How Our Test Kitchen Picks the Best Products, from Pantry Items to Cooking Gear
Our Taste of Home Test Kitchen doesn't just test recipes—we evaluate food items and cooking gear, too. Here's how we find the best brands for ingredients, appliances and more.
At Taste of Home, we’re passionate about food. We test every recipe that’s in our magazine and on our website because we want you to have excellent results when you recreate the recipes at home. With that same dedication to quality, we also test pantry items and cooking gear to make recommendations for what you may want to buy for your own kitchen.
When it comes to choosing which products to test and evaluating which are Taste of Home Test Kitchen Preferred, we aren’t influenced by sponsorships or advertising. Instead, our Test Kitchen team follows a deliberate, standardized testing process. Here’s how it works.
How We Test Pantry Items
Taste of Home
We test everyday ingredients ranging from salsa to chocolate chips to identify the best brands in each category. Taste of Home Deputy Culinary Editor James Schend oversees our food product tests and guides our culinary team in testing and reviewing each item to determine which are Test Kitchen Preferred.
Once we determine a product category we want to test—the best cake mix, for example—we select several comparable versions of the same product from different retailers. Then, our culinary team conducts blind taste tests to eliminate brand bias, evaluating each sample based on a standard set of criteria, such as:
- Taste: Does it have the right balance of flavors, like salty or sweet?
- Texture: Is it the ideal consistency, such as crunchy or smooth?
- Appearance: Does it look appetizing?
After sampling each item, the tasters enter their scores and comments into our product testing application, which tabulates the results. Finally, a Taste of Home editor uses that information to write up an article revealing our top picks.
Check out all of our Test Kitchen taste tests.
How We Test Cooking Gear and Gadgets
Taste of Home
To choose the cooking gear and gadgets we want to recommend as Test Kitchen Preferred, we test products ranging from sheet pans to pressure cookers. Our busy Test Kitchen tackles all of our gear product tests and is overseen by Taste of Home Executive Culinary Director Sarah Farmer.
Like our food testing process, we compare multiple brands in each product category. A member of our Test Kitchen uses each item for a full week in order to determine which provide high-quality, reliable results.
Our culinary experts also select several recipes to test across brands to assess various functions side by side. In our search for the best blender, for instance, our Test Kitchen made the same kale smoothie and butternut squash soup in five different models so we could determine which one was best for blending versus pureeing.
Taste of Home
After putting each product through the ringer, we evaluate each piece of cooking gear based on a standardized set of criteria, such as:
- Function: Does it consistently do what it’s supposed to do?
- Convenience: How easy is it to disassemble for cleaning?
- Appearance: Is it something you’d want on your kitchen counter?
- Price: Is its value worth the price?
Finally, our Test Kitchen team submits their scores and comments and we tally the results.
How We Choose the Products We Test
Whether we’re testing food items or cooking gear, we research the most popular brands that are available nationally, either in stores or online. We also study what people are searching for online to make sure we’re not skipping over any relevant smaller brands.
When it comes to cooking gear, we’re price-sensitive because we want to recommend products that are affordable for the average home cook. However, we don’t necessarily rule out items that are more expensive. If there’s a wide range of price points across brands, we may recommend a top-of-the-line product as well as a budget-friendly choice.
Aside from pantry items and cooking gear, our Test Kitchen also regularly tests products to feature in our subscription box, as well as in articles like our We’re Obsessed series. But no matter why we’re testing a product, our goal is to help readers find items that make life easier and cooking more enjoyable.