20 Great Gifts for Home Cooks
You might think that it would be easy to buy gifts for the avid home cook. After all, stores are bursting at the seams with kitchen equipment and utensils. But buying a thoughtful, useful, and unique gift isn't always easy. (See also: 9 Useful Kitchen Gifts)
As someone who loves to cook, I personally do not love to receive random gizmos and kitchen knick-knacks that clutter up my limited cabinet space — I greatly prefer something that I will use again and again that will earn its place in my kitchen. In consultation with many friends who genuinely love cooking, I've compiled this list of useful but thoughtful gifts for home cooks.
1. Immersion Blender
I have a full-size food processor, a regular blender, and a mini-prep food processor, but even so, an immersion blender is on my wishlist for the holidays. These stick-style blenders are super useful for pureeing a pot of soup, mixing up a quick smoothie, or making a batch of homemade mayonnaise. I can't wait to be able to make a pot of pureed soup without needing to ladle the hot liquid into a separate food processor! Personally, I'm coveting the Cuisinart Smart Stick this year.
2. Kitchen Scale
If your giftee is serious about cooking and baking, a kitchen scale is a great tool. Weighing ingredients is much more precise than measuring them in a cup and assures that baked goods will come out well. Get a sleek. attractive model that is small enough to tuck out of sight when not needed. I prefer the ones with a flat platform, because not only are they smaller, but they allow you to put any size bowl on top. One with a pull out display (such as the well reviewed Oxo) makes it easy to read the meter, even with a large mixing bowl on the scale.
3. Spice Grinder
A dedicated spice grinder will help your food-loving friend to pump up the flavor of his/her dishes. There are some inexpensive but well-rated ones on the market (like the Krups Fast Touch) that would make a great gift.
4. Olive Oil Mister
Plain old cooking spray is convenient but a little less-than-sexy. Get your friend an olive oil mister (the Misto is a great budget-friendly option), which will allow him/her to mist oil in pans like a true gourmet.
5. Stainless Steel or Copper Cookware
Quality stainless-steel or copper pots and pans are definitely a luxury — something your friend might covet but wouldn't buy for him or herself. You may not be able to buy a whole set, which will run hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars, but one or two saucepans would be useful for a serious home cook. Plus, they're shiny and beautiful, like jewelry for the kitchen. All-Clad is a great brand for quality stainless and copper for home cooks.
6. Enameled Cast-Iron Cookware
You can't go wrong with an enameled French oven from one of the top manufacturers, like Staub or Le Creuset. They do tend to be expensive, but you can often find them discounted for close to half-price at TJMaxx or Homegoods (although they are technically seconds, I've never been able to find any flaws). These French ovens come in all shapes and sizes, at varying prices. A smaller 3-quart size would be perfect for cooking meals for one or two. A cast iron grill pan or skillet would be useful and they are classic gifts too.
7. Kitchen Storage
Sometimes the best gift for a home cook is the ability to organize their ingredients and cooking equipment. Give your friend a set of magnetic spice jars, a good-quality olive oil cruet, a wire basket filled with beautiful kitchen towels, or a stainless steel caddy for their kitchen sponge. Something on my wish list is a two or three-tiered wire basket to store fruits, onions, avocados, and other produce in, which will help to clear off my cluttered counter.
8. Pie-Making Kit
An aluminum or silicone pie crust shield and a set of pie weights will help your pie-loving friend make perfect pies. Try this well-rated silicone crust shield by Mrs. Anderson along with this set of ceramic pie weights. Add a pair of stylish oven mitts to complete the set.
9. Silicone Cookie Sheet Liner
If your friend loves to bake cookies, he/she is sure to appreciate a silicone baking sheet liner. The good brands (like Silpat) run about $20, so it might not be something your friend would get for him or herself (and in any case, you can always use a few more). A great gift or stocking stuffer would be a rolled up silicone liner tied up with kitchen twine and a couple of cookie cutters.
10. Juicer or Blender
If you have a food-loving friend who is also on a health kick, a juicer or a blender can help them get their daily supply of fruits and veggies. I personally covet a high-speed blender (like the Vitamix), but at a few hundred dollars a pop, I may have to dream for a few more years.
11. Crepe Pan or Griddle
Breakfasts will be a gourmet affair with a crepe pan (like this one by Cuisinart) or griddle for making perfect pancakes. Present the pan with a bottle of pure maple syrup, and you might get an invitation to come over for brunch.
12. Chef's Knife
A friend of mine says “a knife is always a good thing.” All I can say is, if someone gifted me with a Wusthof or a Shun, or another quality chef's knife, I would be pretty excited. Of course, this is a great gift provided your giftee doesn't subscribe to superstitions about knife gifts being bad luck. (See also: The 5 Best Chef's Knives)
13. Artisan Cutting Board
I'm not talking about your typical plastic cutting board. Some of the solid wood cutting boards out there are gorgeous conversation pieces in their own right. An olive wood cheese board (like this one from West Elm), or an end-grain chopping block (try this one from Crate & Barrel) will look great in the kitchen while being extremely useful too.
14. Pizza Stone
A pizza stone is a practical gift not only because it helps to make stellar pizza and calzones, but its heat retention capability also helps to regulate the temperature of your oven. You can store it right in your oven, so it doesn't take up any extra space. This pizza stone from Williams-Sonoma is square, which maximizes usable surface area.
15. Gourmet Oils
I love getting kitchen tools, but if I'm going to be honest, in the words of the Little Mermaid, I've got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. I don't really NEED any more stuff, and I don't have the room to store it. That's why I love getting some consumables to cook with, like a set of gourmet oils. Avocado, walnut, sesame, macadamia, coconut, olive, and other flavorful oils are both delicious and healthy, and are fun ingredients to experiment with. I love the artisanal oils by La Tourangelle, which are both beautifully packaged and reasonably priced.
16. Exotic Sauces
Give your food-loving friend motivation to cook international food by creating a gift basket of eclectic sauces from around the world. Fill a box or basket with harissa, fish sauce, aji amarillo, curry paste, tapenade, and other condiments, and let the home cook go wild with them! Cost Plus World Market is a great one-stop shop to buy many of those imported condiments.
17. Homemade Gifts
Sometimes the most meaningful gifts are homemade ones. Nothing says love like steeping your own homemade vanilla extract for three months, or making homemade limoncello, for example. How about a homemade fig jam that your friend can use in baking or to dollop on cheese when company comes? Or herb-infused olive oil, homemade organic BBQ sauce, or your grandma's secret marinara sauce recipe? The possibilities are endless. (See also: 15 Delicious Gifts You Can Bake)
Cookbooks are always a good bet for someone who loves to cook at home, but be sure you know what kind of cookbook your giftee will like. If they are a health nut, you probably shouldn't buy them Paula Deen's latest tome of artery-clogging desserts. Check out Amazon's list of best-sellers for a range of options. Another great idea is to compile a binder of your favorite, tested recipes. Perhaps this is the year you release your ancestral bread-and-butter pickle recipe?
19. Magazine Subscription
Ah, if only Gourmet magazine were still in business. But there are plenty of food magazines out there, such as Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Cook's Illustrated, and Eating Well, as well as lesser-known ones such as David Chang's Lucky Peach, or the specialty Paleo Magazine.
20. Gift Cards
Gift cards have a reputation for being a generic gift, but not if it's a gift card to a specialty food shop that your giftee will actually be excited to use. I would love to get a gift card to Sur la Table, Williams-Sonoma, or even Whole Foods. Maybe then I'll be able to get the gourmet organic fish sauce I've been eyeing (something no one would ever think to buy for me).
Do you love to cook? What is on your wishlist this year?