The tools and gadgets that made home cooking better this year
Best Smart Appliance: Brava Oven
- Brava Oven, $995 (financing available)
At first glance, the countertop Brava Oven (pictured above) may look a bit like an old-school toaster oven, but upon closer inspection, you’ll find a sleek, compact, and incredibly powerful modern appliance. The WiFi-enabled Brava can heat up to 500 degrees in less than a second and cooks food twice as fast as a traditional oven. And if you hate washing pots and pans, or simply can’t seem to time your side dishes to be done at the same time as your main course, this is the real selling point: the accompanying cooking tray has three zones, and ingredients placed in each zone can be cooked to a different temperature—but ready at exactly the same time. An optional meal kit delivery service is a great add-on for a busy household.
Best Non-Stick Pots and Pans: GreenPan Venice Pro 10-Piece Set
- GreenPan Venice Pro 10-piece Set, $379.99; some pans sold separately
Of all the new ceramic-style nonstick pans, we love the GreenPan for its ability to withstand high direct heat (including in the oven) and for its handsome, non-toxic finish. It’s incredibly durable, too, and cleans up without staining. And, unlike the fragile nonstick pans of the past, it can take being scraped with a metal serving spoon or whisk. Buy these pans one at a time or go for a whole kit and be set for life.
Best Small-Space Outdoor Grill: Fuego Professional
Measuring only about 2 feet across, the Fuego tower-style gas grill is ideal for patios or decks with limited space. There’s nothing small about the cooking grate, though: At 525 square inches, it can easily handle 20 burgers at once, and the two-ring burner system works for both indirect and direct-heat grilling. Created by a former chief of design at Apple, the Fuego is easy to assemble and a pleasure to use, down to the smooth-rolling wheels, which let you push it with the barest of effort.
Courtesy of Nima
Best Dining Companion: Nima Gluten Sensor
- Nima Gluten Sensor, $249
A game-changer for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, the Nima Gluten Sensor is a pocket-sized device that quickly tests food for gluten. You simply pop a few drops or crumbs of your meal into the testing capsule and within minutes, the device will give you a smiley face to signal the food is indeed gluten-free, or a wheat symbol to signal gluten exists. It’s especially handy while traveling, when a language barrier might prevent you from getting the information you need about your food.
Best Remake of the Wooden Spoon: Earlywood Flat Sauté
- Earlywood Flat Sauté, $14
Handcrafted in Montana, this slender wand is the cooking equivalent of the new MacBook Air—sleek, lightweight, and beautifully functional. The wide edge scrapes pots with ease, and the length—just over a foot—helps protect your hand from splatters. Turn it on its side to use as a bench scraper, and pair it with another Flat Sauté and you have salad servers. What’s more, for every web order, Earlywood donates to reforestation efforts in the Brazilian rainforests.
Courtesy of OXO Good Grips
Best Single-Use Gadget: OXO Good Grips 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer
Last year, a strange epidemic hit the news: cases of “avocado hand”—a knife injury from cutting open or pitting avocados—were on the rise as avocado sales soared. So what’s an avocado toast lover to do? Get this $10 multitool, which splits, pits, and slices avocados safely and very quickly. If you eat a lot of avocados, you’ll want to make room for this tool in your kitchen drawers.
Best Sparkling Water Maker: Aarke Carbonator II
- Aarke Carbonator II, $199
Easy, safe to use, and less bulky than its competitors, this gorgeous Swedish device turns the act of making fizzy water into pure aesthetic pleasure. We love the copper version, but it’s also available in stainless steel, matte black, and brass.
Courtesy of EcoLunchbox
Best Lunch Box: EcoLunchbox Three-in-One Classic
- EcoLunchbox Three-in-One Classic, $29.95
A former investigative journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area created these nested stainless-steel containers to eliminate plastics from her kids’ lunch boxes. Beautiful, tidy, and space-efficient, they’re modeled after the famous stacked tiffins of India. We like them for a tripartite lunch of sandwich, fruit salad, and a few cookies—or for chicken curry, lentils, and basmati rice.
Best Smoothie Straws: Klean Kanteen 5-Piece Straw Set Multi-Color
- Klean Kanteen 5-Piece Straw Set Multi-Color, $9.99 for pack of 4; includes cleaning brush
If you’d like to join the rapidly expanding movement to rid our oceans of plastic straws, try the stainless-steel reusable versions from Klean Kanteen. They’re tipped with a flexible, food-grade silicone sleeve, which you can remove if you like. The straws aren’t just for smoothies—take one along to your favorite coffee shop, too.
Best Instant Pot Cookbook: Instant Pot Miracle Six Ingredients or Less
True, it’s not a gadget per se, but it’ll unlock even more deliciousness from what is probably your favorite cooking device right now. From longtime Sunset recipe developer Ivy Manning, the Instant Pot Miracle Six Ingredients or Less delivers outstanding, well-tested recipes that require a mere handful of ingredients and are a blast to make. We love Ivy’s home-cooked genius and know you will, too.