A person opens a gift box with a blue enamel dutch oven.

Blenders

Our pick

Vitamix 5200

This high-performance blender blends more gracefully than any of the others we’ve tested. Its motor powers through thick, taxing mixtures, and it comes with a seven-year warranty backed by excellent customer service.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $400.

After testing 22 different blender models over the course of five years, we think the Vitamix 5200 is the best choice. Although this model ranks among the priciest blenders you can buy, it came highly recommended by multiple experts because it powerfully purees and pulverizes foods more reliably and thoroughly than most. It was the only one we’ve tried that can make creamy peanut butter and can puree soup without spewing molten liquid up the sides of the jar.

Runner-up

Oster Versa Pro Series Blender

Oster Versa Pro Series Blender

This Oster Versa model offers the best balance between performance and price that we’ve found. It’s not as powerful or durable as the Vitamix 5200, but it holds its own against many blenders twice the price.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $190.

The Oster Versa is another solid choice. This workhorse is seriously good at blending, it can fit under most cabinets more easily than fancier models, and it comes with a tamper for breaking up air bubbles. The Oster Versa has 10 speeds and is even capable of making butter out of nuts, as long as you feed it two cups at once.

Our pick

Breville BSB510XL Control Grip Immersion Blender

If an immersion blender is more your speed or style, or if you’d like one for situations where dumping a pot of hot vegetables into a regular blender canister doesn’t seem safe, our immersion-blender pick is the Breville BSB510XL Control Grip Immersion Blender. This stick blender is also capable of turning peanuts into peanut butter, and its sharp blades can crush ice. The Breville was one of the only models we tried that didn’t suction itself to the bottom of pots or cups, and it has a wide speed range.

“We received a food processor/blender combination 35 years ago as a wedding gift that we used frequently for many years,” Debi Ogg told us. The blender was a central piece in her kitchen until it broke down: “We replaced it with individual pieces (a food processor and another blender) since the combination units weren’t being produced anymore.” In hindsight, she said, these were the pieces that were worth an investment. “These were items that fall into the category of things we couldn’t live without.” —Debi and Steve Ogg, married since 1981.

Dutch oven

Upgrade pick

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5½-Quart Round French Oven

If you’re seeking an heirloom-quality Dutch oven for your family that cooks as well as anything and will stand up to decades of use, we recommend the classic Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5½-Quart Round French Oven. Offering the most comfortable handles of any Dutch oven we tried, as well as the most resilient enamel finish, the Le Creuset compensated for many of our deliberate cooking mistakes during our tests. In the event that it does chip, Le Creuset offers a lifetime warranty, and the company has in the past offered up to 75 percent off a new Dutch oven even when the owner was at fault for the damage.

Our pick

Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

If the Le Creuset is too expensive, our standard pick for most people is the Lodge Color 6-quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. The Lodge’s cooking surface is about half an inch smaller than that of the Le Creuset (less room for browning meat), and its handles are not quite as big and comfortable, but it cooks just as well, and Lodge offers a limited lifetime warranty covering any damage that arises from normal use.

Toaster oven

Our pick

Panasonic FlashXpress

Panasonic FlashXpress

This model evenly toasts bread, bakes cookies, and brings frozen foods to life as effectively as (and sometimes better than) competitors that cost significantly more.

Few things in a kitchen get less respect and more use than a toaster oven. If you don’t have quite so much room, our recommendation is the Panasonic FlashXpress. This model has a small footprint—about that of a four-slot toaster—and heats evenly thanks to its combination of infrared heating elements (quartz and ceramic). Reviewed.com describes this oven as having a “cult following” of people who were disappointed when it disappeared from the US market for a brief time in 2014.

Upgrade pick

Cuisinart Chef's Convection Toaster Oven TOB-260N1

Cuisinart Chef’s Convection Toaster Oven TOB-260N1

The Cuisinart TOB-260N1 delivers impressively even cooking, a whopping nine-slice toast capacity, a three-year warranty, and some useful accessories.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $197.

If you have the counter space, go for the Cuisinart TOB-260N1 Chef’s Convection Toaster Oven. This toaster oven can hold nine pieces of toast at once. It can also handle many other big tasks with ease and pinch-hit on full-size-meal tasks when you’re hosting a big dinner or holiday party. On top of that, the Cuisinart cooks more evenly and has a better warranty (three years) than other models we tried.

