This ‘cheese of the month club’ is the delicious gift I give to the foodies in my life

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An artfully organized cheeseboard.
I gifted my brother and his boyfriend the “cheeseboard of the month” club last Christmas, and they were big fans.

I was first introduced to the awesomeness that is Murray’s Cheese back in college. One of my friends worked as a cheesemonger at the flagship store in Greenwich Village and would regularly return from his shifts with delicious cheeses and meats for our friend group to sample and enjoy.

Thankfully, these days you don’t need to live in New York City to enjoy Murray’s Cheese. This is great for people like me who’ve recently traded in the city for the suburbs and miss the food scene!

The Murray’s Cheese online store has a huge selection of gourmet cheeses, meats, nuts, and many other pantry snacks that can be delivered right to your door – and it’s a great place to find gifts for the foodie in your life, or just to treat yourself. I highly recommend the monthly clubs for gifting, but you can also sort by gifts under a certain price, build your own gift box, or give them a gift card.

A close-up look at what comes in a "cheese of the month" gift box from Murray's Cheese.
Here’s an idea of what you can expect from a “cheeseboard of the month” club shipment.

Last Christmas, I signed my brother and his boyfriend up for a “cheeseboard of the month” club, and no surprise, it was a huge hit. They sent me pictures of the artfully arranged cheeseboard they created and rave reviews of the items Murray’s curated for that month.

All of Murray’s monthly clubs come with free shipping and are available to buy in four lengths of time: 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, or month-to-month. They’re not cheap, but they are delicious and indulgent – for reference, the “cheeseboard of the month” club I gifted my brother is the most expensive of the five monthly clubs Murray’s offers, and it was $295 for three months. Here’s what came in the April 2021 selection to give you an idea of how the clubs work.

Murray’s also hosts virtual cheese classes you can give as a gift and private virtual cheese classes that are perfect for corporate happy hours and private parties. As of August 23, 2021, in compliance with New York City indoor activity mandates, Murray’s in-person classes require proof of COVID vaccination with a valid photo ID for indoor dining.

No matter the occasion, a gift from Murray’s Cheese is definitely worth splurging on for your favorite people. If you’re looking for a few specific product recommendations, these are some things I always stock up on when I’m ordering for myself. Don’t sleep on the French butter! It’s ruined all other butter for me:

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Imperfect Foods is one of my favorite grocery delivery services because it sells fresh “ugly” produce for cheap and always has reliable delivery

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box of fruits and vegetables from grocery delivery service imperfect foods review 2021

  • Imperfect Foods delivers seasonal, cosmetically imperfect, surplus produce at affordable prices.
  • I love using it to mix up my grocery shopping routine and receive produce without going to a store.
  • One downside is you can’t choose your delivery day, so it’s not the best if you need flexibility.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyGrocery Delivery Fee (small)

As a city dweller with no car, I’m a big fan of online grocery delivery. Imperfect Foods has been one of my favorite services since college, and not only because it’s convenient and reliable. Imperfect’s mission of reducing produce waste and promoting sustainable brands will resonate with anyone who likes to shop with their values.

I re-tried Imperfect recently to get the most updated experience. Here’s what to expect and why I love using it to get my groceries.

How to order groceries with Imperfect Foods

Imperfect Foods is currently available in the Midwest, Northeast, all along the West Coast, and in most of the West South Central region.

When you make an account, you’ll be asked about foods you like and foods you never want to receive in your box. This will help Imperfect craft a box for you based on your preferences. You can always change your preferences later, and you’re still free to take out or add items as you please.

screenshot of imperfect foods grocery ordering platform process

You’ll have a four-day shopping window before your box ships to edit your pre-crafted box with fresh produce, dairy, meat, seafood, snacks, and a small selection of household and beauty products. The virtual grocery aisles on the site are organized and easy to shop and you can clearly view info like where the produce was grown and why it’s deemed “imperfect” (like size, cosmetic imperfections, or surplus inventory). There’s both organic and non-organic produce, and all other types of items must pass rigorous sourcing standards, including no hormones, antibiotics, or artificial flavors.

Unlike with many other grocery services, you can’t choose the day you want your order to be delivered. Imperfect assigns a delivery day for you based on your ZIP code in order to make delivery more efficient and carbon-friendly.

Imperfect Foods unboxing and review

On the day of my scheduled delivery, I received text updates with tracking information, so I knew exactly when my box arrived in my building lobby. My order was accurate and everything arrived safely. There was a standard amount of packaging: one large cardboard box with an insulated bag and ice packs, and one cardboard divider.

overview shot of groceries ordered from imperfect foods for a review 2021

I was impressed with the quality of most of the items I received, from the sweet mangoes to the huge, fresh heirloom tomatoes. I’ve used Imperfect Foods many times over the last few years, and the quality has been consistent. Many of the produce items’ physical imperfections, if any, aren’t even that drastic, and they don’t affect the ultimate taste of the fruit or vegetable.

For produce with cosmetic damage, Imperfect checks quality to make sure it’s only the shape, size, or color that’s affected. It says, “To end up in your box, a piece of produce must be just as fresh, tasty, and nutritious (if not more so!) as its grocery store counterpart.”

I also loved some of the packaged foods I ordered (a take-and-bake garlic bread, Unreal peanut butter cups), and the variety of shoppable options in general. The only item that was a miss for me was the Imperfect Foods-branded pesto salad kit, which was just fine.

Though some people might not like the limited selection of Imperfect and other similar services when compared to a traditional grocery store, I liked this design more than I expected. I can get in the habit of buying the same, predictable produce every time I go grocery shopping, so to be faced with preset, limited options was actually a fun challenge that added more variety and creativity to my cooking.

arrangement of fruits vegetables meats and cheese from imperfect foods review 2021

Imperfect also helped me enjoy fruits and veggies at their peak seasonality, and thus, their peak taste. When I had dozens of options, seasonal and non-seasonal, at my disposal at the local grocery store, I sometimes found myself gravitating towards my favorite produce, regardless of whether it was the optimal time to purchase and eat it.

Prior to using Imperfect Foods, I didn’t love the idea of not having control over the exact apple or carrot I’d be eating, but I eventually realized it was futile to be nitpicky about how beautiful my produce was. I learned firsthand from Imperfect Foods that it all tasted the same.

Does buying cosmetically imperfect produce help the food system?

There has been some pushback against the idea that services such as Imperfect Foods and its competitor Misfits Market actually solve a problem in the country’s complex and broken food system.

As crop scientist Sarah Taber explains, the problem of “ugly produce” contributing to food waste might not actually exist, because those items will be turned into other food products such as soups and jams. While ugly produce companies may improve access to fresh food and help the margins of growers, they may divert attention and resources away from community organizations in low-income areas.

Knowing what I do now, I’m warier of how ugly produce companies frame and market themselves. However, the ongoing conversations among food system experts and scientists, farmers, and the companies themselves don’t change my positive experiences with using Imperfect Foods as an affordable way to get my groceries.

For what it’s worth, community-supported agriculture (CSA) efforts like co-ops are full of local produce if you’re able to carry heavy boxes home easily, but for city dwellers, this can be tough to do. Farmers’ markets might not be available in your area or operate during times you can shop. The major advantage of Imperfect Foods is that you can order online and produce is delivered directly to your home.

Imperfect Foods vs. Misfits Market – which one should you try?

Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods are similar in that they both offer produce and other groceries that could’ve gone to waste otherwise. Imperfect offers more product range by also selling household and beauty items. Imperfect also has a larger product selection per aisle, but I personally liked the organization and layout of Misfits’ site better. You can read my full review of Misfits Market here for more details.

Another major difference is that you can choose your delivery date with Misfits, and it has a flat delivery fee of $5.50 per order. Imperfect’s delivery fee can range from $4.99 to $8.99 depending on your area and delivery date.

Lastly, the two operate in different states. For example, only Imperfect delivers in California. You can find a full list of Misfits Market’s delivery areas on its FAQ page.

Overall, we recommend Imperfect Foods over Misfits Market if you like more product variety in your grocery ordering and you’re fine with having an assigned delivery date.

Imperfect Foods Misfits Market

Cost of grocery items

On average, 18 items costs $40 total On average, 20 items costs $50 total

Shipping fee

$4.99-$8.99 $5.50

Delivery day

Assigned to you based on your ZIP code You choose the day

Delivery areas

Most of the West South Central region, Midwest, Northeast, and all along the West Coast Most of the West South Central region, Midwest, Northeast, and some of the West Coast

The bottom line

If you’re in a region in which Imperfect Food delivers, I couldn’t recommend the service and produce more. It’s a convenient way to get fresh fruit and veggies that have the same nutritional value and taste as something you’d find in your local grocery store.

Grocery Delivery Fee (small)

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This subscription service matches your preferences against brews from 400+ roasters to find you the very best cup of coffee

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trade
  • Trade Coffee Co. is our favorite coffee subscription service.
  • When you take its online quiz, you get matched against 400+ roasters across the country to find your perfect brew.
  • There are frequent discounts; currently, you can take 15% off your first bag and get free shipping too.

If you want to learn how to profile your ideal cuppa (and maybe self, while you’re at it), there may be no better way than with the help of Trade Coffee.

Trade is a coffee subscription service (our top-rated one, in fact) that matches your coffee preferences with more than 400 coffee brands and roasters to create a curated subscription of beans you’ll love. You answer a seven question quiz about how you like your coffee, and Trade matches you with roasters around the country that fit your ideal profile.

Pricing

Depending on your profile, Trade may match you with The Classics, which is their best value plan at $25 for two 12-ounce bags. Then there’s The Hookup for those seeking something “surprising and unconventional” at $15 to $22 per 12-ounce bag. While the prices are more expensive than what you might be used to, Trade runs a good amount of discounts – right now, it’s offering 15% off your first bag, and shipping is always free.

How it works

The process, intimidating at the outset, perhaps, is so thoroughly yet tidily detailed that it’s a breeze.

What we like most about the selection and customization process is how unassuming it is. You don’t feel like you’re diving in headfirst with a sommelier who’s just out to make you feel uninformed. Instead, you get a clean page layout with four options to identify your level of java snob-hood from newbie to nerd.

Here’s what Trade’s coffee matchmaking quiz looks like

trade1
Review of Trade Coffee Co.

tradetest2

Some of us on the team tested Trade’s coffee, others tried equipment. Below is a short roundup of what each of us tested along with our findings and tasting notes.

Petunias Espresso by Revelator Coffee Co.

petunias

I went for the “surprising and unconventional” choice because you only live once, as they say. I’m rarely able to place undertones within things like coffee, wine, or beer. “Enjoyable” and “not enjoyable” are my usual descriptors, and to each our own, I always believe, but this was something I could savor, and did I ever.

A bitter, velvety dark chocolate tone was punctuated by hints of red stonefruit (cherry, I suppose) as vividly as any beverage ever delivered flavor to my palate. Okay, maybe it wasn’t all that distinct (at least not for me), but it was different, and each and every morning, while the bag lasted, the thought of that thick crema greeting my tongue was enough for me to peel off the sheets and (almost) make it to work on time. Now that’s something.

I’d be happy to wake with this sensation every morning for the rest of my life, and therein am seriously considering one of these subscriptions for myself. My benevolent overlords might appreciate this motion, too, should it continue to deliver me to work on time. — Owen Burke, senior reporter

Leftist Espresso by Gimme!

leftist

I rarely go a day without coffee but typically settle for the brew in our office. The Gimme! Leftist Espresso was a nice change to my routine and provided a strong and sweet batch of coffee. I received the whole bean bag and decided to grind it into medium grounds to use with my French press.

Since it’s a light-medium roast, it was smooth and had a higher level of caffeine — meaning that I only had to have one cup to get through my morning to-do list. The actual coffee was a treat, plus I felt like it was made especially for me after using the “Get Matched” quiz on the Trade website. — Megan Foster, former editorial fellow

Cold Brew Coffee Bags by Trade Coffee Co.

tradebags

Typically, I use this cheap, utility-first plastic cold brew bottle to make a quart of cold brew at home, so I decided to try this on-the-go option. One reusable Trade Cold Brew Bag can make up to five batches per 12-ounce bag of coffee (and $9.50 gets you 20 bags).

Pretty much all you need is the Trade cold brew bag, some coffee, and a glass on hand (the company notes that mason jars work well, and I’d agree). You’ll still have to wait 12 to 18 hours for your cold brew, but it’s easy, mobile, and the bags are made from corn-based fiber and blessedly compostable. — Mara Leighton, senior reporter

The bottom line

a cup of coffee brewed from beans sourced from Trade Coffee

If you’re already spending $10 to $15 on a 12-ounce bag of coffee and you want to learn how to pull a better shot of espresso, make cold brew, or just learn a bit (or a lot) more about making coffee in general, then Trade Coffee might be for you.

It also makes an excellent gift for the coffee lover in your life (or soon-to-be coffee lover, once they get matched by Trade to their ideal roast). 

