Favorite Things – Gifts for the Cook!

Gifts for the Cook

It’s gift giving season and for those of you who haven’t already done all of your shopping, I offer some of my Favorite Things – Gifts for the Cook!

Hey, Rodgers & Hammerstein had this idea looong before Oprah and you all know how much I like “whiskers on kittens.”

So here we have some gift ideas for the cook on your list…or maybe even for yourself!

Here we go:

1.) The Microplane Premium Zester/Grater is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. Perfect for taking the zest off of lemons & oranges as well as grating hard cheese like parmesan or romano. Want to use freshly grated nutmeg in your next dessert? The microplane is the perfect tool for that task. Now they come in snazzy colors like eggplant/purple so I feel slightly cheated that I have the original boring black variety.

2.) You need this Lodge Pre-Seasoned 12-inch Skillet if you’re going to get on the spatchcocking bandwagon and make Smothered Chicken. Lodge has been making cast iron pots and pans since 1896! These pans will last a lifetime. I have a 10-inch pan and got the 12-inch specifically to have a smothered chicken making pan. If you are a Costco member, they have a great set of both sizes right now for about $35. If you order it on line, just be sure you get free shipping because these babies weigh a ton!

3.) Do you have a OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Gravy/Fat Separator for making gravy and sauces? I was just talking about this handy gadget with my friend Nikolay who was lamenting standing over the Thanksgiving broth trying to scoop off the fat with a spoon. This is the perfect tool for the job. Notice how the spout is at the bottom? Pour in the juices/broth from your turkey (or broth you’ve made from the bones) and watch as the broth settles to the bottom and the fat floats to the top. Once the broth has separated, simply pour off the broth until the fat gets to the bottom of the spout. Once you have one of these, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one.

4.) I love this pepper mill! The William Bounds HM Proview 11-Inch Pepper Mill is the best pepper grinder I’ve ever owned…and I’ve had more than a few. Founded in 1963, William Bounds is another one of those companies that has been in business doing one thing and doing it well. This pepper mill is big (11 inches tall), sturdy, and offers fine, medium, and course grinding options. You might think that it is a little expensive for a pepper mill but I am confident that this is the last pepper mill I will ever have to buy. How do I know this? My dad also has has a William Bounds pepper mill and after years and years (at least 30 that I’m aware of) of faithful service, it had a problem. He contacted William Bounds and they fixed his pepper mill after all those years. When they offer a lifetime guarantee, they mean it.

5.) If you are a meat eater, an Instant Read Thermometer will make your life infinitely easier. I recently bought one very similar to this Waterproof Digital Thermometer for my Thanksgiving turkey. (Never trust those little pop up things with your holiday bird!) This is my first digital and it takes all the guess work out of knowing when your meat has come up to the appropriate temperature. They’re inexpensive and make great stocking stuffers.

6.) We are all busy people and the Crock-Pot or Slow Cooker can make all of our lives a lot easier. The things I look for in a slow cooker are a large capacity, variable heat settings (low & high), and the ability to program it for time and then have it keep your food warm when it has finished cooking. The one shown here is similar to mine but a bit fancier with the lid that locks on for transporting your deliciously slow cooked meals. Once again, if you’re a Costco person, they are on sale there big time right now.

7.) Speaking of stocking stuffers, I am always happy to get wooden spoons, spatulas (I have quite the collection) and especially Cooking Tongs! I have at least 3 sets of tongs…some plain metal and some with silicone tips for using in non-stick skillets. If you are shopping for a BBQ/Grill Master, I would suggest that you can’t go wrong with good, all purpose kitchen tongs. I’m not a huge fan of those giant sized BBQ tools. You can turn almost anything with a good, sturdy 12-inch set of tongs.

8.) I love, love, love my Immersion Blender. If you or someone you love likes to make soups, this would be the perfect gift. Instead of taking your hot soup from the pot to the blender and working in batches, you blend right in the pot! You can also use the immersion blender to make dips and hummus and I’ve even used mine to whip up small batches of whipped cream. Very handy and like the microplane, they also come in lots of nifty colors.

9.) If I made tons of money from this website or was Oprah (“You get new knives, and YOU get new knives!”) I would be sending everyone this J.A. HENCKELS Pro Asian (Santoku) Knife Set. The knife you see me chopping with most often here at Idiot’s Kitchen is a 7-inch Wusthof Santoku knife very similar to these. All of my knives are either Wusthof or Henckels – German companies that (once again) have been in business for centuries! 1731 for Henckels and 1814 for Wusthof. At the holidays you can often find great buys and sales on these quality knives. Sometimes you can get a set as shown here at a great discount or they will throw in a sharpener or cutting board. You will never go wrong buying someone who cooks a GOOD knife. I wouldn’t want to, but I could probably get rid of all of my other knives and only use my 7-inch Santoku and my Wusthof Classic Paring Knife.

