For Fermentation, We Love E-Jen Containers

For fermentation of all kinds, we love E-Jen Kimchi Containers. Here’s why.

three sizes of fermentation containers on a marble countertop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Sweet pickles, sour pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi—I love fermented foods. Any vegetable long-cured in salt or vinegar and aromatics so that it’s tangy and snappy, i.e. the perfect accompaniment to rich meats and strong martinis, is the right condiment for me. But, as a food writer and home cook who prides herself on her skills in the kitchen, I was crestfallen when I started working on a cookbook with my friend Scott Clark and my first attempts to recreate his kimchi failed. Two times, I ended up with a layer of black, spoiled stuff on top with a gallon of cabbage and other vegetables, seasonings, and salted shrimp beneath it that showed no discernable bubbling. The lactobacillus—the beneficial bacteria that create the lactic acid that ferments the kimchi—had no signs of life.

I should have followed my pal’s advice all along. Clark, chef-owner Dad’s Luncheonette in Half Moon Bay, makes his kimchi in what he likes to call his “kimchi briefcase,” a snap-locked fermentation container by the Korean company E-Jen. A modern, plastic version of a traditional Korean earthenware crock, or onggi, the E-Jen container I bought worked like a charm, taking no effort at all to create the perfect environment that leads to successful lacto-fermentation.

The key to E-Jen’s foolproof fermenting is its inner airlock. Dubbed by E-Jen a “vacuum intercept board,” this adjustable inside plunger completely covers the fermenting foods, ensuring that no oxygen gets inside. That’s essential for lacto-fermentation. As Dr. Julia Skinner, author of Our Fermented Lives, explains, “When fresh vegetables are packed into a jar with brine, the naturally-occuring bacteria on the vegetables begin to ferment the vegetables, eating the starches they contain and, as they do so, softening the veggies and acidifying the brine. The combination of salt and this acidity makes the brine inhospitable to pathogenic microbes. Lactofermentation is anaerobic, which means it happens without oxygen, so keeping your veggies completely submerged helps ensure you're only getting the microbes you want in the mix.”

kimchi in a fermentation container
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Knowing I needed to push the vegetables down into the brine to keep out as much oxygen and unhelpful bacteria as I could, I had been dutiful with my original setup. I had bought the round, glass fermentation weights and the bulky fermentation lids that you’re supposed to use when your fermentation vessel is an over-sized Ball jar. But the weights didn’t completely cover the surface of the kimchi, and the lid wasn’t a perfect fit. Plenty of experts will tell you can use whatever vessels you have around. In truth, it’s hard to get it right when you’re retro-fitting Ball jars. Because of this, I couldn’t achieve a perfectly anaerobic environment. 

This is because all fermentation vessels contain head space between the lid and the fermenting food inside. Oxygen exists in that space, as can harmful microbes. In order to ferment successfully, you must protect your foods from anything in the head space that might ruin your fermentation. In some Korean homes, like her mother’s house, says caterer Sung Kim, cabbage leaves, sometimes aided by a weight laid on top, are placed over the kimchi in order to completely cover the ingredients and keep them submerged in the brine. At the end of the fermentation, you simply remove and compost those leaves. 

a fermentation container on the shelf of a fridge
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The E-Jen, I found, encased the kimchi just as effectively, without my having to go to any extra steps. The E-Jen’s removable inner plate features an air nozzle at its center and a silicon vacuum seal around its edges. To use the plate, I pushed the air nozzle into place, pressed the plate down snuggly over the kimchi, and pulled the air nozzle out to expel the air and create an airlock. Then I replaced the nozzle again, and the plate kept it protected from oxygen and sunk below the surface of the brine. Forget the extra weights and lids. “The E-Jen is an all-in-one package,” Clark says. “It has the airlock already on there. There’s no need for buying all this extra stuff.”

Fill the box, press on the airlock, snap the exterior lid into place, and the fermentation is good to go. Easy. The airlock wasn’t a barrier to the frequent tasting I wanted to do to figure out when my kimchi was fermented to my liking. I had purchased a larger E-Jen, and those models, sized 1.9 to 4.4 gallons, include a detachable inner cap in the “vacuum intercept board” that I could remove temporarily to access my kimchi. Some models are also equipped with handles for easy carrying. After one week in a cool, dark cabinet, my kimchi came out tangy and spicy and fragrant, ready to pop in the fridge for use on rice dishes, in stews and soups, and piled onto sandwiches.

I needed that success. After a couple of failures, I had almost given up on kimchi. That, according to Samantha Paone, owner and culinary director of Golden State Pickle Works, would have been a shame. A fermentation booster, she says, “I tell people when they come to me for guidance: Keep trying, don’t give up. The more you practice something, the better you become so please don’t get discouraged.”

