We Tried 5 Cheese Subscription Boxes to Find the Best for Date Night and Beyond

We ordered and taste-tested five cheese subscription boxes to find top picks for everyone. Our favorites had excellent shipping and handling and, of course, cheese.

Murray's cheese box with four cheese on their wrapping on a blue surface
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

It seems like everything is subscription-based these days. Movies, music, razors, beauty products, newsletters, language learning apps run by passive-aggressive green owls.

That said, we’ve conceded that some subscriptions, particularly in the food realm, are pretty darn convenient (and tasty): a box of prime meat cuts, a seafood subscription, or a grocery box allows us to bypass the crowded supermarket after work. One of the best, though, has to be a subscription to cheese, which provides a fun way to try different, new-to-you cheeses (all without hovering over a cheese counter before committing to the same wedge of cheddar you always go for).

We took one for the team and tried five different cheese subscription boxes, assessing how they arrived at our doors and the variety and quality of the selected cheeses.

Our Favorite Cheese Subscription Boxes, at a Glance

What We Learned

Keep an Open Mind

closeup of a wedge of cheese from Murray's
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

So maybe we didn’t “learn” this rather obvious point, but we’ll gently remind you that the thing with food subscription boxes—of any kind, really—is that you run the risk of not loving all of the contents all of the time. Cheese boxes are an effective way to surprise yourself each month, but if you detest, let’s say, blue cheese, it’s worth being aware that your subscription might include a wedge of Stilton or Roquefort from time to time. You might also end up with a nice wedge of Parmesan that won’t seem as thrilling when you make a point of always keeping a hunk of it in your fridge. That said, the fun is in the surprise, and we were delighted by all of the cheeses we received in our boxes, especially the 2 Sisters Isabella Gouda in our Murray’s Cheesemonger’s Picks Box—it was nutty, with an almost caramelized flavor and chunks of crystals, and we couldn’t stop eating it. 

Packaging Was Important

the curdbox vacuum sealed cheeses with snacks
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Cheese is at its best when stored at stable temperatures and wrapped so it can breathe. Putting cheese in a box to hand off to a delivery service is not ideal—but it shouldn’t be a tragedy, either.

Cheese subscription boxes should be well-packaged so that each piece arrives fresh and intact and hasn’t fallen victim to heat, ice, snow, hail...you get the idea. A one-off instance of a melted ice pack in the middle of a summer heatwave is one thing (as we sadly experienced with the Jasper Hill Cheese Club this past year), but if your subscription box regularly reeks of overripe cheese before you’ve unwrapped anything, that’s not exactly desirable.

Food Pairings Were Fun

iGourmet cheese with membrillo and a bag of olives
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Some cheese boxes include nothing but cheese—which is totally fine! But we do love a fun pairing; maybe a nice jam, some zesty olives, or perhaps a few artisan crackers. These extras can make a cheese subscription box feel more like a surprise (or a complete meal, we won't judge), with the bonus of inspiring future cheeseboards.

We liked the pairings and information included in the iGourmet International Cheese Box, which included three kinds of Manchego, as well as membrillo (quince paste) and olives; it was the perfect array of sweet, salty, and nutty.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Cheese Subscription Box

a photo of a cheese subscription box with snacks on the side
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

A great cheese subscription box offers a nice variety (three to four pieces of cheese is the average count), and the cheeses should be carefully packaged and suffer from neither the sweltering of summer nor the chill of winter.  We also liked boxes that included a bit about the cheese and what it pairs nicely with. 

And we’ll also just say it now: Cheese subscriptions aren’t cheap—nor should they be! You’re receiving artisan cheeses that have been produced with care from the milk of living creatures, hand-selected for their pleasing characteristics, wrapped nicely, and delivered to your home.

The Best Cheese Subscription Boxes

What we liked: Murray’s offers a few different cheese subscription options (including a mac and cheese club, which we’re very on board with), but the box we tried comes with three to four different cheeses. Our box arrived in excellent condition (everything was sufficiently chilled), and offered a variety of sharp and gooey selections. Associate commerce editor Grace Kelly says the Murray’s cheese box is perfect for creating a cheeseboard, or just “nibbling greedily from the fridge in the forsaken hours of the morning.”  

What we didn’t: We wish there was a one-month subscription option to make the box more accessible to budget-conscious cheese lovers. It would also be great if more cheeses were included—Murray’s picks are just so delicious.

Key Specs

  • Box includes: 3 to 4 cheeses
  • Frequency: Monthly (3, 6, or 12 months subscriptions available)
  • Good to know: Murray’s has five cheese clubs to choose from.
an overhead shot of the four cheeses from the murrays cheese box on a blue surface with wooden cutting board
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: Curdbox makes it easy to set up a cute date night without running from one fancy grocery store to the next. Not only does each box include three artisan cheeses, but it also comes with three specialty food items (hello crackers and membrillo), an info card with other pairing suggestions, an in-depth blog post, a Curdcast podcast episode, and a curated Spotify playlist to set the mood (phew!). Grace called it a “tasty setup” that she and her husband happily munched their way through in one go. 

What we didn’t: It’s fun and convenient, but at $75 per month, you could also buy yourself a date-night dinner out. 

Key Specs

  • Box includes: 3 cheeses, 3 food pairings, and a bunch of info (including a podcast episode and playlist)
  • Frequency: Monthly (3, 6, or 12 months subscriptions available)
  • Good to know: You can pay as you go month to month, or pay in advance for three, six, or twelve months. It’s also possible to skip a month or two if you’re going to be out of town or otherwise need a break.
Three small blocks of cheese, a box of crackers, and bags of dried fruit and French beans on a blue surface
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What we liked: Each International Cheese Box highlights a different country. Our sample box focused on Spain, and we tried a lovely trio of Manchego with some olives and quince paste. The included newsletter was helpful, shedding light on how different this one style of cheese can be and explaining how to best sample the cheeses. This is a fun subscription box if you want to broaden your cheese horizons, locale by locale.

What we didn’t: If you need to pause your subscription, you have to email or call rather than just making the change in your iGourmet account.

Key Specs

  • Box includes: 3 to 4 cheeses, 2 pairing accompaniments
  • Frequency: Monthly (3, 6, or 12 months subscriptions available)
  • Good to know: You can prepay for 3, 6, or 12 months, otherwise the monthly subscription can be canceled anytime. They also offer a Connoisseur's Subscription.

What we liked: We love Jasper Hill cheese; it’s true artisan cheese production happening in the beautiful Vermont countryside, and we love to support independent producers. This is the priciest cheese subscription box on our list, but each box comes with a few cheeses and fun surprises, like food pairings or cheese tools. This maybe isn’t a 12-month subscription situation, but a couple of times a year as a treat or a gift? Definitely. 

What we didn’t: We might stick to ordering during the winter months—the box we received in the summertime arrived at room temperature, with the ice packs long melted and the distinct (and a little too ripe) aroma of cheese wafting from the box. 

Key Specs

  • Box includes: At least 3 cheeses with pairings, cheese tools, or other Jasper Hill merch.
  • Frequency: Monthly
  • Good to know: You subscribe for multiple months by increasing the quantity; you won’t get multiples of the same box in the same month.
A wedge of cheese on a slate cheeseboard.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

What we liked: Cheese of the Month Club offers two subscriptions, but the one we're digging is the Rare Cheese Club. The folks behind it are tasked with sourcing, small-batch cheeses from around the world—not just cheeses that are in the “style” of Comté or Paski Sir, but ones that are actually from these areas. This is a really fun box to try just because, or if you’re looking for inspiration for your next charcuterie board—or even your next vacation.

What we didn’t: We understand wanting to highlight the special cheeses but throwing in a little something to serve as a pairing would be a nice touch.

Key Specs

  • Box includes: 3 cheeses, monthly newsletter
  • Frequency: Monthly
  • Good to know: You can see recently featured rare cheeses on the website—great for getting an idea of what to expect.
A person slicing cheese on a charcuterie board.
Serious Eats / Irvin Lin

FAQs

What kinds of cheeses are included in cheese subscription boxes?

This one is tricky to answer—it can vary widely, which is often exactly why people subscribe to cheese boxes. You can look for boxes with specific types of cheeses (the Murray’s Cheese mac and cheese box, for example, where each cheese will have a certain meltiness and flavor profile suited to excellent mac), but we prefer to let ourselves be surprised and embrace the opportunity to try something new. 

What is the price range for cheese subscription boxes?

Expect to spend between $50 and $75 per month for cheese subscriptions, on average—though some cheese subscriptions are much pricier.

Why We’re the Experts 

We Tested 14 Pasta Drying Racks—These Five Are the Best for Spaghetti, Fettuccine, and Sheets of Dough

We tested 14 pasta drying racks to find the best ones that were easy to set up and securely held pasta. Ultimately, we landed on five favorite models.

three pasta drying racks on a kitchen countertop
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Making fresh pasta at home seems like a lot of work (and compared to buying dried pasta at the store, it is) but a little bit of extra effort goes a long way in yielding delicious results. For many of us, the hands-on nature of making pasta is the draw. There’s something soothing about stepping away from the keyboard to combine flour and egg; using our hands to turn it from a gooey mess into a shaggy pile and then, through patient, steady kneading, a smooth dough. (Is this also a metaphor for the writing process?)

And while there are loads of pasta makers on the market that can turn your dough into ribbons of chewy sauce vessels, it’s important not to forget about the other component of successful at-home pasta making: the pasta drying rack.

A quality pasta drying rack will serve as your pasta’s greatest support system while it’s new and damp and uncertain (also a writing metaphor…?). The rack will hold each piece in such a way that air can circulate freely, allowing it to dry evenly and—ideally—without sticking, which can lead to later breakage. Drying racks also need to be well-balanced since you’ll be adding pieces of pasta as you go, and because they’re kind of a single-task item, racks should stow away without fuss.

All of this is why we tested 14 pasta drying racks to find the best, sturdiest, and most spacious ones. We ended up with five favorites.

The Winners, at a Glance

This rack is easy to set up and clean, it looks good, and it’s affordably priced. In our tests, the Sänger proved nice and sturdy, holding pasta with ease and releasing it equally well—and without breakage.

This one requires more of an investment, but if you’re looking for a pasta drying rack that can handle a variety of shapes and sizes, this one’s your best bet.

