We tested a lot of gear this year. I mean, a lot. We slurped from 10 reusable straws. Loaded six portable grills into an Uber and hauled them to a Brooklyn rooftop. Made iced coffee in six cold-brew contraptions. All to find the best kitchen gear out there, from the brunch-time waffle iron you need to impress your in-laws to the juicer you’ll be breaking out in January after you’ve eaten roughly 10,000 Christmas cookies over the holidays. Here’s the complete list of this year’s tested-and-approved favorites:
The All-Clad Belgian Waffle Iron is, as our friends at Bon Appétit described it, “the Cadillac of waffle makers”—a hulking, shiny, stainless steel behemoth capable of turning out batch after batch of five-star, hotel-buffet-quality waffles. Cheap it is not, however. The gold-standard waffle maker comes in at $200—but boy are those waffles worth it.
At around $125, the Breville Die-Cast is an investment, but the sleek, leverless model is well-built and extremely stable on the counter without feeling bulky. The toasting slots are generously proportioned to handle both tall and thick slices, and the digital controls are attractive and intuitive to use. It turned out remarkably consistent results during all three tests, evenly toasting each slice of bread, easily defrosting and crisping the waffles, and ably accommodating the bagels. It has a motorized lift that lowers and raises the slices from the toaster at the touch of a button, a sliding knob that sets the level of toastiness and flashes to count down the remaining cook time, and a pleasant “ding” that sounds to remind you when the job is done.
The Breville hand mixer outstripped its competitors by a long shot. It was the only hand mixer that could cream butter and sugar in a reasonable amount of time (3-5 minutes). It was also the quietest machine, as its 240-watt motor is designed for near-silent operation at both high and low speeds. Plus, its beaters are coated in rubber so they’re non-scrape and don’t make a clanging sound when they hit the sides of the bowl. The machine has a higher price tag than most hand mixers, but it’s still well under the price you’ll pay for a stand mixer, and it takes up far less space.
Though not a brand name synonymous with juicing like Omega or Juiceman, Breville has designed a product that’s sturdy, straightforward, and powerful (it has an 850-watt dual speed motor and stainless steel cutting disc). Assembly is easy, and though it isn’t compact, the juicer is constructed to fit on a counter without taking up a vast amount of space. Plus, it’s comparatively easy to clean. The machine would be ideal in a household that favors quantity and speed—if you want to make a lot of juice in a short span of time, this is the way to go.
For our full juicer review, click here.
If you’re in the market for a more meditative state of juicing, the Kuvings Elite is a winner. Slow juicing yields low-foam, low-temperature, high-volume, and nutrient-dense juice. Paired with an ease of use, a low level of noise, and painless clean-up, it’s worth the high price tag.
To learn more (and figure out what “slow juicing” actually means) read our full review.
The history of the salad spinner can basically be divided into two epochs: Before OXO and After OXO. Though salad washers were around for decades before OXO made its first foray into the market in the early 1990s, it was the company’s radical attention to “universal design”—evident in the spinner’s wide, stable base and cushioned “push button” pump top—that made its Good Grips spinner revolutionize the genre. Plenty of competitors have tried to unseat OXO’s domination of the category since then, but throughout our tests, the Good Grips still proved to be the simplest, the most pleasant to use, and the most effective at the job.
For more of our salad spinner review, click here.
Korsreel straws come six to a pack with two cleaning brushes and they’re lightweight yet surprisingly durable. The glass material feels like a natural extension of a glass cup and is very comfortable to put to your lips. We tried to shatter one of the straws a few times by dropping it on our desks, but it remained intact and even bounced back a bit. The glass is easy to clean, and even though the straws had a slight bend, the pipecleaner-like brush had no trouble gliding all the way through.
For more of our favorite reusable straws, click here.
