9 Handpicked Gifts from Executive Editor Lisa McManus
As executive editor of our tastings and testings team and an America’s Test Kitchen cast member, Lisa McManus knows a thing or two about kitchen equipment. Day in and day out, she dedicates herself to finding the best tools for home cooks and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is when a product doesn’t live up to its promises. In this week’s guide, she shares her personal picks for the holiday giving season, from inexpensive essentials to high-tech gadgets, all of which come with Lisa’s stamp of approval.
If you love watching Lisa and the rest of the cast on America’s Test Kitchen (or know someone who does), then our book The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook is a must. It includes every recipe from all 18 seasons—that’s 1,300 trusty recipes—plus a 55-page guide to shopping for ingredients and kitchen equipment. We also take you behind the scenes in the test kitchen and explain just how our rigorous recipe development process works.
"This heavy, sturdy little box is a great way to keep salt ready to deploy in the kitchen. The wooden lid shields the salt from splatters, but readily pops (and stays) up when you need to reach in one-handed for a pinch. And it’s ridiculously cute. It comes in several shades; I’m partial to carrot, a cheery orange-red."
"If you’re into cold-brew coffee, you really can go down a rabbit hole buying endless numbers of fancy-schmancy devices, or spending a bundle on bottled drinks, but our tested favorite is dead simple to use and makes the best, most full-flavored coffee. One overnight brew and you’ve got a glass carafe full of rich, deeply flavorful concentrate that lasts a week or two (depending on how much you drink and how much you dilute it). You can add a dab of boiling water to yield a lightning-fast cup of hot coffee on a busy morning, or pour the concentrate straight over ice for an excellent, non-watery-for-once iced coffee."
"A bottle of fresh, premium extra-virgin olive oil might cost almost as much as a bottle of good wine, but it lasts much longer, enhancing any number of dishes from soup to salads, vegetables, grilled meats and fish, as a dipping sauce for crusty bread, and poured over warm beans (trust me, it’s amazing). Our testing of premium extra virgin olive oil was a revelation; we recommended them all. Personally, I’m partial to the robust McEvoy, medium-fruity Gaea Fresh and the fierce Frescobaldi Laudemio, but also to the milder Moulin Castelas Castelines. I can’t pick just one. And why should you? Do you only drink one kind of wine? Choose a few and start exploring. The good stuff is worth every penny."
"For those of us who love good bread, whether it’s rustic, crusty artisan loaves, sturdy sandwich bread, or tender brioche, we need a great serrated bread knife. Most serrated knives are just too stumpy, getting lost in bigger loaves or when you’re splitting cake layers—and many seem to have terrible serrations that just rip up bread, smash tall sandwiches, or leave you sawing away ineffectively. Our favorite is an inexpensive 10” long blade that slides neatly through any slicing job, no sawing necessary. While it may look like other serrated knives, you’ll be surprised by its agility and efficiency."
"If you have someone on your shopping list who’s not clued-in to cast iron cooking, they are in for a treat (and so’s your wallet). This inexpensive pan is built like a tank and will last through many lifetimes of cooking perfectly seared steak and burgers, golden brown cornbread, roasted chicken, even a huge skillet chocolate chip cookie. For these recipes and more, tuck in a copy of Cook It In Cast Iron. The perfect combo gift."
"Curious about sous vide cooking? The price (and dimensions) of a device finally have come down to the realm of reasonable. In our testing, this model came out on top for its wonderfully compact size, excellent, well-thought-out design, easy operation through a non-annoying app, and—most importantly—reliable cooking results."
"For anyone who loves baking bread and pizza at home but hasn’t yet invested in a decent baking stone, we’ve got you covered. The Old Stone Oven baking stone hits the elusive sweet spot between being big enough to absorb and radiate serious heat (and let you make a full-size pizza), while being compact enough, with raised feet that help you get a grip, for easier handling. It’s not exactly cheap, but the results are worth it. And it’s not just for bread and pizza. Try our Easier Roast Turkey recipe that harnesses the stone’s heat for perfectly evenly cooked light and dark meat—at the same time."
"I tested this knife several years ago and never got it out of my mind, until I finally broke down and bought one. (I’m cheap, what can I say?) This “hybrid” chef’s knife from Japan, with elements of both Japanese and Western knives, blends design elements from each tradition into near perfection. Lightweight, ridiculously sharp, and intuitively maneuverable, it’s a delight for anyone who loves a good knife."
"This robot vacuum bested the competition with its room-mapping technology and squared “D” shape that reaches into corners, both of which helped it pick up more dirt in far less time. If you can splurge a bit on a gift, this is a game-changer. No need to pull out the regular old vacuum again; you can even schedule it to clean daily."
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.