We ordered from Rastelli’s and loved how convenient the service was. You can get free shipping on orders of $200 or more, a $10 shipping charge on orders between $100-$199, and $25 shipping on orders under $100.
When you don’t want to or can’t go grocery shopping for the week, it’s tempting to re-open your fridge door in hopes that food will magically appear. But with an internet connection and a laptop, you have better options.
For general groceries, you can go to any number of online grocery delivery services such as FreshDirect and AmazonFresh. But if you’re craving something a little more gourmet, there are even more specific delivery services.
The magic of meat delivery services like Porter Road and Snake River Farms is this: They provide curated shopping experiences, they sell high-quality and responsibly raised meat, and they’re really convenient because they’ll ship fresh products directly to your door.
Rastelli’s is a family business that started in 1976 as a local New Jersey butcher shop. It supplied the neighboring deli and the community with quality meat, eventually expanding into poultry and seafood and distributing its food products worldwide. If you live in New Jersey, you can shop in person at its gourmet markets, Rastelli Market Fresh. But if you don’t, you can still cook and enjoy meat, poultry, and seafood from this storied brand.
How to order from Rastelli’s
On its website, Rastelli’s offers various proteins made up of 12 to 24 servings of steak, chicken, shrimp, salmon, and more. If you choose to subscribe, you’ll save a little money (5%), and there are various shipment-frequency options so your freezer won’t get overcrowded.
All of Rastelli’s animals are responsibly raised, antibiotic-free, and added-hormone-free. The seafood is wild-caught.
Review of Rastelli’s
Your order is packed in an insulated box with dry ice. From there, you can store them in your freezer and fridge until they’re ready to cook. We tried chicken, salmon, and steaks from Rastelli’s and were happy with the experience on all fronts, from convenience to taste.
The steaks were juicy, flavorful, and easy to cook, while the salmon came out perfectly flaky and moist. We thought the taste of the chicken breast was comparable to similar versions we’ve tried from stores, but we did appreciate that we could have antibiotic-free and organic options delivered right to us.
The bulk design means that as long as you have adequate fridge space, you’ll always have a protein waiting for you when you get home from work or school.
The bottom line
If you have a busy schedule, you know that any subtle automation of a routine can help make life much less stressful. Ultimately, the Rastelli’s experience was as much about the quality of the food as it was about the pure and simple convenience of the service.
We ordered from Rastelli’s and loved how convenient the service was. You can get free shipping on orders of $200 or more, a $10 shipping charge on orders between $100-$199, and $25 shipping on orders under $100.
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Baking sheets are incredibly versatile pieces of cookware; they can be vessels for everything from one-pan meals and cookies to grandma-style pizza and loaded nachos.
A quality baking sheet doesn’t have hot spots, is easy to clean, keeps its shape, and evenly browns your food. Full-size sheet pans don’t fit in most home ovens, so a half sheet measuring 13 by 18 inches is the largest option appropriate for home cooks, according to Kristy Greenwood Bortz of Victory Love + Cookies. Check our FAQ section for a brief rundown of the four most common sheet pan types and their dimensions.
In this guide, we use the term “baking sheet” to refer to all of the products, while “cookie sheet” specifically means a flat pan with only one elevated edge. According to Beth and Maddie Barnett of Eat Me Cookies, cookie sheets’ unique structure allows you to slide baked goods on and off without having to lift them over a rim. That’s something to consider when choosing the best baking sheet for your particular needs.
In order to select our top three picks, we consulted food industry experts and ran each baking sheet through a series of tests. We baked butter cookies, roasted potatoes, and noted how each sheet handled being rotated in an oven. We also considered the sheets’ capacities and cooling times, as well as how difficult it was to scrub away burnt food.
Pros: Conducts heat evenly, cookies release easily
Cons: Shows wear and tear after first use
The Nordic Ware Naturals half sheet is our top pick because it’s simple, effective, and affordable. When I roasted potatoes on this sheet, a coat of olive oil prevented most of the sticking, and any burnt pieces were easily scrubbed off with a scouring pad. In our bake test, the uncoated aluminum sheet baked the butter cookies in the time suggested by the recipe, as opposed to the nonstick sheets, which baked cookies faster than expected. Though there was slight resistance, the cookies came off without breaking.
As someone who uses a baking sheet on an almost daily basis, it’s important that I don’t have to take my sheet’s limitations into account before I bake. It can be frustrating if you have to remember to position your cauliflower away from your baking sheet’s warped spot, or risk charring the bottoms of your cookies if you don’t take them out five minutes early. Using the Nordic Ware sheet requires little thought; it bakes evenly and keeps its shape.
Here I should mention that this sheet will show wear and tear after the first use. I’ve already noticed scratches and slight discoloration from acidic foods, but the decline in appearance has had no effect on its performance.
Cons: Requires adjusted baking time or temperature
Cookie sheets can feel flimsy because they don’t have the structure of wire-reinforced rims. The Goldtouch Pro sheet felt sturdy, and when I held it using the one raised edge, I didn’t feel like it was going to tip out of my hands. When rotating it in the oven, I could lift the sheet with two hands on one of the rimless edges.
In my experience with this pan, it bakes evenly browned cookies faster than usual. Since originally testing the Goldtouch Pro, I have used it to bake meringues and macaroons. With those recipes that tend to be low and slow bakes, there was no change in baking time and the cookie bottoms were golden and crisp.
There was no resistance between the butter cookies and the surface of the sheet. I could pick them up with my hands and didn’t even need a spatula. The sheet didn’t warp in an oven heated to 400 degrees and cooled down quickly.
Oil and burnt food slide off the OXO Good Grips Half Sheet with ease, making it perfect for roasting vegetables, meat, and more.
Pros: Easy to clean, texture does not transfer to food, sturdy
Cons: Speeds up bake time, can’t clean it with steel wool
One of the OXO Half Sheet‘s main selling points is its textured diamond pattern, which is designed to limit direct food-to-sheet contact and thus increase airflow. While I didn’t see evidence of those benefits on the cookies I made, the pattern seemed to be a plus for roasting potatoes.
I found that the burnt bits of potato and oil came off the OXO sheet much easier and with less scrubbing than the smooth sheets. And, the sheet is sturdy and balanced, so walking from the counter to the oven with a full, heavy pan of vegetables was easy.
As with the other nonstick sheets I tested, the butter cookies baked in a shorter amount of time than the recipe indicated. While I expected the diamond texture to imprint on the cookies, that wasn’t the case.
Made of uncoated aluminum with a reinforced steel rim, it never warped and is the most lightweight quarter pan I tested. However, it is prone to scratching — I scratched the bottom of the sheet just by rotating it on the oven shelves.
The other sheets produced a darker brown base, but the cookies on the Nordic Ware took on a honey brown color on the top and bottom. This coloring shows an even and rapid heat distribution. Of the three quarter sheets we tested, only the Nordic Ware crisped the potatoes on both sides, also demonstrating the speed of heating.
This quarter sheet pan may fit in some convection toaster ovens, but only if the interior is wider than 13 inches.
Great Jones Holy Sheet ($40): This brand is known for having accessible, high-end cookware. However, this sheet pan hasn’t held up under heavy use from other Insider testers — the ceramic nonstick coating is easily damaged.
King Arthur Baking Company Quarter Sheet Pan ($19.95): This pan is made by USA Pans exclusively for King Arthur Baking; it is smooth, but has the same nonstick coating and coloring as the USA Pan. The two quarter pans performed almost identically in terms of browning the cookies in the recommended bake time. I rank the King Arthur Baking pan higher — though it took longer than the Nordic Ware, the potatoes did eventually take on a golden brown color.
USA Pan Warp Resistant Nonstick Quarter Sheet Pan ($16.95): Like our best pan for roasting, the USA Quarter Sheet Pan has a ridged surface. I did not spot any difference in performance between the textured and smooth sheet pans. This pan performed well, evenly browning the cookies in the recipes recommended time. However, the potatoes did not crisp.
Crate & Barrel Slate Blue Half Sheet Pan ($16.95): Similar to the gold sheets we tested previously, the slate blue pan did bake the cookies faster than uncoated, silver pans. However, it was a slight difference and the cookies did not burn. The pan cleaned easily and showed only minor scratches. Overall, this is a well constructed baking sheet for those who want extra color in their kitchen.
Silpat Nonstick Perforated Aluminum Baking Tray ($44.95): This was the darkest colored tray we have tested, and my fear of overcooking came true: within 10 minutes, two minutes faster than the average baking time, the cookies were burnt. Daker colored sheets are prone to this. Though a layer of parchment paper helps, you should still check your baked goods two to four minutes before the recipe says. We did not test the sheet with vegetables because it is perforated.
Our baking sheets testing methodology
We consulted three experts on their professional experiences with different types of baking sheets: Kristy Greenwood Bortz, owner of Victory Love + Cookies, and Beth and Maddie Barnett, founders of Eat Me Cookies. Their input informed our own testing methodology and the answers to our FAQs.
For this guide, we tested six baking sheets, including two rimless cookie sheets. We used a holiday cookie recipe from King Arthur Baking Company.
Baking test: We baked 12 butter cookies on all test products, baking one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet once during baking. We evaluated the browning on the bottom of the cookies, comparing cookies on the edges of the sheets to the ones in the center. We did not use parchment paper.
Roasting test: We roasted potatoes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to evaluate how much they stuck to the sheet. We also noted the sheet’s capacity, and how well it handled the weight of the potatoes.
Cleaning test: After baking, we washed the sheets according to manufacturer instructions. Dishwasher-safe sheets were washed in a dishwasher and then examined for surface damage. If a sheet was hand-wash only, it was cleaned with a non-abrasive sponge. We noted how difficult it was to scrub away burnt food by hand.
Ease of use: During baking, we noted how it felt to handle the sheets and how easy it was to rotate them in the oven. After baking, we noted how long it took before we could hold the sheet without a potholder.
Baking Sheet FAQs
What are the standard baking sheet sizes?
Full sheet: 26 by 18 with 1 inch high sides
Half sheet: 18 by 13 with 1 inch high sides
Quarter sheet: 13 by 9 with 1 inch high sides
Jelly roll tin: 15 by 10 with 1 inch high sides
What is the difference between a baking sheet and a cookie sheet?
In this guide, we use “baking sheet” as a general term for all sheet pans. “Cookie sheet” refers specifically to a flat, rimless sheet pan with one raised edge to hold it by. The structure of a cookie sheet allows you to slide cookies on and off without having to lift them over a rim, thus preserving their shape and structure.
All cookie sheets are baking sheets, but not all baking sheets are cookie sheets.
Does the color of the baking sheet matter?
Like all bakeware, a baking sheet’s color affects its heat retention. “Darker pans absorb heat and can cause the bottoms of cookies to burn,” said Maddie Barnett.
If you use your baking sheets often, you’ll learn how to adjust baking times and temperatures, but it may require some trial and error. Remember that you can bake an underdone cookie more, but an overbaked cookie can’t go back in time. “You can always pull a cookie a little early and then put it back in the oven to finish baking if you determine that the center is still raw,” said Greenwood Bortz.