This easy-to-use rack is a great value and takes up very little space. It’s the way to go if you’re an occasional dabbler in pasta-making.

If you’re feeding a crowd (or just stocking up on pasta while you’ve got the ingredients out), this drying rack has a practical capacity and classic good looks.

This one’s a classic. It pairs nicely with the brand’s popular Atlas 150 pasta machine and proved itself sturdy and easy to use during our tests. 

The Tests

A person placing noodles on the Ourokhome Collapsible Pasta Drying Rack
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore
  • Drying Pasta Test: Yep, this one is pretty obvious—we assessed each pasta drying rack on how well it dried fresh pasta. Air circulation is important here, but so is avoiding sticking and breakage.
  • Usability Tests: We considered factors like the rack’s design, ease of setup and use, and how easy it was (or wasn’t) to clean and store. 

What We Learned

Model Materials

A person taking off a pasta noodle from the Marcato Atlas Tacapasta Pasta Drying Rack
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

We tested pasta drying racks made of plastic, acrylic, wood, and bamboo. Each material had its benefits—like how wood is sturdy and looks nice—but plastic and acrylic made it easier to slide pasta off the arms without breakage. Racks made of either wood or plastic materials can be found at similar price points, so ultimately we think this one comes down to personal preference. 

Stability and Balance

A person holding the base of the Ourokhome Collapsible Pasta Drying Rack
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Most pasta drying racks are either foldable or collapsible—great for storage, but not always so great for stability. We quickly learned the importance of proper weight distribution as we added damp pasta to the racks, lest the whole tower go toppling over. Some racks just weren’t stable enough, either due to a small base or flimsy arms (or both). 

Spiral Superiority 

A person adjusting the Sänger Wooden Pasta Dryer that has pasta noodles on it
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The top-performing pasta drying racks (other than the Eppicotispai) were designed like a spiral, with arms that spanned outward and dispersed weight evenly. They had the added advantage of providing plenty of space between the arms, which made for easy pasta draping and removal. And yes, they look cool.

Room to Roam

A variety of pastas on the Eppicotispai Beechwood Stackable Pasta Dryer
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The Eppictispai is for serious pasta makers. With its generous 19- by 15-inch dimensions, this pasta drying rack is about the size of a half-sheet pan, and the netted surface means pasta can be laid flat to dry—all but eliminating the risk of breakage. This also makes it ideal for short pasta of varying shapes, because you’re not going to have much luck hanging something like cavatelli from a spiral-armed rack.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Pasta Drying Rack

a person placing pasta onto a pasta drying rack
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The best pasta drying racks are sturdy, offer adequate space to hang (and later remove) pasta, and stow away with ease.

What we liked: The Sänger rack is made of high-quality pieces that provide a sturdy construction. The solid, square base keeps the rack standing level and upright during use, and because it’s so tall, we never ran into problems with noodle length—there was always plenty of space for pasta to hang comfortably. Pasta never stuck to the wooden dowels and the whole contraption wiped clean quite easily with a soft cloth. We think this drying rack is a great choice for nearly any at-home pasta enthusiast.

What we didn’t like: Our only complaint—and we’re really stretching to find one—is that kitchens with limited countertop space may find the Sänger pasta drying rack to be a little too tall and wide.

Price at time of publish: $18.

Key Specs

  • Type of stand: Standing/hanging
  • Material: Natural wood
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Dimensions: 18.9 x 7.48 x 7.18 inches
The Sänger Wooden Pasta Dryer with pasta noodles on it
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

What we liked: There’s tons of surface area with this drying rack, and the lay-flat design means you can use it for pasta shapes other than those of the long noodle variety. The stacking design makes it easy to work with one level without interrupting the others, and the whole thing is super sturdy. It’s an easy and intuitive rack to use, with almost effortless—and damage-free—pasta removal.

A person adding a batch of pasta on the Eppicotispai Beechwood Stackable Pasta Dryer
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

What we didn’t like: Aside from the (comparatively) steep price, we needed a mallet to hammer in the pegs that function as legs for each tier in order to ensure a secure fit. We also noticed imprints of the mesh surface were left on pasta pieces when drying higher-hydration doughs—hardly a dealbreaker, but worth mentioning.

Price at time of publish: $88.

Key Specs

  • Type of stand: Flat/stackable
  • Material: Beech wood and plastic
  • Weight: 8 pounds
  • Dimensions: 19 x 15.75 x 1 inches per tier
The Eppicotispai Beechwood Stackable Pasta Dryer on top of a white countertop
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

What we liked: We found Ourokhome’s pasta drying rack to be easy to use, no-frills, and a pleasure to work with. Don’t be put off by the low price and plastic construction, because this rack proved itself to be sturdy, tall enough to accommodate long noodles, and ultra-quick to clean. It also stows away easily and weighs very little, so it’s a good one to buy if you like to occasionally make pasta but aren’t trying to turn your kitchen into a trattoria. 

What we didn’t like: You’ll probably want to step up to a larger drying rack if you’re making a bunch of pasta at once, but otherwise—and for the price—we have no complaints.

Price at time of publish: $13.

Key Specs

  • Type of stand: Standing/hanging
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Dimensions: 7.8 x 3.5 inches, folded
Pasta noodles hanging on the Ourokhome Collapsible Pasta Drying Rack
Serious Eats/Russell Kilgore

What we liked: We think this is a great model for someone who wants a low-hassle and easy-to-use pasta rack. The CucinaPro is stable and looks good, and we especially appreciated the user-friendly design that allows each dowel to be lifted easily from its position atop the rack. Pasta application and removal couldn’t be simpler. Overall, this drying rack was a pleasure to work with and we were never concerned about the safety of our delicate pasta strands as we added more pieces.

Pasta hanging from the CucinaPro Pasta Drying Rack
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

What we didn’t like: There’s a bit of assembly required—including the use of a Phillips-head screwdriver, so this rack may be a better fit in larger kitchens (unless you’re fine with disassembly or tucking it away somewhere after each use, of course).

Price at time of publish: $23.

Key Specs

  • Type of stand: Standing/hanging
  • Material: Natural wood
  • Weight: 1.41 pounds
  • Dimensions: 13.5 x 6.5 x 11.5 inches
Pasta noodles hanging from the CucinaPro Pasta Drying Rack on a white counter top
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

What we liked: We’ll admit there’s a certain coolness factor with this drying rack—particularly if you’re on Team Marcato with your pasta machine—but it works really well, too. The spiral design offers plenty of space for pasta, and it’s easy to clean thanks to the acrylic construction. Just give the top a little twist to unfurl the arms before use and you’re ready to go!

What we didn’t like: The legs don’t lock into place, so each time you pick up the drying rack, the legs just kind of flop inward. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s worth being aware that you can’t just pick this up and set it back down somewhere else without being mindful of the rack’s base.

Price at time of publish: $50.

Key Specs

  • Type of stand: Standing/hanging
  • Material: Plastic and aluminum
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Dimensions: 12 x 4 x 22 inches
Pasta hanging from the Marcato Atlas Tacapasta Pasta Drying Rack on a white table top
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The Competition 

FAQs

What is a pasta rack for? 

Pasta racks are for drying fresh pasta. They allow you to hang or lay each piece in such a way that air can circulate and dry the pasta evenly.

How do you dry pasta without a rack? 

In a pinch, you can use a cooling rack to carefully lay out fresh pasta for drying. You can also use a kitchen towel dusted with flour, but this method may take longer as air won’t circulate as effectively. 

Are wood or plastic pasta drying racks better? 

Both are totally fine. Wooden racks tend to be sturdier, while plastic racks make it easier to remove pasta without breakage thanks to the slippery surface. You’ll need to be careful in either case, so choose according to your preferred aesthetics and budget.

How long should you leave pasta on a drying rack? 

This depends on your plans for the pasta. If you’re going to cook it same-day, as little as 20 to 30 minutes will suffice. If you want to store your pasta longer-term, let it dry for 24 hours. 

Why We’re the Experts

  • For this review, we tested 14 pasta drying racks across a variety of materials and price points. We evaluated how easy they were to set up, how sturdy they were, and, overall, how well they held fresh pasta.
  • Summer Rylander is a freelance writer who regularly contributes gear reviews, gift guides, and equipment explainers to Serious Eats. She’s also written cooking and kitchen content for Food & Wine, Allrecipes, The Kitchn, and more.

The 25 Best White Elephant Gifts for Fun (and Affordable) Festivities

Our favorite white elephant gifts include spatulas, sprinkles, and baking sheets and work for a coworker, friend, or family member.

a closeup look at a pink, patterned Swedish dishcloth
Serious Eats / Eric King

It might technically be October now, but I’m still not sure how I feel about the calendar creeping ever closer to the holiday season. Wasn’t it just Christmas? Didn’t we go through this whole gift-giving process, like, three months ago? 

I don’t mean to be a Grinch. I’m just amazed at the passage of time. 

Dismay aside, white elephant gifts are kind of fun! The whole white elephant thing has an interesting backstory, with parties dating back to the 1890s and the concept’s origins linking to the King of Siam. However rare and beautiful, actual white elephants were extraordinarily costly to care for, and receiving one from the king was a punishment in the form of financial ruin.

Fortunately, today’s white elephant parties tend to be tame gift exchanges at the office or among friends and family and (ideally) no one ends up in debt. But we do think you can level up your gifting game and leave behind the tacky socks in favor of something that might actually prove useful to its lucky recipient!

Here are 25 suggestions for food-forward white elephant gifts this year, with a little something for every budget—even if you’re also wondering where the time’s gone.

White Elephant Gifts Under $15

A Snazzy Spatula

You can never have too many nice spatulas, and neither can Mary from accounting or Dave in IT. These silicone spatulas are durable, easy to clean, and serve countless uses; from scraping bowls to pushing eggs to stirring a sourdough starter.

Price at time of publish: $12 and $11, respectively.

Some Swanky Sprinkles

We can’t promise these will lead to any memorable moments, but Fancy Sprinkles makes, well, fancy sprinkles in lots of fun colors, so it’s fair to say they’re making things happen in the kitchen. Fun for bakers and unsuspecting colleagues alike! 

Price at time of publish: $9.

Make Dish Time Fun

We’ve raved about Swedish dishcloths before, and they’re still high on our “heck yes” list. These dishcloths come in fun, colorful designs, but most importantly, they’re environmentally friendly and effective at cleaning countertops, sinks, and—wait for it—dishes. 

