Last year I created a gift guide for foodies. Since then, I’ve realized it’s kinda silly to make a gift guide for “Foodies.” Why? Because there are dozens of types of Foodies, each being interested in a different type of gift. One person might call themselves a Foodie because they love trendy kitchen gadgets. One might call themselves a Foodie because they love to cook, while another might call themselves a Foodie simply because they love to eat. So before getting into a gift guide, it’s important to define what kind of Foodie we’re talking about. This gift guide is for the Foodie I identify with most – the Foodie who loves to cook. Not only loves to cook, but really wants to be good at it. The items might seem boring to most people, but are liberating and inspiring for someone who really wants to be a good home cook. Shall we?
1. A High Quality Cook’s Knife – $170
If you’re a long time reader, you know I’m a Wusthof fan. No, they don’t pay me to endorse they’re products. I’ve been buying their knives for years, and they are, without a doubt, the highest-quality knives I have ever used (I’ve used many brands). It’s my opinion that every home cook should work toward having at least one high-quality, versatile knife. The Cook’s knife is the most versatile. The above picture is the Wusthof IKON CREME Hollow Edge 8-inch Cook’s Knife, which is the knife that I use most (except mine is black) and I can’t say enough about how much I love it. And please, once you have the knife, hand wash only.
2. An Extra Large Cutting Board – $25
Small cutting boards are the worst. Stuff is constantly rolling off while you’re cutting and it makes you feel timid as a cook. That sounds silly, but it’s true. Lots of cutting board room equals freedom and you’d be surprised at the impact it has on how much someone enjoys cooking. This OXO Good Grips 15×21 is the exact cutting board I’ve used for years. It’s not something you’ll leave sitting on your counters next to a basket of perfectly arranged herbs and fruit, but it offers plenty of cutting space, is knife-friendly and super affordable.
3. Lots of Tongs – $12-15
A good cook uses their tongs constantly and swaps them out to avoid cross contamination. I’ve purchased 6 of these OXO Good Grips tongs, because they’re affordable and well built. They have a spring-loaded locking handle, but the spring isn’t so stiff that it causes your hand to ache when you’re using it for a long time – they’re really comfortable. I suggest having at least one long pair (16 inches at least) for high-heat uses like grilling (the long handle keeps your hands away from the intense heat), one medium length (12 inches), and 1 short (9 inches). It’s also good to have a few pairs with nylon heads to use in your non-stick cookware (prevents scratching).
4. Vinyl Powder-Free Food Prep Gloves – $7
Lame gift, right? Wrong. I ask for several boxes of these gloves every Christmas, birthday, Father’s day, etc.. A good home cook practices food safety. Using food prep gloves while working with meat and other must-be-cooked items reduces the chance of contaminants making their way to won’t-be-cooked items, like salads and such. Make sure they’re vinyl, because you never know if a guest has a latex allergy.
5. A Short-ish Pepper Mill – $37
Despite what Jim Gaffigan says, fresh ground pepper tastes wildly different from (and much better than) pre-ground pepper. Stick with a shorter mill, 7-9 inches (12 inches max). The larger the mill, the more pepper it holds. The more pepper it holds, the longer the pepper is in the mill. The longer the pepper is in the mill, the less fresh it tastes. I think this pepper mill is gorgeous.
6. Salt Crock – $10
Salt is possibly the most important thing to control in any dish. Dumping salt from a shaker is a bad idea, because you never really know how much you’re putting in. Same goes with a salt grinder. The more you feel the salt as you add it, the better you become at seasoning to perfection. The above pictured item is actually a mini casserole dish, but I use something similar for my salt. Doesn’t really matter what you use, so long as it’s fairly small and has a lid. Also, as the great Michael Simon says, “Use kosher salt to cook, sea salt to finish, and regular iodized salt on your driveway in the winter.”
7. A Half Apron – $22
This one is a bit personal preference, but I’m not a fan of aprons really. When I’m cooking, I usually just have a rag slung over my shoulder and, when I use an apron, a white half apron tied around my waist to wipe my hands on. I bought mine for culinary school, but found this pretty sweet one I may just pick up for myself. You may also consider buying a Chef’s coat, for those moments you’re making spaghetti sauce and don’t want to ruin your new shirt.
8. A High Quality, Stainless Steel, Oven-safe Sauté Pan With a Glass Lid – $65
In my opinion, this is the most important cooking vessel you could have in your kitchen. It’s incredibly versatile, and will become your best friend – I’ve had my sauté pan for 8 years now. I could give a crap that this one has Emeril’s name on it, but All-Clad makes a great product and I love the shape. The glass lid is important because you can see what you’re cooking without having to remove the lid and release heat over and over again. With this pan you can boil, braise, shallow fry, deep fry, sauté, stir fry, steam, roast etc.. Almost anything you need to do, this pan can do.
9. On Cooking – A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals – $50-150
I kept all of my text books from culinary school, but this one is by far the one I’ve used most since. It’s about 3 inches thick, and covers nearly everything you can think of, most importantly (in my opinion) cooking techniques. This book walks you, step by step, through every cooking technique from frying to grilling to roasting. So instead of browsing Pinterest for an onion ring recipe, you just walk into the kitchen and pump out a batch of friggen awesome onion rings on the fly because you know the technique. Knowing proper cooking techniques will give you all the freedom you need to really become a great cook, but don’t worry if that sounds daunting because this book also provides hundreds of recipes for you to use to practice the techniques. Outside of my culinary instructors and my own mother, this book has done more to advance my cooking ability than any other source. The above picture is the 5th edition, which is about $150. I have the 4th edition, which is still incredible, still available, and is about 1/3 the price.