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2019 CLJ Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts For The Home Cook (that aren’t an Instant Pot)

November 24, 2019  —  Written by Chris 

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“Oh snap, did Chris just throw shade at the Instant Pot?!” Little bit. Really I don’t care how people choose to cook their food, so long as it’s safe (which the Instant Pot is, as far as I know). But man alive, can we stop putting them on gift guides for people who love to cook? The Instant Pot is designed specifically for people who don’t like to cook, so if you’re shopping for someone who actually enjoys the process of turning random ingredients into an expertly crafted meal, hopefully this will be a better list for you (and them). No gimmicks, no back-of-the-drawer uni-taskers – just the things your favorite home cook actually wants.

2019 CLJ Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts For The Home Cook (that aren't an instant pot)

1. Vibrant Flavor
Someone who loves to cook understands that every flavor needs to be balanced by its opposite. Citrus can wake up a dish better than just about anything, and this cool-looking manual juicer (made from recycled aluminum) will make sure they don’t waste a drop.

2. Enjoyment of the Mundane
They want to enjoy even the simplest food preparation, and equipment is a big part of that. This Smeg 4 slice toaster looks good, works amazingly well (I have it in my kitchen), and the long slots will fit all of my favorite breads – sourdough included.

3. Just Rightness
Overcooked meat is dry and not enjoyable. Undercooked meat will make people sick. This Lava Tools meat thermometer reads temperatures fast, and the readout rotates according to how you’re holding it so there’s no mistaking that 9 for a 6.

4. More Skills to Master
Chances are they already have a Kitchenaid Mixer, which is great for you because those things are expensive! But you can buy them an attachment for that mixer and let them expand their culinary skillset. There are pasta attachments, spiralizers, meat grinders, food processors and more.

5. A Touch of Sweet
When what I’m cooking needs a hint of sweetness, I almost always opt for honey as opposed to sugar or syrups. I have this same honey pot and it’s a fixture in our kitchen. Always out, always handy.

6. Goodness On-The-Go
Obviously someone who loves to cook can’t cook every meal. But they can still throw together a delicious smoothie and take it out the door in the mornings. A blender bottle for their Vitamix keeps it convenient, and cuts down on plastic usage. (If they’re a Blendtec person, you’ve still got them covered).

7. Inspiration and Challenge
They don’t want to make the same thing every night, but it’s hard to keep the new ideas coming. I’d say these Foodie Dice are the closest thing to a gimmick you’ll find on this list, but I’m allowing it because it’s actually super helpful! The person you buy this for doesn’t need a recipe because they already know how to create flavor. They just want a little inspiration, and maybe a challenge.

8. An Expanded Guest List
When you have a large roasting pan, you can roast large things. And when you roast large things, you can have a large guest list.

9. The Uniform of a Worker
It’s no coincidence that an apron is essentially a backwards cape, because the right apron makes you feel super. This apron is ready to work as hard as you are, and it legitimizes your place in the kitchen.

10. Precision & Speed
For a lot of uniform slicing, nothing beats a mandoline. And with something you don’t use every meal, there’s no need to make it big. This handheld mandoline gets the job done quick and tucks away discreetly until you need it.

11. The Sundance Kid to Their Butch Cassidy
When it comes to the kitchen, Nothing is more important to a cook than their knife. It’s their sidekick, their companion, their best friend. An 8in Chef’s knife, in my opinion, is the ultimate cook’s tool and every kitchen should have a good one. Right now my favorite is this Miyabi Evolution; German steel, Japanese design – I love it.

12. A Better Option
I’m in the “Teflon is horrible” camp, so I put my money toward supporting safe, effective nonstick cookware. Greenpan was one of the first, and they’re just killing it. I love the look of the Napa line, and glass lids are forever my jam.

13. An Angel on Their Shoulder
That’s what I call my kitchen towel. When I cook, I have a kitchen towel over my shoulder and I use it constantly. Your home cook wants a towel that looks good, is absorbent, and environmentally responsible doesn’t hurt.

14. The One That Will Never Let Them Down
I’ve had this exact cast iron dutch oven for a few years now, and it is by far the piece of cookware I use the most. I care exactly zero that it has Martha Stewart’s name on it – it’s just a really great piece, and I use it for everything. And it just happens to be on crazy sale through the end of November, so definitely jump on that.

15. A Cross Contamination Preventer
When I’m cooking, I am keenly aware of the last thing I’ve touched. I wash my hands constantly as I cook because I’m always cooking for others, and I don’t want to get them sick. The more stuff you have to touch when your hands are dirty, the more likely it is you’ll have cross contamination. We have this Simple Human automatic soap dispenser and couldn’t love it more.

16. A Trusty Toolkit
I’m always reaching for a wooden spoon, but sometimes the spoon shape isn’t what I need. Your home cook is going to love these wooden kitchen tools, and they’ll quickly become the thing they reach for over and over again.

