2016 Year in Review: Our Winning Kitchen Tools
Every year, our editors put hundreds of pieces of kitchen equipment to the test as they seek out the very best ones to recommend to home cooks everywhere. In 2016, that list included everything from single-use gadgets to kitchen classics. Join us this week as we revisit the year’s winning equipment, such as our new favorite digital thermometer, an unbeatable food processor, and a handsome knife block that will last a lifetime.
Along with our winning equipment of 2016, you can find more than 150 of our favorite recipes to come out of the test kitchen this year in our latest installment of the Best of America’s Test Kitchen series. This book features recipes from our magazines, cookbooks, and television shows, including Cast-Iron Skillet Calzone, Cider-Braised Pork Roast, and So-Cal Churros. It also features a handy section with our top quick tips, guides, tastings, and testings of the year.
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).
The Mk4 takes all the accuracy and speed of the Classic Thermapen and adds a couple of nifty features that improve the user experience: its display now auto-rotates, lights up in low light, and wakes up when the unit is picked up. It takes a single AAA alkaline battery and is also more water-resistant than the Classic, capable of surviving a half-hour bath.
This model combines a clock, timer (count down), and stopwatch (count up); has direct numerical entry; and easily toggles between the three settings with a clearly marked mode button. Because it’s oriented vertically, it fits comfortably in hand. It’s also lightweight and slim enough to fit in a pocket, and its 38-inch lanyard is both comfortable and long enough to slip easily overhead.
This D-shaped robot uses a special set of lasers to scan and map the room so it can chart an efficient path through the space. Because of this, the Neato takes one-third as much time as other robots that cleaned more randomly to thoroughly cover a room. It hardly bumps into walls or furniture and easily navigates from room to room without the help of virtual gates or physical barriers. Testers loved watching this robot’s efficient, grid-pattern cleaning and liked that the robot largely steered clear of major obstacles, though it still occasionally got caught on cords or under furniture. Its unique shape allowed it to cozy up to walls and fit perfectly into corners—key spots every other robot missed.
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).
With gently sloping sides and a generous opening, this pan made whisking and stirring a pleasure. It was also the most efficient at the evaporation test. Its lightweight frame and straight-angled handle make it very easy to lift. One criticism: The handle became hot over time, forcing us to use a potholder.
BUY FOR $222
This grill put a crisp, brown crust on burgers and steaks. It was equally good at barbecue, rendering tender pulled pork with real smoky flavor. Tasters raved: “Perfect smoke, supermoist and tender” and “the texture is spot-on.” With a heavy-duty cookbox of thick cast aluminum and enameled steel and just one narrow vent across the back, it was easy to keep heat steady and distribute smoke. The angle of the lid when open kept smoke out of our faces. Its large, secure grease tray made cleanup easier; the sturdy, compact cart rolled without a struggle.
BUY FOR $529
Simple, intuitive, inexpensive, and stable, the winner of our previous test easily spiralized apples, beets, potatoes, and zucchini with relatively little waste. Better yet, the Paderno Tri-Blade was able to turn almost all of the produce into even, consistent noodles and ribbons. It was one of the only machines capable of spiralizing butternut squash into long, regular strands—although the stress of this endeavor caused the handle to crack on its last round of testing.
The redesigned version of the OXO scale is accurate and had all the features that made the old model our favorite: sturdy construction, responsive buttons, and a removable platform for easy cleaning. The screen can still be pulled out nearly 4 inches when weighing oversize items. Instead of a backlight setting, the screen now has brightly lit digits on a dark background, which we found even easier to read than the old model’s screen. OXO also added two display options for weight. Users can choose to view ounces only (24 oz), pounds and ounces (1 lb 8 oz), grams only (2500 g), or kilograms and grams (2 kg 500 g), which comes in handy when doubling a recipe. The scale now uses decimals rather than fractions, so it’s more precise and easier to read.
With the fewest, widest, and deepest serrations, this knife was a “standout.” Its sharp points bit into everything from the crustiest bread to the squishiest tomato, producing crisp, clean slices. “Perfect, no crumbs, really easy,” said one tester. A stellar blade coupled with a grippy, comfortable handle earned this knife the top spot.
BUY FOR $22
This large, sleek glass kettle was one of the quickest in our lineup. The power switch lights up in an icy blue when it’s activated, the handle is wide and comfortable, and the kettle sits securely on its base. We also liked its slow-open lid, which prevents accidental burns from steam and splashing water. It has a removable filter in its spout which, while not strictly necessary, is a handy feature in areas where the water has sediment.
BUY FOR $80
Tasters praised the quality of foods dried in this large sliding-tray machine, noting that they retained fresh flavor while also achieving the dry, pliable-to-crisp qualities we were after. Although it’s bulky (the size of a large microwave) and the most expensive machine in our lineup, it also held the most food and completed each task quickly. The spacious square trays fit long slices of beef jerky and round apple slices and slide easily into the unit. The lid lifts off to make it easy to check the progress of drying foods, and the timer allows for truly hands-off, walk-away dehydrating.
BUY FOR $310
This inexpensive, lightweight food mill proved the top choice of every cook who tried it. Despite a relatively small capacity, good spring force enabled it to puree foods quickly and efficiently while allowing just a few tomato and berry seeds to pass through. Its handles were comfortable, and it was easy to lift and crank (a narrow crossbar made it a tad tricky to take apart). Best of all, long, notched legs allowed the mill to feel comparatively stable while sitting high and secure above the food.
Everything prepared in this sturdy, warp-resistant sheet cooked appropriately and evenly. Best of all, our new favorite is a few bucks cheaper than our old winner.
Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.
Built like a cocktail shaker, this container was just the right size, easily emulsifying both small and large volumes of dressing. The wide mouth of the canister facilitates filling, whisking, and cleaning; the top screws on easily, creating a tight seal. Best of all, its pour spout dispenses vinaigrette with a nice even flow. And after we put it through 10 dishwasher cycles and disassembled and reassembled it 50 times, the shaker was still as good as new.
BUY FOR $15
The Small Ring Scrubber effortlessly removed cooked-on bacon and hamburger from cast iron and lasagna from our 13 by 9-inch baking dish. This scrubber’s larger size allowed it to cover more area efficiently, and we especially appreciated its fine rings, which scoured narrow grill pan grooves with ease. The smaller rings did, however, make this scrubber harder to clean. We don’t recommend using either scrubber on enamelware or stainless steel.
BUY FOR $22
This squat but surprisingly roomy cobbler shaker was leakproof and easy to use: Simply twist on a strainer and snap on a domed top, which doubles as a 1- and 2-ounce jigger. (The silicone top faded a bit after 10 washes but sealed just fine.) While the thin metal cup got cold during use, its carafe-like shape made it fairly comfortable for testers of all hand sizes to grip. The cup’s wide mouth allowed for effortless filling, muddling, and cleaning; a reamer attachment was a nice frill.
BUY FOR $28
All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.