The Sauce-Maker's Kitchen
When you think “sauce,” red wine reduction and marinara probably come to mind. But sauce is so much more than that; there are zesty chutneys, bright vinaigrettes, bold relishes, and even luxurious dessert toppings. A well-made sauce can transform just about any dish from simple to spectacular, and this week, we’ve brought together everything you need to achieve that. Our guide includes the pots and pans that produce the best results, blenders that create ultrasmooth purees and emulsions, and the ultimate spoons and spatulas for sauce making and more.
Another must-have: Our brand-new release Just Add Sauce. This one-of-a-kind cookbook presents 175 simple, modern sauces alongside 100 recipes to put those sauces to use. Whether you’re cooking poultry or pasta, curry or cake, this book will help you create complex restaurant-style flavors at home.
With a handle made from grippy TPE (a plastic-rubber hybrid material) and tines that had good rigidity and spacing, the OXO flat whisk aced our sauce tests and was relatively comfortable to use for longer periods. While this whisk had one of the longer handles in our testing, an additional inch would have made it even more enjoyable to use.
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.
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.
This quiet, high-powered blender has simple, intuitive controls. As for its blending capability, it was top-notch. It was able to produce fine-textured foods without incorporating excess air, thanks to its narrow blender jar. The tamper accessory was helpful when blending thicker foods, and the blender’s 7-year warranty insured our investment. It’s tall, at 20.25 inches, so it can’t be stored on a counter beneath a standard 18-inch-tall cabinet, and its narrow jar made scraping out its contents a minor challenge.
BUY FOR $409
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 pricey pot is still the one to beat. It was the most durable and user-friendly with comfortable handles and lower, straight sides that made it easy to move, load, and unload. Its broad, lightly-colored cooking surface allowed us to cook more food faster and monitor browning. It’s heavy, as a Dutch oven should be, but a bit lighter than some of the others we tested.
BUY FOR $380
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.
With ample cooking surface for sautéing eight chicken pieces without crowding, a steady, even heat for excellent browning; low, flaring sides for good evaporation; and good balance, this pan offers everything we want in a 12-inch skillet. Since our initial review was published, All-Clad has introduced a number of useful improvements to this pan. A more steeply angled handle offers testers better leverage, and a higher amount of aluminum in the core makes the pan induction-compatible, though also faster to heat (requiring a little more vigilance from the cook.) And finally, a new, tight-fitting, slightly convex lid adds value to an already excellent pan.
This new blender from Breville improves upon its predecessor in a few key ways. It’s more powerful, so it can get smoothies and almond butter even smoother, and it has a dedicated “green smoothie” button that completely blends fibrous ingredients into a silky smooth drink. It’s reasonably quiet and reasonably compact, and combined its ingredients efficiently with minimal pauses to scrape down the sides. Like the previous model, it still automatically stops every 60 seconds, which can be a little annoying during longer blends, but this wasn’t that big of an issue. Its timer makes tracking recipe stages very easy.
This lightweight pan had a few drawbacks: It cooked fast, leading to minor browning when we softened onions; the handle got hot, so a potholder was needed; and it lacked a helper handle. In abuse tests, it warped slightly and suffered minor dents and surface cracks at the points of impact. But given its bargain price, its performance was impressive.
This model costs a third of what our favorite Le Creuset Dutch oven does and performed almost as well. With a very similar design—low, straight sides and a broad, off-white cooking surface—it allowed us to easily move food, sear in fewer batches, and monitor browning. The trade-offs: The Cuisinart pot is 3 pounds heavier and has slightly smaller handles than the Le Creuset pot, and its rim chipped during abuse testing.
With an ergonomic Santoprene rubber handle and a balanced, lightweight feel, this whisk was like an extension of a hand. It whipped cream and egg whites quickly, thanks to 10 wires that were thin enough to move through the liquid quickly but thick enough to push through heavy mixtures and blend pan sauces to smoothness.
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