Subscribe to Trade Coffee Co. or explore single matches, starting at $12.50 per 12-ounce bag 

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Le Creuset Factory to Table sale – through August 31, save up to 40% off Dutch ovens, skillets, and more

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a stack of Dutch ovens for le creuset factory to table sale 2021
Stacks of colorful Dutch ovens fill the racks at the Le Creuset company store in Grove City, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008.

The Le Creuset Factory Sale is the stuff of legends. It historically takes place in person at large convention centers, with people flying in from all over the country to score huge discounts on Le Creuset’s signature enameled cookware and rare discontinued colors. Fortunately, this year you don’t have to go to Charleston, South Carolina to snag a great deal at the Factory Sale – many of the deals are also available online.

The sale runs now through August 31. These are rare deals on Dutch ovens, skillets, and baking dishes, so you won’t want to miss out.

Shoppers can save up to 50% on select Le Creuset dinnerware and accessories as well, including ramekins, griddles, dinner plates, and more.

Shop the Le Creuset Sale now or keep scrolling for some of our favorite deals in the sale

Classic Skillet 10.25-in (medium, Preferred: Le Creuset)Square Cocotte (medium, Preferred: Le Creuset)Classic Oval Dutch Oven (medium, Preferred: Le Creuset)Fondue Set (medium, Preferred: Le Creuset)Botanique Collection Mini Ramekins, Set of 4 (medium, Preferred: Le Creuset)Sheet pan (large) (medium, Preferred: Le Creuset)Botanique Collection Mini Cocottes, Set of 4 (medium, Preferred: Le Creuset)Enamel-on-Steel Zen Teakettle (medium)

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The 24 best cocktail recipe books, according to professional bartenders

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Collage of cocktail books, including Liquid Intelligence, The Bar Book, and The Science of Booze 4x3
  • We surveyed 22 bartenders, beverage directors, and cocktail pros on their favorite cocktail books.
  • These influential and visually stunning books cover technique, flavor profiles, history, and more.
  • See also: The best cocktail shakers we tested in 2021

If you’re serious about making a perfect Old Fashioned, or want to get into creating your own inventive cocktails, it’s a good idea to pick up a few of the industry’s essential books before you get behind the bar. Cocktail books teach you the basics of cocktail making while giving you an appreciation for the science, history, and artistry of the craft.

Robert Kidd, the head bartender of Wilmington, Deleware brasserie Le Cavalier at Hotel du Pont , told Insider Reviews, “I think it’s important that the public and the professionals invest more in books. I can’t tell you how many terrible recipes come from the internet. Books can be a trusted source for the industry standard when it comes to making drinks.”

“If you’re able to use books for inspiration for a foundational drink, you can always build on the experience from there,” said Wael Deek, the beverage director at Alice and Osteria 57 in New York City.

“There have always been piles of cocktail-related books on the market, but it can be difficult to know which direction to go. Sifting through the ‘1001 Martini’ messes and finding books that have well-researched info, written by professionals can be a chore,” said Charles Joly, Diageo World Class bartending champion.

So we asked the pros for their best recommendations. These are the books that helped them develop their knowledge – the ones they still reach for when they need a refresher on mixology concepts or inspiration for an original recipe.

Improve your cocktail making skills with these 24 bartender-recommended books:

‘The Dead Rabbit Mixology & Mayhem’

Book cover for "The Dead Rabbit Mixology & Mayhem" by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, and Jillian Vose

“The Dead Rabbit Mixology & Mayhem” by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, and Jillian Vose, $14.59, available at Amazon

[This book] pulls the curtain back and gives the reader a unique look at how one of the best bars in the world crafts some of its most innovative cocktail menus.  It’s a must-read for aspiring bartenders, but also functions as a gorgeous coffee table book that any non-bartender can enjoy!

Honestly, this book has been a massive source of inspiration for me. [It] really has been one of my favorite pick-ups. Bar goals. Deke Dunne, head bartender and beverage director at Allegory in Washington, D.C

‘Cocktail Codex’

Book cover for "Cocktail Codex" by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan

“Cocktail Codex” by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan, $21.49, available at Amazon 

It really goes a bit deeper into the theory of cocktail categories. They explain to the reader that there are essentially six categories of drinks based on six classic cocktails. They then teach the reader how to make each of these classics, and then follow up with lessons about modifying the classics. You can really learn what makes the classics great, and how to start making your own recipes. —Robert Kidd, head bartender at Le Cavalier at Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, DE

It’s very good for beginners and showcases all kinds of techniques. In addition, it helps readers think outside the box to create new drinks and explains everything clearly and logically. —Nico de Soto, master mixologist at Mace in New York City, NY

“Cocktail Codex” continues to be a resource for me. I continually go back to it and it was instrumental in helping me streamline my last two cocktails programs using practical but elevated techniques for flavor development. —Lynnette Marrero, bar director at Llama San in New York City and Llama Inn in Brooklyn, NY

Also recommended by Wael Deek, beverage director at Alice and Osteria 57 in New York City, NY

‘The Japanese Art of the Cocktail’

Book cover for "The Japanese Art of the Cocktail" by Masahiro Urushido and Michael Anstendig

“The Japanese Art of the Cocktail” by Masahiro Urushido and Michael Anstendig, $21.70, available at Amazon

Masahiro is an amazing mixologist, and Michael, who I’ve met on countless occasions, is a wealth of knowledge and an overall great guy. I’ve always been curious about the “Eastern style” of mixology and this book really opens up the door into it.

Here in the United States, mixology sort of fell behind back in the Prohibition Era, whereas in Japan it was innovated upon tremendously. And this book really lets you in on their innovation while helping you to understand the science behind cocktails a little more. —Anthony Baker, the “Cocktail Professor” and virtual cocktail teacher

‘Proof: The Science of Booze’

Book cover for "Proof: The Science of Booze" by Adam Rogers

“Proof: The Science of Booze” by Adam Rogers, $10.55, available at Amazon

I love “Proof.” It’s a super detailed script of how spirits are made. In addition to learning all about scotch production from grain to glass, you learn about fermentation, distillation, and the scientific processes and chemical reactions of aging bourbon in fresh charred oak barrels. —Drew Johnson, head bartender at Musket Room in New York City, NY

‘The Bar Book’

Book cover for "The Bar Book" by Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Martha Holmberg

“The Bar Book” by Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Martha Holmberg, $17.35, available at Amazon 

One of two revered books in Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s repertoire, this cocktail book teaches the “Morgenthaler method.” Known as the world’s first technique manual for cocktails, this book will break down the basics of building classics like an Old Fashioned and setting a foundation for inspiration from there.

An essential for any bartender, Morgenthaler’s book is also a terrific training tool for staff and a how-to for educating hospitality professionals. –Lynn House, national spirits specialist and portfolio mixologist for Heaven Hill Brands in Bardstown, KY

Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s “Bar Book” is my favorite bartender guide to recommend for professional and at-home bartenders. Jeff’s writing style and personality make the techniques and processes entertaining and approachable. Jeff Bell, managing partner at Please Don’t Tell in New York City, NY

“The Bar Book” is one of my favorite foundational resources. It is an essential beginner’s guide on how to construct a delicious and balanced cocktail using simple techniques and simple but flavorful ingredients.

You don’t get a lot of pomp and circumstance with Jeff, just an unadulterated, elemental approach to mixing tasty cocktails. Less is more! Drew Pompa, beverage director at Takoi in Detroit, MI

‘The New Craft of the Cocktail’

Book cover for "The New Craft of the Cocktail" by Dale DeGroff

“The New Craft of the Cocktail” by Dale DeGroff, $18.69, available at Amazon

One of the earlier modern books on bartending was written by King Cocktail himself, Dale DeGroff. You can’t say enough about Dale’s contribution in bridging some very dark days in adult beverages through to the modern cocktail era.

He recently released an updated version of his must-have text “The New Craft of the Cocktail.” This is a great place to get started with all of the fundamentals. —Charles Joly, Diageo World Class bartending champion, official bartender for the Oscars and Emmys, and founder of Crafthouse Cocktails

There’s no more important figure in the cocktail revival in New York. Many of us are lucky enough to have learned directly from him, or from his many pupils. For the rest, thankfully he’s documented his place in history in this book.

There’s more to cocktails than ingredients: There’s as much recollection as recipe and as much tale as technique. This volume situates modern drinks and drinking culture in personal history. Rob Krueger, master mixologist at The Loyal in New York City, NY

‘Drinking Like Ladies’

Book cover for "Drinking Like Ladies" by Misty Malkofen and Kirsten Amann

“Drinking Like Ladies” by Misty Malkofen and Kirsten Amann, $16.47, available at Amazon

[This book] features historical narratives of badass women throughout history and around the globe and pairs them with inspired bespoke cocktails created by female bartenders.

It accomplishes so many things — it’s educational, fun, political, and most importantly a joyous celebration of women. As their dedication states “If we’ve learned one thing in all our research, it’s that history rewards tenacity and persistence, and we can’t think of a better reason to raise a glass.” —Stephanie O’Neill, head bartender at Antique Bar & Bakery in Hoboken, NJ

‘Imbibe!’

Book cover for "Imbibe!" by David Wondrich

“Imbibe!” by David Wondrich, $19.47, available at Amazon

“Punch” by David Wondrich, $26, available at Amazon

[“Imbibe”] reads more like a novel and takes you back to a different time and place when cocktails were just being discovered. If you’re a history buff and love the food and beverage industry, this book paints a colorful description of vintage spirits and Prohibition classics.

As a coffee table book, “Imbibe” also has neutral colors that could also look great on a bar cart. Additionally, since our restaurant group has eateries that span to different parts of New York, including Little Italy like Gelso & Grand, we try to preserve that time period and will feature some classics on our menu featured in the book. Fee Bakhtiar, bar manager and general manager at JaJaJa Group in New York City, NY

You can’t have a conversation about spirits and cocktail books without talking about David Wondrich. Affectionately referred to as the Historical Oracle, David stays up waaaay past last call to research the nitty-gritty of cocktail and spirits history.

His seminal work, “Imbibe,” changed the world of cocktail writing in the 21st century and unraveled what is thought to be the original cocktail guide, “The Bon Vivant’s Companion” by Jerry Thomas. His follow-up to “Imbibe,” “Punch”, was just as thorough and entertaining. —Charles Joly

‘The Aviary Cocktail Book’

Book cover for "The Aviary Cocktail Book" by Nick Kokonas, Allen Hemberger, and Grant Achatz

“The Aviary Cocktail Book” by Nick Kokonas, Allen Hemberger, and Grant Achatz, $85, available at Amazon

“The Aviary Cocktail Book” is not only beautiful but from one of the most innovative chefs and creators in the industry. In general, the pages and creativity are captivating but it’s also informative for a restaurant that features wine-based cocktails when we’re always looking to push ourselves to create new techniques and presentations. Also, nice to flip through with beautiful imagery. —Gupreet Singh, co-owner and bar manager at Sunday to Sunday in New York City, NY

‘The Flavor Bible’

Book cover for "The Flavor Bible" by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen A. Page

“The Flavor Bible” by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen A. Page, $22.49, available at Amazon

Another must-have for your average home bartender, home cook, and pros alike is “The Flavor Bible.” This is one of the all-time coolest and most unbelievably useful cooking/food reference sources.

It gives you the flavor affinities of virtually every ingredient imaginable. It is my go-to tool when charged with designing a new cocktail list or anything bespoke. This one must be on your shelf if you consider yourself any sort of food and drink enthusiast. —Drew Johnson

I think this book is one of the most valuable tools a bartender can have. You can have all of the equipment and glassware you want but if you don’t have a fundamental understanding of how flavors work and interact with each other you can only go so far. It is especially helpful when coming up with original drink concepts. —Troy Ali, bartender at Trifecta at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, MA

Also recommended by Ivy Mix, co-owner and head bartender at Leyenda in Brooklyn, NY

‘The Ultimate Bar Book’

Book cover for "The Ultimate Bar Book" by Mittie Hellmich

“The Ultimate Bar Book” by Mittie Hellmich, $15.69, available at Amazon

It’s literally a thousand recipes. Good ones, too, with bare-bones explanations. I won’t say that this book is how I turned raiding my parents’ liquor cabinet into a semi-respectable career, but I will say it was exquisitely helpful. —Ricky Agustin, bar manager at The Mountaineering Club at Graduate Hotel in Seattle, WA

‘The Ideal Bartender’

Book cover for "The Ideal Bartender" by Tom Bullock

“The Ideal Bartender” by Tom Bullock, $15.95, available at Amazon

Written in 1917, “The Ideal Bartender” is the first-ever cocktail book published by a Black American. The son of former slaves, Mr. Bullock would eventually become a bartender at the famed Pendennis Club, as well as The St. Louis Country Club.