PFOA and PTFE
If you’ve shopped for baking sheets online, you’ve probably noticed the acronyms PFOA and PTFE in product descriptions. Here’s what you need to know about each:
PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was originally used in the production of Teflon, which was invented in the 1970s. Most of the PFOA burns off during the manufacturing process, although trace elements remain in the cookware. These elements are then released if the cookware is overheated to temperatures of 570 degrees Fahrenheit or above. However, since 2010, the EPA has put programs and regulations in place to phase out the use of PFOAs in American manufacturing. The majority of cookware made in the United States since 2015 is PFOA-free, and so are all of our top picks.
International standards are not the same as American ones, so PFOA may still be used in products from other countries.
A slew of kitchenware startups has quickly cropped up in recent years, but Made In (launched in 2017) remains a standout company for its unique, accessible, and simple approach to making cookware.
The founders of Made In, whose family have worked in kitchen supply for a century, wanted to create cookware that didn’t cost a lot but was good enough for the rigors of a professional kitchen. They strived for a balance of price, quality, and approachability with their products.
Most of Made In’s products, which are mainly kitchen basics like frying pans, pots, and knives, are made in the United States, though a few pieces are made in France and Italy. Working with manufacturers with centuries of experience, Made In emphasizes careful craftsmanship with high-quality materials (such as five-ply construction and 18/10 stainless steel) and smart, clever design.
As a result, its cookware is durable, a lifetime investment rather than a temporary fix to get you through the next couple of years. Made In’s fans love that they can get cookware akin to All-Clad’s, at a fraction of the price.
Made In has also attracted investors and board members like restaurateur and “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio, as well as the founders of the Alinea Group, Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. It helps stock the kitchens of the world-famous Alinea and Le Bernardin, and it also regularly collaborates with other top chefs and restaurants to create limited-edition cookware bundles and recipe kits.
With both its consumer-facing and restaurant-facing businesses thriving, Made In has proven its strength. Everyone, from everyday home cooks to expert chefs of the best restaurants, wants high-quality cookware at a decent price.
We’ve tried many of Made In’s cookware pieces and cooking tools in the past year, so if you need help narrowing down the best of its collection, keep reading.
My first introduction to Made In was more than a year ago with this nonstick pan, and it’s still one of my favorite pieces of cookware. The nonstick surface, which is free from the toxic ingredient PFOA, is a dream to cook with because eggs glide smoothly on it without leaving any crusty residue. It’s also so easy to clean, saving me countless hours in front of the sink. It heats up quickly and the heat distribution stays consistent, but the sturdy and ergonomic handle always stays cool.
The pan comes in three sizes, 8-inch ($89), 10-inch ($99), and 12-inch ($109). I have the 10-inch, which is the perfect size for a couple of eggs or fish for one, so if you’re cooking for more people, I’d recommend sizing up to the 12-inch. —Connie Chen, senior reporter
Carbon steel is cool because it combines the best properties of stainless steel and cast iron. With the light weight, heat control, and cooking speed of stainless steel and the heat retention, seasoning, and nonstick surface of cast iron, it’s the underrated cooking material more home cooks need to take advantage of. The sloped edges let you stir and saute in ways that the straight edge of a cast iron pan can’t, but it still has great heat retention if you want that coveted sear on your meat.
You need to season it like a cast iron, so there is still a maintenance aspect to it, but you’ll be rewarded with a nonstick surface and more flavorful food as the seasoning develops. —Connie Chen, senior reporter
After moving into a new apartment, I was excited to add the Made In Stock Pot to my kitchen. The 6-quart Stock Pot is a nice size, perfect for everything from soups to mac and cheese to hard-boiled eggs. It’s tall and narrow, so I never have to worry about it boiling over.
The stainless steel is substantial, but still relatively lightweight. The side handles make it easy to move the pot from stovetop to countertop with ease. —Remi Rosmarin, reporter
Made In’s Stock Pots are everything you look for in a stockpot, save for the size. I wish they’d make one twice as large for my backyard oyster roasts and clambakes. Sure, that’d be twice as much steel, and it’d be that much more expensive, but the steel the brand uses is just right for such a task.
I don’t want to spend $400 to $500 on a finely finished stainless steel stockpot only to load it with shells and hit it with merciless heat, repeatedly. So, instead, I’ve made my stock in bigger, cheaper pots, and transferred it into the Made In 8-quart stock pot once it had reduced enough. From there, it was low and slow, and the pot maintained even heat. I left it bubbling for about six hours and didn’t get any hot spots. ‘Nuff said. —Owen Burke, senior reporter
Made In’s paring knife makes it easy to chop up an onion or slice a hard cheese. If the utility knife were a little longer, it would be perfect for slicing wider loaves of bread like sesame semolina, but the serrated edge has been great for slicing more narrow loaves of bread like baguettes, and for slicing softer foods like tomatoes and grilled peaches. —Danny Bakst, senior story producer
A pan with a rounded bottom that’s perfect for making sauces
Made In’s stainless clad might be a little rawer than, say, All-Clad’s, but it’s hefty, seemingly durable, and made in the USA. Because it’s a little less refined than some other 18/10 Stainless Steel, it maybe takes a little more work to season. But after seasoning my Saucier once or twice, I had no problem with anything sticking, even rice, which I’m usually awful at cooking.
Again, the weight and the handle are assuringly substantial, and I don’t sense anything’s going to fall apart anytime soon. I also like the shape of the saucepans; the beveled edge allows you to roll the pan a bit more on the stove than something with a harder, squarer chine. This is now my go-to saucepan for that very reason. —Owen Burke, senior reporter
I’ve had Made In’s stainless steel frying pan for months, and I’ve grown to appreciate how cool the handle stays while I cook and how nice it looks in the kitchen. It also cooks very evenly.
But it also takes much longer to clean than my nonstick pans. I’ll be the first to admit that this may be exacerbated by my lack of experience cooking, but it means I skip using this when I’m in a rush — which is often. However, my experience seems to run counter to most reviews on the site, though a few three-star reviews also mention cleanability as a con. —Mara Leighton, reporter
The first piece I tried from Made In was the Blue Carbon Steel Wok. I’ve seared scallops and stir-fried clams so far, and with a little seasoning, this has been a good heavy-duty wok for use and abuse in my kitchen. It’s got the weight and rigidity of something that will last a good long while. I liked how easily I was able to season it, and I liked the sturdy handle and substantial weight too. I’ll continue to put this to work. —Owen Burke, senior reporter
A well-designed block that doubles as an attractive serving tray
The Made In American Maple Butcher Block is a substantial block of wood that is equal parts elegant and functional. Made from recycled maple wood sourced in Wisconsin, the butcher block has a beautiful exterior that is smooth to the touch.
Additionally, the grooves and wells along the edge of the block collect liquids and bread crumbs, helping cut down on countertop messes. With other cutting boards, I’ve had a hard time getting rid of murky residue after slicing avocados, tomatoes, or raw chicken, but after a simple scrub with hot water and soap, there is minimal residue engrained into the wood.
Beyond being a sturdy place to chop, slice, and dice, the flat side of the board was designed as a serving tray or cheese board. While it is quite heavy to lug around as a serving piece, it does have two built-in handles that make it easier to transport around the house. —Danny Bakst, senior story producer
Purchasing a cookware set can be overwhelming, no matter how confident you are in the kitchen. The variety of materials and different combinations of pots and pans can seem endless.
That’s why we turned to the experts, who all agreed that less is more when it comes to cookware. Based on our own experience and conversations with chefs, food editors, and leaders of the Cookware Manufacturers Association, we came up with the following as a basic outline for an ideal cookware set.
The key pans you need in a cookware set
Type of pan
Making eggs, pancakes, fried rice
12-inch sauté pan
Larger recipes with more liquids, sautéing vegetables and meats
5-quart Dutch oven
Braising, roasting, slow cooking, stews and soups
Small portions of pasta or rice, sauces
Not every set in this guide includes a Dutch oven, but a casserole dish or stockpot can serve the same purpose.
The Tramontina set stocks your kitchen without cluttering it, and features useful pieces in a durable material.
Pros: Includes essential pieces, tri-ply construction for durability
Cons: Oven safe temperature on the low end
When we asked King Phojanakong, chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, which pots and pans were kitchen must-haves, he listed a 5-quart Dutch oven, 12-inch saute pan, and 3-quart saucepan, all of which happen to be included in Tramontina’s cookware set. The versatility of these pieces is the selling point: Phojanakong uses the saute pan for chicken dishes or baby bok choy, and takes out the 3-quart saucepan when he needs to heat up leftover soups and sauces and cook rice or small portions of pasta.
Not only is the Tramontina set’s practical range of sizes — with cookware scaled for both individual meals and large gatherings — one of its major assets, so is its durable construction.
“Stainless steel is the most universal material. You don’t have to treat it gently,” said Lisa Chernick, author of Your Starter Kitchen. Each piece is made up of an aluminum core sandwiched between external 18/10 stainless steel layers. This tri-ply construction gives you the excellent heat conductivity of aluminum with the strength of stainless steel. While the set is dishwasher safe, hand washing your cookware will maintain its shine longer.
You can purchase the individual components separately, though the set offers the best deal. There are also smaller and larger sets, but the 12-piece has all the essentials and no unnecessary extras.
If you need to stock your kitchen quickly and on a budget, the T-fal Hard-Anodized Set is easy to maintain, scratch resistant, and comes with three serving utensils.
Pros: Dishwasher safe, large frying pans, stewpot can act as dutch oven
Cons: No pot larger than 4 quarts, saute pan does not have a lid
The exteriors of all the pots and pans in T-fal’s cookware set are hard-anodized aluminum, a material resistant to scratches from metal utensils, while the interiors are glazed with nonstick coating and then reinforced with titanium, which is commonly used as a strengthening layer. This durability (plus the low price point) is part of the reason why we named this set by T-Fal the best budget pick in our guide to the best hard-anodized cookware. Insider reporter James Brains has used a similar T-fal set since 2018. He said that the pieces have held up well through daily use, though he recommends hand washing the fry pans to preserve the nonstick coating.
The largest pot in this 12-piece collection is only four quarts, but if you’re not hosting a party, that should be big enough for pasta night. Plus, the set includes a serving spoon, spatula, and a slotted spatula, so you’ll be ready to dole out dinner. And if you have leftovers, the 2-quart pot comes with a refrigerator lid so you can store them.
Ring-shaped thermo spot indicators turn red when the pans get hot, which can take some of the guesswork out of properly preheating — especially for less experienced cooks. Once you’re done, these stackable pieces nest easily into one another.
Pros: High oven safe temperature, thick gauge aluminum core
Cons: Fry pans on the small side, not dishwasher safe
Our best overall pick, which is also stainless steel, is less expensive and offers much of the same benefits as this All-Clad set. However, the longevity and durability of the All-Clad D3 line may make it worth spending the extra money, depending on your cooking needs.
