A kitchen gift guide for the cooks in your life
A reader had requested “tools of the trade” posts a while back, and I thought that I’d provide a list of some of my favorite kitchen tools/resources in the form of a Gift Guide for the Cooks in Your Life. There’s a huge range here, from stocking stuffers to the extravagant.
Everything in this guide is something I use personally and wholeheartedly endorse, and some items I received as gifts myself. They’re loosely grouped together, and I’ve tried to organize each category by least expensive to pricier (there’s nothing here that’s extravagant. You don’t need me to tell you that a Kitchen Aid is a fabulous gift).
Make the effort to support your local businesses where you can
While I’ve provided links to make things easier (and, if I’m being honest, how I obtained much of what I’m recommending, especially in the last months), I absolutely encourage you to seek these out at your local kitchen store. I marked where a link was not an affiliate link, as most of these are. Where items are widely available, I’ve simply guided you to your local kitchen store. Our local businesses need us.
If you have ideas for gifts for cooks, add them in the comments! Happy gifting!
Gift Guide for the Cooks in Your Life
Reduce single-use waste
Ball mason jars
Ball mason jars hold up. They can take heat and cold, and they’re durable enough to use as lunch containers for commutes. Whip up a vinaigrette in seconds using a mason jar. Or serve up cocktail (do the whipper snappers still do this? I can’t keep up).
And, they’re pretty, at least I think so. You can use them for canning, obviously, but I use them for food storage and larger jars to hold pantry items (I like to include chalkboard labels, because sometimes I am that person).
I find the best deals for these by going to the grocery store. Do note that there are imitators out there that are not as good.
While it does not replace all plastic wrap, reusable beeswax wrap can replace a lot of it. Cover bowls and wrap fruit and cheeses. Don’t use it for meat.
Beeswax wrap is widely available, and often in adorable patterns at your local kitchen store. Buy it there.
Plastic baggies have a purpose, and I still use them when sanitation is an issue. However, I use far, far fewer of plastic baggies because I’ve been using silicone bags for everything else for the last few years. They’re easy to wash, if a bit of a pain to dry and last about a year with reasonable use (you’ll probably lose some along the way).
Stasher is a popular brand, but I find the closure to be a pain to use and can get very expensive if you’re planning on using them to replace your plastic baggies. I get this set instead.
Reusable Produce Bags
I’m Instacarting my groceries most of the time these days, but I bring reusable produce bags to the farmer’s market and to the supermarket when I do go. They are machine washable (don’t put them in the dryer) and last. They keep produce better than plastic, too.
These are widely available and you can get cute ones at your local kitchen store.
Swedish Dish Cloths
Replace sponges and paper towels (for non-food uses) with Swedish dish cloths. These durable cloths last and last, and are machine washable. I use them for dishes and for wiping down counters (one for each task). They come in all kinds of designs to suit anyone in your life.
These are also widely available in giftable packaging. Support your local shop for these.
Utensils and such
Le Creuset spatulas (especially the spoon spatula)
I have had a set of Le Creuset silicone spatulas that have lasted for nearly twenty years, and they are the ultimate workhorses. My medium spoon spatula is an almost daily companion, withstanding heat on the stove as well as making for a good spoon/spatula. My other spatulas have also stood the test of time.
Le Creuset changed the build of the spatulas in recent years, and the heads of the spatulas are no longer removeable (a regrettable change, in my view, as this made them much easier to clean and maintain). However, they remain a gold standard of versatility in my view. I have large model with the new design that gets frequent use.
There’s no end to the usage of wooden spoons. Quality ones will last forever, and they make beautiful gifts. I have a large one from Le Creuset, and smaller homemade ones that I picked up from the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s fair ages ago.
You can find great wooden spoons at your local kitchen store. Wrap them up with a tea towel or maybe a cookie cutter or two, and you’ll have a winner of a gift.
I use tongs constantly. They aren’t particularly flashy, but they will help create flashy dishes. If the cook in your life does not have tongs, this is a perfect stocking stuffer.
These are widely available. Pick these up at your local kitchen store.
Wire whisks are perfect for baking tasks, but they are not perfect for a lot of cookware, including mine. Silicone whisks to the rescue. This set of three whisks has held up well thus far, including whisking sauces on the stove. The smaller one is handy for whipping small amounts of cream, for say, apple crisp or chocolate cake.