Price at time of publish: $13.

Several swedish dishcloths on a marble counter
Serious Eats / Eric King

Drop a Subtle Hint

Look, no one says white elephant presents have to be glamorous. The coffee machine at your office could probably use some attention, and who better to make those internals sparkle again than the person who unwraps this thoughtful gift?

Price at time of publish: $13.

Make it Matcha

We praised this matcha powder in our recent review, and between its pleasant flavor (perfect for smoothies or baking projects) and comfortable price point, this tea is a top contender for a white elephant exchange. 

Price at time of publish: $12.

a cup with iced matcha in it
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Spice It Up

Popcorn is an enduring favorite snack, so popcorn seasoning is an easy winner when you’re looking for an affordable, crowd-pleasing gift. This three-pack comes with tasty flavors like white cheddar, butter and salt, and ranch. Throw in a bag of popcorn kernels and you’re good to go.

Price at time of publish: $12.

Measure in Miniature

Managing to be both weirdly specific and incredibly random is a cute little two-ounce measuring cup. The OXO Good Grips line never lets us down, and neither does this diminutive vessel. It’s handy for adding a splash of water to a too-thick sauce or mixing up your favorite cocktail. Or, rather, the favorite cocktail of your creative gift’s recipient. 

Price at time of publish: $7.

an oxo mini measuring cup being used to pour liquid into a pot of cooking stew
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

White Elephant Gifts Under $25

Waffles for One

Sure, this little waffle maker may not produce the crispiest, fluffiest waffles you’ve ever drenched in maple syrup, but if there’s ever been a white elephant gift to make everyone go, “Oh, isn’t that fun!” this is it.

Price at time of publish: $17.

The Best-Sized Baking Sheet

Honestly, this is such a great gift idea that I’m now typing with one hand so I can pat myself on the back with the other. Not only is a half-sheet more practical for day-to-day kitchen tasks than cumbersome full sheets, but this is also a double-pack. Two baking sheets! People love multiples of useful things! What abundance! 

Price at time of publish: $22.

a stack of half sheet pans
Serious Eats / Irvin Lin

My Personal Favorite Thing to Gift

OK, I know I was just raving about baking sheets, but this bucket of Maldon salt is legitimately my favorite thing to give as a gift. It’s excessive but genuinely useful; fun but always appropriate. If your white elephant gift exchange is the version where people are allowed to steal an open gift when it’s their turn, watch out, because this is going to be the hottest commodity. 

Price at time of publish: $25.

Something Stretchy (and Reusable)

Single-use plastic is out, reusable food storage solutions are very much in. These stretchy lids work well to cover bowls of various sizes, so you (or your colleague) can stop reaching for plastic wrap or fumbling through your (or your colleague’s) Tupperware drawer to find a matching lid. 

Price at time of publish: $25.

hand peeling back GIR lid from container
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Something Heavy

Since the beginning of time—or at least since people started wrapping items before giving them to someone else—it has been a universal truth that the heavier the package, the more enticing the contents. Drop one of our favorite cast iron skillets at your next white elephant gift exchange (maybe not literally) and watch everyone ooh and ahh. 

Price at time of publish: $25.

A Nice Oil

Fancy finishing oils make a great gift. They’re one of those nice-to-haves people don’t often think about buying for themselves—like this toasted pumpkin seed oil. It’s fun, it’s different, and it’s delicious! 

Price at time of publish: $19.

A Useful Book

Cookbooks make a great gift, and when you’re not sure who’s ultimately going to take it home, opting for a wide-interest read like Ali Slagle’s lovely I Dream of Dinner is an excellent choice. These colorful pages will guide your giftee to a delicious meal any night of the week.

Price at time of publish: $19.

Keep it Cool (Or Hot)

This durable tumbler works really, really well to keep drinks at their intended temperature for a long time. It also comes in lots of different colors, has a cupholder-friendly shape, and clocks in at a reasonable price. Call it a crowd-pleaser!

Price at time of publish: $25.

a thermometer taking the temperature of a travel mug's contents
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

A Hydration Station

Snag this YETI in the 750mL size and single-handedly promote both reusable water bottles and staying hydrated. People love the “Yonder Chug” cap, which is fun to say and allows for easy sips (or chugs) without drips or annoying sucking sounds. 

Price at time of publish: $25.

White Elephant Gifts Under $50

A Tidy Towel Set

Nice kitchen towels are another one of those things people can appreciate but probably don’t think about until it’s right in front of them. This set includes six super absorbent, soft towels and looks elegant in any kitchen. They’re some of our personal favorites.

Price at time of publish: $36.

A Handy Timer

When Riddley wrote about this timer, she wisely understood that some of you would wonder what was wrong with using your phone as a kitchen timer. Your white elephant-gifting friends or family might have the same thought, but whoever is lucky enough to take this home will soon understand the glory of being able to set three timers at once and know exactly how long ago the timer went off if you happened to miss its polite chirps.

Price at time of publish: $27.

oxo triple stove timer with three times displayed on a countertop next to the stovetop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

A Poppin’ Thermometer

We’ve long loved the ThermoPop timer for its affordable accuracy, so it’s no surprise we love Thermoworks’ latest version. This digital thermometer is fast, easy to use, and just as reliable as your likelihood of sneaking out of the office early on a Friday afternoon. 

Price at time of publish: $35.

A Nifty Notebook

Depending on whether the recipient enjoys taking notes and writing in notebooks, this might be one of those love-it-or-hate-it gifts, but we think Moleskine’s recipe journal is a clever way to collect favorites. It’s useful for jotting measurements during baking projects, recording family recipes, or just reminding yourself which cookbook (or website—ahem) that tasty thing you made last Tuesday came from.

Price at time of publish: $34.

Bold and Cold

Everyone knows Jessica in graphic design sneaks out for an iced coffee most afternoons, but maybe she’ll end up with this white elephant gift and switch to making it at her desk instead. This little device is easy to use, easy to clean, and delivers a flavorful brew with minimal fuss. HR-approved!

Price at time of publish: $28.

Three cold brew coffee makers on a kitchen countertop
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The Famed Lame

Breadbakers in the know love Wiremonkey’s elegant, ergonomic lames for scoring dough, so if you happen to be exchanging gifts this year with any sourdough enthusiasts, you’re sure to earn bonus points for rolling up with one of these. 

Price at time of publish: $45.

A Smart Salt Storage Solution

Unusually named but wonderfully useful, a salt pig is meant to keep salt at hand. Reach in for a pinch while cooking or finish a dish with a sprinkle of Maldon (see the aforementioned bucket) while this ceramic “pig” keeps it contained and protected. Once you get past the “What is it?” questions, this gift is sure to impress.

Price at time of publish: $28.

a pot of boiling water on a stove with salt cellars flanking each side
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

A Safe Space 

While turning up to the office with a giant chef’s knife may be questionable, surely there’s no harm in gifting someone a safe way to store their knives at home? We’re big fans of this clever keeper, which organizes knives while protecting their blades (and your fingers). 

Price at time of publish: $35.

A Lunch Box

Honestly, what’s better for a white elephant gift exchange at the office than a lunchbox?! Especially a really nice one, like this one from Hydro Flask that’s both spacious and has insulative properties that actually work to keep food cold for hours. So cool!

Price at time of publish: $50.

a pink lunch bag on a white surface
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

FAQs

What’s a good white elephant gift?

White elephant gift exchanges are meant to be fun and casual, so don’t overthink it! Consider the audience—i.e. is this a gift exchange at the office? Among friends? Extended family?—and go from there to determine what to buy. If you’re not sure how much to spend, ask the organizer what the target price point is and use that as your guideline. 

What’s the best cheap white elephant gift? 

“Best” is subjective, so, again, go with your gut! We like a gift that’s fun but practical, so if you’re on a tight budget, consider something like the OXO Mini Angled Measuring Cup. It’s less than $10, it’s versatile, and it’s memorable!

Why We're the Experts

  • Summer Rylander is a freelance writer who's been contributing to Serious Eats for almost two years.
  • Her work has also appeared in Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and more.

How Clever! Our Favorite Smart Gear Includes Sous Vide Machines and Countertop Ovens

Smart kitchen gear (things that are app-connected) can help you cook more accurately and efficiently.

Joule in operation with app
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

We’re not ones for gimmicky gear, so it takes more than a shiny display and a bunch of buttons to win us over when we’re testing equipment. But when it comes to frills we’ll fawn over, smart appliances—which can sync with a phone and be monitored or controlled through an app—can prove extremely useful and worthy of a spot on our “best of” lists.

Whether you’re an Apple devotee or an Android enthusiast, smart equipment can link up with your phone (or tablet) and make it easy to keep an eye on timing and temperatures from another room. Here are 12 of our favorite smart pieces of gear, tried-and-true from our equipment reviews.

When we tested sous vide immersion circulators, this no-nonsense model from Breville came out on top. We love its sleek, streamlined design, a clever magnetic base that keeps it standing firm in most pots, and its quick-heating performance. 

The only downside is that the Joule circulator may be too smart—there’s no display on the tool itself, and the only way to operate this immersion circulator is with a phone or tablet. We’re willing to overlook this thanks to its quality and efficiency (and the fact our phones are always within reach anyway), but it may not be for everyone. 

A hand lowering a vacuum-sealed bag of duck leg into a Cambro container with a sous vide circulator attached
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

If smart connectivity-only isn’t for you, then we’re happy to recommend the Anova Culinary immersion circulator instead. This one does have smart functionality, but it also has an onboard display so you can skip all the tech. This sous vide cooker is fast, ultra-consistent, and user-friendly thanks to a big, straightforward display right on top of the wand.

A hand pressing the touch screen control panel of an Anova sous vide machine
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

We spent more than a month testing the Breville Joule Oven to see if it commands its price tag, and, honestly? It really does. This is the appliance to buy if you want an air fryer, a toaster oven, a dehydrator, and a convection oven all in one. The Joule Oven turned out crispy fries, juicy chicken wings, and just-right toast—and it was easy to use. Sometimes multipurpose appliances can be anything but intuitive, but the Joule Oven’s pleasant display and straightforward control panel make it a pleasure to work with.

