Our New Favorite Speciality Knife

Have you ever heard of a bird’s beak paring knife? Until my coworker Miye started testing them, I hadn’t.

The small curved blades on these knives resemble—you guessed it—birds’ beaks, and they are most commonly seen in traditional French kitchens. They’re used primarily for detail work that’s done off the counter, including hulling strawberries, peeling and segmenting lemons, removing eyes from pineapples, and deveining shrimp. After she worked her way through a boatload of produce, Miye was smitten with these nimble knives. I was, too. That led me to wonder what other tools I have been overlooking. This guide is filled with equipment I once didn’t know about (or never thought much about) but now can’t imagine cooking without. Read on for more of the best tools you never knew you needed.

—Carolyn Grillo, Assistant Editor, Tastings & Testings

Seamless silicone surrounds a sturdy polymer core, making this spatula easy to clean and comfortable in hand. The flexible head handily maneuvers in tight corners and edges but is strong enough to scoop heavy food. It’s also available in a mini version, perfect for petite jars.

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This brush had the thickest head of bristles in the testing, allowing it to pick up and deposit the greatest volume of egg wash, oil, butter, or glaze in a single pass. And because the bristles weren't too densely packed, they still felt agile and precise. At a uniform 1.8 inches, they were the ideal length for most tasks (though some testers preferred brushes with slightly longer bristles for getting into the nooks and crannies on fruit tarts). While not as grippy as some, its medium-length, relatively fat, varnished wood handle was still comfortable to hold. Additionally, it lost the fewest bristles during testing.

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Superior blades gave our former favorite the edge yet again. With a razor-sharp 25-degree angle, the shears’ cutter blade sliced through every kind of food with equal ease. Deep, angular serrations on the anvil blade helped secure slippery foods. The blades’ length (the longest in the lineup) ensured smooth, continuous cutting; their overall narrowness made them easy to maneuver; and a medium level of tension between them provided just enough shearing force without taxing our hands. They’re ambidextrous, comfortable to hold, and can be taken apart for cleaning. Note: The Kershaw Taskmaster Shears and Shun Multi-Purpose Shears are produced at the same factory and are identical products with different branding; prices vary.

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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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The redesigned version of the OXO scale is accurate and had all the features that made the old model our favorite: sturdy construction, responsive buttons, and a removable platform for easy cleaning. The screen can still be pulled out nearly 4 inches when weighing oversize items. Instead of a backlight setting, the screen now has brightly lit digits on a dark background, which we found even easier to read than the old model’s screen. OXO also added two display options for weight. Users can choose to view ounces only (24 oz), pounds and ounces (1 lb 8 oz), grams only (2500 g), or kilograms and grams (2 kg 500 g), which comes in handy when doubling a recipe. The scale now uses decimals rather than fractions, so it’s more precise and easier to read.

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Our old winner is still the best instant-read thermometer on the market. It's dead accurate, fast, and so streamlined and simple that it's a breeze to use. It does just what we want: “Tell me the temp; get out of my way,” as one tester put it. Its long handle gave us plenty of room to maneuver, allowing for multiple grips, and a ring of slightly tacky silicone kept our hands confidently secured. The automatic backlight meant we never had to stop and adjust in low light, and the rotating screen is handy for lefties and righties needing different angles. The auto wake-up function is extremely useful; you don't have to stop and turn the thermometer on again midtask. The digits were large and legible, and it's waterproof in up to 39 inches of water for up to 30 minutes. It's also calibratable, promising years of accuracy.

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With a razor-sharp, moderately long blade, this knife made every task seem effortless. Its tip was the narrowest in our lineup, so it made near-surgical incisions, turning tightly around strawberry stems and pineapple eyes so that more of the fruit surrounding them was left intact. And its blade was also narrow at the heel, making it particularly adept at peeling even the most knobbly pieces of ginger. Lightweight with a relatively grippy wood veneer handle, it was also comfortable to hold for long periods.

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The scalloped, uncoated pincers on our longtime favorite tongs felt very precise. This model was also comfortable to use, not only because of the silicone-padded handle but also because the tension didn’t strain our hands or wrists. These tongs struggled a bit when transferring ramekins, as the uncoated pincers didn’t securely grip the ceramic, but this is a less common use, and the tongs excelled at every other task. This pair felt like a natural extension of our hands.

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This extremely sturdy, warp-resistant baking sheet turned out evenly cooked and browned chicken, cauliflower, and focaccia. Its lightweight, compact size made it easy to maneuver into and out of the oven. Its size is ideal for preparing recipes that serve two and for kitchen tasks that require only a small amount of space, such as toasting a handful of nuts or a few tablespoons of sesame seeds.

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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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This thin, lightweight plastic model was easy to hold and lift but was also stable on the counter thanks to its grippy rubber sides. It’s dishwasher-safe, and while it got a bit scratched by the end of testing, it was otherwise intact, resisting warping, cracking, or staining and retaining no odors. Testers liked cutting on its textured plastic surface and appreciated that one of its sides had a small trench for collecting juices from roasts or wet foods.

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