November is well underway, which means that the holiday season is nearly upon us once again. Retail stores have prepared their over-the-top decorative displays, Christmas music is queued to play on an endless loop, and everyone’s favorite coffee chain has begun shilling their seasonal beverages in festive paper cups. Of course, we also know that along with this merriment comes the arduous task of finding the perfect gift for everyone on our shopping list. Whether you’re a dedicated online shopper or a devotee of Black Friday mayhem, we at the Cookware Review are here for you this Christmas shopping season as we’ve rounded up lots of great gift ideas for the home cooks in your life. From the fun to the functional, the practical to the prized, take a look at some of our favorite cooking-related gift ideas for Christmas 2017. We’ve put together a few categories for your browsing convenience, each with options suitable for any budget:
- Gifts for the Beginner Cook
- For the Cook Who Loves Gadgets
- For the DIY Cook
- For the Cook Who Has Everything
- For the Traveling Cook
- For Everyone Else
Gifts for the Beginner Cook
Have a college student in your life? Maybe a friend with a newfound interest in cookery? Here’s a few essentials to help get them started.
This is the kind of cookbook you can take to bed with you and read like a novel until lights-out. Exceedingly well-written, entertaining, and thoughtfully illustrated, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a veritable treasure trove of information for cooks of any skill level, but particularly those just starting out. Truly a must-have for the beginner home cook.
It’s amazing how much safer and more enjoyable home cooking becomes once you have a really good knife in your arsenal. The classic chef’s knife is the perfect place to start thanks to its versatility and comfortable in-hand feel, and German-made Wüsthof is consistently one of the finest blades on the market. Think of this one as an investment piece.
Much like having a great knife, a high-quality cutting board is essential for the serious home cook. Contributing to both efficiency during prep and overall food safety thanks to wood’s natural antimicrobial properties, a properly cared-for cutting board can last for years. This one is thick enough to avoid warping and the smooth grain of walnut wood helps protect knives from dulling prematurely.
A budget-friendly but immensely valuable gift for any beginning cook is a digital kitchen scale. Especially useful to bakers thanks to the accuracy in weighing ingredients versus scooping (“1.5 cups of flour” can vary greatly!), digital scales are also helpful for portioning everything from pasta to meat to produce.
Like the digital scale, an oven thermometer is an excellent gift for the burgeoning cook thanks to its inexpensive price point and high functionality. Built-in oven temperature indicators are not always accurate, which can lead to frustration with inconsistent cooking times and botched baking projects. A thermometer like this one allows easily monitoring of oven temp and the ability to keep an eye on the progress of roasting meat without having to open the oven every few minutes “just to check.”
For the Cook Who Loves Gadgets
You know who this gadget-y person—usually the same one who loves to get their hands on the latest electronics, or prides themselves on having just the right tool for every job. While we can’t guarantee they won’t already have some of these items, we can at least give you a few ideas to get started.
With its 9-in-1 functionality, an Instant Pot is the ultimate gift for the gadget-crazy home cook. We’re keen on the Duo Plus model, but if you’re stumped on which Instant Pot to choose, check out our recent article comparing each model here.
Immersion blenders are awesome for tackling a wide variety of tasks while taking up a minimal amount of storage space. They’re a great substitute (or total replacement, in the case of my own kitchen) for bulky, full-sized blenders and can even help to do the work of a food processor. This one comes with all the attachments you need to puree, whip, blend, and more.
Ok, so you’ll probably be serving up a few duplicates if you present this 29-piece set of utensils to your favorite tool-loving cook, but there’s nothing wrong with being prepared, right? This quality set includes an ultra-functional array of stainless steel and silicone tools, with everything from spatulas to a cheese knife to a tea strainer to a pair of tongs.
Everyone loves melty things. Cheese, chocolate, a rich broth…yes, please! Give the gift of fun and fondue with an aesthetically pleasing, easy-to-use electric fondue set. This Cuisinart model includes everything you need to create a cozy night of dipping and dunking.
The Soda Stream may not be the newest thing on the market, but its popularity has yet to subside. Probably because it’s easy, fun, and environmentally friendly, which makes it a great gift for the kitchen gadget enthusiast who isn’t already handcrafting their own sparkling water.
