Menu
Search
Menu
Close

Tongs

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2006

How we tested

In the test kitchen and our home kitchens alike, we use tongs to lift, flip, turn, rotate, and otherwise move every conceivable type of food while it cooks, from ramekins of custard in a water bath to small shrimp sautéing in a pan to gargantuan prime rib roasts emerging from the oven.

Believe it or not, tongs are no longer the straightforward affair they once were. Of course, you can still buy a basic model—two plain metal arms connected by a spring, with scalloped pincers for gripping—but you are just as likely to find tongs that fold in half, telescope, or pull double-duty as a spatula. Arms come cushioned or curved, and pincers can be nonstick-friendly and have various degrees of scalloping around the edges. With so many innovations, our question here was simple: Are these newfangled tongs any better than basic, old-school models?

We first looked at the business end of a pair of tongs, the pincers, which can be smooth or scalloped. We found that those with scalloped edges get a better grip on food. But that's not the end of the story. The shape of the scalloping can vary. While pronounced scalloping did not necessarily spell disaster, we preferred the gentler touch of wide, shallow scalloping.

Pincers that were slightly concave, or cupped, did a good job of grasping hard, irregularly shaped, and large objects. The concavity helped tongs cradle the curved sides of the ramekins and lobsters we used for testing. Nonstick or regular didn’t matter, in both cases look for pincers with gentle concavity and wide, shallow scalloping.

The arms of several contenders featured unusual designs that, in the end, made little sense to our testers. The one feature we did like was soft cushioning on the arms of the tongs. The cushion kept hands comfortable, firmly planted, and cool in case the tongs heated up during use.

Methodology

We tested 11 pairs of 12-inch tongs (or as close to that size as possible from some manufacturers) and evaluated them according to the following criteria. A range of testers (large- and small-handed, more and less experienced) participated in the performance tests and evaluations of overall handle comfort, ease of use, and pincer design. Testers rated the tongs on a scale of 1 to 10, and those scores were averaged into ratings of good, fair, and poor.

PINCER DESIGN

This refers to the pattern of the edge that comes into contact with the food.

PERFORMANCE, LARGE ITEMS

Testers lifted a cooked, 4 1/2-pound beef roast from a deep pot of braising liquid and rated tongs for strength and grip security.

PERFORMANCE, SMALL ITEMS

Testers moved 1 pound of cooked asparagus in a skillet and rated tongs for precision and grasp.

PERFORMANCE, HARD ITEMS

Testers lifted 1 1/4-pound lobsters from tall pots and custard-filled ramekins (round and deep as well as oval and shallow) from a water bath and rated tongs for grip security.

PERFORMANCE, SOFT ITEMS

Testers turned both sea scallops and breaded chicken cutlets in a skillet and rated tongs for grip precision and gentleness.

HANDLE COMFORT

Testers evaluated handle comfort based on shape, materials, and fit in hand.

Try CooksIllustrated.com Free for 14 Days.

Included in your trial membership:

  • 20+ years of Cook's Illustrated foolproof recipes
  • In-depth videos of recipes and cooking techniques
  • SAVE all your Favorites for easy access
  • Up-to-Date reviews and product buying guides
  • Get everything Cook's Illustrated — become the Smartest Cook you know, guaranteed
Email is required
How we use your email address

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*
Best Buy
Recommended

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*