His hospitality and cocktails charmed the world. This book is essential for everyone who loves a great cocktail. Not only will you experience a slice of history, but you will also walk away with a great understanding of how to make a beautiful and well-balanced cocktail. Mr. Bullock is credited for teaching the world how to make the perfect Old Fashioned. Like the book, this cocktail has stood the test of time. —Lynn House

‘Liquid Intelligence’

Book cover for "Liquid Intelligence" by Dave Arnold

“Liquid Intelligence” by Dave Arnold, $26.21, available at Amazon

“Liquid Intelligence” is the opposite side of the spectrum, in that it brings a scientific approach to crafting cocktails. At Takoi, we focus mainly on draft cocktails which means we have to sous vide infuse and clarify liquids, batch all the ingredients for a cocktail together in a keg, pressurize it and then cool it down.

When it’s ready to serve, we then hook it up and dispense it from a draft tower similar to how a beer or cider is dispensed. This requires a whole different approach to technique and “Liquid Intelligence” was the perfect resource to help us make our drink-making game stronger.  —Drew Pompa

At first, “Liquid Intelligence” might feel like you just purchased a college science book; however, I pick it up over and over again when I have a question or searching for inspiration. Yes, it is dense with science facts and fancy equipment that I don’t own, but a girl can dream, right? —Tara Downs, master mixologist and bar manager at Barr Hill in Montplier, VT

‘Drink What You Want’

Book cover for "Drink What You Want" by John deBary

“Drink What You Want” by John deBary, $14.99, available at Amazon

My absolute favorite cocktail book these days is “Drink What You Want.” John is as qualified as they come to write a nerdy cocktail book, but the tone and structure of the book are laugh-out-loud funny and approachable while sharing real and practical tricks of the trade. If you’re going to buy one cocktail book for the cocktail novice or cocktail enthusiast, this is the one. —April Wachtel, mixologist and founder of Cheeky Cocktails

‘Spirits of Latin America’

Book cover for "Spirits of Latin America" by Ivy Mix

“Spirits of Latin America” by Ivy Mix, $13.63, available at Amazon

Not only are there amazing recipes in this book, but it is also layered with appreciation, love, and respect for the history and culture of so many spirits that line our bars. —Tara Downs

‘Meehan’s Bartender Manual’

Book cover for "Meehan's Bartender Manual" by Jim Meehan

“Meehan’s Bartender Manual” by Jim Meehan, $25.99, available at Amazon

The page corners of my copy of “Meehan’s Manual” are worn from turning and I have spilled more than one cocktail and coffee inside. My partner and I opened a bar and a restaurant seven weeks ago and Jim’s advice was used from the design process through creating our steps of service. It’s a vital tool for any operator. It also contains the most stunning and inspiring cocktail photography by the unparalleled, Doron Gild. —Jessica King, master mixologist at Brother Wolf and Osteria Stella in Knoxville, TN

This is a personal favorite of mine and the first book I would suggest for a new bartender. It’s incredibly meticulous and thorough while being surprisingly approachable to newcomers. It goes through everything from building out a home or commercial bar to the intricacies of how different spirits are produced and the histories of some of your favorite cocktails. —Troy Ali

‘Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails’

Book cover for "Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails" by Robert Simonson

“Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails” by Robert Simonson, $15.99, available at Amazon

This is a beautiful book with a catchy design that piqued my interest right away. I’ve also been drinking a lot of mezcal and tequila lately — Ramona happens to pair wonderfully with both — and this book gives me creative ideas for other ways to utilize these delicious spirits. —Jordan Salcito, sommelier and founder of Drink Ramona

‘A Spot at the Bar’

Book cover for "A Spot at the Bar" by Michael Madrusan and Zara Young

“A Spot at the Bar” by Michael Madrusan and Zara Young, $29.99, available at Amazon

I think this has to be one of the most creative and playful approaches to a bar book I’ve read in a while. The Everleigh team collected recipes from their favorite cocktail bars around the world and had them written out on napkins, dollar bills, and coasters which they then photographed and printed in the book. I think this book probably has the best recipes for classics and modern classics out there. —Troy Ali

‘Death & Co’

Book cover for "Death & Co" by David Kaplan and Nick Fauchald

“Death & Co” by David Kaplan and Nick Fauchald, $21.49, available at Amazon

This one is an obvious must-have for any new bartender. I feel like most people in the industry may know this book, but if you’re new and looking to learn, the first 100 pages or so can really set you up for success. After you get down to the basics this book has some great complex recipes to try out in the back half of the book. —Robert Kidd

Also recommended by Wael Deek

‘3-Ingredient Cocktails’

Book cover for "3-Ingredient Cocktails" by Robert Simonson

“3-Ingredient Cocktails” by Robert Simonson, $15.99, available at Amazon

Author Robert Simonson has put in the work and researched some important categories and cocktails. His dry wit and straightforward approach demystify several venerable classic cocktails in easy-to-digest books. Any of his works, from 3-Ingredient Cocktails, “The Old Fashioned,” “The Martini Cocktail,” and others, are a fine addition to your boozy library —Charles Joly

‘Market-Fresh Mixology’

Book cover for "Market-Fresh Mixology" by Bridget Albert

“Market-Fresh Mixology” by Bridget Albert, $28.97, available at Amazon

Bridget has been the teacher and mentor to many of today’s rock stars in the business. This cocktail book takes a fun and whimsical approach to making cocktails. Focused on seasonality, Bridget Albert embraces the garden-to-glass approach to making great cocktails.

In this book, you learn how to take your favorite recipes and adjust the recipes as to what is available either in your garden or at your local farmer’s market. Great for the home bartender who wants to dazzle their guests. —Lynn House

Also recommended by Ivy Mix

‘The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks’

Book cover for "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks" by David A. Embury, Robert Hess, and Audrey Saunders

“The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David A. Embury, Robert Hess, and Audrey Saunders, $39.95, available at Amazon

This book was published in 1948 and I believe it is one of the cocktail books every bartender should read at some point in their career. It is one of the true original cocktail books that you find a lot of new books trying to imitate (in a good way).

It covers a lot of common-sense material that you don’t think about until he points it out. Be warned the measurements in David’s drinks are a bit overkill in some recipes. As a side note, this book can be found easily on Amazon but keep an eye out for an older copy. Really cool book to find in secondhand book stores and thrift shops. —Robert Kidd

‘The Joy of Mixology’

Book cover for "The Joy of Mixology" by Gary Regan

“The Joy of Mixology” by Gary Regan, $24.49, available at Amazon

This book is the quintessential cocktail book that should be in every bartender’s library, whether they are a beginner, a seasoned professional, or budding home bartender. “The Joy of Mixology” walks one through the history of making cocktails, methodology, spirits categories, and finishes with classic recipes that have stood the test of time.

Gary Regan was one of the most influential characters in modern-day mixology. This book was a labor of love for him and that will be immediately apparent to the reader. While there is a great deal of technical knowledge shared within these pages, it is an easy read and approachable to everyone, no matter what level of bartending they are at. —Lynn House

‘The Drunken Botanist’

"The Drunken Botanist" by Amy Stewart

“The Drunken Botanist” by Amy Stewart, $13.89, available at Amazon

“The Drunken Botanist” is what I imagine a nerdy bartender retreat in the woods would be like (at least my version of one). Stewart opens up the world of booze and cocktails by diving deep into the botanical and horticultural nuances that make up all of the tasty things we love to imbibe.

Ever wondered what the heck gentian was? Ever wanted to impress your friends by knowing that the compound erroneously feared in Wormwood to cause hallucinations is called thujone?  Well, my friend then you are a kindred spirit and this book is for you! —Stephanie O’Neill

Read the original article on Business Insider

40 gifts anyone who just moved into a new apartment will appreciate

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

otherland candles
  • When buying a gift for someone who just moved into their first apartment, consider gifts that are practical and useful.
  • No matter what you choose, they’ll appreciate any of the 40 new apartment gifts below.
  • Looking for more gift guides? Find them all here.

The best part of moving into your first apartment or home is getting to create a space that’s all yours. Finding the perfect decor and picking out furniture is the exciting part, but there are also small necessities to consider. A laundry hamper, bedding, pots, and pans – these are just some of the purchases a recent grad or young professional will need to make.

We recommend getting them some combination of the basics they wish they didn’t have to spend their own money on, and the little luxuries that can make life infinitely better.

40 gifts for anyone in a new apartment:

This list includes a Sponsored Product that has been suggested by Gravity. It meets our editorial criteria in terms of quality and value.*

A duo of uniquely colored rocks glasses

Food52 colored rocks glasses

Estelle Colored Glass Hand-blown Colored Rocks Glasses, available at Food52, $85

These gorgeous glasses are handcrafted in Poland and are the perfect pop of color for any home bar.

A set of tasty olive oils and vinegars

Brightland Essentials Capsule

The Essential Capsule, available at Brightland, $112

Brightland specializes in creating authentic olive oils and vinegars without filler ingredients. The Essential Capsule set includes everything they’ll need to cook delicious meals in their new home.

A comforting weighted blanket

A couple sleeps in a bed under a grey weighted blanket

Gravity Cooling Weighted Blanket, $195, available at Gravity

It can be hard to get to sleep in new surroundings, especially after a stressful move. Help them settle in to their new bedroom with a soothing and cooling weighted blanket. In a sleep study by Gravity, 72% of participants reported deeper, more restful sleep and 76% reported falling asleep faster when using the Gravity Blanket. This blanket comes in three different colors and in weights varying from 15 pounds to 35 pounds. Gravity recommends choosing a blanket size that’s about 10% of their body weight, but when in doubt, 15 pounds is a good place to start for those new to the sensation of a weighted blanket. 

*Sponsored by Gravity

A powerful steam mop

Target Bissell mop

Bissell PowerFresh Deluxe Steam Mop, available at Target, $99.99

Help them keep their floors clean with our top pick for the best steam mop. The mop sanitizes hardwood floors while scrubbing away stains and dirt.

A streaming stick that turns their plain TV into a smart TV

Amazon Fire Stick

Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, available on Amazon, $39.99

If they’re looking to cut the cost of cable out of their lives, a streaming stick is the way to go. It turns a regular TV into a smart TV by making all their favorite media apps like Netflix and Hulu available through a voice-controlled remote.

A punny bath mat to match any type of decor

Urban Outfitters bath mat

Peachy Clean Bath Mat, available at Urban Outfitters, $39

Bath mats are one of those necessities that no one likes to spend their own money on or think twice about. Gift them a punny bath mat that has enough personality to make them chuckle every day. If you know what their space looks like and want to get them something more even adventurous, check out more bath mat designs here.

A shower caddy that will follow them through multiple apartments to come

Bed Bath & Beyond Simple Human shower caddy

Simple Human Tension Shower Caddy, available at Bed Bath & Beyond, $139.99

This shower caddy is one of the most useful things in my apartment. It uses an adjustable tension rod to hold itself into place and it can fit everything from a weirdly shaped bathtub ledge to a full floor-to-ceiling walk-in shower. It’s a little pricey, but Simplehuman is known for making quality home products that rarely if ever need to be replaced. I’ve had mine for more than three years and it hasn’t rusted at all (you can read my full review of it here).

A surge protector with USB and USB-C ports

plug best apartment gifts 2021

Power Strip with USB C, 3 Outlets 4 USB Ports, available at Amazon, $17.99

More likely than not, they’ll be limited in outlets in their new space, which can be frustrating. Help them solve their outlet shortage with this handy power strip which has three regular outlets, four USB ports, and one USB-C port. This power strip was also designed to allow space for another plug to be used in the second outlet and has a length of five feet.

A duster that can can extend up to three feet

Amazon swiffer

Swiffer Dusters Heavy Duty Extender Starter Kit, available at Amazon, $17.99

Dusting is one of the less glamorous responsibilities that comes with moving into an apartment. This Swiffer Heavy Duty Extender Kit has everything they’ll need to get the job done quickly and efficiently, including 12 duster refills. The handle can reach up to three feet, making it easier to reach into corners and crevices.

A fun way for them to display their pictures

Amazon umbra hanging display

Umbra Hangit Photo Display, available at Amazon, $19.99

If they’ve been in their apartment for several months and still have bare walls, this hanging wall mount display is the perfect fix. This display is easy to set up and is a fun way for them to incorporate their favorite memories into their space. It comes in several finishes including black, gold, and natural wood.

An espresso machine

gaggia classic pro

Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine, available at Amazon, $449

Kitchen gifts are always appreciated, and there’s nothing that accentuates a new kitchen quite like a powerful espresso machine. If you have the budget to treat a loved one, we recommend the top pick in our guide to the best espresso machines

Stemless wine glasses that won’t spill or break as easily

stemless wine glasses

Riedel O Stemless Wine Glasses, available at Amazon, 4 for $44.25

When my partner and I moved in together years ago, their mom bought us a nice set of tall, thin-stemmed wine glasses — likely because I had once served her Cabernet in a mason jar. Though I like using those to entertain occasionally, I prefer these stemless glasses that are much more casual and much less breakable (…kind of like a mason jar). 