I knew from Clark that an E-Jen would work, but I had been reluctant to order one because they are made of plastic. After all, experts like Paone say, “Producing a plastic box for this specific age-old technique is unnecessary when there are so many fermentation-friendly vessels stacked up in the corners of our homes,” including Ball jars and crocks. But my Ball jars had failed me. 

Plastic can have its problems. “Plastic is not a good conductor of temperature, so it tends to accelerate the fermentation process, which could potentially contribute to faster spoilage, especially if the environment is too warm,” says Kim. But I found that this wasn’t an issue in the cool spot where I kept the box. And, unlike a clear glass Ball jar, the brown plastic E-Jen also kept out light, which can otherwise affect fermentation.

Skinner dislikes plastic because of the way it can hold smells. Clark has an easy solution for that: Keep one E-Jen to always use for kimchi, keep another for sauerkraut, and so on. So now I have two E-Jens, a small one for sauerkraut and a bigger one for the batches of kimchi I’ve regularly started to make. They’re inexpensive enough that it wasn’t a hardship for me to buy two. However, if you must use your E-Jen for more than one type of ferment, Clark has a trick for removing old odors: “Rub butter on the inside of the vessel, then use Dawn dish detergent to wash it,” he says. “It’s the same thing for spaghetti sauce in a Tupperware. Rub it with butter and then hot dish soap, and that pulls all the smells because they’re transferring to all that grease and being removed when you scrub the butter out.” 

Even if you’re using one E-Jen exclusively for one purpose, you want to make sure it’s cleaned and dried correctly so that no bad bacteria grows inside of it, waiting to ruin your next batch of kimchi. To that end, the E-Jen is dishwasher safe. If you’re washing it by hand, use hot, soapy water, and dry it thoroughly after machine- or hand-washing. Remove the silicon vacuum seal from around the airlock plate first, so you can wash and dry it separately. 

It can be a bit tricky to fit the silicon seal back in. Make sure it is tucked completely into the groove on the airlock plate, all the way around. For cleaning purposes, Skinner has good advice for dealing with crevices. “I find, with airlocks, it can be helpful to have a pipe cleaner or bottle brush to help clean out the inside,” she says. And, if you take a bit of time before you use your E-Jen again, wash and dry it just before re-use to ensure it's sanitary.

Beyond kraut and kimchi, the E-Jen works for other fermented foods like soy sauce and hot sauce, and because it can handle hot temperatures up to 140°F and is refrigerator-safe, you can protect marinating meats as well as leftovers of all kinds from oxygen in an E-Jen. It even does the same in your pantry for cereals and other dry goods. 

Key Specs

  • Materials: Plastic
  • Dimensions: 7.09 x 6.1 x 4.29 inches – 13.5 x 9.5 x 11 inches
  • Weight: 15.2 oz – 4.34 lbs
  • Capacity: .45 – 4.4 gallons
  • Care: Dishwasher-safe
  • Price at time of publish: $17


How does lacto-fermentation work?

As Samantha Paone explains, “We ferment vegetables using salt as the preservative. Either we massage vegetables or place vegetables into a salt brine, and let that sit at room temperature. Over a couple of days, bacteria starts to grow. This bacteria produces a lactic acid that turns the vegetable into a pickle, all the while producing lactobacillus bacteria. Our salt content in the ferment invites the good bacteria (lactobacillus) to thrive, while not allowing the bad bacteria (E. coli and salmonella) to live. After some time, depending on environment and temperature, the acidity raises, pH lowers, and the vegetables are preserved and alive with probiotic bacteria.”

What are the benefits and drawbacks of an E-Jen container?

Unlike other vessels you might use, such as big Ball jars, E-Jen containers are made specifically for the purpose of lacto-fermentation. They contain an inner vacuum plate that seals the fermenting food off from oxygen and any harmful bacteria that exist in the head space between the plate and the lid. The design is pretty foolproof. The drawback is that the E-Jen is made of plastic, so they’re not as insulating as ceramic crocks. The plastic can also hold the strong odors of fermentation, even after washing. There are ways to overcome these obstacles, though.

How do you clean an E-jen container?

Use a dishwasher or hot, soapy water. Pull the silicon vacuum seal out of its groove in the airlock plate, and wash it separately, running a pipe cleaner through the groove to clean it, too. Dry the E-Jen thoroughly. It’s best to keep one specifically for kimchi, as the strong odor of the fermentation will affect the smell of the plastic. 

What size E-jen container should I buy?

That depends on how big a batch of kimchi you want to make. The smallest E-Jen holds .45 gallons, or a little less than two quarts. It might take time to eat that much, but your kimchi will last in the fridge. It won’t stop fermenting altogether, but the cold inhibits fermentation quite a bit, so it will keep for at least three months. The problem with the smallest E-Jen is that you really have to pack in the ingredients, risking spillover. You can give yourself more maneuvering room with a medium-sized E-Jen, like the 1.3-gallon size.

