~ Gift ideas for cooks and foodies … from big-ticket WOW! items to fun stocking stuffers and hostess gifts … and everything in between. These are things we love, use, and have gifted to the special people on our own family holiday list. Tried and true suggestions for cooking gifts that just might help you get un-stuck if you simply can’t think of what on earth to buy this year! ~
Over the years, we’ve created several awesome little DIY “foodie” gift guides (I’ve got links to all of them at the bottom of this post if you’re a DIYer). But we’ve never quite gotten around to collecting a list of some of the tools and gadgets that we love most here in the THK kitchen (which is … ahem … our home kitchen, of course!).
Finally, this year, it’s actually happening!
Because I thought, hey – if you’re faced with a list of hard-to-shop-for people (oh man, do we have some of those in our family!), then these ideas might come in handy and give you a little inspiration. Maybe some ideas you hadn’t thought of before!
Every one of these gift ideas is something we actually use ourselves here in our
test kitchen errrr … home kitchen, and many of these are things that I’ve personally received as gifts … or that I loved so much we’ve given them as gifts.
I hope some of the terrific tools and gadgets we find so invaluable will be inspiring for you as you gear up for all the shopping this season brings!
Happy shopping …
… AND HAPPY, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Instant Pot DUO60 6-quart Electric Pressure Cooker
You know I had to start with this, right?!? Seems like Instant Pots are still the “it” cooking gift again this year!
After oodles and oodles of research, wading through all the different models and sizes, the DUO60 6-quart is the one I chose for my family of four. But, when I eventually also bought one as a gift for my mom, she and I settled on the smaller Instant Pot Duo Plus Mini 3-quart, since she’s feeding only two people. There are plenty of other options, though (so many options, in fact, that it gets kind of overwhelming!), and if you’re not really sure which one to choose, I recommend peeking at my Instant Pot Buyer’s Guide. Readers have told me they found the guide really helpful. Maybe it can save you a bit of time deciding which of these beauties is perfect for that special someone on your gift list (or hey hey – maybe for YOU!).
If your gift recipient needs a handy starter guide, send them to my article on What Can You Do with an Instant Pot? or suggest they peek at all the yummy Instant Pot Recipes we’ve compiled to help ’em get cookin’!
Spiralizer (My Two Favorites)
As much research as I did before buying my Instant Pot, I actually think I spent even ridiculously MORE time researching which spiralizer to buy! Ultimately, I decided to try out three different models, two of which I still heartily recommend: the Spiralizer 5-Blade (pictured above) or the Mueller 4-Blade.
And if that lucky someone is scratching their head over what to do with their shiny new toy, tell ’em to start with our Easy Zoodles Recipe … plus we’ve got plenty of other zoodles and spiralizer recipes to make sure they get loads of use out of their gift!
After eyeballing the price tags on some of the other brands of enameled cast iron on the market, I decided to buy a (more affordable) Lodge. Plus, my father-in-law (who’s a terrific cook) heartily recommended the brand, and it got great reviews. I’ve been so happy with my purchase! If you want to peek at it in action, check out my recipes for Easy Black Bean Soup and Indian-Spiced Turkey Chili.
This set gets a workout around our kitchen! We use the big guy for recipes like our Strawberry Banana Smoothies and Instant Banana “Ice Cream”, but also for things like our holiday Easy Cranberry Relish and our Sweet and Spicy Pepper Relish. And the littlest guy in this set is perfect for the date caramel I add to my Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins, or for recipes like our Avocado Ranch Dip. (And that’s seriously just the beginning – we use these A LOT!) My bestie, Gretchen, gave me my set as a special gift a few years ago, and it’s been my go-to ever since!
If you spend much time around THK, then you’ve no doubt seen my recommendations of this pan before. A long time ago, I read a suggestion from cooking guru Alton Brown, that nonstick cookware was a good place NOT to spend a ton of money, since even the best (and most expensive) stuff eventually mars and has to be replaced. I’ve heeded that advice ever since, and embraced these super-affordable nonstick pans.
I just used mine to make dinner last night … and the night before (no kidding!), and they’ve been pictured in tons of our recipes through the years, if you want to see these pans in use: a few include our Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes, our Cheesy BLT Pierogi Skillet Dinner, and our One-Pot Mexican Rice Skillet Dinner.
My loyal THK readers have undoubtedly seen my suggestions for these baking pans, too. I’m so impressed with how they don’t even require nonstick spray for baking my quick bread recipes (you can peek at a pic of them in my Healthy Hawaiian Banana Bread post). One tip I’ve found, though: to avoid any rusting from the steel inside the pan’s folds, try simply wiping the pan clean with a damp cloth instead of fully submerging it in water to wash it, so water doesn’t get up inside the folds of steel where you can’t quickly dry it. Just a little tip. 😉
Oh! And another idea I’ve recommended to you guys about 10,000 times before: these knives! I own both the 8″ knife (pictured above) and also the 10″ knife, and I use both interchangeably. But I’m pretty short, and the 8″ is more comfortable in my hand, and is always the first knife I reach for.