And yes, this oven is smart, otherwise, it wouldn’t be on this list! While we preferred the Joule app for finding recipes more than for controlling the oven, it’s a fun feature that adds extra value.

breville oven with black backdrop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

This is a smart oven with an extra perk: Steam injection! Not only can you use the Anova Precision Oven to roast a chicken or vegetables like a normal oven, but you can also bake fantastically crusty bread. You can even get a little sous vide action going—replacing the vat of water with a warm, steamy environment—that works surprisingly well. 

The Anova app is useful and straightforward, a feature which proved, well, useful during our tests because there’s a bit of a learning curve; especially if you’re not familiar with steam injection ovens. All told, this is a cool (hot?) smart kitchen appliance that we’re happy to recommend. 

a closeup of the app opened on a phone
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

You might wonder why you’d need an intelligent thermometer, but barbecue aficionados can certainly attest to the importance of keeping an eye on the temperature. We tested loads of probe thermometers and the FireBoard FBX2 was the smartest of them all, with super-long cables, ports for six probes, and Bluetooth and wireless connectivity. You can easily keep an eye on ambient temperature and meat temperature, and even chart and store your cooking sessions in the FireBoard app. This thermometer doesn’t come cheap, but does come ready to work. (Note: We have a couple more smart, wireless grill thermometer picks here—including ones from ThermoWorks and Meater.)

a person using tongs to flip a pork loin cooking on the grill with a thermometer probe coming out of it
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Aside from its high price, we can’t find much to complain about with this Weber grill, and we’ve tested plenty of them. The Genesis Smart EX-325s has a generous 787 square-inch cooking surface with an excellent sear zone, and the grill’s smart functionality is actually worth using. Right from your phone, you can monitor food temperature and set alerts for doneness or flip reminders, and it’s all super easy to figure out and use. 

Sure, you don’t need a smart grill to barbecue effectively, but if you can eliminate some of the guesswork—why not?

a closeup look at a gas grill's thermometer
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

There are lots of Instant Pots to choose from, and the Pro Plus Smart version is a great choice thanks to its user-friendly interface, locking handles on the inner pot that prevent slippage, and an automatic steam release. Oh, and its smart connectivity doesn’t hurt either, though we’re willing to admit it’s not a strictly necessary feature.

A person adding ingredients into an Instant pot using a wooden spoon to scrape food from a deli container
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

If you’re going to splash out on a fancy travel mug this year, make it the Ember Travel Mug 2 (which bested six other models in our tests). This was a top pick when our editors were asked to shout out their favorite coffee gear, because, let’s face it, controlling the precise temperature of your coffee mug with an app is pretty nifty. It’s easy to use and the Ember will keep your coffee (or other hot beverage of choice) perfectly steamy for hours. 

The Ember Travel mug
Serious Eats / Ashely Rodriguez

We’ve tested many pellet grills, and the Traeger Timberline is our hands-down favorite. Not only does this thing grill and smoke like a pro, but it also functions like a whole outdoor kitchen. Under the hood, you’ll find an induction cooktop, touchscreen operation, a slew of handy accessories, and—oh yeah—smart connectivity. It’s never been easier (or more fun) to fire up the grill, make some delicious food, and not worry about what’s happening with the temperature when you step away to grab another beer.

A person using tongs to flip a piece of a meat on a Traeger grill
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

This smoker is expensive, so we tested 20 pounds of meat to make sure it’s actually worth the investment. Spoiler alert: It is. While the Ironwood XL isn’t going to be a fit for anyone’s apartment balcony or townhouse patio, if you’ve got a yard with space to spare, this is an excellent pick. Now, the Ironwood XL made it onto this list because it's a smart appliance, but we’ll admit it took some convincing to get the app and the grill interface to play nicely. You definitely can use the smart features, but you’ll also be fine to operate this Traeger the good old-fashioned way—with your fingers instead of your phone.

a person placing ambient probe in the center of the open Traeger smoker
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Konnected Joe is the first smart, kamado cooker out there—and we really like it. In our tests (we made vegetables, steak, burnt ends, and more), we found it to be a total powerhouse and capable of high-heat cooking and low-and-slow smoking. The app allowed us to easily adjust and monitor temperatures and provided real-time cooking alerts.

a person standing in front of the Konnected Joe and using the kamado's app
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

If you’ve ever wished your coffee maker were more like a salad spinner, well, the Spinn Coffee Maker Pro just might make your day. In all seriousness, we tested this innovative coffee machine—which utilizes centrifugal brewing rather than traditional drip or immersion methods—and we thought it turned out some of the best-tasting coffee we’ve had from an entirely automated brewer. It’s pricey, but it’s a super-smart machine with a user-friendly app that offers lots of different drink recipes and turns out a great cup of coffee.

A spinn coffee maker brewing coffee over ice
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

FAQs

What is a smart cooking device?

Just like your smart TV or smart watch or smart anything else around your home, a smart cooking device has connectivity—usually through WiFi, sometimes through Bluetooth—that will allow it to connect to your phone or tablet so you can make adjustments through a relevant app. Smart appliances and cooking tools let you keep an eye on timings and temperatures, and the apps often include helpful tips and recipes. 

Why We're the Experts

  • We rigorously test all of the kitchen gear we recommend, putting them through a series of tests to best evaluate their performance, usability, and more.
  • Summer Rylander is a freelance writer who's been contributing to Serious Eats for almost two years. Her work has also appeared in Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and more.

We Tested 8 Shaved Ice Machines and Two Delivered the Most Pillowy, Plush Results

We tested the most popular shaved ice makers out there—and found two favorites (including a stand mixer attachment).

three shaved ice makers on a marble suface
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

In the realm of ice-based desserts, shaved ice is a very specific thing. Unlike snow cones, which tend to be dense and crunchy, shaved ice is plush and pillowy. You might even forget you’re munching on ice as your spoon sinks into the soft texture, delivering a sweet, refreshing flavor with every bite. 

Because of its distinct character, shaved ice isn’t something you can easily make at home. Sure, you can pulverize a handful of cubes in a blender or food processor, but you’re not going to get the same fluffy results. 

What you can do, however, is acquire a shaved ice maker. Yes, it’s a niche appliance and no, you probably don’t need one, but how cool would it be—literally—to have shaved ice on demand? (For, say, Halo-Halo, drinks, or using as a bed for shucked oysters.) As it turns out, there are quite a few shaved ice machines on the market. To make sure you’re spending your hard-earned cash on one that actually delivers, we put eight of them through rigorous testing (spending about 16 hours evaluating the machines). Two emerged victorious. 

The Winners, at a Glance

This machine delivered fluffy, fabulous ice every time throughout our tests. We’re also fans of its sleek, minimal footprint.

We love a KitchenAid stand mixer and this shave ice attachment is simple and does its job well. It comes with four ice molds and two blades (for coarse and fine ice).

The Tests

a closeup look at a shaved ice machine shaving ice
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore
  • Shaved Ice Test: This one’s a given—of course our shaved ice machines needed to be capable of making shaved ice. We tested every machine according to the manufacturer's instructions, assessing ease of use and consistency. 
  • Snow Cone Test: Nope, we’re not here today for snow cones, but if a machine was labeled as capable of making snow cones in addition to shaved ice, we tested that function, too. Again, we looked for ease of use and consistency in textures. 
  • UX Observations: We also took notes on how easy the machines were to clean, whether they felt safe to use, how loud they were, and what they looked like. And since some qualities are subjective, we prioritized machine performance above aesthetics.

What We Learned

Getting the Correct Texture Was Key

shaved ice coming out of an ice maker
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

They may seem similar, but there’s a big difference between the consistency of shaved ice and snow cone ice. Lots of the machines we tested claimed to offer both styles, when in reality they just churned out snow cones with varying sizes of ice bits. As we mentioned earlier, shaved ice has a lighter, fluffier texture than the crushed ice typical for snow cones. One of our favorite shaved ice makers, from KitchenAid, even gives you two blades: the fine one yields shaved ice that looks rather pillowy, but turns snow cone-like when syrup or such is added; the coarse one makes crunchier ice that is best in drinks or applications like a cool (ha) resting place for shucked oysters.

Ice Cubes Vs. Blocks (or Pucks!)

a person removing a puck of ice from its mold
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

While ice cubes are fine for making snow cones, regular cubes just don’t yield the proper results when it comes to making shaved ice. Having to plan ahead and freeze molds of ice blocks—usually round and flat, like a hockey puck—in order to make real shaved ice isn’t super convenient, but the machines that came out on top had specially designed blades that actually “shave” off flakes of ice from larger blocks. So, buyer beware: If a machine claims to do both shaved ice and snow cones but doesn't come with special molds, chances are high that it only makes snow cones. To that end, both of our favorites (from Hawaiian Shaved Ice and KitchenAid) come with their own molds.

Safety! Exposed Blades!

a spoon scooping shaved ice out of a bowl
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Even if you don’t have kids running around, you’re probably making shaved ice (or snow cones) as a fun activity, so be safe about it. Select a machine without exposed blades, and look for one with a clearly identified, accessible shut-off switch. For example, the KitchenAid shaved ice maker—which you power on and off via the stand mixer's control switch—has a couple of safety features built in. It must first be turned to the locked position in order to bring the ice closer to the blades and the blades are hidden under the attachment and behind a plastic panel.

It Got Messy

two cups of shaved on a sheet tray
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Most shaved ice machines we tested kind of made a mess. Fortunately, ice is just water so it shouldn’t cause too much trouble, but it’s worth being aware that ice bits may go flying—especially while getting familiar with the machine. Even our winners are prone to dripping post shaving—as there's inevitably a bit of puck that doesn't get processed.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Shaved Ice Maker

a shaved ice maker dispensing shaved ice into a paper cup
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

A great shaved ice maker should have concealed blades that are sharp and capable of shaving precise little flakes. They should also include molds to create ice that can actually be shaved, and, ideally, be easy to use and clean. 

The Best Shaved Ice Makers

What we liked: This machine made some seriously fluffy, airy shaved ice. We were impressed with its consistency and adjustable blade height, which allows you to dial in exactly the texture you’re looking for. The HomePro was easy to use, and the internals are nicely contained so it’s safe and doesn’t take up a ton of space. It includes five ice molds.

What we didn’t like: It's a little loud while running and given its height (over 15 inches), it may be difficult to store in a standard cabinet.

Price at time of publish: $100.