Coffee maker

Our pick

OXO Brew 9 Cup Coffee Maker

After engaging in a combined 41 hours of research and expert interviews over the past two years, and brewing hundreds of cups of coffee in 12 machines, we like the OXO Brew 9 Cup Coffee Maker best for everyday use. Much easier to work with than other models we tested, it makes coffee that tastes close to pour-over, and you can program it to brew a fresh pot in the morning (so long as you grind and load your coffee the night before). The OXO also has a thermal carafe that’s easy to clean and to pour with.

Stand mixer

Our pick

KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

After 16 hours of research and 30 hours of side-by-side testing, we found the KitchenAid Artisan to be the best stand mixer. The Artisan can whip cake batter and cream butter more effectively than any other model, but it can also knead whole-wheat bread dough without straining or walking around the counter. Note that a big, powerful stand mixer isn’t for everyone: If you don’t bake at least once a week, skip this item. If you don’t need or don’t have room for a stand mixer like this one, consider instead our hand-mixer pick.

When Rob and Katie Pegoraro registered for their wedding, they picked up a stand mixer, figuring they could use it for the occasional batch of cookies or cakes. Eventually Rob realized he could use the dough-hook attachment to expedite his weekly loaf of homemade bread. They have used their stand mixer every week since their marriage in 2003. “Our daughter is very partial to PB and J sandwiches,” Rob said. In 13 years, it has never given him a bit of trouble. (Here is his bread recipe.) —Rob and Katie Pegoraro, married since 2003.

Skillet

Our pick

All-Clad D3 Stainless 12″ Fry Pan with Lid

All-Clad D3 Stainless 12″ Fry Pan with Lid

Beloved by professionals, enthusiasts, and home cooks alike for its superior heat conductivity, balanced handling, and durability.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $120.

If you regularly prepare meals at home, a high-quality skillet will make cooking a lot more enjoyable and help you progress as a cook. After 20 hours of research, we found that the All-Clad 12-Inch Stainless Steel Fry Pan is the best skillet you can buy. It’s dishwasher-, oven-, and broiler-safe, and professionals, enthusiasts, and home cooks alike love it for its superior heat conductivity, balanced handling, and durability. It even comes with a lifetime warranty. This skillet’s base isn’t so thick that it takes forever to heat up or becomes difficult to maneuver, but it isn’t so thin that it requires you to make constant adjustments to avoid burning your food. It’s also tough as nails. Ask anyone who has been in the food industry long enough, and chances are good that they’ll have an All-Clad that they’ve been using for a decade or more.

In our most recent round of skillet testing, the Tramontina Gourmet Tri-Ply Clad 12-Inch Fry Pan emerged as a solid runner up for a lot less money. But the All-Clad is still better in every aspect so it’s worth the splurge for a dedicated home cook.

Saucepan

Upgrade pick

All-Clad 4212 Stainless Steel Saucier

A 2-quart saucepan is the workhorse of any kitchen—one of the pots you’ll reach for every time you cook. After whisking 9 quarts of pastry cream, making 16 cups of caramel, and simmering 21 cups of rice pilaf in nine different saucepans, we recommend the All-Clad 4212 Stainless Steel Saucier. It comes with a lifetime warranty, and it can handle all of the basic, everyday functions of a small saucepan, plus more advanced techniques.

The rounded sloping corners of this saucier make stirring easy and fluid when you’re whisking thick custards or banishing lumps from gravy, and the bent lip helps you avoid making a mess when pouring. The long handle is comfortable to hold and stays cool during cooking. Bonded tri-ply throughout the saucepan means you won’t get hot spots, and food will cook evenly. This pot is an heirloom-quality item that you could hand down to kids or grandkids.

Chef’s knife

Our pick

Mac MTH-80

Mac MTH-80

A sleek tapered shape and a comfortable handle make everyday dicing and slicing tasks smoother and quicker, with a high-carbon blade that stays sharp longer than softer stainless-steel blades.

A kitchen can have a lot of tools, but few are as integral to the cooking experience as a chef’s knife. After 75 hours of conducting research and testing 14 different blades, we found that the MAC MTH-80 8-inch Chef’s Knife with Dimples gave us the best experience, thanks to its incredibly sharp blade. We were even able to slice basil without causing the edges to brown, as well as to cut a butternut squash straight down the middle. The MTH-80’s blade has a high carbon content, so it will stay sharp for an incredibly long time. It makes clean cuts, and the handle is small and nice to hold. We are certain it will last a lifetime with proper care. For our additional picks, including a German-style, more traditional knife, read our full guide.