I bought them back in my cooking school days, probably close to 10 years ago now – after I read an outstanding review from Cook’s Illustrated (which I totally trust) – and I still love them. Full disclosure: I have a few other knives that I typically grab for props when I’m photographing my recipes for you (to coordinate with the rest of the photo), so you’ll often see other knives in my photos … but behind the scenes, these are the knives I’m actually USING!
Slow Cookers (in a Variety of Sizes)
1) For most recipes you’ll see out there, I think you’ll find a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker (like the one pictured above) is generally a good default choice if you’re buying a gift for someone who doesn’t have any slow cookers yet. It’s a perfect workhorse for most occasions and recipe yields. At least, I know it is for me. Models like this are perfect for big batches of soup, and when it comes to chili cook-off parties, I’m glad I own two this size! Again … no apologies!
2) For smaller recipes, though, like our crazy-popular 3-Ingredient Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos or our North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, while you technically can use a larger slow cooker, a slightly smaller one – like this handy 3-quart – is actually a better size for the amount of food. I bought this model last year when my ancient one (complete with a hideous pink flower design) shattered all over the basement floor. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it was relatively inexpensive and it gets the job done.
3) Another size that’s incredibly handy (and an absolute must if you have a “Hostess with the Mostess” on your holiday shopping list) is the small one- to two-quart appetizer size. I actually own a couple in this size, and for certain parties I could probably even use a third. They’re terrific for keeping hot dips hot during a party. One tip: I used to have one of these that didn’t have a removable cooking crock. Ugggghhhh. It was a horrible hassle to get that thing clean, while not ruining the housing and electrical components. Definitely always look for one that has a removable crock for easy cleaning.
Now to be honest, I don’t use this type of tool every single day. But, when I do need it, there’s simply no substitute. You most commonly use an immersion blender (also known as a hand-held or stick blender) for tasks like pureeing creamy soups and sauces (although most come with extra functions like whisks, too). The alternative is to transfer your piping hot soup mixture (usually in two or more batches) into a traditional blender, while trying not to splatter hot soup all over yourself and your kitchen. No thanks! This baby makes it sooooo much easier!
If you know somebody who likes to make pureed soups (or things like homemade baby food – anything you puree in big batches), then this tool will be a total lifesaver for them. Note that I’m linking to the actual model that I personally own, but it certainly looks like there are more updated models, like this one or this one.
So handy! It “pops up” for use, and then collapses flat for storage. And the handles pull out so the colander can suspend over your sink. My son, Ty, bought this as a gift for me years ago, and I use it all the time to drain pasta, or to wash produce like grapes and cranberries, or even to rinse canned beans, like in our recipe for Corn, Edamame and Quinoa Salad.
Seems like everybody’s got their favorite way to effortlessly strip corn off the cob. This is mine. It helps to keep the kernels from flying off all over the place or rolling away on the counter the way they do when I use a knife to cut them off.
My father-in-law (the terrific cook who also recommended the Lodge cast iron I mentioned above) gave me this gadget a few Christmases ago, and I use it often. To be clear, I don’t ALWAYS use this when I’m mincing garlic. If I’ve already got my knife out (you know – my fave knife I’ve already raved about) to chop up other things, too – well, then I just use my knife to mince my garlic. BUT … if I’d be yanking out my cutting board and knife just to chop up a clove or two of garlic, I would way rather use this handy gizmo instead. Just rinse it off when you’re done, and it’s ready for the next time! (Psssst … I actually own the green one, so that’s the one I linked to, but it looks like you can save a couple of bucks if you buy this clear one instead. It also looks like they’ve now come out with a newer “Fourth Generation” model, too.)
This is ideal for zesting lemons and other citrus, or for finely grating things like nutmeg, ginger, garlic, chocolate or hard cheeses like parmesan. You can get some handy tips on all of that in our post HERE, but really, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Quick and easy, and I toss it right in the dishwasher. Perfect! This is another tool I’ve had since my cooking school days – probably 10 years ago now – but it’s still a popular, top-rated pick on Amazon.
My mom and dad make me a really fun Christmas stocking every year, and my mom always enjoys searching for random little kitchen gadgets to add in. She gave me this little tool last year, and at first I wasn’t really sure that I would use it. How wrong I was! I reach for it all the time now. It’s awesome for mashing up avocados for guacamole, or for breaking up ground beef as I brown it. I own the smaller 7.25-inch size, but as you can see in the set I linked to above, you can also get a larger 10-inch size (either as part of a set, or separately).
