Whether you’re shopping for a budding chef or a seasoned gourmand, this guide will help you select the perfect gift!
I’m seriously so excited about this post that I can hardly contain myself!
Ever since I started this blog my friends and family have come to me for advice. Most of the time they are looking for advice about things I really can’t help them with, like Portland hipster restaurant recommendations and sourdough bread starters.
Every once in a while someone asks for help when picking out a gift for a fellow food lover. It’s a dangerous question to ask me, seeing as I have about 50 million kitchen gadgets/appliances/tools in my house and am very strongly opinionated about every single one of them.
To avoid driving my friends completely insane, I thought it would be prudent to put my advice and ideas here on the blog where you all can peruse them at will. These ideas could be used any time of year for birthdays, Valentine’s day, anniversaries… *hint hint*….etc.
When I give gift-buying advice I always like to ask about the skill and interest level of the recipient.
Are they just starting out in the kitchen and need to build up their essentials?
Are they so comfortable in the kitchen that you can’t think of a single thing they could possibly need?
Do they want to learn to cook ethnic recipes but lack the proper tools?
Fear not, my friends. I’ve broken up this guide into three sections to help you find just what you are looking for. In each section I’ve included 6 gift ideas with nifty pictures and links to purchase the goods. For the products that I own and love, I’ve used affiliate links because I’m awesome like that.
Gifts for the Aspiring Chef
(aka “the noob who has nothing”)
1. Wüsthof CLASSIC IKON 8-inch Hollow Edge Cook’s Knife
To this day I maintain that the single best kitchen investment I ever made was my set of Wüsthof knives. I am obsessed with their CLASSIC IKON line which goes with absolutely any decor. This is obviously an important factor for knife selection, right?
Okay, I’m kidding. But seriously, they are beautiful. And durable. And sharper than all heck. This line’s Hollow Edge Cook’s Knife is a great all-around knife for slicing, dicing, chopping, and looking like a bad-ass.
2. Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
I use cast iron more than I use any other type of pot or pan in my kitchen. For frying and sauteeing I usually stick to my regular pan, but for braising, roasting, simmering, and just about everything from boiling pasta to baking bread, I use my enameled cast iron Dutch oven.
Cast iron retains heat like a boss, and it also distributes heat evenly across the surface of the pot or pan. Purchasing a Dutch oven that has enameled cast iron means you can PUT IT IN THE DISHWASHER. Heck to the YES.
You can shell out for a high end Le Creuset (it’s creepy how much I love mine), but you can also get a great deal on a solid piece of cookware just by shopping around a bit. I use and love both Lodge brand and Martha Stewart’s line of Dutch ovens and have never had a problem with them.
3. Aerogarden Indoor Herb Garden
So I finally accepted that I have a black thumb and got one of these Aerogardens. I love that it brings so much fresh greenery into my kitchen, and I can’t get over how awesome it is to have fresh herbs at my fingertips every day of the week. I don’t have to remember to pick up basil, dill, or parsley at the store anymore!
4. Extra Large Wooden Cutting Board
Just as important as having great knives is having the proper cutting board to prep your food. I prefer using wooden cutting boards because they are solid, naturally anti-microbial, and don’t damage my knife blades. I love this oversize bamboo version; it’s made from renewable materials and is surprisingly affordable!
5. Cast Iron Frying Pan
Alright, I already preached to you about the benefits of cooking with cast iron, so just trust me when I say that EVERYONE needs one of these pans. I even take mine camping!
6. America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook
Truly, this book is my ultimate reference guide in the kitchen. Whenever I need to read up on a new method or refresh my memory on a particular technique, this is the book I turn to. It has earned 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon, which should be enough to tell you that people love it. Gift this book to a foodie!
Gifts for the Gourmand
(aka “the chef who has everything”)
1. Blendtec Designer 725 + Twister Jar
This is one of those appliances that takes your kitchen from zero to awesome in 5 seconds flat. We just got this Blendtec Designer 725 and now I feel like I am living in an episode of The Jetsons. We went out for the husband’s birthday the other night and he was showing pictures of it to his buddies. It has a TOUCH SCREEN. Enough said, right?
If you aren’t familiar with the awesomeness of Blendtec you should check out their Youtube channel and watch the “Will it Blend?” videos. Hilarious, I tell you.
Awesomely, they are having a special promotion right now for the holidays where you can get some screaming good deals. Go on and check it out. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. You also have to check out the awesome Twister Jar – you spin it around while the blender is operating and it keeps the contents from sticking to the sides where they won’t get incorporated. It’s a necessary thing in your life, trust me.
I use my Blendtec not only as a blender, but also as a food processor and dough kneader. I seriously love it.
2. Sur la Table Cooking Classes
Seriously, anyone who loves to spend time in the kitchen would love a gift certificate to take a cooking class at Sur la Table. Besides that fact that Sur la Table is pretty much HEAVEN ON EARTH and the one store that I would like to live inside of, their cooking classes are absurdly helpful and taught by real professionals.
All of the recipes they teach in the classes are developed, tested, and approved by Sur la Table so you know that the quality of each class is going to be top notch. Go check out their locations and class schedules on their website.
3. KitchenAid Stand Mixer Pasta Attachment
Confession: I don’t even have one of these. Sad, right? I’ve always wanted one but I’m fearful of becoming a hardcore carb junkie and spending the rest of my life making and eating pasta. This is the same reason why I have never purchased their ice cream maker attachment.
