This machine had the most size options and largest water tank of any that we tested.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
If you like to entertain or just want a faster alternative to filling and refilling plastic ice trays, consider a portable ice maker. Most ice makers can produce a handful of cubes in under 10 minutes, and the more powerful models can make upwards of 20 pounds in 24 hours. For comparison, it takes three to four hours to turn water into ice in the average freezer.
Ice makers may be classified as “portable,” but since they’re heavy and typically need to be kept upright and level, you shouldn’t move them around too much. The manuals for every ice maker we tested recommended leaving space between the ice maker and heat sources, like stoves or vents. The higher the ambient temperature, the longer ice will take to form.
Most ice makers make bullet ice, which is cylindrical with a rounded base and a hollow middle. Bullet ice starts to melt fairly quickly, and most ice machines do not have insulated baskets for long term storage, so if you’re running one during a party, you will have to periodically empty it out.
We tested five ice machines and spoke to Ken Ho, co-owner of cocktail creation and consulting company One Cocktail at a Time, about what sets a good ice maker apart from the competition. After our research and testing, we chose the three ice makers below as the best ones you can buy in 2021.
We put five ice makers through a series of tests to determine which ones performed consistently well. We chose ice makers that produced between 26 and 28 pounds of ice daily. We found this to be the market average.
Speed: Each ice maker we tested promised to make a certain amount of cubes in a certain amount of time, so we tested the accuracy of those claims.
Capacity: We measured the water reservoir capacity by filling it with a quart of water at a time until we reached the max line.
Ice quality: We noted if the ice came out broken or whole, and whether or not the ice cubes made on the same setting were similar in shape and size.
If the machine had multiple size settings, we evaluated the sizes separately.
We also compared the melting speeds of ice produced by the ice makers and ice from traditional cube trays in two separate tests: one where the ice cubes were placed in glasses of water, and one where the ice cubes were left out. In general, ice from the machines melted slower than ice from the traditional trays.
Noise level: We evaluated if we could have a conversation at normal volume while each machine was running.
Ease of use: We noted how easy it was to lift the machines and keep them level, as well as how much effort it took to drain the machines. We also examined each machine’s interface, and judged them on simplicity and intelligibility.
The best ice maker overall
The NewAir Countertop Ice Maker‘s three quart water reservoir and three ice sizes are great if you like to entertain or prefer all your drinks chilled.
Pros: Three ice sizes, large water tank capacity, ice is evenly shaped across sizes
Cons: Bulky, small ice is on the thin side
At three quarts, this ice maker’s water tank had the largest capacity out of all the machines we tested. After running two small cycles, one medium, and one large, there were still over two quarts left. Regardless of the size you select, each ice cycle produces nine pieces of ice and takes under 15 minutes to complete. This speed is standard among ice makers with one or two sizes, but I was impressed by the NewAir‘s consistent timing in all three sizes.
Draining the leftover water was easy because the NewAir‘s drainage port is conveniently located on its side near the bottom, as opposed to underneath the machine. If you shut off the machine mid-cycle, any ice formed will drop back into the water tank.
The small ice started losing shape just from the heat of my hand; the medium and large ice cubes were more substantial. However, this was the case for all of the ice makers I tested.
Countertop Ice Maker (button)
The best budget ice maker
Pros: Can be used outdoors, runs quietly, small and large ice produced in under 10 minutes
Cons: Not easy to drain, white finish attracts dust
The Magic Chef doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it delivers on its key promise: you will get nine pieces of small or large ice in 15 minutes or less. This is enough ice to fill an eight ounce glass. The ice came out fully formed and the cubes were identical in size and shape. The large ice cubes did not take much longer to form than the small ones, and I found that the Magic Chef actually over-delivered on its claim: both sizes were ready to use in under 10 minutes. The noise level was no higher than other machines, which is especially useful if you’re bringing the ice maker into a small space.
The drainage port is on the underside of the machine, so it requires some finagling to open it and place a vessel for catching the excess water underneath. I did notice that some hair and dust particles stuck to the machine and were super visible on the white exterior. The Magic Chef can be used outdoors, but as with all ice makers, the manufacturer recommends that you leave it in its final position for about an hour before using it.
27-Lb. Portable Countertop Ice Maker (button)
The best ice maker for nugget ice
Pros: Runs quietly, one water tank is enough for an hour of ice production
Cons: Bulky, takes longer to produce enough ice to fill a glass
Nugget ice has its devoted fans, but there are few countertop nugget ice makers on the market. Unless you have an ice maker built into your refrigerator, making the perfect mint julep can feel impossible. Enter the Opal Nugget Ice Maker: it’s a portable machine that produces one pound of crushed ice in an hour.
The Opal is about $200 more than our other picks, but that’s a pretty standard price for a nugget ice maker. The machine took about half an hour to produce enough nugget ice to fill a 12 ounce glass from top to bottom. This is not surprising, since nugget ice is small and condenses in glasses. After running the machine for an hour, you’ll have enough ice for two or three full glasses.
The ice pieces are frozen solid and evenly shaped. The interface is simple and the machine is sleek; though it takes up over a foot of counter space, it is not an eyesore.
Part of the machine’s bulk can be attributed to a side water tank, which enables you to triple the Opal‘s water capacity and continuously make ice for several hours in a row. It was easy to connect with a clearly labeled tube in the back of the machine.
Opal Nugget Ice Maker (button)
What else we tested
Frigidaire Portable Compact Maker: This ice maker is almost identical to the Magic Chef. It was relatively quiet and made nine cubes in nine minutes. However, it only makes one size of ice and it cannot be used outdoors, which is why it lost out on a top spot.
Luma Comfort Clear Ice Maker: This was the only machine that produced traditional cube shaped ice and claimed to make clear ice. While the ice was noticeably less cloudy, there were a few other flaws that kept this ice maker from being a top pick. The ice cubes froze into a solid rectangle and were not easily broken apart. Additionally, the small cubes had divots in the middle, which increased the surface area and therefore led to faster melting.
What we look forward to testing
Igloo Portable Ice Maker: This machine is similar to the bullet ice makers we tested, and its selling points are a three quart water tank and a small countertop footprint. Our current top pick has a three quart tank, but takes up more space.
Igloo Flip-up Door Portable Crushed Ice Maker: This is more multi-purpose ice maker than the others we tested; it produces crushed ice and two sizes of bullet ice, and dispenses water. We are curious to see if it performs all of those tasks equally well.
How do you clean your ice maker?
All ice makers have specific cleaning instructions in their manuals, and the process was largely the same for the five machines we tested. Dilute basic detergent with room temperature water and wash the inside of the water tank and ice basket with a soft cloth.
How does an ice maker work?
Portable ice makers use the same mechanical freezing cycle as refrigerators and freezers, just on a smaller scale. Because they’re not connected to a water line, you have to fill up the ice maker’s water reservoir to make the ice. Unlike a chest freezer, a high ambient temperature can significantly slow down the speed of a portable ice maker.
Why does bullet ice melt faster than cubes or spheres?
Melting speed is determined by the surface area to volume ratio. Large ice spheres melt slower than traditional ice cubes because spheres have a lower ratio. Bullet ice, with its hollow center, has a higher ratio and therefore melts faster.
“The two main purposes of ice are to chill the cocktail and to dilute it. With that in mind, depending on how you build a cocktail and how you like to enjoy it, ice plays different roles,” said Ho. Fast-melting ice results in a diluted but colder drink, while slow-melting ice keeps a drink concentrated but not as cold.
You can read more about when and why to use different ice shapes and sizes here.
It offers a full range of motion, is dishwasher safe, and can press multiple cloves at a time.
Garlic is a versatile ingredient used every day in many kitchens. Preparing it can be a sticky and smelly task, which is where a garlic press comes in. A garlic press has two primary goals: prepare garlic to a grated-like consistency and keep your hands cleaner than chopping does.
Garlic’s smell and taste become stronger when it’s cut because of a compound called allicin that forms when the cells are crushed. The smaller the garlic pieces, the more allicin is formed and the heavier the garlic flavor. Garlic presses combine crushing and mincing motions to produce garlic paste that is fragrant and flavorful. A high quality garlic press can also save time, especially if you have several cloves to press.
The most difficult part of using a garlic press is cleaning the leftover pieces of garlic skin from the basket. This will be an issue in any garlic press you use, but factors like full rotation of the press or mobility of the basket can make it easier. We tested eight garlic presses to identify the ones that make prepping garlic easy and fast.
As a kitchenware reporter, I have tested many tools to determine not only if they work as intended, but also if they make life in the kitchen easier. For this guide, we used a central question to inform our testing: does this product make preparing garlic easier and keep your hands cleaner than using a good knife or a microplane grater? I tested seven garlic presses and rated them on the following criteria:
Performance: We used each press to prepare both large and small cloves, peeled and unpeeled. We looked for the garlic produced to be uniform in shape and near a paste-like consistency. When using the press with unpeeled garlic, we noted if less pressed garlic was produced or if the press was more difficult to squeeze and clean.
Ease of use: We noted how many cloves could fit comfortably in the basket at once. We attempted to squeeze each press with one hand and then two hands to see which was easier and more effective.
Cleaning: We considered how easy the tools were to clean. We ran dishwasher-safe presses through the regular dishwasher cycle and hand washed any presses that weren’t dishwasher safe.
The best garlic press overall
The full rotation and stainless steel construction of the Orblue Garlic Press makes it the easiest to load, press, and clean.
Pros: Full rotation, handles have looped ends so the press can be hung for storage, dishwasher safe, can accommodate multiple cloves at once
Cons: Water spots appeared on stainless steel after washing
This heavy duty kitchen tool features an almost 360 degree range of rotation. While most garlic presses feature a hopper (where the cloves go) that is attached to the handle, a feature of this press is that the hopper swings out separately from the handles. This allows you better access for loading garlic and for cleaning.
The Orblue is on the heavier side, but not unwieldy, and the heft makes squeezing easier when crushing multiple cloves at once. The crushed garlic came out even and paste-like. The press comes with a silicone garlic roller for peeling cloves and a small cleaning brush.
The best garlic press for unpeeled cloves
Whether used with unpeeled cloves or peeled cloves, the Kuhn Rikon Garlic Press consistently produced the same amount of crushed garlic and required minimal pressure.
Pros: Presses both peeled and unpeeled cloves with ease, can accommodate multiple cloves
Cons: Heavy, expensive
The Kuhn Rikon was the most consistent garlic press I tested. Regardless of how the garlic was positioned or whether it was peeled or unpeeled, the Kuhn Rikon felt the same to squeeze and produced the same amount of garlic paste from each clove. This is a big plus if you’re making something that requires a lot of garlic, like garlic bread or aglio e olio.
That said, the Kuhn Rikon is $26 more than our top pick and only performed better with unpeeled cloves. If you’re looking to avoid peeling garlic, the Rikon is easiest to use, but it may not be worth the increased price for everyone.
*This press is currently out of stock on Amazon, but is still available for purchase. New inventory is expected to ship in August 2021.
The best garlic press for easy cleaning
The Zyliss Garlic Press comes with a cleaning tool that was the most effective of any that we tested and stores neatly inside the press so you don’t lose it.
Pros: Mobile lever, cleaning tool stored in the press, can accommodate multiple cloves at once
Cons: Stationary basket, requires a lot of force to press larger cloves
Cleaning a garlic press is the worst part of using it, but the Zyliss makes it almost painless. The cleaning tool is stored tucked into one of the handles, ensuring you don’t lose it. The tool has small spikes that match up with the holes in the basket, so you can push the garlic remains out from the holes, making it easier to remove the peels from the press.
The Zyliss is made of aluminum and does not have the power of the heavier presses, so you have to apply more force. Though the basket is stationary, the press itself opens 180 degrees and the lever is mobile, so you still have space to fill and clean it.
What else we tested
What else we recommend and why:
Joseph Joseph Garlic Rocker: The main difference between this tool and a traditional press is the size of the garlic pieces produced. Garlic is pushed through larger holes in the Joseph Joseph Garlic Rocker, so the texture is less like garlic paste and more like finely diced garlic. Despite that, I do recommend this tool because it is easy to clean, takes up less space than a typical garlic press, and it doesn’t require hand strength. As long as you can lean down and push on the edges of the curved steel, you will successfully crush the clove.
KitchenAid Classic Garlic Press: This press performed similarly to the Orblue, our top pick. It was a little lighter and had a removable basket, but the force required was the same. A removable basket made it easier to clean the press, but it was hard to keep track of this small part and the press would be useless without it. I still recommend this press for someone confident in their ability to keep all the pieces together.