The All-Clad D3 cookware set has the highest oven safe temperature in this guide: 600 degrees. The ability to withstand such high heat also improves the performance of the casserole dish or stock pot as a substitute Dutch oven. And as Chernick mentioned, more experienced cooks may want to brown something on the stovetop and then put it in the oven.
We should note that while these All-Clad pots and pans hold up in the oven, you’re better off hand-washing them than putting them in the dishwasher, which is something to consider if keeping cleanup time to a minimum is important.
The Caraway Ceramic Coated Set is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional nonstick pots and pans — and it’s available in six attractive colors.
Pros: Includes storage system, aluminum core for rapid heating
Cons: No larger fry pan, ceramic coating isn’t as durable as stainless or other metals
Though this set is on the smaller side, Caraway’s set has everything you need to get cooking. The 6.5-quart Dutch oven can be your pasta pot or serving dish for large meals, and the 4.5-quart saute pan is perfect for large fry ups. Additionally, the set comes with a storage system: magnetic pan racks and a canvas lid holder.
Caraway’s signature is its ceramic nonstick coating. Ceramic coatings offer the same nonstick properties as traditional ones, but contain no trace elements of PFOA, PFTE, lead, or cadmium. Caraway cookware has an aluminum core that ensures rapid and even heating, while the coating decreases your need for oil and makes the surface easier to clean.
The Caraway Home set is shipped in recycled cardboard with no plastic bags. Plus, the ceramic coating releases less CO2 when manufactured than traditional nonstick coatings. (Though keep in mind that all nonstick coatings, including ceramic, are less durable than stainless steel and other metals.) Altogether, this set is designed to limit clutter and keep your kitchen functional as well as well-stocked.
Cons: Not the thickest gauge copper, stainless steel lining limits some of the diffusivity
Copper provides the most efficient and even heating of any cookware metal. Since copper is a reactive metal, most cookware is lined with a nonreactive interior like tin or stainless steel. The Williams Sonoma Thermo-Clad Copper Set has a stainless steel interior, so you can worry less about cooking acidic foods.
This set includes all the pieces we think are necessary for a well-stocked kitchen and the 1.2 mm copper exterior is striking enough to display when you’re not cooking. The Thermo-Clad cookware is oven safe to 450 degrees, but you should never heat up an empty copper pan. For more guidance on how to take care of your copper pots and pans, check out our guide to copper cookware.
While we haven’t yet tested the sets in this guide firsthand, our picks are based off of extensive research and expert interviews. Here are the factors we considered when putting together this guide:
Pieces: The first thing we did was establish a list of essential pieces all cookware sets should have. Our three experts agreed that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to cookware. Chernick, Battiliana, and Phojanakong each suggested a pared down list of essential pieces. With this input and our own experience in the kitchen, we created the guidelines found at the top of the page.
Materials: We identified the pros and cons of different cookware materials, which you can see here. Chernick recommended stainless steel for cookware sets because it can handle the wear and tear of a busy kitchen, and we agree. Stainless steel is durable, doesn’t require special maintenance, and cooks most things well.
Construction: We considered the construction of each cookware set. Besides cast iron, most cookware is made by layering different metals. This can increase the heat conductivity of less conductive metals; for instance, stainless steel pans often have aluminum cores because aluminum heats up much quicker. Additionally, having multiple layers makes the cookware more durable. Battiliana said there is a connection between performance and quality, as thinner metal pans will wear out faster than better constructed pans.
What is the best cookware material?
Based on our own cookware experience and conversations with experts, these are the differences between the most common cookware materials.
Cookware materials compared
Pros and Cons
Seasoned: Oil baked into cast iron over time prevents food from sticking and the pan from rusting
Enameled: Cast iron coated with thick, enamel glaze to prevent food sticking and eliminate the need to season the pan
Pros: Great heat retention, durable Cons: Slow to heat up, requires special maintenance
Searing, slow cooking, if you want a piece to pass down
Hard-anodized: Aluminum that is electrochemically altered to be more durable and nonstick.
Pros: Great heat conductivity, inexpensive Cons: Not durable when untreated, can warp and scratch
Casual cooks, inexpensive pieces like sheet pans
Core: Copper layer sandwiched between layers of other materials
Base: thin copper ring embedded in the bottom of the cookware
Clad: Copper foil exterior
Pros: Excellent heat conductivity
Cons: Reactive with acidic foods, needs to be lined and maintained, expensive
Rapid and even heating, experienced chefs
Tri-ply: Stainless steel interior and exterior with a core made from a material with better heat conductivity, often aluminum
Pros: Non-reactive, durable, scratch resistant
Cons: Slow to heat up, can be expensive
Everyday chefs, cookware to last through a lot of use
When should I get rid of a pot or pan?
If the handles start to wiggle, you need to tighten them or throw out the piece. Chef Phojanakong said to look at the rivets and welding on the handles for signs of looseness. It’s not safe if you can’t handle your pan with ease.
Most nonstick coatings will scratch if you regularly use metal utensils on them. It’s up to you whether or not this means you have to throw the pan away. For Chernick, once a nonstick pan is scratched, it’s time to say goodbye: “It might not be toxic, but I don’t want to eat pieces of Teflon.”
What makes a cookware set induction safe?
Cookware needs to have magnetic properties in order to work on an induction stovetop, according to the Cookware Manufacturer’s Association. If the cookware material is not magnetic, a magnetic plate is applied to the base in order to make it induction safe. The manufacturer will clearly label the induction capabilities of the cookware.
The best deals on cookware from this guide
Whether you love to cook or prefer take-out, you need a few basic cookware pieces. We researched, tested, and spoke with experts to find the best cookware for any home chef. One of our main takeaways is to avoid cluttering your kitchen with unnecessary pieces. It is best to spend a little more on quality rather than quantity.
Full cookware sets can be pricey, so deal days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a great time to refresh your collection. Look for stainless steel sets on sale — this is one of the most universal and durable materials. With nonstick cookware sets, the number of pieces and original price (therefore the claimed discount) can be inflated by included utensils. Look for sets that only include pots and pans for the most bang for your buck.
Here are the best deals on our favorite cookware sets.
Smoking food is a great way to impart flavor, but also preserve food for longer, extending the refrigerator life of smoked seafood and meat anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (and months in the freezer).
The best bbq smoker for you depends on the convenience you seek. You can get a barrel smoker, which will require regular hands-on tending of firewood, or you can buy a pellet grill which you can monitor and tend from your smartphone.
In between, there are charcoal, electric (sans pellets), and propane smokers. The thing to keep in mind when purchasing one is how much time you want to spend hunched over or standing beside it and how smokey you really want your food. “They’re all great options,” said Steven Raichlen, creator of Barbecue University, Project Smoke, and countless grilling cookbooks. Read about how we tested the best bbq smokers here.
If you’re going to buy just one grill for barbecuing, Traeger’s Pro 575 is a tank built to maintain perfect temperature and last well over a decade.
Pros: Excellent temperature control, WiFi-equipped, hefty steel built to last
Cons: WiFi connectivity could be better, LCD interface not as intuitive as others, not modular like some other brands
Whether you’re just getting into barbecuing or you’ve spent more days than you can count hunched over a stick burner, a pellet grill like Traeger’s Pro 575 is hassle-free and offers steady temperature and smoke. It’s also the heaviest-duty grill we’ve found for less than a thousand dollars.
One of the most important things about a smoker, or any barbecue grill that you’re going to operate for hours at a time, is heat retention. If you can’t keep steady heat, you’re really going to struggle to time and cook your food to perfection. We’ve tried multiple pellet grills (see more below), and while they’ve all done their job swimmingly, the Traeger is built with the thickest steel and maintains a temperature within about five degrees of your target. Try and do that with a manual charcoal or wood-burning grill and you’ll have your work cut out for you (you’ll also learn quickly why Pitmasters earn their distinction).
Frankly, apart from the quality of the steel, all pellet grills follow the same design, more or less. Traeger might be the original, but there are plenty of other brands that come close, and if you want to save some money, Raichlen suggests looking to Green Mountain Grills’ models.
We had some trouble connecting to WiFi using this grill. Our router was on the other side of two brick walls, and it couldn’t hold a connection. Though since relocating it, a lone wall hasn’t been a problem.
Traeger, like many other brands, falls short in the way of accessories. Camp Chef’s Woodwind WiFi series, which we also recommend, is modular; you can add on grill boxes, a 28,000 BTU side-burner (great for searing, boils, and clam bakes), a pizza oven, and much more.
If all you want your pellet grill to do is smoke and grill (they all max out at around 500 degrees Fahrenheit, so you won’t necessarily pull off any high-heat searing), Traeger’s is the one that’s built the best and made to last the longest, which is why we think it’s worth spending a little extra.
Pros: Modular with several options for attachments, easy to move, industrial-style casters
Cons: Doesn’t maintain temperature as well as our top pick (but only a matter of 15 degrees)
While we like the Traeger Pro series for people specifically looking to smoke and grill (with smoke), we haven’t found any pellet grills as versatile as those in the Camp Chef Woodwind series, which we’ve been testing for nearly two years now.
Apart from offering remarkably user-friendly interfaces, the smokers in the Camp Chef Woodwind series (we think the 24-inch model with 800 square inches of cooking surface area is best for most people) are compatible with multiple accessories, and it’s hard to imagine something you couldn’t cook.
As far as attachments, we recommend Camp Chef’s 28,000-BTU Sidekick, an extremely powerful propane burner capable of searing anything and boiling massive stock pots of seafood (we put the latter to the test twice). The Sidekick also comes with a flat-top griddle and a grease catchment system, and you can add on the “Outdoor Oven” which is really a stainless steel pizza oven. There’s also the Sidekick Sear, which works like a miniature propane grill with cast-iron grates and a stainless steel cover.
While this grill isn’t made of the same hefty steel used in Traeger’s Pro series, we haven’t encountered any issues with it, and it’s already been through two winters, accidentally left uncovered through snow, rain, and even hail, and is no worse for wear. We also really love the casters, which seem to be the same kind you’d find on industrial stainless steel carts.
If you want a do-it-all outdoor smoker (or grill for that matter) that lets you smoke, grill, braise, bake, boil, and more, this is our favorite modular option.
Pros: Easy to assemble, great app with over 1,600 recipes, superior heat retention and temp control
Cons: Not very modular, no storage underneath, only two smoke level settings
Traeger originated the pellet grill, and the brand makes the hardiest smokers we’ve tested thanks to the 13-gauge stainless steel exterior, cold-rolled stainless steel interior parts, and double side wall interior. This construction, along with the 36,000-BTU burner, allows for better and higher heat retention (500 degrees Fahrenheit to the Pro model’s 450).
The Ironwood series also comes with Traeger’s Downdraft exhaust, a convection feature that helps circulate smoke rather than channel it upward and out a chimney. While Traeger only offers basic “smoke” and “super smoke” (the latter is only available when cooking at temps lower than 225), the fan helps up the smoke level at higher temperatures far more than we’ve seen in any other smoker.
