Shining a Spotlight on Vegetables

Here in the test kitchen, we’re always looking for new and inspiring ways to eat vegetables.

I’m always looking for ways to add more vegetables to my diet, so I was thrilled when my colleagues published Vegetables Illustrated. It’s an authoritative, practical, and inspirational guide to making the most of vegetables. It contains reinvented versions of everyday favorites (carrots can be so good when you cook them the right way!) and exciting introductions to vegetables such as fiddleheads, sunchokes, kohlrabi, and baby pattypan squash. When those vegetables show up at my farmer’s market this summer, I’ll be ready. This week we’ve collected the equipment you’ll need to wash, chop, slice, and cook your produce, too. With these tools and Vegetables Illustrated—which was just nominated for a James Beard Award—you’ll enjoy more vegetables than ever before. —Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, Reviews

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.

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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.

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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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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.”

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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.

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Our top-ranked braiser had several features that contributed to a solid performance in test after test: a light interior that made it easy to monitor browning; a moderately thick bottom that helped ensure good heat retention and even browning; a generous cooking surface that fit every recipe from whole chicken to meatballs to pork ragu without crowding; and large, comfortable looped handles and a stainless-steel lid knob that gave us a secure grip, especially important when the pan was heavy and full of hot food. While pricey, this versatile braiser made great food, was easy to use, and looked good enough to double as a serving dish.

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