Holiday Gift Guide: Food Nerd Edition

I never even bother putting this stuff away. That's how much I use it. 
I never even bother putting this stuff away. That’s how much I use it.

Confession: I normally hate gift guides.

I think buying gifts for the sake of buying gifts is plain dumb. I LOVE giving gifts if it’s the perfect thing. If you can’t find the perfect thing, at least go for something useful.

I’m putting together a few different kinds of gift guides this holiday season. What you won’t see: gift-y things, like goofy gadgets, gag gifts, or things that can be easily flipped into a hostess re-gift. What you will see: useful, nice things.

Here are 13 things I use nearly every day in my kitchen.

They’re awesome and would all make great additions to any kitchen, gourmet chefs or college students alike.

* * *

The best thing in my kitchen, hands down. 
The best thing in my kitchen, hands down.

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Five-ish years ago, I had something major to celebrate: I delivered a completed manuscript to Random House. I wanted to celebrate, and because I had a little extra cash in my pocket, I bought this exact Dutch oven in it’s classic orange color.

It wasn’t cheap, but I’ve literally used it 5-6 times a week. For five years. You do the math. It’s still in perfect shape, cooks like a dream and sits on my stovetop like a piece of art. I’d give up my blow drier before going with this beautiful vessel. A stunning heirloom gift for anyone. Might I suggest as a nice gift for someone in their mid-twenties who’s just joining the real world?

If it's good enough for cowboys, it's good enough for you.
If it’s good enough for cowboys, it’s good enough for you.

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Equally useful, but on the waaaay cheaper end, I use my Lodge cast iron skillet often. It costs next to nothing, and if treated correctly, will last for decades. Centuries. A long-ass time. Rarely does a cheap item go the distance.

I spy a pepper mill, salt cellar and the best baking sheets ever!
I spy a pepper mill, salt cellar and the best baking sheets ever!

Wooden Pepper Mill & Wood Salt Cellar

I despise useless gifts, precisely why a pepper grinder has been one of my go-tos. It’s super practical, pretty and can take a dish from a six to a nine with a few cranks. DO NOT buy a cheap pepper grinder. Buy a nice one, with metal innards and a durable wood exterior. This thing should last a real long time. Those plastic ones will last about as long as this leather legging trend.

The quality of a salt cellar isn’t quite as imperative here, but this will be something that sits on your counter, so why not go for a pretty one? I always use Kosher salt, and this salt cellar makes it super handy to sprinkle as I go.

The best baking sheets ever!
The best baking sheets ever!
A Christmas cookie's best pal. 
A Christmas cookie’s best pal.

Goldtouch Baking Sheets & Cookie Sheets

I don’t actually know what these are made of. Obviously, not real gold. My co-worker who does all the recipe testing for Andrew Zimmern turned me onto these. I am hooked! They brown everything perfectly (no weird burning!), making veggie/cookie/meatball removal a cinch, and are so easy to clean. I know it’s hard to get jazzed about baking sheets, but these are the shit. They’re reasonably priced, too. Maybe a pre-Christmas buy for perfectly baked cookies?

Like you need another purse. Ask for this investment piece & you'll be thanking me for years.
Like you need another purse. Ask for this investment piece & you’ll be thanking me for years.

Super Nice Shun Chefs Knife (or this chef & paring knife combo)

Another splurge item well worth the price tag. I got my first and only Shun chef’s knife five years ago. It’s beautiful, sharp and a dream to prep with. If you use these puppies correctly, they will last you a lifetime and make a world of difference in your cooking (a few great tips here). This is the one I have; if you want to sweeten the deal, here’s a combo chefs and paring knife. They’re the kinds of gifts that potentially can be handed down to the next generation. Seriously.

Best shears for your buck. 
Best shears for your buck.

Hardcore Kitchen Shears

A few notes about kitchen shears: You can use them in about one million ways. A good pair should come apart for cleaning. We registered for these when we got married last summer and I use them a few times a week– from anything to cutting flowers to slicing pizza and snipping herbs. I love these because they’re super sharp & have comfortable handles. These run about $40-50, making them a great gift at an excellent price point.

Not sexy, but neither are those wool socks you normally get from Mom & Dad.
Not sexy, but neither are those wool socks you normally get from Mom & Dad.

Pyrex Set

I know, I know. These are NOT sexy, but so functional! I like the square Pyrex because they fit more efficiently in my fridge. Bonus: you can microwave your leftovers right in them. Perfect for bringing to work. Bonus points if you give them to a college student & fill ’em with leftovers before they head back to campus.

The most Gwyneth Paltrow-y thing on this list.
The most Gwyneth Paltrow-y thing on this list.

Nespresso

This is as superfluous/goop-y as I’m going to get. Yeah, this isn’t a cheap espresso contraption, but I am loving it. Is it the best coffee I’ve ever had? No, but it’s pretty good, speedy, easy and I can brew one cup at a time. And the espresso is waaay better than that Keurig junk. Knowing there’s a hot cuppa Joe feet away from my bedroom gets me out of bed in the morning. Perfect for working from home AND perfect if your plus-one isn’t a big coffee drinker.

My go-to tea basket. 
My go-to tea basket.

Tea Brewing Basket

On the opposite end of the brewing spectrum, I love this cheapie loose tea brewing basket. I’d go bananas over this gift: the tea basket with any of the teas from Verdant in Minneapolis. Don’t live here? NBD, you can buy them online. Suggestions: Autumn Harvest Laoshan, Campfire Blend (herbal aka decaf), Bergamont Rose Laoshan Black (also herbal) & their most popular, the Laoshan Black.

Stick blender, immersion blender, whatever. It's a must.
Stick blender, immersion blender, whatever. It’s a must.

Cuisinart Immersion Blender

Things I use my immersion blender for: making mayo, squash soup, salad dressings, chimichurri sauce, pureed tomatoes, smoothies, bullet proof coffee… really anything I don’t want to dirty my regular blender with. In the case of soup, it works really slick because you can puree in the vessel you’re cooking in. Bam! Easy to clean & though it can’t replace a regular blender, it’s real versatile (& hundreds of dollars less than a Vitamix).

* * *

I’d be psyched to receive any of this stuff (though technically I already own them all).

P.S. Here are some of these items in action: Making musselsroasting tomatoes, & don’t think this rack of lamb just carved itself!

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Comments (4)

  • From a fellow gift guide hater, well done. It’s like a capsule wardrobe, but in kitchen form.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    Annie, that is EXACTLY what this is! I don’t need a weird gadget for everything. Just a handful of things that kick a lot of ass.

  • Ashley 2 years ago Reply

    Um this is the perfect list for someone who cooks! Best presents I’ve gotten on Christmas are my Le Creuset dutch oven and Le Creuset braising pan (which makes the best risotto, must be the shallow pan?). Add a grill pan and a cheapy Lodge 12" skillet and that’s 80% of what I cook in. So much so that when my family asks me if there is another piece I need I am at a loss since these are so versatile.

    I also prefer to leave them on the stove as decor. As a home cook and lover of functional gifts, this is a fantastic list!

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    Thanks, Ashley! I really believe that a few quality items make cooking so much better. You don’t need three pieces of equipment to chop garlic, ya know?!

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