We Tested 6 Deep Fryers to Find the Best for Crispy, Crunchy Food

We put six deep fryers through rounds of tests to find the ones that preformed the best, were the most efficient, and were the easiest to use and clean.

fried chicken tenders in a deep-fryer basket
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

There’s nothing quite like a chicken wing pulled straight out of the fryer, when the battered exterior is golden and crunchy, and the interior is steaming and tender. “A fryer provides a really consistent, dry cooking method that makes things crispy and also keeps proteins moist,” says chef Ricky Arias of Manhattan’s Bar Lula. Sure, you can achieve that effect with a couple of quarts of oil heated until sizzling in your Dutch oven on your stove. But there’s good reason to introduce an electric deep fryer to your home kitchen for accomplishing this specialty job.

“I use deep fryers over Dutch ovens for capacity and control,” says chef Shannon Bingham of New Orlean’s Devil Moon BBQ. “With a good fryer, I don’t have to worry about hot spots or constantly having to futz around with the flame on the stove like I would with a Dutch oven.” With its lid, handled basket, and built-in thermometer, an electric deep fryer has one job to do: fry things correctly. It frees up your other cookware, preserving it for the braising, roasting, and sautéing you probably do far more frequently. 

If you get the right fryer, it’s a lot of fun to use; you’ll feel like a short-order cook, dropping the basket in and watching your French fries bubble to perfection. And with a design that allows you to fry with the lid closed and then hook the basket onto the side, so that the excess oil can drip from the fresh-fried food back into the container, it helps keeps your kitchen cleaner than it would be when you’re frying in an all-purpose pot.

In fact, the key to successful frying is cleanliness. As Bingham advises, “Be sure to filter your oil after every use to get more longevity out of it and remove any bitter burnt pieces leftover.” As it turns out, our favorite model made filtering the oil and cleaning the machine the easiest.

The Winners, at a Glance

“When I'm looking at deep fryers, I prioritize ones that heat and cook evenly and are easy to clean,” Bingham says. The All-Clad fit the bill. Deep and narrow, it’s designed to save space and evenly cook whatever you put in it. But its real asset is its built-in cleaning function. Turn a knob, and the oil drains out of the container through a filter into a removable, hard-plastic box where it’s stored in the machine for future use.

Given its gentle price tag, we were pleasantly surprised by the consistency and speed of the Chefman. A no-nonsense machine, it heated up much quicker than similar models. Due to its large capacity, it does require more oil than others (which can add up in cost over time), but its wide basket made maneuvering and frying foods easy and efficient. 

The Tests

three electric deep fryers on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore
  • French Fries Test: We fried one pound of frozen French fries to see how the models handled a common food (and one that’s frozen!). We timed how long it took for the deep fryer to reach 350°F, what the fryer’s temperature dropped to when we added the fries, and how long it took to come back up to 350°F. We also recorded the amount of time it took each fryer to cook the fries to a crispy, golden brown.
  • Deep-Fried Pickles Test: We made deep-fried pickles to see how the deep fryers did with a wet batter and a higher temperature. We recorded what the temperature dropped to when the food was added and how long it took to recover. 
  • Fried Chicken Test (Winners-Only): With our favorite models, we made fried chicken to see how the deep fryer fared at cooking meat and achieving golden-brown wings within the time required by the recipe. 
  • Usability and Cleanup Tests: Throughout testing, we evaluated how easy it was to remove the basket, grip the basket’s handle, and reposition the basket. We also evaluate how easy it was to drain the oil and clean the deep fryer.

What We Learned

Oil Clean-Up Was Everything, and the Model That Made This Task Easy Was Our Favorite

A person draining oil out of a deep fryer
Draining the Cuisinart deep fryer.Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Thank goodness for the All-Clad! After we fried each batch of food in it, we just left it alone, and it drained and filtered the oil all by itself, funneling it into a convenient, hard-plastic box in the bottom of the unit, where it was stored to be added back into the oil container for future use. 

We loved this feature. Two manufacturers, the Cuisinart and the De’Longhi, tried to achieve some sort of help with draining by adding drain spouts to their machines, and the De’Longhi was more successful. We could position an external container beneath the open spout and just let the oil run out. But the filter on the spout was so small, we foresaw it getting clogged in the future. The Cuisinart was a disaster. Its spout is so short that a plastic tube attachment is required, and that awkward part fell off while draining, causing oil to spill all over the floor.

With help like that, we don’t want it. Instead of spouts, we preferred the wide, shallow containers of the Chefman and Secura, as they were easy to maneuver into a position for pouring oil through a fine-mesh sieve into an external container. Of these, the Chefman is preferable because its container is slightly easier to dislodge from its housing than the Secura’s.

