Dec 15, 2023

30 Best Kitchen Products for Home Cooks, Tested by Food & Wine

Our list of tested tools includes a trusty cutting board, essential kitchen appliances, and durable knife sets.

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Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

There is no shortage of clever kitchen equipment out there. High-quality chef’s knives and good cookware (like cast iron pans and nonstick sets) are essential for cooking restaurant-level meals at home. But in the last few years, we’ve been introduced to more versatile kitchen tools that help make cooks more efficient — many are even outfitted with smart connectivity, so you can set it and forget it, test new recipes, and elevate your skills.

But which cooking tools are truly essential, and which are just nice to have? After rigorously testing and evaluating every item on this list, we’ve rounded up the 30 essential pieces of kitchen equipment for serious home cooks. This list of our Food & Wine Faves covers the basics, plus the chef-approved goods that will be appreciated by cooks looking to level up their skills. We’ve also included a tight, curated list of products that make cleaning and organizing your kitchen quick and painless.


You can spend a fortune on a high-quality chef’s knife. But can affordable knives get the job done, too? According to our extensive tests: yes. Our overall winner for the best chef's knife is a just over $100 Amazon score. The Mac Knife is a Japanese-style knife, with dimples on both sides of the super thin blade. Those dimples keep food from sticking during slicing, making prep work smooth and efficient, especially with sticky or juicy foods, like potatoes and tomatoes.

Unlike some lightweight knives, the Mac’s blade is sharp enough to handle hardy, heavy vegetables, like carrots and squash. We also prized it for another, often-overlooked feature: an ultra-grippy handle made from natural materials. It’s constructed from Pakkawood, and designed for a comfortable hold. Add in the “stays sharp for longer” full tang construction that encourages efficient rocking motion while chopping, and this affordable knife takes the cake in every category.

Price at time of publish: $95


Boos Boards are favored by professional chefs for their XL capacity and roomy dimensions, perfect for doing prep work — they're the next best thing to a butcher block countertop. But they can be pricey, especially when made with soft end-grain wood. This option from Boos is more affordable, thanks to its edge-grain construction. (Edge grain is slightly harder, which means your board will be more resistant to gashes and knife marks, even after years of use). This board is made from sustainably-sourced maple wood, for an unbeatable combination of good looks and longevity.

It’s 20 x 15 inches, with a 1.5-inch height which makes it feel more expensive than it is. During our oversized cutting board tests, we also loved that this board is reversible, which comes in handy during a marathon cooking session. It’s not dishwasher safe (it’s 100% real wood), but treat it regularly with food-safe oil, and this kitchen tool will last you decades.

Price at time of publish: $87


Cast iron is king when it comes to amazing searing capability, heat retention, and longevity. And nobody does affordable, high-quality cast iron better than Lodge (our rigorous testing process proved it!). This moderately sized skillet scored perfect 5s across the board, acing the tests in performance, design, ease of cleaning, and value.

We appreciated that Lodge’s skillet comes pre-seasoned, so you can use it straight out of the box. That layer of seasoning is so good, it was easy to clean with just a swipe of a cloth and some warm water. During our cooking tests, it produced the most even browning, and the included silicone handle made maneuvering the pan with confidence easy. At under 5 pounds, it’s substantial but not unwieldy. And you simply cannot beat that price point, which is dozens of dollars less than other popular cast iron brands.

Price at time of publish: $41


Knife sets are ideal for cooks looking to build a kitchen from scratch, or for any home cook who doesn’t want to shop around for individual pieces of equipment. We tested dozens of popular brands to find the best in every category, and Wusthof’s 7-Piece Set wowed us so much, we gave it the title of Best Overall.

The first to love is its slim profile. Knife blocks get a bad rap for being countertop space hogs, and we’re pleased that this one breaks the mold: it’s inconspicuous, and made from real (sustainably harvested) acacia wood, so it’ll look gorgeous while working hard. This set includes 6 knives and a set of shears, all constructed with fully forged, full-tang carbon steel. This set is tops at keeping a sharp edge even with daily use, and the contoured, synthetic handle is not just comfortable and safe to use, but long-lasting (it’ll never warp or discolor). Plus, the brand is beloved among chefs, making this an excellent choice for gifting.

Price at time of publish: $695


KitchenAid has great name recognition when it comes to stand mixers, and for good reason: they’re some of the sturdiest, best, and longest-lasting on the market. We recently tested stand mixers, and found a lot to love with this 7-quart model — in fact, it was our pick for the Best Large Capacity Stand Mixer. It received top marks from professional pastry chef Sarah O’Brien, who says bigger is better when it comes to stand mixers.