Dreamfarm Garject Self-Cleaning Garlic Press: This press had the most bells and whistles, with a built-in scraper and peel ejector. I loved the addition of the scraper because it pushes all the garlic off the front of the press. While the peel ejector works, it doesn’t make a huge difference in cleaning because smaller pieces of garlic still stick in the basket. The basket is big enough for multiple cloves, but it was very difficult to press when full.
What we don’t recommend and why:
Faberware Garlic Peeler and Press Set: This press was made of plastic and substantially lighter than the stainless steel presses. However, this meant I had little leverage when I squeezed it. This resulted in more work for less output.
Chef’N Garlic Zoom Chopper: Though not technically a press, we tested this product as an option for finely chopped garlic that didn’t require squeezing. While it did fit multiple cloves and chopped them easily, there were flaws in the design. The blade is removable, but it is not secured, so it tends to fall out when you open the top to get garlic out. Additionally, the garlic sticks to the sides.
What we’re testing next
Alpha Grillers Garlic Press: This press can be used with unpeeled cloves and has an extra large basket to press several cloves at once. We will test whether this basket holds more garlic than the standard baskets of our top picks.
OXO Good Grips Garlic Press:We have reviewed many OXO products and find them to be consistently high-performing. We are curious if this garlic press lives up to that standard, and if the padded handles make it easier or more comfortable to use.
What is the best way to clean a garlic press?
Consult the manufacturer’s instructions on whether or not your press is dishwasher safe. If it isn’t, the hardest part will be getting the pieces of garlic out from the basket. A press with a full range of rotation or removable basket is easier to clean because you have access to the nooks and crannies. If your sink has a spray nozzle, blasting the basket with a steam of water can push out stubborn pieces of garlic.
Can you use unpeeled cloves in a garlic press?
You don’t necessarily need to peel garlic before pressing it through a garlic press, though some presses are better at processing unpeeled garlic than others. The manufacturer will list if a press is intended for use with unpeeled cloves. During testing, I had to squeeze harder when pressing unpeeled garlic with all the tools, except the Kuhn Rikon.
What is the best garlic press for weak and arthritic hands?
In general, we do not recommend a garlic press for people with weak hands. None of the garlic presses we tested were easy to use with one hand. Most garlic presses operate by squeezing the handles together to crush the garlic. This is a difficult motion for folks with weaker hands, and we will be testing other methods of preparing garlic for our next update. We’ll also be looking for garlic presses with soft grips, which may be easier to squeeze for some.
Choosing an ice cube tray requires sorting through different materials, sizes, and shapes.
We tested 16 ice cube trays to determine the best for everyday use, large cubes, spheres, and more.
Our top pick is the W&P Everyday Tray for its easy release and neatly shaped ice cubes.
Most ice cube trays successfully freeze water, but are difficult to maneuver when full, don’t release the ice easily, take up too much space in the freezer, or produce misshapen cubes. To solve those problems, classic plastic trays are being replaced by silicone molds and trays with locking lids. We wanted to put these features to the test to see if they improved the ice making experience.
There are three main materials for ice trays: silicone, plastic, and stainless steel. We tested trays in all three materials and focused on the most common shapes: regular cubes, large cubes, and spheres.
While ice might be the last thing on your mind when preparing a cocktail or a glass of ice water, experts told us that choosing the right size and shape cubes for your drink can make your drink taste better or stay colder longer. Joseph Gitter, senior editor at America’s Test Kitchen and recipe developer for How to Cocktail, told us that ice with a lower surface area to volume ratio (i.e., bigger cubes) takes longer to melt, cooling drinks slowly without diluting them. On the flipside, small cubes or crushed ice cool drinks faster, but provide more dilution.
I tested 16 ice cube trays and molds, making ice multiple times in each. I also spoke with Gitter and Micah Melton, Beverage Director at The Aviary, to find out what makes a great ice cube tray. Whether you’re a cocktail aficionado or just a fan of iced water, there is an ice cube tray in this guide for you.
We consulted two experts on the uses of different ice shapes, how to make clear ice, and how to solve common ice problems. We spoke with Joseph Gitter, senior editor at America’s Test Kitchen and recipe developer for How to Cocktail, and Micah Melton, Beverage Director at The Aviary.
I tested 14 ice cube trays, making ice between three and five times in each tray according to the following tests.
Ease of use: The ideal tray is easy to bring to the freezer without spilling water, releases the ice without too much effort, and can be stacked in the freezer. We evaluated each tray based on these qualities.
Performance: We evaluated the appearance and taste of the finished ice. We looked for sharp-edged cubes and smooth spheres.
Odor retention: Silicone is a porous material and therefore can absorb scent that then imparts a taste or smell to the ice. We froze coffee in the ice cube trays, emptied and washed them, smelled them, and then froze water in the trays to see if the coffee taste or smell remained. (It’s worth noting that all but one of the trays passed this test.)
Leaking: For trays with sealable lids, we flipped unfrozen, full trays upside down to see if water spilled out.
The best ice cube tray overall
The W&P Everyday Tray had the smoothest release of all the trays we tested; each cube popped out without any resistance.
Pros: Ice cubes come out easily, you can remove exactly as many as you need
Cons: It’s time consuming to empty the whole tray of ice
The construction of the Everyday Tray is unique among the ice cube trays I tested. The Everyday Tray is made of silicone and none of the cubes share a wall, so you can release them one at a time by applying pressure to the bottom. I also found that this helps the cubes release easily because there is no friction between neighboring ice cubes and the whole tray doesn’t empty out at once.
Like many silicone trays, the Everyday Tray wobbled slightly when I walked it to the freezer, but the reinforced rim provides a good grip. The lid doesn’t seal, though it allows for stacking and promises some protection from odors. We will focus on this in our long term testing.
Best ice mold for spheres
The Tovolo Sphere Molds‘ silicone and plastic construction makes them easy to fill and store without spills.
Pros: Easy to avoid overfilling, ridge between hemispheres less prominent than others we tested
Cons: You can only make two at a time
I tested three sphere molds and overflowed all of them, except for the Tovolo. The Tovolo has a plastic bottom with a marked max fill line and a silicone top. You fill the bottom portion and then push in the top, which squeezes out any excess water. There is no space for overflow to sneak in and freeze an odd shape to the sphere.
After freezing, the instructions recommend running the plastic section under hot water, and I found the spheres popped out easily after doing so. All of the spheres had slight ridges where the top and bottom of the mold meet, but this line was less noticeable than on spheres made using other molds.
Best ice cube tray for large cubes
The silicone Samuelworld Large Cube Tray is structured enough to produce cubes with sharp edges, but flexible enough that they pop out easily.
Pros: Cubes had neat edges
Cons: Can be difficult to extract cubes when ice tray is full
The Large Cube Tray from Samuelworld had the best combination of easily release and neatly shaped cubes. Part of the appeal of large cubes is their appearance. The Samuelworld tray is made of rigid silicone so the edges of the cubes stay sharp even as the water freezes and expands.
The firm silicone is necessary for getting a precise shape, but it does make it harder to release the cubes. I have used this tray regularly for three months; it has held it’s shape and has no noticeable odor. I started using the large cubes for iced coffee because they melt slower, keeping my coffee strong for longer.
Best spill-proof ice cube tray
The OXO tray‘s silicone lid prevents leaking, allowing you to store it in small or crowded freezers without worry.
Pros: Leakproof, can be stored slanted or stacked
Cons: Cubes are an irregular shape, not dishwasher safe
The OXO was the only truly leakproof ice cube tray we tested. The lid is a sheet of thin, flexible silicone, with tabs at one end to keep it attached to the plastic base. You smooth down the silicone over the filled tray and it adheres to the plastic so that no water escapes even if you flip the tray upside down (which we did).
The plastic base produced crescent shaped ice cubes that released easily with one or two taps on the bottom of the tray. If you’re looking for aesthetically pleasing ice, this tray may not be best for you because our cubes came out irregularly shaped (though still perfectly serviceable).
What else we tested
What else we recommend and why:
TrueCubes Clear Ice Tray:This tray delivers on its promise: totally clear ice. The clear cubes were completely transparent and had sharp, clean edges, easily the most visually attractive ice I’ve ever seen. Because of how the system works, you do need 18-22 hours to freeze the whole thing properly. Additionally, I had to wait a few minutes for the ice to soften slightly before I could separate the top and bottom mold.
Target Made By Design Ice Cube Tray: This is an upgraded plastic tray. The frame and lid are plastic, but the bottom is silicone. Instead of twisting and cracking the ice, you can push on the silicone base and pop out the cubes. The lid does not make it leakproof, but it does enable you to stack thing on top of it while it freezes. Ultimately, this is an inexpensive improvement on traditional ice trays.
Lekue Ice Cube Tray and Box: This product had a lot of positives, but some design flaws. It takes three full lids of ice to fill the box, and the lid isn’t as flexible as other silicone trays so it’s harder to release the ice. However, I liked the gem-shaped ice aesthetically and the ice box itself is convenient and well-insulated. I left the full ice box covered at room temperature for a half hour and the ice inside didn’t melt.
Tovolo Perfect Cube Ice Tray: This tray was a close second to the W&P Everyday Tray in the best overall category. The Tovolo’s unified bottom and plastic lid make it easy to store. It does make three more cubes than the Everyday Tray, but the cubes are much harder to get out. Though this tray has a sealing lid, it leaks more than our favorite no-spill tray.
Tovolo King Cube Tray: Out of the large cube trays, the Tovolo had the most flexible silicone. While the ice cubes were the easiest to release, they were also the most misshapen. Since the aesthetics of large cubes are important, this was not my top pick.
Peak Sphere Ice Tray: This tray is made entirely of silicone, unlike the other spherical trays, which included at least some plastic. The silicone construction means these spheres were the easiest to get out of the mold right out of the freezer. Fortunately, excess water didn’t freeze onto the spheres because it was very easy to overflow this mold.
What we don’t recommend and why:
RSVP Endurance Old Fashioned Ice Cube Tray: If you are looking to avoid plastic and silicone, a stainless steel tray is your best solution. However, when testing the RSVP Endurance Tray, I noticed that the mechanism to break and release the cubes is not foolproof and can take several attempts to accomplish.
Peak Crushed Ice Tray and Lekue Crushed Ice Tray: I tested two crushed ice trays, but neither of them were successful. The shallow and narrow troughs produced ice spears, and twisting the molds to break them apart resulted in tinier spears, not crushed pieces. One plus is that because of the size and shape, the ice freezes quicker than in any other tray. The Lekue trays froze within two hours.
Samuelworld Ice Sphere Molds: This mold has small spouts that you pour water through, and the funnel shape did make filling the mold less messy. However, if you overfilled it even a bit, some of the water would freeze in the shape of the spout, ruining the perfect sphere.
OXO Good Grips Covered Large Ice Tray: This tray tried to fix the issues of stability and storage common to silicone trays by placing the silicone tray inside a plastic frame with a locking lid. Though the frame made it easier to stack, the lid froze to the base and was difficult to unlock. Plus, you have to remove the silicone tray from the plastic frame in order to get out the ice cubes. The problems solved were not greater than the inconveniences introduced.
What we’re testing next
Glacio Ice Sphere Maker: These are stand-alone molds, like our current top pick for ice spheres, but made entirely of silicone. Testing the Glacio spheres could illustrate whether the plastic element or the stand-alone construction of our top pick was key to its success.
Joseph Joseph QuickSnap Ice Cube Tray:This tray has push tabs next to each cube, which would allow you to release the ice cubes individually. We are curious to see if this actually works, as a benefit of our best tray overall is that you can get one ice cube at a time.
Are ice cube trays dishwasher safe?
Cleaning instructions vary by product, so we recommend consulting the manufacturer’s instructions. All but one of our top picks is dishwasher safe.
Why does ice sometimes have an odor? How can you deodorize an ice cube tray?
Water absorbs air as it freezes, which can impact the flavor. Additionally, silicone is a porous material that can absorb scent.
There are a few methods to deal with this problem. Tovolo recommends soaking its trays for an hour in a 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water. For trays made wholly out of silicone, the New York Times suggests baking the trays for 20 minutes at 250 degrees F or lower.
Why should I use large cubes or spheres?
The main reason to use large cubes or spheres is to chill alcoholic beverages without diluting them. For example, spheres have a lower surface area to volume ratio than regular ice cubes. “Ice spheres are the worst at making a drink cold, but dilute it the least,” said Gitter. This is why large cubes are most ideal for a straight spirit.
