The Season of Salads

This week we’ve culled our favorite pieces of equipment for all your cleaning, slicing, and dressing needs—including a few of the tools I use at home.

The season of salads is upon us, and a thoughtfully prepared salad can be a flavorful, textured, nutritious, and filling meal. A bonus is that most recipes don’t require a ton of work. I’ve been cleaning greens in this salad spinner since I was a kid helping my mom in the kitchen. And there’s no easier or faster way to juice a lemon for a vinaigrette than with this citrus juicer. If you’re looking for some salad inspiration, here are a few of my favorites: panzanellaEdamame Salad, Vegan Wheat Berry Salad with Chickpeas, Orange, and Spinach, and horiatiki salata. With these tools and our foolproof recipes, delicious, dare I even say—exciting—salads are in your near future.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

This thin, lightweight plastic model was easy to hold and lift but was also stable on the counter thanks to its grippy rubber sides. It’s dishwasher-safe, and while it got a bit scratched by the end of testing, it was otherwise intact, resisting warping, cracking, or staining and retaining no odors. Testers liked cutting on its textured plastic surface and appreciated that one of its sides had a small trench for collecting juices from roasts or wet foods.

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This sturdy, well-designed mini colander is just the right size and shape for rinsing small amounts of food such as fresh produce or canned beans. It expands easily to a 3-inch height and collapses to a compact 1-inch-tall oval for easy storage. The snap-on base covers the drainage holes, so it can be filled with water for deeper cleaning or act as a drip-free serving bowl. We like the oval shape; it’s easy to direct the clean produce or beans into a storage container or bowl. It’s also easily cleaned by hand or in the dishwasher. Finally, though we don’t recommend using it to drain large amounts of cooked vegetables or pasta, the silicone is heat-resistant and it can be used in a pinch for small batches.

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With all-over tiny perforations that don’t allow small foods to escape, our longtime favorite colander has a draining performance that remains unmatched. Its 1 1/8 inches of ground clearance was enough to keep nearly all the drained pasta from getting hit with backwash. The model cleans up nicely in the dishwasher, and its handles are slim but still substantial enough to grip easily.

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Distinct from citrus presses that use small holes, this model features a star-like arrangement of large draining slots, which direct the juice in a steady stream with no splattering or overflowing. Its large, rounded handles were easy to squeeze for testers of all sizes, which helped this press quickly extract far more juice than any other model. Its roomy bowl could also accommodate up to medium-size oranges (but not large ones).

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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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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 spiral slicer uses a crank handle like that of an old-fashioned apple peeler, quickly churning out thick or thin strands or ribbons from apples, potatoes, beets, zucchini, and more. Vegetables can be up to 10 inches long or 7 inches thick. The spiral slicer makes a core in the food, so it doesn’t create whole slices as does a mandoline. But the setup couldn’t have been easier: All we had to do was attach the food to the prongs on the crank and turn the handle. Three blades set into plastic plates are included, stored in the base of the unit. Suction cups keep the slicer stable.

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Built like a cocktail shaker, this container was just the right size, easily emulsifying both small and large volumes of dressing. The wide mouth of the canister facilitates filling, whisking, and cleaning; the top screws on easily, creating a tight seal. Best of all, its pour spout dispenses vinaigrette with a nice even flow. And after we put it through 10 dishwasher cycles and disassembled and reassembled it 50 times, the shaker was still as good as new. 

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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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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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