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November/December 2017

Cookie Presses

Could we find a cookie press that consistently produced beautiful cookies?

How We Tested

Cookie presses are handheld gadgets that portion soft cookie doughs into a variety of shapes, from hearts and flowers to snowmen and turkeys. These cookies are typically called “spritz” cookies, from the German word spritzen, meaning “to squirt.” While you can use a pastry bag to pipe and shape dough, presses offer a variety of shapes and make it easier to create identical cookies.

Each press has a tube that holds the dough, with a perforated shaping disk at one end and a handle at the other. After loading the dough, you place the cookie press base on a baking or cookie sheet, squeeze the handle, and out pops a picture-perfect, oven-ready dough design—if the press works well.

The OXO Good Grips Cookie Press with Disk Storage Case won our last testing, but over time it turned out to be unreliable. (We stock the test kitchen with our winning products, so we can monitor performance over months and years and update our reviews accordingly). In the case of our winning cookie press, we noticed that the ratcheting mechanism eventually jammed and the handle could snap off. We demoted it and named a new winner—which was later discontinued—so we decided to retest these gadgets, excluding our previous winner because of its performance issues. We rounded up four presses priced from $25.99 to $42.00 and started spritzing.

After pressing more than 1,400 cookies, we found that three qualities mattered most in a cookie press: consistency of shaping, durability, and­—most important—the appearance of the cookies. Most performed well in two of those areas, but the real challenge was finding a press that did well in all three.

The cookies’ visual appeal was paramount. The presses came with anywhere from 12 to 20 shaping disks in different forms, from hearts and Christmas trees to camels and butterflies. Most of the presses gave us nice crisp designs, but we demoted one that fell short; its hearts looked more like lily pads, and its flowers were sometimes asymmetrical. The best presses created attractive, well-defined cookies in a variety of shapes.

Consistency of portioning and shaping was also crucial. We wanted a press that could easily punch out row after row of identical cookies without jamming. We found in past testings that cold dough can be hard for presses to push out and that warm dough can be too soft and clingy, which can gum up the machines and make for misshapen cookies.

To determine how finicky the presses were with doughs of different temperatures, we tested each with both 65- and 75-degree dough, representing the low and high ends of the range of average room temperature. Two models had infrequent, minor consistency issues—an occasional jam or incomplete shape—but were generally consistent. Two cookie presses had more serious issues, however. One press sometimes produced beautiful shapes but other times spat out half-formed cookies, and it really struggled with warmer dough. Another struggled regardless of the dough’s temperature; it couldn’t extrude its pumpkins, and its snowmen were beheaded.

Finally, we spritzed dozens and dozens of cookies to see which presses would last through holiday baking extravaganzas for years to come. Only one failed: Its handle stopped working over time. The rest kept performing as they did when they were new.

In the end, only one cookie press, the Marcato Biscuit Maker ($42.00), passed all our tests. It consistently produced precisely shaped cookies with ease. However, it did have a few minor drawbacks. The press had a toggle that allowed us to choose between two cookie sizes, but we sometimes inadvertently switched the toggle while using the press, resulting in cookies that suddenly changed size. Another drawback: We had to insert disks with a certain side facing down, so we sometimes needed to refer to the instructions to jog our memories. Lastly, the plunger rod needed to face a certain way during operation (so that the ratcheting mechanism was properly aligned), giving us one more thing to remember. In short, there’s a learning curve for our winning press, but the process felt easy after pressing a few dozen cookies.

Methodology

We tested four cookie presses priced from $25.99 to $42.00. First we selected a heart-shaped disk and flower-shaped disk for each model and pressed five dozen cookies using each. We then tested the presses’ performance and durability by pressing a dozen cookies using each of its disks and baked each dozen to compare the results. We tested the presses’ functionality with dough at different temperatures, using each to press cookies from both 65-degree and 75-degree dough, and we washed each press and any used disks according to manufacturers’ instructions after every use. Prices shown are what we paid online. Results were averaged, and the cookie presses appear in order of preference.

Visual Appeal: Presses rated higher if they produced cookies with distinct, identifiable shapes.

Consistency: We gave higher marks to presses that could produce multiple cookies in a row without jamming, with each cookie emerging properly shaped, and that operated well using a range of dough temperatures.

Ease of Use: Presses rated higher if they were comfortable to use, if we could easily attach disks and load dough, and if cleanup was easy.

Durability: High-ranking cookie presses could withstand prolonged use without sacrificing performance quality.

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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.