The XL bowl capacity here means you can use it to make large batches of cookies, doughs, and just about anything else. But it’s also well-designed for smaller-scale mixing, too. There’s a simple lever handle on the side, which makes lifting and lowering the bowl efficient and easy. Its motor is a powerful 969.8 watts, which makes it particularly adept at kneading bread dough. Like all KitchenAid mixers, this comes with a standard set of attachments: the wire whip, flat beater, and dough hook.

Price at time of publish: $650


Paring knives are essential for cooking because they can handle many tasks that are awkward with a larger chef’s knife. The best paring knives are incredibly sharp, but feel comfortable and natural in your hand — you shouldn’t be afraid to choke up on the handle when using one. That’s why Wusthof’s Classic Ikon paring knife took gold in our test of paring knives.

We praised its “indestructible feeling,” which tracks with Wusthof’s full line of products: these German-designed knives are made to last for years and are favored among chefs for their ability to retain an edge without having to spend hours on the sharpening stone. The 3.5-inch blade is right-sized for handling intricate tasks without being too specialized. The Ikon excels with precision cuts, making it the knife you’ll want to reach for when clean, accurate knife work matters.

Price at time of publish: $115


During testing, we were overwhelmingly impressed by this large-capacity food processor from Cuisinart. The Cuisinart model proves that simpler is better, with only two buttons (one for continuous run and off, and another for pulsing). The bowl is large enough to batch-prep, making it truly useful and time-saving.

The blade is what sets it apart, though. It’s super sharp and lightly serrated, which made chopping and slicing a dream — in our tests, onions received proper, precise dicing with no smashed bits. This is also a food processor that you’ll use the attachments with: we were impressed by how efficiently the grating attachment shredded cheddar cheese. The only downside to this model was the sometimes-fiddly setup, but you’ll forget that as soon as you learn every single piece is dishwasher-safe.

Price at time of publish: $250


Before stand mixers grace the countertops of most home kitchens, cooks relied on hand mixers for beating, mixing, and whisking. They’re still useful! We love them for their ease of use, and ability to evenly mix a batter or whip egg whites and cream without having to stop and scrape the bowl. This model from Breville won top marks in our tests. It has a powerful 240-watt motor, but it's pleasantly lightweight, reducing arm fatigue during use.

There are also 9 different speeds and a handy light that makes it easy to see the progress of your dough while mixing. During testing, we loved the different attachments, including the rubber-lined beaters which were whisper-quiet, and protected stoneware bowls. It outshone the competition in terms of performance, beating cream to stiff peaks and mixing butter and sugar without any traces left behind in the bowl.

Price at time of publish: $150


Although you can find air fryers for less than $100, we think it's worth springing for the Instant Pot Vortex model. Made from the brand behind the original multicooker, this air fryer is outfitted with all the technology you could want in an appliance. During our tests, we found the intuitive display to be easy to use straight out of the box. There is a generous but not overwhelming number of presets which take the guesswork out of cooking time and temperature.

We also praised this model for its nonstick (read: easy to clean) interior and quiet motor. The 6-quart fry basket is a good size for most households, although if you’re regularly cooking for a larger crowd, Instant makes a 10-quart capacity air fryer that also scored high in our tests. We highly recommend this model not just for air frying, but roasting, dehydrating, broiling, baking, and reheating.

Price at time of publish: $130


If you’re a fresh juice kind of person, you understand that the mechanics of your juicer are everything. We tested a variety of different juicers and found that centrifugal models are ideal for replicating the silky-smooth texture found in our favorite juice shops. The Nama Vitality 5800 is IT when it comes to serious juice that retains its vital nutrients. It uses masticating technology, which pulverizes produce without heating it: the final result is both raw, incredibly flavorful, and full of health benefits.

During our testing, we noted the large feeding chute that cut down on prep time (no more chopping fruits and veggies into tiny pieces). No matter what type of juice we made, it was nearly pulp-free and tasted great. This hard worker can also handle smoothies, nut milk, and sorbets, making it a smart investment if you want to cut down on the number of specialty appliances you have in your kitchen.

Price at time of publish: $400


Manual citrus juicers are easy to use, but if you plan on doing a lot of juicing, or just want a high-powered, efficient juicer, electric is the way to go. During our citrus juicer tests, we were seriously impressed with the almost-silent motor that produced practically perfect scores across the board (we test for design, performance, ease of use, and value).

