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Kitchen Tongs

Published February 2018

How we tested

Tongs look simple: two arms connected by a hinge. Pinch ’em together, pick something up. But this kitchen utensil is surprisingly complex.

When we previously tested tongs, the OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs were our favorite; they gripped foods well and were comfortable to hold. But with new models on the market, we decided to retest. We selected eight models priced from $12.88 to $19.99. We included tongs that were 10 to 12 inches long and had a variety of pincer designs, from scalloped to straight-edged.

Tongs have many uses, so we tested them in a variety of ways, including handling and frying delicate tortillas to make taco shells, rotating and transferring a roast, stirring and portioning angel hair pasta, and dredging and frying chicken-fried steaks. We also examined each model’s ability to grip and transfer ramekins and to precisely grasp a toothpick. To test durability, we washed each product 15 times and pushed each off the counter three times. Finally, we asked people with different builds and hand sizes to use and evaluate each pair of tongs.

The Most Comfortable-to-Use Tongs

We noticed big differences in tension during testing; some tongs were so stiff that they were downright painful to use for extended periods of time. So we took our tongs to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Michael Tarkanian, senior lecturer in the Materials Science and Engineering department, used a tool called a uniaxial tensile tester to determine how much force was needed to close each pair of tongs.

Comfortable tongs needed between 0.44 and 0.57 pounds of force to close. The more taxing models took between 0.70 and 0.84 pounds of force, which was fine for one or two quick closures but became uncomfortable during prolonged use. “My hand and wrist are killing me,” complained one tester while using the highest-tension model.

Which Tong Design Grips Food Best?

Even if the tongs were comfortable to squeeze shut, they had to actually do their job: securely hold food without tearing or shredding it. This is where the shape and material of the pincers came into play. Some models had concave, scalloped pincers, while others had rectangular pincers with straight sides and blunt edges.

Scalloped edges won, hands down. They were more precise and held everything from slippery pasta to bulky beef roasts; tongs with oar-like blades offered no grip whatsoever. One such model dropped a steak mid-dredge, and most straight-sided tongs struggled with the heavy beef roast, as the flat tong heads slid up the sides of the roast instead of gripping it. One tester, describing a nonscalloped model, said that it was like trying to use two baseball bats to grasp food.

We tested tongs that had uncoated stainless-steel pincers as well as models with silicone- or plastic-coated pincers, which can be advantageous for use with nonstick cookware. One pair even offered both: Half of each pincer was coated in silicone, while the other half was plain stainless steel. It was an intriguing design, but users weren’t sure what to do. “I’m confused. Which side do I use?” asked one tester. Overall, coated pincers were thicker and less precise, so we generally preferred the precision and control of tongs with uncoated stainless-steel pincers.

Differences in Tong Locking Mechanisms

All the tongs had locking mechanisms designed to keep them closed for easy storage. We preferred models that required us to push the locking mechanism at the end of the tongs to unlock them because we could grab them with one hand and quickly tap the butt on the counter or another handy surface to pop them open. But two pairs required us to pull the lock mechanism toward us to open the tongs, which required two hands—not convenient. Another pair of tongs sometimes accidentally locked, and yet another had a terribly designed locking mechanism that appeared to be broken; when it was “unlocked,” the plug was loose and wobbly (though not actually defective), and it often caught our skin, pinching the heels of our hands.

By the time we finished testing, one pair of tongs outshone the rest: The OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs ($12.95), our previous winner, kept its top spot. This model was precise, thanks to its uncoated, scalloped pincers. It also required a comfortable amount of force, whether we were holding the tongs shut for more than a minute or lifting a heavy beef roast, and its silicone grip was a nice bonus. The next time you need a heatproof hand in the kitchen, let these tongs do the work for you.

Methodology

We tested eight tongs priced from $12.88 to $19.99 and ranging in length from 10 to 12 inches. We made home-fried taco shells, browned a 4-pound top sirloin roast and transferred it to a roasting rack, stirred and portioned 1 pound of angel hair pasta, and made our recipe for Chicken-Fried Steak, including both dredging and frying. We also tested each pair by picking up a single rounded toothpick and transferring 6-ounce ramekins filled with 3 7/8 ounces of pie weights (roughly the weight of two eggs) into and out of a Dutch oven filled with 1 inch of boiling water. Finally, we conducted user testing, asking each participant to transfer one bunch of roasted asparagus—one spear at a time—to and from a rimmed baking sheet and to portion 1 pound of cooked angel hair pasta from a serving bowl into four smaller bowls. We washed each pair of tongs in the dishwasher 15 times and pushed each off the counter three times to test durability. Prices listed are what we paid online. Test scores were averaged, and tongs appear below in order of preference.

Precision: How well tongs could pick up and hold an item; tongs rated higher if they could easily pick up objects of all sizes and grip them securely, with no slipping.

Comfort: How much effort it took to close tongs and how comfortable it was to hold and operate tongs; tongs rated higher if they were easy to hold closed for prolonged periods of time and maneuver without causing wrist or hand pain.

Pincer design: How pincers, or tong heads, were shaped and whether they were coated or not; tongs rated higher if the pincers were scalloped and uncoated.

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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*