Top Gadgets for Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Growing herbs—and garnishing your dishes—has never been easier.

Fresh herbs are the ace in the home cook's arsenal. They add a ton of flavor to everything from sauces to stews—and just about every dish is improved by a simple herb garnish. Growing your own herbs ensures that they’re as fresh as possible. Don’t have a green thumb? Try an indoor garden! It’s remarkably hands-off and intuitive, and it required the least amount of ongoing effort of all the models we tested. It makes it easy to harvest herbs, lettuce, and other types of small produce at home, even if you lack outdoor space or sunlight. We find snipping herbs, such as rosemary and chives, to be an efficient alternative to chopping. That’s where our top-rated kitchen shears come in. Growing herbs—and garnishing your dishes—has never been easier.

—Carolyn Grillo, Senior Editor, ATK Reviews

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.

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With relatively long, narrow, sharp blades, these ambidextrous, take-apart shears were nimble and made nice smooth cuts on all foods. Lots of tiny microserrations on the anvil blade edge helped ensure a secure grip on slippery foods. And its plastic finger bows were comfortable for hands of all sizes. But because they were the lightest shears in our testing, with a fairly loose level of tension between the blades, some testers found them to be less powerful than our winner; a wider blade angle contributed to a slightly less keen-feeling edge.

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Our longtime inexpensive favorite remains a pleasure to use. With a sharp, gently curved blade, it effortlessly dispatched every task we set before it, mincing garlic precisely and breaking down chicken and dense butternut squash with authority. Its light weight and rounded spine made it easy to wield for long periods, and its textured plastic handle was comfortable to grip for hands of all sizes.

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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 attractive garden was remarkably hands-off and intuitive and required the least amount of ongoing effort. Healthy plants sprouted within a week, and the garden yielded abundant lettuce and basil over two months; several weeks later, tomato plants started producing fruit. The app was simple to use; it automatically set optimal light cycles when we scanned QR codes on the seed capsules. We didn't have to water it often; the tank is fully enclosed, and a simple float sinks if it needs watering—easy to judge at a glance.

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With a roomy, medium-depth basket of very fine, tight, stiff mesh, this strainer removed lots of bran from whole-wheat flour and produced silky purees. A long, wide hook allowed it to sit securely on a variety of cookware, and while its rounded steel handle was a bit less comfortable than some, it was still easy to hold. This strainer’s sturdy construction makes it worth its high price: It looked as good as new even after serious abuse.

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The deeply beveled edge of this scraper cut through pizza and bread dough quickly and scraped the work surface effectively. The textured polypropylene handle was easy to hold on to, even with greasy or floury hands, and was thinner than other scrapers’ handles, helping us hold it flat to the work surface for easier, more effective scooping and scraping.

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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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This compact version of our top-rated salad spinner is a great choice for smaller households or for when you don’t want to use the full-size version for smaller quantities of greens or herbs. Its basket holds about 2.4 quarts compared to nearly 5 quarts in the larger model, but it performed on par with the full-size version, effectively and easily cleaning produce and spinning it dry, removing nearly all the water from salad greens. Because the basket is positioned on a small spike, holding it well above the bottom of the bowl, we were able to pour a full cup of water into the bowl before any reached the basket of greens, keeping runoff from rewetting food once the basket stopped spinning—unlike other spinners we’ve tested. We also found it easy to clean and dry this spinner, but a few small pieces of the lid broke and cracked after we deliberately dropped it from the kitchen counter to the floor as an abuse test. The damage was cosmetic, however, and it still operated as new.   More on this test