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October/November 2014

Innovative Dish Drying Racks

While dish racks are not the most exciting kitchen purchase, they are an essential for drying hand-washed dishes. We put five innovative models up against a basic basket-and-mat system.

How We Tested

If you cook it, they will come. Dirty dishes, that is. And even though 83 percent of readers we polled use a dishwasher, 96 percent still wash some dishes in the sink. Enter the dish drying rack, used to contain and prop up wet dishes so air can circulate around them. While dish racks are not the most exciting kitchen purchase, lately we’ve noticed a few manufacturers trying to change their dutiful image. Flashy new racks have features like knife blocks, swiveling drain spouts, or wineglass holders, while others use sleek stainless-steel or eye-catching minimalist designs. Flash aside, do any improve on the basic wire basket/plastic mat combo?

To find out, we tested five innovative dish racks (priced from nearly $25 to $64) against the standard basket and mat ($18.37). We compared footprints and counted utensil trays, plate slots, and cup holders. We looked at the way in which each rack could be positioned next to the sink and loaded each with dinner dishes for a family of four to evaluate capacity.

Testers found only one unacceptable, a minimalist rack that looks like a piece of modern art; it sits flat on the counter and is lined with plastic ridges that start small at the front and get progressively taller, like stadium seating. But only three or so made usable slots; the others were too short to support anything and created a precarious slanted surface for other dishes.

The rest all worked well. Even the basic basket model has admirable capacity and, at $18.37, an unbeatable price. But two of the innovative racks solved lingering problems. One we deemed the best rack for small spaces. It was too small for pots and pans but fit all the plates, glasses, and plastic storage containers. It has two expandable arms that pull out to suspend it over a sink while in use, so it doesn’t require any counter space; you can either load it on the counter and move it to the sink, or start with it over the sink if you have a wider sink or double basins. It folds flat for easy storage and the whole thing can go in the dishwasher. It’s great for small spaces, or households that don’t always want a dish rack on the counter.

The second rack testers singled out was the most deluxe option for countertop use. It fit bulky pots and pans and has nice features like a wineglass holder that suspends up to four glasses upside down so they dry spot-free, as well as a bamboo knife block that keeps blades safely tucked away. It’s made of attractive, fingerprint-proof stainless steel and is raised up on feet so the counter stays dry. A draining spout efficiently whisks water away and swivels, so you can position the rack the long or short way. Whether your dish drying needs are large or small, these two innovative racks offer smart solutions.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.