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Gourd Tools

Published September 2016

How we tested

We typically use a soupspoon to scoop out seeds and strings from pumpkin, squash, melons, and other members of the gourd family. But the Messermeister Pro-Touch Plus Culinary Spoon ($12.95) and the Chef’n ScoopSaw Squash and Melon Tool ($9.99) promise to make this cleaning process easier. To test these claims, we pitted both tools against our trusty spoon, using each to scoop halved honeydew melons, butternut squash, and pumpkins. In addition, we tested a fleshing tool ($6.99); while it’s primarily used for taxidermy and sculpting clay, this sharp, serrated metal loop has found favor with serious pumpkin carvers. Finally, because the ScoopSaw also features a narrow, flexible keyhole saw nested inside its hollow handle, we pitted it against a chef’s knife and a paring knife to see which made it safest and easiest to cut each of the gourds—slicing the melon into wedges, cubing the butternut squash, and carving a pumpkin.

None of the tools proved better than the spoon at removing the strings and seeds from the gourds. The notched edges of both the Messermeister spoon and the fleshing tool combed through the strings without taking them all out; they also gouged unsightly grooves into the gourds’ flesh. At least the ScoopSaw’s blunt but smooth-edged paddle inflicted no damage on the gourds, scooping them out almost as cleanly and thoroughly as the soupspoon. And although its serrated knife wasn’t great at cubing squash or slicing melon, it did a good job of topping and carving the pumpkin. We don’t think any of these tools should be used to clean or cut melon and squash, but if you carve a lot of pumpkins, the ScoopSaw might be a worthwhile investment.

Methodology

We tested three tools, priced from $6.99 to $12.95, rating them on their ability to scoop, de-string, and cut (where applicable) honeydew melons, butternut squash, and pumpkins. We timed how long it took for each tool to complete each task and compared their performances to that of a soupspoon (and chef’s knife). We also evaluated how safe they were to use. All models were purchased online; they are ranked in order of preference.

SAFETY: Tools that didn’t slip and that felt safe and secure in the hand were rated more highly.

PERFORMANCE: We gave more points to tools that scooped the gourds precisely and cleanly, removed strings easily, and cut the gourds quickly and neatly.

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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*