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Universal Pan Lids

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2011
Update: February 2014
Our top-rated universal pan lid from Progressive has been discontinued. The runner-up by RSVP is our new winner.

How we tested

Many skillets—including our favorite stainless fry pans—come without lids, but shelling out for the pricey matching covers to each individual pan seems like a waste of money. We wondered if an inexpensive universal lid would do just as well; most models sport grooved rings ranging from 8 to 12 inches in diameter and claim to fit a variety of standard-sized pans. To see for ourselves, we prepared French omelets, rice pilaf, and braised vegetables—all of which require a tight-fitting lid—in our favorite All-Clad 8-, 10-, and 12-inch skillets and 4-quart saucepan, covering each vessel with 4 different universal lids and its All-Clad counterpart.

Unfortunately, none of the lids was a one-size-fits-all solution; too wide for an 8-inch skillet and the saucepan, each model sat on the handle and left a sizable gap between the lid and the lip of the bowl. But most of the lids fit snugly on larger skillets, the better models featuring a well-designed steam vent that released enough moisture to prevent steam pressure from building up and rattling the covers but not so much that the foods emerged undercooked. (Lids with no vent were actually lifted from the pot by steam.) Our favorite featured a small adjustable vent that helped it stay put on both the 10- and 12-inch skillets. In fact, it even kept more liquid from evaporating than the All-Clad lids themselves—and at a fraction of the price.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

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.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*