Some Machines Were More Efficient Than Others at Heating to Temperature

a closeup of two analog control dials on an electric deep fryer
Oil "ready" buttons weren't super reliable.Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Though every model has a temperature gauge and a means of showing that the oil has heated to the proper degree, an external thermometer can help verify the temperature. We found that, despite “Oil Ready” buttons lighting up, none of our fryers heated to the temperature we programmed them to. Our external thermometer (a ThermoWorks ChefAlarm) belied every temperature knob and LED display. The Chefman, for instance, hovered at 324°F when programmed at 350°F and wouldn’t go higher. The Cuisinart wouldn’t budge past 347°F. Though this didn’t, in the end, affect the flavor or texture of the food, it is an inconsistency that makes the machines’ gauges seem less than trustworthy.

The De’Longhi heated up the quickest and cooked the fries in nine minutes. Most achieved golden fries in 10 minutes. According to our external thermometer, however, a couple of the machines took so long to get anywhere near the required temperature that we nearly threw in the towel. The Secura was the biggest offender. After nearly an hour, it still hadn’t come up to 350°F, the proper temperature for cooking frozen French fries, and when we threw the fries in anyway, the temperature of the oil plummeted more than 150°F before recovering. Truth be told, the oil in the All-Clad plunged to 244°F at one point, too, but because it hit the correct temperature to begin with and recovered quickly, it cooked the fries to perfection in 10 minutes' time.

Straightforward Designs Worked Better

A person using a thermometer to take the temperature of oil in a deep fryer
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Cooking in a tub of boiling-hot oil is work enough; you shouldn’t have to master complicated bells and whistles in order to deep fry. Simply put, the Cuisinart deep fryer is over-designed. It seems to have been made in order to fit the multiple parts of the rotisserie function into the oil container. But the container itself was too big to fit even into our deep farmhouse sink, and it did not sit flush on the counter when we removed it from the housing. That made clean-up awkward. We much preferred the machines with simple, box-shaped containers that fit into our sink and that we could rest on our countertop when we removed them from their housing. 

A hand turning the control knob on a deep fryer's control panel
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The same principal applied to the time and temperature gauges. Breville’s heating unit was over-designed, with pre-set temperatures that were complicated to override. Though we liked the looks of the De’Longhi’s LED display, the pre-set, 9-degree increments of that model were confounding. We preferred the simple knobs that allowed us to program the temperature and time to the settings of our choice.

The makers of the Secura boast about another over-design problem: “triple baskets.” The unit comes with, not just one big basket, but two small ones that fit side-by-side and can be used as an alternative to the larger one. That seems like a good idea: fry shrimp in one basket and onion rings in the next. But, in reality, the twin baskets are so small that they’re impractical and threaten to crowd foods—a drawback for even frying. 

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Deep Fryer

A person taking the temperature of deep fryer
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

“My best advice for using a deep fryer would be to be safe and clean,” Arias says. Self-filtering and self-draining, the All-Clad 3.5-Quart Deep Fryer addresses both concerns. It keeps the hot oil away from your hands, and it separates the oil from the burnt bits of food that would otherwise spoil it for future use. It’s also easy to use, with a straightforward control panel.

What we liked: This deep fryer is self-filtering and self-draining. It funnels the oil through a filtered vent into a box beneath the container, storing it for future use while leaving the leftover bits of fried food in the container for easy cleaning. That’s a boon for home cooking when you don’t have the time or wherewithal to deal with liters of used oil. It also came up to temperature fairly quickly and, with its nice, deep container, did a good job of frying items to a golden brown.

What we didn’t like: Regardless of the Oil Ready Light’s illumination, the temperature on the dial did not match the temperature of the oil, according to the reading on our external thermometer. The temperature on our external thermometer tended to bounce up and down several degrees with this model, making an accurate assessment of temperature difficult. That did not prove too big a hindrance to successful frying, but it was an inconsistency—one, in fact, shared by all the fryers. 

Price at time of publish: $210.

Key Specs

  • Parts: Frying basket; lid; control unit with heating element; removable oil container with built-in filter; removable oil box
  • Care instructions: Basket, container, lid, and oil box are dishwasher-safe; unit is self-filtering and self-draining; turn knob to “Automatic Oil Filtration” setting and allow 2 hours to drain; turn knob to “Oil Box” to remove oil box for draining
  • Notable features: A patented oil filtration system cleans and stores used oil
  • Temperature settings: 300°F to 385°F
  • Cord length: 25 inches
  • Dimensions: 18.2 inches long x 13.7 inches wide x 14.7 inches high
  • Weight: 16.5 lbs
  • Wattage: 1500
  • Oil capacity: 3.5 liters
A person turning the control knob of a deep fryer
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

What we liked: Pared down to its elemental function, this is a straightforward, easy machine to use. There were no confusing bells and whistles. It came up to frying temperature fairly quickly, and the wide container and basket allow plenty of room for pieces of food to fry evenly all around. 

What we didn’t like: This unit will give you no help with draining and clean-up. You basically are on your own, pouring the cooled oil through a fine-mesh strainer into an external container for future use. The filters that do fit into the lid didn't seem very effective for odor or particle elimination.

