What's In Your Utensil Crock?

Most cooks keep a utensil crock near their stovetop so the tools they use most are within arm's reach.

Almost every kitchen I’ve stepped into has had a large utensil crock sitting on one side of the stove, and each one has been stuffed with a slightly different array of well-worn utensils based on what meals are cooked most in that kitchen. When I was growing up, my mother’s utensil crock contained at least one wooden pasta fork, a wooden spoon, a slotted spoon, and a ladle. (We ate a good amount of Italian pastas and soups!) The utensil crock in my home kitchen contains each of those tools, plus a few additions that reflect my love of baking and leisurely breakfasts: a sturdy silicone spatula for cooking eggs, supersharp kitchen shears for trimming pie dough, and a lightweight whisk used to mix pancake batter and whip heavy cream. Whether you also love pasta and pancakes or if you make lots of stir-fries or salads, you’ll always have reliable tools at hand with our trusted recommendations. —Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

This model can feel oversized, but the long handle offers good leverage in deep bowls and pots. The large, flat blade makes quick work of folding whipped egg whites, which would suffer from too much agitation. You may not use it every day, but it can’t be beat for certain tasks. It lost points for staining, but it eventually did come clean.

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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 server’s small perforations drained water without losing pasta; its long teeth grabbed and held long strands with ease (their slightly wide placement meant smaller pasta sometimes slipped out, but this was a minor issue). Its long handle with comfortable silicone grip kept hands a safe distance from hot water, and the gently angled head was just right for easy control.

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This tall tool has a sturdy metal mashing plate supported by a long, curved handle made of slip-free plastic. The plethora of small holes on its mashing plate made an ultracreamy, smooth mash, and its handle felt comfortable in hands of all sizes. Its round mashing plate eased effortlessly along the edges of every pan and made quick work of mashing all types of potatoes.

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With a handle made from grippy TPE (a plastic-rubber hybrid material) and tines that had good rigidity and spacing, the OXO flat whisk aced our sauce tests and was relatively comfortable to use for longer periods. While this whisk had one of the longer handles in our testing, an additional inch would have made it even more enjoyable to use.

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This stellar tool felt especially comfortable in hand, thanks to its lightly textured silicone material and gently rounded handle. The spatula head is spacious and sturdy and presses flush to the sides and bottoms of cookware. Since it’s wrapped in one continuous layer of silicone, there are no nooks or crannies to trap food. The vibrant red color hid stains, and it proved quite odor-resistant.

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The shorter version of our favorite 12-inch tongs, this model easily picked up foods of all shapes and sizes—from dainty blueberries to a hefty jar of salsa—and was extremely comfortable to operate. The uncoated, scalloped stainless-steel tips allowed us a precise grip, making it especially easy to lift and arrange thinly sliced fruit, and the tongs' locking mechanism was smooth and intuitive.

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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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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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With an ergonomic Santoprene rubber handle and a balanced, lightweight feel, this whisk was like an extension of a hand. It whipped cream and egg whites quickly, thanks to 10 wires that were thin enough to move through the liquid quickly but thick enough to push through heavy mixtures and blend pan sauces to smoothness.

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With a basket made from a single smooth spiral of thick wire, this beautiful, long-handled, well-balanced spider was easy to maneuver and clean and capable of handling fragile ravioli with care. But that elegance came at a price—the highest in our lineup. And while some cooks thought its lower profile allowed them to get up under food more easily, the shallow basket simply couldn’t hold fried chicken as securely or pick up as many fries or ravioli in a single pass.

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Testers raved about this classic wooden spoon. Light, long, and maneuverable, it kept our hands far from the heat, and its rounded, tapered handle was comfortable and easy to grip in a variety of ways as we worked. It also suited both right- and left-handed testers. The slim tip of its nicely scooped-out oval bowl was easy to maneuver under food for turning and scooping, and when angled slightly, the head provided sufficient area for scraping fond. Made of teak, the wood resisted staining or drying out, retained its color, and never became rough to touch, even after 10 cycles through the dishwasher. 

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Our former winner continues its reign: Its perfectly proportioned head supported foods of all shapes and sizes and maneuvered nimbly even in tight spaces. And because it's also moderately thin and flexible, it excelled at getting under food. The head's pronounced curve provided extra leverage for prying up food and kept our hands higher above hot pans. All users found its handle easy to hold, though some wished the otherwise comfortable plastic were grippier.

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The lightest of the stainless-steel models, this nearly perfect spoon had a long, hollow handle that felt like it was molded to fit our palms; its wide, shallow, thin bowl made it a breeze to scoop up food. Quibbles were minor: The bowl got a few scratches in the dishwasher, and a few testers thought the steep, ladle-like angle between the handle and the bowl upset the balance of the spoon.

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This Microplane grabbed the top spot thanks to its great performance and its soft, grippy rubber handle that was slightly more comfortable and secure than that of our old winner. Otherwise, their grating surfaces are identical, so they both shredded cheese, zested lemons, and grated nutmeg, garlic, and ginger with ease. The Premium Classic came sharp, stayed sharp, and looked as good as new after testing. We do wish it had a wider surface so it didn’t form a trench in our cheese while grating, but it’s still the best option out there.

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This spatula was great for flipping eggs and pancakes, and the flexible silicone head was especially good at gliding in the pan—even navigating rounded sides with ease. The silicone material kept cookies stable during transport, and we liked the generous handle. The spatula’s head was an ideal length, though we found it too wide to easily scoop up brownies. And while this spatula’s flexible head was ideal for skillet cooking, it was too pliable to scrape up leftover brownie bits.

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This tool had one of the longest and thickest hones in our lineup; testers found it easy to use. The rod's two alternating textures, lightly ridged and smooth, let you choose to start gently with the smooth side or be a bit more aggressive by using the ridges first. Under a microscope, we noticed that this rod had more and finer-textured ridges than others in this style. “Wow,” one tester said, praising the way the freshly honed blade glided through paper and tomatoes. Using it “felt really natural” to most testers, and the results were “beautiful.”  More on this test

This smooth, white ceramic rod was easy to use, with a length that gave us plenty of space. Its wood handle was comfortable and compact, with no overhand to block us from getting the right blade angle. It took slightly longer to achieve a sharper knife edge than our top-rated tool because of its smooth, less-abrasive texture, but it worked while being comparatively gentle on our knife.

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Our former winner continues its reign. It performed well, picking up plenty of liquid and providing good coverage. Its bristles had just the right level of flexibility, making for agile, precise, and controlled maneuvering. Testers loved its light weight and perfectly sized handle, which was made of grippy plastic. Just a few minor cosmetic issues: That comfy handle melted on contact with the hot pan, and the translucent bristles stained and retained odors after six washes (though they did not transfer smells or flavors to subsequent foods).

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Everything we did with this ladle felt easy and controlled, from scooping chunky stew out of a small saucepan to reaching into a tall stockpot to collect broth. The 45-degree angle of the offset handle put our arms and wrists at a natural angle, giving us full control. The slightly shallow bowl worked well for scraping the bottom of a pot, though it was less convenient for collecting and retaining springy noodles than a deeper bowl would be.

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