Plastic Storage Caps for Wide Mouth Canning Jars

White plastic one-piece screw-top lids sized to fit either regular or wide-mouth canning jars. Mine came from Lehman’s but they are often available at hardware or kitchen-ware departments, where they sell the jars. These are not for canning, but simplify storage in pantry or fridge. They are easier to handle than two-piece metal lids, don’t rust or dent, and clean easily. I’ve used them daily for years.

-- Lynn Nadeau  

Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage Caps, 8-Count

Available from Amazon

Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

After a month of researching sous vide appliances I purchased the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. I have been cooking with the Anova for three months now and have been very pleased. I have used the Anova to cook everything from poached eggs, steaks, and for Christmas, 25lbs of tri-tip. Each time the food came out perfectly as is the nature with sous vide.

For a brief background, sous vide (French for “under vacuum”) cooking is essentially cooking in a warm water bath for an extended period of time. Much like smoking or traditional barbecue the lower temperatures and longer cook times can produce delicious tender food. Foods do not need to be under vacuum; a re-sealable freezer bag with the air removed (air is a poor heat conductor) works quite well. Since the foods are contained inside the bag, no moisture is lost and all flavors remain in contact with the food. Additionally, some chefs will directly poach in fat, oil, or butter with their immersion circulator. When cooking sous vide the chef will set the final desired temperature while the device will hold the water at that point indefinitely. Over time the food will be cooked to that exact temperature throughout without ever going over. Unlike traditional methods where high heat is used for faster cooking times, the temperature is low and the foods can never over-cook. For more detailed information about sous vide I would recommend visiting this site or anything written by Dave Arnold.

The Anova is a circulating heating element combined with a PID (proportional-integral-derivative) controller. The PID constantly compares the set desired temperature compared to actual measured temperature and adjusts the heating element to account for any discrepancies. This allows the Anova to accurately hold a desired temperature to within ± 0.01°C in a range of 25°C to 99°C. The 1KW heating element is powered through 115-120 & 220-240 VAC. The impeller pump is capable of moving 12L per minute. The device measures 2.5″ wide by 15.5″ tall. It attaches to any vessel using a study rubber-tipped screw.

The device is controlled through a color touch-screen liquid crystal display, LCD. The user interface is simple and intuitive. The user need only set the desired temperature, set an optional timer for shutdown, and select “Start.” The screen will show the current temp, set temp, and run time. Like a crockpot or slow cooker the device is “set and forget.” The Anova has a low water sensor and will shut off automatically. Occasionally on longer and hotter cooks water may need to be added to the vessel to maintain adequate levels.

What separates the Anova from other similar devices is 1) its price, at $200 it is less expensive for the same specifications of its rivals. 2) the heating element guard is stainless steel and easily removable for very easy cleaning. 3) it features a directional nozzle for the impeller. 4) it is made by a medial laboratory device manufacturer with experience in the field.

Unlike the previously reviewed Sous Vide Supreme, an immersion circulator can be used an a variety of vessel sizes. For larger cooks I use a Cambro full-size gastronorm food pan which holds 27 qt. For smaller cooks I use my stock pot. It is also half the price and a fraction of the size. Similar devices are available, most notably from a rival medical equipment company PolyScience. The PolySci circulators are $300 more expensive than the Anova and have plastic heating element guards which must be removed using a screwdriver.

In summary, the Anova is a professional grade device which is simple to use, easy to clean, easy to store, powerful enough for even your largest cooks and reasonable priced (in the world of sous vide).


-- Reid Bradshaw  

Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Available from Amazon

Bonavita Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle

I have been using the Bonavita electric water kettle for over a year. It serves that same purpose as essentially all other water kettles, but the primary advantage over other water kettles is its gooseneck water spout, which allows for slowing pouring. Slow pour is nice when making pour over coffee. Other advantages: it allows the user to choose any preset temperature (rather than just a few as I’ve seen in other model), allows the user to choose to have the kettle hold the desired temperature for an hour, and also allows the user to set a timer when the kettle is removed from its base.

