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Impress Your Guests with This Secret Weapon: Sauce

There’s a wide world of sauces out there—zesty chutneys, bright vinaigrettes, bold relishes, and more. Done right, they can take any dish from simple to spectacular.

This week we’ve brought together everything you need to make restaurant-quality sauces at home. For ultrasmooth purees, our favorite food processor can’t be beat. A good whisk and ladle are essential for efficiently stirring together sauces and then serving them easily. Another must-have: Just Add Sauce. This cookbook presents 175 simple, modern sauces paired with 100 easy recipes that put those sauces to use.

Our longtime winner excelled, with uniform, steady heating and good visibility inside the saucepan to monitor browning. Its cup-shaped stay-cool handle was easy to grip, and a helper handle provided another grabbing point when the pan was full. Even after brutal whacking on concrete, this model emerged with only tiny dents inside and one slight dent on the bottom, and it still sat flat on the counter.  More on this test

With a handle made from grippy TPE (a plastic-rubber hybrid material) and tines that had good rigidity and spacing, the OXO flat whisk aced our sauce tests and was relatively comfortable to use for longer periods. While this whisk had one of the longer handles in our testing, an additional inch would have made it even more enjoyable to use.  More on this test

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.  More on this test

Our top-rated inexpensive blender made impressively silky smoothies, frozen margaritas, mayonnaise, and pureed soups that were on par with those produced by blenders costing five times as much. It was notably quiet and didn’t stain or trap odors. It failed and overheated during the almond butter test but recovered afterward thanks to its overheat protection system. Its tall, narrow jar was light and easy to attach, detach, and pour from. It was somewhat hard to tell when its lid was securely attached, so we had to fiddle with it more than we’d like, and its hollow handle sometimes trapped water while in the dishwasher, but we cleared it fairly easily.   More on this test

Everything we did with this ladle felt easy and controlled, from scooping chunky stew out of a small saucepan to reaching into a tall stockpot to collect broth. The 45-degree angle of the offset handle put our arms and wrists at a natural angle, giving us full control. The slightly shallow bowl worked well for scraping the bottom of a pot, though it was less convenient for collecting and retaining springy noodles than a deeper bowl would be.  More on this test

This light, maneuverable brush features perforated flaps in the bristles that hold liquid like a bubble wand. It easily trapped watery egg wash, was delicate enough to paint pastry without damage, and brushed barbecue sauce evenly and thickly. Its handle felt comfortable and secure; the angled head helped reach tight spots and kept sauce off the counter when we set it down.  More on this test

With a powerful, quiet motor; responsive pulsing action; sharp blades; and a simple, pared-down-to-basics design, our old favorite aced every test, surprising us time and again by outshining pricier, more feature-filled competitors. It was one of the few models that didn’t leak at its maximum stated liquid capacity. It’s also easy to clean and store, because it comes with just a chopping blade and two disks for shredding and slicing. Additional blade options are available à la carte. NOTE: Cuisinart has announced a recall of the older riveted S-blade of our winning food processor, which was included in models sold from 1996 through December 2015. Cuisinart will replace the blade free of charge, and the new blade will fit old machines. Anyone with this older blade should contact Cuisinart at https://recall.cuisinart.com (or call 1-877-339-2534).  More on this test

This pan came slick and stayed that way—we stopped both fried egg tests after 50 eggs. It cooked and released food perfectly, thanks to its darker finish and excellent nonstick coating. Its gently flared sides and lightweight design made it easy to load, unload, and move. Its grippy stay-cool handle was flawless and its cooking surface vast. It showed some light knife marks but otherwise emerged from testing unscathed.  More on this test

With an ergonomic Santoprene rubber handle and a balanced, lightweight feel, this whisk was like an extension of a hand. It whipped cream and egg whites quickly, thanks to 10 wires that were thin enough to move through the liquid quickly but thick enough to push through heavy mixtures and blend pan sauces to smoothness.  More on this test

With a roomy, medium-depth basket of very fine, tight, stiff mesh, this strainer removed lots of bran from whole-wheat flour and produced silky purees. A long, wide hook allowed it to sit securely on a variety of cookware, and while its rounded steel handle was a bit less comfortable than some, it was still easy to hold. This strainer’s sturdy construction makes it worth its high price: It looked as good as new even after serious abuse.  More on this test