Between the double-walled stainless steel sides and the downdraft fan, you’re going to get the most precise heat and smoke retention possible, which will also translate to better fuel efficiency. Where we saw upwards of 15-degree-Fahrenheit temperature fluctuations with other grills (Traeger’s Pro model included) this one barely veered 5 degrees in either direction, and it stayed burning the longest without running out of pellets or reading an error message.
One minor downside is that there’s no under-grill storage, which is really handy for those who like to keep a stock of pellets but don’t have anywhere dry to keep them.
Overall, if you want something comparable to the ability of a Kamado Joe or Big Green Egg but doesn’t require the fuss or extra investment (depending on what package you choose), the Traeger Ironwood series is your best bet for both function and longevity in the pellet grill department.
Pros: Simple but effective, full manual control, small but plenty of cooking area
Cons: Labor-intensive, difficult to maintain temperature control
When it comes to charcoal smokers, there are almost too many designs to consider. That said, unless you’re throwing massive backyard barbecues, smoking multiple briskets, or dealing with entire hogs, you probably don’t need a ginormous offset barrel smoker (however alluring it may look).
We find that Weber’s Smokey Mountain series’ 18-inch smoker offers the most for the casual at-home smoker. It has a relatively small footprint of about 20 inches, is made with the same solid steel and porcelain enamel as the brand’s Original Kettle grills, and it will outlast most charcoal smokers on the market for the same price.
If you do want a large offset smoker, Raichlen says look to Horizon, Yoder, or Lang — I’d also add Texas Originals to the list — but know that they’ll all weigh hundreds of pounds, and cost you four figures. We plan on testing these larger grills soon.
Setting this grill up is easy and straightforward, and once assembled, a pile of charcoal (we recommend hardwood charcoal), some wood-smoking chips (or split wood), and a basin (included) filled with water are all you need. You’ll have to keep on top of the fire and airflow throughout to find the perfect balance — and make no mistake, that is an art unto itself, but also part of the fun.
I’ve spent the better part of a decade tinkering with and smoking all sorts of things with this very grill, and looking back on that experience I can say this: my most monumental successes in smoking have occurred on this very smoker, but so too have my greatest failures. If these prospects don’t appeal to you, save yourself the anguish and consider a pellet, propane, or electric smoker instead.
Approach this grill for what it is knowing that while it’s in some ways a starter smoker, and one that you can easily store away or station in tighter spots, it will allow you to produce a wide variety of superb smoked goods.
Cons: No timer, requires regularly adding wood chips, no casters
Propane smokers are among the easiest and most efficient to operate and assemble. They might not impart the same amount of smokiness (adding dry or soaked wood chips hourly helps), and certainly don’t create the same ambiance as a fire, but they’re convenient and maintain impeccably steady heat.
We like Cuisinart’s 36-inch Vertical Propane smoker because of its basic but robust steel design. There are very few moving parts, and there’s only one control knob. And while this smoker lacks a timer or programming, it’s propane, which you’ll always need to shut off manually anyhow.
If you’re willing to forego the element of fire, a propane (or an electric) smoker is a great way to go. It requires almost no input from you beyond adding wood chips and igniting a burner. There’s also plenty of surface area spread out between four roughly 200-square-inch porcelain-coated stainless steel racks, which is comparable to the cooking surface area of a medium-sized barrel grill. And because it runs on propane, you can load it into the back of a truck for car- or off-grid camping, should you be so inclined.
The size of Cuisinart’s 36-inch Propane Smoker is also convenient for small spaces or those who prefer to store it in the garage. And thanks to the side handles, it’s much easier to put away than some other models. Still, we do wish it had casters because it’s a bit heavy for many people.
Even with an electric grill, this is as easy as smoking gets, and about as compact as well. So, if you don’t want to tend to a fire and would rather not pay for wood pellets, this is your best and most efficient option.
Pros: Intuitive, glass door to check progress, efficient
Cons: No casters or handles, short warranty
Electric smokers are among the easiest smokers to operate. They’re insulated, maintain almost perfect temperature control, and can cook for hours and hours without much attention (save for adding wood chips).
Masterbuilt’s 30″ Electric Smoker comes practically preassembled (attach the legs, the digital monitor, a latch, and it’s ready) and will be up and running with the press of a few buttons.
There’s no fussy fuel to deal with, and all you have to do is remember to deposit a handful (half-cup) of either dry or pre-soaked wood chips, which you’ll want to replenish about every hour or so, depending on the temperature you set.
Vertical electric smokers are the same shape, size, and every bit as straightforward as propane smokers, but without the hassle of dealing with propane (namely, running out of it). The size lets you cook just about everything you would on a mid-sized barrel grill or smoker, and a glass window in the door is a nice touch that allows you to keep an eye on things without having to open it up and lose heat.
We wish this grill had handles because we have had to move it quite a bit, and there’s no great place to get a grip on it. Plan to keep this grill more or less where you park it, and know that you’ll need a solid electrical source.
Adding wood chips might also be sort of a nuisance if you’re not familiar with smoking, but it’s incredibly easy compared with maintaining a fire, and it also helps you keep things from overcooking. Otherwise, there’s not much to worry about with this smoker. We smoked fish, meat, and a pile of vegetables in it and everything came out perfectly, evenly browned and cooked through. This is as fail-safe and as effortless as smoking gets.
Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker: The Dyna-Glo is a fine grill in design, but we’re not convinced that it will last more than a few seasons based on looking at the materials used. Expensive as it is, there are plenty of options that will probably well outlast it for a little more money.
Green Mountain Grills Trek: If you’re looking for a pellet grill you can take on the go, the Trek is a great option, though it comes with the same price tag as some full-sized budget options, so you’ll want to think whether you want to spend so much on a portable grill. That said, it offers great temperature retention and it’s also great for smaller outdoor spaces like balconies, and we highly recommend it.
Nexgrill 29-inch Barrel Charcoal Grill/Smoker: If you’re on a tight budget or you just want a charcoal grill (and smoker) in a pinch, this is the best you’re going to do. Our hesitation is that this is one of those grills that you could outfit with gaskets to function very well, but the quality of the parts means it’s not destined to survive past a couple of years with moderate use.
Z Grills: Another great budget option, Z Grills offers pellet grills in plenty of sizes, and comes with a free waterproof grill cover, which few other brands offer. We’re still testing this one, and may yet recommend it as a budget option.
How we test BBQ smokers
We recently retested three of our top picks and three other, newer models, paying careful attention to the heat retention, temperature fluctuations, general ease of use, and the overall quality of the materials and design.
We also walked through Lowe’s and The Home Depot opening and examining every smoker there. We looked at fittings, the quality of the seal between the lid and the grill, and the thickness of the steel.
We then spoke with several experts including chef Shola Olunloyo of Studio Kitchen and veteran author and Barbecue University TV host Steven Raichlen to find out what makes a good smoker.
Here’s what we looked for in our top picks:
Smoking method: While smoking over hardwood is probably the most fun experience, we all agreed, not everyone wants to spend the better part of a day hunched over a fire. And while pellet grills might not offer the same flavor charcoal and wood-burning grills do, they come mighty close and are almost entirely hands-off.
Ease of use: Inextricably linked to the smoking method is the ease of use. The learning curve on wood-burning grills is stratospheric. Pellet grills offer a great balance between smokiness and user-friendliness, but some don’t hold a steady temperature all that well, which presents another set of problems.
Material quality: Most smokers have to live outside, and while a cover is a worthy investment, a grill is still going to have to withstand the elements. Flimsier metals and cheap wheels were immediately disqualified. Thicker steel and industrial-grade casters were positive points, especially on competitively priced smokers.
Performance: Because heat retention and maintenance of a consistent temperature is so paramount to smoking, we chose grills that excelled in those areas with little oversight. In the case of charcoal or wood-burning, you are entirely on your own.
Warranty: We considered warranty to a degree, and looked for at least two years, but in the case of some picks we made concessions. In the end, the grill is only so good as the quality of the materials and build, and it’s hard to call in a warranty on something like a grill or smoker because “normal wear and tear” involves starting fires and spilling grease. Plus, it’s going to live outdoors. We find that investing in a grill that’s built to last is ultimately the better consideration.
BBQ smoker FAQs
What is the easiest type of smoker to use?
The easiest smoker to use is an electric smoker, followed by a propane or pellet smoker. Each of these smokers maintains temperature automatically, so as long as you have your fuel in place (wood chips, propane, or pellets, respectively), you don’t have to do much of anything at all.
What can I put on a smoker?
You can put just about anything you’d eat on a smoker. Meat is what most of us associate with smokers, but vegetables, fruits, and all types of seafood can be extraordinary on the grill. Figuring out the endless options and recipes is part of the fun of taking up smoking as a hobby.
How does a BBQ smoker work?
BBQ smokers work any number of ways based on cold or hot smoking. Both methods use wood, wood pellets, wood chips, propane, or charcoal, creating smoke to cure and flavor. Temperature and smoke level can all vary greatly, but cold smoking occurs below 86 degrees, and hot anywhere above 86 degrees.
How do I make a brine?
When you want to smoke food, oftentimes a recipe will call for a marinade or brine. You can do this any number of ways, and arguments will abound until the end of time over how to make the perfect brine, but here’s a basic recipe for preparing and smoking with a brine, start to finish:
Note: You’ll want to start this process between about four and 24 hours ahead of starting your smoker.
Add a 1:1 ratio of salt and sugar into a gallon of water in a stock pot.
Heat up to a boil, or until the salt and pepper dissolve.
Add any herbs or other seasonings.
Let it cool for at least an hour or two, then place it in the fridge.
Once cool, add food and let marinate for anywhere from a couple of hours (vegetables, lighter meats and seafoods) to 12 or even 24 hours (beef, pork).
Remove food from the brine, pat dry, and light the grill.
Add any dry rub or glaze you want to put on.
Wipe or spray grill with a little cooking oil. You can use olive oil or any oil of your choice, and because you’re cooking at low heat, you don’t have to worry about smoke or burning points.
Apply food, checking regularly to make sure fuel and temperature remain consistent.
The best stand mixers make baking bread, cakes, cookies, pies, and more an enjoyable endeavor.
The best stand mixer is the KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Pouring Shield.
The iconic KitchenAid has a powerful motor and available attachments like a spiralizer and pasta press.
Homemade baked goods bring families together. The smell of bread, cake, or cookies baking often punctuates our fondest childhood memories. And, the companion of any good baking project is a high-quality stand mixer. Stand mixers make quick work of the hardest dough kneading tasks while also offering an array of secondary uses that inspire the chef in all of us.
The main considerations when buying a mixer are your budget, how much space you have on your countertop, and what you want to do with your unit. The mixers on our list range from $40 to $300, and you generally get what you pay for.
Also, if you plan on making bread on a daily basis, you will need a more durable mixer. If you are interested in making pasta, sausage, ice cream, or using your mixer for other non-standard uses, make sure you choose a model that offers an array of accessories.
