Mini Prep Bowl Sets

Published January 1, 2016. From Cook's Illustrated.

Overview:

Following the lead of professional chefs seen on television, many home cooks now use mini prep bowls to help them complete their mise en place, or the preparation and arrangement of the various ingredients needed to execute a recipe. Mini prep bowls allow cooks to measure out, separate, and organize these elements, making cooking tidier and more efficient.

Since we last tested these bowls in 2009, two of our three recommended sets have been discontinued, so a second look was warranted. First, we ruled out bowls with a capacity of 2 ounces or less for being too small. We then gathered seven sets of the most widely available mini prep bowls, covering a range of sizes and materials, and put them through a battery of tests. We wanted to see how easy they were to fill and empty, how well they contained different volumes of food, how vulnerable they were to staining and odors, how well they stood up to repeated washing, and how breakable they were when pushed off the counter. We also wanted to evaluate their versatility: Could they be… read more

Following the lead of professional chefs seen on television, many home cooks now use mini prep bowls to help them complete their mise en place, or the preparation and arrangement of the various ingredients needed to execute a recipe. Mini prep bowls allow cooks to measure out, separate, and organize these elements, making cooking tidier and more efficient.

Since we last tested these bowls in 2009, two of our three recommended sets have been discontinued, so a second look was warranted. First, we ruled out bowls with a capacity of 2 ounces or less for being too small. We then gathered seven sets of the most widely available mini prep bowls, covering a range of sizes and materials, and put them through a battery of tests. We wanted to see how easy they were to fill and empty, how well they contained different volumes of food, how vulnerable they were to staining and odors, how well they stood up to repeated washing, and how breakable they were when pushed off the counter. We also wanted to evaluate their versatility: Could they be microwaved and/or put in the oven? Could they handle both wet and dry ingredients? (Several of the bowl sets came with lids, which come in handy if you’re prepping and storing your ingredients ahead of time. However, while we liked having them, the performance of the bowls themselves was more important to us than this extra feature.)

With the exception of the silicone bowls, which were small, floppy, and retained food odors, most of the sets worked pretty well. Glass mini prep bowls dominate the market, and for good reason. They’re oven-, microwave-, and dishwasher-safe; they tend to be fairly sturdy; and they’re easy to clean, retaining no off-odors or food stains. Their only drawback is that they are slightly susceptible to static cling, making it a little more difficult to extract fine or dry ingredients like chopped herbs or ground pepper. Sets made of stainless steel or recycled materials like bamboo had less of a problem with static cling but were demoted for various reasons—among other problems, they couldn’t be microwaved, limiting their functionality.

While most of the sets we tested contained bowls of only one size (usually between 4 and 8 ounces), our favorite set had six nested bowls of different sizes, including two medium-size bowls of 10 and 16 ounces. Made of heavy glass, the relatively wide and shallow bowls were easy to fill, empty, and clean. And with a slight lip on the outside, they were also comfortable to grip while whisking or scooping out ingredients. The only problem: They were the only glass bowls that broke when we pushed them off the counter during our durability test. However, the heaviness of the glass with which they’re made makes it unlikely that they’ll easily fly off the counter.

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