However, large ice cubes or spheres aren’t perfect for all drinks. Some cocktails are meant to be diluted and slow melting ice can change the intended flavor. Gitter mentioned martinis as an example of this because, traditionally, the gin and vermouth are stirred with regular ice cubes before serving. The stirring action starts the melting process, which chills and dilutes the drink to a palatable flavor. An ice sphere wouldn’t melt quickly enough for this purpose, and you’d be left with a too strong and too warm cocktail.
We recommend using large cubes or spheres when serving straight spirits, or when you want to keep a drink cold without changing its flavor and strength.
What is clear ice and how is it made?
There are two factors that make ice cloudy: the direction the water freezes and impurities or air bubbles in the water.
Most ice cube trays are not insulated, so water freezes from the outside in and from all directions. Safe tap water contains impurities that aren’t dangerous to drink, but can impact the flavor of the water and the appearance of the ice. As water freezes, it also absorbs some of the surrounding air. The absorbed air bubbles and the impurities are pushed towards the center of the ice as the outer layer freezes first. The air bubbles and impurities interfere with forming an organized crystal lattice and so the ice appears cloudy, said Gitter.
When making clear ice, you eliminate or limit those bubbles and impurities and focus the direction of freezing. “Essentially the process involves freezing the ice from a single direction versus all directions like a standard freezer,” said Melton. To make clear ice at home, first purify your water by boiling it. Then, you can follow Gitter’s technique of insulating an ice tray by surrounding it with dish towels and leaving the top exposed so it only freezes from the top down.
Besides the aesthetics, clear ice is less likely to have an odor or taste because it doesn’t contain absorbed gases from the surrounding air, according to Melton.
Electric skillets are one of the most underrated kitchen appliances. If you live in a dorm, tiny home, RV, or just don’t have access to a stove, an electric skillet comes in handy for an array of cooking tasks. In addition to sautéing and pan-frying, a skillet is useful for deep frying, browning meats, and griddle cooking. You can even find recipes for baking cakes and other treats in electric skillets. While working on this guide, I frequently referenced and enjoyed The Sensational Skillet Cookbook.
Even if you have a spacious kitchen with several burners, it’s smart to keep an electric skillet around when the summer heat makes using the stove unbearable, when kitchen space is at a premium during the holidays, or when you just want to keep your food warm at a potluck.
For this guide, I fried 15 pounds of chicken thighs and eight pounds of burgers, and made more than 50 pancakes in six electric skillets.
I have reviewed kitchen appliances for four years and have developed many objective tests to determine which models are best for different budgets and cooking needs. You can find details about how I test electric skillets here.
We put each electric skillet in this guide through several objective tests. The most important factors to take into account when buying an electric skillet are how evenly it heats and cooks and how easy it is to use and clean.
Here are the main attributes we consider and the ways we test for them:
Ease of use: I set up each of the units without referencing the user manual to assess how easy they were to use. Even with some minor assembly, none of the skillets took more than 10 minutes to set up. I also examined how easy the handles were to grab barehanded when hot and covered with slippery cooking oil. The handles stayed cool on all of the models, but there were a few instances where the handles were small or poorly placed so that it was hard to avoid coming in contact with the hot pan. I also looked at special features that improved usability, such as a long power cord, easy storage, or a built-in pour spout.
Even heating: To test how evenly the skillets heated, I sprinkled 1/3 cup flour evenly over the cooking surface of each. Then, I turned the heat on high and closely watched the coloration of the flour. If the skillet heats evenly, all of the flour should darken at the same time. This was not the case with any of the skillets. With every unit except our top pick, the flour darkened where the heating element was located under the pan.
Speed: I poured two cups of peanut oil into the skillet, cranked the heat, and timed how long it took the oil to reach 350 degrees Fahrenheit as measured with a probe thermometer. Most of the models took five to seven minutes. Only our top pick took a little longer — eight minutes and 30 seconds.
Cleaning process: I washed each of the electric skillets several times per the manufacturer’s instructions and noted how difficult the cleaning process was. For the units that are dishwasher safe, I ran them through the dishwasher at least once. I found washing by hand to be more convenient than machine washing; the skillets hogged a lot of dishwasher space and the nonstick surfaces made removing grime with a sponge fairly easy.
Cooking performance: I put the electric skillets through three cooking tests.
Fried chicken: I preheated two cups of peanut oil and filled each skillet with as many chicken thighs (coated with gluten-free flour and Tajín Clásico Seasoning) as I could fit without crowding. I timed how long it took for the chicken to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, I assessed how evenly the chicken cooked and how good it tasted.
Hamburgers: After preheating the skillets, I added as many quarter-pound patties as I could fit without crowding and timed how long it took them to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Once done, I assessed how even the sear was and how the burger tasted.
Pancakes: I made pancake batter from Krusteaz mix and scooped quarter-cup dollops onto the preheated and bacon-greased skillets. I timed how long it took the pancakes to cook through. Then, I rated how evenly the pancakes cooked based on taste and appearance.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR): I assessed how socially responsible the manufacturers of each skillet are based on information the organizations provided as well as my own research. I considered environmental initiatives and whether the companies are engaged in any questionable practices, and I looked at data from sites like CSRHub and Glassdoor to get a sense of diversity in leadership and employee satisfaction. Since it’s virtually impossible to collect consistent data across all companies, I didn’t weigh this attribute heavily, but I did note any information that consumers may want to know before supporting a company.
Pros: Heats evenly, comes with two pans and a steamer, user-friendly controls, easy to clean, long cord that detaches easily for safety, produced delicious and evenly-cooked fried chicken, burgers, and pancakes
Cons: Small cooking surface
There are several features that set the Zojirushi Gourmet d’Expert Electric Skillet (model EP-RAC50) apart from other skillets we tested. First of all, it comes with two pans: a deeper pan for soup-type foods, including hot pots, and a flatter plate for frying and grilling. The set also includes a tempered glass lid and vented steamer.
The skillet comes with a long cord that detaches when something pulls on it so it’s hard to accidentally send the skillet’s contents flying across your kitchen.
Setup was intuitive and took about five minutes. And, the Gourmet d’Expert has user-friendly controls. You simply move the slider on the face of the unit to the temperature you want. In contrast, the other models we tested relied on poorly-placed dials.
I was impressed with the even heating of the Zojirushi. While the other models were hotter around the heating element — exhibiting a telltale dark ring in our flour test — the heating element location wasn’t as clear with the Gourmet d’Expert as the flour darkened more evenly.
The Zojirushi skillet did a good job of cooking fried chicken, burgers, and pancakes. While it was the slowest to heat oil, it was the fastest to cook the fried chicken, only taking 25 minutes. And, the skin was as evenly-cooked and tasty as it gets. The meat was juicy with just the right amount of grease. Plus, the skillet produced a great sear on the burgers, and the pancakes were cooked evenly and quickly.
Cleanup was a snap. While the pan isn’t dishwasher safe, you can remove it from the base to wash it by hand, and grime slid right off thanks to the nonstick coating.
The biggest negative with the Gourmet d’Expert is it’s the smallest model we tested, and fit the fewest burgers, pancakes, and chicken thighs.
While I would have liked to take Zojirushi’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) rating into account during my evaluation, the company did not provide the info I requested. If that changes, I will update this guide accordingly.
Pros: Large capacity, fast preheating, produced outstanding burgers, simple design, lightweight, easy to store
Cons: Heats and cooks unevenly, not dishwasher safe
The Dash Family Size Rapid Heat Electric Skillet (model DRG214RD) is the only skillet under $50 that we recommend. It also has the largest capacity of the units we tested, fitting the most chicken thighs, burgers, and pancakes, which makes it ideal for families.
The Dash skillet has a basic design and setup. The unit consists of the base with its built-in nonstick pan, a power cord with a dial control that plugs into the back, and a lid with a silicone ring to form a tight seal. Setup took about five minutes, and the only assembly was attaching the knob to the lid.
The handles are large and easy to grip (even when greasy), and, as the name suggests, the Dash Rapid Heat Electric Skillet heats quickly. Unfortunately, that speed comes at the expense of even heat distribution. In the flour test, I could clearly see where the ring-shaped heating element was located. This led to fast but uneven pancake cooking. And, some of the chicken started to burn in spots, while other pieces were still undercooked. However, the hamburgers were the most forgiving. The Dash skillet produced beautifully-seared burgers that tasted delicious.
Cleaning the skillet was a pain. It’s big and isn’t dishwasher safe. Fortunately, it has a nonstick surface so debris comes right off, and the unit is lightweight, which makes it easy to move around and store.
Dash is a subsidiary of Groupe SEB, which has a strong record of social responsibility. For more info about how we evaluate CSR, see our testing methodology.
The best electric skillet for frying
At just a few dollars more than our budget pick, the Presto Electric Foldaway Skillet did an outstanding job of frying chicken and cooking pancakes in our tests, and it folds up for easy storage.
Pros: Did an outstanding job frying chicken and cooking pancakes, easy to clean and use, folds up for compact storage, features a pour spout
Cons: Cooked burgers slowly and unevenly, heats unevenly
Presto is arguably the biggest name in electric skillets. The company even published the most popular electric skillet cookbook on Amazon, the Eclectic Electric Skillet Cookbook. And, the Presto Electric Foldaway Skillet (model 06857) is one of the best-selling skillets with its unique design that folds up for compact storage, making it ideal for RVs or other tight quarters. Another unique feature is a pour spout on the rim for accurate pouring of the pan’s contents.
The setup of the Presto Foldaway is a little more involved than most skillets since you need to clip the pan into the base, but it was easy to do without instructions, and the setup process only took five minutes.
The Presto skillet did an excellent job of making chicken and pancakes. The oil preheated in under seven minutes, and the fried chicken took 26 minutes to get to a safe internal temperature. The results were absolutely delicious. Pancakes took about three minutes and were cooked evenly.
The burgers didn’t turn out as good. It took 10 minutes to cook them in the Presto Foldaway — longer than any other model — and they browned unevenly. The flour test more clearly revealed the uneven heating as a ring of darkened flour formed where the heating element was located.
Fortunately, cleaning the Presto Foldaway was easy since the pan detaches from the base. The pan is dishwasher safe, but Presto encourages washing by hand to prolong the life of the nonstick coating. I preferred washing it by hand anyway, since the coating kept bits of debris from sticking.
Presto’s parent company, National Presto Industries, may be problematic for some, with its low social responsibility ranking, lack of diversity in leadership roles, and production of warheads. For more info about how we evaluate CSR, see our testing methodology.
What else we tested
We tested six electric skillets for this guide. These are the ones that didn’t make the cut.
What else we recommend and why:
De’Longhi (model BG45, $54.99): We almost included the De’Longhi electric skillet in our guide, but it wasn’t the best in any category. It does a great job cooking fried chicken, is dishwasher safe, and has a large cooking area for such a compact appliance. Plus, the company has an impressive 97% CSRHub ranking. However, it did not heat evenly, and other electric skillets made better pancakes and hamburgers. Still, this is a solid alternative if our top picks are out of stock.
What we don’t recommend and why:
Cuisinart Stainless Steel Non-Stick (model CSK-150, $139.99): In the fried chicken test, the Cuisinart skillet was the fastest to heat the oil, and the resulting chicken was evenly cooked and delicious. And, since it’s dishwasher safe, it’s easy to clean. Those were about the only positives though. The small handles made it easy to accidentally burn your hand on the hot pan, it didn’t always heat evenly, and the temperatures on the dial control appeared to be inaccurate.
Presto Grey Ceramic (model 06856, $44.99): The Grey Ceramic skillet made excellent chicken and pancakes, like the Presto Foldaway skillet. However, it wasn’t as easy to clean since the pan doesn’t detach from the base, and it doesn’t fold up for easy storage or have a pour spout. It also performed poorly in our flour test and didn’t cook burgers evenly. Plus, we have concerns about National Presto Industries’ CSR record.
What we look forward to testing
We’re always testing new electric skillets and retesting our top picks to determine the best ones. Here’s what we’re looking forward to testing for potential inclusion in this guide:
Bella Ceramic Titanium (model 14607, $32.09): Featuring a copper ceramic titanium coating on cast aluminum, we’re curious to see how durable and even heating this is. It’s on the smaller side so it might be a good solution if you’re cooking for one.
Nesco (model ES-08, $24.33): This model costs less than half as much as our top budget pick, and at eight inches square (per the manufacturer), it’s quite a bit smaller than any unit we tested. It seems like it could be a good option for college kids living in kitchen-less dorms.
What can I cook in an electric skillet?
