If you're here, we're going to assume you're looking for the perfect gift for the home chef in your life. This is the friend or family member who brings at least three side dishes to every event, or has a list of restaurants you "absolutely need to try." They're an expert in all-things food, and they can be hard to shop for. Why? They likely already have everything they need. And cooks tend to be very particular about the tools they use in their kitchen.
- Allison Schaaf, Allison Schaaf is a chef, dietitian, and founder of PrepDish.com
- Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition
- Katie Simmons, Katie Simmons is a plant-based, whole-foods chef.
- Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, celebrity nutritionist, healthy cooking expert, and founder of Nutritious Life
- Sara Hauman, chef and former Bravo Top Chef contestant
- Stephen Chavez, chef-Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in Los Angeles
- Stephen Kalil, Executive Chef at Quorn Foods, a company that makes meat-free products.
Which is why we called upon on several experts in the culinary space to break down some of the most practical (but actually good!) gifts that all cooks can benefit from using and owning.
Best Kitchen Cookware Gifts
Silicone mats definitely deserve a spot in the kitchen—they’re incredibly useful and versatile, and can be used for both cooking and baking. They’re non-stick and allow you to cook a variety of foods without making a mess, says Stephen Chavez, chef and instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. This one from Food52 is also has the easiest clean up. Just toss it into the dishwasher and you’re good to go.
- Easy to clean and dishwasher-safe
- Can also be used as a prep surface
- Flexible, so need to be careful moving it around
Okay, the cook in your life likely already has a cast iron skillet. They probably have multiple. But that’s the thing—one can never have too many skillets, and Lodge has an affordable one that’s just as good as the luxe stuff. Recommended by Chavez, this Lodge skillet can really do it all, from sautéing and baking, to broiling and frying. “I think in terms of cookware, a good cast iron pan is super essential. I mean, nothing heats up as well. Nothing sears as well. Cast iron is great,” he tells us.
- Good heat retention
- Can be use on the stove, in the oven, on the grill
If your chef pal already has an air fryer, good for them. If not, it’s time to introduce them to one. And Drew Berrymore’s (from her cookware line) is worth adding to your kitchen. “Not only is this piece of equipment an excellent cooking device, it is a perfect example of design-thinking,” says Stephen Kalil, executive chef at Quorn Foods. “There are no nobs or dials, it has a sleek silhouette, and it comes in a variety of colors. It’s one kitchen appliance that you will be proud to keep visible on your counter.”
- Sleek design, multiple colors
- Easy to use
- 5 lb capacity
If you don’t love to cook (or don’t have the time) and still want to eat healthy, homemade meals, get yourself an Instant Pot—the speedy version of the crock pot. “The time saver isn’t just the cooking time but also the time you save with meal prep, defrosting time, and clean up. Just toss the pot in the dishwasher and its ready to go again tomorrow!” says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition in NYC.
- 7 functions in one
- 13 customizable programs
- Safety features including overheat protection
- Dishwasher-safe lid and inner pot
Best Kitchen Knives
A chef’s knife collection is probably their most prized thing, so if you’re shopping for a seasoned chef, it’s likely they don’t need additional knives (plus, chefs are very, very particular about their knives). However, a cook-in-training could totally benefit from a high-quality knife set they may not buy for themselves. “The set is the best knife set for home use and is reasonably priced and made from steel that will stay sharp and can take a beating from everyday use,” says chef and former Top Chef contestant, Sara Hauman. “The set includes three knives that are really all you need to tackle any kitchen task.”
- Set of three includes all your essential knives
- Japanese steel
- No covers or stand
“The right knife can save so much time during meal prep,” says chef and dietitian Allison Schaaf, founder of PrepDish.com. “A good-quality, sharp chef’s knife ensures speedy and more precise chopping.” She recommends the 7-inch Shun Santuko knife, which is handcrafted in Japan. It’s made with high carbon stainless steel, designed to hold a super sharp edge, and has a Pakkawood handle that can be used by right and left-handers.
- Super sharp
- Japanese stainless steel
- Slightly shoer than a standard chef’s knife
Another chef knife option, this 8-inch Victorinox chef’s knive has a stainless steel blade and an ergonomic, thermoplastic elastomer handle that won’t slip even when it gets wet. Schaaf recommends sharpening your knives every few months.
- Ergonomic, non-slip handle
- Stainless steel blade
- Some reviewers say the knife is light
Best Kitchen Storage Items
Containers might not come to mind as a kitchen gadget—but Schaaf says they’re essential for meal prep (she likes Glasslock containers). Chop your veggies and cook your grains ahead of time and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh for longer and use in recipes later. They’re also great for sauces, soups, and stews. Get the most out of your leftovers by transferring the containers from fridge to freezer.
- Oven- and microwave-safe
- Large set to store
Canning jars are handy whether you’re canning, pickling, or just storing food in the fridge or pantry. BPA-free and with tight lids, these glass Ball Mason jars will keep your leftovers fresh. Bonus— they make attractive and easy drinking glasses, too.
- Includes four 32 oz. jars and lids
- Lids seal up to 18 months
- Hard to stack
Made of silicone, these stasher bags are an easy alternative to all those single-use plastic bags crowding up your drawers. They have a pinch seal to keep contents secure and come in various sizes (snack, sandwich, pocket, 1/2 gallon, and in sets). They’re also extremely versatile, since they’re stovetop-, dishwasher-, freezer-, sous vide-, and microwave-friendly.
