A gift guide for the home chef is really just a gift guide for everyone. Even the people in your life with the biggest takeout bills need a good coffee maker, and those whose home bars rival your local watering hole could probably use some extra help with their spice drawer. As long as they take pleasure in a good meal and a well-crafted drink, you’ll find something here.
Yes, there’s cookware, of the beautiful and useful variety, as well as some of our favorite new appliances, some of which you’ll be tempted to wrap up for yourself (we certainly won’t tell). There are also ideas for every gift-giving scenario you’ve got on your list. Impressive present for under the tree? Done. The perfect package to send to a colleague (that’s not too expensive)? We found it. And those impossible Secret Santa exchanges? It’s all in here.
Our kitchens and dining tables have continued to be places of refuge during this year, one that maybe wasn’t as much of a reprieve as many expected. From a better can of olive oil to a special whiskey to our favorite cast-iron skillet, these gifts will help reinforce that culinary sanctuary.
Smithey No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet
We’ve been testing cast-iron skillets all year, and we think this pan from Smithey is the best model for most people. The 12-inch size can hold a lot of food but isn’t unwieldy even if you’re only cooking for one or two; the smooth, polished finish actually lives up to the “naturally nonstick” promise, where other new cast-iron brands don’t; it’s deep enough to fry things in, making it a multifaceted kitchen workhorse; and while it’s pricey it’s not prohibitive, especially if you use it daily, which we do.
Beast Blender and Hydration System
Can a blender be sexy? That’s a question we didn’t know the answer to until the Beast made its arrival this year. While this appliance is especially good for the fitness crowd, as you can easily whip up a smoothie and then take it to go in the same container you blended it in, it’s also versatile enough to be the one blender in your kitchen. This specific kit includes multiple blending vessels, to-go accessories and an infusion chamber for making flavored water.
Café Specialty Drip Coffeemaker
In recent years, a lot of attention has been paid to specialty coffeemakers: the pour-over, the French press, the Chemex. With the Café, you get a 10-cup brewer that offers all the specificity a coffee snob could ask for (including brew strength and temperature) with all the ease someone who grew up with Folgers could want (you can pick from four simple brewing modes). Plus, it’s pretty enough to leave on the counter all day long.
Gastro Obscura by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras
Atlas Obscura, the travel site that has managed to catalog the wonders of the world that still feel exciting in the age of internet ubiquity, added a food offshoot in 2017, Gastro Obscura. Now, a book has been cooked up offering a different perspective than your normal culinary guidebooks. This isn’t necessarily about the best places to eat around the world, but rather a look into the profound diversity of something we often take for granted, from coffee in a Victorian-era urinal to the spiced cannabis milk served during India’s Holi festival.
Cascatelli Pasta by Sporkful
What do you get someone who has seemingly eaten everything? A pasta that was only invented this year. Cascatelli, Italian for “waterfalls,” is a brand new pasta shape designed by Dan Pashman of the James Beard Award-winning podcast The Sporkful. It’s been a tremendous hit so far, which means you’ll want to order a box now if you want it in time for the holidays. Actually, better make it two.
Fat Gold Olive Oil
Make sure to include a note when you gift this can of California olive oil: Do not use for cooking. When you cook with olive oil, you lose all the flavor complexity. So a handcrafted jug like this should only be used for finishing, whether it’s in a salad dressing, drizzled on top of meat or roasted vegetables, or simply for dunking their homemade bread in.
Diaspora Co. Full Flavor Makeover
They’ve done sourdough, canned salsa and brewed beer, but if your recipient has yet to venture beyond the spice aisle of their neighborhood big-box grocer, change their entire worldview with this collection from Diaspora Co. The young company sources single-origin spices from small farms in India and Sri Lanka, with this beginner pack including nine of the best sellers, from coriander to whole nutmeg. Their dinners are about to get a whole lot more flavorful.
Hedley & Bennett Essential Apron
The most underappreciated tool in a home kitchen is the apron. Hedley & Bennett offers some of the best in the business, thanks to design help from actual chefs, and they’ve got all types of styles, from heavyweight waxed canvas to a new collab with the Grateful Dead. This Denver style is your best bet, though, as it has unisex appeal, will look good no matter what you happen to be wearing that day, and can easily be tossed in the wash when the grease splatter gets a little out of control.
Becoming Trader Joe by Joe Coulombe
For that one person in your life who is obsessed with Trader Joe’s (we all have them), there’s this surprisingly vibrant memoir from the chain’s founder, Joe Coulombe, who passed away last year. It’s like the best episode of NPR’s How I Built This podcast in book form, especially insightful for the entrepreneurial folks in your life, but they don’t need to be starting their own business to appreciate this account of one of the biggest surprise successes.