For the DIY Cook
A sourdough starter here, a jar of preserved lemons there, always saying something-or-other about a kombucha mother… This is the DIY home cook we’re referring to, the one who loves a good hands-on kitchen project.
I know, I know, in this age of craft brewing the last thing you want to hear about is yet another dude brewing his own beer on his balcony, but that’s why I’ve specified this high-end starter kit, to weed out the wannabes and give a leg-up to the passionate home brewers of tomorrow. Goose Island began as a craft brewpub and went big after selling to InBev in 2011, so there’s strong value behind this name and you can be sure the ingredients and materials in this kit are top-quality. Gift this to someone who will appreciate it and you’ll surely be in their good graces for 2018.
- The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World – $28.76
This James Beard award-winning book by fermentation expert, Sandor Katz, explores the history and process of various food and beverage fermentations around the world, along with providing detailed instructions on how to execute your own projects. It’s a great read and an amazing resource for anyone interested in the world of fermented foods.
Speaking of fermentation, this 100% organic kombucha starter kit is a great gift for the DIY health food enthusiast. It contains everything needed to brew kombucha at home, from the beginning culture to the 1-gallon brewing jar specially designed to withstand the fermentation process.
A friend of mine recently raved about how easy it was to make her own delicious ricotta and mozzarella cheeses at home. While I haven’t embarked upon that quest just yet, it’s certainly on my list. This kit supplies everything necessary to make mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese, paneer, or queso blanco in just an hour—and there’s enough ingredients to produce over 40 lbs of cheese. Nothing like a gift that keeps on giving!
The DIY cook in your life probably loves making things from scratch as often as possible, and I bet they’d love making their own pasta, too. Give the gift of homemade lasagna, fettuccine, and tagliolini with this top-notch pasta machine. Just mix up the dough, and the Atlas will roll and cut it to create glorious noodles every time.
For the Cook Who Has Everything
The hardest folks to buy for are always the ones who already seem to have everything that comes to mind as a practical gift. Here’s a few ideas for a unique (but relevant!) gift for your otherwise well-equipped home cook.
This nifty item is a rock of Himalayan pink salt and a specially designed stainless steel grater, both of which sit atop a wooden base. It’s practical—who doesn’t like fancy salt?—and it’s also nice to look at, which makes it a lovely display piece when its not in use. I have one on a shelf in my kitchen and it looks quite lovely.
There are subscription boxes for seemingly everything one can think of nowadays, and the food world is no exception. Try The World, however, is one of the originals and still going strong. Each month, the theme is a different country and the box contains local snacks, condiments, spices, and delicacies that are important to the food culture of that particularly country. It’s a fun way to sample your way around the globe and gain culinary inspiration for your own kitchen. As this is a subscription service, that price is indeed $39 per month, but you can gift a month or two of boxes and let the recipient decide whether to continue or not after that.
Books tend to be an excellent answer to the question of what to give the person who has everything, and cookbooks are generally a welcome addition to the shelves of any passionate home cook regardless of further needs. Kaukasis is the second book by author Olia Hercules (you may be familiar with her first, Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and Eastern Europe), and in addition to providing stunning recipes, the book is highly readable and features beautiful photographs not just of food, but of the landscapes and people that are integral to the culture of this region.
Another follow-up book from an amazing author and chef specializing in an increasingly popular style of cuisine amongst the western world, Sabrina Ghayour’s Feasts is a remarkable addition to her now-trio of books on Persian cookery. She began with Persiana, followed by Sirocco (both of which are wonderful!), and now Feasts expands on her wealth of knowledge. The book is a treat to read and the photos are lovely, making this the type of book to curl up with and read for pleasure as much as for inspiration.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a salt pig, check out my recent piece about them here, and then consider giving one as a gift to that hard-to-buy-for person. Salt is so essential in the cooking process that even if a home cook already has a salt pig, they’ll almost certainly welcome a second (or third!) for additional salt varieties or to leave one on the dining table rather than shuttling the same to and from the kitchen.
For the Traveling Cook
Travel is easily one of the best and most fun ways to experience the food of different cultures, so chances are strong that if you know an avid home cook, you also know a travel enthusiast. Here’s a few fun gift ideas for the cook who also likes to hit the road.
