CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or office chairs — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
This year, we tested dozens of kitchen essentials — from knife sets to hand mixers — to find the best products you need to whip up any type of meal with ease.
Best nonstick pans
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2.5-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
GreenPan’s Ceramic Fry Pan boasts materials that’ll please any chemical-conscious consumer. Unlike many nonstick pans, this one is free of materials that may pose long-term health risks, including PFAS, PFOA, lead and cadmium. The nonstick coating is, instead, made from sand, so it won’t release any toxic fumes in the case of overheating.
The HexClad 10-Inch Hybrid Pan feels fancy (and yes, it’s pricey as well), but it’s also a sturdy piece of cookware that blew the competition out of the kitchen during every one of our tests: Food slid off easily, it was a breeze to clean and heat was evenly distributed while cooking. If you’re looking for a pro-level upgrade to your cookware, this is everything you want in a nonstick pan wrapped in a pretty package.
Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At around $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.
We concede that $630 seems like an extreme amount of money to spend on a blender, but as a luxury option, the Vitamix Venturist V1200, with its whopping 10-year warranty and plethora of functional, durable and just plain cool features, simply rose to the top in every test performed.
Finally, when it comes to a blender priced at $100 or less, we found the Ninja Professional Plus Blender With Auto-iQ to be tops. Besides doing an admirable job at blending up creamy soups and smoothies, it comes with a number of presets, as well as low, medium and high manual settings. It doesn’t have the heft or quality materials of the high-performance blenders we tested, but for casual users, it won’t disappoint.
Read more from our testing of blenders here.
Best kitchen knife sets
The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.
If you’d like to step things up a few notches, it’s hard to go wrong with the Zwilling Pro 7-Piece Knife Block Set. Complete with four knives all forged from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel, the precision-honed blades are extra sharp, stylish and just feel really nice in your hand. At $330, they’re pricey, yes. But if you’re looking to make an investment in your kitchen tools, we can’t think of a better place to start.
Finally, if you’ve been saving up for a knife set you know will last for years — nay, decades — to come, reach for the Wüsthof Classic Ikon 7-Piece Walnut Block Knife Set. From sharpness to balance to heft, to the sleek and sophisticated appearance of the four included knives — plus a sharpening steel and kitchen shears, in their classic wood block — we quickly discovered why this family-owned German company has been lauded for turning out high-quality knives for more than 200 years. You know that saying “It cut like a hot knife through butter”? We think the Wüsthof chef knife served as its inspiration.
Read more from our testing of kitchen knife sets here.
Best hand mixers
The Cuisinart HM-90BCS Plus mixer caught our eye right out of the box, with a sleek design and sturdy build that felt stable in the hand. Testing confirmed our initial impression, with the appliance scoring top marks across the board for function — easily mixing, whisking, beating and kneading — as well as ease of use and storage.
The Breville BHM800SIL is another sharp-looking little appliance. The most expensive of the hand mixers we reviewed, the Breville not only mixed ingredients the fastest out of our testing pool (making quick work of even the heaviest of ingredients) but is also equipped with features that you’d expect for a premium price, including a “headlamp” style light and rubber-coated beaters that make it the quietest of all the mixers we tested.
We really fell for the Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Electric Hand Mixer as a simple, hard-working mixer that gets the job done for less. It’s very easy to maneuver and aptly tackles all of the basic functions — mixing, whisking, beating — though it does lack a kneading attachment and was a bit slower on certain tasks compared to the higher-end hand mixers we tested. It was also the only lower-priced mixer with a storage case and attachments.
Read more from our testing of hand mixers here.