Our Editors' Favorite Reviews from 2021

What did our team members enjoy testing the most during the past year?

What is the best knife sharpener? Are rice cookers and multicookers worth their hefty price? In 2021, our Reviews team answered those questions and many others. This month, we asked each team member to tell us what they enjoyed testing, photographing, or editing the most during the past year. Several editors from the team picked cleaning products: our favorite innovative dish drying rack and winning dustpan and brush set both make a world of difference in busy kitchens. Marissa Angelone, our art director, enjoyed bringing our picnic baskets story to life. And in one of the most memorable tests of the year, Miye Bromberg teamed up with the Lexington Fire Department to fry countless turkeys on her quest to find the best turkey fryer.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

"Yes, you can drink wine out of any mug or cup in your kitchen. But when you’re at an outdoor party, packing a picnic, or simply hanging on the back deck with a book, you want something that will keep your wine chilled and prevent it from spilling. These cups—which our team’s resident outdoor enthusiast Grace Kelly recently reviewed—work well and are comfortable to drink from and hold. But I think my favorite discovery of hers is that the cups do double duty. They work great as mini ice cream bowls." - Kate Shannon, Deputy Editor, ATK Reviews

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"Now that I’m an adult, sometimes I “treat” myself to items that would have thoroughly depressed my younger self. Such as this dustpan and brush! But hear me out: Aside from the obvious health and safety benefits of keeping a clean kitchen, it makes cooking more fun. The long bristles on the brush cover a lot of ground with each pass, and the dustpan has a rubber bumper that smooths the transition from the kitchen floor. Cleaning still isn’t my idea of fun but it doesn’t have to feel like a chore." - Kate Shannon, Deputy Editor, ATK Reviews

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"As an outdoors enthusiast and avid cook, finding a backpacking stove that is both lightweight and can handle my idea of backcountry cooking seemed . . . challenging. (For perspective, I once tried to cook risotto over a campfire. Four hours later, we munched on crunchy, smoked risotto.) But while testing backpacking stoves, I was superimpressed with this little number from Soto, which is ultralightweight, superstable, and easy to control heat-wise. With the help of this stove, I’ve successfully simmered chilis and sautéed sardines (tossed in olive oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic, served on bread *finger kiss*), all in the great outdoors." - Grace Kelly, Assistant Editor, ATK Reviews

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"While $90 might seem like a ridiculous amount to spend on a dish rack, if you’re like me, e.g. you cook a ton and live in a tiny apartment without a dishwasher, it’s worth the price tag. For years, I struggled to find a drying rack or pad that wouldn’t get moldy and gross after frequent use. This was the only drying rack that was self-contained and actually captured water and residual soap scum and deposited it back into the sink. Bonus: It has a wine glass drying rack, which means no more broken wine stems!" - Grace Kelly, Assistant Editor, ATK Reviews

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"Turkey fryers are expensive, dangerous, a pain to clean, and a TON of fun. The turkey fryer is basically an excuse for a party, providing the means to cook a lot of food quickly. Mind: Turkey is the least of what it can do. It fries, it boils, it steams. Large format everything. Fish fry for 20 friends? Turkey fryer. Chili for all the right fans at the tailgate? Turkey fryer. Tamales for all your relatives at Christmas? Turkey fryer. You begin to see the potential in every occasion. (Pizza rolls for your niece’s entire second-grade class! Crab boil to celebrate your friend’s divorce!) As a friend noted at a recent gathering (fried chicken, jalapeño poppers, and mozzarella sticks for 15), our favorite turkey fryer is smaller and less expensive than either of our favorite grills. And if you have it, you might actually use it more often than you’d think." - Miye Bromberg, Senior Editor, ATK Reviews

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"Speaking of parties: Do you like dumplings? Bao? Steamed fish or vegetables? Bamboo steamers are great. Steaming is a totally underrated cooking technique that deserves some extra attention—it’s quick, efficient, and fantastic at preserving the native flavors of the food you’re cooking. And bamboo steamers let you steam more food—and more delicate food—than a collapsible metal steamer basket would. Get our sturdy, well-constructed winning bamboo steamer and invite your friends over for dim sum." - Miye Bromberg, Senior Editor, ATK Reviews

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"I was a rice-cooker skeptic for years; I preferred stovetop rice that relied on a perfectly precise ratio of water to grains and was entirely dependent on my stovetop’s simmer ability. Carolyn Grillo reviewed our winning rice cooker, which takes the guesswork out of preparing this surprisingly finicky staple, with clear indicator lines for water levels and a keep-warm function that will hold temperature for hours. It even sings to you when it’s done cooking! I’ll never go back to stovetop rice." - Chase Brightwell, Assistant Editor, ATK Reviews