Now, there are tons of tour companies who offer excellent food and cooking tours in just about any city you can think of, so feel free to take this idea and run with it into google to find an array of additional options, but I’ve mentioned Urban Adventures here because they have a wide variety of tours in tons of cities all across the world and each is led by an authentic local resident. Food tours and cooking classes are an amazing way to explore a new city, learn more about local culture, and gain ideas for ways to spend the rest of your time in that destination. If your favorite home cook has an upcoming trip, consider giving them a gift certificate for a food tour or a specialized cooking class and they’ll almost certainly be delighted by your thoughtfulness.
Who doesn’t love the idea of a good cocktail on a plane? Unfortunately, most of the time those plane cocktails are either very expensive or very basic…womp womp. Gift this portable cocktail kit to your traveling foodie friend and up their in-flight beverage game considerably.
This super-portable coffee maker allows for on-the-go cups of your favorite filter coffee or espresso. It’s easy to clean, comes with a zippered nylon bag, and the person you gift it to will forever be in your debt for saving them from bad hotel room coffee on their future travels.
Cooks are usually also wine enthusiasts to some degree, right? So consider the gift of a wine event for your traveling foodie friend. LocalWineEvents.com has details on wine and food tastings and events all around the world. Prices obviously vary greatly when it comes to gourmet events and the wine industry as a whole, but it’s worth looking into if you’re looking for something unique for someone special.
Travel doesn’t always have to mean getting on an airplane, sometimes it can be as simple as visiting a local park. This comprehensive picnic set makes a wonderful gift, including everything from a blanket to wine glasses, plates and cutlery to a bottle opener. Give it your own special touch by adding a jar or two of preserves or unique condiments that’ll last through the winter and be ready for spring’s first picnic.
For Everyone Else!
Here’s a few more gift ideas for home cooks, just in case you haven’t spotted something you like so far…
A must for entertaining, a high-quality cocktail shaker set makes a great gift. This one comes in a sleek matte black finish and includes everything to make professional-style cocktails right at home. (Gift it with a preferred bottle of booze for extra brownie points.)
Ah, the underrated electric kettle. Such a useful tool in the kitchen yet so often overlooked by way of its simplicity. My own electric kettle is far more modest than this splendid KitchenAid model, but I use it constantly for making tea, boiling water for bullion or to pour over noodles, and for the occasional hot toddy. Yes, there are cheaper varieties available, but in the spirit of holidays and generosity and all those feel-good feelings, surely you’ll wish to spring for a nice, attractive kettle for your favorite home cook to unwrap on Christmas morning.
Not only does a mortar and pestle look chic sitting in a well-organized kitchen, it’s a wonderful tool for bringing authenticity to sauces, pastes, and spice blends. Leave the bulky food processor in the cabinet and make a batch of fresh pesto with one of these classic tools and you’ll taste (and smell) the difference right away. This is the sort of useful, thoughtful gift a home cook can really appreciate.
A cast iron skillet is one of those essential pieces of cookware that either everyone has, or everyone wants. If the home cook in your life doesn’t already have a beloved cast iron pan, consider this American-made Lodge to fill their void. It includes a tempered glass lid for added versatility, and the 12″ size is great for just about any application. Not sure cast iron is compatible with your intended recipient’s stovetop? Cast iron is equally great in the oven. Trust me, they’ll get plenty of use out of this one.
A lovely gift for bakers (or just anyone who likes pie and books, honestly), Art of the Pie is a masterpiece by Kate McDermott, who walks the reader through a multitude of pie crusts and fillings while her wit and humor making for an entertaining read along the way. Pair this with a rolling pin or measuring cups for added charm.
- If all else fails! Amazon Gift Card – $your choice
Look, folks can call out gift cards for being “impersonal” all they want, but I don’t think I could name a single person who wouldn’t be happy as hell to receive an Amazon gift card. Send it along with a cute little note about how you hope it’ll go to good use towards their next kitchen accessory to make your cookery intentions clear, and let them effectively choose their own gift. Easy, convenient, no qualms about likes or dislikes—everyone wins!