Build a Better Breakfast

With our favorite equipment you’re guaranteed breakfast perfection.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and in my opinion, it’s also the yummiest. Some of my favorite options are French toast, pancakes, and waffles—not to mention savory dishes such as shakshuka and breakfast tacos. This week I’ve gathered everything you need to make better breakfasts at home. I’ve owned our winning waffle maker for years (and so has my mom). Unlike many models, it produces two waffles at a time, each with a crisp, evenly browned exterior and custardy interior. Our best nonstick skillet is a must-have for perfect fried eggs or frittatas. And our highest-rated maple syrup dispenser ensures that syrup lands only where you want it to.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

Our longtime winner excelled, with uniform, steady heating and good visibility inside the saucepan to monitor browning. Its cup-shaped stay-cool handle was easy to grip, and a helper handle provided another grabbing point when the pan was full. Even after brutal whacking on concrete, this model emerged with only tiny dents inside and one slight dent on the bottom, and it still sat flat on the counter.

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This saucepan has the same tri-ply fully-clad construction as our top-rated All-Clad pan, with two layers of stainless steel sandwiched around a layer of aluminum. It performed almost as well, but ran a little fast and hot, so onions browned slightly around the perimeter of the pan. The cooking surface is relatively narrow. The moderately heavy frame was easy to lift and scrape food from, but its handle gets hot during extended cooking. Its shiny interior dulled after cleaning up pilaf, and it suffered more damage in our abuse testing than higher-ranked models.

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Featuring a six-point dial for customizing waffle doneness, this waffle maker quickly and consistently turned out two perfect waffles at a time, each with a crisp, evenly browned exterior and custardy interior. With indicator lights on both sides of the waffle maker and a loud audible alert, it was easy to tell when each waffle was done. Weighing nearly 10 pounds and measuring over 20 inches tall with the lid up, this model was by far the biggest and heaviest of those tested—but that extra bulk ensured stability and durability. Two minor flaws: the lack of a removable drip tray and the shortness of the handle, on which hot condensation tended to accumulate. 

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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.

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Our former favorite triumphed again. Made from a resin/fiberglass composite, this fish spatula had a relatively thin, smooth head that was long, narrow, and provided ample room for picking up food. Its straight, moderate-length handle brought our hands close to the action and was fairly comfortable to grip, if a little slicker than we preferred. Just don’t leave it on a hot pan—it melted at 450 degrees.  More on this test

Simple to use and SCAA-certified, this brewer produced coffee that was “rich” and “full-flavored.” The thermal carafe is sturdy, double-lined with stainless steel, and kept coffee very hot for up to 3 hours. With a wide opening that we can fit our hand inside, it’s also much easier than most carafes to scrub clean, but there’s no brew-through lid; you must remove the brew basket and screw on a separate lid to keep the coffee hot.

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This dispenser’s spring-loaded spout cover worked like a charm. Pushing the lever let us open it any amount from a sliver to fully open, so we could pour neatly and precisely while controlling the flow. Releasing the lever let it slide smoothly and shut completely for no-drip handling. It was easy to fill and clean, too. One quibble: The glass jar isn’t microwave-safe, so we had to heat syrup in a separate vessel and then transfer it. On the plus side, the ridged glass jar stayed comfortable to hold as we replaced the lid, even when the syrup was fairly hot.

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The textured surface of this PTFE-free nonstick pan impressed us by producing evenly baked cookies, and its standard size ensured that there was enough space for Parmesan cauliflower to brown nicely. Sticky caramel was no match for the nonstick coating; the caramel-coated popcorn slid off the pan easily. This pan was easy to hand-wash because its coating prevented food from sticking.

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This gold-colored muffin tin produced golden-brown muffins, cupcakes, and frittatas, and each item released from this tin’s nonstick coating with ease. There was plenty of space between each cup, so the muffins and cupcakes baked without running into one another. Plus, a 1-inch-wide rim made the tin easy to grab and maneuver into and out of the oven, even while we were wearing bulky oven mitts.

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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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This round ceramic crock is large enough to comfortably fit 20 utensils. The removable dividers organize the utensils and allow the user to remove one utensil quickly without it getting tangled up in other utensils. A removable silicone mat sits at the bottom of the crock, giving utensils a soft place to land while minimizing noise. Because the crock is dishwasher-safe, it’s supereasy to clean when it inevitably gets splattered with food from the stove. Lastly, it’s offered in a variety of colors to match any kitchen.

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This griddle heated quickly and evenly, consistently searing burgers and speedily cooking dish after dish with ease. Its 1-inch-tall sides kept grease safely contained, and its large cooking surface easily fit eight pancakes at a time. We also liked its upright, sturdy handles, which allowed for effortless maneuvering. Its nonstick coating didn't scratch in our durability tests and always rinsed clean with minimal scrubbing. 

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When cooking for a crowd, a good electric griddle can be a timesaver. This roomy griddle was the only one that varied less than 10 degrees from the set temperature across the cooking surface. Its indicator light was accurate: When the light switched off, the griddle was at the set temperature, and it made consistently golden-brown pancakes, crispy French toast, and evenly seared burgers. We appreciated its extra design features, including legs that prop up to angle the cooking surface and facilitate grease drainage and a detachable splash guard that kept grease splatter to a minimum. Though it took longer to heat than other griddles—about 10minutes to reach 350°F—we thought its consistent heating was worth the few extra minutes.

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This griddle had the largest surface area; it fit 11 pancakes or eight pieces of French toast at a time, with plenty of room for flipping. The controls were intuitive, and we appreciated the pop-up legs that angle the griddle for draining grease when cooking fatty foods such as burgers. This model claims to fold up for easier storage, but we found that a bit misleading—its collapsible legs save you only 1 inch of storage space, and they buckle when you pick up the griddle, making it slightly difficult to maneuver, especially when cleaning it. It also wasn’t as consistent as our winner: A cold spot in the center produced lighter-brown pancakes and slightly underdone French toast. However, food cooked on the rest of the griddle was evenly browned.

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