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"I’ve been a bit intimidated by cast-iron skillet maintenance and care as long as I’ve been in the kitchen; I’m always worried I’ll strip the seasoning. After multiple conversations with Lisa McManus, who recently re-reviewed cast-iron skillets, I felt more confident, and I decided to splurge on our winner from Smithey Ironware. It’s absolutely perfect, with a smooth cooking surface that reliably releases food and a handsome design that will make for a beautiful family heirloom." - Chase Brightwell, Assistant Editor, ATK Reviews

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"If your friend or family member has a kettle-style charcoal grill such as our favorites by Weber, this is a fantastic accessory. It’s simple to set up and lets you make the juiciest, most flavorful rotisserie chicken, roast lamb, and more that you’ve ever had. Because the food turns constantly on a motorized spit, all the juices stay in the food; they don’t drip off into the fire, and everything comes out evenly cooked. We started out skeptical, but were quickly won over by the amazing flavor and practically hands-off operation." - Lisa McManus, Executive Editor, ATK Reviews

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"I know, I know: A knife sharpener is not the most glamorous gift, but with this sharpener, you give a gift that keeps on giving. Sharp knives make a huge difference. They make food prep easier, faster, and safer. And when your favorite home cook can restore their kitchen knives to like-new condition within 2 minutes, right at home, they will never have to struggle with a dull blade again." - Lisa McManus, Executive Editor, ATK Reviews

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"​​I was deep in the wedding circuit this year, and this picnic backpack was my go-to for engagement and wedding gifts. It is so comfortable to carry and comes with stainless-steel silverware, drinking glasses, plates, cloth napkins, a fleece blanket with a water-resistant backing, a designated wine pouch, a corkscrew, and a mini cutting board. All you have to do is pack the food, which fits in the backpack as well and your outdoor picnic is set!" - Marissa Angelone, Art Director, ATK Reviews

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"As a person who lives in a one-bedroom apartment, I LOVE cute and tiny kitchen equipment and our winning bar boards do not disappoint. They are petite and lightweight, perfect for any small task in the kitchen or on a picnic. Whether I’m cutting an apple up for a snack or mincing a few garlic cloves, I always reach for this mini cutting board. It’s supereasy to clean and takes up no space. I’m wondering why I don’t have more of them!" - Marissa Angelone, Art Director, ATK Reviews

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"I love an outdoor party, no matter the time of year, so I’m thinking about getting myself a set of our newly reviewed reusable cups. They stack for easy storage, are nice to drink from, and make it so that I don’t have to haul out my breakable stuff or waste a bunch of disposable cups. Perfect for the firepit or beach!" - Hannah Crowley, Executive Editor, ATK Reviews

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"I had so much fun testing the latest Instant Pot this year. I reviewed it back in March and I’m still using it weekly. I made perfect white rice last night without breaking a sweat—something I’ve messed up on the stovetop more times than I care to count! Now that it’s colder, I make a cozy rigatoni in it weekly, cook mussels, and make sweet potatoes and steamed veggies for meal prepping. As a busy (and often distracted) mom, it’s great to be able to dial a cook time and walk away without sacrificing food quality. This machine doesn’t make me choose, it makes unbelievably delicious food and is the most usable and functional Instant Pot yet." - Hannah Crowley, Executive Editor, ATK Reviews

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"In our household, we used to go through three cases of seltzer in the course of a week between my husband and I. Then came the recycling part, which involved more tedious labor than I would want. I’ve considered getting a SodaStream Fizzi, one of the top-rated soda makers by my colleagues. But when it comes to choosing a small appliance that’ll claim a permanent spot on our counter, aesthetics become a deciding factor. And Aarke fits the bill: Featuring a sleek and minimalist design, an easy-to-use lever, and a skinny build which takes up very little space, the Aarke is probably the best purchase I’ve made this year. I also like the fact that it’s customizable—all you need to do is to add a couple more pumps (or not) for the desired fizziness." - Valerie Li Stack, Assistant Editor, ATK Reviews

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"I’ve come to a sad realization: I’m in denial about my organization skills. My spice cabinet, in particular, is a nightmarish array of containers, bags, and half-empty jars. After reading the Spice Storage Solutions review, I know there is hope for people like me. I plan on buying the highly recommended Spicy Shelf Deluxe. It looks perfect for my small, narrow cabinets since it can be collapsed and customized to fit a variety of spaces. I also love that its sturdy design fits snugly into the walls of cabinets and allows you to clearly display your spices. I’m excited to try it out and might even buy another one as a gift!" - Sawyer Phillips, Assistant Digital Editor, ATK Reviews

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