Here’s a food processor that really lives up to its name. With a sturdy build, simple controls, an intelligently designed body, and a diverse and useful array of standard attachments, the Breville Sous Chef 12 is the right-hand man you always wanted in the kitchen. Prepping a half-dozen pies for a special occasion? This puppy comes with a specialized dough attachment and can bang out batches of flaky pastry in a blink. Staring down five pounds of onions for French onion soup? With its powerful motor and spinning blade, the Sous Chef 12 will make quick work of them, saving you not only time but tears in the process.
KitchenAid’s mini food processor is well-designed and the blade chops with ease, producing fine pieces of an even size and clean texture. And, thanks to a clever little well in the lid that holds oil and allows it to stream slowly and evenly into the work bowl while the motor is running, the KitchenAid makes the process of emulsification a cinch—turning homemade mayonnaise into an achievable everyday luxury.
For our full food-processor review, click here.
Cuisinart’s roasting pan had everything we wanted and nothing we didn’t. With an aluminum core inside stainless steel, it conducts heat very well and doesn’t need to be babied—it’s safe up to 550ºF, okay to use under the broiler or on the stovetop (even induction), and is dishwasher-friendly. The smartly designed rack sits lower in the center and higher on the sides, so there’s plenty of space underneath for vegetables to roast and for the bird to cook evenly. The handles sit outside the pan, making it easier to place inside of and retrieve from the oven. The center of the pan sits flat—perfect for making pan sauce—and it has tapered rims that make pouring out the sauce a mess-free endeavor.
For our full roasting pan review, click here.
This pepper grinder has six distinct coarseness settings that can be adjusted easily via a rotating piece of metal at the base of the mill. In our tests, each setting produced a distinct and uniform grind, from very fine to course. The grinding mechanism is made of sharp stainless steel and the settings are easy to adjust, unlike mills that adjust via the metal knob at the top of the mill. Overall, this is a classic, high-quality pepper mill with two modern updates: easily adjustable grind settings and an easier refilling system.
For our full pepper mill review, click here.
The long, flat, rocking blade on this model is the best for cutting pizza because it allows leverage to press down hard on the pizza and cut it in half, then in half again with one fell swoop. The blade on this Checkered Chef rocking blade pizza cutter is super sharp—it cuts through crust and toppings on the first go. The design is as streamlined as it gets. It’s essentially a longer, slimmer bench scraper—and you all know how we love a good bench scraper around these parts. Since it’s just one long, flat blade, it’s super easy to clean. No wheel to spin around, no attachments to scrub under, no handle with weird grippy things to remove grease from.
This moderately priced toaster oven from the high-end appliance line is extremely intuitive to use. It toasts bread evenly and bakes cookies consistently as well as frozen pizza with evenly melted cheese, and chicken roasted to crisp-skinned perfection. Unlike other toasters, it includes a preheat setting. The digital interface asks questions to help fine tune the task at hand, like how many pieces of toast you’re making and how dark you want them.
With a sturdy and spiffy-looking stainless steel housing, touchable dial-in controls, an easy-to-read digital interface, grind options and add-ons galore, there’s just so much to like about this Breville machine. It has 60 grind settings. You may be thinking: Does anyone actually need 60 grind settings? But after a few test runs—and side-by-side comparison with the other contenders—we were truly won over by the seamless user experience and the unparalleled level of control it offered.
This kettle can bring 4 cups of water to a full boil in less than 5 minutes—it’s among the speediest models out there. It has a pleasant beep that reminds you that the heating cycle has ended and a convenient hold setting that keeps the water up to temperature for 30 minutes. Pouring is neat and simple, with a nice arch to the water flow and no leaking or spilling. Cleaning the kettle is easy.
If you are at all finicky about your coffee or tea—or even just aspire to have a little more control over your cuppa—this well-built, barista-quality gooseneck kettle offers such superior temperature precision and ease of use that, even at close to $70, it’s a great value. The Bonavita’s digital control panel was intuitive to use and we appreciated the temperature presets as well as the ability to manually set temperatures ranging from 140 F to 212 F. And the optional clear plastic “commercial cover” that is included for the base is a nice add-on if you expect your kettle to get a lot of wear and tear.
