Best of 2017: Our Favorite Equipment of the Year
Every year, our editors put hundreds of pieces of equipment through a rigorous testing process with one mission in mind: to find the very best tools for home cooks. Though many don’t make the grade, plenty stand out from the pack and earn our “highly recommended” label. That’s exactly what you’ll find in this week’s collection—the best of the best of 2017, including bakeware that produces flawless results, knives that are a pleasure to use, and gadgets that bring some extra fun to the kitchen.
Pair the year’s best equipment with the year’s top recipes. The latest installment in our The Best of America’s Test Kitchen series showcases more than 150 recipes that our editors hand-picked from the nearly 1,000 developed in one year. The collection includes favorites from our books, magazines, and TV shows, ranging from project recipes such as Panettone and Porchetta to revamped classics such as Perfect Poached Eggs and Grilled Pizza.
Our winner is the only carafe that has extra insulation in addition to the standard double-wall vacuum seal. The thin sheets of copper and aluminum foil worked: After 4 hours, coffee was still piping hot at 152 degrees. Milk was 40 degrees after 2 hours and just 41 degrees after 4 hours. Testers loved its snap-on lid, which sealed with an audible (and reassuring) click and can be completely disassembled for cleaning. It also boasts a comfortable handle and a responsive button and pours with a steady, even stream that cuts off without dribbling.
Featuring grippy rubberized handles and an inner spring with just the right amount of resistance, this portion scoop was very comfortable to hold and squeeze. It also dispensed dough with the neatest and most controlled motion.
This pan had handles that were just a touch smaller than our winner’s, and while it made attractive cakes, their decorative crests and troughs were a little less well-defined.
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.
This muffin tin perfectly released its baked goods and was a dream to hold and turn. It has an oversize rim (with a lip that curls underneath) running all the way around it, so there was always a broad, secure place to grasp. Its gold finish created the most appealing baked goods, too: evenly, lightly browned and elegantly shaped.
With a roomy, medium-depth basket of very fine, tight, stiff mesh, this strainer removed lots of bran from whole-wheat flour and produced silky purees. A long, wide hook allowed it to sit securely on a variety of cookware, and while its rounded steel handle was a bit less comfortable than some, it was still easy to hold. This strainer’s sturdy construction makes it worth its high price: It looked as good as new even after serious abuse.
This model is firm enough for scraping and scooping but also fit neatly into tight corners. Its straight sides and wide, flat blade ensured that no food was left unmixed. The all-silicone design eliminates any crannies that could trap food. It felt exceptionally comfortable. Its smaller blade fell short in our folding test.
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.”
This handsome machine is perfect if you want the convenience of built-in grinding and automatic weighing of coffee, as well as push-button brewing, but you don’t mind some hands-on work. You must learn to tamp properly and move the portafilter of grounds from the grinder to the brewing position. A simple gauge provides excellent feedback, quickly teaching you to dial in the best grind setting and tamping pressure (Pro tip: Tamp on a scale, aiming for 30 pounds of pressure). This process soon became intuitive and easy. We loved that the machine came with everything you need—tamper, milk frothing jug, and portafilters for single and double espresso—and had a hidden drawer to store it all.
This compact, well-made machine consistently produced excellent espresso at the push of a button and readily let us adjust the flavor, temperature, and strength of a shot. The thoughtfully designed controls and a clear display that showed what was happening made it simple to brew espresso or froth milk without consulting the manual. A simple attached steam wand with a silicone grip was comfortable to use and popped off for cleaning.
Our longtime winner excelled, with uniform, steady heating and good visibility inside the saucepan to monitor browning. Its cup-shaped stay-cool handle was easy to grip, and a helper handle provided another grabbing point when the pan was full. Even after brutal whacking on concrete, this model emerged with only tiny dents inside and one slight dent on the bottom, and it still sat flat on the counter.
This cheese plane produced perfect, clean-edged, even slices of ideal thickness every time. With a comfortable handle, a relatively long blade, and one of the thinnest and most flexible heads in the testing, it was a pleasure to use.
This golden-hued metal plate baked crusts beautifully without overbrowning; even bottom crusts emerged crisp and flaky. Additionally, we liked this plate’s nonfluted lip, which allowed for maximum crust-crimping flexibility. One minor drawback: The metal surface is susceptible to cuts and nicks, but we found that this didn’t affect its performance.
Our favorite santoku wowed testers of all abilities, who raved that it felt “agile, sharp, and really good in hand.” “Solid but light,” it made “fine, level cuts” with “great precision and control.” This knife features an asymmetrical blade with a 70/30 bevel that the company hand-sharpens specifically for either right- or left-handers.
This meat cleaver put grace and beauty into the most barbarous tasks. Its perfectly distributed weight and long, tall, gently curved, razor-sharp blade made for truly effortless chopping. And its long, straight pakkawood handle gave us plenty of grip options, although at times its smooth surface got a little slick. Yes, this cleaver is expensive—but you’ll never need another. Strong and durable, it breezed through testing with minimal wear.
This slim, lightweight machine heated water almost as fast as the biggest circulators and was the most accurate in our lineup. Though it doesn’t have a display and requires a smartphone to work, its app was intuitive and simple, and its enclosed electronics meant we didn’t have to worry about getting any part of the circulator wet. Testers loved its magnetic bottom, which allowed it to stand stably in the center of metal pots. (We wished its included clip was a bit wider for nonmetal vessels, but the company now sells a “Big Clamp” attachment for $24.00 that addresses this issue.) It also had the largest distance between water lines, so we could forgo refilling even during longer cooking projects, and it was small enough to store away in a drawer when we were done.
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.