Benchmade Station Knife
We took a look at Benchmade’s new cutlery earlier this year, and while there are a number of kitchen knives to consider, the one we found most intriguing is the Station Knife. The width of a chef’s knife with the precision of a paring knife, the Station may end up being the blade they reach for most often. Spring for the CPM-154 stainless steel which is tougher and harder to chip.
Levain Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie Gift Boxes
Here’s the situation: You need to send a gift to someone’s office (real or home office). Maybe it’s a friend, maybe it’s a work colleague. You want something thoughtful, but not over the top. Enter: Cookie gift boxes from NYC institution Levain. Yes, they do offer freezer aisle boxes in grocery stores now, but there’s nothing that compares to these baked-to-order monsters. You could get a variety pack, but there’s a reason the chocolate chip walnut is the best-selling flavor.
Waterford Aras Double Old Fashioned Glasses
This set of two double Old Fashioned glasses from Waterford’s Short Stories Collection features the Aras design, “a vertical cut representing the striking architecture of the turrets seen in Ireland’s many beautiful castles.” Don’t let them drink that good whiskey out of a second-rate tumbler.
Food52 x Dansk Kobenstyle Saucepan
Instead of hopping on the latest cookware trend, get them this 2-quart saucepan from Food52 and Dansk, a home brand that champions mid-century Scandinavian design. This particular piece is enameled carbon steel with a top that doubles as a trivet for serving, a wood handle that stays cool while cooking, and a range of bright colors that’ll add some levity to mid-winter meals.
The Japanese Art of the Cocktail by Masahiro Urushido
Possibly the best photographed cocktail book of the year, this tome offers a glimpse into the stories behind the drinks served at Masahiro Urushido’s NYC bar Katana Kitten. Plus, you’ll really want to learn how to make a Hinoki Martini.
The Morning Dram Starter Kit
Coffee beans for the spirits drinker, via the owner of NYC staples Fine & Rare and The Flatiron Room. These aren’t alcoholic, but the beans here (from Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico) are barrel-aged and certainly pick up some unique notes. The Starter Kit will get one bag of bourbon barrel-aged beans, one rye-aged bag, a house blend (not barrel-aged), a stainless steel dripper, enamel camp mug and a portable hand grinder. Or you can just buy the beans separately.
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Tonic Trio
Three 8 oz. bottles of tonic that pair nicely not just with gin and vodka, but also tequila and dark spirits. Classic, Elderflower and Extra Bitter flavors — once you use these (you provide the booze and some soda water), you’ll never go back to supermarket plastic tonic bottles.
Yeti Rambler Colster
Vacuum-insulated, no-sweat, stainless-steel koozies that’ll keep your beer at an ideal temp. This is the perfect type of gift, something that may seem not worth the expense (especially when you’ve got a drawer full of free promotional coozies), but once you buy it for them, they’ll never again reach for a cold one without it.
Marcellin Cocktail Smoking and Infusion Kit
A $70 cocktail smoking kit — most are two-to-three times that price — which proves you can accomplish extravagant smoky cocktails with ease. You should spring for the $95 option which includes wood chips, but that’s not the only ingredient to torch; you can use cinnamon, herbs, anise or even lemon peels, as our in-depth review taught us.
Speed Rack and Shaker & Spoon Collection
A collection of bartender-crafted kits — each kit will make about four drinks — that raise proceeds for breast cancer research and care via The Pink Agenda. We’re particularly excited about the Como la Mujer Kit by Ana Cabrera Marquez, which somehow makes Scotch into a fruity sipper.
Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series FAE-02 Whiskey
You can really pick up any of the Wood Finish Series from Maker’s and enjoy it, but each one brings out some unique flavor profiles. The FAE here stands for fatty acid esters, and this edition is all about texture. The cask-strength release is full-bodied and mouth-coating, and it also hits similar sweet caramel notes as a prior Maker’s Mark release in this series from 2020.
DAOU Soul of a Lion 2018
Aged for 22 months in custom French oak barrels, this Paso Robles vineyard utilizes both classic wine-making techniques and cutting-edge tech to produce the finest, most balanced California-based, Bordeaux-style red blend.
Optimist Botanicals Three Pack
Booze-free spirits are having a moment. Just launched, these are alcohol-free botanical spirits (crafted by a master distiller) inspired by their Southern California origins. Serve with tonic and club soda, the three flavors here (bright, fresh and smokey) are gentle but flavorful.
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