A gift card to buy the best set of sheets they’ve ever slept on

brooklinen sheets

Brooklinen Gift Card, available at Brooklinen, from $50

Our executive editor calls Brooklinen’s sheets one of the best purchases she’s ever made, and many of us at Insider Reviews feel the same way. They’ll be able to choose from quite a few weaves and materials as well as a huge selection of fun prints and colors. A basic full set costs around $130, for reference.

A personalized trinket tray for all their odds and ends

catchall

Greek Key Ceramic Catchall, available at Mark & Graham, $29 [customization is an additional $12.50]

Catch-all trays are the kind of gift that may seem underwhelming until you realize how useful they are. That was certainly the case when I was gifted one after college. Now I have a few of them around my apartment — one for keys and sunglasses by the door, one for my rings and jewelry by the bed, and another in the living room for lip balm, candle matches, and other small items. This one is customizable with their initials as an extra sweet touch.

A single-serve blender for smoothies and small batches

nutribullet

Nutribullet Blender, available at Amazon, $79.99

They’re likely not going to need a full-sized blender for any reason other than making large batches of frozen margaritas. Gift them a personal-sized blender for making healthy smoothies at home — and if they want to make a few frosty cocktails, they’ll just have to put in a little extra work. 

A robot vacuum that makes quick work of chores

Best Robot Vacuums 2021_Eufy RoboVac 15C MAX Robot Vacuum

Eufy RoboVac 15C Max Robot Vacuum, available at Amazon, $175.99

Vacuuming is one of the great time-sucks in life — literally. Give them back their Sunday afternoons with the gift of a robot vacuum that’ll take the work out of cleaning the house. We love this vacuum as a budget option that still performs well on carpet and hardwood. You can read a more thorough review this vacuum and our other favorites here.

Wall hooks that work in any room

loop wall hooks set

Loop Wall Hooks (set of 3), available at West Elm, from $30

If they’re living the big city life in a small city apartment, they’ll appreciate any extra storage they can get. These wall hooks can be hung up by the door to hold coats, keys, and bags, or they could go in the bedroom to store additional items that won’t fit in the closet.

A Dutch oven they’ll have for the rest of their life

Le creuset

Le Creuset 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven, available at Williams-Sonoma, from $370

A Le Creuset Dutch oven is one of those coveted kitchen items that most people don’t get until their weddings, if ever. It’s a special gift I only recommend giving to someone who really loves to cook. If you want to get them something a little less expensive but equally as useful, go for an eight- or nine-inch cast-iron skillet

A coffee maker for one

Black+Decker coffee maker

Black+Decker Programmable Coffee Maker, available on Amazon, $46.05

They can brew tons of coffee in this classic coffee maker — a priceless gift, if you ask me. For under $50, this machine has helpful features like brew-pause and a digitial display. 

A desk they can use in any room

Gifts for new apartment portable desk

Mind Reader Multipurpose Home Office Computer Desk, available at Walmart, $34.99

If they’re moving in the near future, their first apartment will likely be doubling as an office. This desk can be used while sitting or standing, and its complete portability allows it to move with them from room to room.

A toaster that’s as sleek as it is functional

New Apartment gifts Smeg toaster

Smeg Two-Slice Toaster, available at Williams-Sonoma, from $179.95

If they don’t want to sacrifice design for functionality, Smeg’s kitchen tools and appliances are the way to go. We’ve deemed Smeg’s toaster the best for the design-obsessed for this exact reason.

A friendly welcome mat

Etsy Welcome Mat

TheDoormatory Doormat, available at Etsy, from $35

Likewise, a welcome mat is another home basic they’re going to need but aren’t going to want to purchase. This simple one is fun enough without bordering on tacky. 

Candles that really make it feel like home

otherland candles

Otherland Candles, available at Otherland, $36 each or 3 for $89

Otherland’s candles have the most beautiful packaging and intriguing scents (think: sandalwood and amber, or champagne and saffron). This is one gift you’ll love giving as much as they’ll love getting, and it’ll add a sweet touch to their space. 

A jumbo pack of removable hooks that won’t damage the wall

command hooks

Command Hooks 9-Pack, available at Amazon, $14.99

You can never have enough Command Hooks — especially if you’re a renter who can’t nail anything into the wall. This multi-pack makes a great stocking stuffer.

A place to put their booze

deco handle tray o

Deco Handle Tray, available at West Elm, $51-$76.50

Whether they have a proper bar cart or not, one simple way to add sophistication to space is to store liquor and/or barware on a pretty tray. This neutral option is great for anyone who entertains a lot — they can use it as a serving platter or hold their at-home minibar.

A utensil holder for easy access to cooking tools

utensil crock

Textured Utensil Holder, available at West Elm, $30

Unless they absolutely love to cook, a utensil crock probably won’t be the first thing on their mind when they move into a new space, so this is a smart and useful kitchen gift they’ll appreciate.

A cool canvas art print to personalize their space

Redbubble alfred hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo Canvas Print (Medium, 12″x17″), available at Redbubble, $81.37

Redbubble helps more than 700,000 independent artists and designers share their work with the world through its online marketplace — all while committing to sustainable and socially responsible practices. The marketplace promises something for everyone with its “uncommon designs on awesome stuff.”

We love Redbubble’s original, quirky art printed on products ranging from canvas prints to cell phone cases to bath mats. This canvas print is a perfect piece of wall art for any Hitchcock film buff.

A cozy throw to snuggle up with

knit blankets

Knotted Throw, available at Crane & Canopy, $89

This is the blanket we fight over in my house — it’s cozy, warm, breathable, and supremely soft. You’ll find it in a few different colors at Crane & Canopy.

A curated set of pots and pans that won’t fall apart

New aparment gifts Potluck

Potluck Kitchen Essentials Set, available at Potluck, $295

Help them get their kitchen fully stocked with the right tools. Potluck makes cookware comparable to brands like All-Clad and Calphalon, but at direct-to-consumer prices that won’t break the bank. Shop from a selection of well-curated bundles that fit all of their cooking needs. You can read a more in-depth review here

A coat rack

marinello coat rack

Marinello Coat Rack by Union Rustic, $71.99

Coat racks can go overlooked, but they need a place to hang their hat (and coat) just like everyone else, especially now that they have a place to call their own. Rustic and modern at once, this one will work almost anywhere.

A new down duvet that works for every season

down duvet gallery 01

The Down Duvet (Full/Queen), available at Casper, from $260.10

Casper makes three equally excellent comforters, but this one is the more basic option. Its stitched compartments keep the ethically-sourced down from spreading through the blanket, and the organic cotton shell is gentle and cooling. 

A set of hand towels for the bathroom

Monogram white towels

The Classic Hand Towels, available at Crane & Canopy, $18

Hand towels are a necessity made all the more fun when embroidered or monogrammed. Crane & Canopy offers a variety of colors and styles for a personalized touch.

A beautiful set of coasters they’ll actually want to use

onyx marble coasters set of 4 chartreuse

Onyx Marble Coaster Set of 4, available at West Elm, $40

Hopefully, it’s a lesson they won’t ever have to learn the hard way: always use a coaster. If you get them this beautiful set, they’ll actually want to. 

A laundry basket that blends with any decor

round weave laundry baskets natural

Round Weave Laundry Baskets, available at West Elm, $70-$160

A laundry basket is another much-appreciated gift they’ll be thankful to not have to buy themselves. The lining of this one is removable, and if they already have a laundry basket, they can use it to store extra sets of sheets and towels. 

A beautiful set of dinnerware

year and day ceramic dinnerware

Year & Day Dinnerware, available at Year & Day, from $44

Most people’s first apartments (and the next few after that, if we’re being honest) feature cabinets full of mismatched plates, glasses, and mugs they’ve collected over their time in college. Get them a new set of dishes, glasses, or flatware from Year & Day, one of our favorite new startups out there. If you’re not ready to commit, you can read a full review of their dinnerware here

A salt lamp to give their space a warm glow

himalayan salt lamp

Himalayan Glow Salt Lamp, available at Bed Bath & Beyond, from $22.99

I swear by my salt lamp for creating a relaxing vibe at home. This one was gifted to me two years ago and I still use it every day. 

A signature scent for their new home

gifts for new apartment

Diptyque Baies Room Spray, available at Bloomingdale’s, $68

A room spray is a fun twist on the classic gift of scented candles — and you can’t go wrong with anything from Diptyque. During the cooler months, there’s nothing more gorgeous than the iconic, floral Baies (roses and blackcurrant leaves) scent, which you’ll find concentrated in this beautiful mist.

A smart device that can answer almost any question and play music

Echo Dot

Echo Dot 3rd Generation, available at Amazon, $34.99

You can’t go wrong when it comes to gifting the Echo Dot. It’s a small speaker with major power, and Alexa can answer all their questions about the weather, traffic, and more. They’ll also be able to play music, games, and control other smart devices around the house. 

A cost-effective investment in their seltzer habit

Target blue soda stream

SodaStream Fizzi Sparkling Water Maker, available at Target, $69.99

If La Croix sparkling water is their main source of hydration, they’ll love having a SodaStream around to make seltzer on demand. They can flavor it with drops meant to taste just like the real thing or create their own infusions — either way, they’ll save a lot of money over time. 

Note: The more expensive of the two options comes with two soda bottles and two CO2 cylinders, while the less expensive one only comes with one bottle and one CO2 filter. 

A storage ottoman to save them space

ottoman

Cole Classics Square Storage Ottoman, available at Target, from $76.49

Every extra ounce of storage space matters in a small apartment, which is why this storage ottoman makes a perfect (and decor-neutral) gift. The lid lifts to reveal enough space for throw blankets and a pair of slippers. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best subscription boxes for food, drink, style, beauty, and hobbies in 2021

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

box on yellow background surrounded by chips and candy from snackcrate the best snack subscription in 2021
  • Subscription box services are great for anything you love to receive on a regular basis.
  • They can help you discover new products, develop your hobbies, or add convenience to your life.
  • There’s a subscription out there for everything, from food to clothing to pets.

By now, the subscription concept has been widely applied to pretty much anything you can buy, but it’s most useful for the things you actually use and enjoy regularly. Whether that’s razor blades for your daily shaving routine or books to read during your commute, a subscription box helps automate the process for buying and receiving products so you have more time to use said products.

Subscription boxes can also help you discover new products in an arena you’re already interested in or figure out if you want to pursue an activity or hobby further. They’re like trial runs for your various interests or needs and usually a lot more affordable than a full commitment or investment.

If you do change your mind about your subscription, all the following services make it easy to skip next month’s shipment or cancel your subscription.

Here are the best subscription boxes in 2021

Food and drink

Beauty, grooming, and style

Hobbies and interests

The best wine subscription

three bottles of wine laying in a cardboard box from winc the best wine subscription in 2021

Winc’s straightforward ordering process, on-trend wine curation, and reliable shipping make it the best online wine club we’ve tried in the last few years. If your interest in a wine subscription stems not only from the need for convenience but also the desire to expand your wine knowledge, Winc offers informative resources, easy-to-digest bottle descriptions, and a community ratings system to help you develop your palate. 

Winc delivers wine every month, but it’s easy to adjust your membership to skip automatic shipments. Although it matches you to wines that it thinks you’ll like based on your profile of tastes and preferences, you can also customize your shipment and browse Winc’s complete catalog of varietals from all over the world.

Monthly Wine Subscription (3 bottles) (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Firstleaf, for affordable wine and big discounts ($80/month)
  • Plonk, for natural and biodynamic wines ($110/month) 

Read more about the best wine subscriptions we tested in 2021. 

Read our reviews of Winc and Firstleaf.

The best coffee subscription

bag of wonderstate coffee from trade the best coffee subscription in 2021

Trade is where you can order top-quality coffee from cool roasters all over the country, like Verve (Santa Cruz, CA), Cuvee (Austin, TX), and Huckleberry (Denver, CO). If you’re the type to immediately seek out the local specialty coffee shop when you travel to a new city, then Trade’s the best coffee subscription for you — and you don’t even have to leave your house to receive your beans. 

All you have to do is tell Trade about how you take your coffee and it’ll show you the best coffee you should be drinking every morning. It’ll also provide the roaster’s schedule for roasting and when your bag was roasted.

Coffee Monthly Membership (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Driftaway, for sustainability-focused, single-origin coffee ($14.40/shipment)
  • Atlas, for exploring the global coffee scene ($14/shipment)

Read more about the best coffee subscriptions we tested in 2021

Read our reviews of Trade, Driftaway, and Atlas.

The best tea subscription

hands holding an open box of an assortment of teas from sips by the best tea subscription in 2021

Sips by is a personalized tea subscription that sends you four different teas (enough to make at least 16 cups) every month, so your tea rotation always stays new and exciting. You’ll get to explore teas from big and familiar brands as well as local tea shops and farms and choose from loose leaf, bagged, herbal, and caffeinated teas. 

If you weren’t already familiar with all the benefits of tea, how to steep your tea, and the differences among all the tea types, Sips by shares plenty of educational resources to strengthen your tea knowledge.

