The Snacker Bowl

No one has to know if you’re not really there for the football game.

Super Bowl Sunday is a big deal in our house. My wife loves the game. I love the snacks. Last year, the Pizza Monkey Bread I made was a big hit with our friends. We’ll have a much smaller group this year, but I’m not skimping on the food. Thankfully I have a lot of our favorite tools at home to help me prepare the best game-day treats. Our Best Buy Dutch oven is perfect for a big batch of chili (I like to save the leftovers in these containers for weekday lunches). If you’d rather have warm Queso FundidoSpinach-Artichoke Dip, or Buffalo Chicken Dip, our favorite mini slow cooker allows you to select the perfect temperature to keep your dip warm for hours. With our recommended cookware and foolproof recipes, you can count on delicious snacks throughout the game.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

Our longtime favorite skillet still beats all newcomers, with a clean design that includes no unnecessary frills. We appreciate the wide cooking surface and low, flaring sides that encourage excellent browning and evaporation; a steel handle that stays cool on the stovetop and won't rotate in your hand; and an overall weight and balance that hit the sweet spot between sturdiness and maneuverable lightness. It resisted warping and withstood thermal shock and outright abuse with nary a scratch or dent. Its three layers of cladding, with aluminum sandwiched by steel, make for deep, uniform browning.

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With one of the largest, longest grating surfaces and ultrasharp teeth, our previous favorite effortlessly shredded foods of all sizes and textures, taking the least time to do so and generating virtually no waste. While testers wished this paddle-style grater’s wire handle was a bit more comfortable to hold, its length made it easy to grip in a number of ways. Rubber-tipped feet kept the grater from slipping, and testers also loved how easy the grater was to clean and store.

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This new "multicooker"—a slow cooker that can also brown/saute and steam food—produced perfect chicken, steaks, and ribs, with no scorching or hot spots. Its programmable timer can be set to cook for up to 24 hours and then automatically switches over to “keep warm." We liked its lightweight, easy-to-clean, unbreakable metal insert with extra-large, comfy handles, and its oval shape, clear lid, and intuitive controls. The brown/saute and steam functions both work as promised. A nice bonus is that the browning function, with adjustable temperature control from 150 F to 400 F, lets you sear food before slow-cooking, or reduce sauces afterward, without dirtying a second pan.

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This electric model heated every type of fondue evenly and consistently and its wide crock made simultaneous dipping frustration-free. Its temperature controls were clearly labeled with both degrees and type of fondue, allowing us to set the perfect temperature without looking at the manual. Its electronic parts detached so the crock could be washed in the sink, and fondue wiped easily off its scratch-resistant nonstick surface.

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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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Still the best—and a bargain—after 20 years, this knife’s “super-sharp” blade was “silent” and “smooth,” even as it cut through tough squash, and it retained its edge after weeks of testing. Its textured grip felt secure for a wide range of hand sizes, and thanks to its gently rounded edges and the soft, hand-polished top spine, we could comfortably choke up on the knife for “precise,” “effortless” cuts.

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.

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These oven mitts kept our hands comfortably cool and in control when holding hot equipment or reaching into a hot oven. When compressed, they were the thickest of the models with a silicone exterior. The silicone is heavily textured for better grip, and because it flexed with our hands, we could easily pinch thin cookie sheets and small handles or knobs. The fabric lining moved around inside the mitts at times during use, but it stayed put better than the linings of other models. The mitts can be machine-washed, but they have to be laid flat to dry. The silicone became permanently stained.

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Although the grid pattern on this rack is slightly larger than on the other two models, it’s reinforced with an extra support bar that runs perpendicular to the three main bars. It had a touch more wiggle room in the baking sheets, but it kept pace with the other racks during recipe and durability testing.

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With an exceptionally broad cooking surface and low, straight sides, this 7-quart pot had the same advantageous shape as the Le Creuset. It was heavier but not prohibitively so. The looped handles were comfortable to hold, though slightly smaller than ideal. The rim and lid chipped cosmetically when we repeatedly slammed the lid onto the pot, so it's slightly less durable than our winner.

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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 powerful, quiet motor; responsive pulsing action; sharp blades; and a simple, pared-down-to-basics design, our old favorite aced every test, surprising us time and again by outshining pricier, more feature-filled competitors. It was one of the few models that didn’t leak at its maximum stated liquid capacity. It’s also easy to clean and store, because it comes with just a chopping blade and two disks for shredding and slicing. Additional blade options are available à la carte.

NOTE : Cuisinart has announced a recall of the older riveted S-blade of our winning food processor, which was included in models sold from 1996 through December 2015. Cuisinart will replace the blade free of charge, and the new blade will fit old machines. Anyone with this older blade should contact Cuisinart at https://recall.cuisinart.com (or call 1-877-339-2534).

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This electric deep-fryer made food that was almost always perfect, and in the same time and number of batches as our Dutch oven. Its large basket held lots of food and made it easy to lower and lift that food during use; its high walls and lid contained messes nicely. And while we didn't love cleaning its many parts, a built-in filter and handy oil storage container made the process a bit easier than with other models. One caveat: Like the other fryers, its temperature range maxes out around 374 degrees, so it can't quite fry quick-cooking, high-heat foods such as tempura as nicely as a Dutch oven can.

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Even though we didn’t notice a difference in how this updated machine cooks food compared to the older version (despite a promise of new “fat removal technology”), we still loved it. It has a slim, compact footprint and thus took up less room on our counter than other products. Its cooking basket was roomy enough for 1 pound of food and had a completely nonstick coating. We also liked that the bottom of the basket could be removed for even deeper cleaning, if needed. Its digital controls and dial-operated menu made setting the time and temperature easy and intuitive. It stopped cooking as soon as the set time was up, and its drawer-like design allowed us to remove food without exposing our hands to the heating element.

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This mini slow cooker’s trio of temperature settings allowed us to select the perfect temperature whether we were keeping dip warm or cooking a soup scaled for two. Its gentle warm setting meant we could keep queso dip molten and melty for several hours without it getting hot enough to break or scorch. A plus: its bright indicator light, which let us know when it was too hot to touch.

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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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