HC: If you were on my Christmas list last year, you got one of these pans. I’m absolutely obsessed with them; add the small Checkered Chef Rack that fits inside and the Nordic Ware lid and this set will become your go-to trio. A few of the million ways I use mine: with the cooling rack to hold a few salted raw steaks in the fridge overnight; alone to toast nuts; to roast a few chicken thighs and some veggies; with the lid to transport food to parties or store leftovers, the list goes on and on. I recommend buying multiple!
HC: This was one of the most exciting testings I’ve ever done—the results were so interesting. Beforehand I thought that some bread was sometimes hard to cut, and that was just life but this supersharp serrated blade tidily bit into everything from tender challah to crusty boules with ease while other knives (some costing over $200) smushed softer loaves and struggled to get through tougher ones. Best of all . . . it only costs $15.
HC: Professional bakers have used lids like these for years, but recently Nordic Ware launched a version for home cooks! It turns our beloved rimmed baking sheet into a large flat storage container. Whether you’re salting chicken thighs or proofing balls of pizza dough overnight in the fridge, or bringing a sheet pan pie or cake to a party, this lid makes a rimmed baking sheet even more versatile.
HC: My friend Louise gave me two fish turners for my wedding and they are the most used utensils in my kitchen, hands down. The shape of a fish turner is actually the ideal metal spatula shape for any food: They have longer heads, so more of a runway to cradle food, and said head is tapered, so they’re much better at navigating tight spaces. The handle is also close to the head, so you have way more control, unlike the classic square head on a loooong thin handle, which puts you really far away from the food you’re so carefully trying to transport.
HC: I had a peeler at home that I thought was just fine but Lisa McManus raved so much about this Y-shaped peeler that one day I borrowed one from the test kitchen and took it home for a side-by-side comparison. And wow. Just wow. She was right. It was faster, easier to use, and more comfortable. It also only costs about $7, so it was an easy switch. It makes a great little gift, too.
HC: There’s a reason restaurants live for Cambro containers, and home cooks should too! They’re great for storing dry goods such as sugar and flour because the wide opening is easy to pour into and scoop out of. And the size and shape of the 6-quart model make it awesome for brining meat or beans or proofing pizza or bread dough (though I have several sizes and love them all!).
HC: Is this something I use every day in my kitchen? No. Not even every week or month. But when I do: Instant party. Have nothing to do on a Friday night? Do you have flour and eggs? BOOM. Pasta party. Invite some friends, make them help (they’ll love it), and don’t be intimidated—unlike bread dough, pasta dough is very forgiving. If you mess up the noodles just smush them back into a ball and start again. I’ve put some pretty sorry-looking noodles into a pot of boiling water and what comes out? Gourmet magic. More on this test
HC: Confession: I don’t eat meat but I absolutely love to cook it. There is something so satisfying about a perfectly-cooked steak, seared crusty brown on the outside, still rosy on the inside. A thermometer takes all of the stress out of cooking meat. You don’t have to guess at doneness, you just know. Yay science! This Thermapen is the best of the best: it rotates for lefties or awkward angles, it’s got a backlight for grilling, it’s accurate, and it’s waterproof. It’s also not just for meat: we take the temperature of pies, cakes, breads, frying oil, caramel, baked potatoes, and more. More on this test
HC: I am obsessed with my small carbon steel skillet. His name is Eddie and I use him every single day. Carbon steel is the coolest material—it has great heat retention for awesome searing, but it’s thinner and lighter than cast iron, so it’s easier to handle. These pans do require some seasoning and you have to dry them off after you wash them, but I think it’s worth it. They’re super versatile and can go in the oven or on the stove. Our winning pan comes in all different sizes and every single one is useful: roast a whole chicken in the 12-inch, sear two steaks in the 10-inch, or fry an egg in the little 8-inch. More on this test
HC: I really don’t like messes. Scenes in movies where someone trashes a house or has a food fight make me cringe. I’m also very intimidated by baking. The precision! The steps! But wow, do I love carbs. So gosh darn it, I’m trying to bake more at home, even if I mess up more times than I care to admit. One thing that’s really helped me on my journey is a digital scale. Because you can measure right into a bowl placed on top of the scale, ingredients are less likely to get scattered about. And you can measure to the gram, so I know I put in the right amount every time.