I haven’t disappeared off of the face of the planet – I promise! I’ve actually had so much to do in the kitchen that I haven’t had the chance to sit down and blog about it. And don’t worry – I haven’t forgotten about the gift posts. Everywhere I turn, there are more lists of gifts for cooks and foodies, so I’m in good company making all of these recommendations. If you’re still lacking for ideas after all of my posts, check out Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Food52, and the kitchn for more ideas.
I’ve already covered stocking stuffers, cookbooks as gifts, and the pitfalls of choosing a kitchen-y gift for your beloved gift recipient (in the stocking stuffer post). I’ve written this particular post about a dozen different ways, but someone isn’t feeding wordpress enough because it keeps on eating my posts. Grrr…
Today, I’m going to tell you about the Big Gifts. These would be great to show someone just how much you appreciate their hard work in the kitchen, especially if they’re the type that actually enjoys being in the kitchen. This is the kind of thing that siblings could pool their money to buy for a foodie parent, or a group of friends could contribute toward a wedding gift. This is a place where brands matter, and you shouldn’t skimp. But don’t be afraid to shop a Cyber Monday sale or use a coupon from Bed Bath and Beyond. Sometimes these items show up at Costco, especially around the holidays. Shop around for a good deal, unless that “good deal” fell off the back of a truck and only has instructions in Korean.
Good knives! This can be a tricky gift because I think there are some superstitions about buying knives and “severing” a relationship. I don’t know. I don’t really pay much attention to those types of taboo, but if you or your family does, you might want to steer clear of knives and go with a gift card instead. I bought our knife block from Costco, and it was half-filled with Henckels knives, with spaces to fill in the rest of the knives with additional purchases. If you go this route, I can’t recommend IKEA knives enough to fill in the gaps. Next year, offer to have the knives sharpened for the gift recipient. A lot of butcher shops will do it for free, but it’s not an expensive service to protect your knife investment (or your loved one’s hands). A nice gift to accompany knives, or a lovely gift on its own, is a really nice wooden cutting board. End-grain wooden cutting boards like this are particularly nice, because they protect the knives, and they look gorgeous. I found one at a neighborhood garage sale for $10, which was practically criminal. I have another really lovely one that a family friend made from trees that grew outside my childhood home. Wooden cutting boards are infinitely useful – not just for cutting, but also for protecting surfaces when you’re setting down a hot pan. I love them.
Blenders! Suddenly, blenders can cost as much as a mortgage payment. When did that happen? I don’t have a fancy blender, but if you know someone who wants one, my friends swear by the Vitamix. I think you can sometimes get them at Costco, or get them refurbished. We have a Waring blender that Neil picked out for its looks several years ago, and it turned out to be quite a practical workhorse. Huh. That joke just wrote itself. These aren’t just for smoothies – I use mine for hollandaise and salad dressings all the time.
Stand mixer. I have a huge version from Kitchenaid, but smaller models work just as well, too. I use it at least weekly through the fall and winter, and it comes in handy for more purposes than you might think. For example, a friend taught me that you can use the paddle attachment on low with cooked chicken breasts, and the mixer will shred them in less than a minute. Amazing! I also use our hand mixer quite a bit, especially for small batches of things, or when the bowl for the stand mixer is in the dishwasher. An extra bowl for the stand mixer would also come in handy. Kitchenaid is my go-to brand for all of these items.
Cuisinart food processor – their product and their customer service are excellent. This is great for chopping or shredding large quantities of food, and also blending things like pie dough.
Coffee makers. I’m partial to the Keurig (single-serve model), but others swear by a great French press, stove-top drip jar, or just an old-fashioned drip machine. This is really only a good gift if your loved one doesn’t have a system that he or she already loves, but you could always add a luxury item like a Nespresso into the mix if you want to give them the gift of a latte whenever they’d like one. Shortly after we got our Keurig, Neil came home from work and asked me, with one eyebrow raised, why I was so …. happy. I said, “Did you KNOW you can drink COFFEE in the middle of the AFTERNOON?” Brand new information.
If you’re interested in something for the dining room as much as for the kitchen, I can’t recommend Emile Henry pieces enough. We received a few as wedding gifts eleven years ago, and they are still among my most favorite pieces.
Now, two things that I have no business recommending because I have no idea how to use either one: a grill, and a pressure cooker. I really don’t know how to use them. But they seem like they’d be good gifts, if you knew the person wanted one. There are entire message boards devoted to different types of grills, and that seems like a gift that you would want to choose with the recipient. Pressure cookers are apparently making a comeback, but they terrify me. Fast forward to around 2:55 if you want to know why, but don’t want to hear the endless monologue.
Last but not least, cookware! My two favorites are All Clad and Le Creuset. I use All Clad saute pans for things that need to go from the stovetop to the oven – steaks, pork chops, etc. I use Le Creuset for just about everything else. A good friend tipped me off to the ridiculous deals on ebay for Le Creuset, and if you are buying for someone who is into a certain color scheme, you can find some great retro (read: discontinued) styles there. I’ve also seen Le Creuset at thrift stores and TJ Maxx. The quality is so good that a used or discontinued piece is still very much worthwhile. Be sure you know whether your recipient has strong opinions about colors and styles. [This is where I tried, three times, to insert a photo of some Le Creuset cookware in action, but wordpress is being greedy and won’t let me do it.]
OK, I’m going to hit “publish” before WordPress makes me cry.
What are your favorite big ticket kitchen items? Is there something you’ve wanted for years? Something that you use all the time, and now feel like you couldn’t live without it?