Electric skillets are underrated, versatile appliances that can make a broad range of foods. An electric skillet can be used to cook all of your breakfast favorites, including crispy bacon, hash browns, eggs, pancakes, French toast, and more. You can use it to toast bread, which I like to do in bacon grease for added flavor.
You can simmer soups, chilis, and chowders in an electric skillet, but you’ll want to keep the heat low and stir often to avoid burning. And I’ve found it’s fun to use an electric skillet to cook right on the dining room table. For instance, you can make fondue or have a non-traditional hibachi grilling experience.
An electric skillet can also be used for baking cakes, cookies, and pies, making pizza, and cooking one-pot pasta dishes (like lasagna or spaghetti) and casseroles. Basically, anything you can bake, fry, deep fry, sauté, simmer, boil, steam, or slow cook can be made in an electric skillet. When you purchase one, I recommend picking up some cookbooks as well. The two I use are The Sensational Skillet Cookbook and Electric Skillet Cookbook Complete.
When it comes to mixers, KitchenAid stand mixers are in a class of their own. In addition to mixing batters and kneading doughs, these mixers work with a wide array of attachments.
If you own a KitchenAid already, you are only one attachment away from making your own pasta, straining and grinding fruits and vegetables, making sausage, spiralizing vegetables, creating homemade ice cream, grinding your own flour, or turning your mixer into a food processor.
Most of the attachments in our guide work with all KitchenAid mixers. The Pasta Extruder Attachment is the only accessory on our list that doesn’t fit every model.
We pored over the expert and user reviews to find out which attachments are worth buying based on value, long-lasting performance, and versatility. We chose the KitchenAid attachments for our guide after assessing the most common positive and negative attributes of the most popular accessories available.
Pros: Built to last, easy to use when you follow the directions
Cons: Takes a little practice to get the pasta just right
If you have ever had fresh pasta, you know the pre-packaged dry stuff doesn’t compare. With the KitchenAid 3-Piece Pasta Roller & Cutter Attachment Set, you turn your KitchenAid stand mixer into a one-stop pasta shop. This set comes with a pasta roller that rolls six-inch sheets of pasta to eight different thicknesses, a fettuccine cutter, a spaghetti cutter, and a cleaning brush. All of the pieces are made in Italy.
How does it work? First, you prepare the dough using the mixer, then you flatten the dough and feed it into the rollers on the 2-speed setting. This will knead it. You repeat the rolling process until the dough is smooth and pliable. You slowly decrease the thickness of the dough until it is at your desired thickness. Then, to make the noodles, you either feed it through the spaghetti cutter or the fettuccine cutter.
It took me some practice to get the dough just right to feed it through the rollers, but once I got the hang of it, it was easy and fun. I’m impressed with how durable the pieces are. They feel heavy duty, and I haven’t had any issues with them in the two years I’ve had them.
I also appreciate that the attachment provides an excellent rolling and cutting speed, and the attachments are easy to switch out.
The grinder comes with fine and coarse plates for making fresh hamburger, processing vegetables for salsa, and grinding your own cheese. These accessories work with any KitchenAid stand mixer, and if you want to make sausage, we recommend adding the Sausage Stuffer Kit Attachment to your order.
Fine Spiralizer Blade for sweet potatoes, beets, and zucchini
Medium Spiralizer Blade for sweet potatoes, potatoes, and zucchini
Spiral Slice Blades for Small and Large Cores for zucchini, apples, beets, and pears
Spiral Peeling Blade for potatoes and apples
All of the pieces fit into a simple storage case, and the set comes with a one-year replacement warranty.
The attachment is also backed by a respected manufacturer and made of durable metal so it’s long-lasting. This attachment is useful for peeling potatoes and the quick-change blades make meal preparation simple and fast. While a hand crank spiralizer, typically takes a couple minutes to spiral a zucchini, with this attachment it’s a matter of seconds.
However, a few buyers have noted the device leaves about half an inch of the vegetable at the end, and the thinnest the spirals get is about 3/8-inch thick.
The best KitchenAid attachment for extruding pasta
If you are looking for an easy way to make fusilli, rigatoni, macaroni, bucatini, and several other types of pasta, the KitchenAid Pasta Extruder Attachment is the best attachment for you.
Pros: Sturdy design, intuitive assembly, fun to use
Cons: Expensive, hard to clean
The KitchenAid Pasta Extruder Attachment provides a fun way to make traditional Italian dishes at home. It comes with a combo tool, cleaning brush, six pasta plates, a wrench, pasta ring, and auger and hook. All of the pieces store snugly in the included case.
How does the Extruder differ from the 3-Piece Pasta Roller & Cutter Attachment Set? There are four major ways. First, unlike most other KitchenAid stand mixer attachments, the Extruder only works with certain models. On the Amazon page, you can type in your model number to see if this attachment is compatible with your machine.
Another way they differ is that the Pasta Roller & Cutter is basically only good for making two types of pasta: fettuccine and spaghetti. The Extruder allows for many other options. Also, the Pasta Roller & Cutter requires less effort to use and clean up. However, the Extruder is also more expensive.
A negative is the pasta ring breaks easily. To avoid this, you should skip the dough recipe found in the user manual since it produces a dough that is stiff and could lead to problems. Instead, consider using a recipe like this. Also, do not put too much dough in the attachment at once.
The KitchenAid All Metal Grain Mill Attachment is designed to mill any non-oily, low-moisture grains, such as barley, rice, rye, wheat, millet, buckwheat, oats, and corn. Do not put coffee or peanuts in this attachment because it could damage the grinding mechanism. Before you use the attachment, clean it with a mild detergent to remove any oils used to protect the device from rust. Also, the mill is not dishwasher safe so use the brush that comes with the kit to clean it off or wash by hand if you need to.
The mill can produce cracked to extra fine consistencies. The mill features symbols for the finest grind and the coarsest grind, and there are several notches in between. First, you choose a setting, put the grain in the hopper, and start the mixer at speed 10. If the grind is not precisely to your liking, adjust the knob until you get it as coarse or fine as you want. If the mixer appears to be overheating, turn it off for at least 45 minutes before continuing.
Those who enjoy multigrain bread and cracking grains for porridge will like that this accessory can mill very coarsely. However, be wary of milling massive amounts of grain on the finest setting at high speeds.
Be aware that the mill seems to work best with newer models in the Professional and Artisan series and is geared toward the home baking enthusiast who needs about two or three pounds of flour per week.
The best KitchenAid attachment for food processing
Pros: Streamlined design is easy to clean, durable
Cons: Unlike your standard food processor, it does not mix food together
The KitchenAid Commercial Food Processor Attachment (model KSM2FPA) comes with shredding, julienning, and slicing discs. Plus, the ExactSlice System has a lever that allows you to adjust the thickness of the slicing. It is made out of plastic with metal blades and comes with a one-year replacement warranty.
This attachment does everything a top-quality food processor does, without the need for a new appliance that takes up extra space in your kitchen.
This Commercial Food Processor Attachment is the pricier sibling of the similar KSM1FPA. The main differences between the two is the higher-end KSM2FPA comes with a storage case, commercial-style dicing kit, and currently costs a bit more. If you purchase the KSM1FPA and find you cannot live without the storage case or dicing kit, you can purchase them separately.
Pros: Produces better tasting and more affordable ground meat, easy to clean, works well for sausage making
Cons: There’s a small amount of wasted meat
The KitchenAid Metal Food Grinder Attachment is not the first mixer attachment that can handle meat, but it is the first put out by KitchenAid that is made entirely of metal. This makes it ideal for heavy-duty grinding projects and ensures long-term durability.
The attachment comes with the main housing, a removable tray, a grind screw, the blade, three grinding plates, the collar for securing the plates, a plastic sausage stuffer plate, small and large plastic sausage stuffer tubes, a food pusher, and a cleaning brush.
KitchenAid sent me the grinder to test, and I fell in love with it. I no longer buy ground meat. I do it all myself, and the results are always far superior to what you would buy pre-packaged at the store. I keep my grinder in the freezer so it’s always ready to go when I want ground meat. It’s important to chill the grinder to protect against temperature increases that could lead to bacteria growth while grinding.
One of my favorite creations was half pork jowl bacon/half beef burgers. I also made beer bratwurst for the first time with spectacular results.
And, cleanup was a snap. All of the metal parts should be washed by hand, and I recommend cleaning the grinder immediately after use or rinsing it off at least. Otherwise, bits of meat dry onto it and are hard to remove.
I’ve used this attachment for three years now, and I haven’t seen any degradation in performance.
The best KitchenAid mixers serve as an indispensable tool as you bake cakes, pies, bread, cookies, and other delicious treats. They can knead the toughest dough for long periods of time, and they are versatile enough to make pasta and sausage. We’ve rounded up the five best models in our buying guide.
When selecting a blender for your kitchen, you’re going to want one that’s powerful enough to do whatever job you need, whether it’s creating a simple smoothie or crushing ice. Although blenders all seem to perform the same task, there are a few different types, each with its own unique features: conventional, multi-function, personal, and immersion. These are our favorites.
One of the unsung heroes of this electronic kitchen revolution is the humble food processor. While not as common as electric ranges and microwaves, a food processor is one of those appliances that will leave you wondering how you ever lived without one. Here are the best options.
The nutritional benefits of starting your day with fruits and vegetables are undeniable, but so is the financial hit of being a juice bar regular (if you go five times a week, we’re talking hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars a year). With a juicer, however, you can offset the cost of your healthy habit by squeezing your own greens at home. These are the best juicers on the market.
While I like the concept of making bread entirely from scratch, the lag time is significant between realizing that warm carbs are what’s missing in my life and actually holding a freshly-baked brioche. Many recipes involving yeast require kneading, refrigerating, or babysitting, making spur-of-the-moment bread out of the question. That is, unless, you have a bread machine.
Most bread machines require about 10 minutes of prep time, which is mostly spent measuring ingredients and putting them into a pan. After that’s done, you pick a setting, turn on the machine, and three or four hours later you (ideally) have a warm, golden-brown loaf. But with so many bread machines on the market, how do you choose the right one?
“At a minimum, I’d want a machine with a standard cycle, a whole grain or whole wheat cycle (if you enjoy whole-grain bread) and a dough cycle, which simply mixes and kneads the dough, then keeps it warm as it rises,” said P.J. Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour and author of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.” “After that, you can make pizza crust, cinnamon buns, or any number of yummy treats.”
That’s why I put each bread machine in this guide through a series of tests to see how they handled basic white bread, wheat bread with mix-ins (in this case, sunflower seeds and flax seeds), and gluten-free bread. I also assessed the ease of use, setting options, baking times, noise levels, and special features like pre-programming. You can read a more in-depth explanation of my testing methods here, and a few tips for getting the most out of your bread machine here.
Before I began testing, I spoke to Marsha Perry, the writer behind the popular Bread Machine Diva blog, and P.J. Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour and author of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.” Both have decades of experience testing and adapting bread machine recipes and providing their respective readers with bread machine tips.
On their recommendation, I followed the recipes featured in each bread machine’s guidebook, since they’re calibrated to accommodate unique temperatures, mixing speeds, proofing techniques, and baking times. In future testing rounds, I plan to see how each machine fares using a universal bread machine recipe. I baked, at most, two loaves of bread per day in each machine, waiting several hours between baking sessions to allow the breadmakers to cool completely.
Here are the criteria I looked for during each test:
Bread quality: A bread machine has one job — to make good bread. I tested how each one handled basic white bread, wheat bread with mix-ins (in this case, a combination of sunflower seeds and flax seeds, to see how the machines dispersed mix-ins of different sizes), and, for the machines with a gluten-free setting, gluten-free bread. I used the same ingredients throughout testing, all of which are basic items you’d find at any grocery store.
I dialed the crust setting to “Medium” on each breadmaker. White bread was baked on the “White” setting (sometimes labeled as “Basic,” depending on the machine), wheat bread was baked on the “Whole Wheat” setting, and gluten-free bread was baked on the “Gluten-Free” setting.
Each loaf of bread was then examined for consistency of texture, a golden color throughout, and an even rise; points were docked if the domed top fell. I cut several slices of bread from each loaf to look for air pockets and under or over-baked spots.
Size: Most bread machines take up a lot of counter space, so while it wasn’t a deciding factor, extra consideration was given to more compact options.
Capacity: While every bread machine I tested — aside from the Zojirushi Maestro — was built with a two-pound loaf in mind (aka the size you’d find in a grocery store), I made note of the models that had the ability to bake loaves in three or four different sizes; one pound was the smallest I saw, and 2.5 pounds was the largest.