Price at time of publish: $70.

Key Specs

  • Parts: Frying basket; lid; removable filters; removable control unit; removable oil container
  • Care instructions: Wait 3 hours until oil is cooled and then drain container; do not store oil in unit; oil container and basket are dishwasher-safe; clean the lid with using a sponge and soapy water; rinse and dry all thoroughly; clean the heating element with a damp cloth; ensure that all components are dry before placing them back inside the fryer; the filters need to be replaced after repeated usage; replacement filters are provided
  • Notable features: There are two filters within the filter chamber; the white one filters oil and the charcoal filter helps keep odors at bay
  • Temperature settings: 250°F to 375°F
  • Cord length: 30 inches
  • Dimensions: 12 inches long x 6.25 inches wide x 11.25 inches high
  • Weight: 7.13 lbs
  • Wattage: 1700
  • Oil capacity: 4.5 liters
A deep fryer cooking potatoes
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The Competition

  • Breville Smart Fryer: This compact fryer took a long time to heat up, and then our external thermometer's temperature careened upwards, as the fryer heated to far greater than its dial was set for. That’s a scary scenario. Also, the heating unit is pre-programmed, and changing the temperature and time from those settings is not intuitive. 
  • Cuisinart Extra-Large Rotisserie Deep Fryer: Not only does this model guzzles oil and time, taking too long to come up to proper temperature, but this huge, unwieldy fryer has some design problems that make safety an issue. The basket has sharp metal parts. The container does not sit flush on a counter or fit in the average home kitchen sink. And the plastic tube that attaches to the drain spout is ill-fitting and falls off easily. All of that makes it difficult, and potentially dangerous, to drain and clean. The rotisserie attachment might be nice for deep-fried turkey aficionados, but that doesn’t make up for its shortcomings.
  • De’Longhi Livenza Deep Fryer: We liked the snug lid, the LED display, and the drain spout on this unit. Unlike the Cuisinart, the spout did not require an external tube for draining, and that made the task fairly easy. But, the temperature settings only allow for 9-degree increments in Fahrenheit, so programming it for exactly 350°F or 375°F is impossible. 
  • Secura Triple-Basket Deep Fryer: This unit looks nearly identical to the Chefman, but the difference is in the heating unit. The Secura’s took a ridiculously long time to come up to temperature—so long, in fact, that were we not testing but, instead, trying to fry for our culinary pleasure, we would have abandoned it long before it heated and ordered out instead for our fries!


How do you use a deep fryer?

Using a deep fryer is fairly straightforward. You drop the container into the housing, attach the heating element to the housing, pour in the oil, plug the unit in, cover it with a lid, and wait until it comes up to temperature. Then you sink your food into the hot oil with the help of a fryer basket. When filling the basket, says Bingham: “My advice to anyone using a deep fryer is to add less food than you think. Overcrowding the fryer will prevent food from cooking evenly and can make pieces of food stick to each other.”

How do you clean a deep fryer? 

Cleaning depends on the model. The best ones have an easy means of emptying the oil. Others leave you on your own to pour the oil from the container through a fine-mesh sieve to filter it for future use. After you’ve dealt with the oil, you’ll want to use soap and water—or the dishwasher, if the manufacturer says the model is safe for that—to wash the housing, basket, and container, eliminating oil residue that would otherwise affect the flavor of later batches of food. The heating unit can’t be submerged, so it must be wiped down. Every part should be dry before you re-assemble and use your fryer again.

What happens if you put ice in a deep fryer? 

Ever cook a bag of frozen French fries? When you place them in the deep fryer, they sizzle, and the oil bubbles up. The extreme clash in temperatures, from the frozen fries to the boiling oil, causes the sluggish molecules in the frozen food to jolt into action. It’s subtle because you’re cooking your fries in small batches. But throwing a bunch of pure ice cubes into a fryer is a recipe for disaster. The molecules that have slowed into a solid state in the freezer careen into liquid form instantaneously, and then start to vaporize, increasing pressure in the fryer, and causing the oil to boil over explosively. Not good. 

Can you cook frozen foods in a deep fryer? 

You can cook frozen foods in the deep fryer. Just be judicious about how much you put in at once, and the reaction when the cold items meet the hot oil won’t be overwhelming.

How do you dispose of deep fryer oil? 

Allow the oil to cool to room temperature in the container of the fryer, and then drain it into a disposable container, such as plastic deli tub, and fasten the lid on. Then you can throw it in the trash bin.

We Tested 7 Squeeze Bottles to Find the Best for Your Kitchen

Each bottle was subjected to range of tests to see how well it performed and how easy it was to fill and clean.