For our full review, including a budget pick, click here.
Plonking this thing down on your kitchen counter makes a statement, and that statement is “Don’t f*ck with my warm-weather caffeine routine.” It’s not small—fully assembled it stands about 14 1/2 inches tall—but it consistently produced our favorite cup of cold brew—strong, clean, and balanced—and looked great doing it, too. All in all, this is a cold-brew system that will make even serious coffee addicts very happy. At $50, it’s not cheap, but considering that one serving of cold brew costs about $4 at the coffee shop, this is one investment you’ll earn back pretty darn quickly.
This double-walled stainless steel mug retains heat extremely well. It’s sleek, modern-looking, well-made, and as a bonus, won’t break like any of your ceramic mugs. Since it’s shaped like a standard mug but comes with a travel lid (complete with drinking hole), you get the best of both worlds: a mug that works at home but can be taken on the road (though it probably won’t fit in a cupholder). It’ll effectively keep your coffee warm for at least half an hour: after 30 minutes, the water’s starting temperature of 205°F had dropped to 127°F.
Read more of our at-home insulated coffee mug review.
This Japanese-made mug retains heat incredibly. Like a heavy-duty camping thermos, it’s made of double-walled stainless steel that’s vacuum-insulated for expert heat retention, and it even has a five-year warranty on its ability to keep beverages hot or cold. Unlike massive camping thermoses, though, the Zojirushi has a slim, sleek design that fits perfectly in your hand or bag. It comes in a variety of colors and sizes—12 ounces, 16 ounces, 20 ounces—but all of them are narrow, unobtrusive, and easy to hold. The Zojirushi is leak-free. The lid has a lock on the top that makes it impossible to open or spill. Shake, rattle, roll this thing—it’s not going to let any liquid spill out.
Read more of our travel mug review.
The Best Portable Charcoal Grill: Weber Smokey Joe
At 9.5 pounds, this grill is light enough to carry down to the beach or toss in the trunk of your car with relative ease. The 14-inch cooking surface doesn’t feel cramped: you can cook four burgers, a few hot dogs, and some onions on it at once without feeling like you’re confined to a tiny space. The surface is also large enough to accommodate a whole spatchcocked chicken, a rack of ribs, or large slabs of meat of any kind. It’s definitely short, but you can place it on a picnic table or stack of bricks while you cook. This classically designed grill has the simplicity of a standard charcoal option and is easy to set up, with few moving parts. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes to assemble.
If you don’t want to bother buying charcoal or are just looking for an easier set-up and more controlled heat management, consider Weber’s liquid propane grill. At just over 29 pounds, it’s heavier than the charcoal version, but again, you won’t be hauling a bag of coals with it. It has a sleek design, with pull-out tables on the side that double as easy-to-hold handles when they’re folded in. In fact, despite the weight, this grill’s design arguably makes it more comfortable to carry than the charcoal option. Everything about this Weber is designed for ease of use—it has a built-in thermometer for checking temperature, a porcelain-coated nonstick surface for quick clean-up, a removable drip tray for grease, and a large domed lid with a heat-proof handle. It comes nearly fully assembled out of the box, making it super easy to set up in the beginning. You can even purchase a foldable stand to elevate it and make it feel less portable and more full-size.
Read more of our portable grill review.
It should come as no surprise that the Thermos brand makes top-performing hot food containers. We particularly found the King Food Jar impressive. Its double-wall vacuum insulation kept our creamy squash soup hot from morning to lunch (roughly five hours), all while remaining cool to the touch externally. Though a little wider than some of the other containers we tested, the Thermos has a grooved design that makes it easy to hold. It comes with a telescoping stainless steel spoon, which adds some weight to the product but is overall quite handy. We found eating directly from the main container to be easy, but in classic thermos construction, the lid also doubles as a miniature insulated serving bowl.
Read more of our food thermos review here.
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