Pros: Lots of colors to pick from, pouring shield, durable 325-watt motor
Cons: Lacks advanced features
If you are an experienced home baker, you will appreciate the KitchenAid Artisan mixer. You can mix the dough for nine-dozen cookies or four loaves of bread in one batch with the 5-quart stainless steel bowl. You are certain to find an Artisan mixer in a color that matches your kitchen since there are more than 50 options available, including Empire Red, Ice, Bordeaux, and Pistachio.
The Artisan comes with a one-piece pouring shield, six-wire whip, coated dough hook, and a coated flat beater. Also, with KitchenAid’s 59-point planetary mixing action, there are 59 touch-points for every rotation the wire whip, beater, or dough hook makes around the bowl. This ensures fast and thorough mixing.
KitchenAid does not make cheap mixers, but the KitchenAid K45SS Classic Series mixer is an affordable alternative. It comes with a wire whip, 4.5-quart bowl, a coated flat beater, a 250-watt motor, and a coated dough hook. There is also a multi-purpose attachment hub that takes fifteen optional attachments for making ice cream, grinding, rolling dough, and much more.
The K45SS is one of the quietest mixers on the market due to its smaller motor. A knob on the side of the appliance lets you shift between the ten speeds. If you are mixing flour or other dry ingredients, they may go flying if you do not have a pouring shield. This model does not come with one and does not do slow start mixing. Also, you may want to purchase a bowl with a handle since the bowl that this unit comes with does not have one.
Pros: Three-year warranty, good value, 12 speed settings
Cons: May have trouble with tough jobs, like making bread
As the name suggests, the Hamilton Beach Electrics All-Metal Stand Mixer is made out of die-cast metal. It comes with a dough hook, two-piece pouring shield, wire whisk, flat beater, recipes, and a helpful user manual. The motor is 400 watts with twelve speed settings. This is a tilt-head mixer that measures 9 by 14 by 14 inches when the head is down. When you put the head up, it is about 18-inches high, which should still fit under the cabinets in most American homes.
Not only does the pouring shield keep ingredients from mucking up your kitchen, the shield, attachments, and bowl are all dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. One of the advanced features is high-performance electronics that keep the power constant at every speed.
Pros: 67-point mixing, most powerful mixer on our list, several advanced features
Cons: Loud and heavy
The KitchenAid Professional 5 Plus comes with a stainless steel mixing bowl that fits 5 quarts of dough and features a handle. The ten-speed motor has overload protection and slow-start mixing. Installing the attachments is simple using the flip-up hinged hub cover. The bowl stays secure with the easy-lift lever. A wire whip, flat beater, and a spiral dough hook all come with the unit. And, it is available in thirteen colors, such as Cobalt Blue, Metallic Chrome, Onyx Black, and Empire Red.
I own and regularly use the original Professional 5. It has served me well for the last 15 years, and you will find even older variants in use. The Professional 5 has held up as I use it to make two loaves of bread per week. Mixing pie ingredients, cookie dough, and other easier jobs are a piece of cake (pun intended). The Professional 5 Plus is an improvement on an already terrific and durable product.
The Sunbeam stand mixer is a small wonder. It is a two-in-one hand mixer and stand mixer. You simply detach the head from the base for lighter tasks, such as mashing potatoes. This model features a 250-watt motor with five speed settings.
It comes with a three-quart stainless steel bowl and chrome dough hooks and beaters. At 12 by 8 by 13 inches, it is easy to store and does not take up much space on your counter. The unit is made of plastic and may not be right for bread dough and other tougher tasks. For the price, you should also have realistic expectations when it comes to long-term durability. Most manufacturers suggest you use the low setting for kneading dough.
We tested several KitchenAid mixers for our guide to the best KitchenAid mixers, so we have hands-on experience with those models. For the ones we haven’t personally used, we considered capacity, wattage, and attachments.
Capacity: Often manufacturers measure the capacity of the mixer bowl by how much it can hold when completely full. Since you wouldn’t want to use a mixer brimming with batter, the capacity for home users is slightly less than advertised. If you’re not regularly baking for large crowds, a 5-quart mixer will do the trick. Consider a 6 or 7-quart model if you need more space.
Wattage: The more wattage a mixer has, the more powerful it will be. Lower wattage models might be able to occasionally handle heavy mixtures, but the stress on the motor can cause it to wear out sooner. Frequent bread bakers, or anyone who regularly makes sticky and heavy doughs, need a motor with higher wattage.
Attachments: Dough hooks, wire whisks, and flat beaters are standard mixer attachments, but some models can accommodate even more. We highlighted the mixers that work with pasta presses, spiralizers, and other add-ons.
Check out our other small kitchen appliance guides
There may be no more important tool in your kitchen than your chef’s knife. It is the one-stop-shop for all of your slicing, chopping, dicing, and trimming needs. Sure, there are other kitchen knives well worth their steel, but we can’t stress this enough: if you’re going to put your money into any one knife, or if you’re considering buying a knife set, think about a single, high-quality chef’s knife to start.
While we do offer a guide to the best knife sets — and recommend some budget-friendly options like the Victorinox Fibrox Pro set (a staple in many commercial kitchens) — you can end up with a lot of filler pieces if you go the pre-packaged route. Everyone we’ve spoken with on the matter, from famed butcher Pat LaFrieda to late gourmand and chef Anthony Bourdain, has been quick to the point: most knife sets are a waste of money. And having knocked around enough commercial bars and kitchens myself, I can’t agree more. Rarely do you see a chef, sous chef, or line cook, fiddling with anything but a chef’s knife.
For this guide, we focused on chef’s knives for the reasons above, but we also ran through dozens of paring, boning, utility, and bread knives to recommend one of each of those as well.
Pros: Great for chopping and dicing, agreeable handle for most, rust- and chip-resistant
Cons: Requires regular sharpening
The Wüsthof Classic Ikon Chef’s Knife is the most traditional western knife there is: It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s made with relatively soft, rust-, and chip-resistant stainless steel.
As far as quality knives go, this is the knife we’ve found to handle the most difficult tasks while also still offering agility and precision.
Before we go further, we should mention one caveat: Ahead of investing in a chef’s knife, know that of all the kitchen knives you might purchase, it is the most personal choice you’re going to have to make.
No matter which knife you choose, your chef’s knife is the one you’ll rely upon most. It offers the most surface area for larger chopping and slicing jobs, and it also handles the most force for hardier root vegetables, meat, and poultry. Different designs might favor chopping and dicing over slicing (and vice-versa), but we like the only slightly rounded belly of the Wüsthof Classic Ikon, which strikes a happy medium for the two tasks.
We also like the modified handle of the Ikon series knives in general, which isn’t quite German, but not quite Japanese, either. It seems to be a hybrid of the two and fits most hands comfortably (we placed our top pick in several different palms).
All in all, this is a great knife for the average household in which kitchen knives aren’t generally taken care of, and no matter who gets a hold of this thing or what they do with or to it, you’ll be able to bring it back up to snuff. That and the fact that it’s a relatively thin and agile blade as far as German knives go make it the best all-around pick based on our testing.
Best all-purpose kitchen knife
If you want just one knife in your kitchen, Benchmade’s station knife is the perfect middle ground between a paring knife and a chef’s knife.
Pros: Great for everything from slicing and carving to chopping and dicing, guaranteed for life
Cons: Some might not like the handle (subjective)
Before testing Benchmade’s Station knife, we would have scoffed at the idea of anything other than a chef’s knife being considered all-purpose. The Station knife’s tip has the deftness of a paring knife, while its extremely wide heel chops and slices like a cleaver, and we haven’t found anything we can’t do well with it, apart from slice bread. We broke down whole chickens, chopped piles of potatoes, sliced a dozen tomatoes, minced garlic and shallots, and hulled strawberries with ease.
Made in the USA, these knives are customizable. You can get the basic, but highest-quality 440C stainless steel, or the upgraded CPM-154 (Benchmade’s take on 154CM, which is 440C stainless steel with added Molybendum to prevent chipping). You can also choose your handle, from an epoxy G10 (seven colors), a resin-infused paper called Richlite (three colors), and black carbon fiber. Plus, you can have the blade etched with laser-marking if you want something really one of a kind.
Finally, Benchmade will clean, oil, adjust, and resharpen your knife for life, free of charge through their Lifesharp service — you just have to pay postage.
Best budget chef’s knife
Popular in busy commercial kitchens and homes alike, Victorinox’s Fibrox has a highly ergonomic handle and stands up to rough use like few others.
Cons: Not razor-sharp straight out of the factory, takes some work to sharpen, not perfectly balanced
Victorinox’s entire Fibrox line is a favorite in commercial kitchens because its knives are among the few that can pass through numerous line cooks’ hands and accidental trips through the dishwasher unscathed. The Fibrox Chef’s Knife is budget-friendly, but it’s also perfect for short-term rentals, first apartments, and more generally, people who don’t necessarily want to spend time taking care of their kitchen tools.
My kitchen sees a lot of “chefs,” and for that reason, I have my knives squirreled away separately from the communal kitchen knives, which are entirely from Victorinox. This way, I don’t have to worry about someone slicing a lemon and leaving an expensive knife on the counter, not only wet but coated in citric acid, or trying to pry open a lid via a Japanese blade, which is horrific to think about.
And even though the Fibrox Chef’s Knife has withstood the abuse mentioned above (and more), there’s neither a single stain nor chip on it. Sure, it’s a bit scratched (coarse sponges are terrible for stainless steel, but more on care below), but all I do is give it a sharpening every couple of months, which with diligence gets it sharper than it was from the factory, and it performs impressively.
We also find it to be a little on the safer side thanks to the ultra-grippy Fibrox handle, which is easy to hold even when wet or greasy.
Cons: Very lightweight, requires regular sharpening
You really, really don’t need to spend a fortune on a paring knife. We think Victorinox’s 3.25″ Straight Paring Knife does the job about as well as anything because it’s not the blade you’re going to rely on for heavier-duty tasks.
Hulling strawberries, slicing a small bit of garlic, and peeling and seeding fruit is about all you’re going to use it for, and while they’re not the most demanding tasks, this knife handles them every bit as well as you’d hope anything would. Sure, you can spend a lot more and get a weightier paring knife, but it’s far from necessary.
And while, again, it’s about as cheap as any kitchen knife gets, it’s also much more resilient than pricier picks. Years ago, one of our testers admitted to running it through the dishwasher regularly, and has found only one small speck of rust since.
The only other issue that arises with this knife is that you’ll have to sharpen it as regularly as our budget pick for a chef’s knife. Depending upon how often you put it to work, that could range from every month to every few months.
Otherwise, keep this knife clean and dry like any other and it will work and last like any other.
Pros: Nicely weighted (for a budget-friendly knife), great grip
Cons: Not as heavy as top-of-the-line bread knives, not as sharp out of the factory
It’s debatable whether you want to spend much on a bread knife depending on how often you’ll be using it, but Victorinox’s Fibrox Bread Knife is a quality tool at a reasonable price. It withstands the same amount of rough use as the rest of our recommendations from that line, but thanks to the larger handle and longer blade it carries a little more weight than the more budget-friendly options we considered.
