Roomy, knife-friendly, and exceptionally durable, this teak slab was worth every penny. It resisted warping and cracking, showed only minor scratches, never seemed “thirsty,” and—despite its heft—was easy to lift and clean, thanks to handholds on each end.
Made of teak, this bar board is naturally slightly oily, so it required less maintenance than the other wood or bamboo boards we tested, and it stained somewhat less extensively. It was big enough to accommodate all the foods we cut on it though still highly portable. And it’s reversible, with a juice groove on one side that helped contain messes when we cut a lemon into wedges. It was the heaviest bar board we tested, so it stayed put on the counter pretty well, though rubbery grips would have provided some extra security. Finally, it’s quite handsome, making a beautiful small platter for serving cheese or charcuterie.
This opener had a slow but steady corkscrew that drilled straight into the cork and removed it without wobbling the bottle or making us struggle to keep it or the bottle in place.
This squat but surprisingly roomy cobbler shaker was leakproof and easy to use: Simply twist on a strainer and snap on a domed top, which doubles as a 1- and 2-ounce jigger. (The silicone top faded a bit after 10 washes but sealed just fine.) While the thin metal cup got cold during use, its carafe-like shape made it fairly comfortable for testers of all hand sizes to grip. The cup’s wide mouth allowed for effortless filling, muddling, and cleaning; a reamer attachment was a nice frill.
There’s no guesswork to this automatic model: Simply press one of three preprogrammed buttons (for light, medium, or high carbonation). It’s our pick for people who want consistency as well as those who might find it uncomfortable or difficult to repeatedly press a button or lever. An internal mechanism in the machine grabs the neck of the plastic water bottle and releases it easily. Unlike most other machines, it must be plugged into an electrical outlet.
This mini slow cooker’s trio of temperature settings allowed us to select the perfect temperature whether we were keeping dip warm or cooking a soup scaled for two. Its gentle warm setting meant we could keep queso dip molten and melty for several hours without it getting hot enough to break or scorch. A plus: its bright indicator light, which let us know when it was too hot to touch.
Everything prepared in this sturdy, warp-resistant sheet cooked appropriately and evenly. Best of all, our new favorite is a few bucks cheaper than our old winner.
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.
"There's a reason we have 20 or 30 of these in this kitchen," said a tester; others agreed, calling it "Old Faithful." They found it notably sharp, with "great maneuverability." In sum: "This is exactly what a knife is supposed to be."
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.
This cheese plane produced perfect, clean-edged, even slices of ideal thickness every time. With a comfortable handle, a relatively long blade, and one of the thinnest and most flexible heads in the testing, it was a pleasure to use.
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.
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.
Tasters agreed that this long, tubelike aerator, which resembles a cigarette holder, made the impact on wine. It brought out “fruity flavors” and a “pronounced floral” aroma. The device slides into the neck of the bottle, leaving only a pouring spout, for neat, hands-free aerating.