There’s a power-assisted lever that does most of the work for you, and we liked the smart safety feature which won’t trigger the spin function until both arms are fully closed. There’s a nice combination of intuitive, simple design — like a large power button and eject button — and added-value features (we swooned over the adjustable spout and drip-stop function). Happily, this large-capacity juicer is just as adept at squeezing every last drop out of a half-lemon as it is a large batch of blood oranges, so you will find yourself reaching for it often during everyday cooking.

Price at time of publish: $230


Nonstick pans may have fallen slightly out of favor since their inception, but there’s a new generation of nonstick cookware that’s food-safe and free from toxic chemicals. And yep, serious cooks should have at least a pan or two (your scrambled eggs will thank you). When we tested nonstick pans, this deep-sided one from Zwilling was a standout, earning it the title of Best Overall Nonstick Pan.

Its 11-inch diameter is ideal for searing or sautéeing without crowding, so you’ll nail that perfect golden-brown color every time. We simply cannot overstate the true nonstick qualities, either: salmon, pancakes, and melted marshmallows (!!) all released easily from the surface of this pan. It’s PFOA-free, has a large, stay-cool handle, and is scratch-resistant. We think this pan’s value lies in its longevity. Unlike yesterday’s nonstick cookware, you won’t need to replace this high performer every year.

Price at time of publish: $112


The case could be made that a Dutch oven is one of the only cooking vessels you truly need. So we were serious about finding the best one for roasting, searing, soup-making, and bread-baking. This heavy, sturdy Dutch oven is “built like a tank,” according to bread-baking master Jim Lahey, who helped us test popular models. The enamel glaze protects the cast iron cookware and makes it easy to clean (you can soak it).

Our cooking tests produced superior pots of rice and gorgeously-browned chicken, and it’s easy to use, too. The handles are generous and wide, and make it easy to move from the oven to the counter. Plus, it can handle temperatures up to 900˚F, and it comes in a ton of perfect-for-your-kitchen colors.

Price at time of publish: $464


Stainless steel cookware is a smart investment, no matter what type of heat source you use. This set is even compatible with induction. But that wasn’t the only reason it topped our stainless steel cookware review: it was the most consistent performer across the board in all cooking tests.

This set comes with every cooking vessel you need for a functioning kitchen, making it highly giftable. You simply cannot do better than four pots and corresponding lids and two pans at this price. The pieces are well-made, too, with 3-ply stainless steel construction, tight-fitting lids, and sturdy handles. They can handle hot ovens (up to 500˚F), and are easy to care for — they are dishwasher safe, although hand-washing is recommended for longevity. That said, during testing, we noted that this set “almost cleans itself.”

Price at time of publish: $510


A high-quality slow cooker should heat up quickly and be able to maintain a consistent temperature over an hours-long period. When we tested slow cooker models, this one from Cuisinart hit the mark. It reached a low-and-slow 185˚F within an hour and stayed right there for another six until beans were tender and strata were custardy. Don’t worry about hot spots or uneven browning with this model, either: it’s incredibly efficient at heat distribution.

This is also the easiest-to-use slow cooker we tested. The insert is lightweight and can be washed easily. Did we mention the pour spouts? The insert has those, which is — quite honestly — revelatory. The interface is intuitive, without too many complexities. There’s a cleverly-designed glass lid that allows you to check on progress without releasing heat. Finally, the 7-quart capacity is ideal for fans of meal prepping or anyone who’s cooking for a crowd.

Price at time of publish: $195


The power of this small personal blender is nothing short of astonishing. During our tests of personal blenders, we were stunned at the NutriBullet’s capacity for crushing ice and leafy greens. Frankly, any blender that pulverizes kale leaves and blueberries with nearly no pulp or skin deserves a medal.

The blender “base” doubles as a cup, and there are two, so you don’t have to run the dishwasher just to make a smoothie. The 32-ounce size is a welcome upgrade, too. This model was designed for folks on the go, with flip-top lids included for your smoothies and shakes. There are personal blenders with more and less powerful motors, but we found the 900-watt capacity of this one to be the ideal mix of speed and value.

Price at time of publish: $110


Toaster ovens can do a heck of a lot more than just make toast. But we still think that an evenly-toasted slice of bread is the true test of a quality toaster oven. We think KitchenAid’s Digital Countertop Oven cracked the code on every feature. It can hold a generous six slices of bread and comes with all the accessories you need for additional cooking, like a crumb/drip tray, baking pan, grill rack, and removable metal rack.