17. A Worthy Canvas Upon Which to Paint
Your home cook is an artist, and their medium is food. It may be hard to understand their obsession with it sometimes, but really it’s not about eating – it’s about creating. It’s about making something that they can see someone else enjoy. That they themselves can enjoy. And while giving plates as a gift may seem stupid, for the true home cook it definitely is not. I’ve used these coupe plates for years (it’s like a hybrid between a plate and a bowl). They were given to me, for Christmas, from my wife and they’re amazing for everything. Steaks, salads, seafood, soups – they’re so versatile and the perfect canvas for the art your foodie is creating.

Hopefully those are some helpful ideas for you. And as a foodie, I can tell you that your home cook isn’t looking for something unique or crazy or something they’ve never seen before. The gift that will mean the most is the one that shows them you see their passion, and you support it.

What do you think?

  1. Jan says:

    You mentioned a knife set from Williams Sonoma last week but I can’t find it now…do you know what set it was?

  2. Natasha says:

    Love this list – thank you, Chris!

  3. Sam says:

    If I see one more instant pot recipe i’m going to scream lol THANK YOU

  4. Theresa Magliozzi says:

    I LOVE this gift guide. It’s so unique, items I haven’t seen everywhere, obviously done by Chris who is the cook! I love the way it’s written too. Love you all and Happy Holidays!

  5. Sara says:

    This is a great list other than that Instant Pot shade. :) My husband and I love to cook. We make our own pasta, smoke meat for hours on the weekend etc. But we have full-time jobs and two kids. The Instant Pot allows you to get amazing flavor in a fraction of the time. My brother got it for him for Xmas two years ago and it is still one of his favorite gifts he’s ever received.

  6. Julie S says:

    I cook (or at least throw together) almost every meal because I’m a stay at home, homeschooling mom with multiple food intolerances. And I like cooking, but often don’t enjoy it or find it stressful due to lack of time, interruptions, or lack of planning. So your comment “It’s no coincidence that an apron is essentially a backwards cape” made me feel soooo much stronger and less like a kitchen slave this morning. Thank you and hahahaha!

  7. Kate says:

    Chris, I am saying this with love; but the Instant Pot is an absolute life saver for people who love to cook and who have busy weeknights. I realize you are working with certain dietary constraints and your girls are younger, but between my 3 boys, we are scheduled so tightly between the hours 3:30 -9p, that dinner sometimes is not possible unless it’s an IP dinner. Between juggling extra-curricular activities and homework (just wait until you get to help with 5th grade Math!) you *might* just have to use the IP to get a delicious, quick and healthy dinner on the table. My standards (and so are my kids) are quite high when it comes to dinner, and my small arsenal of IP recipes deliver. When you are the only parent in charge of dinner and all the other things, certain seasons of life require flexibility. I so appreciate all your content and will remain a devoted (and indoorsy) reader.

    • Chris says:

      I appreciate the message. I don’t think anyone needs to feel jaded or offended by my thoughts on the Instant Pot. I get why people use them, but they are what they are – a way to cook where you don’t have to plan as much. When I use mine it’s just as you’ve described – out of desperation because there are too many other (more important) things demanding my time. This is a gift guide for people who enjoy (and by implication, have the option of) taking the time, which I do as often as I can because I think it’s more fun than throwing food into an Instant Pot. Even with that opinion, I’m always cheering on anyone doing what’s needed to take care of their families. :)

    • Amanda says:

      Kate, it was a joke.

  8. Jodi says:

    Any suggestions for a juicer/blender? Thank you!

  9. Kristin says:

    LOL with your Instant Pot shade! :) I actually love to cook and I spend a lot of time making dinners and desserts from scratch on the weekends, but I love my Instant Pot too. I am not a fan of the slow cooker–it makes everything taste mushy and bland to me. But the Instant Pot is awesome for those nights when you get home from work and you’ve forgotten to take meat out of the freezer to defrost. I can make carnitas from a frozen pork shoulder in 60 minutes in the Instant Pot (finished off under the broiler to crisp up), and I swear it tastes identical to the carnitas I braise on the stovetop for 4 hours on a Sunday. Great texture and super flavorful. I view it as another tool in my kitchen. I don’t use it all of the time, but it is very handy for specific uses.

  10. Amber says:

    Great list/post, Chris!

  11. Ellen G says:

    Chris! I love your post! Daniel only likes to cook on cast iron lately, and I was wondering if you had recommendations for cast iron utensils?

  12. Betsy says:

    The Instant Pot is actually great for those of us who love to cook, too. It’s awesome for beans, and makes home made dinner feasible on busy nights.

  13. Katelyn Humphrey says:

    Love this post! Any knife set recommendations for those of us on a tighter budget?

    • Chris says:

      Wusthof’s Pro line is a great option on a budget. They’re designed to be used in professional kitchens, and built at a price point that allows swapping out (chef’s can be tough on their knives and spending tons of money to replace them every time isn’t feasible). They have a Santoku that is around $50 and it’s a great knife.

  14. Beth says:

    Chris – love this! I was wondering if you have any thoughts on a good Bluetooth meat thermometer? – my father-in-law wants one and as I am not a huge grill/smoker person I can’t figure out which one is a good one!! Thank you!!!

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