Utensil holders keep our kitchen tools organized and close at hand. What features make some models better than others?
How We Tested
Utensil crocks keep our most-used tools conveniently accessible and organized while we’re cooking. We’ve all tried to pull out a utensil only to have a few others come tumbling out in a tangled mess, or we’ve had a utensil crock, top-heavy from all its contents, wobble as we added or retrieved utensils. We wondered if there were utensil crocks on the market that could solve these problems.
We purchased nine round or oval utensil crocks, priced from about $14 to about $50. We included models in a variety of sizes and materials, including stoneware, stainless steel, plastic, and bamboo. In addition to varying in size and material, the models in our lineup sported a variety of special features. One had a rotating base (similar to a lazy Susan) intended to help us locate utensils quickly. Another had a special section for storing knives. Two had silicone mats that provided a soft spot for utensils to land. Four crocks had dividers, and one had small grooves in the bottom meant to hold each utensil as it is added. We also included an expandable crock. With so many options in shape, price, material, and features, we were excited to see what combination of factors would make for the best utensil crock.
Evaluating Size and Shape
Our first test was to evaluate the capacity of each crock. We loaded 20 of our favorite utensils (see “The Test Kitchen’s Top Tools”) into each crock, adding them in the same order each time for consistency. We stopped adding utensils when we felt moderate resistance, which we defined as the inability to fit another utensil in the crock without pushing hard or excessive jostling to create more space. No surprise: We preferred crocks that held more items. Our favorites were spacious enough to accommodate at least 17 utensils. The smallest crock held just 10 utensils. We also formed a preference for a certain shape. Although oval crocks were slimmer (making for a smaller footprint near the stovetop), we found that their tapered ends were a tight fit for bulkier utensils. Round crocks with diameters of about 6 inches or more allowed us to store more utensils.
Keeping Utensils Untangled with Tall Sides, Dividers, and Grooves
Of course, a large capacity is just one factor in a good crock. We also wanted a crock that allowed us to organize and easily access our utensils. A few features really helped.
We started by looking at the heights of the walls. The crocks in our lineup ranged in height from 5¼ to 9½ inches, and we found that higher walls were generally better able to keep utensils upright, meaning the utensils didn’t fall over one another and become tangled and harder to remove. However, small tools such as pastry brushes were harder to find and retrieve in crocks taller than 7 inches. We liked crocks with medium-high walls that were 6½ to 7 inches tall.
We also considered dividers. Two smaller oval models had permanent dividers that ran widthwise across the crock, splitting them into three sections. In these crocks—which were already a bit tight on space—the dividers took up valuable room. We had to remember to store our bulkiest tools, such as our tongs and ladle, in the larger sections because they were the biggest. In the two large round crocks with dividers, however, the feature was an asset. The dividers split the crocks into three equal and spacious wedges, which gave us enough room in any section to store our tools. These dividers helped our tools stay upright and allowed us to group them by category.
In addition to dividers, three models had useful features in the bottoms of the crocks. Removable silicone mats in two of the crocks made for a soft and quiet landing place for the utensils. And one of the oval models had small grooves in the bottom of the crock that acted as stations for the utensils' handles. We liked that this feature helped keep the utensils organized and upright. Below the contoured holes is a removable drip tray, meant to contain any water dripping from the utensils above. Since we usually return clean utensils to our crock after they have dried, we didn’t find this feature necessary, but it's a nice touch to prevent moisture from collecting in the crock if the items aren't fully dry.
We Want Our Crocks to Be Stable
No one wants a wobbly utensil crock, so we put each crock’s stability to the test by filling up each model, purposefully loading and then unloading one side of the crock before the rest. The majority of the crocks in our lineup—including those made from relatively lightweight metal—sat securely on the counter and didn't scoot around or tip over. Only one crock in our lineup faltered: the plastic crock with a rotating base. This rotating feature was meant to help us locate our utensils quickly, but it just made the crock unstable. When we added utensils, it rocked unsteadily back and forth before settling on the counter.
Good Crocks Are Easy to Clean and Durable, Too
Since utensil crocks often sit next to our stoves, we expect them to get splattered once in a while by oils, sauces, and other cooking messes. To mimic this common kitchen scenario, we splattered hot tomato sauce on each crock; allowed them to sit for 1 hour; and then wiped them with a warm, soapy sponge. Most of the crocks were easy to clean, but two of the crocks posed problems. The plastic sides of the expandable crock overlapped slightly, and it was hard to maneuver the sponge between those overlapping pieces. A model with perforated sides was also challenging to clean. When we tried to wipe tomato sauce off its exterior, we pushed it into the holes, creating an even bigger mess.
Next, to test how easy it was to clean the crocks more thoroughly, we washed them 10 times according to the manufacturers’ instructions. The model made from bamboo faded by the final wash. We preferred models that were dishwasher-safe and looked as good as new after being washed. Last, to test the durability of each model, we hit each utensil crock’s rim 10 times with a stainless-steel slotted spoon to approximate what happens when we accidentally knock a metal utensil into the side of a crock when returning it. None of the models had any dings or dents after our durability test.
Our Winning Utensil Crock: Circulon Ceramic Tool Crock
We liked a few of the utensil crocks we tested, but the Circulon Ceramic Tool Crock outperformed the rest. Round with an opening measuring 6⅝ inches, it was spacious enough to hold 20 utensils. We loved its removable divider, which splits the interior into three equal sections and helped keep the utensils upright and organized. It was easy to quickly grab a single utensil without it getting tangled in the other utensils. We also liked the removable silicone mat; it gave utensils a soft place to land when we were loading them. Lastly, we were able to easily wipe away dried splashes of tomato sauce, and all the parts are dishwasher-safe for an easy deep clean. This model is thoughtfully designed with clever features, making it more user-friendly than the average utensil crock. A nice bonus: It’s offered in a variety of colors to match any kitchen.
- Test nine utensil crocks, priced from about $14 to about $50, made from various materials, including stoneware, stainless steel, plastic, and bamboo
- Load up to 20 of our winning utensils in the same order into each utensil crock
- Remove and replace one utensil from each full crock; repeat the test with two different utensils
- Splatter each utensil crock with hot tomato sauce, let the dirty crocks sit for 1 hour, and then wipe down each crock with a warm, soapy sponge
- Wash the crocks 10 times, following the manufacturers’ instructions
- Hit each crock’s rim with a stainless-steel spoon 10 times and check for signs of damage
Capacity: We evaluated how many utensils we could comfortably fit in each utensil crock without pushing hard or jostling them excessively to create space.
Ease of Use: We evaluated how sturdy the utensil crocks were when we filled them with utensils and emptied them. We also evaluated how easy it was to remove and return a single utensil at a time while the crocks were full.
Cleanup and Durability: We evaluated how easy it was to wipe down each utensil crock. We also noted if any utensil crocks were worn, damaged, or chipped after washing each of them 10 times and hitting each of them 10 times with a stainless-steel spoon.