Rice cooker

Our pick

Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy NS-ZCC10

Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy NS-ZCC10

The Neuro Fuzzy makes sublime Japanese rice and is great at other varieties, even if you mess up the ratios. Although it’s a little slow, it’s the most all-around excellent and foolproof cooker we tested.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $164.

The Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy NS-ZCC10 made the best white rice among the rice cookers we tested. Each grain turned out perfect—taut and plump, giving a little when pressed, without turning into a paste. When we intentionally mismeasured the ratio of rice to water, the Neuro Fuzzy was the only cooker able to adjust its cooking parameters enough to make rice that was not just edible, but delicious. Though not the fastest machine we tested, the Neuro Fuzzy is by far the most versatile, making the best long-grain white rice, sticky rice, and rice porridge, plus respectable brown rice.

Upgrade pick

Cuckoo CRP-G1015F

Cuckoo CRP-G1015F

Pressurized cooking, substantial construction, and lightning-fast, delicious results make this the right cooker for the demanding cook and the serious rice eater.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $220.

If you make rice at least a couple of times a week, or if you’re particularly discerning about rice texture and flavor, consider the Cuckoo CRP-G1015F 10 Cup Electric Pressure Rice Cooker. It’s considerably more expensive than most rice cookers, but it uses pressure cooking to deliver even tender brown rice in half the time of conventional fuzzy-logic cookers.

Casserole pan

Upgrade pick

Revol Belle Cuisine 3.8-Quart Rectangular Roasting Dish

After researching for 41 hours and considering 39 different models for our casserole guide, we came to a surprising conclusion: Most of the dishes we tested, ranging in price from $10 to $180, cooked food pretty similarly. But some features, such as roomy handles and classy styling, can make a dish stand out from its peers. The Revol Belle Cuisine 3.8-Quart Rectangular Roasting Dish is extremely easy to carry even with potholders, and this heirloom-quality piece is good-looking enough for you to set it right on the dinner table whether you’re serving your family or guests.

Instant-read thermometer

Upgrade pick

ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4

ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4

Offering automatic backlight, rotation, and shutoff, this model reads more quickly and accurately than any other thermometer outside a lab.

Once you learn to use a thermometer for testing the doneness of meat, frying in oil, or making yeast doughs, you won’t know how you ever lived without one. We tested 24 instant-read thermometers and found that the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 is the best all-around model. At about $100, it is a splurge, but the superfast Thermapen Mk4 gives a close temperature estimate in two seconds and a precise reading in three. The Thermapen has a long fold-out probe, an automatic backlight, and automatic screen rotation, and it uses a AAA battery.

Cutting board

Our pick

Teakhaus by Proteak Edge Grain Rectangle Carving Board with Hand Grip

A wooden cutting board may require more careful cleaning than a plastic board, but the 20-by-15-inch Proteak TeakHaus Rectangle Edge Grain Cutting Board is the better addition to your registry for a number of reasons: It’s visually striking, it feels better (and more natural) under a knife than anything plastic, and it’s easier to maintain than other wood boards. After spending 150 hours on research and testing, including interviewing chefs and materials experts, chopping several pounds of produce, and using and abusing nearly 30 cutting boards, we concluded that no other wooden option could best it.

For millennia, boat and furniture makers have used teak for its moisture-fighting properties, and that’s exactly why the Proteak excels beyond every other wood board we tried. It requires regular oil treatments and needs to stay mostly free of moisture, but its time-tested and sustainable materials, joined in expert fashion, will last you many years.

Salad spinner

Upgrade pick

OXO Steel Salad Spinner

OXO Steel Salad Spinner

Has the best spinning mechanism and comes with an attractive stainless-steel bowl that’s great for serving.

A salad spinner will clean greens better than handwashing and with less mess and hassle, so if you eat salad regularly, this is an item worth adding to your registry. After doing 25 hours of research, interviewing three authors of salad-centered cookbooks, comparing 31 models, and performing hands-on testing of eight salad spinners, we found that the OXO Steel Salad Spinner is the best option for anyone who loves the look of stainless steel. In our tests, its pump spinner was the easiest to operate, drying both hardy greens and more delicate parsley without bruising—something the competition failed to do consistently. This spinner’s base is completely coated in a nonslip, rubbery material to help keep the bowl stable while you’re pumping, and it can double as an attractive serving bowl.

Under $50

For gift givers with smaller budgets, round out your registry with some of the smaller items we recommend: the Victorinox 3¼-inch paring knife, the Zeroll ice cream scoop, the Lodge Logic cast-iron skillet, and the Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet.

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