Holiday Gift Guide for the Kitchen

Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving full of good food, family and friends!

Now that my favorite holiday has passed we can turn our attention to the next one that is rapidly approaching….Christmas!  If you have a special someone who’s into cooking, or trying to get more into cooking, then read on for my favorite kitchen tools and gadgets!  These are some of my favorite products that I use all the time and would definitely recommend having in any kitchen.

I’m assuming most people will have the basics:Holiday Gift Guide for the Kitchen (A Seat at the Table)

Mixing bowls that can double as serving bowls if needed.  Nested, multiple sizes, and light enough that they’re easy to hold when full, are my requirements.  I also usually avoid metal ones because they transfer heat too easily.

Measuring spoons and cups, I like these since their funky shapes fit into containers better than just regular round ones.

Good knives:  Chef’s knife and a pairing knife.  These are the two knives I use for everything.  Well and a serrated knife for bread.  Everything else I do in the kitchen can be done with a good chef’s knife and a good pairing knife.  I got both of these as gifts and they’ve been absolutely amazing (thanks, Chris!).  I get that it’s an investment, but you’re going to be using them pretty much everyday, so get good ones.  I wouldn’t bother with a whole block set because you don’t need that many different kinds.  You also MUST keep them sharp!  There’s nothing worse than a dull knife.  If your knives can’t easily cut through the skin of a tomato, and it squishes the tomato instead, your knives are not sharp enough.  I’ll do a feature soon on how to sharpen your own knives, but until then, call your local hardware store and ask if they do it in store or if they have a recommendation for someone who does.  It’ll make all your cooking so much easier!

Some other suggestions for tools that I love in my kitchen:

Onion goggles.  I got these last year for Christmas and I have to confess that they have been life changing.  If you’re an onion crier like me, you’ll be saved with these goggles.  You might not look the coolest, but at least your eyes won’t be burning and you won’t be sobbing into your onions either.  Get them.  Get an extra pair for guests.  Give them to everyone you know.  They’re fantastic and I haven’t shed a tear over onions, shallots, or scallions ever since I got mine.

To keep your knives handy, I recommend a magnetic knife rack, just make sure you think about where you’ll hang it before you get it.  It needs to be handy, but out of the way.

Cookie scoop.  If you bake cookies even once a month, I’d recommend these cookie scoops.  I like having a 2oz and a 4oz.  The 2oz scoop is perfect for scooping cookie dough.  Make your dough, scoop all of it into dough balls, freeze and store in freezer bags, it’s the perfect way to have fresh-baked cookies on hand whenever you want.

Cupcake carrier.  If you like to bake for others this carrier is the perfect way of transporting your baked goods.  There are individual cupcake spots, as well as just a flat surface for things like cookies, brownies or bars.  The tray has handles that makes getting your baked goods out of the box easy, and the handles are reversible so you can have two layers.

Microplane.  A microplane is great for zesting and grating.  It’s perfect for citrus zest, easy to grate garlic, and great for grating fresh nutmeg.  It might seem like an unnecessary piece of equipment, but if you’re getting into cooking you’ll definitely be needing it sooner or later.

Pastry brush.  Ok, this isn’t something I use frequently, but whenever you need to “brush” something, an egg wash or what not, this is the perfect tool.  This is definitely a tool for bakers, but can be used to glaze meats or tofu too.

Bigger items:

Griddle or super-size (this is what I have).  If you’re a pancake lover, or want to pretend you’re a short-order cook at home on the weekends, a griddle is just what you need.  I never make pancakes on anything else, since it’s so convenient to have the griddle next to you at the table ready to serve hot pancakes immediately.  It’s also great for bacon, eggs, french toast, grilled cheese, grilled peanut butter sandwiches…  It’s not something I use all the time, but is definitely convenient if you like to serve brunch.

Immersion Blender.  This isn’t the exact model I have, but they seem to have discontinued it.  An immersion blender is great for pureed soups.  I love the whisk attachment, it’s much faster than my handheld electric mixer for beating egg whites or whipped cream.  It’s quiet, easy to use, clean and store.  I haven’t used it for smoothies, but I assume it’d work pretty well.  This price tag is kind of steep, so I’d wait for a sale; but if you’re interested in soups, dressings or an excellent whisk, an immersion blender is a handy tool.

Dutch Oven.  These pots are great.  They’re wonderful for slow cooking meats, they can go from stove to oven, they can be used just as a plain pot too.  They’re also ridiculously heavy, so you  can get your workout done in the kitchen too!  Got to love a multipurpose tool!  Le Creuset is the most well-known, I think the one I use is actually a Martha Stewart brand from Macy’s and about 1/2 the price.  It’s an investment, but definitely something you’ll enjoy using, and is built to last.

Stand Mixer.  This is for the serious bakers out there.  I got mine last year for Christmas and I love it.  It’s definitely not essential and I could do pretty much everything with a handheld electric mixer, but if you bake a lot you’ll definitely appreciate the hands-free nature.  This is also great for making bread, since it has a dough hook and you don’t have to knead by hand.

What are your favorite kitchen gadgets and tools?  Anything you’ve started using recently and don’t know how you lived without for so long?

**I’m not being compensated for any of these recommendations, they’re just products I use and like (or are similar to products I use).  All opinions are my own.

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