This toaster oven can do a lot (including bake cookies, cook pizza, keep your food warm, and reheat leftovers), but the presets and interface are refreshingly simple and low-tech. We also like that this model solves a common annoyance with toaster ovens: its interior is nonstick, so it is a snap to wipe clean.

Price at time of publish: $200


Immersion blenders are a convenient tool, but during soup season we’d call them a daily necessity. The best immersion blenders are highly powerful while still being slim enough to store in a drawer. We reviewed a lot of immersion blenders and were pleasantly surprised that this budget buy from NutriBullet performed as well (or better) than the pricier models.

We were serious about testing its capabilities, and could hardly believe how cooked broccoli, onions, and celery became velvety-smooth after just one minute of blending. A big downfall of many immersion blenders is the propensity to overheat with extended use, but NutriBullet’s model kept its cool. It also didn’t splatter during our smoothie test. The rubberized buttons include options for blending and pulsing, which gives you greater control over the consistency.

Price at time of publish: $50


Hot (coffee) tip: if you want to save space on your countertop, go for a coffee maker that has a built-in grinder. And since you’re already going to get a luxe coffee maker, you might as well get one that makes really good coffee. The De’Longhi La Specialista Prestigio Espresso Machine’s name says it all — this is a coffee maker for serious aficionados.

The smart tamp feature makes it accessible for coffee drinkers hoping to up their skill level. You can dial in your extraction with three different temperature settings, and if latte art’s your thing, you’ll appreciate the steaming wand. The grinder component uses dual sensors for accurate coarseness, and it’s situated right on top of the machine, so you won’t have to deal with messy coffee dust.

Price at time of publish: $900


Picture it: an electric kettle that works smarter, not just hotter. This one from Zwilling is a marvel of German engineering, thanks to its six different temperature settings for coffee, teas, and other toasty beverages. It’s also outfitted with cool-touch insulation, so you don’t have to use pot holders or mitts just to pour yourself a mug of tea.

Our testing revealed it reached a rolling boil in an impressive six minutes. We also liked its keep-warm feature, which retained a set temperature for 30 minutes. There’s no glass window for monitoring water level, but that’s easy to forgive once you realize it’s available in pink, gold, black, or brushed stainless steel finishes — in other words, this is one good-looking appliance you’ll be happy to keep out on your counter.

Price at time of publish: $130


$30 for an outstanding rice cooker? We were surprised, too. But our tests prove that this humble Amazon gem cooked some of the fluffiest rice we’ve tried. The interface is straightforward and has the truly genius feature of telling you how long is left in the cook cycle. The rice-type presets (white or brown) eliminate guesswork and mushy grains.

But wait! There are more features! This rice cooker is also a multicooker because it can sauté, steam, and slow-cook. It can handle up to 4 cups of uncooked rice, so it’s surprisingly roomy. Other delightful features include a delay-start button so you can program it to begin cooking while you are away, and a quick-cook function when you’ve got to have dinner, stat.

Price at time of publish: $30


Silicone spatulas are a marvel. They won’t scratch your cookware and can be used in pans over high heat. Plus, they’re flexible! But our tests revealed that some are higher-quality buys. We were impressed by U-Taste’s commitment to quality control and customer feedback implementation. Their latest design integrated customer requests, producing a BPA-free product that’s heat-resistant up to 600˚F.

This set comes with four different spatulas for under $30 total and is on the softer, more flexible side — which makes it ideal for scraping the sides of jars and bowls. Each spatula has a handy hanging hold on the handle, and you can choose from a few fun colors. And again, that price: you can’t beat it for the value and variety.

Price at time of publish: $25


If you’ve never thought much about box graters, you’re going to want to read the results of our review. The most outstanding feature was its ability to zest a citrus fruit like a rasp grater — that’s not something most box graters excel at. The grating side of the box produced nicely-shaped pieces of cheese that didn’t get stuck together, even when extra pressure was applied.

The comfy, ergonomic handle is a must, and the rubber base keeps it from slipping around when in use. The under-$50 price is nice, too. But ultimately, what we liked best about this box grater was its razor-sharp edges, which will last a long time before needing to be replaced.

Price at time of publish: $42

King Arthur Baking

Take the guesswork out of cooking to temperature with an instant-read thermometer that gives you quick, accurate results. ThermoWorks is the brand for chefs, including Top Chef alum Kevin Gillespie, who calls it his “favorite, by far.” The temperature range is wider than you’ll likely need (-58 to 572˚F), and it’s accurate to within a tenth of a degree.