10.) My friend Julie recently asked me to recommend a Mandoline Slicer and this was as close to the one that I use that I could find. Mandolines are SUPER sharp so you need to get one that is sturdy and also has the protective finger guard. Then you need to pledge to USE the finger guard every time. Those of you from Kansas City might find it funny that the box for my mandoline slicer still has a price tag from Function Junction that used to be on the Plaza on it. I’ve had it since college and it’s still going strong. If you get one from Santa, you should be sure to christen it by making Potato & Fennel Au Gratin!

11.) Once you have your fancy knives, you need to protect them AND protect your fingers by using a non-slip or Gripper Cutting Board. I like to have a variety of these of various sizes. They’re great because they won’t move around on your counter while you’re chopping and then you can throw them in the dishwasher to get them sanitized and extra clean.

12.) Okay, this is a big ticket item but I included it because of all of my many, many pots, pans, and kitchen gadgets, the one I love the most is my big Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven. This was my Christmas gift from Jim a few years ago and I use it so much it lives on the top of my stove. I’ve tried the knock off brands and all of them are long gone and the Le Creuset lives on. They are expensive but they are worth every penny. This is the big green pot that you see so often at Idiot’s Kitchen that it’s even up in the header photo. If you can swing it, get a big one so you have options. Mine is 7-1/4 quarts or a size 28. If you are a bargain hunter and not picky about the color, keep your eye out for these at places like Home Goods and TJMaxx. If you ever see one there, grab it because it doesn’t happen often.

A quick note…I’ve linked to Amazon here because they make it easy to do so. I’ve been in their “affiliate program” for a few years and have made exactly zero dollars from it. If you like amazon, buy at amazon. Or buy at Costco. Or buy at Bed & Bath and USE A COUPON! I’m a big fan of Williams Sonoma and am not allowed in Sur La Table unsupervised. None of these companies have paid me to say anything about their products and as my grandma used to say, “They wouldn’t know me from Adam!” so the recommendations are all my own. 

These are just a FEW of my favorite things…

and of course, don’t forget whiskers on kittens!

Lulu's fancy whiskers!

 What are your favorite cooking tools? What can’t you live without in the kitchen? 

What’s on your cook’s wish list this year? 

Leave a comment and we can compile another list of your recommendations!


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12 Responses

  1. Additional things I love:
    Oxo Kitchen tongs – I also have 3 sets.
    Pampered Chef Garlic Press – best design of all presses I have owned.
    Digital thermometer that you can clip to the side of a pan or insert into a cooking roast.
    Cheese knife – the kind that has holes in the blade so that you can cut beautiful slices of cheese.
    Food processor – I’m still using the one I got for my wedding and dreading the day when the bowl cracks and I can’t use it anymore.

    New product I just LOVE – Crock pot liners. Talk about time savers. I used them all the time now.

  2. No. 9 is the BEST on your LIST!!! There is nothing better or more useful for a good cook than sharp German knives! Or any of those steel items! I own a slicer which I brought from Germany more than 45 years ago which actually sliced the tip off my finger off last week! Indestructible and forever SHARP!!!
    Henry looks cute too!

  3. I love my German chef knives (I, too, have several), but agree with Karen about the Pampered Chef garlic press. It was the kitchen tool that immediately came to mind when I read this post and the request for additional ideas.

  4. You can use your Microplane Zester/Grater for garlic and eliminate one gadget in your drawer.
    I recently installed a Messermeister Magnetic Knife Holder (half price on eBay because of damaged packaging) and got rid of the wooden knife block–freed up prime real estate on my counter and holds my German knives AND Microplane zester.
    I covet your 7 1/4 qt. Le Crueset Dutch oven.

    1. The microplane is also great for ginger. I’m toying with the idea of a magnetic knife strip but I don’t have tons of backsplash room. Let me know how you like yours!

  5. The kitten whiskers are adorable and made me giggle. I love all your suggestions and I have most of them. (spoiled much?) I purchased three Le Creuset pans in the last few years….mostly because I’ve seen them on your site and I had pan envy! And yes, I bought mine at either home goods, TJ or Marshalls! We recently purchased the best meat thermometer on the planet. (Jeff does a lot of grilling/smoking) It was super expensive, but works like a dream. Thermapen by Thermorworks. It was a splurge for sure.
    I have a fab mandoline, but it gives me such anxiety thinking about losing my digits!
    I’m putting a dutch oven in my wish list now though!

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