Noise: Extra noisy machines were dinged, as were ones that “hopped” across the counter during the kneading cycle. The top three picks above all operated at a low hum, and were, as far as I could tell, motionless.
Unique features: I noted setting options (some machines had special cycles for things like jam, yogurt, and pasta dough), especially fast baking times, and special features like pre-programming or auto-dispensers for mix-ins.
The best bread machine overall
This bread machine kneads thoroughly, bakes evenly, and, unlike many of its competitors, turns out standard-sized loaves.
Pros: Produces standard-sized loaves that rise evenly and are a consistent color, a wide variety of settings, ability to customize your own settings, pre-programmable, 1-year warranty
Cons: Expensive, takes up a lot of counter space
The Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus is my top pick for home bakers, thanks to its stellar reliability and variety of settings. After putting nine different machines through three rounds of tests (or two, for machines without gluten-free settings), I found that this was the only one to turn out perfectly domed, uniformly browned, and consistently fluffy bread with evenly distributed mix-ins every time. To check for consistency, I made two more loaves of white bread after those initial tests, and both were slam dunks.
It was also one of the few bread machines to pass the gluten-free test with flying colors, producing bread that was similar in color, size, and texture to your standard white loaf. For her own experiment, the Bread Machine Diva blog’s Marsha Perry — who name-checked the Virtuoso Plus when I asked her for a bread machine recommendation — made one gluten-free loaf using the “Gluten-Free” setting and another using its regular “White” setting, and said the first loaf was markedly better.
The Virtuoso Plus’ custom bread cycles feature is especially helpful for those who have moved beyond the machine’s guidebook recipes. Interestingly, Hamel of King Arthur Flour uses her Zojirushi’s “Jam” cycle to make risotto — a technique that I’m curious to try.
The Virtuoso Plus can be pre-programmed (a feature that worked perfectly and allowed me to wake up to the smell of fresh bread during testing), and the machine’s 5-minute power backup means you won’t automatically lose your bread-in-progress if the power flickers, as Hamel noted.
The Virtuoso Plus also stops kneading when you open the lid, which is useful if you want to add mix-ins to your bread. And if you need to measure those mix-ins, the machine comes with four nested measuring cups, one liquid measuring cup, and a double-ended measuring spoon — add-ons that are unnecessary, but appreciated.
This machine makes two-pound 9-by-5 loaves that are, as I mentioned, about the size and shape of sandwich bread you’d find at the grocery store. Timing-wise, the white and wheat loaves of bread took about 3.5 hours to bake, while the gluten-free loaf was done in 2.5 hours. The clock displays the time your bread will be done, rather than the hours left, which I found helpful when planning my day.
I’ve been using this model at least twice a month in the four months since my initial testing, and find that it still runs smoothly, with no discernable changes in quality of bread, reliability of programming, or noise levels.
All of this being said, the Zojirushi is on the expensive side, so if you’re just trying out bread-making before you fully commit to the hobby, I’d recommend our budget pick. It’s also probably not the best choice if you have limited counter space, as the other machines in this guide are more compact.
The best bread machine on a budget
The Oster Expressbake is a solid starter machine that mixes, kneads, and bakes evenly, and with 13 settings, it’s notably more versatile than competitors within its price range.
Pros: produces bread with an even rise, makes three loaf sizes, affordable, compact, fast baking time, variety of settings, window, pre-programmable, 1-year warranty
Cons: Somewhat noisy, loaf size isn’t quite standard, slightly thicker crusts than our top pick
The Oster Express Bake‘s name refers to the fact that it can turn out a two-pound loaf of bread in less than an hour on its Express Bake setting (our top pick‘s “Rapid” cycle takes about 2.5 hours). While the results are certainly better than your standard grocery store loaf, I found that bread baked on this machine’s namesake setting turned out denser and shorter than loaves made on its Basic cycle (a near-universal bread machine problem, according to experts we spoke to).
But most people don’t choose a bread machine based on its ability to bake two loaves of bread in the time it takes to watch an episode of “The Bachelorette,” and Express Bake results aside, the Oster’s white, wheat, and gluten-free loaves of bread were the best — golden brown and evenly risen with a fine crumb, a smooth, domed top, and evenly distributed mix-ins — out of the five machines in its price bracket that we tested. The only flaws that placed its loaves under the Zojirushi’s in testing were their unconventional shape (shorter in length and taller in height, with bread slices whose tops stick out slightly from your average toaster) and thicker crusts.
The Oster was also a bit more finicky in terms of exact measurements; when I relied on measuring cups instead of a kitchen scale, my loaves turned out flatter on top — a problem I didn’t have with our top pick. And while this machine’s gluten-free bread was solid, it was a bit less soft than the Zojirushi’s.
I also tested the Express Bake’s predecessor and found that loaves baked in the original turned out slightly darker on the sides and paler on top. The brand swapped the Express Bake’s Bagel Dough setting for Pasta, which isn’t necessarily an improvement but does seem more practical, given the complicated process of making bagels from scratch.
Like the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus, the Oster Express Bake comes with a liquid measuring cup and a double-sided measuring spoon (but no set of nested dry measuring cups). It’s less bulky than our top pick, although perhaps not ideal if kitchen space is tight (if compactness is a priority, check out the Zojirushi Maestro, below). It can be pre-programmed and will beep instantly after finishing its bread cycle before switching to the warm mode for 60 minutes, then beeping again and automatically shutting off.
The best compact bread machine
The Zojirushi Maestro is specifically calibrated to bake excellent one-pound loaves of bread, making it a solid choice for one or two-person households.
Pros: Produces an even bake, perfect for small households, variety of settings, ability to customize cycles, pre-programmable, compact, 1-year warranty
Cons: Loaves are oddly-shaped, bread can be difficult to remove from pan
Since I’m typically baking for one or two people, most standard two-pound loaves of bread go stale before I can finish them. (In other words, I’ve made a lot of croutons lately.) Typically, bread machines offer 1.5-pound loaves as their smallest option, and those that do begin at one pound aren’t necessarily calibrated to excel at loaves that small. When I tried making a one-pound loaf in Cuisinart’s Compact Automatic Breadmaker, for example, the results were dense, with a thicker crust than I would have liked.
Zojirushi’s Maestro, however, is designed with small households in mind, and during my tests, it consistently turned out solid one-pound loaves that ticked every box on my bread checklist: golden-brown color, domed top, fine crumb, evenly risen, and evenly-distributed mix-ins. That being said, the Maestro’s pan is aligned vertically, meaning its loaves are oddly-shaped — even cube-like – and the bread is a bit more difficult to pry from inside.
I appreciate the fact that Zojirushi didn’t scale down its flagship breadmaker’s features just to make smaller loaves; the Maestro can be pre-programmed in advance and includes a 5-minute power backup (as mentioned in our Virtuoso review, this can really save your loaf in the event your power flickers).
The Maestro’s narrow dimensions make it easy to store in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. It’s also the only bread machine I tested that features a convenient top handle, making it easy to transport. Its interior top handle, however, isn’t as solidly constructed; I yanked it off the first time I pulled the pan from the machine (although it popped back in easily).
What else we tested
What else we recommend and why
Breville Custom Loaf ($299.95): This was a close second to the Zojirushi, but my first attempt at white bread came out slightly darker at the sides than on top, and the gluten-free bread wasn’t quite as fluffy as our top pick’s. The Breville Custom Loaf has 13 automatic settings, nine customizable settings, and two features we didn’t find in any other machine: a paddle that collapses after kneading, so there’s no paddle-sized hole when you pull the baked bread from the pan; and a fruit and nut dispenser that will automatically add any mix-ins at the appropriate time in the bread cycle. I’d recommend this machine for confident bakers who are interested in programming their own bread cycles to match go-to recipes.
Cru X GG Bred ($169.95): A collaboration between Cru and Ghetto Gastro, a collective of chefs who use food to empower communities and advance social justice, the Bred was definitely the boldest, sleekest, and most compact out of all the machines we tested. And, with 15 settings, it was also one of the most versatile. Since the bread it produced was on par with the significantly cheaper Oster Express Bake, it didn’t make the cut, but perhaps you’re willing to pay a little extra for an appliance that’s attractive enough to leave out on the counter.
What we don’t recommend and why
Oster Express Bake (older model, $68): While the previous iteration of the Oster Express Bake is still available online, we found that the newer version performs better in terms of producing evenly-baked bread. And, importantly, the latest Express Bake includes a gluten-free setting – a feature commenters on retail sites had been asking for.
Cuisinart Convection Breadmaker ($154.95): With 16 settings, this is one of the most versatile machines I tested. However, while my white and wheat loaves were top-notch, both of my attempts at gluten-free bread resulted in collapsed domes.
Cuisinart Compact Automatic Breadmaker ($129.95): Again, my gluten-free bread didn’t rise as I had hoped, and the machine’s white and wheat loaves of bread weren’t quite as professional-looking as those from the latest version of the Oster Express Bake.
Most breadmakers come with a few recipes, and they’re often tucked away in the back of a guidebook. These are crucial since they’re calibrated to work well with that particular machine’s features and specifications. “Once you’ve made some of those and understand how the machine works — how much flour it can handle, how long each rise cycle and bake cycle are — you can start to adapt any of your own favorite yeast bread recipes to bake in the machine,” P.J. Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour, said.
Have fun with the dough cycle
By taking care of the mixing and kneading, it allows you to start a little closer to the finish line if you’re making other yeast-based baked goods. The Bread Machine Diva’s Marsha Perry recommends it for pizzas and dinner rolls.
Experiment with settings
But master the basics first. “If your machine is programmable — that is, you can program in your own mixing kneading, rising, and baking times — you’re golden,” Hamel said. “Your machine is then simply a mini oven, ready to bake macaroni and cheese, apple crisp, bread pudding, cheesecake — even soup, stew, or lasagna! Once you get to know your machine, and if it has that ‘homemade menu’ capability — it becomes so much more than a machine that bakes bread.”
Use good ingredients
“Cheap ingredients yield a crummy (rather than crumb-y) final product. Flour and yeast quality are super-important,” said Hamel. “You don’t have to use bread flour in your bread machine, so long as you use flour with a protein content higher than 11.5% or so.” All of my bread were made with King Arthur bread flour and gluten-free flour (both of which I purchased before reaching out to PJ) and Whole Foods 365 whole wheat flour.
Bread machine baking is all about precision, and measuring your ingredients by weight will clear up any confusion as to whether or not that tightly-packed cup of flour is more like a cup and a half.
Is bread from a bread machine different from oven-baked bread?
Yes. In terms of appearance, most loaves made in a bread machine will have a hole in the bottom where the mixing paddle was. Taste-wise, bread machine bread is pretty universally light and fluffy.
“You won’t be making crusty artisan bread in your bread machine (though you can certainly make the dough for them on the machine’s dough cycle),” Hamel said. “Bread machine bread may taste a bit yeasty, but beyond that, it’s up to you to add flavor with spices, herbs, dried fruit, and nuts. Most bread machines won’t deliver loaves with the rich, nuanced flavor of an artisan loaf, since that flavor comes from a series of long rises, some of which may be in the refrigerator. Bread machines simply don’t have that capability.”
How long does homemade bread last?
If kept at room temperature, homemade bread will be noticeably stale by day three. If you’re pretty sure you’re not going to finish an entire loaf in that amount of time, you can always wrap a portion tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer.
How do I store homemade bread?
If you’re storing homemade bread for a day or two, plastic or foil will help lock in moisture. Since direct sunlight can cause bread to overheat, it’s best stored in a cool, dry place like a bread box or cupboard.
Any tips for keeping homemade bread fresh?
There is one slicing technique that can help extend the life of your bread. As Hamel wrote on the King Arthur blog, “If you start slicing at one end, you’ll always be dealing with an open-end ‘leaking’ moisture. But if you slice the loaf in half down the middle, cut a slice from one of the halves, then press the two halves back together before wrapping, no open surface will be exposed — which means less chance of moisture evaporating.”
In the immortal words of the 1927 song, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” Considering that the average American eats more than 23 pounds of ice cream per year, according to the International Dairy Foods Association, it’s a sentiment that just about all of us agree with.
Although it’s easy to get a scoop at your local ice cream shop, pick up a pint at the supermarket, or even order your favorite flavors online, there’s something undeniably special about ice cream you make yourself. That’s why we tested and did the research to find the best ice cream makers you can buy, from hand-crank ice and rock salt options to programmable self-refrigerating machines (you can read more about the different types of ice cream makers here).
