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—the ones we call Test Kitchen-Preferred.

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 re-create the recipes at home. We have those same standards when it comes to taste-testing snacks and ingredients as well as testing gadgets. Making sure you have delicious eats and quality gear is important to us!

When it comes to choosing which products to test and evaluating which are Test Kitchen-Preferred, we aren’t influenced by sponsorships or advertising. Instead, our Test Kitchen team follows a deliberate, standardized testing process. Don’t worry: It’s also super fun.

How We Test Foods and Ingredients

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Our Test Kitchen and editorial teams love taste tests. Whether it’s sampling common ingredients like pancake mix, butter and olive oil or snackable treats like cookies, guacamole and string cheese, we take the process seriously.

Taste of Home Executive Culinary Director Sarah Farmer and Editor Lisa Kaminski collaborate to choose the products in our taste tests.

Once a category is chosen, the testing team researches popular versions of the product from a variety of retailers. These brands include big names you know, products with cult followings or options recommended to us by our Community Cooks.

After selecting and shopping, a member of our Test Kitchen team preps the food. Then the remaining members of the culinary team sample the products. The brand of each item is kept a secret to avoid any biases.

Foods are judged according to these standard categories:

  • 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, that information is translated into the reviews and lists you find on our website and in the magazine.

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How We Test Kitchen Gear and Gadgets

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Like our food testing process, our culinary and editorial teams collaborate to select products our readers love or are curious about. We know that investing in a new countertop appliance or expensive piece of gear takes some consideration, and we want to recommend the best options for readers looking for honest expert reviews.

Products are chosen via the same rigorous research methods as our food tests. Our team evaluates internet search trends, consults with home cooks and discusses with our own group of culinary experts. From there, products are sourced and brought in to use at Taste of Home HQ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Like our food testing process, we compare multiple brands in each product category. We try to include a wide range of products in terms of price and functionality. Our readers range from kitchen newbies to serious home cooks. Our goal is to test products that suit this range of kitchen experiences.

Catherine Ward in the Test Kitchentaste of home

When it comes to testing a product, our culinary team discusses how they’ll test every single function of an item. For something like an electric kettle, testing is straightforward. For more complex gadgets, like blenders, our team devises a plan for testing every function (puree, pulse, crush, etc.), knob and switch.

These tests take the form of trying out recipes submitted by our readers as well as a barrage of trials developed by our culinary crew. Product tests like these can take weeks or months. Our Test Kitchen crew wants to ensure that every product is durable, convenient and easy to use.

During these gear tests, our team judges each model according to a set of basic set of standards. They also add additional criteria depending on the product: When trying coffeemakers, our team considers speed; the team made note of how different attachments worked for stand mixers.

Overall, though, our team abides by these standard criteria:

  • Function: Does it consistently do what it’s supposed to do?
  • Convenience: Is it easy to operate? Do you need any additional accessories? How easy is it to disassemble for cleaning?
  • Appearance: Is it something you’d want on your kitchen counter?
  • Price: Simply put, is the product worth what you’ll spend on it?

Finally, our Test Kitchen team submits their scores and comments and we tally the results. The editorial team then consolidates those lengthy testing notes into the reviews you see on our site and in Taste of Home magazine.

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Check Out Top Test Kitchen-Preferred Picks

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.