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Herb Keepers

Published September 2013

How we tested

Fresh herbs can be pricey, and supermarkets usually sell them in bigger bunches than you need for one recipe. So we were enticed by herb keepers that promise to keep them fresh longer. These devices are tall, covered canisters that hold herbs upright while their stems sit in a small amount of water. We chose five (priced from $8 to $30), filling each with equal amounts of chives, rosemary, and cilantro before placing them in the refrigerator along with another set of the herbs stored using the test kitchen’s usual method: loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and set inside a zipper-lock bag. Two advantages of the clear, hard shells stood out right away: They protect leaves from being crushed by other items in the fridge and they let you see what’s inside. We checked the herbs’ condition every day, removing some from each keeper every few days to replicate typical usage and changing the water weekly according to instructions. Since not all the herbs in a bunch spoil at the same rate, we also picked through, removing the few that had turned. Once the majority of the bunch became unusable, the experiment was over.

All the herb keepers did help keep herbs fresh a little longer: Compared with the results of our standard method, the keepers added two to four days of freshness, with chives and cilantro seeing the biggest improvement in longevity. The three herbs spoiled at similar rates inside the keepers, with chives starting to discolor after a week and becoming unusable after 12 days; rosemary lasted about 15 days; and cilantro (surprisingly) a full month.

The big difference among herb keepers? Ease of use. We found some to be simple and well designed, while others were fussy and irritating. Shape was important; those with broader bases didn’t tip and spill water even when stored on the slim shelf on the refrigerator door. While all keepers could hold our bunches of herbs, those with larger capacities and wider tops avoided cramping and crushing them, and we appreciated taller keepers that didn’t make us trim down the stems. We preferred keepers that twisted to open; a few had to be pulled apart, which took more effort and sometimes sent herbs flying. The best keepers held herbs in place, instead of letting them flop out onto the counter when we opened them; these were easiest to load and use. Our favorite model had a deep, stable bottom half shaped like a water glass and a screw-on top that was simple to open and close. It kept herbs fresh and ready for use.

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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*