Oil Misters

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2012

How we tested

The nonstick cooking sprays that abound in supermarkets might make refillable oil misters seem like a gadget without a cause. But they offer savings over the long term (9 cents per ounce to refill with canola oil versus 60 cents per ounce, the cost of PAM), and being able to choose the oil has its appeal. In our search for a mister with a fine, even spray that’s easy to use, fill, and clean, we tested five brands, pitting them against our favorite commercial spray, PAM Professional High Heat.

We filled each mister with canola oil to the specified level (all held between 2/3 and 3/4 cup) and started out by coating 12-inch skillets and muffin tins to see how long each mister could sustain a continuous spray. We also spritzed them on brown wrapping paper to study the splatter patterns.

The misters came in two types: standard and pump. The lone standard sprayer, which works with a simple downward push on a thimble-sized nozzle, was a bust. It sputtered out blobs of oil in sporadic bursts, and took 17 squirts and 34 seconds just to coat a skillet (PAM did the job in one second; our winning mister, in two). With the other four misters, you pump the cap (and an attached plunger) up and down several times to build up pressure before spraying. All the pump misters covered pans much better than the standard spray mister, but some sprayed unevenly, occasionally spitting out large droplets of oil.

Our winner consistently delivered a fine spray and thin, uniform layers. Inexpensive, comfortable to use, and simple to clean up, it’s also entirely dishwasher safe (unlike some of its rivals). Both the winner and the second-place model can be used for infusing oils with herbs and spices. We tested them with dried basil and both performed well, cleanly expelling flavored oil. PAM had the most powerful spray overall so we’ll still stock it in our kitchen, but our winning oil mister is an excellent, cost-effective, and refillable alternative.

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The Results


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.


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.

Best Buy

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.