While most frozen-bowl ice cream makers only make a quart or so per batch, the Cuisinart ICE-30 Pure Indulgence produces up to two quarts of sweet, sweet goodness.
Pros: Large batch, easy to use and clean
Cons: Loud, some complaints about icy or not-quite-frozen results
If you make ice cream for the family — or let’s be honest, if you just want a really, really big bowl of ice cream for yourself — you can’t go wrong with the Cuisinart ICE-30 Pure Indulgence. This baby cranks out up to two quarts of ice cream per batch, so you’ll have enough to share, although you might not want to.
This is a frozen-bowl machine, so you’ll have to remember to freeze the metal bowl for at least 12 hours before using it, but it’s really better to freeze the bowl for a full day. Go ahead and store the bowl in your freezer when not in use if you plan on using the ice cream maker frequently.
Once your bowl is frozen and your ingredients added, the machine takes over for you. Churning is automatic, and ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet is ready in around half an hour. That’s not so long to wait for delicious, creamy goodness.
Some Amazon shoppers have complained about the results being too icy or not-entirely-frozen, and the loudness of the machine (to be fair, that’s a fairly common complaint about nearly all automatic ice cream makers). If you find the ice cream to be a bit liquidy, pop it in the freezer for a bit to firm it up.
If you want ice cream and lots of it, but you aren’t interested in spending a lot of money or taking up a lot of storage space, and you don’t mind needing to keep rock salt on hand, you’ll love the Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Automatic Ice Cream Maker.
There’s no need to pre-chill the bowl with this machine. It uses rock salt and ice, which you add to the outer container, to freeze the ingredients. Those go in an inner bowl, where a paddle automatically churns the batter until it’s frozen. You can produce delicious and creamy ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and gelato with this machine in roughly 45 minutes.
Pros: No need for electricity, quick results, easy to use, fun for kids
Cons: Bowl must be frozen before use, small batches of ice cream, expensive for what it is
No electricity, no rock salt, and no lengthy churning. Just pour your ice cream batter onto the pre-frozen surface of the Chef’n Sweet Spot Instant Ice Cream Maker, mix with the included spoon, and in just a few minutes, you’ll be enjoying your frozen dessert.
Basically, this is a quick-freeze shallow metal bowl, so the Chef’n Sweet Spot Instant Ice Cream Maker is super-easy to use. You do have to plan in advance because the bowl must be frozen at least overnight, but once it’s frozen, you should be able to mix up a couple of batches of fresh ice cream before you need to refreeze the bowl.
You can make up to three cups of ice cream in a 30-minute session or use the device for adding mix-ins to softened commercial ice cream.
Pros: No need to freeze the bowl, large batches, countdown timer
Cons: Expensive, takes up storage space, some complaints of machine not working
Compressor ice cream makers are the top of the line when it comes to homemade ice cream. These machines house their own freezer mechanism, so there’s no need for you to pre-freeze a bowl, use rock salt, mix the batter by hand, or do any other hard work, other than deciding which delicious ice cream, gelato, or sorbet recipe you want to make.
The Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream Maker is a state-of-the-art unit. The LED screen shows you exactly how many minutes are left until ice cream time, and it even has a 10-minute “keep cool” function if you won’t be able to get to your dessert right away (like that’s ever going to happen).
You can make up to 1.5 quarts of frozen dessert per session, and if you need more, go ahead and make it. There’s no need to wait for a bowl to chill in the freezer before making your next batch.
Pros: produces high-quality ice cream, wide range of automatic settings, pre-cooling feature, keeps your ice cream frozen up to three hours
Cons: Expensive, bulky, parts need to be hand-washed
In my testing, Breville’s Smart Scoop produced the creamiest ice cream with the texture closest to what you’d find in a high-end scoop shop: rich, easy to serve, and free of ice crystals.
What really sets this compressor machine apart is its vast range of automatic options, which, for a certain type of person — one who approaches new hobbies with equally high levels of enthusiasm and unearned confidence — can inspire hours-long deep-dives into gianduja gelato recipes and midnight orders of ube powder and frozen passionfruit pulp.
To start, it has 12 hardness settings, from super-soft sorbet to dense ice cream, and a unique “cool down” function that brings the Smart Scoop to the perfect temperature before you even add your ice cream base. I found the buttons to be intuitive, and getting started took a matter of seconds. I’d feel confident letting a kid use it.
The machine beeps and flashes the words “add mix-ins” across its easy-to-read LCD screen when it’s time to do just that, and your chocolate chips or chopped strawberries can be tossed in easily through the flip-back lid.
Once the Smart Scoop senses that your dessert has reached its perfect consistency, it’ll stop churning and play a little ice cream truck song to let you know it’s ready. And, if you happen to miss the machine’s serenade it will automatically enter “keep cool” mode, meaning your frozen treat will stay at a constant temperature for the next three hours. Aside from these sound effects, which can be turned off, the machine operates at a quiet hum.
I should note that while it turned out smooth, perfectly-churned ice cream, I had to run my Smart Scoop on the hardest setting more than once to get there. The whole process took about an hour (45 minutes to complete the initial cycle, plus an additional 15) using David Lebovitz’s recipe for chocolate ice cream, although the results were worth the wait. With most other machines, you have to freeze your ice cream before you can enjoy it, but the batches I made in the Smart Scoop were ready to eat immediately.
Cleanup is relatively easy, although I did find that you need to use a little force to detach the (somewhat sharp-edged) metal bucket from the base. The parts aren’t dishwasher safe, except for the paddle, which should only be placed on the top rack. This is a bulky machine — about 15 by 11 inches and 30 pounds — which is something to keep in mind if you have a small kitchen.
Time to talk about the price. At $500, the Breville Smart Scoop is certainly a splurge. But let’s do some ice cream math. A pint of Haagen Dazs costs about $5. Assuming a family of four buys one pint per week (a pretty conservative estimate), the machine will just about pay for itself in two years. (I say “just about” because I’m not factoring in the price of the milk, cream, and egg yolks you need to make ice cream from scratch.) And if that family prefers a premium brand like Jeni’s or Ample Hills, the Smart Scoop will pay for itself in half that time. So, if you’re serious about making ice cream and want a high-quality, easy-to-use machine that lends itself to all kinds of frozen dessert experimentation, it’s a solid investment. — Caitlin Petreycik, Home and Kitchen Editor
The best frozen dessert maker
If you’re trying to eat healthier or avoid dairy, you’ll love the way the Yonanas Frozen Dessert Maker turns bananas and other fruit into soft-serve “ice cream” without the fat and added sugar.
Pros: Great for those with lactose intolerance, healthy “ice cream” substitute, very easy to use
Cons: Noisy, fruit sticks inside the chute
Yes, it has a silly name, and yes, technically it’s not ice cream. But why nitpick when the results taste so good? With the Yonanas Frozen Dessert Maker, your overripe bananas, mangoes, berries, or just about any other fruit are quickly converted into creamy, smooth soft-serve desserts.
The process is simple, but your fruit does need to be frozen and slightly thawed before using the machine. You then push the fruit into the chute, turn on the spinning blade, and push down on the plunger. Voilà, you’ve got a bowlful of nature’s goodness.
There are some shopper complaints. The device is noisy, and smushed fruit tends to stick inside the chute, meaning you’ll need to disassemble the device and scoop it out with a spoon. But those seem small annoyances compared to the joy of a delicious, healthy dessert.
What we’re testing next
For our next update, we’re looking forward to trying out the models below.
Whynter ICM 15LS Automatic Ice Cream Maker($219.43): One of the more affordable compressor machines on the market, Whynter’s ICM 15LS may not have as many bells and whistles as the Breville Smart Scoop, but fans praise its smooth ice cream and fast cycle.
Lello 4080 Lusso Mussino ($735.13): This machine churns ice cream incredibly fast, which means there’s less time for ice crystals to form, but we’re curious to see if it’s a worthy investment for those who plan to make ice cream often.
Cuisinart ICE-70 ($149.95): A newer version of our current top pick, Cuisinart’s ICE-30, the ICE-70 promises a faster run time and more options for customization.
What type of ice cream maker should I get?
Before you start shopping, here’s a rundown of the three main types on the market. Consider your budget, how frequently you plan on making ice cream, the amount of real estate in your freezer, and the size of the crowd you’re planning to feed before making a decision.
Ice and rock salt
The most traditional — and, occasionally, the most physically taxing — ice cream makers, these machines feature an inner metal container surrounded by ice and rock salt in an outer bucket. (The rock salt lowers the temperature so that the ice cream mixture in the container will freeze; ice alone isn’t cold enough.) Some models operate by hand-crank — a feature that either provides old-timey fun or a workout that goes against the very nature of ice cream, depending on how you look at it — but most are powered by electric motors these days. It’s important to note that many motorized models can’t be opened to add mix-ins while churning.
If you plan on making ice cream once or twice a week, a machine with a canister that you freeze is an affordable option. These types of ice cream makers do require a degree of advanced planning, though; the canister, which is filled with liquid coolant, typically needs to be placed in the freezer up to 24 hours in advance.
A pro tip: turn the machine on and get the paddle moving before you pour in the ice cream base. The motion will prevent the mixture from immediately freezing against the sides of the canister.
Also called compressors, these self-refrigerating machines are the easiest to use. They often require nothing more than pouring in your ice cream mixture, flipping a switch, and waiting 30 to 40 minutes. Unfortunately, that kind of convenience comes with a high price tag, and compressor models are often noisier and bulkier than their pre-frozen and bucket-style counterparts. Still, they’re a solid investment if you’re serious about frozen desserts.
Does homemade ice cream really taste the same as store-bought?
Yes and no. You may find that the stuff you make at home freezes harder than store-bought ice cream. That’s because commercial-grade ice cream makers are powerful enough to run at super-high speeds, meaning they can whip extra air (called overrun) into ice cream in a way that home machines just can’t.
Plus, your typical supermarket pint often comes with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients that make it easier to scoop. That being said, many people prefer the denser, richer texture of homemade ice cream — to retain a little softness, just scoop it straight from the machine or let it rest on the counter for 10 minutes prior to serving.
Tips for making the best ice cream at home
If you want delicious ice cream, you need to start with good ingredients. Go for real vanilla bean, quality mix-ins, and fresh cream. All ingredients should be as fresh as possible. If you’re shopping for groceries online, here are the best places we’ve tested and recommend.
Your ingredients should all be cold before pouring them into the ice cream maker. Once you’ve added your ingredients to the ice cream maker’s bowl, start the churning cycle right away. This helps prevent ice crystals or graininess.
While you can cut back calories by using low-fat milk, you won’t achieve the same creamy results, or the wonderful “mouth feel” that makes ice cream so good.
If you’re adding chocolate chips, nuts, or other solid mix-ins, fold them in near the end of the churning cycle. Chop any mix-ins into small pieces.
Finally, don’t refreeze partially melted ice cream because doing so creates ice crystals.
It did not warp at high roasting temperatures, and was the easiest to use.
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.
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 Flour.
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.
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.
The best baking sheet for roasting
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.
Great Jones Holy Sheet: 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.
What we’re testing next
USA Pan Warp-Resistant Nonstick Cookie Sheet ($17.50): We plan on testing more textured options for future updates, and are curious to try a textured cookie sheet. This one has a PTFE, PFOA, and BPA-free silicone based nonstick coating.
Farberware Insulated Nonstick Cookie Sheet ($12.99-$14.99): This nonstick Farberware cookie sheet is light gray, and we want to compare it to the gold cookie sheets we tested to see if its lighter color slows the bake time.
What are the standard baking sheet sizes?
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.
Toaster ovens are the unsung heroes of kitchen appliances. If your living situation doesn’t allow for a standard oven, a toaster oven allows you to bake, roast, and make anything else you might cook in a regular oven, only on a smaller scale.
During the holidays when a big turkey is hogging the oven, you can prepare your sides in the toaster oven. And, in the summer, you can cook meals efficiently without heating up your home.
Many convection toaster ovens are now marketed as air fryers. You should know that “convection cooking” and “air frying” are the same thing. Both methods brown your food by using heat and a fan. So, if you see that a toaster oven is an “air fryer,” know that it also does convection cooking and vice versa. We use both terms in our guide.
So, what’s the difference between the two? Convection toaster ovens give you the option of baking or broiling, while air fryers tend to only have one function: convection baking. Also, the typical toaster oven looks like a miniature standard oven with a window, while most air fryers have a small drawer that you put your food in.
For this guide, I roasted, toasted, air fried, and baked 32 pounds of chicken, eight dozen chocolate chip cookies, eight pizzas, and four loaves of bread in eight toaster ovens.