In our tests, which involved slicing less-than-forgiving, homemade, no-knead bread, it fared as well as everything we tried until we reached the $200 range, which is an absurd price for a bread knife for most people. That pretty much settled it.
We also can’t lend enough praise to the Fibrox handles in general, which everyone seems to appreciate, and apart from their ergonomic qualities, instill a sense of security with their non-slip grips.
Because this blade is not only thin but also only shallowly serrated, you won’t have as much trouble sharpening it on your own as you would with, say, a deep-scalloped one that doesn’t take to a simple pull-through sharpener as well. It also turns out that this knife isn’t bad for slicing softer fruits and carving meat and poultry.
If you’re looking for something a little more on the affordable side, our previous pick (which we retested against this one) is the Mercer Culinary Millennia Wavy Edge 10-inch Wide Bread Knife. It has a slightly thicker blade and a deeper serration, so it’s not going to be as precise, but it’s got a similar handle and costs half the price.
Best utility knife
With VG Max steel wrapped in layered Damascus steel, Shun’s Classic 6″ Utility Knife is sharper and retains a better edge than most German-style knives, and is perfect for trimming and more precise cuts.
Pros: Extremely sharp, great edge retention, rust-resistant, very well-balanced
Cons: Slightly brittle and easier to chip than German steel, small, D-shaped handle favors right-handers
A utility knife needs to be extra sharp for more precise cuts and trimming without tearing foods, and Shun’s Classic 6″ Utility Knife uses VG-Max Damascus steel, effectively offering the best of both worlds between Japanese-style and German-style blades.
Damascus steel is made by forging and hammering carbon-rich steel (in this case, VG-Max) at a low temperature, cranking up the heat, and then cooling it abruptly. The material is known for its flexibility and corrosion resistance, not to mention its signature swirly “damask” pattern that tends to woo one and all. While its beauty is something to behold, the important takeaway is that you get a knife that holds a stronger edge than carbon steel but flexes better than stainless steel.
While we veered away from Japanese steel for our chef’s knife top pick, and didn’t recommend a Damascus or VG Max steel option because of the cost, a smaller utility knife from Shun makes that type of pricier steel more affordable.
Apart from being remarkably more rust-resistant than other Japanese and Japanese-style knives we tried, this knife isn’t so brittle that we’ve had trouble with chipping or dinging. Still, you’ll want to keep it away from harder foods and surfaces, and especially bones. Where this knife shines is with smaller, in-between tasks where a chef’s knife is overkill and a paring knife is painfully laborious. Think slicing tomatoes or dicing shallots. It’s not a necessary knife for everyone, but behind those two knives and a bread knife, it’s the next most important one for most kitchens. On that note, it did offer enough flexibility for me to not necessarily fillet, but skin and trim boneless meat.
Shun’s knives are made with a material known as Pakka wood, which is really a wood-and-plastic composite that looks an awful lot like walnut. Purists might cringe, but it gives the look without bringing along the worry of the handle splitting.
If you’re really averse to owning a Japanese knife for one reason or another (either the handle or the extra care required), look to the utility knife version of our top-recommended chef’s knife, the 6″ Wüsthof Ikon.
What else we tested
Each of the knives below did their job, and any of them will suit your kitchen well; they just weren’t our top choices for most people or budgets.
Shun: Probably the most popular Japanese knife in the US, Shun offers relatively affordable VG- and Damascus-steel knives. Apart from recommending the brand’s utility knife, one of my personal favorite knives is the 8″ Chef’s knife.
Korin: Another mid-range Japanese knife similar to Shun, Korin is a favorite of Pat LaFrieda and Andrew Zimmern, and is competitive with Mac.
J.A. Henckels: One of the veritable classics in German knives, J.A. Henckels’ knives were a little thicker in the blade than our other picks, but you really can’t go wrong here.
Dexter-Russell: Similar to Victorinox’s Fibrox series, Dexter-Russell offers a line of similarly iconic white-handled knives at a great price point, and which you’ll find in commercial kitchens all over. We just found that the handles on the Fibrox knives are much grippier.
Mac: This company makes an outstanding chef’s knife, especially for the price. The only reason we couldn’t recommend this as an overall pick was its delicacy. At the hands of most people, this knife isn’t going to stay in great shape for long. If you care for your knives, on the other hand, we can’t recommend it enough.
Made In: These, like many other DTC-brand knives, are made with X50CrMoV15 steel and are a great deal for the price. Like the others, they didn’t exactly wow us, but we found nothing really wrong with them, either. The rounded handle seems to work well with many hands.
Material: These knives are made with “high-carbon” steel, but we wouldn’t call it high-quality. They have a hybrid handle that should suit most hands, and they’re easy enough to sharpen and perfectly serviceable knives.
Misen: More X50CrMoV15 steel and a great deal for the price. These are extremely popular for a reason, and we like them plenty, too.
Our Place: Another DTC brand making X50CrMoV15 steel blades, Our Place’s knives are more than satisfactory. We liked the hybrid handle, but not as much as others. If the handle looks like it’ll suit you, these are nicely designed and balanced knives.
Steelport Knife Co.: This is a much fancier, carbon-steel option for someone who wants to invest in a gorgeous and impossibly sharp blade. We love it, but we also recognize that it requires care.
Our kitchen knife testing methodology
We finely sliced tomatoes and onions with chef’s knives, minced garlic and shallots with utility and paring knives, hulled strawberries with paring knives, and sliced hard-crusted no-knead bread with serrated slicing knives. We then dulled each blade by rapping them repeatedly on a glass cutting board (word to the wise, never use one of these) and returned to each knife’s respective task to note any dulling or chipping.
We also made sure to put each knife into as many different hands as possible, ranging from professional cooks to hobbyists.
We took Japanese knives out of the running for our top chef’s knife pick. While they’re a personal favorite, they’re notoriously difficult to maintain, and therefore not suited for most kitchens. Simply put, if you’re starting to invest in your kitchen knives, we don’t want to recommend a fine knife that will easily be misused.
“High-carbon stainless steel” is a bit of a buzzword in reaction to the popularity of Japanese-style knives, which can attain notoriously sharper edges than their German-style counterparts. The delicacy of Japanese knives has to do with the hardness of the standard high-carbon stainless steel, which allows for a finer and sharper but proportionally brittler edge.
Still, if you’re the type of person who takes particularly good care of your tools (and aren’t sharing a kitchen with someone who won’t), you may prefer a Japanese knife. But know that they require meticulous cleaning and drying, as well as careful storage, or they’ll end up with rusted and/or chipped blades.
Edge retention: Our knife-testing process involved slicing fresh tomatoes and taking note of the ease with which each chef’s knife handled the task. After we had sufficient data, we took each chef’s knife to a glass cutting board and ran it over the surface 200 times. Some knives held their edge, others not so much. We looked at the edges after running the knives and noted if there were any visible changes.
We then returned to the tomatoes, cutting a few more and seeing how much resistance we felt compared with the performance of the knives straight out of the packaging. Knives that held their edges passed on to further rounds of consideration.
Alloy, and the HRC (hardness rating): We consulted several experts in the field, but the most informative source we encountered was Michael J Tarkanian, a professor of metallurgy at MIT. With his help, we were able to cut through the marketing and the scientific terminology behind different alloys and what allows a knife to retain an edge.
We looked for a hardness rating of around 60 HRC, which offers great edge retention while still allowing for an edge of around 15 degrees (though up to 20 degrees, which is duller than 15, was still considered sufficient).
Ergonomics: For a knife to work well, you have to be able to hold it comfortably in your hand. We asked several people to pick up knives and decide which ones were the easiest to grip; across the board, they went for the ones with heavier, rounded, almost bulbous handles.
Balance: The weight of the handle and the blade is also somewhat critical. Pricier knives almost always offer better balance because that extra cost goes into using denser and often more desirable materials, like layered Damascus steel.
A well-balanced knife with a good blade will cut through vegetables with minimal pressure, like our top pick from Wusthof. A not-so-well-balanced knife will take a little force to get started.
Kitchen knife FAQs
How do I choose a knife?
The most important thing about a knife, and especially a chef’s knife, is how it fits in your hand. So long as you spend at least $50 on a chef’s knife, it’s going to be sharp (and sharpenable) enough to get most any job done, and most of popular DTC brands are selling great entry-level knives for fair prices. Decide what kind of handle you want first. German-style knives are generally more molded to the palm with a pronounced butt end, while Japanese-style knives are almost uniformly cylindrical and smaller. Both designs work for everyone; it just depends on the feel you prefer and, to some degree, how you hold the knife.
The type of steel you choose should be based on the kind of care you’re (realistically) going to give your knife. If you don’t envision yourself sharpening and perfectly drying and storing your knife after every use, German stainless steel (e.g., 440, 420) is going to be much more forgiving, though softer and quicker to dull.
If you are a tool fanatic and know that you’ll take good care of your knives and are also confident that they won’t find their way into the wrong hands, carbon steel is a great pick because it’s incredibly sharp. Just know that it’s likely to rust and chip more easily.
In between, you have VG-10 and VG-Max (proprietary to Shun, but about the same as VG-10), which have added alloys (tungsten, vanadium) that make them a little more stain-resistant and less brittle. They’re great for those who want a Japanese-style knife without having to care so devoutly for it.
Then there’s Damascus steel, which is made by forging and hammering carbon-rich steel at a low temperature, cranking up the heat, and then cooling it abruptly. Damascus steel is known for its flexibility and corrosion resistance, and we recommend it, but be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals. A lot of manufacturers will etch the mesmerizing swirls into a blade without performing the time-consuming and expensive hammering process.
Why (or why not) should I buy a knife set?
In general, things that come in sets tend to involve compromised quality, and often contain filler pieces. In the case of knife sets, you’re probably going to receive a bunch of knives and other gadgets (including a large woodblock) that you may never use.
A lot of newer (and older) DTC brands recognize that consumers are growing wiser and learning that sets are generally a ripoff. As a result, there are lots of two- to five-piece sets on the market. If you’re looking in the budget range, we’re all for them, and we’ve pretty much tried them all. The steel is almost always the same quality, so choose based on the handle style you like.
Otherwise, though, sets don’t make a lot of sense for most people. Invest in a chef’s knife, first and foremost, with which, by the way, you can tackle all of your kitchen tasks, minus maybe slicing bread. Next, a paring knife is probably the most sensible purchase, but since it’s not doing a lot of the heavy work, we say go cheap. That said, feel free to spend what you’d like; there is something to be said for a weightier, sharper blade in the case of every knife.
A slicing and/or bread knife may or may not be important to you depending upon whether or not you consume much bread or slice much meat. You can find one that does the job for as little as $20, or, again, the sky’s the limit. For most people, we like the $40-$60 range.
Beyond the above, you’re getting into specific tasks most people don’t really take on at home. Fillet knives, boning knives, santoku knives, and shears are all further considerations. Even if you want all of those knives, you’re still likely better off purchasing them piecemeal. It’ll be more affordable, and you’ll also be able to budget so that you can put your money where it counts.
