The Organized Cook's Favorite Tools

The equipment I rely on to keep a tidy kitchen

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I believe that an organized kitchen is a happy kitchen. I don’t want to get stuck rummaging for a missing ingredient or an essential tool while I’m in the middle of making dinner or baking a cake. This week’s buying guide highlights my favorite equipment for keeping a tidy, organized kitchen, from the prep bowls I use on an almost daily basis to the knife-storage option that aced our rigorous tests. I also love our winning plastic storage containers. They’re spill-proof and stack easily in the fridge. Once you add these essentials to your kitchen, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

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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Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

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This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

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Using this bag was a cinch (pun intended): The combination of a smooth drawstring and a strong closure bead made filling and closing it simple and convenient. The bag also had the finest mesh among the synthetic options; it even held grits without leaking while still allowing us to view the contents. This bag had the largest capacity in the lineup, and it held strong when we tested its durability with a pineapple and dumbbells.

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With a plastic lid that latched easily and securely and an airtight, leakproof seal that didn't drip or let moisture in, this container is our top choice for glass storage. Its ⅜-inch-wide, soft, square silicone gasket was easy to remove and replace for cleaning, and the faintly fishy odors it retained disappeared after rewashing. The plastic lid showed a slight orange tint after the chili test, but this faded as the container went through more dishwashing cycles. It also resisted warping and emerged intact at the end of testing. The 8-cup container, which looked like a glass loaf pan, held plenty of food, though we'd prefer a slightly flatter, wider shape to help foods heat and chill a bit more uniformly.

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This gusseted, widemouthed bag was by far the roomiest in our testing, holding nearly 6 cups of food; it was also easy to fill. Zipper-lock closures allowed us to seal this bag effortlessly and securely, helping keep food free of freezer burn. And it was one of the more leak-resistant models, safely containing water except when dropped. One small demerit: After extensive testing, the exterior got a tiny bit wrinkled but was otherwise sound.

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These wraps provided a happy medium between a strong seal that kept food fresh and a relative lack of waxy residue left behind on our hands and bowls. Though cleaning them still took some scrubbing, they were easier to clean than their much stickier counterparts, and they resisted stains for the most part. They held up to washings well, retaining their clinging ability after more than 10 rounds of cleaning.

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We loved that this U-shaped model was fully customizable; it can be expanded or collapsed to fit wide or narrow cabinets, and its platforms can be stacked or used side by side. It’s designed to hug the sides and back of cabinets’ interiors, offering significant storage space and allowing users to see clearly into each tier. It had an impressive capacity, though it did leave a gulf in the center of the cabinet. We were impressed by this model’s sturdiness, but we wish it would have taken a little less time to put together. It’s best used when you can devote a whole cabinet to spices and don’t block the view with other items.

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This simple and durable model expanded to hold an impressive number of spice containers. We especially liked that each tier had raised edges to keep the spices contained and organized. It was easy to find the spices we were looking for most of the time, though it did require a bit of lifting and tilting of spice jars to read the labels in the back. This is a great option if your cabinet height is limited; what you lose in visibility, you gain in capacity.

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This pair of large metal panels interlocked for an expandable design that offered an impressively large capacity of 64 jars across four rows. It was easy to see all our spice containers in one glance, which made locating spices a cinch. We liked how durable and stable the unit was, which kept it from sliding around in the drawer, but we wish it had a no-slip coating on its surfaces so that individual jars didn’t move around. It was also too tall to hold extra-large spice jars without blocking the drawer from closing.

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This storage rack hangs over the back of a door and is perfect for maximizing pantry space. It comes with eight spacious shelves that each hold 27 standard 4-fluid-ounce spice jars, for an impressive total of 216 jars. That’s far more space than most people need for spices, but the shelves are large enough to hold 28-ounce cans, boxes or bags of grains, and other pantry staples such as oils and vinegars. We recommend labeling the lids of the spice jars and storing the jars below eye level for maximum visibility. The rack performed well when simply hanging over a door, but it can also be bolted in for extra security. Our only qualm: This rack was a bit difficult to put together, and its assembly did require a screwdriver and a wrench.

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Our winning herb keeper, slim and rectangular, made it easy to add and remove herbs, thanks in large part to its adjustable height—we could lower the top half for easy access and raise it to accommodate tall cilantro stems without any cramming or bending. We also liked this herb keeper's vented lid, which prevented condensation from building up, and its dividers, which helped it stay tidy. Besides being easy to use, this model kept cilantro and thyme fresh the longest.

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Although this crock has a wide opening, its walls curve in slightly and limit the number of utensils it can hold. As a result, it holds up to 18 utensils. It doesn't have a divider. The outside of the crock was easy to wipe down with soap and a sponge for a quick postcooking cleanup. Bonus: This crock is available in different colors.

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