Monthly Tea Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

The best beer subscription

beer of the month club

Choose from five different beer memberships in this club: Microbrewed, Hop Heads, Rare Beers, International, and US and International. Each of these clubs gives you 12 12-oz beers in different styles from a few different breweries, plus brewery profiles and tasting notes. It’s the most convenient way to tour breweries in the US and around the world. 

The original club started in 1994, and its panel of brewmasters and beer judges only pick out a mix of the most interesting and innovative craft beers every month. The diversity of options means you can stop pigeonholing yourself into drinking (and pretending to enjoy) IPAs.

Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Tavour, for mobile-first beer orders (Price varies)
  • Craft Beer Kings, for fun and creative flavors ($70/shipment)

The best cocktail subscription

glass of mojito next to a box with dried fruit and bacardi rum from cocktail courier the best cocktail subscription in 2021

Unless you keep your bar cart fully stocked and meticulously updated, it can be a hassle to source all the ingredients for a specialty cocktail you want to make. Let’s also not forget that going out for happy hour requires putting on clothes. Cocktail Courier makes kits based on recipes from top bartenders and sends you all the ingredients you need, including the spirits. Keep in mind, though, you do need your own basic equipment, like glassware and a shaker

For the subscription, just choose your favorite spirits and you’ll only be sent kits with those spirits. There’s also an option for just the mixers and garnishes, if you prefer to use your own alcohol. 

Classic Cocktail Kit Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Shaker & Spoon, for a variety of cocktails that focus on one spirit (from $40/shipment)
  • SaloonBox, for group cocktail parties (from $49/shipment)

The best snack subscription

box on yellow background surrounded by chips and candy from snackcrate the best snack subscription in 2021

One of our favorite things to do when visiting a new country is to scour the snack aisles of the local grocery store. SnackCrate brings that same excitement and discovery process to your door. Every month’s snack box focuses on a different country and includes full-sized snacks directly imported from that country. You’ll also get a music playlist and booklet of games and facts related to the country. 

There are three box sizes available to suit everyone from occasional grazers to snack aficionados. 

Original Snack Box Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Mouth, for gourmet snacks from indie makers ($60/month)
  • Bokksu, for authentic Japanese snacks ($49.95/month)

Read our review of Bokksu.

The best cheese subscription

stack of different cheese from murrays cheese the best cheese subscription in 2021

New York City institution Murray’s Cheese offers a few different monthly clubs that let you get your fix for creamy, stinky, soft, smoky, and hard cheeses. It’s part indulgence, part educational experience. 

The Classic Club is great for people who want a reliable way to enjoy cheeses you might not have heard of but still have an approachable flavor profile — think Montealva, a flaky and citrus-y goat’s milk cheese from Spain or The Farm at Doe Run’s butterscotch-infused cheese. If you want something more adventurous, try the Cheesemonger’s Picks club instead. 

Classic Cheese of the Month Club (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Curdbox, for cheese plates including sweet and savory pairings ($49.95/month)
  • Jasper Hill, for special release and limited-edition cheese from Vermont ($100/month)

The best meat subscription

cardboard butcherbox box next to a stack of various cuts of beef and pork on a countertop the best meat subscription in 2021

In addition to pre-curated boxes of grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, and crate-free pork, ButcherBox lets you choose from more than 25 different cuts to make your own custom box. It’s an easy way to get high-quality meat (up to 14 pounds every month) without having to visit your local butcher or farmer’s market. 

The subscription is also flexible in case you don’t need that much meat every month. But if you’re feeding a lot of mouths, hosting a barbeque, or just enjoy eating meat, you’ll want to take advantage of ButcherBox’s value every month.

Mixed Box (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Porter Road, for underrated cuts of meat and the best variety (Price varies) 
  • Snake River Farms, for high-end meat like American Wagyu ($225/shipment)

Read more about the best meat subscriptions we tested in 2021

Read our reviews of ButcherBox, Porter Road, and Snake River Farms.

The best meal kit subscription

three dishes of food sitting on a table with a recipe card from blue apron the best meal kit subscription in 2021

Blue Apron’s flavorful, creative takes on familiar recipes and reliable, accurate delivery make it the best meal kit you can subscribe to. It’s versatile and flexible, with meal options for all kinds of dietary preferences, a variety of plans for two- and four-person families, and add-ons like meat and seafood bundles, spice blends, and cookware and tools. There’s even a wine add-on to complete your dining experience. 

The meals (like chimichurri tilapia, one-pan prosciutto gnocchi, and sambal-peanut chicken noodles) are always delicious and the portions are generous — you’ll even have leftovers,  sometimes. The menu updates frequently and we rarely see the same recipe twice.

Runners-up: 

  • Sunbasket, for organic ingredients and health-conscious recipes ($71.94/3-meal, 2-serving plan)
  • Everyplate, for the most affordable yet filling meals ($39.93/3-meal, 2-serving plan)

Read more about the best meal kit subscriptions we tested in 2021.

The best beauty subscription

overhead shot of skin and beauty products from birchbox the best beauty subscription

Birchbox’s mission is to make the vast world of beauty and skincare fun and less intimidating by giving you the freedom to sample tons of different products. Every month’s affordable beauty box contains five samples you might like based on your Beauty Profile, featuring a variety of new and upcoming brands and products (makeup, skincare, haircare, fragrance). The brands included reflect Birchbox’s core values of sustainability, inclusivity, and supporting women.

Once you’ve tried a sample you really love, you can directly shop the full-sized product at Birchbox’s shop. There’s also a Grooming section with hair, face and body, and shaving essentials.

Beauty Subscription Box (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Kura, for clean skincare bundles customized to your needs (from $99/shipment)
  • Prose, for personalized haircare like shampoo and hair masks (Price varies)

Read more about the best beauty subscription boxes we tested in 2021

Read our reviews of Birchbox and Prose.

The best shaving subscription

assortment of razors and shaving creams from dollarshaveclub the best shaving subscription in 2021

There are a variety of ways you can get sharp and budget-friendly razor shipments from Dollar Shave Club: the first is the Starter Set, which costs just $5 ($20 every two months afterward) and acts as your trial run for the shave subscription. Or, you can take the site’s quiz to receive a personalized recommendation of products based on your hair type and shaving needs. 

Either way, this famous online shave club offers plenty of flexibility so that you’ll always have a supply of razor blades and soothing post-shave essentials whenever you need it. 

Starter Set (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Billie, for fun yet practical razors ($9/shipment)
  • Harry’s, for sleek designs and other body care products ($15/shipment)

Read our reviews of Billie and Harry’s.

The best men’s clothing subscription

man wearing a chore jacket and jeans from menlo club the best mens clothing subscription box in 2021

Menlo Club, the styling service loved by NBA stars and our own senior style reporter, curates two to three pieces for you per month based on your style preferences and clothing sizes. Brands include Five Four, Grand AC, and New Republic, and the pieces are easy to incorporate into your existing wardrobe. 

It’s your best bet if you don’t like or have time for clothing shopping because it offers high-quality clothing with plenty of variety. You can exchange sizes for free and you’ll also get perks like exclusive discounts and early access to drops.

Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Stitch Fix, for clothing picks made by your own personal stylist ($20/shipment)
  • Gentleman’s Box, for stylish accessories like ties and socks ($35/shipment)

Read more about the best men’s clothing subscriptions we tested in 2021.

Read our review of Menlo Club.

The best women’s clothing subscription

woman sitting in chair wearing designer clothing from rent the runway the best womens clothing subscription in 2021

With over 750 designers to choose from, Rent the Runway is the closet of your dreams for special occasions like weddings, workwear essentials, or simply to add excitement to your regular wardrobe. Its most popular plan lets you rent four pieces at a time, twice a month, for just $99 a month (for the first two months). 

We’ve always found it easy to pick out, wear, and return dresses, tops, loungewear, and accessories from the service. It’s all the fun and excitement of wearing designer clothing, without the exorbitant price tags or complicated dry cleaning.

2 Swaps (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Stitch Fix, for clothing picks made by your own personal stylist ($20/shipment)
  • Nuuly, for affordable rentals from Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People ($88/shipment)

Read our review of Rent the Runway.

The best jewelry subscription

collection of gold hoop earrings from rocksbox the best jewelry subscription in 2021

The right jewelry can bring an outfit to the next level, and with Rocksbox, the search for the perfect ring, earring, necklace, or bracelet is easy and very affordable. The $21 monthly membership gets you three pieces of jewelry from brands like Kendra Scott, Slate, 8 Other Reasons, and more, and the best part is you can swap the pieces as many times as you want during the month. 

If you fall in love with a piece and decide to buy it, your membership fee turns into a credit towards your purchase, saving you even more money.

Monthly Jewelry Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Switch, for luxury and fine jewelry like Hermes and Chanel (from $40/shipment)
  • Rowan, for hypoallergenic earrings and fun freebies ($35/shipment)

The best underwear subscription

two women wearing pink and gray underwear from meundies the best underwear subscription in 2021

MeUndies makes incredibly soft and comfy underwear in a variety of cuts and a huge selection of fun, ever-rotating prints and patterns. Though new underwear every month may seem unnecessary, you might just change your tune once you try a pair from MeUndies. All its fabrics are breathable and stretchy and last through years of washes. 

The part to look forward to the most? Collecting all the unique prints, which have included sharks, a “Space Jam” collaboration, and sun-tanning alligators in the past.

Monthly Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Underclub, for designer underwear in a range of styles (from $15/shipment)
  • Savage by Fenty Xtra VIP, for access to monthly drops and exclusive deals from Rihanna’s lingerie brand ($49.95/shipment.

Read our review of MeUndies.

The best subscription for perfume and cologne

designer cologne bottles alongside a scent sampler tube from scentbird the best subscription for perfume and cologne

Fragrance is so personal to each individual person that it only makes sense to turn buying perfume or cologne into a sampling experience. Scentbird is home to over 500 fragrances from designer and indie brands, letting you discover your signature scent, add some variety to your current fragrance lineup, or simply try fragrances you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. You’ll be able to try perfume and cologne from Versace, D&G, Acqua di Parma and more. 

Each 8 mL sampler bottle holds about 140 sprays — enough to use a couple times a day, every day of the month.

Subscription Box (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Scentbox, for an even larger variety of fragrances to choose from ($14.95/shipment)
  • Skylar Scent Club, for limited-edition rollerballs made with clean ingredients ($20/shipment)

The best flower subscription

arrangement of pink and purple flowers and roses from bloomsybox the best flower subscription in 2021

Some people like food or shoes or jewelry, but for us, flowers are the ultimate monthly pick-me-up. BloomsyBox’s monthly flower delivery service features one unique bouquet of 22-24 stems, and though you can’t pick the exact flowers you want, the ones we’ve received from the service have always been gorgeous. 

It’s a lovely way to liven up your home with new and interesting arrangements and the flowers arrive fresh and undisturbed. Be on the lookout for cool, limited-time collaborations, like the current partnership with the New York Botanical Garden.

Flower Subscription Service (small)

Runners-up: 

  • UrbanStems, for timeless arrangements and deliveries as frequent as every week ($55/shipment)

Read more about the best flower delivery services we tested in 2021

Read our reviews of Bloomsybox and UrbanStems.

The best plant subscription

variety of potted plants like snake plant and money tree from horti the best plant subscription in 2021

Horti is best for beginner plant enthusiasts who are interested in starting a plant collection but may not know where to start or how to learn the basics of plant care. Horti’s subscription is strategically designed so you begin with hardy, low-maintenance plants but eventually graduate to more complex species as you develop your confidence and experience. 

Each one always comes in a hand-painted pot (or you can opt for just the naked plants) and sometimes you’ll also receive planting tools and accessories. 

Month-to-Month Plant Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

  • The Sill, for a robust variety of medium-sized, easy care plants ($60/shipment)
  • The Plant Club, for unique, seasonal plants ($39/month)

Read our review of The Sill.

The best book subscription

five hardcover books laid out on the snow from book of the month club the best book subscription in 2021

As the OG national book club (since 1926!), Book of the Month has book curation down to a science, with its finger on the pulse of all the books that everyone seems to be reading and talking about lately. Every month you have the opportunity to choose from five hardcover books representing a variety of genres. Whether you’re trying to start up a reading habit or already a voracious reader, the consistent shipments will keep you on track and make you a more well-read citizen. 

It also offers a separate, formal Book Club service where you can organize your own book club with anyone in your circle.

Membership (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Owl Crate, for signed young adult books and extra freebies ($32.99/shipment)

The best game subscription

board game with small easel and cards from unbox boardom the best game subscription in 2021

If you like to unplug and unwind with a board game, try the cleverly named Unbox Boardom subscription. Each month, you can either choose a new game yourself or let the gaming experts choose one for you. The membership has all kinds of unique games (strategy, family, trivia, and more) that you haven’t heard of before and will keep you well occupied throughout the year. 

Soon enough, you’ll have a healthy stack of games to choose from any time you want to exercise your brain a bit. Past games have included Photosynthesis, a strategy game where you chase the sun to grow trees and Sabordage, a mayhem-filled pirate adventure.