-- Mitchell Olson  

Bonavita 1-Liter Variable Temperature Digital Electric Gooseneck Kettle

Available from Amazon

Jura-Capresso ENA 9 Automatic Coffee Center

Let me start by saying I like coffee; strong, black coffee. Some years ago I treated myself to a proper home espresso machine. I also bought a burr grinder. I didn’t go as far as buying green beans and roasting them myself (I did consider it), but I did by small batches of freshly roasted quality beans.

Unfortunately what I soon realized is that I like coffee, not making coffee. Yes it’s therapeutic on a Sunday morning in the dressing gown to go through the process, but usually when I want coffee I just want coffee.

Anyway, I looked into coffee making further and realized that a good bean-to-cup machine is really what I should have bought. I went to several cafés that used such machines and tried their coffee and it tasted just as good a places that used traditional espresso machines, often better as there was no operator error involved in the tamping, etc. Most places used Jura machines, so looking on line I found they did a home range. So I purchased a Jura Ena 3 nearly two years ago and haven’t looked back since. There is plenty of adjustment that can be done to get the coffee exactly how you like it then it is just a matter if pressing the button and a perfect cup of coffee comes out every time.

The most important thing is still the beans. Either roast your own, if that’s your sort of thing, or buy small quantities of freshly roasted quality beans. Lots of specialist roasters do sample packs so you can easily compare lots of different coffees so you can find the right taste for you.

If you like coffee, but not the hassle of an espresso machine, or going out, queuing and getting coffee how they like it rather than how you like it try one of these. You won’t be disappointed.

-- Graham Simpson  

Jura-Capresso ENA 9 Automatic Coffee Center

Available from Amazon

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Measuring Cup Set

The sheer number of OXO products available and the variety of price points they are built to makes it inevitable that some of them will be duds. Indeed, over time it has become clear that the presence of the brand on an item does not necessarily guarantee good design or build quality. That said, I have found their Good Grips steel measuring cups to be a great success in both regards. After more than a year of daily use, I still can’t think of anything that would improve them.

Like most sets, a ring is included to keep them together when nested. Traditionally, the ring is troublesome because removing a cup also requires the removal of cups that come before it. This problem has been solved by opening the handles’ holes on one side, allowing you to pull a cup off of the ring via the opening and then simply clip it back in place. Additionally, the rubber on the handle is set back a good bit from the cup, allowing for easy leveling with a knife.

The build quality is excellent. The cup and handle are fashioned from a single piece of surprisingly thick steel, eliminating the weakness of a weld point. Each cup’s measurement value is permanently inlaid into the rubber handle, such that no amount of scrubbing will take it off.

A similar plastic set is also produced under the Good Grips moniker. It features the same open-holed handles and inlaid measurement values and is slightly cheaper than the steel set, but it takes up more room by including unnecessary ⅔ and ¾ cups.

Regardless of whether you opt for steel or plastic, these cups will probably be the last set you ever buy.

-- Cody Raspen  

Oxo Good Grips Measuring Cup Set, Stainless Steel, 4-Pc

Available from Amazon

Areaware Bottle Opener

This bottle opener takes a relatively mundane task and turns it into a pleasurable aesthetic experience. The beauty of this opener is in its design simplicity. It is made of a piece of wood, a bent nail and two magnets. That’s it. The leverage from the nail opens beer bottles easily, one magnet catches the bottle cap and the other magnet makes it easy to mount on a fridge or other metal surface.

I have owned one for over a year and it is always my go-to bottle opener above any of my skeleton key style bottle openers. The handle is comfortable and, while the magnetic cap catching capability might seem superfluous at first, I am always grateful for it once I’m a few bottles into the evening. The mounting magnet keeps the handle open from the perspective of the plane of the surface to which it is mounted making it easy to grab in a time of need.

I was originally gifted this tool and have gifted it myself on several occasions. All recipients have reported back with delight at this opener’s simple beauty and practical usefulness.