You know what’s a total pain in the bum? Skimming fat off of a braise before making the sauce. You know what makes this chore a breeze? A fat separator. Not much to look at, but the cook in your life will thank you, perhaps with a lovely meal.
Mis en place
Duralex prep bowls
Use these durable bowls to get everything ready so that you have what you need when you need it. Not only will these get tons of use, they also stack, meaning that when they aren’t in use, they don’t take up a lot of room. Crate and Barrel has these open stock, meaning that you can mix and match a set (these are not affiliate links).
Liquid Measuring Cups
For everyday home cooking, a 4-cup and 1-cup glass liquid measuring cup set will more than suffice. I thought I had Pyrex for both, but it turns out that my 4-cup is Anchor Hocking. I don’t even remember when/where I bought them.
In looking at Pyrex 4-cup measuring cups, I don’t like how wide it is (I see messes in adding stock to soup), so I’m recommending an Anchor Hocking set that includes a 2-cup as well (wouldn’t hurt).
An important note about using these—take care with huge temperature shifts. They are not meant to handle them and will shatter.
IKEA Wooden Cutting Boards
IKEA makes decent, inexpensive, wooden cutting boards, perfect for everyday prep and attractive too. I only just needed to replace one, and if I’d been able to get myself to an IKEA, I definitely would have bought another one. The little Proppmätt chopping board, in addition to its practical uses, makes for a cute serving board. (These are not affiliate links.)
Pewter measuring spoons
My pewter measuring cups and spoons set is no longer on the market, but you can find similar measuring spoons on Etsy.
These are fanciful, and you can find practical and attractive measuring spoons and cups for dry ingredients for less if budget is a concern.
Cooking and baking workhorses
For cooking and bakeware sets, I would very much ask your cook. However, these are useful additions to almost every cook’s toolset.
From oven to table, ramekins are incredibly useful, especially for those cooking smaller portions. I use mine for everything from baking apple crips or individual potato gratins to serving dips and snacks. Crate and Barrel sells these individually, and they’re good quality.
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
I love Le Creuset cookware. I have used my set for decades. But you want to know what? As pretty as their frying pans are, they do not hold a candle to my Lodge cast iron skillet when it comes to getting a great sear. Not only that, but it costs so much less.
Bring on the heat—thermometers and trivets
ThermoWorks DOT meat thermometer
I took this suggestion from Sam Sifton of the New York Times, and I’m telling you that he’s write. It’s easy to use. Set the temperature, stick the probe in the meat, and the alarm goes off when it’s ready (obviously check things, but this is pretty gosh darn foolproof). The DOT is cute, available in many colors, and magnetic, which comes in handy in a tiny kitchen.
I use my very cute silicone trivet from ThermoWorks every day to hold my pour over coffee pot. The trivet performs double-duty, protecting my table from heat and my coffee pot from accidental breakage. It’s bright green, which makes me happy, and it comes in a gagillion other colors to please the cooks in your life.
Cute and Gifty
Vintage Tea Towels
My mom collects tea towels, especially vintage ones. She found a fabulous one from the year I was born that’s a glorious 70s wonder and gave it to me. That might not be your cook’s cup of tea, but vintage tea towels in good shape can make a thoughtful gift. Match them to your cooks décor and taste. Etsy has tons! Maybe wrap it around some homemade baked goods or give it with tea or coffee!
I love my little red salt pig, but, alas, it’s no longer in production. However, you can easily find these at kitchen stores and pottery shops. Give it with box of flaky sea salt.
Vintage mixing bowls
A vintage mixing bowl makes a great gift for those with colorful kitchens. Check out eBay and Etsy for these.
For cookbooks I’ve cited as part of the blog that remain in print, check out the Cookbook Shelf on the Eat page. Here are a couple of magazines and recipe services that I subscribe to and love (these are not affiliate links).
- Bon Appétit: Great recipes and all the latest on the world of food (US focused)
- Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street: Boston’s own contribution to the food world, Milk Street has great recipes and so much more.
- New York Times Cooking: There are some stellar recipes on this subscription site. If you need inspiration, you’ll find it here.
Happy gifting! What are your favorite gifts to give cooks? Let me know in the comments!