Improve Your Cooking with These Simple Tools

Even the smallest tools in this collection can make a big difference.

This week I’ve gathered tools that promise to improve and simplify your cooking. Making a perfect batch of rice on the stovetop can be a challenge. Our winning rice cooker makes perfectly cooked rice and keeps it warm for hours. (Read this article from my colleague Chase about how much it transformed his weeknight cooking.) There’s nothing more frustrating than chopping on a cutting board that keeps sliding around on the counter. Our favorite cutting board stabilizer solves that problem instantly. Don’t struggle with plastic wrap anymore— a silicone food cover is a low-hassle alternative to plastic wrap for covering bowls and other containers.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

Our winning scraper’s versatile teardrop shape allowed us to choose between a more narrowly curved edge for smaller bowls and a broader edge for wider bowls. Its metal core kept it sufficiently rigid in our hands while handling dense cookie dough, and its flexible silicone edges left more delicate doughs intact as we handled them. This scraper was both easy to clean and durable. One tester found this scraper the slightest bit small, but it fit comfortably in most of our hands, and we liked how nimble it felt.

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A solid, ultradurable sheet of rubber, this mat kept wood and plastic boards from budging on different types of counters. And with no holes to collect bits of food, it was also one of the easiest models to clean. Our one tiny gripe: Because it’s a bit thicker and heavier than our winner, it was a touch harder to store. We had to find creative ways to either roll it up or lay it flat under baking sheets or other cutting boards when not in use.

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Our favorite did a great job of securing wood and plastic cutting boards on different types of counters, and it was very durable, surviving testing with no visible damage. Made of connected Cheerio-size silicone rings, it collected very little food debris, so it was easy to wash. Thin and flexible, it was also easy to fold up and store.

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This petite scoop had a comfortable, generous handle that was easy to squeeze and hold. It made perfectly round gougères and evenly sized peanut butter sandwich cookies. We also used this scoop to portion the sticky peanut butter cookie filling, which it released with ease. In all our tests, it was faster and more accurate than using a tablespoon measure. At 1 tablespoon, it’s the ideal size for making petite cookies and other tiny desserts.   More on this test

We think this scoop would be especially useful for recipes that call for heaping-tablespoon portions. Its bowl was the perfect size for filling the mini muffin tin cups, and its handle was easy to squeeze and hold. We found it much neater than using a tablespoon measure for the same task. The scoop cleaned up easily in the sink, though it’s also dishwasher-safe for even faster cleanup.
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These covers excelled by easily creating tight seals with only the slightest effort and resisting stains and damage throughout our durability testing. They stored fruit salad as effectively as plastic wrap did, and their nearly round shapes covered bowls nicely and sealed our winning 12-inch skillet well when we used it to cover the skillet and steam broccoli. They even maintained their seals in the microwave. The covers are available in 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, and 12.5-inch round models.

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Our winning mill was easy to load, and thanks to its clearly marked grind settings, “you know exactly what you’re getting,” said one tester. The easy-to-read settings allowed us to quickly and seamlessly change grind sizes, and the pepper output was great, too: We saw clear differences between the pepper ground using the fine, medium, and coarse settings. The mill was easy to operate, and the clear body was a nice bonus when filling because it helped us to avoid overflow.

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Adjusting this compact mill is easy: You simply slide a big plastic tab along a row of clearly marked grind sizes. It’s also a breeze to fill, thanks to a wide opening that’s about 2 inches across. We love that the pepper comes out of the top, because that keeps your countertop free of the peppercorn debris and dust that can fall out of other models. Thanks to the mill’s clear body, you can tell at a glance when it’s time to refill it.

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The newest instant-read thermometer by ThermoWorks is the best we’ve tested yet. It has all the features we loved in our previous favorite: a large, grippy handle; a rotating screen with large, highly legible numbers; and a backlight that goes on when viewing conditions are dim. It’s waterproof to a water depth of 39 inches for 30 minutes, it goes to sleep when not in use, and the display wakes up automatically when you pick up the entire unit. The ONE improves on its predecessor, though: As its name indicates, it takes just 1 second to measure a temperature. The backlight is brighter, and you can now use the thermometer when cooking on induction burners—the engineers at ThermoWorks have taken measures to eliminate the electromagnetic interference that sometimes occurs when you use digital thermometers with induction cooktops.

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Our former inexpensive winner had another strong showing. It was dead accurate and extremely fast. Compared with fancier models, this model felt like driving a standard car. The display does rotate and has a backlight, but you have to stop and press a button for both functions. You have to be more careful when holding its small lollipop-shaped head, but it makes the best of its size with a grippy, ergonomic design that's reasonably secure and easy to push and pull out of dense foods. Because the head is so small, this model did put our hands a little closer to the heat.

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We loved the 16 slim, neatly cut apple slices that this gadget produced from a single fruit, perfect for baking or snacking. Its raised, grippy handles were comfortable to grab and push, and we loved its cleverly designed round coring blade at the center, which protrudes beyond the spoke-like cutting blades by a little less than ⅛ inch. This part makes the first cut, anchoring the device on the apple and breaking the resistance of the apple skin, so the cutting blades glide through more easily. After you press down through the apple, you lift it onto a plastic base and push down again, which makes the core and 16 perfect slices pop up and out—no struggling to free them from sharp blades. The device works well for pears, too, and is easy to clean by hand or in the dishwasher. Our only wish is that the base attached for storage so that it would be easier to keep track of its whereabouts.

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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.

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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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With The Everyday Set by Anyday, cooking entire meals in the microwave is easy and fast. We liked the tapered sides and the large, flat bottom of the dishes, which made them easy to maneuver in and out of the microwave. The silicone knob on the lid was comfortable to grip and didn’t get hot during long cooking times. We also liked the silicone gasket on the underside of the lid, which kept the lid firmly in place during cooking and when maneuvering the dish. This gasket also creates a seal, trapping most of the moisture and keeping food from drying out. In addition to the cookware’s smart design, we liked the user-friendly Anyday website, which provides recipes and cooking guidance. All the recipes we made from the site were delicious. We were especially impressed by how well the meat dishes came out; though there was no browning, they were perfectly cooked through and tender—no under- or overdone spots, which can normally be a problem during microwave cooking.

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