Monthly Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

The best crafting subscription

hands cross stitching a floral pattern for a workshop from the crafters box the best crafting subscription in 2021

For people who love working with their hands, The Crafter’s Box offers the convenient and affordable opportunity to try out different kinds of crafts and learn from real working crafters. In addition to the kit of materials, you’ll receive access to a digital workshop and live chat with a community of fellow craft lovers. 

The exciting lineup of craft options include fabric weaving, leather sandal making, paper making, soap making, and contemporary quilting. Since The Crafter’s Box sends you all the materials you need, you can test drive various crafting types and figure out the one you love the most before you drop an entire month’s paycheck at Michael’s.

Monthly Membership (small)

Runners-up: 

The best subscription for kids

blonde child playing with wooden blocks and beads from kiwico the best subscription for kids

Created by an engineer and mother of three, KiwiCo makes kits with toys and activities for kids of every age, from newborns to 14-year-olds. The science and art projects, designed by educators and scientists including but not limited to mechanical and industrial engineers, are age-appropriate and teach kids important skills like creative problem-solving, curiosity and tinkering, and hands-on craft. 

The beauty of KiwiCo is it frees up time for parents: time spent researching activities to do, and time spent participating in those activities with their kids. Though parents can certainly join in on the fun, the kits work best when the child can play independently.

Crates (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Lovevery, for developmental play kits for babies and toddlers (Price varies)
  • Baketivity, for kid-friendly baking kits ($32.95/shipment)

Read our reviews of KiwiCo and Lovevery

The best subscription for dogs

brown spaniel puppy chewing on plush toy from barkbox the best subscription for dogs

Dogs and their owners love this popular subscription box, which sends toys, treats, and chews revolving around a creative theme each month. When you sign up, you’ll share info about your dog, including its breed, birthday, and dietary restrictions, so that Barkbox can send a personalized collection of items. 

The plush toys in particular are a pup favorite. Soft, squeaky, and durable, they’re made for play. Barkbox also has the best themes and collaborations we’ve seen around, from movie character chews and toys to a winter cabin getaway bundle.

Single Box (small)

Runners-up: 

  • Pupbox from Petco, for treats, toys, and training resources specifically for puppies ($39/shipment)
  • Kongbox, for highly rugged Kong products and especially playful dogs ($44.95/shipment)

Read our review of Barkbox.

The best subscription for cats

woman playing with a cat and a string of lights from meowbox the best subscription for cats

Sometimes hair ties, lights, and cardboard boxes just won’t cut it for your cat. That’s where Meowbox comes in. Every box has five to six items, including high-quality toys and organic or grain-free treats that are always produced in the US or Canada. Plus, for every box sold, Meowbox donates a can of food to a cat shelter. It even provides a unique code you can use to track exactly where your donation has gone. 

Like Barkbox, Meowbox offers adorable themed-products, like a summer fishing bucket hat or a “skippy kitty rope” and kettlebell for cat-owner workouts. The a la carte shop also features paraphernalia for the owner so you don’t feel left out of the fun.

Monthly Subscription (small)

Runners-up: 

  • KitNipBox, for extra treats and toys if you have more than one cat ($19.99/shipment)
  • RescueBox, for a subscription box with high impact ($29.95/shipment)
Read the original article on Business Insider

32 gift ideas from ‘Shark Tank’ that you can get on Amazon

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Rapid ramen cooker

  • If you gift a product from the show “Shark Tank,” then you know it’ll be both creative and practical.
  • Games, kitchen tools, and food are thoughtful gifts to give the “Shark Tank” fan in your life.
  • Most of these items are available with Prime two-day shipping, so they will likely arrive quickly.

One of our favorite shows to spot new products and enjoy some entertaining celebrity judge banter is “Shark Tank,” which is currently in its 12th season.

As we’ve seen over the years, some pitches do extremely well, while others aren’t so lucky – but the fact remains that the show brings forward new and innovative ideas most of us have never considered.

That’s why the products from the show tend to make especially good gifts. They’re far from generic and they usually solve a common problem or annoyance. Conveniently, most are also available on Amazon with free two-day shipping for Prime members, so you can get them as last-minute gifts.

If they love watching ‘Shark Tank,’ they’ll recognize these 32 awesome gift ideas:

A phone charger and sanitizer that kills 99.99% of germs

Phone charger and sanitizer

Phone Soap 3, $79.95

This handy phone device completely sanitizes your phone while also charging it. It fits most phone sizes and small accessories like headphones or smartwatches. Stay healthy and safe with this innovative design.

A memory foam pillow with a hood for more restful flights

Memory foam neck pillow with hood

Hoodie Pillow, $29.95

If privacy and comfort are essential for your giftee during long trips, this hoodie pillow is a perfect travel accessory. The cozy pillow is made from memory foam covered with premium sweatshirt material. With the addition of the hood, the travel pillow blocks light and reduces sounds.

Wearable weights for workouts or everyday tasks

Wearable Ankle and Wrist Weights

Bala Bangles, from $49

One size fits all with these adjustable wrist and ankle weights that upgrade your next workout. With a set of either one pound or two, they provide additional exercise to everyday activities.

A powerful temperature controlled sponge

Scrub Daddy Sponge in dirty pan

Scrub Daddy, 3pk, $13.80

One of the most popular Shark Tank products is the Scrub Daddy, which is designed to fit in your hand while also offering powerful scrubbing. The sponges change from hard to soft textures depending on if you’re using them in cold or hot water.

A reusable smart notebook

Rocketbook, pen, and eraser towel

Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook, from $24.87

If they go through notebook after notebook, this reusable option offers a long-lasting solution. Use the included pen to take any notes, then scan each page using the accompanying app to save the pages in the program of your choice.

A back support belt that improves posture

Amazon_betterback

BetterBack, $49.99

Insider Reviews executive editor Sally Kaplan can’t recommend this posture corrector enough. If your recipient suffers from back pain, this ergonomic belt provides the relief they’ll need.

A cake accessory for people who love surprises

Amazon_surprisecake

Surprise Cake Popping Cake Stand, $60.98

This clever product lets you hide gifts inside a cake, giving the gift an extra oomph and wow factor. As long as it fits inside the Gift Pod, which measures 2.8 inches by 6 inches, it can go in the cake.

A tool to help them reach every last drop

Spatty Last Drop Spatula

The Spatty & Spatty Daddy Last Drop Spatula, Two Piece Set, $11.99

They’ll never have the guilty feeling of tossing a semi-full container again with this fun and useful two-piece set. The Spatty can be used in cosmetics, condiments, and any other container they can think of. Afterwards, it’s safe to throw in the dishwasher for cleaning.

An eco-friendly alternative to paper towels

Bambooee Paper Towels

Bambooee Paper Towel Replacement 30-Sheet Roll, $10.99

If they are passionate about creating less waste, these reusable paper towels are a great alternative to their one-time use counterparts. Made of organically-sourced bamboo, these paper towels can be machine washed up to 100 times. The eco-friendly benefits don’t stop there: for every Bambooee roll sold the company pledges to plant a tree.  

A tool to protect their fingers during home renovation projects

Safety Nail Framer

Safety Nailer Framer, $8.99

This simple tool will help them get through their ambitious home renovation projects without injuring their fingers. The Safety Nailer holds screws and nails steady when drilling or hammering and is designed to be used with either hand. 

A memorable 3D card

LovePop Black Panther Card

Lovepop Marvel Black Panther Pop Up Card, $15

The cards are available in eight different “Marvel” designs, or you can visit Lovepop’s Amazon page to find other types of themes. Don’t worry — there’s still room to write an actual message for your recipient in the included notecard. 

A funny gift box

Bathe & brew

Prank Pack Bathe & Brew Gift Box, $6.99

The Prank Pack isn’t the actual gift, but it is a funny way to prank your recipient and trick them into thinking they’re receiving a strange or gimmicky present. The co-founder is a former writer at The Onion, so expect nothing less than hilarious fake products and product descriptions that your recipient will have to pretend to enjoy. 

A travel accessory that combines a hoodie with a memory foam pillow

15

HoodiePillow Memory Foam Travel Pillow, $29.95

The clever design of this two-in-one hoodie and memory foam pillow, which feels like their favorite fleece sweatshirt, lets them fall asleep comfortably while traveling. The hood helps block out light and noise, while the pillow provides soft neck support.

A baking pan that gives them more edge pieces

16

Baker’s Edge Nonstick Edge Brownie Pan, $36.95

The days of fighting over the limited number of edge pieces are over. With this unique pan, every piece has two delectable, chewy edges. Other than to make brownies, they can also use it for other desserts, pasta, or any baked good that requires some extra crust.

Rich, dessert-like peanut butter spread packed with protein

Nuts 'N More Chocolate Maple Under $25

Nuts ‘N More Chocolate Maple Pretzel Peanut Butter Spread, $13.29

For the family’s resident sweet tooth or fitness enthusiast, get these chunky, sweet-and-salty peanut butter spreads. They contain whey protein isolate, providing 11 grams of protein per serving, and they’re low-sugar and low-carb. Spread the creative flavors, which include birthday cake and gingerbread, over pancakes or fruit, or enjoy them straight out of the jar. 

A fun outdoor game

1

Spikeball 3 Ball Kit, $59

On a beautiful sunny day at any park in the city, you’ll probably see at least one group playing this fun and active game. With rules similar to volleyball, it’s easy to learn so the whole family can get involved. Prior to the pandemic, the company even held nationwide tournaments. 

A glass that makes any wine bottle into a single serving

Under $25

Guzzle Buddy 2GO Wine Glasses, $12.99

This handy tool can attach a glass to nearly any bottle of wine. It’s odor-free, virtually unbreakable, and top-rack dishwasher safe. Plus, it lies at the intersection between a humorous white elephant gift and an actually useful accessory, given how the past year has panned out. 

An appliance that turns any beer into draft beer

Shark Tank gifts Fizzics

Fizzics FZ403 DraftPour Beer Dispenser, $124.99

Using sound waves, this cool appliance turns any can or bottle of beer into fresh draft beer by turning its natural carbonation into compacted micro bubbles. All they have to do is insert their favorite beer, then pull and push the tap to receive the enhanced version of their IPA, pilsner, or stout. 

A balance bike

2

KaZAM No Pedal Balance Bike, from $55

Featuring a patented footrest design that helps young kids find their center of gravity, this bike builds the confidence needed to transition to riding a proper bike. The ergonomic, adjustable handles and seat will get kids comfortable and ready to ride right away. The bike weighs only eight pounds and the puncture-free tires never need air. 

A beach towel that gives back

shark tank gifts 6

Sand Cloud Turkish Towel, $44

This beautiful 100% Turkish cotton towel also works as a throw or wall tapestry. It’s thin and compact, but durable. Plus, the company donates 10% of profits to help preserve marine life.

A sturdy, inflatable paddle board

actually 6

Tower Inflatable 10’4″ Stand Up Paddle Board, $629.99

Gift an avid outdoor adventurer this premium paddle board and you’ll have a difficult time getting them to return to shore. Its design provides for better balance and stability, while a bottom fin makes it easier to maneuver. It inflates and deflates quickly, so it can be brought anywhere — but unlike many other inflatable boards, it’s strong and rigid. 

High-fidelity earplugs to protect their ears during concerts

Vibes earplugs

Vibes High Fidelity Concert Earplugs, $23.98

If they plan on attending a lot of loud shows as soon as concerts are safe again, their eardrums may be facing the consequences. Wearing these comfortable earplugs can reduce decibel levels by up to 22 decibels, but they don’t cancel out noise completely. Instead, they only filter out certain frequencies, so your recipient will still be able to enjoy the crisp vocals and instrumentation of their favorite band. 

The famous “Comfy” sweatshirt that they’ll never want to take off

shark tank gifts 3

The Comfy Sweatshirt, from $44.95

You can practically feel the comfortable softness and warmth of this oversized blanket sweater just by looking at it. Cozy up in The Comfy by the fireplace, at sports games, or while watching rom-coms. 

Adorable leather moccasins

8

Freshly Picked Kids’ Soft Sole Moccasins (Newborn Baby), from $59

The creator of the cutest little baby shoes you’ve ever seen got her start picking up yard sale leather scraps and selling on Etsy. Today, parents everywhere are obsessed with the unique and comfortable 100% leather designs that infuse style into their baby’s every step. 

A better protein mixing bottle

10

Ice Shaker 26-Ounce Stainless Steel Protein Mixing Cup, $35

The problem with traditional plastic protein powder shakers is that they tend to absorb odor and won’t keep the contents cold. Former NFL player Chris Gronkowski’s stainless steel water bottle is double-insulated, spill-proof, and odor-free — the upgrade that fitness enthusiasts deserve.

A funny card game that tests the financial limits of various outrageous scenarios

Under $25 (4)

Pricetitution Card Game, $19.99

Every card begins with the prompt, “How much money would it take me…” followed by a funny situation. It was a big success on both “Shark Tank,” with four Sharks giving offers, and on Kickstarter. 

