Innovative Dish Drying Racks

Published October 2014

How we tested

If you cook it, they will come. Dirty dishes, that is. And even though 83 percent of readers we polled use a dishwasher, 96 percent still wash some dishes in the sink. Enter the dish drying rack, used to contain and prop up wet dishes so air can circulate around them. While dish racks are not the most exciting kitchen purchase, lately we’ve noticed a few manufacturers trying to change their dutiful image. Flashy new racks have features like knife blocks, swiveling drain spouts, or wineglass holders, while others use sleek stainless-steel or eye-catching minimalist designs. Flash aside, do any improve on the basic wire basket/plastic mat combo?

To find out, we tested five innovative dish racks (priced from nearly $25 to $64) against the standard basket and mat ($18.37). We compared footprints and counted utensil trays, plate slots, and cup holders. We looked at the way in which each rack could be positioned next to the sink and loaded each with dinner dishes for a family of four to evaluate capacity.

Testers found only one unacceptable, a minimalist rack that looks like a piece of modern art; it sits flat on the counter and is lined with plastic ridges that start small at the front and get progressively taller, like stadium seating. But only three or so made usable slots; the others were too short to support anything and created a precarious slanted surface for other dishes.

The rest all worked well. Even the basic basket model has admirable capacity and, at $18.37, an unbeatable price. But two of the innovative racks solved lingering problems. One we deemed the best rack for small spaces. It was too small for pots and pans but fit all the plates, glasses, and plastic storage containers. It has two expandable arms that pull out to suspend it over a sink while in use, so it doesn’t require any counter space; you can either load it on the counter and move it to the sink, or start with it over the sink if you have a wider sink or double basins. It folds flat for easy storage and the whole thing can go in the dishwasher. It’s great for small spaces, or households that don’t always want a dish rack on the counter.

The second rack testers singled out was the most deluxe option for countertop use. It fit bulky pots and pans and has nice features like a wineglass holder that suspends up to four glasses upside down so they dry spot-free, as well as a bamboo knife block that keeps blades safely tucked away. It’s made of attractive, fingerprint-proof stainless steel and is raised up on feet so the counter stays dry. A draining spout efficiently whisks water away and swivels, so you can position the rack the long or short way. Whether your dish drying needs are large or small, these two innovative racks offer smart solutions.

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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.


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.