I have reviewed kitchen appliances for four years and have developed many objective tests to determine which models are best for different needs and budgets. You can find details about how I test toaster ovens here.
I tested all of the toaster ovens in this guide. I put each through many objective tests, and during the testing period, my traditional oven sat idle as I relied exclusively on the toaster ovens. When testing toaster ovens, the most important factors to consider are ease of use, temperature accuracy and consistency, and how quickly it preheats.
Here are the main attributes we look for and how we test them:
Ease of use: I evaluate ease of use several ways. First, I look at how intuitive the functions are. I was able to get all but the Anova up and running without the use of instructions. I see how easy it is to clean each, if there’s a removable crumb tray, if there are a few rack positions for different types of cooking, and if the timer allows you to run the unit for extended periods. I also looked for helpful functions, such as smart connectivity, convection/air fry cooking, and steam.
Temperature variance: When you set a toaster oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, you want it to reach that temperature and stay there. To assess this, I set each unit to 350 degrees and took digital readings of the temperature every 15 minutes for two hours. Then, I looked at the average and range of the temperatures. All of the models I tested averaged less than 350 degrees. The median was about 336 degrees, and the median range was 9.7 degrees.
Preheating: One of the main benefits of a toaster oven is that it preheats faster than a standard oven, and thus, you can enjoy your meal faster. I timed how quickly each oven reached 350 and 425 degrees, repeating each test several times, to see which models preheated fastest. Most models reached 350 in under six minutes, and half of the units had trouble even achieving a reading of 425 degrees.
Cooking performance: I put each toaster oven through four cooking tests:
Toasting bread: I evaluated how many slices of Hillbilly Old Fashion Bread each model held. Then, I set the controls to toast the bread to a medium shade. I looked at how long and how evenly each toasted.
Frozen Pizza: In addition to evaluating how large of a pizza each unit can fit, I timed how long it took to bake the pizza and how even it turned out. I used Kirkland Signature Pepperoni Pizza in all but two of the toaster ovens. The Hamilton Beach and Panasonic models couldn’t fit the 10.5-inch pizza so I used Totino’s Party Pizzas in those models instead.
Whole chicken: I cooked a whole chicken (between 3.5 and 4.5 pounds) according to the recipe in Toaster Oven Takeover. I used the Meater Block to monitor the internal temperature and removed the chicken once it hit 165 degrees. I timed how long it took to cook the chicken, how evenly it was cooked, and how different parts of the chicken tasted.
Cookies: I baked gluten-free chocolate chip cookies using a homemade dough and evaluated how quickly and evenly they cooked.
Pros: Has convection cooking/air frying, large enough to fit a 12-inch pizza, provides consistent heat, cooked pizza, chicken, and cookies quickly and evenly
Cons: Temperature settings appear to be inaccurate, did not toast evenly
The Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven (Model TOA-65) had the best overall performance in our objective tests. It took less than five minutes to set up and features an easy-to-read backlit digital display. You navigate through the many different functions by turning a knob and pressing it to select the function and adjust the time and temp.
The Cuisinart toaster oven was one of the best models for making pizza, chicken, and cookies. It heated a frozen pizza in under six minutes, and the cheese, crust, and pepperoni were evenly cooked. Using the convection cooking function, the chicken reached a safe internal temperature in 52 minutes, and the skin was a beautiful golden brown and tasted outstanding. The meat was moist and flavorful. And, the cookies were evenly cooked in about 12 minutes, which was significantly faster than the average, 13 minutes and 45 seconds.
When we ran the Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven for two hours at 350 degrees, we noticed the temperature only varied by four degrees. However, the display said it was preheated when our thermometer read 270. It continued to heat up and reached 350 after eight minutes. The average temperature during the test was 314, well below 350.
The Cuisinart toaster oven fell short of perfection in two other categories. We used the presets to toast six slices of bread, but after a blazing fast toasting speed of less than three minutes, the top was lighter than the medium shading we set it to. And, the bottom was uneven with the center almost burnt and the edges barely toasted. If I were to use this toaster oven for regular toasting, I’d likely up the time a little bit and flip the bread halfway through.
Lastly, by our measurements, the Cuisinart was slower than average to preheat to 350. However, it was quick to get to 425, which made it ideal for frozen pizza.
Pros: Fast preheating, accurate temperature settings, even cooking, features air frying/convection cooking, timer has stay-on function
Cons: Uneven toasting, was among slowest to roast a chicken
Despite costing less than a third of the price of the other models in our guide, the Black+Decker Crisp ‘N Bake Air Fry Toaster Oven (Model TO3217SS) held its own in our tests. We like that it has intuitive, no-nonsense analog knob controls, a roomy interior, and convection cooking/air frying. Another nice touch is the “stay on” option on the timer, which makes it so you don’t have to keep adding more time during longer cooks.
The Black+Decker toaster oven appeared to have the most accurate thermostat. At 347 degrees, it came closest to reaching a 350-degree average during our two-hour test. However, the temperature varied by 13 degrees, which put it in the middle of the pack.
It was consistently one of the fastest to preheat. The oven reached 350 degrees in under four minutes, and getting to 425 only took about a minute more.
The Black+Decker Crisp ‘N Bake Air Fry Toaster Oven excelled at making cookies and frozen pizza. Each batch took about 14 minutes to bake, which was just fair, but the results were even and delicious. The story was the same with frozen pizza: the cooking time was about average, but the pizza was excellent. The chicken was also great: flavorful, juicy, and evenly cooked. However, it took nearly an hour and a half to finish, which made it one of the slowest models.
The Black+Decker oven’s toasting was subpar. It toasted six slices of bread in three-and-a-half minutes, which was about average, but the results weren’t very even. The top of the toast was close to consistent, but it was noticeably less done near the front, and the bottom was much less toasted than the top.
The best large-capacity toaster oven
The Breville Smart Oven is large enough to fit nine slices of toast, a dozen cookies, or a 12-inch pizza making it ideal for larger families or if you just want to use it in place of your standard oven.
Pros: Can fit nine slices of toast and a 12-inch pizza, provides consistent and even heat, features convection cooking/air frying, attractive backlit digital display with several functions and sub-functions
Cons: Temperature settings were consistently higher than what we measured, slow to preheat
Along with our best combination pick below, the Breville Smart Oven (Model BOV800XL) was one of two models that could toast nine slices of bread at once, and it did a good job of it. Plus, it can hold a 12.5-inch pizza. This is impressive considering the exterior dimensions aren’t inordinately large.
Like our top pick, the Breville Smart Oven has a backlit digital display with separate knobs for quickly adjusting the function, temperature, and time. It also has sub-functions that adjust the cooking time and heat based on the size of the pizza you are baking or the slices of toast you’re toasting. Plus, the Smart Oven features convection cooking/air frying.
The oven excelled at chicken and cookies. It took a little more than an hour to roast a whole chicken, and it was the best tasting and most evenly cooked of all the birds in our tests. We baked a dozen cookies at once in the roomy Breville Smart Oven using the Cookie function, which utilized 350-degree convection cooking. The cookies came out evenly baked in 14 minutes, which was average.
The oven also cooked pizza evenly, but it took 17 minutes, which was longer than all but one of the models. It was also one of the slowest ovens to preheat. And, we weren’t able to get it to preheat to 425 degrees. It maxed out at 387. This was a consistent problem. In our temperature variance test, we measured an average temp of 292 despite setting the controls to 350. Because of this, we’d recommend utilizing an oven thermometer to find your target temperature setting.
On the plus side, the Breville toaster oven held its temperature consistently, only wavering by four degrees over the course of two hours.
The best combination toaster oven
In addition to baking, toasting, and air frying, the Anova Precision Oven offers sous vide cooking, and you can control it and monitor the internal temperature of your food using your phone.
Pros: Features sous vide and air fryer/convection cooking, smart WiFi connectivity via app, comes with probe thermometer that connects to oven, does a good job of roasting
Cons: Slow to preheat, bake, and toast, temperature didn’t stay consistent during our test
The Anova Precision Oven is the first toaster oven that offers sous vide, in addition to air frying/convection cooking. And, while most sous vide devices require vacuum sealing, the Precision Oven cooks your food without the need for additional packaging.
I cooked several steaks and pork ribs using the sous vide function and found it worked just as well, if not better, than an immersion circulator. I especially liked that the oven comes with a probe thermometer that plugs into the unit so I could monitor the internal temperature of the meat while it cooked, which you can’t do with vacuum-sealed meat in an immersion circulator
The touch buttons on the handle of the oven aren’t as responsive as I would like, and adjusting the temp one degree at a time using the up and down buttons is a hassle. So, I mainly used the Anova Oven app (available for iOS and Android), which allows you to key in your preferred temp and time. Or, you can automate the cooking process. The app features hundreds of recipes. One time, I used the app to preheat the oven as I waited in line at the store to pay for a frozen pizza so I could just pop it in when I got home.
This feature is particularly important since the Anova Culinary Precision Oven was one of the slowest to preheat. It takes about 10 minutes to heat to 350 degrees and 17 minutes to reach 425.
Also, while it has a relatively accurate setpoint, the temperature varied by 16 degrees during our two-hour test, which was more than most models.
The Anova Precision Oven also took a long time to toast. We used the toast preset, which involved a little steam to keep the bread from drying out. However, the process took longer than any of the other models, and the toast was still underdone.
It did much better on the other cooking tasks. The Anova oven fits a dozen cookies, and they baked quickly and evenly. We had the same experience with pizza: fast and even cooking. But, the oven really excelled at roasting a whole chicken. It completed the task in under an hour. The skin was crispy and flavorful, and the meat was moist and delicious. I particularly liked that the thermometer let me monitor the internal temperature of the chicken in the app.
What else we tested
We tested eight toaster ovens for this guide. These are the ones that missed the cut.
What else we recommend and why:
Hamilton Beach Countertop (Model 31401): There are two main reasons why you should consider the Hamilton Beach toaster oven. First, at $50, it’s the cheapest model we recommend. Second, it was one of the best at quickly preheating. Plus, it was in the middle of the pack in our toasting, cookie, and temperature variance tests. However, there are a few negatives. The oven is small, only fitting four slices of bread. It also took the longest to cook pizza and chicken.
Dash Chef Series 7-in-1 (Model DAFT2350GBGT01): There’s a lot to like about the Dash toaster oven, but it just wasn’t the best in any category. It has convection cooking/air frying and did an outstanding job baking cookies and pizza. The Dash oven was also one of the fastest to roast a chicken and one of the most even toasters. Yet, it took a long time to toast, parts of the chicken skin were burnt, the unit took longer than most to preheat, and it had the largest variance in temperature during our tests.
Emeril Lagasse Power AirFryer 360 (Model S∙AFO-001): Though we prefer to roast our chicken on a roasting pan, we like that this toaster oven from superstar chef Emeril Lagasse comes with a rotisserie spit. It also has an easy-to-use knob control system with backlit digital display. The Power AirFryer 360 preheated quickly and did a good job with chicken, pizza, and cookies, but it took a long time to toast and was uneven. It also did the worst in our temp variance test.
What we don’t recommend and why:
Panasonic FlashXpress Compact (Model NB-G110P): We really wanted to like this attractive toaster oven because it looks like something you might find in a child’s kitchen playset. It did the best job toasting and maintaining a consistent temperature. However, it was a pain to use. There are only eight temperature settings, and the timer only goes to 25 minutes. If you want to cook anything longer, you have to keep resetting the timer. Despite its small size, it took a long time to preheat. And, it didn’t do well making cookies, pizza, or chicken.
What we’re testing next
We’re always testing new toaster ovens and retesting our top picks to determine the best ones. Here’s what we’re looking forward to testing for potential inclusion in this guide:
Chefman Toast-Air (Model RJ50-SS-T – $135.97): We’ve tested several Chefman kitchen appliances and have found the manufacturer makes quality products at an affordable price. We like that this features several preset functions and comes with two dehydrator racks, an air fry basket, baking/drip pan, and more.
Calphalon Quartz Heat Countertop ($199.99): I tested this years ago but wasn’t able to put it through our current testing methodology. I’m hoping to give it another try since it performed well, has an attractive appearance, and the digital display has an impressive array of functions and precise presets.
Oster (Model TSSTTVMNDG-SHP-2 – $91.11): We think the Oster Toaster Oven has a chance to contend for the best budget model. It has convection cooking/air frying, an attractive display, easy to read and adjust buttons, and a large capacity.
What are the benefits of using a toaster oven over a standard oven?