- Can be used to hold a variety of dry and wet food
- Can stain over time
Best Kitchen Accessories
When preparing a meal that requires you to drain sauces, a regular colander is not going to do the trick. Instead, Chavez recommends getting a strainer, like this one from New Star Food Service. Its fine mesh allows you to separate tiny food particles, like the pulp from your orange juice and the minced vegetables from your gravy.
- Easy to clean
- Good for straining a lot of different liquids
- Relatively big in size
- Cone shape is harder to store
If you really want to make a cook jump for joy, consider getting them a proper peeler (because the one they have is likely dull from being used so many times). Though small, a peeler can be a huge time-saver in the kitchen.”The majority of people, especially for the holidays, just use the wrong peeler and they make work so much more difficult for themselves,” Chavez says. Many people naturally stick to a swivel peeler, which has a narrow and straight handle. But a Y-peeler has a wider handle that allows to cut your food in a more precise manner.
- Includes three different sizes
- Carbon steel blades
- Some reviewers say the blades rust easily
Another gadget that can make a difference in a cook’s life, is a food scale. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned chef, having an efficient (and more precise) way to measure quantities of food is crucial to the cooking process. “In professional cooking we really don’t use cups and teaspoons,” Chavez says. “We weigh everything. That way it’s more accurate. Plus, you can scale up and down your recipes.” And this OXO scale is a chef-favorite. “So a scale is really great, but the OXO brand is really good,” Chavez says. “You can put a big bowl on there because the little display pulls out. It’s a great, great tool. I love it.”
- Pull out display
- Thin profile
- Easy to read display
- Requires batteries (one set is included)
For Adrian De Leon, chef and culinary director at Tarbell’s restaurant in Phoenix, AZ., it’s all about having a food mill in your cooking arsenal. It’s a type of device that finely purées, refines and strains ingredients. “[It’s] a time-saving tool that helps home and professional chefs prepare a range of recipes,” he tells us. Ask any chef (literally any chef) and they will very likely tell you that their go-to brand for anything is All-Clad. And even if your giftee has a food mill, you’d be making their lives by giving them one by All-Clad.
- Works with 8″–12″ pots, pans, and bowls
- Ergonomic ball on handle
When it comes to underrated kitchen gadgets, a food dehydrator is a tool that Chavez swears by. This one from Hamilton Beach comes with five stackable drying trays and a 48-hour timer. You can use it to dehydrate some of your fave fruits, veggies and even jerky.
- 5 stackable trays
- 48 timer with auto-shut off
- Continuous airflow
The easiest and fastest way to know whether or not your meat is done (without cutting into it) is by using a thermometer. But not just any thermometer: A probe thermometer like this one from Taylor Precision Products is the one you should get. With it, you can check the status of your meal without ever removing it from the oven, thanks to the probe that sticks inside the meat.
- Programmable and timer alarm
- Magnetized back
- Measures temperatures from 32°F–392°F
- Some reviewers say the probes aren’t durable
Another small gadget to make life easier in the kitchen (and another tool one can never have too many of) is a Microplane zester grater. It has razor-sharp edges that makes grating parmesan cheese, or chocolate flakes a breeze.
- Comfortable grip
- Can zest and grate hard cheese
- Comes with a protective cover
- Relatively large to store
If your home chef really want to beef up their cooking skills, and learn tried-and-true recipes, The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook is the way to go, Chavez says. It’s great for beginners who want to know the ins and outs of classic meals.
- Great for beginners
- Tested recipes
- Includes shopping guide
- Bulky to store
Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, founder and CEO of Nutritious Life, says she uses her blender almost every morning to make smoothies for herself and her kids. “It’s the one gadget I always keep out on my counter. It’s so versatile!” she says.
This professional-grade Vitamix blender has hardened stainless steel blades and 10 variable speeds to help you heat, chop, grind, blend, emulsify, and more with just a press of a button. And when you’re done using it, add a drop of dish soap and warm water and the blender will clean itself in 30–60 seconds.
- 10 different speeds
- Self-cleaning function
- 48-ounce container
Here’s an easy way to save yourself $4 (or more) every day: Make your morning caffeine at home. Zeitlin says her Aerolatte milk frother is the single most-used item in her kitchen. It’s obviously ideal for frothing the milk in lattes and cappuccinos—but it’s also perfect for matcha tea or lattes. “The electric whisk blends the matcha powder so perfectly that I never have any clumps. Using the traditional wooden whisk took more time and was less consistent with its blend-ability,” she says.
- Fast and easy to use
- Includes batteries
- Doesn’t heat milk
Love veggie noodles? A spiralizer is an easy way to make them at home—ensuring a lower price and fresh vegetables of your choice. Zeitlin preps zucchini and sweet potato noodles on Sunday night to use as high-fiber bases for protein mains like grilled chicken, salmon, or turkey meatballs with tomato sauce. With a little prep work, dinner’s ready in 10 minutes or less during the work week.
This spiralizer includes six different blades (chipper, shredder, straight, wavy, thicker straight, and angel hair) to give you plenty of options for all your meals.
- Includes six blades
- Dishwasher-safe, includes cleaning brush
- Easy to assemble
- Can be messy
Chopping always seems like an unending chore in the kitchen. A food processor can make prep work a little easier. Tlant-based, whole-foods chef Katie Simmons says she uses her Breville at least five times a week. “It’s worth the extra cost to get a brand that lasts for a long time,” she says.
The Breville food processor has a 12-cup capacity and a pulse option to let you chop, mix, and puree with ease.
- 12-cup capacity
- Multiple chute options
- Adjustable slicer
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