We loved how deeply this pan browned foods: The steak had a dark crust and the fond made a flavorful pan sauce. It came preseasoned, but some scrambled eggs stuck to the surface, and we saw traces of black cast-iron seasoning on the crust of apple pie. (It’s worth noting that this pan will become more nonstick with use over time.) Plus, it requires seasoning after every use. However, these are minor quibbles. It’s a great pan at an excellent price, and it will last a lifetime.
Comfortable from any angle, this spatula boasts a thin front edge and moderately flexible head with a slight upward tilt that kept food secure. It melted slightly at 380 degrees, despite the manufacturers' claims that it was heat resistant to 430 degrees.
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.
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.
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 light cycles set automatically. The app was simple to use; when we scanned QR codes on the seed capsules, it provided tips for harvesting and care of the particular plants we were using.
Oxo's hand pump model of salad spinner was the easiest to use, and what most test cooks reach for first. Said one cook, “It’s the only spinner I know that you can walk away from in mid-spin.”
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.
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.
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.