The Best List

The Absolute Best Kitchen Gear We Tested This Year

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Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Back in March, we launched a new series here at Kitchn called Best List. (Side note: How does March feel like a million months ago?) For anyone who’s unfamiliar, the Kitchn Best List features wildly in-depth testing in order to find the absolute best chef’s knives, slow cookers, cold brew makers … you get the idea. We pick a tool, gather up as many as we possibly can (always making sure to include the most popular models), and get to testing. We spent countless hours using these products, and then we condense the info into easy, breezy summaries so that you can see what we picked and why, then move on with your life. (Because we know you’re busy!)

While we’ll continue testing in 2022, we wanted to take a minute to revisit the winners from 2021. These kitchen tools were so great that we thought they deserved another minute in the spotlight.

Note: For all of these winners, we also suggest alternatives (like a budget-friendly option or a lighter pot, for example). So if you’re in the market for anything below, be sure to read our full post.

1. Le Creuset and Staub 5.5-Quart Dutch Ovens

If you can believe it, our very first Best List essentially resulted in a tie. Both Staub and Le Creuset have made a name for themselves in the world of Dutch ovens. They sear and simmer and bake like a dream, and they’ll last you a lifetime if you’re careful with them. The big difference between them: The LC has a light interior, which tends to be better for novice cooks who need to see fond as it develops. Staub has a dark interior and basting nubs on the lid to direct evaporating water back down into the dish.

Read more: The Best Dutch Ovens You Can Buy Right Now

2. Mercer Culinary Millennia 10-In Wavy Edge Bread Knife

This bread knife is incredible when you consider its value and performance. During our testing, it effortlessly quartered a BLT and sliced tomatoes and crusty and soft loaves of bread. It was one of the only knives that didn’t struggle through a crusty boule. It stayed sharp throughout testing and has a fantastic handle, too. For the price, we can’t recommend it more.

Read more: The Very Best Bread Knives You Can Buy Right Now

3. Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker

This rice cooker was the easiest to use and consistently made perfectly cooked rice. It has a large, clear interface that’s easy to read, more rice settings than you’ll likely use, nice handles, a lid that slowly opens, a hook for the rice paddle, a retractable power cord, and a fun ringtone that marks the start and end of cooking. Our tester appreciated that the cooking pot has etchings that are easy to read, denoting water levels for different types of rice. And the fact that the nonstick cooking pot and simple-to-remove inner lid are very easy to clean. She called it “an exceptional machine.”

Read more: The Absolute Best Rice Cookers You Can Buy Right Now

4. Moccamaster by Technivorm Coffee Maker with Thermal Carafe

We’re not the only ones who vote for this SCA-certified coffee maker; it often tops the list in other testing, and coffee professionals frequently name it as a favorite. It doesn’t have any fancy buttons — just an on and off switch. It takes about six minutes to brew a full pot of coffee and it keeps it piping hot for more than than three hours. The carafe is easy to pour from, the water reservoir is easy to fill, and if you want to have a cup of coffee before the machine finishes brewing, you can just pull out the carafe.

Read more: The Very Best Coffee Makers You Can Buy Right Now

5. Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor

Another winner that often comes out on top in other tests, the Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor is intuitive to use, powerful, and an excellent option for most home cooks. It has a large capacity that easily accommodates a big batch of pizza dough, but is still precise enough to handle a small amount of ingredients for things like mirepoix or mayonnaise. Its slicing and shredding discs are simple to put on and super-sharp, easily handling potatoes and cheese and slicing and shredding them uniformly. It has a large feeding tube, too, so it can easily fit a whole potato or a half-block of cheese without having to halve it crosswise. Plus, it’s easy to clean and all of its parts are dishwasher-safe.

Read more: The Absolute Best Food Processor You Can Buy Right Now

6. Yeti Tundra 45

Fun fact: Part of our cooler testing involved an afternoon spent pushing them out of the back of a truck. You know, to test for durability! The winner had a significant amount of ice left after seven days in the blazing-hot sun. It features highly effective latches, a spacious capacity, grippy feet on the bottom, a drain system, and long handles with comfortable grips. Of course, it also fared well in our truck testing.

Read more: The Very Best Coolers You Can Buy Right Now

7. OXO Good Grips Non-Stick 12-Inch Pro Skillet

This skillet is ridiculously nonstick. Fried eggs, omelets, and crêpes slid right off its surface during testing. It has a smooth, rounded handle that’s super comfortable to hold and stays cool throughout cooking. This pan is one of the lightest we tried, making it incredibly easy to pick up with one hand. It has a sizable cooking surface and walls that gently slope inward, which makes it a cinch to add and remove food.

Read more: The Slickest, Absolute Best Nonstick Skillets You Can Buy Right Now

8. Victorinox Straight Edge Paring Knife

This knife is inexpensive, super sharp, and, dollar for dollar, the best paring knife you can buy. It has a thin, nimble blade that easily slices through tomatoes and peels apples and peels and segments oranges. It also has an agile, pointed tip that easily hulls strawberries. Its thin, fairly long plastic handle feels comfortable in hands of all sizes and is easy to choke up on and securely grip. It’s ergonomic and feels like it was molded just for your hand. Is it fancy? No. But it works incredibly well.  

Read more: The Best Paring Knives You Can Buy Right Now

9. Breville A-Bit-More Toaster

Our tester said this toaster is one of the most consistent toasters she’d ever tested. As you’d expect based on its name, it features a “bit more” button that allows you to add a little more time to your toasting cycle. It also has an LED light that indicates the toasting progress, and a “lift and look” feature that allows you to pop the toast up mid-toast to check its progress.