7 squeeze bottles lined up in front of white tiles.
Serious Eats / Amanda Saurez

Squeeze bottles are indispensable in restaurant kitchens—and they should be in your home, too. Rather than unscrewing a cap on, say, oil and glugging it into your pan, a squeeze bottle offers more precision in terms of quantity and directing that stream of oil, allowing you to coat the surface and/or sides with ease (a squeeze bottle's one of must-have wok accessories for this reason). It’s also good for storing and serving homemade sauces and, heck, you can even use it to hold dish soap. 

Given their versatility and overall utility, it’s not surprising that chefs we spoke to have squeeze bottles of all volumes, from nearly dropper-sized to 32-ounce behemoths. To find the best squeeze bottles, we tested seven popular, 12-ounce models (a reasonable size for most home cooks).

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Squeeze Bottle for Thin Liquids: Tablecraft 12 oz Clear Heavy Duty Squeeze Bottle

This option from Tablecraft worked really well with thinner liquids (like lemon juice). It’s easy to squeeze, doesn’t leak, and creates a precise, braided (if, albeit, slightly diagonal) stream.

The Best, Easy-to-Clean Squeeze Bottle: Kegworks Plastic Clear Squeeze Bottle

It’s a bit thicker-walled, so you must apply more pressure to emit the liquid, but its straight, confident stream really impressed us, and it cleaned up easier than others—particularly flimsier bottles, which tended to hold stains and grease longer.

The Best Squeeze Bottle for Thicker Sauces: Vollrath 2812-1344 Traex Color-Mate 12 oz. Clear Single Tip Standard Squeeze Bottle

This bottle surprised us! We were not impressed with its performance with thinner liquids and oils, but boy, did it perform with thicker sauces. It was a snap to squeeze—so wrists don’t tire if you're applying decorations repetitively—and a breeze to control. We were able to create pristine squiggles that were not too thin nor too thick.

The Tests

  • Water Test: To test the squeeze bottles’ ability to direct and squirt a thin liquid, we filled a squeeze bottle with water and squirted two ounces into a measuring cup, noting if the stream was fast and furious, dribbly and slow, or just right. 
  • Leakage Test: We shook the bottle filled with water up and down and noted if there was any leaking. 
  • Oil Test: To test how the bottle handles a more viscous liquid, we filled each with 1.25 cups of oil mixed with 1.5 teaspoons of turmeric. We squirted two ounces into a measuring cup, noting if it produced an even stream, if it dribbled, etc. 
  • Staining Test: We left the remainder of the oil in the bottles for four hours, then emptied and hand-washed them with soap and water and noted any staining or leftover odors. 
  • Mayonnaise Test: To test each squeeze bottle’s ability to squirt a thick sauce, we filled each with mayonnaise and squirted a squiggle on bread.
  • Cleanup Tests: After nearly every test, we emptied and hand-washed each bottle and noted any residue, staining, or smells.

What Can You Use Squeeze Bottles For?

“Squeeze bottles serve so many different functions,” says Annie O’Hare, chef and founder of Manhattan’s O Cuisine catering. “Mostly they’re for precision. When you’re putting a little dab of sauce or a drop of flavored oil on hundreds of hors d'oeuvres, you can‘t use a spoon, so a squeeze bottle is indispensable. And, obviously, for dessert plating, their tapered nozzles allow you to apply fine details.” 

But that’s not all. O' Hare says they’re also suitable for “cold sauces, as well as for salad dressings, where a quick shake of the bottle emulsifies the vinaigrette before you put it on the salad."

Shaun Hergatt, owner and executive chef at Manhattan’s Vestry and executive chef at REN in Brooklyn, agrees. “We use squeeze bottles for sauce and purées, oils and liquids, to make sure everything is portioned perfectly,” he says. And while chefs might use squeeze bottles for pristine plating, they are also great for at-home cooks, too: you can fill them with salad dressing, oil, simple syrups for drinks, condiments, homemade fermented hot sauce—you name it, you can squeeze it.

Important Squeeze Bottle Safety Tips

Because of the possibility of chemicals leaching from plastic into food, you don't want to put hot liquids into a squeeze bottle (or any plastic in general). Let any liquids cool down before you fill the squeeze bottle. Make sure that the squeeze bottle you're buying is food-grade. These containers are highly regulated by the FDA and are all BPA-free and can be used as storage containers. To avoid spills or air exposure, wrap some foil or plastic wrap around the nozzle if it doesn't have its own cap. 

No matter what you store in them, you don’t want to keep foods in your squeeze bottles for too long, particularly if a sauce is dairy-, egg-, or meat-based. If you have any questions as to how long the food can remain in the container in the fridge, check the USDA’s Foodkeeper app.

The Michigan State University Extension has some more safety tips for squeeze bottles and any other plastic serving and storage containers: do not microwave them; don’t freeze them unless they specifically are made to be freezer-safe; and unless the manufacturer says they are dishwasher-safe, wash your squeeze bottles with warm, soapy water.

