Everything Our Summer Intern is Taking Back to College

Save time and space with our favorite kitchenwares for small apartments.

Hi, I’m Daphne and I’ve spent the last nine weeks interning with the ATK Reviews team. After a summer of preparing tastings, researching content for articles, and updating ATK’s website, I’ve learned all about what makes a successful kitchen product. Now that I’m heading back to my small college apartment, I wanted to share what items I’ve discovered are essential for college-style living—items that save time and space in the kitchen. Some of my favorites are a fish spatula and a quarter-sheet pan. Although it takes up some space, a quality air fryer that cooks just about anything is the ultimate convenience and a big time-saver, especially when eight tired roommates are craving hash browns on a Sunday morning. Another reliable appliance that's headed back with me: a rice cooker. Multitasking and freeing up stovetop space are a must in a crowded kitchen. Thanks to the thorough testing of the ATK Reviews team, I’ll be well-equipped to fix quick, tasty meals even during my hectic college life.

—Daphne Frantzis, Intern, ATK Reviews

While this air fryer’s digital controls weren’t quite as intuitive as those of our favorite models, it was still easy to set the time and temperature once we got the hang of the multiple buttons. It cooked foods quickly, and its display was bright, large, and easy to read. Its drawer and automatic shutoff were a boon to safety, and its nonstick interior was easy to clean. Its small capacity wouldn’t work for a crowd, but it cooked our recipes for two and small batches of frozen fries without issue.

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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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Our top-rated sharpener had the winning combination of producing truly exceptional and consistent results quickly, neatly, and efficiently. The manual clearly outlined a few specific steps that must be followed each time, and it took about 2 minutes from start to finish to get a polished, razor-sharp edge. Narrow, spring-loaded slots made it easy and unambiguous to maintain a consistent angle as we moved the knife through the three slots. It rapidly removed a notch we cut in the blade and easily sharpened both our everyday chef’s knife and pricey carbon-steel chef’s knife. We subtracted half a point because the slots left very light cosmetic scratches along the sides of our knives.

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Our longtime inexpensive favorite remains a pleasure to use. With a sharp, gently curved blade, it effortlessly dispatched every task we set before it, mincing garlic precisely and breaking down chicken and dense butternut squash with authority. Its light weight and rounded spine made it easy to wield for long periods, and its textured plastic handle was comfortable to grip for hands of all sizes.

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This extremely sturdy, warp-resistant baking sheet turned out evenly cooked and browned chicken, cauliflower, and focaccia. Its lightweight, compact size made it easy to maneuver into and out of the oven. Its size is ideal for preparing recipes that serve two and for kitchen tasks that require only a small amount of space, such as toasting a handful of nuts or a few tablespoons of sesame seeds.

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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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Our favorite set of plastic cups has everything we were looking for, including thin rims that make the cups very pleasant to drink from. The textured exterior allowed us to grip the cups securely. After these cups were used, washed repeatedly, and deliberately dropped onto concrete, they retained only minor nicks and dents. A bonus: This is the least expensive set (per cup) in our lineup.

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This brush aced every category with ease: No stain could withstand its stiff bristles, it rinsed clean with minimal effort thanks to its well-spaced bristle clusters, its silicone-coated handle was comfortable to grip, and its handle curved optimally to give it good leverage for scrubbing. It also had a strip of ultrastiff bristles on the back of its head meant for the toughest messes that beat out every scraper in the lineup. Though its handle was a touch long for some testers, this brush easily outperformed its competition.

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We’ve recommended this model for more than a decade, and it’s easy to see why. Its lightweight construction and comfortable grip made it a breeze to maneuver around any vessel. Its ventless, bell-shaped blade guard kept food flowing freely and prevented splattering. Its two speeds, which were both powerful enough to pulverize frozen pineapple, are controlled by two simple buttons that we could operate with one hand. This machine was also durable: It blended 25 smoothies in a row without breaking a sweat. We also liked its clearly labeled, easy-to-operate eject buttons. This reliable model would be a great addition to your kitchen.

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