The Great World of Grains

With our handpicked kitchen equipment you’ll be able to cook your favorite grains perfectly.

When picking a side dish to cook at home, I often reach for the same thing—rice. It’s easy to make, and it pairs well with meat, fish, and vegetables. But lately I’ve been trying to expand my cooking repertoire to include other hearty grains, such as wheat berries, farro, and barley. These grains offer different flavors and textures that lend themselves well to a variety of dishes. Here are a few of the best recipes I’ve been making: farro bowls with tofu, lemony quinoa pilaf with herbs, and this barley salad. With our handpicked collection of kitchen equipment, you’ll be able to cook these grains perfectly—no mushiness or blowouts in sight.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

Solidly constructed, with a low, wide profile that made browning food easy, this well-engineered cooker has an automatic lock and an easy-to-monitor pressure valve. The only cooker to reach 250 degrees at high pressure, it cooked food to perfection in the time range suggested by the recipes. Update, November 2018: Purchasers of our winning pressure cooker, the Fissler Vitaquick 8½-Quart Pressure Cooker, cited a valve issue that prevented the cooker from pressurizing. In most cases, this is not a defect, but due to not putting the pressure cooker on the highest heat setting at the start of cooking (once the cooker is pressurized the heat can be turned down). The Fissler remains our top pick for stovetop pressure cookers and still receives our top recommendation.

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Performing like our winner at a fraction of the price, this cooker has a fairly broad cooking surface, and its pressure indicator was easy to monitor. It cooked quietly and held pressure steadily without making us fiddle with the stove. Despite falling short of the 250°F target for high pressure, it cooked beef stew, pork ragu, risotto, and other dishes well and within recipe times. Its simple design made it easy to use and clean.

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With a roomy, medium-depth basket of very fine, tight, stiff mesh, this strainer removed lots of bran from whole-wheat flour and produced silky purees. A long, wide hook allowed it to sit securely on a variety of cookware, and while its rounded steel handle was a bit less comfortable than some, it was still easy to hold. This strainer’s sturdy construction makes it worth its high price: It looked as good as new even after serious abuse.

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This perfect, pricey pot bested the competition again. It was substantial enough to hold and distribute heat evenly without being unbearably heavy. The light-colored interior combined with low, straight sides gave us good visibility and made it easy to monitor browning and thermometer position. The broad cooking surface saved us time since we could cook more food at once. The lid was smooth and easy to clean. This pot is expensive, but it was exceptionally resistant to damage.

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Like our favorite highly recommended full-size Dutch oven, this smaller pot’s light-colored interior and low, straight sides allowed us to easily monitor browning, and its large looped handles made it easy to move, even when filled with 4 pounds of short ribs. It had excellent heat retention, and French fries emerged golden brown and crispy. The one drawback? Its shorter stature meant that a pile of short ribs were slightly cramped; however, the end result was still excellent.

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Our favorite multicooker had a lot of advanced features that made it not only great to cook in but also easy to use. It made excellent pressure-cooked beef stew, baked beans, white rice, and pulled pork. Unlike previous Instant Pot models we’ve tested, it was able to slow-cook well, yielding tender meat and creamy beans within recipe times. Its stainless-steel cooking pot seared food evenly, and its light-colored interior made it easy to monitor browning. We loved this multicooker’s clear, intuitive digital interface and unique pressure-release switch located away from the escaping hot steam. Another asset was the silicone handles on the inner pot, which stayed cool and were easy to grab. While it took a little extra scrubbing to fully clean the stainless-steel cooking pot, this wasn’t a huge issue. This model also had some extra features including sous vide, yogurt, and bake functions. We didn’t test the “bake” function, since we don’t have any recipes that call for that function and Instant Pot hasn’t released any recipes of its own; however, we did test the sous vide and yogurt functions. The sous vide function took too long to heat and didn’t maintain the consistent temperature necessary for successful sous vide cooking, but we were able to make creamy, fully set yogurt using the yogurt setting and Instant Pot’s recipe. Overall, we think this multicooker’s overall performance and ease of use deserved top marks.

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This pricey option took the longest of all the machines to prepare brown rice, but it produced consistently excellent white, brown, and sushi rice. The “fuzzy logic” technology supposedly adjusts time and temperature settings as needed during cooking, and its extensive menu includes settings for “harder” or “softer” rice as well as “quick cooking” (though the rice will be slightly firmer). Its timer and water line markings are clear and the removable inner lid is easy to clean.

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Our former champion won again for its well-designed, straightforward control panel with a countdown timer that was simple and unambiguous to set and allowed us to monitor progress at a glance. The roomy, heavy stoneware crock cooked gently and evenly and never boiled, so food emerged tender and juicy. We loved that its broad, protruding handles with grippy textured undersides usually stayed cool enough that we could pick up the crock without potholders. Thick insulation kept heat directed toward the crock, and a built-in internal temperature sensor gave this slow cooker extra “brains” to keep the temperature below boiling, which helped guarantee better results.

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