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Parchment Paper

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2008

How we tested

In the test kitchen we use large (16 /8 by 24 3/8 inches) commercial-grade sheets of parchment paper that we order by the case from professional kitchen supply stores. Because most home cooks are stuck with retail-grade parchment, we decided to compare a few popular brands. We tested these products using two of our recipes: Thin and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies and Thin-Crust Pizza.

For the cookie test, we lined baking sheets with each type of parchment paper. After 12 minutes in a 375-degree oven, all brands performed well, displaying little browning and no charring at all. Release was also good with all brands; the cookies slid off their respective parchment sheets with ease. While the two brands that come in a roll tended to curl up at the edges, this problem was easily solved by placing the sheets with their curled edges down. The weight of the dough kept the parchment paper flat.

With all brands performing well with cookies, we moved on to a more stressful test with our Thin-Crust Pizza. (Pizza dough is rolled into a 14-inch circle between floured sheets of parchment and plastic wrap. The plastic is removed, the dough is topped with sauce and cheese, and excess parchment is trimmed. The pizza, still on the parchment, is then slid onto a preheated pizza stone in a 500-degree oven and baked for 12 minutes.) Once again, none of the brands burned. However, size mattered. Only one brand was wide enough to handle a 14-inch pizza. It won our overall test.

But we also identified a second winner when we considered lining cake pans. Cutting parchment to fit can be tedious and wasteful. We found a package of special parchment rounds to be a good bargain compared to a roll of supermarket parchment. One package contains 24 liners for eight- to nine-inch round cake pans and tube pans, 12 for each shape.

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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*