Don't waste your money on disappointing products. We've assembled all of our essential equipment reviews and taste tests so you'll know exactly which items to buy this holiday season.
We tried several types and brands of premade pie crusts—both frozen and refrigerated—in recipes for pumpkin pie and double-crust apple pie. None was as good as homemade, but one passed muster.
To find out, we tested six racks, searching for one that was able to withstand a hot broiler without warping or damage and to fit inside a standard baking pan. One rack offered extra support and took top honors, but our runner-up was almost as good—and cost only a fraction of the price.
We advise against cooking with salted butter for three reasons. First, the amount of salt in salted butter varies from brand to brand, making it impossible to offer conversion amounts that will work with all brands. Second, because salt masks some of the flavor nuances found in butter, salted butter tastes different from unsalted butter.
Finally, salted butter almost always contains more water than unsalted butter. The water in butter ranges from 10 to 18 percent. In baking, butter with a low water content is preferred, since excess water can interfere with the development of gluten. In fact, when we used the same brand of both salted and unsalted butter to make brownies and drop biscuits, tasters noticed that samples made with salted butter were a little mushy and pasty; they preferred the texture of baked goods made with unsalted butter.
We know the disappointment when an elegant lemon or chocolate tart crumbles as you attempt to liberate it from its pan. During our testing of seven tart pans, we had this unfortunate experience numerous times. In the end, we found that it pays to choose your tart pan carefully.
If you have a dial-face thermometer, just immerse the thermometer in a slurry of ice water (boiling temperature calibration is not necessary), being careful not to touch the container and, using a pair of needle-nose pliers, adjust the screw on the underside of the dial face until it reads 32 degrees.
For instant-read thermometers, use this technique.
If you don’t have a fat separator, we advise using a 1- to 2-ounce cooking spoon to skim the fat from the surface after it’s settled.
You can also use a baster. Plunge the tip beneath the fat and draw the liquid into the baster, then deposit the defatted liquid in another container.
Both of these tedious methods work, but an inexpensive fat separator is the best tool for the job.