Upgrade your cooking with the best kitchen essentials we tested in 2020
CNN Underscored constantly tests products – be it coffee makers or office chairs – to find the absolute best in each category.
Our testing process is rigorous and consists of hours of research (consulting from experts, reading editorial reviews, and searching user reviews) to find the top products in each category. Once we’ve decided on a test pool, we spend weeks – if not months – testing and retesting each product multiple times in real environments. All of this in order to agree on the absolute best products.
This year we tested dozen of kitchen utensils – from knife sets to hand mixers – to find the best products you need to make any type of meal with ease.
If you are a minimalist and only want a single pan in your kitchen, the T-fal E76597 is for you. The depth of this pan gives it multipurpose functionality: it cooks standard skillet dishes like eggs and meat, and its 2.5-inch sides are large enough to make recipes you would normally reserve for pots like rice and stews. It’s a high quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our review range.
The Ceramic Fry Pan from GreenPan offers materials that will please every chemical-conscious consumer. Unlike many nonstick pans, this one is free of materials that can pose long-term health risks, including PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium. Instead, the non-stick coating consists of sand, so that no toxic fumes are released when overheated.
The HexClad 10-inch hybrid pan feels chic (and yes, it’s expensive too), but it’s also a sturdy piece of cookware that blew the competition out of the kitchen in every one of our tests: the food slipped easily, it was The breeze for cleaning and heating was evenly distributed during cooking. If you’re looking for a professional upgrade for your cookware, this is all you could want in a coated pan in a pretty package.
Read more about our tests with non-stick pans here.
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q has a number of preset buttons, is available in several colors, contains important accessories and is considered quieter than other models. At around $ 500, the price is steep, but for those who can’t imagine a tomorrow without a smoothie, it seems like a steal, which adds up to $ 1.30 a day over a year.
We admit that $ 630 may seem like an extreme amount of money to buy a blender, but as a luxury option, the Vitamix Venturist V1200 just went to the extreme with its 10-year warranty and an abundance of functional, durable, and simply cool features in every test performed.
When it comes to a blender priced at $ 100 or less, we’ve found the Ninja Professional Plus blender with Auto-iQ to be the top. Not only does it do a great job of mixing creamy soups and smoothies, it also offers a range of presets, as well as manual settings for low, medium and high values. It doesn’t have the weight or quality materials of the heavy duty blenders we tested, but it won’t disappoint for the casual user.
Read more about our mixer tests here.
With the 17-piece Chicago Cutlery Fusion knife block set, you can easily perform almost any cutting process. The included core knives (cooking, paring, utility and serrated knives) not only performed admirably, but the set also contained a number of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such incredible value. The knives stayed sharp throughout our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the pillow handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained block of wood. If you’re looking for a complete set of knives to be proud of, at a price that won’t drain your savings account, this is the clear winner.
If you want to take things up a few notches, you can hardly go wrong with the 7-piece knife block set from Zwilling Pro. The precision-ground blades are equipped with four knives, all of which are forged from a single piece of carbon-containing stainless steel. They are particularly sharp, elegant and just sit comfortably in the hand. At $ 330 they’re expensive, yes. However, if you’re looking to invest in your kitchen appliances, we can’t think of a better place to start.
If you have saved up for a knife set that you know will last for years – yes, decades – then choose the 7-piece walnut block knife set Wüsthof Classic Ikon. From the sharpness to the balance to the weight and the slim and refined appearance of the four supplied knives as well as a sharpening steel and kitchen scissors in their classic block of wood, we quickly found out why this family-owned German company has been highly praised as a quality knife for more than 200 years. You know the saying “It cut like a hot knife through butter”? We believe that the Wüsthof chef’s knife served as inspiration.
Read more about our tests of kitchen knife sets here.
The Cuisinart HM-90BCS Plus mixer immediately caught the eye, with a sleek design and sturdy build that felt stable in the hand. The tests confirmed our first impression: the device received top marks across the board for its function – easy mixing, wiping, beating and kneading – as well as for ease of use and storage.
The Breville BHM800SIL is another sharp looking little device. The Breville is the most expensive of the hand mixers we tested. Not only does it mix the fastest ingredients from our test pool (which allows even the heaviest ingredients to be processed quickly), it also comes with features you would expect at a premium price. That includes a spotlight and rubber-coated bats that make it the quietest of all mixers we tested.
We really picked the Hamilton Beach 6 speed hand mixer as a simple, hard working blender that gets the job done for less. It is very easy to maneuver and handles all the basic functions – mixing, whisk, beating – aptly, although it has no kneading attachment and was somewhat slower than the high-end hand mixer we tested for certain tasks. It was also the only cheaper blender with a storage case and accessories.
Read more about our hand mixer tests here.