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.25 x 15.5 inches
  • Material: Plastic
  • Functions: Shaved ice and snow cones (and anything in between)
  • Includes: Ice shaver, 5 ice molds with lids, drip tray cover
a person using a squeeze bottle to put syrup on shaved ice
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

What we liked: It’s hard to beat the space-saving efficiency of an attachment versus a countertop shaved ice machine. It came with four molds that produced ice pucks. To use the shaved ice maker, choose which blade you want (coarse or fine), affix the attachment to the hub of a stand mixer, place an ice puck into the plastic hopper, and then twist the hopper onto the attachment to lock it into place. After turning the stand mixer on, the shaved ice starts to come out immediately.

What we didn’t like: Four ice pucks aren't that many, so you'll be limited by how much shaved ice you can make unless you purchase extra molds.

Price at time of publish: $90.

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 4.63 x 6.25 x 9 inches
  • Material: Plastic
  • Functions: Shaved ice 
  • Includes: Fine and coarse blades, 4 ice molds with lids
a person holding a cup underneath a shaved ice attachment and catching shaved ice in the cup
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The Competition

  • ZENY Ice Shaver Machine: This machine was good for snow cones, but it didn't produce the fluffy shaved ice we wanted (nor did it come with ice molds).
  • Hawaiian S900A Shaved Ice and Snow Cone Machine: This one never did turn out the promised fluffy texture of shaved ice. We found it produced tiny ice chips rather than shaved ice or snow cone ice.
  • Nostalgia Snow Cone Shaved Ice Machine: While this machine looks retro-cool and did produce nice shaved ice, we found it tedious to use and that the motor likely stalled out if the ice wasn’t pressed down far enough.
  • Cuisinart Snow Cone Machine: The Cuisinart machine was easy to use and didn’t make any messes, but the name says it all—it’s a snow cone maker, not a shaved ice machine.
  • Time For Treats SnowFlake Snow Cone Maker: This hand-cranked contraption looks more like a child’s toy than a practical tool, and has the stability to boot. 
  • DASH Shaved Ice Maker: Testers found the DASH closer to a crushed ice machine rather than a shaved ice machine. Fine for cocktails, not so great for shaved ice treats.

FAQs

How do you make shaved ice without a machine?

While you can toss some ice in a plastic bag and bash it with a meat pounder or rolling pin until you reach your desired consistency, you’ll get a closer approximation to the real thing by shaving a block of ice with a sharp knife. This is, however, neither safe nor especially efficient, so you’re likely to find your shavings melting away before you accumulate enough to actually use them. Plus, it’s terrible for the knife blade!

How much does a shaved ice machine cost?

The prices of the shaved ice machines we tested ranged from $27 to $250, with an average price of $79. Our favorite shaved ice machines both cost under $100.

Why We're the Experts

  • To find the best shaved ice makers, we tested eight models—focusing on ones, for the most part, that promised both shaved ice and snow cones (who doesn't appreciate variety?). We spent about 16 hours evaluating these machines.
  • Our favorite shaved ice makers have entered long-term testing and we'll be updating this review with any relevant findings from that soon. (Senior commerce editor Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm has been massively enjoying the KitchenAid attachment—using it for cocktails, mocktails, and more.)
  • Summer Rylander is a freelance writer and has written several equipment reviews for Serious Eats, including pellet grillsTraeger grills, and gas grills. She's been writing for Serious Eats for over a year.

The Best Made In Products, After Many Years of Testing

We’ve tested lots of pots and spans of pans. These are the Made In pieces that keep us coming back for more.

a small saucepan boiling water on a stovetop
Serious Eats / Ashlee Redger

Around here, we test a lot of different cookware. From woks to skillets to stockpots, we’re always on the lookout for the best versions of the products in question, and we don’t take these decisions lightly. We choose our favorite pieces through a process of rigorous testing, research, and comparing price with performance and quality.

Time and time again, Made In outshines its competition, earning a rightful place on our “best of” lists. We’ve rounded up our favorite pieces from Made In, including a saucepan, a saucier, flatware, and even a set of cookware (which is a rare thing for us to recommend!). And no, this isn't sponsored: we've gathered up our favorite products from brands like OXO and Breville before, too.

Two quarts in an ideal size saucepan for tasks like melting butter or chocolate, but it’s also a perfectly serviceable size for reheating soup, poaching eggs, or cooking a smaller portion of grains. 

Made In’s 2-quart stainless steel version is our favorite small saucepan. It aced our tests with its high sides that kept boilovers to a minimum, and the five layers of cladding (alternating layers of stainless steel and aluminum) means this saucepan retains heat nicely and distributes heat evenly around the pot. We love how the ergonomically indented handle stays cool while cooking, and you can always sign us up for a rolled rim that helps us avoid drips while pouring. Factor in the snugly fitting lid and we’re sold on this saucepan all day long.

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Capacity: 2 quarts
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 800°F
  • Price at time of publish: $149
a small saucepan pouring browned butter into a small glass bowl.
Serious Eats / Ashlee Redger

The main difference between a saucepan and a saucier is that the latter has lower, slightly flared sides, which eliminates the pesky “corner” edge that food can get stuck along while whisking or stirring in a straight-sided saucepan. Basically, a saucier can do everything a saucepan can do, but kind of better? And when we tested a bunch of different sauciers, Made In made our favorite. 

Made In’s 3-quart saucier found its way to the top of our list thanks to its fantastic heat conduction, wide surface area for cooking (that’s a 7-inch diameter at the base and a 10-inch diameter lip-to-lip, for those keeping score at home), and a comfortable handle that made the whole pan feel well-balanced and pleasant to work with. Basically, this saucier did it all for us and looked great while doing it. 

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Capacity: 3 quarts
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 800°F
  • Price at time of publish: $159
Made In Saucier against a white background
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

During our stainless steel skillet tests, Made In impressed us with both its 10- and 12-inch offerings. No surprise that these fry pans stood out with their incredibly effective, evenly distributed heating thanks to robust 5-ply construction. And once again, we love the handles, which are comfortable to grip and balance the weight of the skillet nicely. 

Made In’s stainless steel skillets turned out top-notch crêpes, perfectly seared chicken breasts, and rapidly heated and cooled water when we put them through their paces against loads of competitors—at price points both above and below. These are high-quality, high-performing skillets that are worth the investment. 

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Size: 10 and 12 inches
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 800°F
  • Price at time of publish: $109 for 10-inch, $119 for 12-inch
Searing chicken breasts in a skillet, showing even golden color on the skin
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

We love a great sauté pan. The shallow depth and wide cooking surface are perfect for frying meatballs, braising pieces of chicken, wilting greens, or doing basically anything else where a Dutch oven feels like too much and a saucepan isn’t quite enough. 

Made In’s 3.5-quart sauté pan takes the cake for us with its reasonable weight, ergonomic handle, well-fitting lid, and excellent heat conduction. Our testers used this pan to crisp up chicken skin and braise cabbage to silky perfection, then found it easy to clean (you can put it in the dishwasher, though we recommend hand-washing instead). This pan is a solid value and a real pleasure to use.

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Capacity: 3.5 quarts
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 800°F
  • Price at time of publish: $159
a saute pan held in profile to show how comfortable the handle is
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

We usually don’t recommend buying cookware sets because you’ll probably end up paying for pieces you won’t actually use. There are a few exceptions to this rule, and Made In’s 6-piece stainless steel set is one of them.

We appreciate how this set only comes with the essentials—including a nonstick pan, which is a must-have for delicates like eggs and fish—so you’ll only need to find space for four pieces of cookware and two lids. It’s a common refrain by now: we recommend these pieces for their even heating and ergonomic handles. We also love the flared poured rims. Oh, and the approachable price point doesn't hurt either.

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Includes: 10-inch nonstick frying pan, 10-inch stainless steel frying pan, 2-quart stainless steel saucepan with lid, 8-quart stainless steel stockpot with lid
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 800°F (nonstick pan is hand-wash only and oven safe to 500°F) 
  • Price at time of publish: $499
a person tossing food in a stainless steel skillet
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Good flatware isn’t just about appearance—it should also feel nice in your hand and be durable enough to stand up to frequent use and cleaning. Made In nailed it for us with their flatware set, which has a timeless design, a pleasing weight, and a knife that cuts through food. The 20-piece set is dishwasher-safe and includes essentials like dinner and salad forks, soup and dessert spoons, and a dinner knife. Our minor complaint is that the price point is a bit steep and you can only buy their flatware in this set for four, but the quality is certainly worth it.

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Includes: 20 pieces; 4 salad forks, 4 dinner forks, 4 knives, 4 dinner spoons, 4 dessert spoons
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe
  • Price at time of publish: $199
A stainless steel silverware set on a grey surface
Serious Eats / Madeline Muzzi

While a serving platter may seem like a simple piece, we still decided to test them because you can never be too careful. Made In was an easy choice for us here too thanks to its minimalist design, flared edges that help keep spills at bay, and its versatility—you can put this thing in the oven, the freezer, the microwave, and the dishwasher. While it’s on the smaller side at just 13.25 inches in length, that means it’s perfect for serving salads, sliced meats, cheeses, or anything else that doesn’t need a huge footprint on the table. 

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Ceramic
  • Size: 13 inches
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 580°F
  • Price at time of publish: $89
made in platter on marble backdrop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Yep, even wine decanters need testing, and we loved the one from Made In for its elegant shape, easy-pour design, and the fact that it leaves enough room for the wine to properly breathe once you’ve poured in the whole bottle. It’s a little pricey, but we think this decanter is worth it for how nicely it pours (drips are minimal and you can easily stop the flow before any sediment tips out) and how good it looks.

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Glass
  • Capacity: 1500mL
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher safe
  • Price at time of publish: $99
A wine decanter on a wodoen surface
Serious Eats / Madeline Muzzi

It’s hard work baking a bunch of pies, but someone has to test pie dishes and it may as well be us. This classic pie dish baked evenly golden crusts, which we were able to crimp and shape to our liking thanks to the flat rim. This stoneware dish doesn’t conduct heat as well as a stainless steel dish we put it up against, but our pies turned out great and we liked being able to toss the Made In dish into the dishwasher for easy clean-up.

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Porcelain
  • Size: 10.5-inch diameter
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 650°F
  • Price at time of publish: $59
Made In pie pan
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Dinnerware sets are ultimately a personal choice, but if you’re looking for a set that comes with everything you need and looks great while doing it, Made In has you covered. We love the glossy finish and how comprehensive the set is—you get appetizer and dinner plates, bread and butter plates, side bowls, entree bowls, flatware, and a serving platter. You get everything you need, and you can even choose between a white, red, or navy rim to spice things up.