Of course, there are much less costly alternatives (including your teeth, the edge of a hard surface or the lighter trick) to opening bottles and the size of the handle does not make this tool something you want to carry around in your pocket all of the time, but that isn’t it’s point. This opener combines a sophisticated design sensibility with functional effectiveness that elevates the status of an every day utility to a cool tool.

-- Eoin Russell  

Areaware Bottle Opener in Walnut

Available from Amazon

Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

It is amazing how different the same tea tastes when you have the ability to consistently experiment with the brewing temperature and steeping time. Different teas require different brewing temps and steeping times to bring out the best flavor. I like green tea. The Breville allows you to set the temperature by degrees and the steeping time. Do you like strong tea? Set it to steep longer. Once you set it, it is all automatic. No more waiting for your tea to cool from boiling to drink it. Would like another cup of tea? The Breville will keep the tea at your set temp for 60 minutes.

Yes, this appliance is expensive. However, after using it nearly each day since November 2010, it is totally worth the money, and remains one of my favorite purchases and is very reliable. I’ve had zero problems with it. Breville makes great appliances, and they are very well made, with excellent customer support.

-- Kevin Lindsay  

Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

Available from Amazon

Work Sharp WSKTS Knife and Tool Sharpener

Any chef will tell you, a sharp knife is the most important tool in the kitchen. I have tried many different types of sharpening methods, from stones to steels, electric to manual. Stones are hard to use because you need to maintain a very consistent angle while using it, and other gimmicky sharpening tools are just not good enough to give you a good edge. And very, very few can sharpen a serrated blade. I won’t lie — I can’t use a manual sharpening stone to save my life.

My dad got me the Work Sharp WSKTS Knife and Tool Sharpener and I swear I’ve never seen its equal. It is approximately the size of an electric drill and uses sanding belts of three different grits: 80 for repairing blades, 220 for sharpening, and 6000 for putting on that smooth polish. The sanding belts are very easy to change and last long enough for you to sharpening everything in the house, from your scissors and kitchen knives to axe and lawnmower blades. The head of the tool swivels so you can use it free-hand to sharpen very large items, like shovels.

One of the best features is the guards that attach to the tool that keep the sharpening angle perfectly consistent. The first guard offers a 50° angle for large hunting and butchery knives, and a 40° angle for thinner knives. The second guard allows you to sharpen serrated blades and heavier outdoor blades.

Best of all, this sharpening system only costs around $70 and packs of 6 replacement belts cost around $9. They also offer packs of 2 diamond belts for around $26 for sharpening those pesky ceramic blades.

-- Joel Roush  

Work Sharp WSKTS Knife and Tool Sharpener

Available from Amazon

Nuance Wine Finer

This is my girlfriend’s cool tool — not sure how long she’s had it but I’ve been using hers for a couple months. It’s a multipurpose wine tool. It fits snugly down inside the neck of a wine bottle (never had it pop out), allowing you to pour without drips. At the same time, it’s aerating and filtering the wine. It also comes with a stopper for when you’re finished pouring.

We did a taste test with friends at Thanksgiving. Uncorked a bottle of red, poured a glass, then put the wine finer in and poured a glass. The difference in taste was amazing. I’m sure there are people out there who have the patience and forethought to uncork and decant their reds ahead of time, but I’m not one of them.

I love that this thing fits down inside the neck of the bottle and then acts as a stopper – not some separate aerating device that you have to go get each time you want to pour a glass. And since it’s acting as the stopper, you don’t have to deal with cleaning it until you’re finished with the bottle.

-- Mary Lindsey  

Nuance Wine Finer with Flat Top

Available from Amazon

Digital Day Counter

I bought two of these Digital Day Counters a few years ago. But I really did not start to use them till I began making water and milk kefirs.

Now I just stick one of these suction-cupped timers on a jar of fermenting kefir, and it lets me know how many days it has been fermenting.

Most timers are set up for seconds, minutes, and hours. These tiny timers count up to 99 days. They are water resistant, and yes they work in the refrigerator.

-- KentKB  

DaysAgo Digital Day Counter

Available from Amazon