This updated model worked just as well as the previous version we tested. We didn’t notice any benefit to the purported new “fat removal technology,” but it still has a smaller stature and footprint, a roomy cooking basket, and nonstick materials that were a breeze to clean. It cooked food evenly and quickly, performing on par with our top pick in every cooking test. We still had the same few quibbles: Its analog temperature and timer dials weren’t as precise as digital controls.
While this air fryer’s digital controls weren’t quite as intuitive as those of our favorite model, it was still easy to set the time and temperature once we got the hang of the multiple buttons. It cooked foods quickly and crisply, and its display was bright, large, and easy to read. Though it’s a little bigger than our favorite model, it was still short enough to fit under our cabinets, and its drawer-style design and automatic shutoff were a boon to safety. Like other models, it has a nonstick interior, which was easy to clean.
"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.
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.
The broad, shallow shape of these inexpensive bowls put food within easy reach and allowed for wide turns of a spatula. These were also the lightest bowls in the lineup—the combined weight of all three that we tested was less than 1 1/2 pounds— allowing us to comfortably lift, scrape, and pour.
Our kid testers liked our longtime favorite peeler for all the same reasons we love it. The sharp blade peeled each type of produce with ease; a kid tester described it as “a miracle.” The handle is flat and wide with rounded edges, and children found it easy and comfortable to hold. Due to the sharpness of the blade and how quickly it moves around food, we think this model is best for older kids who have prior cooking experience. As one 11-year-old tester said, “I am totally comfortable using it, but I have a lot of knife experience.”
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.
These mats were some of the thickest and sturdiest in our lineup but were still flexible enough to funnel food into skillets and bowls. Both sides are textured, which kept the mats in place on the counter and prevented foods from sliding across the cutting surface. The textured surface also prevented deep knife marks and concealed cosmetic nicks.
This product looks like the classic blue sponge we've all used, but its plastic-based scrubbing side has ripples. These ripples added texture, which helped nudge off cooked-on food. This sponge was absorbent and durable, and it looked surprisingly clean at the end of testing. It was also our preferred size: thick enough to hold comfortably but small enough to maneuver in tight spaces.
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.
The scalloped, uncoated pincers on our longtime favorite tongs felt very precise. This model was also comfortable to use, not only because of the silicone-padded handle but also because the tension didn’t strain our hands or wrists. These tongs struggled a bit when transferring ramekins, as the uncoated pincers didn’t securely grip the ceramic, but this is a less common use, and the tongs excelled at every other task. This pair felt like a natural extension of our hands.