Key Specs 

  • Materials: Porcelain, stainless steel
  • Includes: 4x dinner plates, appetizer plates, bread and butter plates, entree bowls, side bowls; 1x serving platter, 4x dinner forks, salad forks, table spoons, dessert spoons, dinner knives
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 580°F
  • Price at time of publish: $599
a place setting, serving platter, and silverware on a grey surface
Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

FAQs

Where is Made In cookware made?

Made In produces in the United States, Italy, France, England, and Hungary. You can see a breakdown of where which products are produced here.

Is Made In cookware any good?

We think Made In cookware is great! The products are thoughtfully designed, made of high-quality materials, and perform consistently well in our tests. Dollar for dollar, Made In cookware is a great value. 

How much is Made In cookware?

Pricing depends on what you’re buying. Made In cookware ranges in price from $19 for a quarter sheet pan to $1,199 for a 6-piece copper set. The average price of the pieces we’ve recommended here is $185.

What’s the Difference Between Saucepans and Sauciers?

We explore the pros and cons of both types of cookware—and give our tested recommendations for each from our equipment reviews.

Making pastry cream in a saucier with a hand mid-whisk.
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

They sound and look similar, so is there even a difference between saucepans and sauciers? Are you going to ruin your meal if you use one instead of the other? The respective answers here are yes (there are differences) and no (you won’t ruin anything), but understanding the nuances of these pans can help you make a more informed decision next time you’re shopping for a new piece of cookware.

Spot the Difference

a spoon retrieving a poached egg from a saucepan
Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Saucepans have straight sides and are functional for tasks like boiling water, cooking pasta, reheating soupy leftovers, poaching eggs—you get the idea. Saucepans tend to have higher sides than sauciers, which makes them useful for containing anything prone to bubbling up and spilling over.

Sauciers, on the other hand, have a shallower profile with slightly flared, rounded sides (which means there are no corners). They’re purpose-built for stirring, with curves that cozy right up to a whisk or wooden spoon. Sauciers are ideal for making risotto, pastry cream, or—shockingly—sauces. Once you’ve made a velvety roux in a proper saucier, you’ll probably find your saucepan spending a lot more time in the drawer.

Ultimately, we prefer sauciers over saucepans because they can do everything a saucepan can do, and then some.

Material and Performance

A person pouring brown butter from a saucepan into a bowl
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Most saucepans and sauciers are made of stainless steel. This material is versatile, durable, and, since many are tri-ply—that is, the base is a stainless steel sandwich with an aluminum center—heat is conducted efficiently. 

When we tested saucepans, we assessed each pan’s competency with boiling water, cooking rice, browning butter, and, in the saucepans that impressed us the most, we also whipped up a batch of pastry cream. We found that we tend to prefer saucepans with a wider diameter (between seven and eight inches was our sweet spot) and a wide, rounded handle for easy pick-up and transfer. 

Our saucier tests included making pastry cream, risotto, and pâte à choux. For these delicate tasks, we favored sauciers with a generous surface area (all the better for stirring) and a just-right weight (all the better for maneuvering). Heavy-bottomed sauciers were effective at retaining heat, but they were less agile and took longer to warm up. 

Pros and Cons

A zoomed in shot of a wooden spoon stirring risotto.
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

The real advantage of a saucepan is its high sides. You can put water on to boil and, in those panicked milliseconds before it boils over, have time to save yourself from a mess. (Hopefully.) Saucepans are commonly available in sizes between one and six quarts, so if you already have a favorite and want a smaller or larger version, you can probably find it with ease.

The saucier’s strengths lie in those curved, sloping sides and rounded edges. There are no “corners” in which things can get stuck while you’re whisking with abandon in a saucier, whereas a saucepan’s nearly 90-degree angle between base and sides means your sauce (or cream, or tender grain) is susceptible to sticking as the whisk skims right past. Sauciers tend to come in sizes between two and give quarts, and we prefer them in the 3- to 4-quart range.

Now,, saucepans and sauciers both usually come with a lid, so that part is easy!

So, Which One is Better? 

five sauciers stacked on top of one another
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

“Better” is a subjective term, but the Serious Eats team tends to prefer sauciers to saucepans. We appreciate the versatility of these sleek vessels, which—after adjusting for capacity, of course—can still be used for all the same things as a saucepan. If you’re going to invest in a shiny new pan, you may as well get the most bang for your buck and maximize usefulness. 

Our Favorite Saucier

When you know, you know. Or should we say, when you've tested a whole bunch of them, it's pretty easy to tell which one is the best. And after reviewing sauciers, our favorite is the one from Made In. It was light, conducted heat well, and stirring in it was simply a dream. We recommend starting out with the 3-quart size.

Made In Saucier against a white background
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

Our Favorite Saucepans

Preferring a saucier doesn’t mean we’re banishing saucepans from our kitchens! Plus, most cooks are familiar with saucepans, and it’s natural to prefer to buy the thing we already know.

This saucepan from Zwilling aced our tests thanks to its flared rim that allows for easy stirring, a comfortable handle that stays cool while boiling water, and helpful details like interior measurement markings and a glass lid.

A stainless steel saucepan on a marble countertop
Serious Eats / Irvin Lin

Tramontina has impressed us before (we also like their affordable stainless steel skillets), so we weren’t surprised that this mid-priced saucepan performed as well—with even heating and comfortable handles on both the pan and the lid—as some of the models that cost twice as much.

A stainless steel saucepan on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Irvin Lin

FAQs

What does a saucepan look like?

Saucepans and sauciers look very similar! You’ll spot the saucepan by its high, straight sides.

What’s a non-reactive saucepan?

Non-reactive cookware means that the material won’t react with acidic foods, potentially lending a tinny, “off” taste to your dish. Cast iron, for example, is reactive—which is why you should probably choose a different pan if you plan on simmering a tomato sauce for several hours. 

Should I buy a saucepan or a saucier? 

This really depends on what you’re planning to use it for. If you just need something to boil water a couple of times per week, feel free to grab a budget saucepan and call it a day. But if you want to regularly make sauces, risotto, or generally have more flexibility with your pan, spring for a saucier.

The Very Best Skillets, According to the Very Best Tests (We’re Biased, But Still)

We went through our equipment reviews and pulled together our picks for the very best skillets, including cast iron, carbon steel, and stainless steel.

Hazelnuts jump in a skillet as part of a tossing easiness test in our review.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Skillets are a real staple of the stovetop. From crisping bacon to sautéing vegetables (yes, we prefer a skillet to a sauté pan for this task, as it’s easier to toss with!) and everything in between, having at least one skillet in your kitchen is a must. 

While there are pros and cons to each type of material—think nonstick versus stainless steel versus cast iron—we’ve tested loads of different skillets. Below, you’ll find our favorite skillets across our cookware reviews. And because pans can be pricey, we’re including our favorite budget-conscious picks, too.

The Winners, at a Glance

Things to Consider

Material

Testing evenness of skillet heating by cooking crepes
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Nonstick skillets will be the easiest to work with (and clean), but have the lowest heat tolerance and will eventually need to be replaced, as the coatings will break down after a few years. We actually don't recommend nonstick pans for most cooking tasks, but concede having one on hand is helpful for stick-prone things, like eggs.

On the other hand, stainless steel is a great choice for durability and even heat distribution and is one of our favorite skillet materials. Carbon steel is another excellent choice and is a lightweight alternative to cast iron. Like cast iron, though, it will need to be seasoned and maintained.

Searing short rib steaks in a cast iron skillet. Just about every skillet, when preheated throughly, managed to put a great sear on both sides of the meat.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Speaking of, cast iron is an enduring favorite for its ruggedness and ability to withstand ultra-high temperatures, but it’s heavy and also needs to be seasoned. If the latter doesn't sound appealing to you, enameled cast iron strikes a nice balance between heat retention and a semi-nonstick cooking surface, but it isn’t as durable. (You literally cannot destroy traditional cast iron—even a super-rusted one can be restored.)

Price

Lodge's Blacklock skillet is lightweight and comfortable to hold, as shown in the hand of the review here.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

We think skillets should come with a reasonable price tag and have found that, in many cases, ultra-pricey cookware tends to perform the same as more affordable pieces. For example, a $20-ish Lodge pan bested cast iron skillets that cost hundreds in our review. And with nonstick, cheaper is just better—since you'll have to replace it in a few years anyway.

What Size Skillet is Best? 

The skillets we recommend here are all between 10 and 12 inches. These are practical sizes that allow plenty of room in the pan for ingredients to cook evenly without crowding. Smaller skillets may cost less upfront, but aren't as practical unless you're frying just an egg or two. (Though, that is certainly an argument for having an 8-inch cast iron or carbon steel pan on hand.)

How Do I Tell If a Skillet is Compatible with Induction?

scrambling eggs in a nonstick pan on an induction burner
Serious Eats / Ashlee Redger

Nowadays, a lot of cookware is induction compatible, but if there’s any doubt, look for an induction symbol on the packaging or the bottom of the pan. It looks like a squiggly line and says “induction,” so you can’t miss it! You can also grab a magnet and hold it to the bottom of any piece of cookware. If the magnet sticks solidly, the pan's induction compatible.

The Best Skillets

What we liked: We tested 29 stainless steel skillets and this one from Made In Cookware came out on top. We love its responsiveness to temperature changes and the comfortable handle that makes using it a pleasure. Plus, this one looks really nice thanks to its polished interior and brushed exterior. 

What we didn't like: While we didn't experience any warping with this pan, others have. If the pan's warped, it won't work well with induction cooktops.

Price at time of publish: $119.

Key Specs

  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Oven-safe temperature: 800°F
Made-In's stainless-steel skillet
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

What we liked: This stainless steel skillet held its own with responsiveness and even heating. The Tramontina has a slightly smaller cooking surface than the Made In skillet and a lower oven-safe temperature, but it’s still broiler-safe (500°F is still pretty hot, after all) and, overall, we think this is a great budget buy.

What we didn't like: This pan's gradually slopping sides made for a smaller usable cooking surface.

Price at time of publish: $49.