Pro cooks appreciate that it turns on just by folding out the probe, and its waterproof capability is a nice touch. The tip of the probe is very sharp, which means it inserts into meat or bread loaves smoothly, without ripping or tearing. And yep, it comes in a bunch of fun colors.

Price at time of publish: $105


A half-baking sheet is a size most familiar to home cooks because it fits nicely into most home ovens. If you’ve ever purchased an off-brand baking sheet for cheap, you may have noticed it warped when exposed to high temperatures. In our cookie sheet tests, we loved that the Nordic Ware half sheet was warp-resistant — we even put it in a 475˚F oven for 20 minutes with no visible alterations.

It’s made from uncoated aluminum. The lack of a nonstick coating aids in browning and evenly cooking, but don’t worry: it’s not hard to clean. We found that this pan was a cinch to wash by hand, and even retained its shine after multiple uses.

Price at time of publish: $26


Roasting pans should be roomy, without any awkwardness in handling. Although many cooks’ standards for this piece of cookware are low, Made In’s version is an overachiever (and earned top marks across the board in our testing). It’s made to the specifications of Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio. That includes induction cooktop compatibility and the ability to withstand temperatures up to 1,200˚F (in case you decide to cook next year’s Thanksgiving turkey over molten lava).

This pan is special because of its materials: it is made from high-quality carbon steel, which must be seasoned before use — Made In provides helpful instructions. We loved the streamlined design, which was easy to move around a kitchen, and surprisingly easy to hold, despite its hefty size. Cooking with carbon steel may take a little getting used to if you’re not familiar with it, but we think this upgrade is a must for any home cook serious about roasted meats and vegetables.

Price at time of publish: $139

Great Jones

Don’t think you need a good casserole dish? Your grandma’s lasagna recipe says otherwise. We tested so many casserole dishes to find the best of the best, and Great Jones’ Hot Dish came out on top. At its heart, this is just a beautifully designed (and beautiful) piece of cookware. We valued the fact that it fits both vertically and horizontally in a standard-size oven, and the looped handles were comfortable to hold (even with oven mitts).

It’s naturally nonstick, thanks to a ceramic enamel coating, so you can cook without the fear of stuck-on tuna noodle casserole. It’s worth noting, also, that it produced perfectly crispy lasagna even when used directly from frozen, and it can handle oven temps up to 500˚D. The sweet, vintage-inspired design seals the deal.

Price at time of publish: $75


The value of a handheld vacuum is in its ability to get into all corners, nooks, and crannies. When we tested handheld vacs, we prioritized models with multiple attachments, and the Iris USA Handheld Vacuum was a clear standout. It’s also important that a handheld be lightweight, and the Iris delivered there, too. (It’s just over a pound, and was the lightest one on our list of winners.) During our tests, this handheld expertly navigated all surfaces and cleaned up messes without additional help from a traditional vac.

The battery life is 13 minutes — not bad at all for such a powerful appliance that could handle large debris with no issues. The charging station is small and tidy, so you won’t have to clear out extra storage for it.

Price at time of publish: $90


Food storage containers don’t matter… until you’ve used a flimsy one that breaks, has a horrible seal, or isn’t dishwasher-safe. We tested a variety of storage vessels to find the best combination of value, design, and aesthetics (they matter!) for pantry and dry goods. This set from Rubbermaid was the clear winner in our tests.

They’re made from thick BPA-free plastic that looks and feels sturdy. The snap-in-place lids create a truly tight seal, so your food will stay fresh for longer. It was a surprise to learn that every component, even the lids, was able to be run through the dishwasher. We also liked that they were freezer-safe.

Price at time of publish: $67


If you cook at all, you’re going to have to deal with crumbs and cleanup. We tested 15 upright vacuums to find the best one for value and ease of use. The Shark Lift-Away Deluxe Upright Vac has enviable suction power over any surface, including tile, wood, and carpeting. It’s surprisingly nimble for an upright and can get into crevices or hard-to-reach spots with ease.

We liked that you can separate the canister from the main attachment, and use it like a canister vac for tricky spots. The bin can hold 3.4 liters before it needs to be emptied (which is, thankfully, very easy to do). And we’re very pleased to report that the cord is a generous 25 feet in length!

Price at time of publish: $220

Rochelle Bilow is a food writer and editor with over a decade of professional experience. Previously a senior associate editor and social media manager at Bon Appétit and Cooking Light magazines, Rochelle is also a novelist, a culinary school graduate, and a former professional baker and line cook. She regularly covers home furnishing and kitchen appliances and tools, with tested reviews and research.

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