Heal: The corner of the blade where the edge meets the bolster.
Edge: The sharpened, business side of the blade.
Tang: The part of the blade that runs to or through the handle. “Full-tang” is a common term, which means the blade steel is a single piece of steel that runs through the handle.
Rivets: The pins holding the handle together (more common in German handles).
Bolster: Above the heel, a spacer where the blade meets the handle, and an area to grab or choke up on when performing finer tasks.
Tip: The pointy, or front end of the knife opposite the handle.
High-carbon steel: Steel with at least 0.55% carbon content.
Stainless steel: An alloy of iron, chromium, and sometimes other metals. This is a very general term, but it’s the basic steel with which German knives are made.
VG10, VG-Max: A high-carbon steel blended with tungsten and vanadium, and sometimes other metals to lend flexibility and rust resistance.
Damascus Steel: A two-plus-millennia-old process, Damascus steel is made by forging and hammering carbon-rich steel at a low temperature, cranking up the heat, and then cooling it abruptly, repeatedly (generally dozens of times). Damascus steel is known for its flexibility and corrosion resistance while still retaining a superior edge, which is why it is traditionally (and famously) used for samurai swords.
The best deals on kitchen knives from this guide
Buying your knives piecemeal is our recommended way of outfitting your kitchen with cutlery; you get everything you need and want and no cheap “filler” items. Knives (and knife sets) only seem to go on sale sporadically, but as with many things, the best times to snoop around for deals are usually Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
Here are the best deals on our favorite kitchen knives.
Roasting pans are made from a variety of different materials including tri-ply aluminum and steel, plain stainless steel, enamel-coated steel, and hard-anodized aluminum. Hard-anodized aluminum pans usually have a darker surface, which translates to a darker browning that occurs faster than lighter-colored pans. Plain stainless steel and enamel-coated steel pans tend not to heat contents as evenly.
Another feature to pay attention to is the handles. No matter what you use your roasting pan for, you’ll need oversized handles that are easy to grip with oven mitts and positioned in such a way that they don’t make the roaster too wide to fit in a standard oven.
If you only roast a large slab of meat once a year, it may not be worth the cost (and storage space) to buy a fancy roasting pan. Though they don’t work as well, there’s no shame in using a disposable pan, especially if you plan on transporting your food. Just keep in mind that if you are cooking something heavier, you may want to double up on pans.
While researching the best roasting pans, we looked at countless reviews and ratings of dozens of models from buyers and experts. Our guide features pans that are designed to cook evenly and are versatile enough to use for a variety of purposes.
Here are the best roasting pans you can buy in 2021
Pros: Can handle 500 degrees Fahrenheit, tri-ply, dishwasher-safe, lifetime warranty
Cons: Comes with a curved rack (specific for poultry and roasts)
There’s hardly anything better for consistent heat conduction and longevity than tri-ply when it comes to cookware, and Cuisinart’s MultiClad Pro 6-quart roasting pan offers the best construction you can get at such a compelling price point that it puts other sub-$100 options out of the question.
The stainless-steel-wrapped aluminum core of the tri-ply design (also found in much pricier options within this guide) is unparalleled, and while in the past we’ve recommended nonstick hard-anodized aluminum options, which might make cooking a little easier, you won’t have any problems cleaning this pan even if you do burn something, and you won’t have to be counting down the days until that nonstick coating ends up in your food. This pan also comes with a lifetime warranty.
Measuring 19.3 inches x 5.2 inches by 12.1 inches, this “16-inch” roasting pan will hold anything up to and including a turkey or a large roast, as any roasting pan well should.
A requisite for our consideration, this pan has tall, wide handles, so you can grab them with just about any oven mitt or pad you might have — something that can become very important in a pinch.
The one thing we’re not thrilled about is the rounded roasting rack, which is great for poultry and roasts, but not always the most convenient with things that lie flat, like briskets. Still, you can buy a roasting rack that will fit inside easily enough.
The rack is made entirely of stainless steel. The roasting area is about 16 inches long by 13 inches wide. The handles are large enough to grab with oven mitts on and are riveted to the pan for durability. Cuisinart backs this pan with a limited lifetime warranty.
It’s also much cheaper than our best overall pick, which makes it an ideal choice for those sticking to a budget.
The handles are large enough to hold when wearing oven mitts, and the tall, straight edges keep splatters and spills to a minimum. This model also handles temperatures up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit and fits a 20-pound turkey.
Pros: Affordable, made in the USA, can hold an 18-pound turkey, comes with a lid, nonstick surface, dishwasher safe
Cons: Can’t be used on glass cooktops, no rack
Since 1906, Granite Ware has manufactured enamel-coated cookware in its Terra Haute, Indiana factory. The Granite Ware Covered Oval Roaster is made by fusing porcelain to a steel core at extremely high temperatures.
The porcelain provides a natural nonporous, nonstick surface while the steel helps with heat distribution and provides strength. The 18-inch dimension refers to the pan including handles. The internal measurements of the roaster are about 15 inches wide and 8 inches high with the lid on.
The pan works well for cooking a 15-pound turkey with the lid on and an 18-pound turkey with the lid off. However, the pan can’t be used on the stove. Though it doesn’t come with a removable roasting rack, the textured bottom of the pan allows some air to get underneath whatever large items you’re roasting.
In addition to turkey, the pan may also be easily used to roast vegetables and other meats and dishes.
It’s constructed of what is considered by many to be the best cookware material: easy-to-clean stainless-steel, sandwiching a heat-responsive aluminum core. This combination ensures quick and even heating. Even cooking is also facilitated by the low flared sides. Large, four-inch-wide handles help you to maneuver the pan.
There are two sizes available. The large is 16.75 inches by 13.75 inches by 2.5 inches, weighs a little over 5 pounds, and can hold a 20-pound turkey. The extra-large is 18.75 inches by 14.75 inches by 3 inches, weighs 7 pounds, and holds a 25-pound turkey. The dimensions don’t include the handles, which add a few extra inches to the overall length of the roasters.
The design, shape, quality, size, and durability are all highlights, but consider measuring the interior of your oven before purchasing the extra large-sized pan since it’s more than 21 inches long with the handles, which may not fit some ovens.
What else we considered
We considered dozens of models while researching this guide. There were a few that barely missed the cut. We also looked at these excellent options:
KitchenAid 16-inch Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Roaster with Rack (currently unavailable): With a versatile rack and large cooking area, the KitchenAid roaster is great because of its tri-ply design and flat surface for easy searing and sauce-making. However, it’s expensive, heavy, and doesn’t appear to distribute heat as well as other options in our guide.
Circulon Nonstick Bakeware Roaster with U-Rack ($39.99): The Circulon 56539 is a good low-cost pan featuring large handles on the U-shaped rack and the pan itself. It’s made of heavy-duty carbon steel. But, it isn’t tri-ply, so it doesn’t heat as evenly as other options and is only oven-safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Viking 3-Ply Stainless Steel Roasting Pan with Nonstick Rack ($150.00): This excellent roasting pan is made of tri-ply 18/8 stainless steel with an aluminum core. It’s safe for all stovetops, including induction, and is oven-safe to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, it’s expensive, and the inward-facing handles could put your hands in harm’s way.
I saved over $100 on my first Thrive Market order compared to shopping at a regular grocery store.
Membership (Monthly) (small)Membership (Annual) (small)Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
When I first tried Thrive Market, I was just coming out of essentially a reverse-cleanse: a 12-pack of macaroni and cheese that I bought at a “great deal” discount on Amazon groceries. After a couple of months of eating that and an unrelated health scare, I was ready to commit to a complete pantry overhaul. That’s when I started shopping at Thrive Market.
What is Thrive Market?
Thrive Market bills itself as “wholesome food at wholesale prices.” It’s an online wholesale grocery store that curates the best organic, non-GMO products at a discounted rate of 25% to 50% off retail prices to its members.
You have two membership options. The annual membership costs $59.95 (or $5/month), billed once yearly. If you opt to do a monthly membership instead, you’ll pay $9.95 per month.
You’ll get free shipping on your first order over $25, plus all orders $49 or more. Thrive Market currently ships to all contiguous US states.
How it works:
Sign up for free: You can browse the catalog, see member savings, and receive 25% off your first purchase.
Start a free 30-day trial: You can start a free 30-day membership trial with your first purchase on Thrive Market. Cancel anytime.
Join as a member: After your trial, you can sign up for a paid membership. If you do, you’re also sponsoring a free membership for a low-income family.
You can shop Thrive Market by category, by values (e.g., gluten-free, paleo, raw, vegan, etc.), or by current deals.
Related Article Module: The 5 best places to buy groceries online in 2021
While you can buy staples like meats and seafood, the rest of Thrive Market’s selection is mostly shelf-stable options. For produce, you’ll probably still want to stop at your neighborhood store, farmers’ market, or another grocery delivery option.
In addition to offering thousands of organic brands you could find at your local grocery store and online, they also have an in-house Thrive Market brand that packages organic products (the equivalent of your supermarket chain’s generic brand).
If you spend a lot of time researching healthy foods, have a dedicated diet or food restrictions, or consistently buy organic or non-GMO foods online, you’ll likely get the most value with Thrive Market.
Quality is a concern with organic substitutes, and it’s helpful to have customer ratings to simplify things as you go on Thrive Market. The healthy eating community is an intense one, so it’s nice that Thrive Market makes use of all that helpful, accumulative passion in a way that I, a newcomer, can utilize too.
The 25% to 50% price difference could help close the gap between the sometimes inflated “organic” prices at some grocery stores, making Thrive Market a viable choice for the average person on a budget.
If ordering food online seems risky to you, it’s good to note that you’ll be protected by a return policy. If anything is wrong with your groceries or your order, though, let them know here within 21 days.
When we price checked some of the items, Thrive Market was not always cheaper, but when it was, it usually offered a large enough gap in savings to be substantial overall. You could save more by buying local, though your selection may not be as wide or the process as convenient.
And if you’re concerned about getting value out of your membership, Thrive Market guarantees its annual membership will pay for itself. If your membership fee was $60, but you only saved $40 in a year, they will automatically give you the difference ($20) in Thrive Market credit after you renew.
Review of Thrive Market
I ordered my groceries from Thrive Market in pursuit of a pantry not entirely reliant upon mac and cheese. In my first Thrive order, the total was $99.16 and the savings listed were $145.33.
The savings claims held up, and I technically paid off the $60 annual membership fee in my first order. The food was delicious, and I discovered new better-for-you snacks. I also found Thrive to be surprisingly cheaper for some of my favorite skincare products, like this Aztec Clay Mask.
Thrive Market carries ethically sourced meat and seafood in large bulk “box” options, but the options are slightly more limited than the average meat and seafood counter at a grocery store. I also don’t have space in my freezer or fridge to handle over $100 worth of meat, but it could be another great place to see savings if you do.
