Simple Post-Holiday Meals

As much as we loved our big holiday meals, we’re ready for some simple, unfussy cooking.

Our latest cookbook, Bowls, is a celebration of quick and easy cooking. Each recipe is built on a base (such as greens, noodles, or rice) and topped with flavorful combinations of veggies, proteins, and tasty sauces or condiments. Best of all, these cohesive meals are fast, simple, and have plenty of make-ahead options. To get your salad greens and herbs squeaky clean, try our highly recommended salad spinner. For shredding cheese or vegetables, use our winning grater. Its large surface area and big, sharp holes make grating a breeze. Once you’re armed with inspiration from our recipes and have all the tools you need, bowl bliss will be just around the corner.

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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This easy-to-store, flat grater made shredding a breeze, thanks to big, sharp holes; a large surface for better efficiency; and a solid, rigid frame that enabled continuous grating (rather than short bursts). It fit over medium and large bowls, or test­ers could hold the grater at any suitable angle; grippy rubber feet stuck securely to the work surface. Since most recipes call for coarse shreds—and we have a rasp-style grater for fine grating—we don’t mind that it grates only in one size.

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This spiral slicer uses a crank handle like that of an old-fashioned apple peeler, quickly churning out thick or thin strands or ribbons from apples, potatoes, beets, zucchini, and more. Vegetables can be up to 10 inches long or 7 inches thick. The spiral slicer makes a core in the food, so it doesn’t create whole slices as does a mandoline. But the setup couldn’t have been easier: All we had to do was attach the food to the prongs on the crank and turn the handle. Three blades set into plastic plates are included, stored in the base of the unit. Suction cups keep the slicer stable.

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Still the best—and a bargain—after 20 years, this knife’s “super-sharp” blade was “silent” and “smooth,” even as it cut through tough squash, and it retained its edge after weeks of testing. Its textured grip felt secure for a wide range of hand sizes, and thanks to its gently rounded edges and the soft, hand-polished top spine, we could comfortably choke up on the knife for “precise,” “effortless” cuts.

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.

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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 extremely sturdy, warp-resistant baking sheet turned out evenly cooked and browned chicken, cauliflower, and focaccia. Its lightweight, compact size made it easy to maneuver into and out of the oven. Its size is ideal for preparing recipes that serve two and for kitchen tasks that require only a small amount of space, such as toasting a handful of nuts or a few tablespoons of sesame seeds.

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Our kid testers liked our longtime favorite peeler for all the same reasons we love it. The sharp blade peeled each type of produce with ease; a kid tester described it as “a miracle.” The handle is flat and wide with rounded edges, and children found it easy and comfortable to hold. Due to the sharpness of the blade and how quickly it moves around food, we think this model is best for older kids who have prior cooking experience. As one 11-year-old tester said, “I am totally comfortable using it, but I have a lot of knife experience.”

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