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Send Students Back to College with the Gear They Need

Most college students don’t have access to a full kitchen. Even if they do, it’s often cramped and stocked with a hodgepodge of hand-me-downs. As they begin a new semester, arm your college kids with the equipment they need to cook for themselves.

Our favorite air fryer, which works like a countertop convection oven, isn’t just for fries. This versatile appliance can be used to make everything from meatballs to Brussels sprouts. Our Best Buy French press yields delicious, full-bodied coffee without a bulky drip machine. Looking for great recipes to send with your student? Our newly published cookbook The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2019 has 150 of the very best recipes we developed during 2018. With these tools in hand and this cookbook by their side, it’s going to be a great semester.

Testers loved this machine, which had a slimmer, compact footprint and shorter stature and thus took up less room on our counters. Its cooking basket was roomy enough for 1 pound of food and had a completely nonstick coating. We also liked that the bottom of the basket could be removed for even deeper cleaning, if needed. Its digital controls and dial-operated menu made setting the time and temperature easy and intuitive. It stopped cooking as soon as the set time was up, and its drawer-like design allowed us to remove food without exposing our hands to the heating element.  More on this test

Tasters praised the coffee from this classic pot: “good flavor, lots of sediment,” with a “pleasant” taste and a “slightly richer,” “not-too-thin texture.” It’s easy and straightforward to set up and clean. But the thin glass walls of this traditional press lost heat faster than insulated pots did. It does a great job if you’re drinking the coffee right away, but it cools off quickly.  More on this test

With four highly responsive quartz heating elements for even, consistent browning; an easy-to-use dial for selecting from eight cooking functions (including bake, roast, broil, and toast); three baking rack positions; and a front slide-out crumb tray that simplifies cleanup, this mini version (it’s about 25 percent smaller) of our favorite toaster oven, the Smart Oven by Breville, is well designed and a solid performer. The Mini Smart Oven holds four slices of toast, compared with the full-size oven’s six. When we made single toast slices and tuna melts in a cold oven, they did sometimes require extra time to brown well, but the clever “A Bit More” button took care of that problem, automatically extending cooking time proportionally to the original cooking time. This oven’s real hallmark was baking: Two bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts emerged golden brown and evenly roasted, and a batch of eight cookies baked perfectly evenly. Its temperature settings were steady and accurate, and it preheated in 5 minutes or less. For smaller spaces and budgets, this oven is a great choice.   More on this test

This mini slow cooker’s trio of temperature settings allowed us to select the perfect temperature whether we were keeping dip warm or cooking a soup scaled for two. Its gentle warm setting meant we could keep queso dip molten and melty for several hours without it getting hot enough to break or scorch. A plus: its bright indicator light, which let us know when it was too hot to touch.  More on this test

This inexpensive model produced perfectly tender-chewy white, brown, and sushi rice, and it came with useful features like a digital timer that lets the cook know when the rice is nearly ready, clear audio alert, and a delayed-start function. Although it makes up to 8 cups of cooked rice, it takes up only a small amount of counter space and can be easily tucked away. The inner lid pops out for hassle-free cleanup.   More on this test

Thanks to its U-shaped pitchers and sharp, six-pronged blades that angle both up and down, this pricey model was among the quickest and most effective at every blending task—which compensated for the fact that users must continuously hold down the pitcher to engage the motor. Its travel lid was well designed, with a comfortable drinking spout and a hinged arm that seals tight with an audible snap. One defect: It’s as noisy as it is powerful.  More on this test

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

The shorter version of our favorite 12-inch tongs, this model easily picked up foods of all shapes and sizes—from dainty blueberries to a hefty jar of salsa—and was extremely comfortable to operate. The uncoated, scalloped stainless-steel tips allowed us a precise grip, making it especially easy to lift and arrange thinly sliced fruit, and the tongs' locking mechanism was smooth and intuitive.  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 winner had the widest mouth in the lineup, which made it simple to fill—no spills or drips. The screw-on lid had a wide, arched handle that was easy to grip and turn, though users occasionally took an extra few seconds to get the lid on track. We liked that this model was dishwasher-safe and had no extra parts to remove during cleaning, and it survived three indoor drops despite its 2½-pound (filled) weight. It's also available in a 16-ounce size, if you prefer a lighter load.  More on this test