Key Specs

  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Oven-safe temperature: 500°F
Tramontina's skillet
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

What we liked: In our enameled cast iron skillet tests, we loved the Staub’s performance and solid build quality. It browned well, heated quickly and evenly, and the angled pouring spouts on both sides of the rim are a convenient touch.

What we didn't like: The pan's helper handle was small and not looped, and we found it harder to hold onto.

Price at time of publish: $200.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 4 pounds, 15 ounces
  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Oven-safe temperature: 500°F
staub skillet on marble countertop
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

What we liked: Sometimes it’s just not feasible to invest in a piece like Staub (or Le Creuset, our other enameled cast iron skillet pick). Luckily, you’ll get comparable heating prowess and a nicely smooth interior (we were even able to flip a fried egg with no sticking) with this alternative from Crock Pot.

What we didn't like: It didn’t have quite the same heat retention as our pricier top picks.

Price at time of publish: $36.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 6 pounds, 5 ounces
  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Oven-safe temperature: 500°F
crock pot skillet on marble countertop
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

What we liked: When we tested 13 carbon steel skillets, Mauviel took the top spot with its pleasing heft and even, well-distributed heating. Carbon steel is basically nonstick when properly seasoned, and the Mauviel’s generous surface area allows for a variety of uses—including making an excellent tarte tatin.

What we didn't like: It was a bit heavy, which made it harder to tilt and turn.

Price at time of publish: $95.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 3 pounds, 3 ounces
  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Oven-safe temperature: 680°F
mauviel carbon steel skillet on a white surface
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

What we liked: Vollrath pans are lightweight, affordable, and frequently found in professional kitchens, so we weren’t surprised when this 11-inch skillet performed well in our tests. This pan heats quickly and evenly and won’t break the bank. 

What we didn't like: The handle on this pan is pretty dang long, which can be cumbersome.

Price at time of publish: $38.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 2 pounds, 6 ounces
  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Oven-safe temperature: 600°F
Vollrath carbon steel skillet on white surface
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

What we liked: We’re not shy about saying we don’t think you should spend a bunch of money on a nonstick skillet, because no matter how high-end you go, eventually that silky coating will break down and necessitate replacement. That being said, this skillet from All-Clad is surprisingly well-priced and durable (and we generally love All-Clad’s performance), so we’re happy to recommend it with one caveat (see below).

What we didn't like: The concave handle may not prove the most comfortable in everyone’s hands. 

Price at time of publish: $50.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 2 pounds, 10 ounces
  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Oven-safe temperature: 500°F
the all-clad nonstick skillet sitting on a white countertop with a white subway tile background behind it
Serious Eats / Donna Currie

What we liked: While we also like the Tramontina Professional Aluminum Nonstick Fry Pan, T-fal is an enduring name in the nonstick skillet game. This pan performed well in our tests thanks to a smooth coating, and even heating. You can even toss it in the dishwasher—though we recommend washing by hand to extend the life of the nonstick coating.

What we didn't like: Since nonstick pans run the risk of off-gassing at high temperatures, we suggest ignoring T-fal’s signature “your pan is now ready” Thermo-Spot heat indicator.

Price at time of publish: $40.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 1 pound, 13 ounces
  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Oven-safe temperature: 400°F
an overhead look at the T-fal nontick skillet sitting on a white surface
Serious Eats / Donna Currie

What we liked: Lodge's cast iron skillets are one of our most frequently recommended pieces of cookware, and they’re so reasonably priced that this one ticks the boxes for both best overall and best budget-friendly. This durable skillet will last for generations and quickly prove itself as one of the most versatile tools in your kitchen. The pour spouts on each side of the rim are convenient for sauces, too.

What we didn't like: Our one (small!) gripe is that the pour spouts or a bit shallow, leading to dribbling.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 5 pounds, 8.5 ounces
  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Price at time of publish: $25
Cast iron pan pizza
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

What we liked: There’s a lot to love about cast iron, but it sure can be heavy. Fortunately, there’s the Blacklock line from Lodge, which casts its pans in a thinner, lighter-weight design to make them a little more manageable for daily use. We found almost no difference in cooking performance between this Blacklock skillet and Lodge’s conventional version, so if your budget allows for a pricier alternative, go for it.

What we didn't like: Again, the pour spouts are shallow on this pan.

Price at time of publish: $60.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 4 pounds, 2 ounces
  • Induction compatible: Yes
The Lodge Blacklock skillet on a white background.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

FAQs

What’s the difference between a skillet and a frying pan?

There is no difference! It’s really just a matter of preference in how you refer to the pan. Skillets (or frying pans) are characterized by the aforementioned sloping sides and are available in a variety of sizes and materials. Given their longevity, cast iron may be the first thing that comes to mind when picturing a frying pan.

Are there any skillets that are better than cast iron?

Cast iron is ultra-durable and, contrary to popular belief, not as tedious to maintain as you might think. However, because cast iron is so heavy, you might prefer a different material for everyday cooking. Consider carbon steel or stainless steel for similar longevity without the heft.

What is the best skillet?

We think the best skillets are the ones that combine performance, longevity, and price. For that reason, our top recommended materials are stainless steel, cast iron, and carbon steel.

We Tested 21 Microwaves (and Popped LOTS of Popcorn) to Find Three Winners

We tested 21 microwave ovens to find the best ones for all your cooking, popcorn, and reheated leftover needs.

two microwaves on a wooden countertop
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Whether you use yours for popcorn, a plate of nachos, or just to reheat that cup of coffee you forgot about from half an hour ago (that said, don’t do this!), a microwave is pretty darn handy. But like many small appliances, there’s no shortage of models to choose from, and microwave prices can vary widely. How do you even begin to figure out which microwave is best? 

Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. We tested 21 microwave ovens, putting each through a series of tests to assess how efficiently they heat a variety of ingredients and meals (because there’s a time and a place for frozen mac and cheese). We also tested each microwave to see if they could gently melt chocolate, and—of course—make popcorn without burning it to bits. A few clear winners emerged, so grab some (perfectly popped) popcorn and let’s get things heated.

The Winners, at a Glance

We loved the effectiveness of a heat sensor in the microwave, which led to perfectly popped popcorn and evenly cooked mac and cheese. At about $152, it's reasonably priced, too.

This generously-sized microwave wowed us with its ability to cook frozen foods evenly and without fuss.

This is an above-average microwave that handled everything we threw at it with grace, including “toasting” delicate marshmallows and cooking frozen dinners.

The Tests

  • Water Test: We put a cup of room-temperature water (68°F, in this case) in a glass measuring cup, then zapped it for two minutes without adjusting power levels. Then, we recorded the temperature of the water.
  • Marshmallow Test: We layered a 9-inch pie dish with parchment paper and covered the bottom with an even layer of miniature marshmallows. Without adjusting the power level, we microwaved them for two minutes before checking for hot (or cold) spots.
  • Frozen Mac n’ Cheese Test: We cooked a frozen, 12-ounce portion of mac and cheese for half the time listed on its package directions, then used an instant-read thermometer to record temperatures in four places around the dish. We checked temperatures again after cooking per package instructions. 
  • Melting Chocolate Test: We put eight ounces of chocolate wafers in a medium glass bowl and microwaved them for 30 seconds on 50% power. After stirring four times with a rubber spatula, we repeated the process three more times before assessing the consistency of the chocolate.
  • Popcorn Test: We popped a bag of popcorn using the popcorn button if the microwave had one, or following package instructions if it didn’t. After the microwave stopped, we spread the contents of the bag on a sheet tray and evaluated the evenness of the popped kernels.

What We Learned

First, How Do Microwaves Work? 

using the presets on a microwave oven
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

You can read more about the inner workings of microwaves here, but, basically, they’re a type of oven that uses a magnetron to generate electromagnetic waves. Those little waves zip around inside the oven, reflect off of the metal walls, and get absorbed by the food inside. 

Was Wattage Important? 

Don’t get too caught up in wattage. Most modern microwaves operate between 600 and 1000 watts—some can go a little lower or a little higher—and the standard full-power wattage today is 1000. We did notice that higher wattage led to faster cooking. For instance, nearly all of the microwaves we tested performed poorly in the chocolate melting test—which tells us that 50% power is probably too low for this task! But, that’s an easy fix—just up the power. 

We Didn't Love Presets

hand putting water in a measuring glass into the microwave
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

If we’re being honest, presets—those are the buttons for popcorn or frozen foods—aren’t worth writing home about; they’re just a shortcut to adjust wattage and set a cook time, and it’s easy enough to select 700 watts and two minutes on your own. We found that microwaves with presets for everything (Popcorn! Pizza! Cream of mushroom soup! Okay, just kidding about the last one) were actually confusing and detracted from what should be a relatively intuitive appliance. Sometimes you just wanna reheat a bowl of soup, ya know?

Size (Kind of) Mattered

One of the few downsides we noticed about the Panasonic Microwave Oven with Cyclonic Wave Inverter Technology was its large footprint (it’s nearly 24 inches wide and 14 inches high). Large microwaves don’t necessarily cook food any better or worse than smaller microwaves, but they do eat up counter space and leave you with more surface area to keep clean. Conversely, a microwave that's too small will quickly lead to frustration when you realize your favorite dinner plate can’t fit inside. Size preference will vary from one household to the next, so pay mind to dimensions when searching for your Goldilocks, just-right microwave.   

The Criteria: What to Look for In a Microwave Oven

A seriously good microwave is efficient, easy to use, and cooks evenly
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

A great microwave should be easy to operate and cook food efficiently and (mostly) evenly. But, keep in mind that due to the nature of how these ovens work (remember those zip-zappy electromagnetic waves?), if you chuck a frozen-solid chicken pot pie in the microwave, the outer bits are going to heat more quickly than the center—that’s just how it goes.

What we liked: This easy-to-use Toshiba microwave earned an overall score that rivaled the Panasonic in our tests—and it costs less than half the price. It impressed us with how well it cooked popcorn (minimal remaining kernels!), and we appreciated the oven’s heat sensor, which helped facilitate even cooking. Though the Toshiba is best for very basic kitchen tasks, it still cooked frozen foods extremely well. 

What we didn’t like: This microwave struggled to melt chocolate chips. That said, we tested each oven on 50% power, so we suspect it would have had a stronger performance here at a higher wattage.

Price at time of publish: $190.