Even though I haven’t yet purchased the pasta attachment, I (and the majority of other foodies I know) covet it in the biblical sense. A pretty serious no-no, which means I (and you) should probably just go ahead and buy one.
4. Sansaire Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
Do you believe in magic? (<– Yikes, you’re probably going to have that song stuck in your head all day now. Sorry.)
I can’t even begin to explain how much this machine will change your life. If you’re not familiar with the sous vide method, it basically means sealing food air-tight and submerging in temperature controlled water until it is cooked to perfection. Sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does.
You set the Sansiare Sous Vide circulator to maintain the internal temperature which indicates doneness for a particular food (for example, chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit) and it evenly cooks the item to the perfect temperature. No over-cooking, no under-cooking, no dried out meat, no burnt outside and raw inside… you get my point, right?
You just stick this handy gadget in a container full of water (it doesn’t even have to be on a stove, you can cook in a cooler on your kitchen floor if you want!), set the temperature, and come back when the food is done. I love mine for cooking steaks to a perfect medium-rare, or for making sure I don’t overcook a delicate fish fillet (which I almost always do if I don’t cook it sous vide).
5. Gourmet Salts & Spices
Using high-quality salts and spices can make all the difference in a recipe. All of the spices I use come from either Simply Organic or Frontier Natural Coop. I highly recommend browsing their online catalogs for inspiration and ideas!
Here are a few of my favorite spices: Garam Masala, Herbes de Provence, and Ground Ginger Root. I’m also obsessed with this Yakima Applewood Smoked Sea Salt – it makes everything taste like it came right off the smoker!
6. The Flavor Bible Cookbook
I’d guesstimate that about 95% of foodies are also secret cookbook hoarders. I even made sure to design a special place for my cookbooks when we planned the kitchen remodel at the new house. It’s kind of a problem.
The Flavor Bible is perfect for the gourmand in your life because it goes beyond simply providing recipes; this is a cookbook which will help you create your own unique recipes and give you a deeper understanding of ingredients. Just go check out all the positive reviews on Amazon. Foodies LOVE this book.
Gifts for the Ethnic Food Junkie
(aka, “me”… and I’m sure some other people, right?)
1. Tortilla Press
This is such a great gadget. I love making tortillas from scratch; it is so much easier than you would think! Here’s my recipe if you’re interested: Easy Homemade Tortillas. Owning a tortilla press takes the hassle out of making homemade tortillas – plus it’s super fun to use!
What the heck is a tagine, right? In case you don’t know, a tagine is a piece of cookware used in North African cuisine to self-baste food as it cooks. If you’ve ever eaten at a Moroccan restaurant, your food was likely cooked in a tagine. You can find many beautiful hand-painted clay tagines, but my favorites are from Le Souk.
3. Spaetzle Maker
I think we can all agree that German food is amazing. I never knew how easy it was to make Spaetzle until I purchased this cheap little gadget. Spaetzle goes with just about anything (it’s like tiny little pieces of pasta), and the recipe can be easily halved or doubled to make as much as you need.
I love to make Spaetzle when I’m cooking venison or to serve as a bed for braised beef in a hearty sauce. From stove-top to table in just minutes, you can’t beat the ease and convenience of Spaetzle!
There are many different opinions out there on picking out a wok – I’d say just as many as picking out any other type of cookware. Do you go with stainless, aluminum, carbon steel, cast-iron, or non-stick? What about electric vs. conventional?
I’m not here to write a book about picking out cookware, but I can tell you that I use a non-stick, conventional wok (meaning, you use it on the stove rather than plugging it in and using it as a separate appliance). I like using nonstick cookware because it helps me limit the amount of oil in my diet. If you’re absolutely against purchasing non-stick, I’d go with my other favorite option which is cast iron.
Woks are useful in Thai cooking because the extra heated surface area is ideal for making stir-fries. You’ll want to get it screamin’ hot, add oil, then practically sear your stir-fry ingredients. I use my wok when making curries, too, because I love the angled sides which give me plenty of room for saucy goodness. Check out my recipes for Thai Green Curry with Eggplant and Peanut Panang Beef Curry for some delicious inspiration.
5. Mortar and Pestle
When the Husband and I were in Bangkok, we spent a day walking through Chinatown (weird, right?) and I bought a beautiful cork mortar and pestle. I still have it sitting up on my shelf because I think it’s pretty and it reminds me of our trip, but it’s rather impractical for actually grinding something up.
In my experience, marble is the material of choice for a mortar and pestle as wood is just too soft and porous. I love this dark grey marble set! I use my mortar and pestle for grinding up peppercorns, making garlic paste, and bruising lemongrass.
6. Pok Pok (the cookbook)
This book sits in a place of honor in my kitchen. Maybe I’m biased because Andy Ricker opened his first restaurant just minutes from where I live, but I think he’s a freakin’ genius when it comes to Thai food. If you loved one enjoys Thai food as much as most Portlanders, pick them up a copy of this book.
Be forewarned… some of the recipes are kind of insane. As in, good luck finding the ingredients and have fun spending all day working on one recipe type of insane. Ain’t nobody got time for that! But hey, some people are into that kind of thing.
Alright, ladies and gents, that about wraps it up! I hope these ideas inspired your gift shopping process; I know that any foodie in your life will just LOVE any and all of these presents!