Okay. So, this isn’t technically a cooking tool, but for healthy foodies like me, it’s actually still a really awesome gift idea. Last year, I’d seen a Facebook post where other food bloggers were discussing how much they loved their little under-desk ellipticals. I thought that was sheer genius! I could burn a few more calories while I worked!
After spending a lot of time poking around on Amazon, I decided to go with this cycle instead of an elliptical, because it seemed like it had a lower profile, so my knees wouldn’t bang the desk above. Basically, I can slip it under my kitchen table or even under my high stool at our breakfast bar (the two places I most commonly work), and pedal away! Brilliant! Ok, ok … I don’t exactly work up a sweaty, full-cardio sheen. Not while I’m typing or editing photos on my computer – I’m just not that coordinated, I guess (maybe your lucky gift recipient is more coordinated than I am!). I just sort of gently pedal along, and actually entirely forget that I’m even doing it until I notice how many calories I’ve mindlessly burned (yay)!
Also, one thing to know if you’re shopping around for these. Different brands and models definitely do have different height clearances in order to work properly under a desk. But, although I selected mine because it seemed to have one of the lowest clearances available (and I see they have a newer model that shaves off an extra inch more), I do still have to position how I’m sitting slightly differently than I otherwise would if I wasn’t pedaling. It takes a few minutes the first time to figure out how to get comfy with it – but then it’s so great!
Foodie Books (Besides Just Cookbooks)
Cookbooks are an obvious gift idea for someone who loves to cook, but what about a relaxing, foodie-themed novel? Or maybe a biography of a favorite chef? Last Christmas, I put together a list of my favorite (non-cookbook) foodie books, plus others recommended by fellow food bloggers. You can check out those gift ideas in my “Books for Cooks and Foodies” list.
DIY Gift Ideas
As I mentioned, over the years, we’ve published several fun guides to DIY projects and homemade recipes that are wonderful for holiday gift-giving. Some are special mementos for beloved family members and dear friends, and others are quick and simple ideas for hostess or teacher gifts.
- Easy Food- and Cooking-Related Crafts – Including ideas like handmade aprons, recipe holders and even adorable little earrings.
- Mason Jar Recipe Gifts – Always a hit, and terrific for making in big batches! We handpicked these gift-in-a-jar recipes because they look so deliciously pretty (and, of course are healthier, too!) – ideas like layered soup mixes, hot chocolate and brownie mixes, even a funfetti cake mix and healthy chocolate chip cookie dough!
- Homemade Seasonings – Lots of ideas, from gourmet spice blends and extracts to specialty hot sauces. Fun to make – and receive!
- DIY Herb Gardens – Avid cooks will enjoy having their own little herb garden to give their recipes fresh flavor all year ’round!
Several of our own THK recipes are also terrific for holiday gift-giving. Great for making up in a big batch and delivering to neighbors, teachers and coaches, or for keeping on hand for holiday hostess gifts or unexpected guests. Try one of these:
- 4-Ingredient (No Butter!) Fudge with Chocolate and Coconut
- Easy Candied Pecans (Just 5 Minutes and 4 Ingredients!)
- Sweet and Spicy Pepper Relish
Give an Experience … or Share the Love
If you still haven’t found quite the perfect idea from all these on our list, maybe you need to tailor-make a gift experience or consider a donation from the heart. How about …
A Gift Certificate for a Cooking Course – If you’re lucky enough to have a nearby cooking school, this is a great idea for both newbie cooks and also for those who might like to learn certain specific new skills. (Bonus points if you attend the class with that special someone and share some time together. 🙂 ) There are also a lot of little businesses popping up that focus on teaching kids to cook (which you know I love!). In fact, my mother-in-law gave my niece a course like this for her last birthday – super idea! My niece had a great time and made some really terrific foods.
Beyond Just a Restaurant Gift Card – If someone on your holiday gift list loves to dine out, consider going beyond that impersonal gift card you can grab practically anywhere these days. Check around for a restaurant that offers a bit more of an experience – with a chef’s table, a table in the restaurant’s kitchen, or a specialized tasting menu. One restaurant here in our town has a wonderful chef’s table that opens right onto the kitchen, and you can watch everything that’s happening and even chat with the chefs if they have a momentary lull in the dinner rush. My husband and I have enjoyed it together in the past, and this year, to celebrate our twins’ 16th birthdays, we all shared a special and very memorable meal there together.
A Donation of Food – For the foodie who has everything, you might consider a gift in their name to a local food pantry or soup kitchen. It’s a great way to make a little difference in the world at the holidays, and to share a love of food with those who could use some help this holiday season.
I hope you’ve found some inspiration to help you tackle that looming holiday gift list (and hey – maybe even a little something for yourself!).
And most of all, I hope you have a wonderful, joyous, and healthy holiday season! Hugs, friends!