Our previous favorite is back in an updated induction-compatible version: it cooks steadily, browns evenly, has a stay-cool handle, and is well-balanced and relatively lightweight.
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.
Like our favorite highly recommended full-size Dutch oven, this smaller pot’s light-colored interior and low, straight sides allowed us to easily monitor browning, and its large looped handles made it easy to move, even when filled with 4 pounds of short ribs. It had excellent heat retention, and French fries emerged golden brown and crispy. The one drawback? Its shorter stature meant that a pile of short ribs were slightly cramped; however, the end result was still excellent.
Our old favorite fits a good amount of food, and we love its new telescoping handle: When the handle is extended to the full 4 inches, it's easy to grip to move the steamer in and out of the pot. The handle can also collapse to 2.5 inches when the steamer is in the pot or for compact storage. Our only quibbles? The metal leaves are a bit finicky to clean and bent a little during testing, though the unit remained perfectly functional throughout.
Our winner excelled in comfort; it was light and maneuverable, with rubbery grips on both the pot and the lid. It heated fairly quickly, thanks to its thinner 3/16-inch-thick bottom, though we did have to keep an eye on sautéed onions to make sure they didn't scorch. Still, it was a trade-off we were happy to make, as this model's minimal heft and comfortable U-shaped handles made it easy to carry and pour from.
With a basket made from a single smooth spiral of thick wire, this beautiful, long-handled, well-balanced spider was easy to maneuver and clean and capable of handling fragile ravioli with care. But that elegance came at a price—the highest in our lineup. And while some cooks thought its lower profile allowed them to get up under food more easily, the shallow basket simply couldn’t hold fried chicken as securely or pick up as many fries or ravioli in a single pass.
Still the best—and a bargain—after 20 years, this knife’s “super-sharp” blade was “silent” and “smooth,” even as it cut through tough squash, and it retained its edge after weeks of testing. Its textured grip felt secure for a wide range of hand sizes, and thanks to its gently rounded edges and the soft, hand-polished top spine, we could comfortably choke up on the knife for “precise,” “effortless” cuts.
Update: November 2013 Since our story appeared, the price of our winning Victorinox Swiss Army 8" Chef's Knife with Fibrox Handle has risen from $27.21 to about $39.95. We always report the price we paid for products when we bought them for testing; however, product prices are subject to change.
Our previous winner turned in an admirable performance. Its medium-size teeth bit into cheese, lemons, and whatever else we used it on with speed and ease. It was as sharp at the end of testing as it was at the beginning, and it looked just as good, too. Its rounded plastic handle was comfortable, though harder and not as grippy as that of our winner, so we docked a few points; it also has the same cheese trenching problem. It remains a great option.
With all-over tiny perforations that don’t allow small foods to escape, our longtime favorite colander has a draining performance that remains unmatched. Its 1 1/8 inches of ground clearance was enough to keep nearly all the drained pasta from getting hit with backwash. The model cleans up nicely in the dishwasher, and its handles are slim but still substantial enough to grip easily.
This light, smooth bamboo spoon was broad enough to churn bulky stews, yet small enough to rotate a single chunk of beef without disturbing surrounding pieces. Its rectangular handle was comfortable to grip; its head had the most surface area in contact with the pan, so it excelled at scraping fond. Stain-resistant, it emerged after testing looking closest to new.