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.
* * *
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?
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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).