Make the Most of Fresh Corn Season

Here are the best tools for enjoying one of our favorite summertime ingredients.

While growing up in New Jersey, I was exposed to some of the best food the Northeast has to offer (I’m clearly biased), including pork roll and egg sandwiches, Italian American specialties, and fresh Jersey corn. Between June and August—when corn is at its sweetest—it was on our menu several times a week. No matter where your corn is grown, there’s nothing better to round out a summertime meal. Whether you simply eat it on the cob (buttered and salted, of course), add it to a Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad, or use it in this crowd‑pleasing Corn Risotto, it’s always delicious. From the best Dutch oven for boiling corn to the best brush for buttering cobs, these are our favorite tools for cooking and eating this seasonal ingredient. —Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, Reviews

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.

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This square silicone cap fits the end of a butter stick. Its thickness exactly matches 1 tablespoon of butter in a standard-size stick, aiding both storage and usage. It alleviated the mess and guesswork of wrapping the end of a stick of butter and kept the butter from picking up refrigerator flavors for more than a week. Plus, it was tidier than folding the paper or foil liner over the exposed end of the stick.

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This light, maneuverable brush features perforated flaps in the bristles that hold liquid like a bubble wand. It easily trapped watery egg wash, was delicate enough to paint pastry without damage, and brushed barbecue sauce evenly and thickly. Its handle felt comfortable and secure; the angled head helped reach tight spots and kept sauce off the counter when we set it down.

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The convenience of gas plus the flavor of charcoal make this grill a worthwhile (albeit pricey) upgrade from the basic model. Built around our favorite 22.5-inch Weber kettle is a roomy, easy-to-roll cart (much sturdier than the kettle’s legs) with a pullout charcoal storage bin; a lid holder; and, most significant, a gas ignition system that lights coals with the push of a button—no chimney starter needed.

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This smaller version of our favorite Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill shares many of its attributes. The ample cooking surface fit six to eight burgers at a time or a 1½-pound flank steak. The domed cover allowed us to grill-roast a butterflied chicken perfectly. Adjustable vents on the cover and on opposite sides of the grill’s body gave us plenty of control over the fire.

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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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Our winning mill was easy to load, and thanks to its clearly marked grind settings, “you know exactly what you’re getting,” said one tester. The easy-to-read settings allowed us to quickly and seamlessly change grind sizes, and the pepper output was great, too: We saw clear differences between the pepper ground using the fine, medium, and coarse settings. The mill was easy to operate, and the clear body was a nice bonus when filling because it helped us to avoid overflow.

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Our former winner took top marks again, with just the right combination of light but tough construction, precise pincers that stayed aligned throughout testing and could pluck up the tiniest toothpick or hoist the heftiest slab of ribs, and an easy locking tab that opened and closed simply and smoothly. At 16 inches, they are just long enough to be safe from the heat but short enough to give great leverage and control. The tension of the arms is well calibrated to be springy but not hand-straining over the course of cooking, such as when we grilled a big batch of barbecue chicken.

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Our previous winner is still the best option and, at $14.99, it's also one of the least expensive models we tested. It always felt comfortable and secure thanks to its two handles: a roomy, comfortable primary handle that stayed cool and a slim secondary handle that helped us lift heavy loads and guided our pouring. Its sturdy cylindrical body was easy to load, lift, and pour from in a controlled manner. It also had two generously sized chambers; the top one held sufficient charcoal for all our recipes while the bottom one fit two full sheets of loosely crumpled newspaper and allowed for plenty of air circulation for quick and easy lighting.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Our winner excelled in comfort; it was light and maneuverable, with rubbery grips on both the pot and the lid. It heated fairly quickly, thanks to its thinner 3/16-inch-thick bottom, though we did have to keep an eye on sautéed onions to make sure they didn't scorch. Still, it was a trade-off we were happy to make, as this model's minimal heft and comfortable U-shaped handles made it easy to carry and pour from.

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Our old favorite fits a good amount of food, and we love its new telescoping handle: When the handle is extended to the full 4 inches, it's easy to grip to move the steamer in and out of the pot. The handle can also collapse to 2.5 inches when the steamer is in the pot or for compact storage. Our only quibbles? The metal leaves are a bit finicky to clean and bent a little during testing, though the unit remained perfectly functional throughout.

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