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August/September 2015

Splatter Screens

Splatter screens promise to help contain grease during stovetop cooking. We put seven models to the test.

Update, January 2019

Recently, a new kind of splatter screen emerged on the market. The Frywall Stovetop Splatter Guard looks like the protective cone a dog wears around its neck after surgery. We put the Frywall to the test and were pleasantly surprised. It perched securely on each skillet we tried, and very little splatter escaped. Reaching over the walls wasn't as hard as we'd anticipated, and the walls made cooking down large amounts of greens a cinch (the 12-inch model held an impressive 32 cups of kale). Though the Frywall isn't for everyone—it's a big, floppy thing that you have to clean and store—we think it's a real innovation, and we're naming it our new winning splatter screen.

How We Tested

Splatter screens promise to help contain grease during stovetop cooking. Our previous winner, from Amco Houseworks, blocks larger, potentially painful (and messy) flying drops of oil but still lets through a fine mist. Could we find a better option?

To find out, we assembled seven models, priced from about $7.00 to just over $20.00. We used them while searing chicken thighs and browning bacon, ranking each on how easy it was to use, how well it contained splatter, how it affected the food, and how it cleaned up. We tried the screens on small, medium, and large skillets and saucepans, as well as Dutch ovens, to check compatibility.

Models made from silicone and perforated metal blocked our view of the food, so bacon went quickly from brown to black. The silicone models were too dense, too; they blocked oil but trapped steam, so when we lifted them, condensation dripped back into the oil and the two exploded with a dangerous vigor. And because the steam couldn’t escape, the food also browned more slowly.

The trapped steam problem exposed the catch-22 of splatter screens: Steam and oil rise off the pan together, so no splatter screen can contain all the oil but still release the steam. Therefore, nothing kept our stovetop completely clean, but fine mesh worked best; it allowed steam to escape and let us see the food.

With the three fine-mesh screens, it came down to how evenly they sat on the pans. Two sat crookedly and allowed extra grease to escape; the best model was our old favorite. It released steam, tidied up easily, and while it won’t keep your stovetop and counters completely clean, it will minimize splatter and block larger drops of flying oil.

Update, January 2019: Recently, a new kind of splatter screen emerged on the market. The Frywall Stovetop Splatter Guard looks like the protective cone a dog wears around its neck after surgery. We put the Frywall to the test and were pleasantly surprised. It perched securely on each skillet we tried, and very little splatter escaped. Reaching over the walls wasn't as hard as we'd anticipated, and the walls made cooking down large amounts of greens a cinch (the 12-inch model held an impressive 32 cups of kale). Though the Frywall isn't for everyone—it's a big, floppy thing that you have to clean and store—we think it's a real innovation, and we're naming it our new winning splatter screen.

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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.