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Utensil Crocks

Published February 2021

How we tested

Utensil crocks keep our most-used tools conveniently accessible and organized while we’re cooking. We’ve all tried to pull out a utensil only to have a few others come tumbling out in a tangled mess, or we’ve had a utensil crock, top-heavy from all its contents, wobble as we added or retrieved utensils. We wondered if there were utensil crocks on the market that could solve these problems.

We purchased nine round or oval utensil crocks, priced from about $14 to about $50. We included models in a variety of sizes and materials, including stoneware, stainless steel, plastic, and bamboo. In addition to varying in size and material, the models in our lineup sported a variety of special features. One had a rotating base (similar to a lazy Susan) intended to help us locate utensils quickly. Another had a special section for storing knives. Two had silicone mats that provided a soft spot for utensils to land. Four crocks had dividers, and one had small grooves in the bottom meant to hold each utensil as it is added. We also included an expandable crock. With so many options in shape, price, material, and features, we were excited to see what combination of factors would make for the best utensil crock.

Evaluating Size and Shape

Our first test was to evaluate the capacity of each crock. We loaded 20 of our favorite utensils (see “The Test Kitchen’s Top Tools”) into each crock, adding them in the same order each time for consistency. We stopped adding utensils when we felt moderate resistance, which we defined as the inability to fit another utensil in the crock without pushing hard or excessive jostling to create more space. No surprise: We preferred crocks that held more items. Our favorites were spacious enough to accommodate at least 17 utensils. The smallest crock held just 10 utensils. We also formed a preference for a certain shape. Although oval crocks were slimmer (making for a smaller footprint near the stovetop), we found that their tapered ends were a tight fit for bulkier utensils. Round crocks with diameters of about 6 inches or more allowed us to store more utensils. 

Keeping Utensils Untangled with Tall Sides, Dividers, and Grooves

Of course, a large capacity is just one factor in a good crock. We also wanted a crock that allowed us to organize and easily access our utensils. A few features really helped. 

We started by looking at the heights of the walls. The crocks in our lineup ranged in height from 5¼ to 9½ inches, and we found that higher walls were generally better able to keep utensils upright, meaning the utensils didn’t fall over one another and become tangled and harder to remove. However, small tools such as pastry brushes were harder to find and retrieve in crocks taller than 7 inches. We liked crocks with medium-high walls that were 6½ to 7 inches tall.

We also considered dividers. Two smaller oval models had permanent dividers that ran widthwise across the crock, splitting them into three sections. In these crocks—which were already a bit tight on space—the dividers took up valuable room. We had to remember to store our bulkiest tools, such as our tongs and ladle, in the larger sections because they were the biggest. In the two large round crocks with dividers, however, the feature was an asset. The dividers split the crocks into three equal and spacious wedges, which gave us enough room in any section to store our tools. These dividers helped our tools stay upright and allowed us to group them by category.

In addition to dividers, three models had useful features in the bottoms of the crocks. Removable silicone mats in two of the crocks made for a soft and quiet landing place for the utensils. And one of the oval models had small grooves in the bottom of the crock that acted as stations for the utensils' handles. We liked that this feature helped keep the utensils organized and upright. Below the contoured holes is a removable drip tray, meant to contain any water dripping from the utensils above. Since we usually return clean utensils to our crock after they have dried, we didn’t find this feature necessary, but it's a nice touch to prevent moisture from collecting in the crock if the items aren't fully dry.

We Want Our Crocks to Be Stable

No one wants a wobbly utensil crock, so we put each crock’s stability to the test by filling up each model, purposefully loading and then unloading one side of the crock before the rest. The majority of the crocks in our lineup—including those made from relatively lightweight metal—sat securely on the counter and didn't scoot around or tip over. Only one crock in our lineup faltered: the plastic crock with a rotating base. This rotating feature was meant to help us locate our utensils quickly, but it just made the crock unstable. When we added utensils, it rocked unsteadily back and forth before settling on the counter.

Good Crocks Are Easy to Clean and Durable, Too

Since utensil crocks often sit next to our stoves, we expect them to get splattered once in a while by oils, sauces, and other cooking messes. To mimic this common kitchen scenario, we splattered hot tomato sauce on each crock; allowed them to sit for 1 hour; and then wiped them with a warm, soapy sponge. Most of the crocks were easy to clean, but two of the crocks posed problems. The plastic sides of the expandable crock overlapped slightly, and it was hard to maneuver the sponge between those overlapping pieces. A model with perforated sides was also challenging to clean. When we tried to wipe tomato sauce off its exterior, we pushed it into the holes, creating an even bigger mess.

Next, to test how easy it was to clean the crocks more thoroughly, we washed them 10 times according to the manufacturers’ instructions. The model made from bamboo faded by the final wash. We preferred models that were dishwasher-safe and looked as good as new after being washed. Last, to test the durability of each model, we hit each utensil crock’s rim 10 times with a stainless-steel slotted spoon to approximate what happens when we accidentally knock a metal utensil into the side of a crock when returning it. None of the models had any dings or dents after our durability test.

Our Winning Utensil Crock: Circulon Ceramic Tool Crock

We liked a few of the utensil crocks we tested, but the Circulon Ceramic Tool Crock outperformed the rest. Round with an opening measuring 6⅝ inches, it was spacious enough to hold 20 utensils. We loved its removable divider, which splits the interior into three equal sections and helped keep the utensils upright and organized. It was easy to quickly grab a single utensil without it getting tangled in the other utensils. We also liked the removable silicone mat; it gave utensils a soft place to land when we were loading them. Lastly, we were able to easily wipe away dried splashes of tomato sauce, and all the parts are dishwasher-safe for an easy deep clean. This model is thoughtfully designed with clever features that make it more user-friendly than the average utensil crock. A nice bonus: It’s offered in a variety of colors to match any kitchen.

Methodology

  • Test nine utensil crocks, priced from about $14 to about $50, made from various materials, including stoneware, stainless steel, plastic, and bamboo
  • Load up to 20 of our winning utensils in the same order into each utensil crock
  • Remove and replace one utensil from each full crock; repeat the test with two different utensils
  • Splatter each utensil crock with hot tomato sauce, let the dirty crocks sit for 1 hour, and then wipe down each crock with a warm, soapy sponge
  • Wash the crocks 10 times, following the manufacturers’ instructions
  • Hit each crock’s rim with a stainless-steel spoon 10 times and check for signs of damage

Rating Criteria

Capacity: We evaluated how many utensils we could comfortably fit in each utensil crock without pushing hard or jostling them excessively to create space.

Ease of Use: We evaluated how sturdy the utensil crocks were when we filled them with utensils and emptied them. We also evaluated how easy it was to remove and return a single utensil at a time while the crocks were full.

Cleanup and Durability: We evaluated how easy it was to wipe down each utensil crock. We also noted if any utensil crocks were worn, damaged, or chipped after washing each of them 10 times and hitting each of them 10 times with a stainless-steel spoon.

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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*