Everything You Need for An Epic Night In

What's a night at home without delicious snacks?

Over the past few months, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in planning quiet nights in our home. Whether we’re playing Scrabble, working on a puzzle, or watching movies, snacks are an essential part of the experience. In this week’s buying guide, I’ve selected the test kitchen–approved equipment that you need to make homemade treats such as Spicy Caramel Popcorn, Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, and even Peanut Butter Cup No-Churn Ice Cream. We’ve also included our favorite store-bought snacks—including my game-night favorite, Utz Kettle Classics, Original chips—so you’ll be ready for your big night in.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

This silicone disk requires no oil to transform slices of vegetables and fruit into crisp, guilt-free chips in about three minutes in your microwave. While we got very similar results spritzing potato slices (made using our favorite Kyocera mandoline) with nonstick cooking spray and microwaving them on a heatproof plate for five minutes, the advantage of the Topchips product is quantity: You can stack up to three trays in the microwave (a set of two additional trays is available for $19.99) to make more chips even faster. Plus, the Topchips slicer turns out chips of the perfect thickness; our chips (made using the thinnest setting on our mandoline) were slightly thicker, with a bit less crunch.

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This saucepan has the same tri-ply fully-clad construction as our top-rated All-Clad pan, with two layers of stainless steel sandwiched around a layer of aluminum. It performed almost as well, but ran a little fast and hot, so onions browned slightly around the perimeter of the pan. The cooking surface is relatively narrow. The moderately heavy frame was easy to lift and scrape food from, but its handle gets hot during extended cooking. Its shiny interior dulled after cleaning up pilaf, and it suffered more damage in our abuse testing than higher-ranked models.

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Coming in a variety of useful sizes that nest for compact storage, our winning set performed ably on almost every test. Its wide, shallow bowls were easy to hold, fill, empty, and clean. They can be used in the microwave and the oven. While the bowls in this set were the only ones to break when dropped, the heaviness of the glass with which they’re made makes it unlikely that they’ll easily fly off the counter.

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These precut parchment sheets, which come in a large plastic zipper-lock bag, are the only ones in our lineup that are stored completely flat. They're also sized just right to slide easily into a standard rimmed baking sheet, although we did have to use two overlapping sheets when rolling jelly roll cakes into coils. Their superior convenience made them the runaway favorite. Don't let the purchase price distract you: The per-sheet cost falls squarely in the middle of our lineup.

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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.

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This new blender from Breville improves upon its predecessor in a few key ways. It’s more powerful, so it can get smoothies and almond butter even smoother, and it has a dedicated “green smoothie” button that completely blends fibrous ingredients into a silky smooth drink. It’s reasonably quiet and reasonably compact, and combined its ingredients efficiently with minimal pauses to scrape down the sides. Like the previous model, it still automatically stops every 60 seconds, which can be a little annoying during longer blends, but this wasn’t that big of an issue. Its timer makes tracking recipe stages very easy.

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This folded metal pan produced tall, picture-perfect pound cake and sandwich bread with crisp corners. Like all folded pans, it lacked handles and had crevices in the corners that trapped food. We had to clean it very carefully. The corrugated pattern on the metal didn't affect the appearance of the baked goods. It still scratched slightly.

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This scoop’s gently curved oval bowl forms perfect round orbs that release easily. Even better, its wide, comfortable handle contains heat-conductive fluid that warms up instantly when your hand grips the exterior; when that heat travels to the bowl, the warm metal slightly melts the ice cream or sorbet so that it’s particularly easy to scoop.

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By pressing a large button on the top of the machine, you can quickly and easily carbonate water along a spectrum from mildly fizzy to very bubbly. An internal mechanism latches on to the water bottle and releases it gently. The machine is sturdy and fairly compact, and the water bottles are a convenient size.

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This large, sleek glass kettle was one of the quickest in our lineup. The power switch lights up in an icy blue when it’s activated, the handle is wide and comfortable, and the kettle sits securely on its base. We also liked its slow-open lid, which prevents accidental burns from steam and splashing water. It has a removable filter in its spout which, while not strictly necessary, is a handy feature in areas where the water has sediment.

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This popcorn won tasters over with its “nutty,” “toasty” corn flavor and “well-calibrated salt.” Its “hearty,” “puffy” kernels were “crisp” and “crunchy” up front, with a tender interior that “almost melted” in tasters’ mouths as they ate. “This is pretty ideal popcorn,” summarized one taster.

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Our new favorite kettle chip took the top spot overall, thanks in large part to its “nicely thick and crunchy” texture. The chips were “substantial” and “supercrunchy” and, in the words of one taster, “perfect.” Unlike other products in the lineup, they're fried in peanut oil, and tasters noticed a distinctly “savory,” “earthy” flavor. They also had “a great salt balance” and held up well in dip.

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