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 17.1 x 20.5 x 12.8 inches
  • Weight: 34.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet
  • Warranty: 1 year
Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

What we liked: The first thing we noticed about this microwave was how big it was. With its 2.2 cubic-foot capacity, you could probably put a turkey in there if you wanted to (please don’t, though). It performed really, really well when it came to our frozen food test, cooking the mac and cheese ridiculously evenly (no frozen noodles snuck into bites). If you’re an avid food prepper with a freezer full of leftovers or ready meals, this microwave has your name all over it. 

What we didn’t like: Despite (or perhaps because of) its efficiency with frozen foods, the Panasonic was far less delicate with our marshmallows, which emerged straight-up burnt with no delicate caramelization (just…char). And while this microwave’s cavernous quarters could certainly prove useful (family-sized macaroni?), it does take up a lot of counter space. It’s also on the pricier side for a microwave, so if you only use yours to heat up leftovers here and there, it might not be worth the extra cash.

Price at time of publish: $367.

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 19.44 x 23.88 x 14 inches
  • Weight: 36.8 pounds
  • Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet
  • Warranty: 1 year
Panasonic Oven with Cyclonic Wave Inverter Technology
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

What we liked: This microwave oven is a great buy with a nice range of functions (that weren’t just useless presets). More importantly, it performed well, too. Our marshmallows were evenly caramelized, and the frozen mac n’ cheese cooked impressively well. If you’re looking for a user-friendly microwave without unnecessary frills, we’re happy to recommend the Magic Chef.

What we didn’t like: The chocolate chips barely melted during our 50% power test. Our popcorn test also yielded more unpopped kernels than we’d prefer.

Price at time of publish: $70.

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 12.1 x 20.x x 15.7 inches
  • Weight: 30.1 pounds
  • Capacity: 1.1 cubic feet
  • Warranty: 1 year
stirring chocolate chips micfrowaved by the magic chef microwave
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

The Competition

FAQs

Is a microwave an oven? 

It sure is! We dig deeper into what microwave ovens actually are here, but they are indeed ovens and electromagnetic waves are to thank for heating your food.

What is the best way to clean a microwave?

From soup splatters to coffee sloshes to mysterious greasy smears, microwaves can definitely get a little grimy from time to time. Keeping them clean helps avoid unpleasant odors and generally extends the life of your appliance, so it’s best to wipe up spills and splatters as soon as they happen. A damp cloth should do the trick in most cases, but if you need some extra help, an all-purpose kitchen spray will work well to cut through grease. You can remove the inner plate from your microwave and hand-wash with dish soap and hot water in the sink. 

How can you find the wattage of your microwave? 

The packaging or owner’s manual is an easy place to start, but if you don’t have either of those, there should be a label somewhere (probably on the inside of the door) that will indicate wattage. You can also run a quick Google search for your microwave’s make and model to learn more.

What’s the Difference Between All of the All-Clad Lines?

We breakdown the differences between All-Clad’s cookware, and provide recommendations from our cookware reviews.

Hazelnuts jump in a skillet as part of a tossing easiness test in our review.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

When it comes to stainless steel pots and pans, All-Clad is one of the most recognizable names in the game. Their cookware has come highly recommended in our tests, and we’ve used All-Clad’s pots and pans at home and in the test kitchen for many, many years. Pretty much any Serious Eats staffer can speak to their durability and practicality. 

But with so many different products—and vague identifiers like D3 and D5—what’s the difference between All-Clad's cookware lines? 

Let's Quickly Touch on Non-Stick

a person pouring water from a measuring cup into a stainless steel skillet
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

We'll be focusing on All-Clad's stainless steel offerings for this story because, really, the only All-Clad nonstick piece we recommend is the reasonably-priced HA1 nonstick skillet. We seldom use nonstick except for delicate things like cooking eggs or crepes—and think stainless steel is, generally, a much better investment. And because we don't recommend spending a lot on nonstick pans, that puts All-Clad's pricey Fusiontec skillets out of the running for us from the jump.

Tri-Ply vs. Five-Ply

First things first: descriptors you’ll see over and over again when shopping for stainless steel cookware are “3-ply” or “tri-ply” or “triply.” They all mean the same thing, which is triple-layered material. This is usually a sandwich of stainless steel with a layer of aluminum in the middle, because aluminum is great at conducting heat but it isn’t exactly food-safe on its own.

Thus, when you see a reference to “5-ply,” it should be no surprise that this means there are five layers of metal rather than three. In All-Clad’s case, they alternate layers of stainless steel and aluminum for added durability and even heat distribution. Because there’s more material, 5-ply pans are pricier and heavier.

Polished vs. Brushed Stainless Steel

A person inspecting the bottom of a stainless steel skillet
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Honestly, this detail is all about personal preference (and price...as we'll get into below). Some people love the gleam of a polished finish, others prefer a brushed surface for its subtlety and resistance to fingerprints. In either case, if you store your pots and pans by stacking them in a drawer or cabinet, it’s a good idea to use pan protectors to help safeguard against scratches (which a mirror finish is more likely to show). In our many cookware tests, though, we haven't found either finish affects performance.

What's with All-Clad's Handles?

a closeup look of a person's thumb holding an all-clad's handle
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Nearly all of All-Clad's cookware has the same handle that features an indent on the top that runs its length. Some people dislike it, preferring rounded handles that feel smooth to hold. However, we've found this indent has a purpose: it prevents the handle from rotating in your palm as you pour. It's also just a nice place to put your thumb for added leverage as you toss, pick up, and move the cookware.

D3 Stainless 

The All-Clad D3 Stainless collection is try-ply and has a polished finish. In our tests, we've found this line performed exceptionally well (even heating; great durability; nicely balanced). In fact, the All-Clad D3 Stainless skillet nearly earned the top spot in our testing of 22 stainless steel skillets (it was bumped out by the Made In, which is ever-so-slightly cheaper). Some of our favorite saucepans, saute pans, stockpots, and stainless steel cookware sets are also part of this line.

Key Specs

  • Line includes: 28 products, plus 12 options for sets or pairs
  • Price range: $65 (7.5-inch skillet) to $1660 (14-piece set)
  • Induction compatible: Yes
A person pouring browned butter from a saucepan into a jar
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

D3 Everyday

All-Clad’s D3 Everyday shares a lot of the traits of the D3 Stainless, but adds in some features that some may find more user-friendly, like handles that are rounded and indent-free (for those that have taken issue with the classic All-Clad handle). The 3-quart saucepan in this line also features a flared pouring rim (to minimize dribbling), which we have wished the D3 Stainless saucepan had as we poured brown butter, sauces, and soups out of it. Price-wise, the D3 Stainless and Everyday lines are also similar. For example, their 10- and 10.5-inch skillets cost $100 a pop, but the Everyday's doesn't come with a lid.

Key Specs

  • Line includes: 7 products, plus 3 options for sets or pairs
  • Price range: $90 (8.5-inch skillet) to $1405 (10-piece set)
  • Induction compatible: Yes

D5 Brushed

Stepping up to 5-ply construction, the All-Clad D5 Brushed series provides two additional layers and has, you guessed it, a brushed finish. Given those extra layers, D5 pans are heavier than D3 ones. They’re more expensive, too, with D5 Brushed products starting $85 higher than those in the D3 Stainless line and going far beyond that, too. The D5 Brushed's 10-inch skillet is $250 compared to the $130 D3 Stainless. When we tested a D5 Brushed pan as part of our stainless steel skillet review, we didn’t see enough difference in performance to justify paying more. We felt the same way about the D5 Brushed saucepan and cookware set when we tested them: they were nice to use, but not worth the added price over the D3.

Key Specs

  • Line includes: 17 products, plus for options for sets 
  • Price range: $150 (8-inch skillet) to $2,360 (14-piece set)
  • Induction compatible: Yes

D5 Polished

Yep, you guessed it: All-Clad’s D5 Polished line is just like the D5 Brushed, but with a polished finish. Again, this line's price is high—and we remain skeptical of the added performance benefits you'll actually notice/care about for the additional cost. However, we haven't formally tested anything from this line.

Key Specs

  • Line includes: 24 products, plus 6 options for sets or pairs
  • Price range: $150 (8-inch skillet) to $2,600 (15-piece set)
  • Induction compatible: Yes
Food tossed in skillet
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

D7 Stainless

The All-Clad D7 Stainless is quite a small collection with just one product—a stovetop slow cooker with a 7-ply construction that includes four layers of stainless steel and three layers of aluminum. It's not a slow cooker at all and is more of a lightweight Dutch oven alternative. For the price, though ($360, when not on sale), and size, we'd opt for a 5-quart Dutch oven and a stainless steel stockpot instead. Our budget-friendly recommendations from these reviews, together, cost far less than the D7 pot.

Key Specs

  • Line includes: 1 product
  • Price range: $360
  • Induction compatible: Yes

Copper Core

Finally, we have the All-Clad Copper Core line. These pans are 5-ply and combine stainless steel, aluminum, and copper. The Copper Core line is meant to be ultra-responsive to heat changes (we’ve written about copper cookware and how it both heats and cools quickly). That said, since the All-Clad cookware we’ve tested is already heat-responsive, we’re not totally sold on this line’s added cost. For example, the 7-piece cookware set is a whopping $1,100 compared to the D3 set's (still whopping) $799.

Key Specs

  • Line includes: 12 products, plus 3 options for sets
  • Price range: $150 (8-inch skillet) to $2,729,92 (14-piece set)
  • Induction compatible: Yes

So, Which All-Clad Line Should I Buy?

a person pouring mushroom into a stainless steel skillet
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Our tests continuously prove the All-Clad D3 Stainless line to be the best value for its performance, price, and durability. In fact, across all of our cookware reviews, it's the only All-Clad line we've recommended. If you're already spending a lot, you shouldn't spend more—especially if you won't notice performance differences.

FAQs

How do you clean All-Clad cookware?

Always wash your All-Clad cookware by hand, and only after it cools down. While stainless steel cookware can go in the dishwasher, we recommend hand-washing it to preserve its longevity.

Can All-Clad cookware go in the oven?

All-Clad stainless steel cookware is oven-safe up to 600°F. Be aware that extended exposure to heat above 500°F may result in discoloration, but pan performance won’t be affected.

Does All-Clad work on induction?

All-Clad's D3, D5, and Copper Core cookware are compatible with induction cooktops.

Does All-Clad cookware have a good warranty?

All-Clad’s stainless steel products—including pots, pans, skillets, and cookware sets—are backed by a lifetime warranty.