Whether you're determined to finally write down a family member's cherished dish or looking to develop a recipe from scratch after a stroke of inspiration, you'll need a few tools of the trade to set yourself up for recipe testing success. For Senior Food Editor Mary-Frances Heck, that success lies in precision. "Think of all the ways you can measure something," says Heck. "Time, weight, volume, temperature, and dimension," you'll need durable, accurate tools in your arsenal for each of them to create recipes that are easy to follow and replicable. These are six tools Senior Food Editor Mary-Frances Heck deems essential for your first attempt at recipe testing, and are definite must-haves at every recipe tester's stations.
"I don't recommend that you use the timer on your cell phone," says Heck. You're more likely to make mistakes—or get distracted. We're all susceptible to glancing at our phone to check the time and then ending up in a notification loop, but when food is on the stove or in the oven, you'll want to be extra attentive. Instead, she recommends an easy-to-read kitchen timer such as OXO's Good Grips Mini Digital Magnetic Timer. The magnet and clip on the back mean you can put it up on your fridge or clip it to your oven so it's always in sight. ($13, amazon.com)
Pyrex is Heck's go-to for large, liquid measuring cups. They're sturdy, versatile, and can withstand a wide range of temperatures that your plastic measuring cups can't, even holding up to hot soup, or melted chocolate. With graduations in both ounces and cups and a capacity of up to four cups, this measuring cup will likely become one of your favorite kitchen tools. ($12, surlatable.com)
A good kitchen thermometer will "take the guesswork out entirely," from your cooking, says Heck. Whether you're serious about barbecue or keeping tabs on a cooling custard, a probe thermometer with a remote alarm makes the whole process more efficient and accurate. The key: Look for the NSF (National Science Foundation) logo which certifies that it meets their strict standards of accuracy and precision. Heck recommends Smoke Remote BBQ Alarm Thermometer by ThermoWorks for the dedicated griller, but Winco's Digital Probe Thermometer is great to stash in your apron for quick temp checks. ($15, amazon.com)
A standard piece of gear at every recipe tester's station: a quality kitchen scale. Heck recommends OXO's 11-lb kitchen scale for its ease of use and durability. It allows you to switch easily between ounces, pounds, and kilograms, and a detachable screen is a major plus when trying to measure something bulky (say, a whole turkey). Cleanup is speedy—just wipe down the scale with a damp cloth, and the removable stainless platform can be washed with the dishes. ($50, williams-sonoma.com)
If you're still relying on a years-old mismatched measuring cups set, (possibly warped by the dishwasher, or with illegible measurements) it may be time to retire them. This OXO Stainless-Steel Measuring Cups & Spoons is what Heck swears by. With supremely accurate measurements, and small magnets in the handles that mean they nest neatly without cluttering up your drawer or cabinet, these measuring cups are nearly impossible to break, and likely to last a lifetime. ($20, williams-sonoma.com)
Whether you're second-guessing yourself on the dimensions of a cake pan, trimming meat to evenly sized cubes, or need to measure the thickness of rolled cookie dough, your ruler will become your best friend in the kitchen. Heck loves the yardstick, which is great for pasta dough or large projects like croissants, where precision is key. A stainless steel yardstick can easily be stored on a knife magnet, and washed with the rest of your dishes, making cleanup a breeze. ($15, amazon.com)