CNN —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — from coffee makers to computers to sheets to shower heads — to help our readers find the absolute best things.

Our testing process is rigorous. We spend countless hours of research, consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings to identify the products we want to bring in for testing, be they things that have stood the test of time or the most promising new contenders. Then we spend weeks or months testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings, putting everything through the sort of use and abuse its likely to encounter in your home. We’re confident that our process lets us identify the very best things so you can quickly and easily buy what you need.

Here, we round up all the products that took the top spot in our tests throughout the year.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan

This pan's depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2½-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you'd usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews.

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, then 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.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best kitchen knife set

We were impressed by the sturdy construction, comfort of use and reliable execution that came with each piece in this all-inclusive set.


The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal. 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 that you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, then this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of kitchen knife sets here.

Best hand mixer

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.

This Cuisinart 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.

Read more from our testing of hand mixers here.

Best blender

The Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is quieter than other models. 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.

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q blender features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. It does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to less than $2 per day over one year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best waffle maker

The Cuisinart makes two great-tasting deep-pocketed Belgian waffles at a time, with a flip mechanism that not only gives you fluffy, evenly cooked waffles, but makes the machine easy to store.

If you need a machine that makes great waffles, doesn’t take up too much of your precious counter space and still lets you make multiple waffles per batch, then the Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker may be the perfect waffle maker for you. It’s a flip, or “Belgian” style, waffle maker, meaning you flip the deep grids 180 degrees just after you begin baking in order to distribute the batter more evenly and let the waffle bake more evenly. This model goes a step beyond most flip waffle makers, featuring two sets of waffle grills, one on each side of the flip mechanism, so you can make two rounds of waffles at once — a real bonus for a hungry breakfast crowd.

Read more from our testing of waffle makers here.

Best cutting board

Made from moisture-resistant teak, the Teakhaus Professional is beautiful, durable, stain-resistant, and is the easiest wooden board to care for.

The Teakhaus Professional is a cutting board made from teak, a wood that stands up to heavy use, is resistant to stains and knife cuts, cleans up easily, is heavy enough to stay in place while you work and is reasonably priced compared to other wooden cutting boards of similar quality. Plus, it’s beautiful enough to earn a permanent spot on your kitchen countertop.

Read more from our testing of cutting boards here.

Best cast-iron skillet

The Chef Collection pan — the company's lightest skillet — outperformed most of its much higher-priced competitors at nearly every test we threw at it.

The Lodge Chef Collection 12-Inch Skillet rose to the top of our rankings for not only delivering great results across all of our testing criteria but also for its affordable price. Weighing just 6.5 pounds, the Chef Collection comes preseasoned with 100% natural vegetable oil and has two slightly larger pour spouts that allowed us to deftly remove oil from the pan without a dribble in sight. It outperformed most of its much higher-priced competitors at nearly every test we threw at it.

Read more from our testing of cast-iron skillets here.

Best Dutch oven overall

Lodge's 6-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven looks great and performed beautifully in every test we put it through, offering better results than most of its more expensive competitors. Large handles and a spatula-friendly shape make it a breeze to move from oven to stovetop, and the finish cleans up easily.

The Lodge Enameled 6-Quart Cast-Iron Dutch Oven’s shiny, smooth finish had zero flaws out of the box, and the ombre blue hue was just plain pretty. Its 6-quart size was just right for all sorts of tasks. Its large handles and the lid’s amply sized metal knob are both features that make using a heavy pan easier. And its slightly sloped sides allowed a spatula to scrape up everything along the edges. R ead more from our testing of Dutch ovens here.

Best grill brush

The Kona BBQ Grill Brush features a durable, large stainless steel brush head that effectively and safely cleans your grill.

The Kona BBQ Grill Brush features a durable, stainless steel brush head that, according to the manufacturer, works best when dipped in water. This proved true in our testing, and the wet brush melts away any leftover food or gunk on the grill. The solid brush head ensures that no bristles, wire bits, food or residue from the tool is left behind on your grill.

Read more from our testing of grill brushes here.

Best ice cream maker

The Cuisinart ICE-21 had the best balance of price and performance of any ice cream maker we tested. It churned some of the best, creamiest ice cream of the entire group while also being one of the cheapest. You have to freeze the bowl overnight before making ice cream and it's quite loud, but we still think there isn't a better machine out there for the price.

The Cuisinart 1.5-Quart Frozen Yogurt ICE-21P1 is incredibly easy to use, and made one of the smoothest ice creams, with only a little iciness, of all the ice cream makers we tested. While it was one of the loudest machines we tested, it also churned ice cream faster than many of its competitors (it only took about 15 minutes for both of the recipes we tested), so you won’t have to suffer through the noise for too long. R ead more from our testing of ice cream makers here.

Best instant-read thermometer

The improved Thermapen One was the fastest and most accurate thermometer we tested, and had the easiest-to-read display. If you're serious about your cooking, then it's worth the price.

The price of the ThermoWorks Thermapen One may make you raise an eyebrow, but based on our testing, it’s worth every penny. The backlit display is easy to read, and the digits automatically adjust their orientation when holding the thermometer vertically — something that was exclusive to this model.

Read more from our testing of meat thermometers here.

Best tabletop spiralizer

The Spiralizer 7-Blade outperformed all other countertop models when it came to making consistent spirals that didn't break apart, lose their shape or require so much cranking that you felt like you had just endured a serious arm weightlifting session.

The Spiralizer 7-Blade Spiral Slicer impressed us with the fact that every veggie we tested — on all seven provided blades — turned out perfect spirals, with almost all requiring barely any exertion on our part. There are blades for vermicelli, spaghetti, fettuccine, curly fry, chips/ribbons, fine groovy chips and coarse groovy chips, and they’re all clearly labeled by name. The spiralizer is dishwasher-safe and comes with a lifetime warranty. R ead more from our testing of spiralizers here.