Roxanne Wyss, co-author of the toaster oven cookbook Toaster Oven Takeover, gives several reasons, including that it’s a green alternative. “When compared to a standard oven, the toaster oven preheats quickly,” said Wyss. “This means it is convenient to use for quick, everyday meals. It also means that it is a ‘green choice’ as there is no big oven to heat up and the toaster oven will not put a strain on the AC on a hot summer day.”
“Newer toaster ovens on the market, with electronic controls and even heat, brown food beautifully and cook quickly,” added Wyss. “You can place a toaster oven where it is convenient to use, which means at countertop height so no bending or lifting. It also means you can place the toaster oven in the family room or on the bar so it is easy to use for appetizers and snacks when friends gather.”
Additionally, since I started testing toaster ovens more than a month ago, I have not touched my standard oven. Every meal I’ve wanted to make for my family of four, I’ve been able to make in a toaster oven.
Should you get a toaster or a toaster oven?
Wyss believes toaster ovens are superior to toasters in several ways. “The versatility of the toaster oven outshines the regular toaster,” said Wyss. “You can toast a wide variety of bread sizes and often toast the number of slices you need for a larger family. Once toasted, you can top the toast with sandwich fixings or appetizer spreads so hot sandwiches or crostini are ready to serve in minutes. The toaster oven easily toasts English muffins, bagels, rolls, and a wide range of specialty rolls, pastries and buns.”
As with the standard oven, I found my toaster gathered dust while I was testing toaster ovens. The single-purpose toaster just didn’t seem worth the counter space. And, when making BLTs, it was nice to be able to toast six or more slices of bread at once.
However, there are a few key ways in which a toaster is often superior. First, most of the toaster ovens I tested didn’t toast as evenly or as quickly as most toasters. Second, toasters tend to cost much less than toaster ovens. Lastly, they take up less countertop space.
What should you look for when shopping for a toaster oven?
Kathy Moore pointed to several tips covered in the Toaster Oven Takeover cookbook she co-authored. “Think about what you want to prepare,” said Moore. “Do you want to cook a pizza or do you know you want to broil steaks? Do you foresee casseroles or toasted sandwiches? What pans fit into the oven? If you want to cook pizza, does your 12-inch pizza pan fit? What about a 9 by 12-inch rectangle pan? Some toaster ovens accommodate larger pans while others do not. Select one that accommodates the pans you own and for the food you would like to prepare.”
She also suggests thinking about where you will put the toaster oven. “Does it fit under your upper cabinets with room to spare or is it too wide to sit securely on a cart?” added Moore. “Does the door open conveniently for you?” To help you with this, we list the interior and exterior dimensions of each unit in our guide.
Also, think about the settings that are most appealing to your cooking preferences. “If your toaster oven advertises that it has a dehydrating setting, but that is not something you will do, it is not a necessary function,” said Moore. “Many now slow cook, but if you typically use a slow cooker and enjoy taking a hot meal in a slow cooker to a gathering, you may never use your toaster oven’s slow cook setting. Many people enjoy the toasting settings for bagels while others will enjoy the air fry settings. Evaluate the array of settings offered and be willing to experiment, but do not feel obligated to purchase an oven with settings you may never use.”
What’s the difference between a toaster oven and an air fryer?
Air fryers use a fan to blow hot air over your food to produce the Maillard reaction, which gives food its distinctive browning. Prior to the rise of air fryers, blowing hot air on food was known as “convection cooking,” and it’s something that all convection toaster ovens do. “Air frying” is essentially a wildly successful marketing campaign for technology that has been around for decades.
That said, not all toaster ovens can air fry, or convection cook, but a lot of them can these days. If this is a feature that’s important to you, look for a model that advertises that it air fries or convection cooks. In my experience, this is a useful feature. It can cut down on cooking times, give your food a nice browned exterior, and I’ve found it does an excellent job of revitalizing leftovers, especially pizza and french fries.
Check out our other buying guides for small appliances
Buying a cookware set can be overwhelming because of the sheer volume of brands, materials, and types of included pieces. While stainless steel, copper, and traditional nonstick are the most popular options for cookware sets and each have their benefits, another lesser-known cookware material can offer some of the best value: hard-anodized aluminum. According to Fran Groesbeck, managing director at the Cookware Manufacturer’s Association, hard-anodized cookware is known for its strength, durability, and even heating.
Raw aluminum is inexpensive and offers excellent conductivity for cooking, but it’s prone to discoloration and scratching. Hard-anodized aluminum has undergone a chemical process to oxidize the cooking surface of the pan so it’s more durable, nonstick, and doesn’t discolor the food. While hard-anodized cookware is plenty nonstick in its own right, many hard-anodized pieces have additional nonstick coatings. For more information on the technical aspects of the material, see our FAQs.
While durability, cooking, and ease of use and cleaning were top of mind when making our selections, we also looked for sets with useful pieces and no superfluous items. The most important pieces in any cookware set are a stockpot or Dutch oven, a 12-inch skillet, and a 4-quart saucepan, all with lids (it’s worth noting that cookware manufacturer’s consider lids as separate “pieces” when listing the number of pieces in a set). We used this blueprint to narrow down the choices in this guide. If you’re looking for a specific piece, consider purchasing individual items, as a large cookware set is likely to have more than you need.
We think hard-anodized cookware sets are a great option for folks who want to outfit their kitchen on a budget, and are looking for a set that is easy to cook with, care for, and maintain. Below we’ve outlined our top picks for hard-anodized sets.
Here are the best hard-anodized cookware sets in 2021
The GreenPan Valencia Pro set is our top pick because it features 11 basic cookware pieces that have safe ceramic nonstick coatings and are oven-safe to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, all for about $200.
Pros: Oven-safe to 600 degrees F, metal utensil safe, durable ceramic nonstick coating, lots of useful pieces, both PTFE- and PFOA-free
Cons: No 12-inch skillet (though sauté pan can be used in its place)
With seven pans and four lids, the Valencia Pro has everything you need to switch between stovetop and oven cooking. The hard-anodized bodies and stainless steel handles are durable, scratch resistant, and oven-safe up to 600 degrees F. The glass lids allow you to see what you’re cooking without releasing steam or heat (but keep in mind that the lids are only oven-safe to 425 degrees F). The casserole dish is just a Dutch oven by another name.
GreenPan uses a ceramic nonstick coating derived from sand particles, which is as durable and effective as traditional coatings, but free from PTFE, PFOA, and lead. The Valencia Pro set is also dishwasher and metal utensil safe for easier clean up and better durability.
Best hard-anodized cookware set on a budget
The Rachael Ray Cucina set features dishwasher safe and durable cookware basics, making it an ideal set for starting fresh in the kitchen on a budget.
Pros: Dishwasher safe, comes in three different cookware colors, large variety of pot and pan types
Cons: Only oven-safe to 400 degrees F, no large frying pan, saucepans are a bit on the small side
The Rachael Ray Cucina Hard-Anodized Set offers valuable basics in materials known for durability. The hard-anodized aluminum exterior is scratch-resistant, and the tempered glass lids are bordered by a stainless steel rim. The nonstick interior is PFOA free, but not metal utensil safe.
Instead of a third saucepan or skillet, the set includes a 3-quart sauté pan as a piece with more volume and versatility. The serving utensils (a slotted spoon and spatula) are a great addition for a starter cookware set. You can choose from three colors for the serving utensils and the silicone grips that wrap around stainless steel handles.
Best high-end hard-anodized cookware set
The Thermo-Clad cookware set features details that make cooking easier, from the heat-encapsulating stainless steel lids to the metal utensil safe nonstick coating.
Pros: Induction compatible, heat-sealing lids, includes a large stockpot
Cons: Fewer pieces than less expensive sets, no large skillet
Instead of glass, this set features stainless steel lids with double wall insulation to keep food warm. While this means you can’t see the food while it’s cooking, it’s useful for making items ahead of time and keeping food warm for serving. The entire set is oven-safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Thermo-Clad line features a tri-ply stainless steel base, designed to limit hot spots by covering the bottom of the pan edge to edge. The nonstick coating is metal utensil safe, though the brand recommends avoiding abrasive cleaners like steel wool. The unique item in this set is the 6-quart “essential pan,” which is nearly identical in design to a traditional saucier. With a wide base and high, rounded sides, this pan is great for one pot meals.
Best space-saving hard-anodized cookware set
The Calphalon Stackable Set includes every necessary piece to start a cookware collection and it all stacks neatly for easy storage in small kitchens.
Pros: Stacks compactly for storage, lids fit on multiple pieces
Cons: No large skillet, only oven-safe to 400 degrees F, not safe for metal utensils
This set is organized by diameter, so that all 8-inch wide pieces fit in a stack that can nest within the 10-inch wide stack. Interlocking plates on the pans’ outside edges stabilize the stacks. Because of the common diameters, the lids are interchangeable among pieces.
Silicone grips keep the handles cool to the touch, but limit the oven-safe temperature to 400 degrees F. The nonstick interior is also not safe for metal utensils. The highlight of this set is a stackable Dutch oven, giving you the versatility of the piece without taking up too much space.
Best hard-anodized cookware set for induction
The Ninja Foodi NeverStick cookware set works on all range types, including induction, and is constructed for maximum durability and heat retention with heavy-gauge aluminum and a stainless steel base.
Pros: Proprietary nonstick coating, metal utensil safe, induction compatible
Cons: No large skillet (though sauté pan can perform similar functions)
Ninja’s NeverStick technology is based on heating the particles used in the nonstick coating to higher temperatures than other brands do for their coatings. This promises a more durable nonstick surface that isn’t prone to chipping or flaking and is metal utensil safe.
The NeverStick line is available in a hard-anodized set that comes with 10 pieces and can be used on all range types, including induction. Though it lacks a large skillet, it comes with a generously-sized stockpot for making soups, stews, and one pot meals. The pieces are also safe to 500 degrees F for easy transition from stovetop to oven.
We identified the best hard-anodized cookware sets through research, an interview with Fran Groesbeck, managing director at the Cookware Manufacturer’s Association, and our own extensive experience with cookware. We developed baseline criteria, such as necessary pieces and safety requirements, and evaluated sets based on these elements and other factors like value for price. We plan on testing these sets in the future and updating this guide accordingly.
What is hard-anodized aluminum?
Aluminum is a common material used in bakeware and cookware because it’s lightweight and has great heat conductivity. The main issue with aluminum is that it will oxidize when exposed to acidic food, leaving dark marks on the surface that can transfer to light colored foods. To prevent this, most modern aluminum pans are coated in a ceramic layer or “anodized,” an electrochemical process that uses controlled oxidation to create a protective layer.
The unique element of this process is that the anodized layer isn’t applied to the surface, but created out of the molecules within the metal. Therefore, the anodized protective layer cannot chip or peel off. It can wear down, but if cared for properly, it lasts longer than applied coatings. “Hard-anodized aluminum is naturally stick resistant, and it is resistant to scratches and food odors,” said Groesbeck.
What utensils are safe to use on hard-anodized cookware?
The hard-anodized layer isn’t a coating, so a hard-anodized pan can be used with any material utensil. However, nonstick coatings are often applied to hard-anodized cookware, so we recommend checking the information provided by the manufacturer before using metal utensils. Single or double layer nonstick coatings can be scratched by metal utensils.
Can hard-anodized cookware be used on induction stovetops?
This depends on the set and will be listed in the manufacturer’s description of the product. Cookware must have magnetic properties to work on induction stovetops, and aluminum is a non-magnetic metal, Groesbeck said. Therefore, a magnetic plate must be applied to the base of aluminum cookware in order to be induction safe. This is why not every hard-anodized aluminum set is induction compatible.
Can hard-anodized cookware go in the oven?
While you should always consult the manufacturer’s instructions, most hard-anodized cookware is oven-safe to some degree. The exact oven-safe temperature will be listed by the manufacturer on the packaging. The lids may have a different oven-safe temperature depending on the material.
Is hard-anodized cookware dishwasher safe?
Consult the manufacturer’s instructions on using the dishwasher or hand-washing your cookware. If the cookware has a nonstick coating, it is always recommended to use non-abrasive cleaners and avoid steel wool or other harsh sponges.
PFOA and PTFE
The acronyms PFOA and PTFE are everywhere in cookware descriptions. Here’s what you need to know about each:
PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was used in the production of PTFE since Teflon was invented in the 1970s. In the manufacturing process, most of the PFOA burns off and only trace elements remain in the cookware. These elements are then only released if the cookware is overheated to temperatures of 570 degrees F. 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.