Your Home & Yard

Recommended products from our latest tests

Last reviewed: May 2011

Here's our review of the top-performing products for your home's exterior and interior, for your kitchen, and for laundry and cleaning from more than a thousand tested over the last year. In the Best & Worst sections we've included many of our best-value everyday products, such as lightbulbs and laundry detergents, so you'll know what to buy and what to avoid. And don't miss our look back at some of the biggest busts from 75 years of product testing, which you'll find in The Way We Were. (Click on each product category below to access the Ratings chart.)

Kitchen

Whether you're interested in everyday products, need some new small appliances, or are planning a kitchen remodel and need new major appliance, our review of the top kitchen products will come in handy. And take a trip back through time with our 75th-anniversary looks at coffeemakers and French-door refrigerators. (All links below are available to subscribers.)

Blenders

Most blenders can whip up a smoothie, but these models will also crush ice for frozen cocktails, purée vegetables into hearty soups, and even grate cheese. Don't be swayed by blenders with high watts or umpteen speeds.

Coffeemakers

If you're a coffee connoisseur, you'll appreciate the superior brewing performance these models offer. Programmable units let you wake up and smell the coffee, while a small-batch setting adjusts water flow to maintain flavor

Cooktops

A cooktop/wall oven combination allows greater design flexibility than a range. Placing the cooktop in an island countertop, alongside a prep sink and storage, is popular with busy chefs.

Dishwashers

This is a tale of two types. These conventional models stand out for their shorter cycle times, quiet operation, or features such as adjustable racks that streamline loading. Dishwasher drawers didn't clean as well and don't necessarily use less water than regular dishwashers did in our tests.

Freezers

Chest freezers offer the most storage for the money, but retrieving food can be a dive into the great unknown (hanging bins help). Uprights offer better access and organization in a smaller footprint, in exchange for less usable capacity. If you don't mind de-icing on your own, manual-defrost freezers are quieter and use less energy than self-defrosting units. But upright versions had trouble keeping door shelves as cool as the interior.

Microwaves

Whether you're cooking from scratch, heating leftovers, or defrosting meat, these are able multitaskers. Midsized or large countertop models need at least 3 square feet of counter space. Over-the-range units don't deliver powerful venting.

Ranges

Starved for time? Manufacturers have added timesaving technologies such as high-powered burners and elements to speed up cooktop heating. In the oven, convection fans trim roasting and baking times.

Refrigerators

The French-door revolution continues: Those once-pricey models (featuring two refrigerator doors on top and a freezer drawer below) can now outperform many top-freezers and side-by-sides, often for the same money. Regardless of type, the following models combine precise temperature control, efficiency, and convenience, distinguishing themselves among the hundred-plus units we've tested.

Toasters

The best toasters brown evenly from light to dark with almost every batch. And they do the job in about half the time as the fastest toaster ovens, unless you're feeding a crowd. Then a toaster oven's six-slice capacity will save time.

Wall ovens

Many electric wall ovens offer convection. Bakers will appreciate the Kenmore Elite's superb baking, and like the Bosch, it was very good at removing baked-on food in our oven-cleaning test.

Water filters

A first-rate water filter will not only improve the taste and clarity of water but also remove lead and other contaminants without clogging quickly. Carafes are inexpensive and portable, faucet-mounts install easily, and countertop and undersink units filter larger volumes of water.