Celebrate Winter Produce

Why does winter produce get such short shrift? Some of our favorite produce—from beets and sweet potatoes to fennel, leeks, and parsnips—is at its peak right now.

To get the most from this produce, make sure you have the right tools and our favorite recipes. Even the toughest vegetables are no match for the razor-sharp, ultrathin blade on our favorite carbon-steel chef’s knife. We also love its comfortable handle and gorgeous design. Our favorite rimmed baking sheet is a must-have. It’s sturdy and resists warping even at the high temperatures we recommend for roasting vegetables such as squash and parsnips. Our All-Access Membership allows you access to more of our favorite cooking techniques and recipes, unbiased equipment and ingredient ratings, and videos. With all of these tools at your disposal, you’ll be celebrating winter instead of counting down to summer.

The newly updated model of our former favorite now has a much-improved brake and a rounder bowl shape. It worked easily—with just one hand—and was the most effective of our lineup at removing water from a variety of greens, with good clearance under the basket to collect runoff. Its lid is simple to pull apart (and click back together) for easy cleaning and drying, and it's dishwasher-safe. Our only quibble: A central stem protrudes from the lid into the middle of the basket by 2 inches, which slightly bruised baby spinach we'd heaped in, although the greens pressed against the outer walls as soon as we started spinning.

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Our old favorite wins again: Its smooth, medium-hard, reversible teak surface provided plenty of room to work, was a pleasure to cut on, and required the least maintenance. It was light enough to lift comfortably (especially since it had finger grips on the sides) but heavy enough to be stable for most tasks, though a few users noted that it wobbled occasionally. It picked up some knife scars but was otherwise highly durable, resisting cracking, warping, and staining, thanks to naturally oily resins that helped condition the board. And it's a stunner: Sleek, elegant, and richly colored, it was, as one tester noted, “less like a Toyota and more like a Corvette.” One caveat: Because teak contains microscopic bits of silica, it can wear down blades faster than other types of wood. But in our opinion, this fact doesn't detract from this board's stellar performance.

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Our longtime favorite skillet still beats all newcomers, with a clean design that includes no unnecessary frills. We appreciate the wide cooking surface and low, flaring sides that encourage excellent browning and evaporation; a steel handle that stays cool on the stovetop and won't rotate in your hand; and an overall weight and balance that hit the sweet spot between sturdiness and maneuverable lightness. It resisted warping and withstood thermal shock and outright abuse with nary a scratch or dent. Its three layers of cladding, with aluminum sandwiched by steel, make for deep, uniform browning.

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Our former winner continues its reign: Its perfectly proportioned head supported foods of all shapes and sizes and maneuvered nimbly even in tight spaces. And because it's also moderately thin and flexible, it excelled at getting under food. The head's pronounced curve provided extra leverage for prying up food and kept our hands higher above hot pans. All users found its handle easy to hold, though some wished the otherwise comfortable plastic were grippier.

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This tall tool has a sturdy metal mashing plate supported by a long, curved handle made of slip-free plastic. The plethora of small holes on its mashing plate made an ultracreamy, smooth mash, and its handle felt comfortable in hands of all sizes. Its round mashing plate eased effortlessly along the edges of every pan and made quick work of mashing all types of potatoes.

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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.

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This attractive garden was remarkably hands-off and intuitive and required the least amount of ongoing effort. Healthy plants sprouted within a week, and the garden yielded abundant lettuce and basil over two months; several weeks later, tomato plants started producing fruit. The light cycles set automatically. The app was simple to use; when we scanned QR codes on the seed capsules, it provided tips for harvesting and care of the particular plants we were using. We didn't have to water it often; the tank is fully enclosed, and a simple float sinks if it needs watering—easy to judge at a glance. Plant food is built into the capsules, so we didn't need to store bottles and dispense messy liquids into tanks, as other gardens required. When the lettuce was ready to harvest after two months, the app advised us to cut it down and offered a discount on the next seed order. A wide variety of edible and ornamental herbs, flowers, chili peppers, peas, strawberries, and even evergreen saplings are available through the app, with replacement pods (including “experimental” pods for seeds of your choice) priced at $9.95 for three.

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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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