What We Learned

The Size and Trueness of the Nozzle Was Key to Performance

closeup of nozzles on squeeze bottles
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Not all nozzles are made the same. “You can get a fine point, a wider one, and sometimes you wind up cutting it to your own size,” notes O’Hare. Finer nozzles, like the one on the HIC squeeze bottle and, to a lesser extent, the Tablecraft, are a bonus if you’re doing delicate decorating work with a thicker icing or sauce. 

Those on the opposite side of the spectrum, she says, can be a pain. Wide nozzles might be good for utility jobs, like adding a big squirt of vinaigrette to a salad. But they can undermine portion control, and for more precision work, their stream is harder to control and tends to burp and blurp. This was an issue with the OXO and JapanBargain squeeze bottles. 

The Choice bottle, on the other hand, sported a nozzle that was just wide enough, but not too wide, for a controllable, thick line. But the Vollrath was our favorite for thicker sauces because its line wasn’t too thin or thick.

Three of the bottles—Tablecraft, HIC, and OXO—did not shoot true; their streams flowed slightly to the left. Though that was annoying, as soon as we got used to it, we actually preferred the Tablecraft because it was easy to control the flow speed with thinner liquids. It failed entirely, though, with thicker sauces because the nozzle had been imperfectly cut, causing a ragged flow; mayonnaise squirted all over the place! The solution to this, we found, was to push a skewer down through the top of the nozzle to true the opening.

Plastic Thickness Was Also a Factor

“Some bottles are too rigid to work a precise stream. Others are cheap and flimsy,” warns O’Hare. Though we found thinner-walled bottles like the HIC, Vollrath, and Kegworks, easy to squeeze, they were more difficult to clean up when filled with a staining ingredient like turmeric-infused oil. The ochre color tended to stick to the plastic, and we had to scrub harder during cleanup. Moreover, with thinner liquids, they offered little resistance, so the stream was more difficult to control.

On the other hand, thick-walled models like the Choice squeeze bottle took far too much muscle to achieve an accurate stream. We worried that, over time, we’d tax our wrists. Its other problem was its opacity. You want a bottle that is clear plastic so you can check the contents for consistency or deterioration.

Screw Tops and Nozzle Caps Were Problem Areas

A bottle that leaks is a problem—you don't want oil gushing out all over your countertop or mayonnaise exploding everywhere.

Indeed, when we ran our water test, we found that three of the seven bottles—the HIC, Vollrath, and JapanBargain—leaked from their screwtops. That’s why Samuel Kim, senior director of culinary operations for Baekjeong Korean Barbecue, says, by definition, “good squeeze bottles have very tight-fitting tops.” But Kim isn’t hedging his bets. With squeeze bottles, he says, it’s Murphy’s law, so he’s got an industry tip for you: “We usually line the screw top with plastic wrap to insure a tight seal.”

Another potential issue is the added feature of the cap that covers the nozzle tip, which gets in the way. The JapanBargain bottle presented this problem, because its cap, attached by a flexible plastic arm that is part of the screw top, flopped over into the stream of liquid. 

The other bottle we tested with an attached cap, the OXO, solved the issue with a hinged mechanism that locked the attached cap in place out of the way of the liquid. But the OXO had a different screw top problem: its top comes in two parts, with a separate nozzle held in place by a screw lid. That simply means more parts to misplace or forget to attach, with the potential for major spills.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Squeeze Bottle

A seriously good squeeze bottle has a narrow nozzle, leakproof lid, and medium-thick walls
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez / Grace Kelly

Our favorite squeeze bottles had lids that didn’t leak, lacked lid caps, had walls that were just the right thickness to handle different viscosities, and extruded liquids straight. Some nozzles were better for thicker liquids and some for thinner ones, but we preferred ones that were on the narrower side, as they were more versatile. 

The Best Squeeze Bottle for Thin Liquids: Tablecraft 12 oz Clear Heavy Duty Squeeze Bottle

What we liked: After we got used to its quirky left-leaning stream, we loved the steady, braided stream of thinner liquids that flowed from the Tablecraft. It was quite easy to squeeze, but not too easy that the flow was uncontrollable.

What we didn’t like: The nozzle on this one was imperfectly cut, so the flow, though pretty, hung to the left on thinner liquids, and with thicker liquids, it spurted. The latter problem was easy to fix by truing the nozzle opening with the tip of a skewer. But this just goes to show that a squeeze bottle might need a bit of extra care before you can truly make it your own.

Price at time of publish: $7 (for a two-pack). 

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 2.375 inches x 8.625 inches
  • Capacity: 12 ounces
  • Materials: BPA-free plastic
  • Care Instructions: Dishwasher-safe
  • Certifications: None
squeeze bottle on grey marble countertop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Best, Easy-to-Clean Squeeze Bottle: Kegworks Plastic Clear Squeeze Bottle

What we liked: There was simply nothing to complain about when we filled this one with staining oil and worked with it. The stream came out with precision and just the right amount of power. Best of all, it cleaned up with ease.

