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May/June 2016

Salt Storage Containers

Salt containers placed near the stove make it easy to season a steak or a pot of boiling water on the fly. We put five to the test.

How We Tested

Salt containers placed near the stove make it easy to season a steak or a pot of boiling water on the fly. There are two basic kinds: Salt pigs are open-mouthed cylindrical vessels, while salt boxes have lids and tend to be slightly smaller. Wondering if there was a trade-off between the access of an open container and the protection of a lidded one, we tested both kinds—two salt pigs and three boxes, ranging in price from about $8.99 to $37.99. We wanted a container that would be sturdy, hold a useful amount of salt, be easy to fill and access, and protect the salt from kitchen splatter and from clumping in humid conditions. And if we were going to get a dedicated salt container, it had to do all of these things better than a simple prep bowl, so we tested our containers alongside a 6-ounce glass bowl.

Not surprisingly, the lidded salt boxes did a superior job of protecting their salt from messes. When we left each container next to a skillet of simmering tomato sauce, only the salt boxes kept the salt pristine and splatter-free. Some splatter made it into the salt pigs, but it was less than the mess that landed in the ordinary open bowl.

To see how well the containers protected their salt against humidity, we filled them with kosher salt and placed them in a warm, damp room for a weekend. As we expected, the salt in the open bowl and in the pigs had clumped, forming nearly solid masses that were hard to dig out. The salt in the lidded boxes fared better; while small clumps still formed, they were easy enough to break up with a spoon.

After giving the containers to several test cooks to try, we realized that access to the salt pigs was actually more limited than with the lidded containers. Despite their wide mouths, the salt pigs were harder to fill and use. The Emile Henry salt pig’s curve and the Le Creuset crock’s flat top and shallow retaining wall limited their capacities and forced us to tilt the vessels to fill them with salt, which was awkward and still resulted in some spillage. The same features also made it awkward for large-handed testers to reach into the bottom of the vessels when the salt was running low and for testers of all hand sizes to measure and level off a teaspoon of salt. By contrast, the salt boxes were effortless to load and access from above and turned out to be easy to open with one hand.

If you want an attractive vessel that will protect your salt against splatters and humidity (if only to a limited extent), a salt box is a nice option. Our favorite, the Bee House Salt Box, holds 2 cups of salt and costs $20.80; solid and roomy, it sat sturdily on the counter, required infrequent refilling, and did a better job of accommodating cooks with large hands. Our Best Buy, the Totally Bamboo Round Salt Box, holds just ¾ cup of salt but costs less than half the price of the winner; while its light weight made it easier to knock off the counter by accident, some testers preferred its more compact size and secure magnet closure.

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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.