A smart video doorbell

14

Ring Video Doorbell Pro, Works with Alexa, $169.99

Ring may not have secured a deal with the Sharks, but it did strike up a deal with Amazon for over $1 billion in 2018, so it’s doing just fine. The smart security system has two-way talk, sends motion-activated alerts, and works with Alexa, giving homeowners the peace of mind that their house will be safe, regardless of whether or not they’re home. 

A pair of lightweight running sandals

19

Xero Shoes Barefoot-Inspired Sport Sandals, Men’s Z-Trek, $64.99

Xero Shoes Barefoot-Inspired Sport Sandals, Women’s Z-Trek, $64.99

After constantly getting injured while running, cofounder Steven Sashen switched to barefoot running and loved the effects, so he created a thin running sandal. These comfortable and supportive shoes are great for runners and could inspire them to kick-start their 2021 running goals. They can also be used for outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking. 

A suction silicone place mat

Under $25 (5)

Ezpz Happy Mat, $19.99

Parents will appreciate any help they can get. The placemat stays right in place on any flat surface, making it that much easier to get food from the plate into their child’s mouth.

A temperature-regulating machine that goes under their bed

Shark Tank gifts BedJet

BedJet 3 Climate Comfort for Beds, $499

As an engineer who developed the heating and cooling systems of NASA spacesuits, the creator of BedJet has the perfect background to improve the sleep experience. Since temperature often impedes a good night’s sleep, the BedJet blows hot or cold air onto the bed and over their body and creates “biorhythm sleep sequences” throughout the night. 

A drink accessory that keeps their beer cold

11

BottleKeeper The Standard 2.0, $36.55

Is there anything more frustrating to an avid beer drinker than a cold one that’s less than cold in just half an hour? The insulated stainless steel BottleKeeper, complete with bottle opener, keeps their beer colder for a longer period of time. It’s also a smart way to protect against drops and spills. 

A rapid ramen cooker

Rapid ramen cooker

Rapid Ramen Cooker, $10.99

What seems like a gag gift has actually come in handy for many busy students, parents, and office workers because it takes away the need for a stove and dish-washing session, cooks the noodles more quickly, and requires less water. It’s the perfect size for a block of ramen and a faster, more reliable alternative to stovetop cooking. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

This wine site sends vials of wine instead of full-sized bottles, and it’s perfect for sampling many kinds of wine without spending a lot of money

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

product image of two vials lying down from the best wine club 2021 for sampling and tasting Vinebox

  • Vinebox is a company that sends you nine “glasses” of the world’s best wines for under $100.
  • But instead of full bottles, you’ll get vials that hold about a glass of wine each that’s perfect for sampling.
  • It can be a good way to try different high-end wines you would otherwise never be able to afford.

Fresh Reds Wine Collection (small)

Finding out which wines you like can feel more like an accident than any sort of comprehensive, efficient effort. My own history more honestly resembles stumbling around in the dark – and asking my local wine shop experts for blind personal recommendations.

It’s exactly this obscurity that makes intelligent wine services like Vinebox so uniquely appealing. Vinebox sends customers nine wines revolving around different themes and seasons, with collections ranging from around $85 to $95.

Once a wine subscription club, Vinebox has since shifted to an a-la-carte-shop-only model (as of August 2021), allowing you to buy and receive wine collections any time rather than once every three months.

Buying wine online isn’t a new concept, at least when it comes to buying full wine bottles. But it makes sense why Vinebox would send by the glass; the high-end wine selection would cost the average person a small fortune (and probably some plane rides), and trying only by the glass is a low-risk commitment that encourages you to expand your palate.

You’re able to try a variety of really diverse, premium wines for a fraction of the cost required for full bottles, and you won’t be stuck with a wine you hate if you take a chance sampling something more adventurous. If you do love one, then you can buy your own bottle.

How Vinebox works

  1. Visit the shop: Go to the Vinebox shop to see the current lineup of wine collections. They’ll usually focus on some kind of theme, like single varietals or European wines grown in optimal locations.
  2. Taste the wines: Most of the collections contain nine 10 cL vials of wine (some are six-packs instead) and each holds a full glass worth of vino. They come nicely packaged in a sturdy box and with a booklet full of information like tasting notes and how to pronounce the names of each wine. You’ll get to suss out your favorite kinds of wine, learn more about the regions in and processes by which they’re made, and get the most out of the luxury wines sent to you.
  3. Discover favorites: If you love one glass more than most, you can see if a full-sized bottle is available in the shop. However, it may be hard because there are limited quantities available.

booklet of tasting notes and pairings for wine from vinebox review 2021

What the wines are like

Of more than 11,000 fine wines tested by Vinebox, only about 1% make the cut into your box. They’re not the same as your local wine store options (even the really nice ones) – you won’t find anything mass-produced here. Though Vinebox handles the bottling and distribution, all the wine is imported from various winemakers and vineyards in Europe.

Vinebox’s periodic releases are said to be the best wine of the moment – from old vintage cellar releases hitting their “sweet spot” to those that mesh perfectly with current wine trends.

The company uses a closed-nitrogen environment to prevent the wines from ever coming in contact with oxygen. The use of inert gas allows the wines to “maintain their complete bouquet, flavor profile, and mouthfeel” throughout the process. Once they’re encapsulated in the vials, the wines are good for up to three years – though you’ll want to pour yourself a glass much sooner than that.

hand taking out a vial of white wine from vinebox review 2021

Price of Vinebox

The price of each box varies, but they generally cost between $85 to $95, making each glass of wine $9 to $10.50. Standard shipping is free, or you can pay $25 for expedited delivery. It’s also easy to make the shipment a gift and Vinebox lets you add a free gift message.

Review of Vinebox

The last collection I tried from Vinebox was called Back to the Classics. It’s an ode to the “classic” wines of regions like Tuscany, Italy and Burgundy, France and contains four reds, four whites, and one rosé.

All the wines in this particular edition were light- and medium-bodied, so if those are up your alley, you’ll love the box. I enjoyed trying and sipping on all the wines, especially because I tend to be a casual, low-commitment drinker. I hate opening an entire bottle knowing I won’t be able to finish it in one night (or even a few nights), so I really appreciated Vinebox’s unique design. It’s also convenient because all the bottles have screwtops – no bottle opener or corkscrew necessary.

In particular, I liked the Le Gabier Blanc, a medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend with notes of apple and peach, which felt appropriate for the transition from summer to fall. Unfortunately, Vinebox didn’t have a full-sized bottle but it had a similar one – a Godello wine. This was slightly disappointing and I haven’t yet bought the full-sized alternative. It turns out Vinebox didn’t have any of the exact same wines as the samplers for the box I tried, so it might be best not to fall too head over heels for a particular bottle.

Other than the regular year-round offerings, Vinebox sells a holiday favorite: 12 Nights of Wine, a fun take on the traditional advent calendar. This limited-edition box contains 12 bottles and comes in one of three beautiful holiday-themed packaging. Each of the slots is labeled by number, letting you work through the collection one day at a time. Be on the lookout for this highly popular box around the holidays – it always sells out quickly.

holiday themed wine advent calendar called 12 nights of wine from Vinebox review 2021

The bottom line

If you’re looking for an affordable way to try premium wines, or you just want to stop wasting time and get smarter about wine or your own preferences, Vinebox is worth checking out.

The wines are delicious, and the service is convenient. There’s very little chance you’d have the power, money, or time to first become an expert sommelier and then test thousands of wines to pair them down to the perfect litmus test for yourself. This way, you get to maintain your life the way it is and still get to try the best wines of a high variety so you can get into a new hobby, impress dates, or just have less trouble ordering in restaurants.

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The best microwaves in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best microwaves cook food evenly and quickly, and feature useful preset buttons.
  • Before testing microwaves, we consulted experts and researched popular models.
  • Panasonic’s NN-SN65KB Microwave Oven is our top pick because it’s powerful and has helpful presets.

When microwave ovens were first introduced in the late 1940s, they were more than 5 feet tall, weighed about 750 pounds, and cost thousands of dollars. Thankfully, microwaves have since come a long way – they now fit on your countertop and many households use them every day to reheat or cook food.

A good microwave should heat your food safely, quickly, and evenly. In addition to our research and testing, we spoke with Bob Schiffmann, a microwave heating expert and president of the International Microwave Power Institute, as well as Jared Lodico, a postdoctoral researcher in physics at UCLA, to better understand how microwaves work and what to look for when shopping for a microwave.

We put five popular microwaves through a series of tests, starting with the marshmallow test – an industry-standard experiment to check for hot and cold spots by heating marshmallows for a set period of time. We also used each microwave to reheat beverages and cook frozen foods, and we tested every model’s presets (like Popcorn and Sensor Cook). Finally, we used the microwaves for several days throughout a normal routine, evaluating how easy they were to use and how well they cooked. You can read more about our methodology here.

The best microwaves you can buy in 2021

The best microwave overall

the panasonic microwave, the best microwave overall in 2021

The Panasonic NN-SN65KB Microwave Oven packs 1,200 watts of power to cook food quickly and evenly. It’s compact, yet has a spacious interior, and comes with helpful preset buttons for easy cooking.  

Pros: Five useful preset buttons, 1,200 watts of cooking power (more than most microwaves), includes a child-safety lock button

Cons: Fingerprint smudges are visible, the light inside isn’t bright enough to check food while it’s cooking, it’s loud, Frozen Foods feature doesn’t cook accurately, doesn’t have Express Cook buttons

At 1,200 watts, the Panasonic NN-SN65KB Microwave Oven packs a punch and cooks food fast. The microwave heats remarkably evenly, which we saw during the marshmallow test. The marshmallows all expanded evenly, and at the end of two minutes, there was only a bit of burning in the very center of the marshmallows.

The microwave’s power levels start at P10, the highest cooking level, and go down to P0, the Keep Warm level. P10 is the default setting and the one I used regularly for heating and cooking.

If you’re using this microwave to simply reheat leftovers, the Sensor Reheat feature works well. Once cooking, it detects the humidity level of the food inside and starts counting down the cooking time. I also tried the more niche preset buttons like Popcorn and Coffee/Milk preset, and both worked better than the presets on other microwaves I tested.

That said, I was less impressed with the Frozen Food preset that categorizes food groups into numbers, much like Sensor Reheat. I used this when making frozen mac and cheese and found that the microwave overestimated the amount of time needed to cook it. 

A few other minor downsides: the light inside the microwave is dim, so it’s hard to monitor the food while it’s cooking, and fingerprints are highly visible on the control panel. However, this is overall a great microwave that balances power and size with easy-to-use features. 

Read our full review of the Panasonic NN-SN65KB Microwave Oven here.

Best microwave on a budget

The Commercial Chef microwave, the best budget microwave in 2021

The Commercial Chef Microwave is bare-bones, but super simple to use. It’s moderately powerful, well-priced, and compact enough for small kitchens.  

Pros: Simple to use, compact, quieter than most models, heats evenly

Cons: Doesn’t have a clock, can only set cook time by the minute, not very powerful (only 600 watts), too small for large dishes or plates over 10 inches in diameter

Editor’s note: Commercial Chef has an updated model of this microwave with digital controls, at a lower price point. We’re currently looking into testing it.

At less than 18 inches long and 11 inches deep, The Commercial Chef Microwave is compact and well-sized for small kitchens or dorm rooms. In many ways, it resembles an old-school toaster oven, and even “dings” when cooking is complete. The controls consist of just two rotary knobs — one for power level and one for cook time. Unfortunately, you can’t set specific seconds if you’re zapping something quick, like warming a piece of bread or melting butter. It also doesn’t have any special features or buttons.

That said, if simplicity is what you’re after, this model is easy and intuitive to use, and heats relatively evenly. When I did the marshmallow test, I noticed a few browned pieces on the outer edges where the marshmallows expanded more, but overall no major hot or cold spots. 

At just 600 watts, it’s a little underpowered. In the absence of any preset buttons, I just used the package instructions to cook frozen mac and cheese. After the four minutes recommended on the package, it was warm throughout but not hot. You’ll likely have to add a minute or two to any package instructions when cooking in this microwave. 

If you want a no-frills microwave that reheats and cooks food in a simple, quick manner, this is a great option, especially if you don’t have much kitchen space to work with.

Best convection microwave

Toshiba microwave, the best convection microwave in 2021

If you’re looking for a microwave that does it all, the 1,000-watt Toshiba Microwave Oven with Convection, cooks, reheats, bakes, and even roasts food quickly and thoroughly. 

Pros: Quiet, many quick-touch preset cooking buttons, a multi-functional appliance that can bake and roast, includes a child-safety lock

Cons: Heavy and bulky, convection feature heats up kitchen quickly

If you’re trying to condense the number of kitchen appliances in your home, then the Toshiba Microwave Oven with Convection is a good multi-functional appliance to have. Not only does it work as a traditional microwave, but it also bakes, roasts, and toasts. It’s also the only microwave we tested that has an Express Cook feature, which allow you to quickly start the microwave by just pressing numbers one through six on the number pad.

