Essentials for Summer Cooking

This summer, it’s easy to enjoy flavorful food without spending hours in a hot kitchen.

During the dog days of summer, our food cravings change. Instead of hearty stews, we want chilled gazpacho or a light, quick-cooking chili. And on days when we can’t bear to turn on the oven, we take the cooking outdoors and grill fish tacos or Greek-spiced chicken kebabs. In Best Summer Recipes, we’ve collected those recipes and dozens more warm-weather favorites. We’ve also gathered our top-rated gear for summer cooking below.

Foolproof Recipes for All Our Summertime Favorites

Best Summer Recipes

$12.95

This fairly thin, lightweight plastic model—a smaller version of our Best Buy full-size cutting board—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.   More on this test

"There's a reason we have 20 or 30 of these in this kitchen," said a tester; others agreed, calling it "Old Faithful." They found it notably sharp, with "great maneuverability." In sum: "This is exactly what a knife is supposed to be." 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.  More on this test

We spent 66 hours at the stove and cooked 700 eggs to find the best small nonstick skillet.

This little OXO skillet bested the rest for three simple reasons: superior nonstick ability, a comfortable handle, and a nicely shaped body. It cruised through 50 eggs at the beginning and end of testing, indicating a slick, durable nonstick coating. Testers found its rounded, brushed-steel handle “grippy” and liked that it gave “options for where to hold.” Construction-wise, it was “lightweight but sturdy” and perfectly balanced, making it especially pleasing to cook with.  More on this test

This knife was “superadept”; its sharp, flexible blade nimbly hugged curves, so we could surgically remove peels or cores without plunging too deeply. It was the lightest knife we tested, with a slim handle that a few testers found insubstantial but most praised for its ability to disappear in your palm and become an extension of your hand: “There’s no disconnect between my brain and the blade.”  More on this test

Distinct from citrus presses that use small holes, this model features a star-like arrangement of large draining slots, which direct the juice in a steady stream with no splattering or overflowing. Its large, rounded handles were easy to squeeze for testers of all sizes, which helped this press quickly extract far more juice than any other model. Its roomy bowl could also accommodate up to medium-size oranges (but not large ones).   More on this test

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.  More on this test

Our winning spoons had a simple design that allowed for a continuous, bump-free sweep, with a ball-chain connector (similar to what military dog tags hang on) that was easy to open and close. This set's metal construction felt remarkably sturdy, and ingredients didn't cling to the stainless steel. And while the 1-tablespoon measure did not fit into all spice jars, it was a minor inconvenience for an otherwise easy-to-use set.  More on this test

This compact tool was relatively comfortable to hold, although its double-headed configuration (knife on one end, slicer on the other) meant that unless we wiped the knife end after cutting, avocado got all over our hands the second we switched sides. Its serrated plastic knife was surprisingly sharp, making it easy to halve Hass avocados. But it didn’t do a particularly good job of slicing and scooping, mashing the ends of the avocado slices, and it was a little too small to halve or slice large Florida avocados in fluid strokes. Still, this tool managed to do what no knife or other tool could, making safe, easy work of removing avocado pits.  More on this test

The convenience of gas plus the flavor of charcoal make this grill a worthwhile (albeit pricey) upgrade from the basic model. Built around our favorite 22.5-inch Weber kettle is a roomy, easy-to-roll cart (much sturdier than the kettle’s legs) with a pullout charcoal storage bin; a lid holder; and, most significant, a gas ignition system that lights coals with the push of a button—no chimney starter needed.  More on this test