Our Favorite Tools for Fun and Foolproof Family Meals
Cooking family meals can be a tall order—they should be quick, flavorful, and nutritious, often with a little fun sprinkled in, too. Thankfully, with an arsenal of reliable top-notch tools, it’s easy to achieve that, even on a busy weeknight. Our favorite slow cooker lets you come home to a perfectly cooked dinner, and a well-designed (and whimsical-looking) silicone lid makes reheating leftovers and make-ahead meals easy and splatter-free. You can give noodle night a new look with our winning spiralizer, or stick with traditional pasta but make it from scratch with the best-of-the-best manual machine.
Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison aren’t just the hosts of America’s Test Kitchen; they’re also moms who know what it takes to feed families and build traditions at the table and in the kitchen. In their new book, Cooking at Home with Bridget & Julia, this dynamic duo reveals which test kitchen recipes they make at home, from weekend breakfasts to home-style dinners and holiday celebrations to impress.
Our former champion won again for its well-designed, straightforward control panel with a countdown timer that was simple and unambiguous to set and allowed us to monitor progress at a glance. The roomy, heavy stoneware crock cooked gently and evenly and never boiled, so food emerged tender and juicy. We loved that its broad, protruding handles with grippy textured undersides usually stayed cool enough that we could pick up the crock without potholders. Thick insulation kept heat directed toward the crock, and a built-in internal temperature sensor gave this slow cooker extra “brains” to keep the temperature below boiling, which helped guarantee better results.
BUY FOR $78
Pizza baked up perfectly and the pan’s looped handles made it easy to move in and out of the oven. The pan’s size and shape limits it use when compared with a rectangular baking stone, but the cast iron heated up to temperature in record time (30 minutes) and retained the heat as we baked four pizzas in a row. The surface is preseasoned but, like all cast-iron cookware, must be maintained to avoid rusting.
BUY FOR $35
This whimsical 7-inch lid makes a stay-cool bowl cover for the microwave and doubles as a jar opener.
BUY FOR $11
The Ferrari of the pasta machine world, this model was a little more expensive than the others, but it sure was a pleasure to handle. It sported both the widest and the narrowest thickness settings in our lineup; we barely had to roll dough out to fit it through the machine, and we could effortlessly dial the machine down to produce gossamer-thin sheets. Its laser-sharp noodle attachment produced perfect fettuccine and angel hair every time.
BUY FOR $70
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.
BUY FOR $22
With the largest handles in our testing, this relatively lightweight baking dish was by far the easiest model to grip and maneuver.
BUY FOR $15
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.
BUY FOR $40
Solidly constructed, with a low, wide profile that made browning food easy, this well-engineered cooker has an automatic lock and an easy-to-monitor pressure valve. The only cooker to reach 250 degrees at high pressure, it cooked food to perfection in the time range suggested by the recipes.
After a 30-second stint in the microwave, this brightly colored fabric warmer kept tortillas hot for just shy of an hour and a half and fit even the largest wraps. It looks like a circular pocket and has triple layered sides with two layers of fabric sandwiching a sheet of insulating plastic; the fabric wicks moisture from the tortillas but holds it close, so they stay soft and pliable, not soggy.
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