Read more: The Best Toasters You Can Buy Right Now

10. ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE

ThermoWorks already made our favorite thermometer, but they released a new one this year and it’s somehow even better. It gives readings, mostly, in just one second (hence the name), which makes it the “first true one-second instant-read thermometer.” It has motion-activated auto-wake and -sleep features, an auto-rotating screen, a large display, and a bright backlight.

Read more: The Best Meat Thermometers to Buy Right Now

11. Tramontina Covered Saucepan 

For less than $100, this 4-quart saucepan offers fantastic performance. It has tall, straight sides, a spacious cooking surface, and a helper handle. The Tramontina is made from stainless steel, which cooks evenly and allows you to easily monitor browning.

Read more: The Best Saucepans You Can Buy Right Now

12. Lodge Chef Collection Skillet

You likely don’t need us to tell you that Lodge is a best name brand in cast iron. But if you need help knowing which Lodge skillet to get, know that it’s this one. It browns beautifully and is little lighter than other cast iron skillets. It has tall, curved sides, two pour spouts, and a long, comfortable handle. And it only gets better as you use it.

Read more: The Best Cast Iron Skillets You Can Buy Right Now

13. KitchenAid Burr Coffee Grinder

Our resident coffee pro did some serious nerding out when she tested coffee grinders and ended up picking this surprise winner from KitchenAid. It has 70 differing grind settings, which allows the user to really dial-in a wide variety of coffee brewing methods — including espresso — and even comes with a portafilter adapter to allow direct grinding and dosing. There’s also a large, easy-to-read digital display that clearly indicates the selected grind size, number of cups’ or espresso shots’ worth of coffee you’d like to grind, and the anticipated grinding time. It’s easy to use and, just as importantly, exceptionally quiet.

Read more: The Best Coffee Grinders You Can Buy Right Now

14. All-Clad Stainless-Steel Roasting Pan with Rack

This roasting pan is well worth it — even if you’re not planning on making a turkey any time. (We seriously love it for roasting veggies and casseroles, too! It comes with a V-shaped rack that cradles poultry easily and has sizable handles that are a cinch to grab.

Read more: The Best Roasting Pans You Can Buy Right Now

15. Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

This chef’s knife blew the competition away. It cut remarkably quickly, cleanly, and easily through everything without much effort. While other knives required force and got a little stuck and halted while breaking down onions, the Shun cut through them like butter. The straight, wooden handle is incredibly comfortable to hold, too, and feels wonderful in hand. Also, it’s a gorgeous knife that will stand the test of time if you take proper care of it.

Read more: The Best Chef’s Knife You Can Buy Right Now

16. Vitamix Immersion Blender

Vitamix seems to have the blender and immersion blender market cornered! Theirs was the most most powerful of all our testing. It turned out a batch of silky-smooth soup in just 40 seconds, made mayonnaise in literal seconds, and easily blended a fibrous green smoothie. It has five power settings, but we basically never used the fifth one!

Read more: The Best Immersion Blenders You Can Buy Right Now

17. OXO BREW 8 Cup French Press with GroundsLifter

This French press is a nod to the classic design, but it’s upgraded with sturdy (but not overly heavy) borosilicate glass, a stainless steel sleeve, and a comfortable, molded plastic handle. The lid is snug for easy, secure pouring, and the thick walls of the carafe keep coffee fairly hot — and it makes a fantastic brew. It also comes with a revolutionary feature: The GroundsLifter, an added piece that sits between the bottom of the brewer and the plunger filter, so once you’re done you can easily pull up the bed of spent coffee grounds and chuck them away in one fell swoop.

Read more: The Absolute Best French Press Coffee Makers You Can Buy Right Now

18. KitchenAid 6-Qt. Slow Cooker with Standard Lid

If you’re looking for a super consistent, highly intuitive slow cooker, this is it. It has three cook settings (low, medium, high), and an automatic keep-warm mode that works for up to four hours. While it cooks more slowly than other models, it pays off: producing perfectly cooked beans and chicken thighs. Its ceramic cooking pot has nice handles that are easy to hold onto and its lid has a large, grippy knob. It’s easy to clean, too, and its removable parts are dishwasher-safe.

Read more: The Absolute Best Slow Cookers You Can Buy Right Now

19. Le Creuset Rectangular Casserole

This casserole dish is as functional as it is pretty. Its tab-style handles have grooves on the tops and undersides that are grippy, even with bulky oven mitts on. The lid, also made of enameled stoneware, brings the dish into a league of its own. The lid is oven-safe and can be placed directly on a blazing hot dish, keeping food hot for three hours. Our casseroles and meatballs came out perfectly. Every single time. 

Read more: The Absolute Best Casserole Dishes to Buy Right Now

20. OXO Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Our coffee pro loved this little guy for its straightforward instructions, sturdy design, and top-quality brewing abilities. It has a rainwater head design that disperses water evenly over the grounds, and the cold brew slowly drips from the brewer to the carafe below over a 12- to 24-hour period. After brewing, the compact glass carafe fits easily in the fridge and comes with a cork lid for storage.

Read more: The Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers You Can Buy Right Now

21. KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer

Last but not least for this list, we tested stand mixers, wondering if the classic would win out. Turns out, it did. KitchenAid actually took all four winning spots in this test.

Read more: The Absolute Best Stand Mixers You Can Buy Right Now

How many of these winners do you have?