The F&W test kitchen is command central for the recipes that fill each and every issue. After years of putting gear through its paces, we're ready to call it: here, the 13 essential tools no kitchen should be without.
PLUG IT IN
Worth the investment, the KitchenAid Artisan mixer is a multitasking workhorse that has outlived all of the other models we’ve tried. We use it for making everything from dough to meringue, and, with some of our favorite attachments, for rolling out pasta, grinding meat and stuffing sausages. From $400; kitchenaid.com.
We love our Vitamix, but not everyone has one at home, so we test recipes in our favorite Breville model, the Hemisphere Control. It made the creamiest nut butters and soups during our tests and crushed ice for cocktails with ease. The shape of the jar makes it easy to scrape every last bit off the bottom. $200; brevilleusa.com.
Sometimes simple is just better. We’ve tried a lot of grinders over the years and keep going back to the single-button Fast Touch from Krups. We always have two on hand—one for coffee and another for spices like coriander and cumin. Pro tip: Run rice through it to clean and prevent flavor buildup. $19; amazon.com.
KEEP YOUR EDGE
The 8-inch Professional Series knife with dimples has a supersharp blade and a simple wooden handle that’s extremely comfortable. It’s lightweight and feels balanced in our hands, which makes it easy to control whether we’re slicing fish or chiffonading basil. It is less suited to cutting up a whole chicken than a heavier German knife, but it has just enough heft to get the job done. It’s our favorite Japanese knife under $200. $175; macknife.com.
The 8-inch Hikari is more of a splurge. It borrows from ancient Japanese sword-making traditions, including the Damascus pattern on the blade. More than 70 layers of high-carbon stainless steel are folded together to create an exceptionally sharp, long-lasting edge. Our honing steel and sharpening stone are starting to collect dust. $375 ($200 for a limited time); williams-sonoma.com.
The German-made Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is a little less nimble than the Japanese knives we use. But it’s heavy and powerful, which means it’s excellent for butchering and for cubing dense vegetables. If you cook big cuts of meat often, this is the knife for you. $55; amazon.com.
Every station in our test kitchen has a Wüsthof Pro. It’s a great value–only $10–and surprisingly durable. Perfect for peeling fruit and other handwork (amazon.com). The MAC Professional ($70; mac knife.com) is a bit more of an investment and our go-to for precise cutting board tasks like chopping shallots and garlic.
COOK UP A STORM
Whether you’re preparing a showstopping holiday roast or a weeknight meal, look for a sturdy roasting pan that can withstand high heat for stovetop searing and sauce-making, even gas grilling. We like the Cuisinart 16-Inch Roasting Pan ($47, amazon .com) because of its durable construction and gentle price. The more expensive All-Clad Flared Roaster ($360; williams- sonoma.com) is our pick for people who use their pan for more than the occasional roast. The flared lip helps with consistent heat circulation, and the wide handles make it easy to hoist in and out of the oven—even when it’s holding a 25-pound bird.
You don’t need a set of 20 pans, just five essentials: an oven-safe 12-inch fry pan; a 12-inch nonstick fry pan; 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans; and a 6-quart stockpot. We have dozens of pans, but the ones we reach for over and over are from All-Clad’s Stainless line. Built to last, they may be the final pans you buy. From $150; all-clad.com.
Unlike other models, the versatile 7-quart Le Creuset pot ticks all of our boxes. It heats evenly; is stovetop- and oven-safe and chip-resistant; and has high sides, so it’s as ideal for a big batch of soup as it is for frying chicken. $370; lecreuset.com.