Essential Kitchen Gifts for the Amateur Chef
Everyone has that friend who loves to cook. (At least, everyone who’s lucky does.) Shopping for a chef is tricky. You want to support them, but you don’t want to come across like you’re angling for a meal—and you don’t want to buy things they don’t need! Here are some solid ideas for your favorite culinary fan.
For chefs looking to get into slightly more advanced things, a small culinary torch is a great idea. It’s useful for things like crème brûlée or certain types of pastries. Some people are even using them to add a little bit of gentle searing to the outside of sous vided meats. Is it necessary? Probably not. But it’s the fun, fancy kind of unnecessary.
Sous Vide Cookers
Sous vide is a great way to cook meat uniformly, all the way through, at the exact temperature you want. This unique combination of vacuum seal and water bath isn’t brand new, but it’s a relative novelty. Still, it seems to have staying power. We’ve taken an in-depth look before, but one of our favorites is a price-friendly pump option from CookTech. It’ll need something to act as a water bath, though. A water oven model may be more complete, but it’s also more expensive.
Everyone needs a good cutting board. There are lots of options to consider, including material pros and cons or overall quality. For the sake of cleanliness, durability, and knife protection, we recommend a bamboo set or a wooden Chef Remi board. Including a little mineral oil to help with maintenance would be a nice, thoughtful addition.
That One Goofy Kitchen Tool They Barely Admit They Want
Look, Alton Brown is 100% correct in his war on “unitaskers.” Most people don’t need half of the stuff they’ve put in their kitchen. With the modern trend towards Zen-like detachment to things, people seem to generally understand that. But everyone has that one tool that’s useless for 99% of people but is perfect for them. Maybe your friend really does make guacamole enough to justify an avocado saver. Or maybe they make pizza from scratch often enough that they really do need a pizza stone. The trick to this, of course, is that you’ll have to pay close attention to what your friend makes often and what their problems and frustrations are.
Quality Cooking Utensils
Anyone who isn’t a novice in the kitchen knows that cheap plastic spatulas and spoons just aren’t going to cut it. Metal utensils are durable and heat resistant, but they can also scratch the cooking surface of pots and pans, particularly those with nonstick coatings. A better choice would be wooden utensils like this olive wood set from Thirteen Chefs. They may seem a little pricey, but olive wood is particularly hard and durable without causing damage to cookware. It also has a high combustion temperature meaning that it can take quite a bit of heat.
A Good Knife
There are a lot of things to consider when knife shopping—weight, sharpness, durability, blade width, knuckle clearance, and more. An all-around favorite among critics recently is the hollow-edged chefs’ knife from Mac Knife. At the other end of the price spectrum (but still solid) is the Wüsthof Pro Cook’s Knife.
A good quality, nonstick pan never hurts to have around. One solid example is this 10-inch Cuisinart skillet, although All-Clad is also a great option. They’re not always as pricey as you might think. There are plenty of reviews and comparisons out there, but good things to look for in general are scratch resistance and good heat distribution.
This may sound odd, but if your favorite chef is a pro instead of just a hobbyist, socks are a perfect gift. Cooks spend a lot of time on their feet. They’re standing for just about their whole shift, and their shifts are super long. A good pair of comfortable socks is going to go a long way towards making their workday a little better. Our chef consultant prefers Gold Toe.
Electric Food Chopper
Of course, kitchen regulars know how to properly mince garlic or chop onions. But do they really want to? Help make the tedious tasks just a little bit easier by gifting an electric food chopper. With one, your favorite amateur chef can actually make 30-minute meals instead of “1 hour of prep plus 30 minutes of cooking” meals.
Slow cookers are great tools for cooking-inclined but chronically-busy people. We’ve talked before about slow cookers (and pressure cookers). They’re very convenient and span a wide range of affordability vs. pizzazz. Among the surprisingly affordable options is a 6-Quart cooker from Crock-Pot, but even if you grab something with more bells and whistles, the price is pretty reasonable.
Whether it’s cooking sherry, a little red wine for a beef burgundy, or just something to sip on while your food simmers, a lot of cooking enthusiasts have many uses for wine. Wine can be intimidating, for sure, so if you know much about wine, don’t be afraid to try something else. And if you’re shopping online, remember that restrictions on ordering alcohol on the internet vary from state to state.
Grater Mixing Bowls
Grater mixing bowls may seem a little niche, but our in-house cooking guru swears by them. Like many things on this list, it’s all about making things simpler. Since the lids integrate a grater, messes are kept to a minimum. Then, the bowls can be transferred straight to the fridge for storage.
A Home-Cooked Meal
Again, this is more for pro chefs than hobbyists, but it can apply all around. Just because somebody cooks doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy someone cooking for them. But they tend to get that experience less than the rest of us do. If you want to give your favorite cook a welcome reprieve, make them a meal. If you can’t cook, then find a way to treat them to a nice meal at a fantastic local restaurant…that they don’t work for.