinforced with an extra support bar that runs perpendicular to the three main bars. It had a touch more wiggle room in the baking sheets, but it kept pace with the other racks during recipe and durability testing.
With an exceptionally broad cooking surface and low, straight sides, this 7-quart pot had the same advantageous shape as the Le Creuset. It was heavier but not prohibitively so. The looped handles were comfortable to hold, though slightly smaller than ideal. The rim and lid chipped cosmetically when we repeatedly slammed the lid onto the pot, so it's slightly less durable than our winner.
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.
With a powerful, quiet motor; responsive pulsing action; sharp blades; and a simple, pared-down-to-basics design, our old favorite aced every test, surprising us time and again by outshining pricier, more feature-filled competitors. It was one of the few models that didn’t leak at its maximum stated liquid capacity. It’s also easy to clean and store, because it comes with just a chopping blade and two disks for shredding and slicing. Additional blade options are available à la carte.
NOTE : Cuisinart has announced a recall of the older riveted S-blade of our winning food processor, which was included in models sold from 1996 through December 2015. Cuisinart will replace the blade free of charge, and the new blade will fit old machines. Anyone with this older blade should contact Cuisinart at https://recall.cuisinart.com (or call 1-877-339-2534).
This electric deep-fryer made food that was almost always perfect, and in the same time and number of batches as our Dutch oven. Its large basket held lots of food and made it easy to lower and lift that food during use; its high walls and lid contained messes nicely. And while we didn't love cleaning its many parts, a built-in filter and handy oil storage container made the process a bit easier than with other models. One caveat: Like the other fryers, its temperature range maxes out around 374 degrees, so it can't quite fry quick-cooking, high-heat foods such as tempura as nicely as a Dutch oven can.
Even though we didn’t notice a difference in how this updated machine cooks food compared to the older version (despite a promise of new “fat removal technology”), we still loved it. It has a slim, compact footprint and thus took up less room on our counter than other products. Its cooking basket was roomy enough for 1 pound of food and had a completely nonstick coating. We also liked that the bottom of the basket could be removed for even deeper cleaning, if needed. Its digital controls and dial-operated menu made setting the time and temperature easy and intuitive. It stopped cooking as soon as the set time was up, and its drawer-like design allowed us to remove food without exposing our hands to the heating element.
This mini slow cooker’s trio of temperature settings allowed us to select the perfect temperature whether we were keeping dip warm or cooking a soup scaled for two. Its gentle warm setting meant we could keep queso dip molten and melty for several hours without it getting hot enough to break or scorch. A plus: its bright indicator light, which let us know when it was too hot to touch.
These oven mitts kept our hands comfortably cool and in control when holding hot equipment or reaching into a hot oven. When compressed, they were the thickest of the models with a silicone exterior. The silicone is heavily textured for better grip, and because it flexed with our hands, we could easily pinch thin cookie sheets and small handles or knobs. The fabric lining moved around inside the mitts at times during use, but it stayed put better than the linings of other models. The mitts can be machine-washed, but they have to be laid flat to dry. The silicone became permanently stained.
With a basket made from a single smooth spiral of thick wire, this beautiful, long-handled, well-balanced spider was easy to maneuver and clean and capable of handling fragile ravioli with care. But that elegance came at a price—the highest in our lineup. And while some cooks thought its lower profile allowed them to get up under food more easily, the shallow basket simply couldn’t hold fried chicken as securely or pick up as many fries or ravioli in a single pass.
With an ergonomic Santoprene rubber handle and a balanced, lightweight feel, this whisk was like an extension of a hand. It whipped cream and egg whites quickly, thanks to 10 wires that were thin enough to move through the liquid quickly but thick enough to push through heavy mixtures and blend pan sauces to smoothness.