Make the Most of Seasonal Produce

Here's all the equipment you need to get the most when preparing and cooking spring vegetables.

There are many great things about spring including fresh seasonal produce. My absolute favorites are peas, asparagus, artichokes, and peppery, vibrant radishes. So, in this week’s guide I’ve collected all the equipment you’ll need to get the most when preparing and cooking spring vegetables. I’ve included all the basics, such as the best knifepeeler, and cutting board for the job, as well as my favorite gadgets—including our longtime favorite salad spinner for quick cleaning and top-rated mandoline for safe slicing. When those first spring vegetables appear in your garden or market, you'll be ready.

—Carolyn Grillo, Senior Editor, ATK Reviews

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.

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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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This knife ran a very close race with our winner. It had a very sharp, gently curved blade that tackled every task well, and its rounded spine was easy to choke up on when we used a pinch grip. It’s a little heavier than our winner, but some testers actually preferred that extra weight, finding it “solid” and “authoritative” in their hands. And it’s just as inexpensive. One small quibble? The handle is made from a somewhat slick plastic that sometimes felt slippery when wet or greasy.

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Our favorite cutting board impressed testers with its rock-solid stability and excellent durability. Thanks to its moderate weight and four small but capable rubberized grips, it never budged on the counter. At about ½ inch thick, it didn’t flex during use or warp; while it did scar somewhat over the course of testing, the damage was comparable to that seen on the other boards. And any stains and odors cleared up after a wash or two. Our one quibble: It was a little heavy for some testers, making it a touch harder to maneuver and clean by hand.

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Weighing just over 3 pounds, the new version of our previous winner is the lightest board in our lineup, making it especially easy to lift and maneuver. Happily, its rubbery sides still allow it to sit relatively securely on the counter, though it did slip occasionally. And most testers appreciated the trench built into one side, too. Two small problems kept it from the top of the rankings: Because the board is so thin, with relatively tall rubbery strips embedded in the sides, the middle of the board never made contact with the counter, so it bounced a bit as we chopped, cleaved, or pounded. And the board became concave every time we put it under hot water, though it never warped permanently.

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Our old favorite fits a good amount of food, and we love its new telescoping handle: When the handle is extended to the full 4 inches, it's easy to grip to move the steamer in and out of the pot. The handle can also collapse to 2.5 inches when the steamer is in the pot or for compact storage. Our only quibbles? The metal leaves are a bit finicky to clean and bent a little during testing, though the unit remained perfectly functional throughout.

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This no-frills Super Benriner model is a cult favorite among restaurant cooks and home cooks alike, and for good reason: Its razor-sharp blades can handle even the toughest produce, and it can be set in a seemingly infinite range of thicknesses, effortlessly churning out paper-thin or chunky slices and julienne. (There are no fixed thickness settings, but most testers saw this as a positive trait, since it allowed them to customize the thickness so broadly.) It’s big enough to handle larger produce but still relatively compact for easy storage. And though it has only a simple rubber bumper, it rarely budges, thanks again to its sharp blade, which requires so little effort to slice food that the mandoline never fights back. Its simple plank shape allows you to use it vertically or to hook it over a bowl. Just don’t expect much from its hand guard, which is pretty much useless.

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Our top-ranked braiser had several features that contributed to a solid performance in test after test: a light interior that made it easy to monitor browning; a moderately thick bottom that helped ensure good heat retention and even browning; a generous cooking surface that fit every recipe from whole chicken to meatballs to pork ragu without crowding; and large, comfortable looped handles and a stainless-steel lid knob that gave us a secure grip, especially important when the pan was heavy and full of hot food. While pricey, this versatile braiser made great food, was easy to use, and looked good enough to double as a serving dish.

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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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The newly updated model of our former favorite now has a much-improved brake and a rounder bowl shape. It worked easily—with just one hand—and was the most effective of our lineup at removing water from a variety of greens, with good clearance under the basket to collect runoff. Its lid is simple to pull apart (and click back together) for easy cleaning and drying, and it's dishwasher-safe. Our only quibble: A central stem protrudes from the lid into the middle of the basket by 2 inches, which slightly bruised baby spinach we'd heaped in, although the greens pressed against the outer walls as soon as we started spinning.

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