My colleague, Owen Burke, a lifelong fisherman with a background in commercial fishing and tending oyster bars, tried out Thrive’s bevy of seafood on offer and had this to say:
“I tried Thrive Market’s Deluxe Seafood box, which runs you about $170. This is not something you’ll want to buy unless you have a solid shelf of freezer space to spare, but I’ll commend Thrive and call this nothing short of a feat on their part.
“You’re getting six different species of seafood. Everything I received was wild-caught and not in some far-flung waters using questionable methods and labor practices, something with which the industry is rife. These might not be the absolute best practices for every product, but Thrive is going leaps and bounds above your run-of-the-mill grocery store.
“My favorite was the shrimp. They were superbly packed, vacuum-sealed, and packaged, which is among the most important things to do with any seafood. Mess that part up in any way (which, admittedly, is an easy thing to do), and you’re fighting a losing game against oxidation and freezer burn. These shrimp still looked fresh after I thawed them and pulled them out of the packaging. They were beautifully peeled and de-veined, and they had no hint of off-flavor that you sometimes get when shrimp (especially frozen shrimp) aren’t handled all that well. I give them an A+ here.
“The sockeye salmon was also vacuum-sealed well. While I always appreciate skin-on salmon fillets, they often come at the cost of turned (brown) blood meat, which imparts that “fishy” flavor associated with frozen fish. This is per usual, though, when it comes to frozen salmon. But I recommend eating around it, if not to avoid the taste then to avoid the toxins blood meat bears. You’ll also get four to five fillets, which means four to five servings (about six ounces a pop).
“The lobster tails are very nicely processed, de-veined, and split so you can pop them right in the oven or on the grill. They’re not vacuum-sealed but loose on a tray covered in plastic, which lends them to some freezer burn and ice buildup, but that really doesn’t create the problem for lobster as it does for fish due to the tough quality of the meat.
“The scallops I received provided two servings, and while they weren’t vacuum-sealed as I would have liked, they were plenty tasty. Just note that these are not your jumbo-sized U10 (under 10/pound) scallops, but they were tasty and clean (free of residual sand and mud). You can find better scallops out there, but for what you’re getting for the price of this box, I’d file no complaints.
“It varies depending on what you get, but in all, you’re looking at 10-15 meals of fresh-frozen (that’s fish that was frozen fresh, as soon as it was processed) wild-caught protein of high quality. That’s something like $11-$17 dollars a dish, which is about as good as you’re going to do with high-quality fresh seafood unless you’ve got friends at the fishing docks.”
The bottom line
I wish it were possible to find everything here (fresh fruit, more options for meat), but ultimately the discounts and the easy delivery make using Thrive worth it. And I wish it was always free shipping instead of just orders of $49 and up, but I typically clear that just by restocking my favorite basics. All in all, I liked using Thrive Market regularly for healthy snacks, healthy-but-fast foods, and kitchen basics like pasta sauce and olive oil.
The skillet seared steak without overcooking it, baked a well-risen cornbread, and quickly became nonstick.
In my reporting for Insider, I speak to many chefs and I often ask them what their favorite kitchen tool is and why. The vast majority of them give me two answers: their chef’s knife and cast iron skillet. Executive chef at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas, Chef Robyn McArthur said of her cast iron skillet, “I keep mine on my stove at all times and use it every day. It is versatile, easy to maintain, and cooks everything beautifully.”
One of the best features of cast iron skillets, especially those we recommend below, is how you can cook anything in any way on them. Cast iron actually improves with age as seasoning builds up on the surface, said Atara Bernstein, co-founder of Pineapple Collaborative. These pans often become legacy pieces, passed down from one generation of cooks to the next. However, cast iron can be an investment – if not in price, then in the maintenance of the seasoning and difficulty maneuvering the heavy pan. It’s important to get the best one for you and your style of cooking.
In support of my testing, I spoke with Chef Robyn McArthur, Atara Berstein, and Ariel Pasternak, the other co-founder of Pineapple Collaborative, about their experiences with cast iron and why it is a chef favorite. I then cooked six steaks, six cornbreads, and six sunny side-up eggs to determine the best cast iron skillets of 2021.
The Field 10.25″ Cast Iron Skillet is the ideal cast iron skillet to have in your kitchen; it sears as well as it bakes, and develops a smooth, nonstick surface after just a few uses.
Pros: Even heat retention, great sear on the steak, quick to develop seasoning
Cons: Helper handle is not very helpful, no pour spouts
Any new piece of cookware takes some getting used to — how fast and evenly it heats, or how much fat it needs to prevent sticking. Cast iron can be particularly intimidating, but I felt comfortable right away using the Field pan. It is lighter than most of the other pans we tested and cleaned easily.
Like many of the skillets, the Field arrived pre-seasoned. In our first test, the cornbread did not turn out when flipped, but it was easy to remove individual pieces without any crust sticking to the bottom. The seasoning, and therefore nonstick quality, became even better throughout our testing. After searing the steak and cleaning the skillet, I could feel the surface become smoother. When I later cooked the egg, it slid right off the surface without a trace stuck to the pan.
The steak cooked evenly and seared quickly in the Field pan, allowing a great crust to develop without overcooking. Additionally, the cornbread had an even brown exterior and smooth, risen top.
Best budget cast iron skillet
The affordable Lodge 10.25″ Cast Iron Skillet excels in everything you expect cast iron to do, from retaining heat to providing a naturally nonstick surface.
Pros: Fully nonstick after a few uses, useful pour spouts, even heating
Cons: Slower to heat up
Nothing stuck to the Lodge 10.25″ Cast Iron Skillet. The cornbread turned out perfectly, without a crumb left on the bottom, and the eggs slid off the surface without breaking. In part because it turned out unblemished, the bottom of the Lodge cornbread was the most even golden-brown of those we made.
The shallow pour spouts were very helpful when pouring out grease and oil from cooking the steak. The handle is shorter than that of our top pick, but both got hot to the touch quickly.
It was a close call for the best overall skillet between this pan and Field. Lodge fell out of the top spot because of the searing test: a crust did develop on the Lodge steak, but it took longer to achieve a darker brown. This could lead to overcooking in an effort to get a better crust. The Le Creuset and Field skillets produced thicker crusts in a shorter amount of time.
Pros: Heats up quickly and stays hot for as long as you’re cooking, even heat distribution
Cons: Not good for baking, heavy
If you can’t cook outdoors, searing on a good cast iron pan can be a substitute for grilling, said Pasternak. While you can’t mimic the smokiness of open flame cooking, the heavy bottom and heat retention of cast iron pans can sear and char your food. The Le Creuset Signature Skillet produced the best sear of all the pans we tested.
Many of the steaks I made ended up with crispy and deep brown crusts, but the steak cooked in the Le Creuset had a beautiful sear within the first few minutes of cooking. For me, this made it easier to achieve the medium-rare cook that I prefer; I didn’t have to keep the steak on the pan past when it was done to my liking in an effort to achieve the sear.
This was notably heavier than the other skillets, almost impossible for me to lift and keep level with one hand. Additionally, the Le Creuset did produce a low risen cornbread that stuck to the bottom of the pan.
What else we tested
Victoria 10″ Cast Iron Skillet: By a fair margin, the Victoria pan produced the tallest cornbread. It is not one of our top picks because while it did well, it did not outperform the others in the steak or egg test. It is a solid choice for a low-cost cast iron skillet.
Staub Enameled Cast Iron Fry Pan:This is one of the most beautiful pans I have tested, but the overall performance was just average. The cornbread did not rise as much in this pan as in others, and the eggs were difficult to remove, leaving some pieces stuck to the surface.
Zest Cast Iron Pan [Currently out of stock]: Another beautiful piece of cookware, the Zest pan seared the steak well and cooked a well-risen cornbread. However, a thin layer of the cornbread stuck to the bottom of the pan, and the eggs were difficult to remove as well. The stickiness of the nonstick interior kept this pan out of a top spot.
Our cast iron skillet testing methodology
For consistency, we only tested 10 to 10.5-inch skillets. We conducted three cooking tests to evaluate the different aspects of performance.
All cast iron pans are heavier than aluminum or even stainless steel. We compared the weight of these skillets to each other and found minimal differences. All of the skillets had one extended handle and one helper handle. However, we preferred pans with helper handles that you could fit your fingers in, as opposed to just extended grips.
Cornbread: We used Mark Bittman’s NYTCooking Cornbread Recipe to evaluate the heat retention and distribution of each pan. We measured the height (and therefore the rise) of the cornbread at the edge and middle. We looked at the browning and crust on the edges and underside of each cornbread.
Steak: We based our steak testing on this recipe from Serious Eats. We seared New York strip steak by heating canola oil until smoking, placing the steak in the center of the plan, and flipping repeatedly for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak. The best seared steaks have a deep brown crust that is visible from the side of the steak when you cut into it.
Eggs: Our last test was to make a sunny side-up egg in the middle of the pan with less than half a teaspoon of butter. We did this last to give the skillets a chance to develop a bit of seasoning. We looked for the egg to slide off the pan without breaking or sticking.
Maintenance: Before and after each cooking test, we cleaned the skillets according to the manufacturers’ instructions. We noted if it was difficult to remove stuck food and if the texture of the surface changed after scrubbing. Seasoned cast iron is smooth and semi-glossy; after all three tests, we evaluated each pan for these qualities to indicate a well-seasoned surface.
Cast iron skillet FAQs
How do you clean/wash cast iron?
What you’ve heard isn’t true: you can use soap on cast iron, but it should be sparingly. Most importantly, do not soak your cast iron and make sure it is completely dry when you store it. McArthur says she will heat the pan up over a low light to make sure there is no moisture before putting it away. This is a popular way to prevent rust, shared by Bernstein, Pasternak, and multiple manufacturers of the pans we tested.
All the pans we tested came with specific cleaning instructions, so we recommend consulting that information before using your skillet.
How do you season cast iron?
The easiest way to season a cast iron pan is to use it, initially with a fair amount of cooking oil. The layer of seasoning is actually oil cooked onto the cast iron surface, a process called polymerization, McArthur said. So, the more you cook on the pan, the more oil is absorbed by the surface, and the more nonstick your pan becomes.
Even if the pan is pre-seasoned, we found most will still take a few cooking sessions to become truly nonstick. After you wash the pan, McArthur, Pasternak, and Bernstein all recommend coating your completely dry skillet with cooking oil. This helps preserve the seasoning.
Is cast iron compatible with an induction stovetop?
You can place your skillet on the grill, in the oven, or on an induction stovetop. One of the beauties of cast iron cookware is that it can be used almost anywhere. Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions before using your cookware, especially regarding oven safe temperatures.
What shouldn’t you cook in cast iron?
While chefs have differing opinions on which foods affect cast iron, you can be extra careful by avoiding simmering acidic dishes and cooking fragile pieces of fish.
Some cooks find that strong flavors or odors linger on their skillets, even after washing and re-oiling. You can entirely avoid this by having separate skillets for sweet and savory dishes, but we don’t think that’s necessary unless you are cooking with extremely delicate flavors.
Read our stories on how to properly care for cast iron cookware