What we didn’t like: The nozzle was a bit too wide and the bottle was too large for thicker sauces. They tend to fall to the sides and allow air into the flow, which leads to burping—and mistakes when you’re trying for precision decorating.

Price at time of publish: $1.50 each.

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 7 inches x 2.38 inches
  • Capacity: 12 ounces
  • Materials: BPA-free plastic
  • Care Instructions: Dishwasher-safe
  • Certifications: None
kegworks squeeze bottle on grey marble countertop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Best Squeeze Bottle for Thicker Sauces: Vollrath 2812-1344 Traex Color-Mate 12 oz. Clear Single Tip Standard Squeeze Bottle

What we liked: We were so pleased with the squiggles and decorative lines we could make with a thicker substance in this squeeze bottle! Liquids came out at just the right speed, with minimum effort, and there were no burps or blurps at all. We’re baking cupcakes just to ice them with this one. 

What we didn’t like: We were not as impressed with this bottle when we tried it with a thinner substance. The liquid leaked out the seam between the nozzle and the bottle, and since the bottle was so thin-walled, we weren’t able to control the flow easily. It did stream well with the turmeric oil, but again, the thin walls posed a problem with cleanup; we found we really needed to scrub them to get them clean of grease and color.

Price at time of publish: $1.56 each.

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 7.25 inches x 2.38 inches
  • Capacity: 12 ounces
  • Materials: BPA-free plastic
  • Care Instructions: Dishwasher-safe
  • Certifications: None
Vollrath squeeze bottle on a grey marble countertop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Competition

  • OXO Chef's Squeeze Bottles 12 oz: The nozzle of this squeeze bottle was problematic. It was too wide, so the flow was difficult to control. Heavier liquids, like oil, come out in an arc rather than a stream unless you squeezed very hard—and then the oil gushed out, over-saucing foods. Moreover, the stream is not straight; it hangs to the left. Finally, the nozzle is separate from the cap, so there are more opportunities for improper assembly.
  • Choice 12 oz. Clear Squeeze Bottle: This bottle’s opacity made it difficult to see what was in it—a drawback when you’re pressed for time and just need to squeeze. Its thickness means squeezing was a workout, and its broad shoulders and thick-lipped, small opening complicated its cleanup. Worst of all, the nozzle can be over-screwed so that it slips from its secure position, a serious hazard when working with it.
  • HIC Refillable Squeeze Bottle with Nozzle Caps: Though thicker sauce came out in an elegant squiggle that was easy to control, thinner liquids leaked from the nozzle, which directed the stream rather severely to the left. Thinner walls also made this one more difficult to clean up, as they tended to stay greasy.
  • JapanBargain, Japanese Squeeze Bottle Squirt Condiment Bottles: Boy, is this one cute with its round, red cap! Unfortunately, nice looks don’t always mean good functioning. The wide nozzle and broad shoulders mean thicker sauces fell to the sides, leaving space for air to enter the flow, so the bottle did a lot of burping, leading to messy lines. Turmeric-infused oil stuck to the shoulders, and unless we squeezed very, very hard, thinner liquids came out in an arc rather than a stream, making the flow difficult to control.  


What are squeeze bottles used for?

Squeeze bottles are used to serve and temporarily store any liquid or sauce. With their tapered nozzles, they help with portioning, decorating, speed, and, since they can contain oils, even safety.

What do chefs put in squeeze bottles?

Ask Tony Inn, chef at Manhattan’s Taru, and you’ll find that all sorts of things can be applied with a squeeze bottle. “Oil, salad dressings, fluid gels, thicker sauces that need to hold their shapes while plating,” he lists. Indeed, says Hergatt, “We use them for every dish we make.”

Are squeeze bottles safe?

Food-grade squeeze bottles are BPA-free and safe to use when applying liquid ingredients and sauces, and when storing them for a day or two in the fridge. Like all plastic, they are not safe to microwave or heat, and you should not add hot liquids to them. Also, as with any plastic that is not specifically freezer-safe as per manufacturer information, you should not store food in a squeeze bottle in the freezer.

How long can I keep something in a squeeze bottle?

Generally, you can store foods in a food-grade squeeze bottle for as long as you would in other plastic containers, but if the nozzle does not have a cap, you will want to wrap it in foil or plastic to avoid air getting in. The University of Minnesota Extension has a good chart for storage times. 

What is the best way to clean a squeeze bottle? 

Though some sources cite baking soda as a good cleanser, we found that blasting out any stuck sauces with the spray nozzle on our kitchen sink, then shaking soapy water inside the bottle, rinsing it, and again blasting it with the spray nozzle did the trick, even for staining ingredients. Make sure not to neglect the nozzle; add a touch of soap to it on the inside, and run or spray warm water through it.