This steel did an excellent job browning our pizza crust uniformly while leaving the interior tender and moist. It’s heavy, at 16 pounds, and very flat, so it’s hard to pick up and transfer into the oven, though two corners have cutout circles designed to help lift it (or to hang it on the wall), which we didn’t find particularly helpful. Otherwise, this tough, unbreakable steel is a great choice for home pizza making or bread baking.
Pizzas emerged perfectly browned and crisp on the outside, with a tender interior, as if they were baked in a professional pizza oven. The steel also provided excellent oven spring to make our rustic bread loaf rise tall and develop a deeply browned, crackly chewy crust. While it’s a beast to lift, being absolutely flat with no handholds (but also no cutouts that waste space), this steel is tough and will last forever, providing easy cleanup—just keep it dry and oil it lightly after washing, as you would a carbon-steel or cast-iron skillet.
Available for purchase at: www.bakingsteel.com
Compact and reliable, this gas-fired oven is our recommendation for most home cooks who want to cook excellent pizzas outdoors quickly and easily. A gas flame located at the rear of the oven heated up the baking stone relatively evenly while also heating the inside of the oven. An angled heat deflector on the roof of the oven helped direct heat to the tops of the pizzas as they baked. It was easy to ignite the flame and adjust the heat using a dial located at the rear of the oven.
If you want the versatility of making pizzas using wood, charcoal, or gas, this large multifuel model is our favorite option. Just know that those fuels are inherently more difficult and messier to use than gas and do not add flavor to quick-cooking foods such as pizza. You need to cut your wood to size, but the tray-style chamber for burning wood and charcoal is the largest of the ovens we tested and is easy to access. The cooking surface, which measures 18 inches wide by 18 inches long, is about 5 inches wider than the cooking surfaces of other models we tested. A chimney adds bulk but helpfully directs smoke out of the oven without getting in the user’s eyes. This oven can also be used to slow-roast meats and can run on wood pellets with the purchase of an additional attachment.
Just 30 minutes after you plug in the Pizzaiolo, you can be sitting down to homemade pizza that rivals the pizzas served at top thin-crust and Neapolitan pizza joints. Heating coils below the baking stone blast the bottom of the dough with heat, while upper coils cook the toppings and outer edges of the crust. Thin-crust and Neapolitan pizzas cook in just 2 to 4 minutes, which means that their crusts remain impressively tender but still chewy. The downsides are its hefty size and weight, its high cost, and the fact that you’re limited to pizzas 11 inches or smaller in diameter.
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.
Silky-smooth from the get-go, this roomy pan didn’t let food stick and stayed impressively slick throughout testing. Its heavy weight helped it retain heat, so it seared food evenly and deeply. The pan’s bronze color became blotchy as we used it, but it will gradually gain a nice patina with lots of use.
While this skillet started out with a rougher surface than those of the artisan pans, its gently nubbly texture quickly gained seasoning, and by the end of testing it released food and cleaned up perfectly. At about 8 pounds, it’s heavy, but that weight helps with heat retention and browning. Its roomy surface and high sides make it a versatile performer—all at a great price for a pan that will last forever.
This rice cooker consistently produced excellent rice in both small and large batches. The water measurement markings on the cooking bowl, which are clearly labeled in white writing, were easy to read. The machine played a song both when it started cooking and when it switched to the “keep warm” setting. A timer counted down the final minutes of cooking. Plus, the handles on its cooking bowl protected our hands from heat. This model’s menu was simple enough, though we had to refer to the manufacturer’s booklet when picking the setting for long-grain white rice (it cooks on the mixed-rice setting, not white rice setting, which wasn’t obvious at first). It kept rice at a food-safe temperature for 12 hours, a helpful perk for people who like to enjoy rice at multiple times throughout the day. We also tested the larger version of this model, Zojirushi 10-Cup Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker & Warmer, which makes from 2 to 20 cups of cooked rice; it performed as well as our winner.
This budget-friendly pot aced nearly every test: White rice was fluffy, meatballs were browned, and French fries were crispy. We liked its light interior, which allowed us to easily monitor browning. Though its helper handles were a bit smaller and the pot was nearly a pound heavier than the Le Creuset, it was still fairly easy to lift and maneuver. The Cuisinart’s smaller size and cooking surface did mean that a full batch of short ribs were a bit too snug and we could fit fewer meatballs. Overall, though, this is an excellent Dutch oven at a bargain price.
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.
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.
This folded metal pan produced tall, picture-perfect pound cake and sandwich bread with crisp corners. Like all folded pans, it lacked handles and had crevices in the corners that trapped food. We had to clean it very carefully. The corrugated pattern on the metal didn't affect the appearance of the baked goods. It still scratched slightly.
This golden-hued metal plate baked crusts beautifully without overbrowning; even bottom crusts emerged crisp and flaky. Additionally, we liked this plate’s nonfluted lip, which allowed for maximum crust-crimping flexibility. One minor drawback: The metal surface is susceptible to cuts and nicks, but we found that this didn’t affect its performance.
This model is firm enough for scraping and scooping but also fit neatly into tight corners. Its straight sides and wide, flat blade ensured that no food was left unmixed. The all-silicone design eliminates any crannies that could trap food. It felt exceptionally comfortable. Its smaller blade fell short in our folding test.