Gift Ideas for the Cook

In a world of kitchen gadgets galore, basic, high-quality items remain top on my list.

In the spirit of Black Friday, I thought I’d give a few gift suggestions for the kitchen enthusiast in your life. I’ll refrain from listing any cookbook titles, as I’ve already named plenty here in recent weeks. I’ll also say that I’m not big on kitchen gadgets that only get used once or twice a year, so each of the items I recommend are ones that I use weekly, if not daily, in my own kitchen.

First on the list has to be a good set of knives. If you’re shopping for an experienced cook, most likely, he or she already has at least one good knife, but less-seasoned chefs may not. It’s fairly easy to tell a really good knife from a ho-hum knife. For starters, a quality knife will have heft to it and the blade will be smooth (which will require actual sharpening).

Two reputable brands are Wüsthof and J.A. Henckels. A couple of Christmases ago, I received a 7” Wüsthof Classic knife. While I already had one very good set of knives, I found that I began using the Wüsthof knife almost exclusively. It’s a bit smaller than a chef’s knife, so feels comfortable in my own smallish hand (though my 6’1” husband prefers this knife, too), which makes cutting large quantities of vegetables, for instance, a breeze. Williams-Sonoma is a reputable source for quality knives.

Several years ago, I read about a gadget called a Microplane. Not quite sure how it differed from a regular old cheese grater, I bought one for roughly $10, just to see what the hype was about. Ever since then, the only time I pull out my old cheese grater is when my Microplane is in the dishwasher.

Microplane kitchen tools actually morphed out of the Microplane woodworking tools. If you study the teeth on one, you’ll notice the difference from that of a traditional grater – they are super sharp and thus, ideal for grating hard cheeses, garlic, ginger, and chocolate, and for zesting citrus. I have the Microplane Classic series zester/grater, but there are quite a number of kitchen tools available from this company now. Visit here to see them all.

Until I wrote about it, I never considered grating garlic with my Microplane. Indeed, I might be a little afraid of grating my finger, since garlic cloves are rather small, but it’s good to know that if my garlic press is in the dishwasher, I can turn to my Microplane for this task.

That said, I think a good garlic press is also crucial in the kitchen. Because we grow and use a LOT of garlic, this tool is a must-have for me. I once had a cheap garlic press that was near-impossible to actually press and therefore, thought very little of these devices ...until I upgraded to a J.A. Henckels press, which was a world of difference. I’m sure there are other good garlic presses out there, though I would encourage reading customer reviews online before purchasing one. Expect to pay $20-$30 for a quality press.

As a creature of habit, I often tend to get by with what I have without considering whether another tool or method might make my life more efficient. A good case in point would be my history of cutting boards. At one time, I had only a single one, which was really far too small to accommodate a bunch of greens or a loaf of bread. It wasn’t until I received a large, rectangular board as a gift (measuring 14” x 20”) that I realized how much I needed such a thing.

I now have three boards that I use regularly (all wooden, which is my personal preference): A small, 8” x 5 ½” board used for cutting fruit and cheese , an 8” x 11” board for cutting onions and other vegetables, and the aforementioned big one. Once upon a time, I had a medium-sized, round cutting board which was my very most favorite (and most used), but it was broken by an unnamed family member who was provoked by another unnamed family member.

Better a cutting board than a plate, I always say. Take stock of your cook’s cutting board selection and see if, perhaps, they could use one of a different size.

Last, but not least, anyone who spends much time in the kitchen will most certainly appreciate a set of thirsty, new dishtowels. I go through about three dishtowels a day and after a year, they don’t look so hot. Homeplace in 5-Points has the best selection of durable and pretty dishtowels that I know of locally. I have even used nice dishtowels in lieu of wrapping paper on occasion (perfect for wrapping up something small like a Microplane or garlic press, in fact) – just add a festive ribbon to secure and you have two gifts in one.

From someone who spends the vast majority of her waking hours in the kitchen, I feel sure you won’t go wrong with any of these suggestions for the home chef. Of course, you won’t go wrong with a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant, either, but that’s not quite as fun to shop for.

Happy hunting!



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