At 1,000 watts, the Toshiba microwave oven is powerful. I definitely saw the results when I did the marshmallow test: the marshmallows in the center of the tray burned after two minutes, and there was a lot of moisture buildup on the tray underneath the parchment paper. Aside from the burning in the middle, I didn’t notice any hot or cold spots. It also cooked frozen mac and cheese thoroughly.

One of the unique features of this microwave is that it also works as a convection oven, so you don’t need to buy a separate toaster oven. To test out the convection oven, I warmed up frozen French fries, which typically come out soggy in a regular microwave. The heating options were confusing, so I had to refer to the cooking chart in the manual to see what level to cook the French fries. I was pleasantly surprised to see the fries turned out as crispy as they do in my air fryer (though it took twice as long and the settings were a bit more complicated).

You can also make toast with the convection setting. When I tried this, I found it toasted very unevenly and the results were paler and flabbier than a regular toaster, so I don’t recommend this microwave for that use.

Overall, this microwave heated well, the buttons are easy to use and smudge-proof, and the microwave beeps loud and clear. The only major downside is you will need plenty of countertop space to accommodate this large oven, and at nearly 50 pounds, it isn’t easy to move.

Best large capacity microwave

Panasonic microwave, the best large capacity microwave in 2021

The Panasonic NN-SD975S Microwave, which can also be installed as a built-in, is large enough to fit two plates at a time and features an easy-to-use dial to heat and cook your food.

Pros: Quiet, powerful 1,250 watts, the dial is easy to use, comes with useful preset buttons, includes a child-safety lock, can be installed as a built-in microwave 

Cons: You can’t see the food well while it’s cooking, dial only goes up in 10-second increments

The Panasonic NN-SD975S Microwave Oven is large in both size and capacity; with a 16.5-inch turntable, it’s ideal if you’re cooking for a family.

One dial controls the cooking time and it only adjusts in 10-second increments; a minor inconvenience, but it otherwise operates smoothly and easily. You can also use the dial to input weight for food you’re defrosting by turning the dial clockwise until you get to the proper weight. 

At 1,250 watts, it’s the most powerful microwave we tested, and it overcooked frozen mac and cheese when I cooked it according to package instructions. You’ll likely need to decrease cooking time by a minute or two from any package instructions with this microwave. However, it heated very evenly. When I did the marshmallow test, it produced the best results of any microwave I tried with no hot or cold spots, even in the center. 

Like other microwaves we tried, you can program up to three stages of cooking, and the display screen will let you know where you are in the cooking process. If you’re using the multi-stage cooking feature, you can use the Keep Warm setting as your final stage.

While it’s a powerful microwave with lots of helpful features, it’s extremely large and bulky, so best suited for large kitchens or households with many members who will take advantage of its larger capacity. This microwave can also be built into a cabinet or other static feature in your kitchen, though I left it on my countertop for easier testing.

Best smart microwave

GE Smart Microwave Oven, the best smart microwave in 2021

GE’s Smart Microwave Oven is Alexa- and Google Assistant-enabled, so you can cook your food using voice commands or from your smartphone.

Pros: Features smart technology and scan-to-cook technology at a reasonable price, heats food quickly, spacious yet compact enough to fit in a small kitchen

Cons: Doesn’t cook food as evenly as other microwaves we tested, doesn’t come with a trim kit to mount over the stove or underneath cabinets, the voice commands are finicky.

The GE Smart Microwave Oven looks like any ordinary microwave on the market. It’s sleek and relatively compact, but a dinner plate still fits nicely inside. Its defining feature is its smart connectivity.

I cooked marshmallows in the microwave for two minutes on high to see how they heated. I noticed some hot spots, and the outer edges and center cooked more quickly than the rest of the marshmallows. I also microwaved frozen mac and cheese according to the package instructions. At 900 watts, this microwave isn’t the most powerful, but it heats up pretty quickly. 

The best part of having a smart microwave is that you can control the settings and check the status of your food from your smartphone or by using voice commands with a virtual assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. I tested the microwave with my Google Home Mini, and I was able to use voice commands to perform basic functions including start/stop, pause/resume, set the microwave for a specific amount of time, add time (but I couldn’t subtract), and ask how much time is left (I can also check this from my smartphone).

Frankly, most people don’t need a smart microwave. However, the hands-free technology makes cooking easier when you’re multitasking, and it’s more sanitary since you are reducing how much you touch the microwave. 

It also features a scan-to-cook function where you can scan the barcode on a package of food using your smartphone, and the cook time and settings automatically display. All you have to do is press or say “start.” 

Other smart microwaves on the market can be upwards of $300, so for the price and reliability, this is a great microwave. 

Read our full review of the GE Smart Microwave Oven here.

Our testing methodology

several plates of microwaved marshallows sit for comparison as part of the best microwave in 2021

In addition to speaking with Bob Schiffmann, a microwave heating expert and president of the International Microwave Power Institute, and Jared Lodico, a postdoctoral researcher in physics at UCLA, I put all the microwaves through a standard set of tests, evaluating how well they cooked food, how easy they were to use, and any special features or extra buttons. Here’s how I tested microwaves: 

Marshmallow test: The first test I performed with every microwave was the marshmallow test, an industry-standard way to check your microwave for hot and cold spots. To conduct this test, I cut parchment paper to the size of each microwave’s glass tray and completely covered it with mini marshmallows, leaving no blank spaces. I cooked the marshmallows in the microwave for two minutes on high to see how they expanded and cooked. The marshmallows that expanded first revealed the microwave’s hot spots, while marshmallows that still appeared raw showed the cold spots. Colder spots are potentially dangerous because they can mean your food is undercooked and possibly unsafe to eat in those areas. A good microwave produces even cooking across the entire surface — no burnt or uncooked marshmallows.

Frozen meal test: I also cooked frozen mac and cheese in each microwave, using the same brand and cook time. I checked for evenness and burnt or cold spots.

Ease of use: I looked at how easy and intuitive the microwaves were to use, and how much space they occupied on my counter. I also evaluated how much noise they made during cooking and how loud and persistent their alarms and beeps were. 

Presets and additional functions: Where applicable, I used and tested each model’s preset buttons according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This included Popcorn, Reheat, Sensor Cook, and Keep Warm buttons. I evaluated how well these settings performed their intended function and how easy they were to use.

What we’re testing next

marshmallows on a plate in a microwave as part of testing for the best microwave in 2021

Here are some models that we’re looking forward to testing in the future:

GE Smart Microwave with Scan-to-Cook ($67.97): An updated version of our current best budget pick, this model features digital controls, a compact footprint, and a low price point. We’re looking into testing it and will report back soon with our findings.

Whirlpool 1.9-cubic-foot Over-the-Range Microwave ($619.99): This over-the-range microwave appeared as a pick in the previous version of this guide. Unfortunately, I couldn’t test it this round because my kitchen isn’t outfitted to accommodate an over-the-range unit. However, if you’re in search of a microwave that sits over the stove, this may be a good option. This model is both a convection oven and a microwave, and according to reviews, it’s spacious, easy to use, and easy to install. We hope to test it for a future update of this guide.

How microwaves work

an open microwave as part of testing for the best microwaves in 2021

While microwaves may seem mystifying to some, at their most basic, they’re not much different than stoves, ovens, or grills in that they use energy to cook food. “Generally speaking, the process of putting energy into something is pretty much how we heat and cook all food, it just depends on how we do it (such as on the stove, in the sun, or with a microwave),” said Lodico. 

The difference is that microwaves generate energy in the form of electrical and magnetic rays. “Microwaves generate ‘microwaves,’ which is a form of electromagnetic radiation,” Lodico said. “This electric field transfers energy to the food as the waves pass through it.” The energy transfer causes water molecules in the food to vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food practically from the inside out. Because of this, foods that are high in water content, like potatoes or other fresh vegetables, cook much faster in the microwave than they do in other appliances, like the stove.

What to look for in a microwave

a microwave display showing "lock" to denote the child lock is engaged

We consulted experts on what to look for when purchasing a microwave. Here are the major qualities you should consider:

Power: The biggest consideration when shopping for a microwave is power. How much power you’ll need depends on what you primarily use the microwave for. If your household is only using the microwave to reheat food, then you can look for a cheaper model with less wattage, said Schiffmann. “Around an 800-watt oven works [for reheating], and popular ones are between 800 to 1,000 watts,” he said. 

Today, microwaves can do a lot more than just heat up cold food; they can defrost, cook, roast, bake, and more. If you want a microwave that actually cooks your food rather than simply reheating it, expect to spend a little more for a quality oven with more than 1,000 watts of power. 

Presets and additional functions: It’s also worthwhile to consider how and when you typically use preset functions. Many consumers are fine primarily operating a microwave with the number pad or Express Cook buttons. However, if you’re someone who does a lot of cooking or defrosting, you may find preset functions helpful.

If you’re in the market for a microwave that can also replace a toaster oven, opt for a model with convection settings, but keep in mind that this functionality often comes at a higher price and the technology can be hit or miss. 

Price: Schiffmann said you should expect to spend between $100 and $150 on a good 800 to 1,000-watt microwave, and a bit more as wattage increases. You’ll also pay more for extra features, like convection settings or lots of presets. While Schiffmann says you don’t have to spend a lot to get a quality microwave, he cautions about considering microwaves under $100. “Anything cheaper will most likely break down and be unstable,” he said, so you’re better off investing in a machine that costs a little more but will last longer. 

Safety features: If you have young children, you will want to purchase a microwave with a child-safety lock feature. “Many toddlers can get injured when reaching in the microwave, but many manufacturers have a digital lock now where you put in a combination of numbers to lock and unlock the microwave,” Schiffmann said. Out of the microwaves we tested, all but the Commercial Chef microwave have the ability to lock itself. Note that this feature prevents the microwave oven from operating; it does not lock the microwave door. 

FAQs

french fries sit on a wire rack inside of a microwave oven as part of testing for the best microwaves in 2021

Does standing near a microwave put me at risk for radiation exposure?

You may have heard that standing too close to the microwave while it’s operating can expose you to radiation, but according to experts, that’s a myth. “Microwaves are very safe — as long as they aren’t damaged,” Lodico said. “The metal housing and mesh screen on the door act as a shield from the radiation that is generated inside. As the radiation approaches the wall of the microwave it induces a current and magnetic field that cancels out the incoming wave.” While there was once some concern about operating a microwave if you have a pacemaker, the FDA says this is no longer an issue with modern pacemakers, though individuals with pacemakers should always check with their doctor first. 

Why are there holes in my microwave door?

According to experts, these small holes are another safeguard against radiation, canceling out incoming electromagnetic waves just like the metal housing in the microwave does. Lodico said holes are only a concern if they’re very large, which these intentional holes are not. “In fact, the holes on the door are actually 10 times smaller than what they theoretically need to be. But, it makes sense to make them smaller in case the door is damaged in some way,” Lodico said. “Rule of thumb: If there is a hole in your microwave greater than three millimeters in diameter, it’s time to get a new microwave.”

Should you defrost meat in the microwave?

We’ve all been there: You forgot to put the frozen meat for dinner in the refrigerator to thaw out. The defrost feature on a microwave can come to the rescue. Defrosting sets your microwave’s power between 30% to 50% so it thaws your food without cooking it. Although it’s recommended to safely thaw meat in the refrigerator, you can use your microwave’s defrost button to thaw meat in a pinch as long as you cook it immediately after you thaw it. According to the FDA, microwaves may heat food unevenly which could result in harmful bacteria growth if the food isn’t cooked immediately after defrosting.

While we know from the marshmallow test that many microwaves have natural hot and cold spots, defrosting presents an additional challenge for microwaves because the waves don’t penetrate or heat frozen foods as effectively as thawed foods. “So there is a dilemma: once the meat starts to defrost somewhere, it will continue heating there. But the frozen parts will heat up more slowly, leading to non-uniform temperatures,” said Schiffmann. “I break up the defrosted ground beef with a fork since it has usually softened, then I continue the defrost cycle for another minute or two, breaking up any softened, but completely melted parts.”

Schiffmann also said it’s important when cooking or defrosting food in the microwave to keep an eye on food temperature. “When cooking your food, measure several places with a food thermometer to avoid undercooking or underheating,” he said. According to the FDA, a safe final cooking temperature for poultry and ground beef is around 165 degrees while roasts and steaks are safe around 145 degrees.

What foods should I cook in my microwave oven?

“Microwave ovens are really poachers or steamers, so those foods that fit that profile do well,” said Schiffmann. “They’re great for cooking fish, vegetables, and chicken, but don’t expect dry foods to crisp or brown.” Any food with high water content does well in the microwave, like potatoes or fresh vegetables, and you can also use them as a shortcut when making boiled foods. For example, you can put dry pasta in a bowl of water and microwave for the cooking time on the pasta package. The pasta will cook perfectly and you don’t even have to wait for the water to boil. 

Check out our other small appliance buying guides

best juicers methodology
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