Chefs and serious home cooks know what they like in the kitchen. They often already have what seems like every tool and gadget in the world — not to mention exacting standards, with refined preferences for salt, knives, and even vegetable peelers and storage containers. Giving a gift to someone with such particular taste can seem like a tall task — and it is, but it’s far from impossible. Especially if you choose from the things in this story. We surveyed more than 30 chefs and restaurant owners about the kitchen items that they like to give, as well as the stuff they have on their own wish lists. Below, they recommend specialized high-end equipment, the absolute best versions of affordable staples, and so much in between. Let’s face it: No cook wouldn’t like receiving a gorgeous tin of fish nearly as big as their face. Read on for more thoughtful, smart, and unexpected suggestions.
Gifts for cooking
Flynn McGarry, the owner and head chef at New York City’s Gem restaurant, told us that one of his favorite things to give people who like to cook is this miniature copper pan from heritage French cookware brand Mauviel — the high-end, always-recommended, gold-star standard for professionals. While it’s made for warming butter, McGarry says, “You can heat up any sauce with it.” He adds that the pan is “just adorable,” which makes it even more giftable (as does the fact that a pan as specific as this may be something that even an experienced chef or home cook might not buy for themselves).
If you want to take the plunge and get the chef in your life something they can actually cook a meal with, Mike Lata, the chef and owner of FIG and The Ordinary in Charleston, South Carolina, says you can’t go wrong with this paella burner. “It’s a very compact unit that’s lightweight, portable, and super-easy to clean,” he says, assuring us that it’s a more practical gift than you might think. “If you want to have an impromptu dinner party and you only have rice, vegetables, and some meat, you can easily impress a crowd.”
Another adorable cooking tool — or set of cooking tools — that McGarry likes to give (and use) are these cheery rubber spatulas. “I use them for everything from scraping out containers to cleaning my blender,” he told us. “They can get to the hardest to reach places, and I love how many different colors they come in.” While the cook in your life might already have some spatulas, they really can never have too many (especially of different sizes).
Food writer and avid cook Amiel Stanek, is obsessed with his flat-top outdoor grill. “It’s essentially a propane-powered restaurant plancha,” he says. While your food won’t get smoky in the way it does when you use a charcoal grill, this gives you the pleasure of cooking outside, just like with a gas grill — but with way more ease of use and flexibility. “Because it’s just one big surface, you can move things around, cook more than one food at a time, have some burners on and some off. It’s perfect for everything — smash burgers, pancakes, a whole plancha meal, steak,” he says. “Plus, it’s collapsible if you ever need to put it away or take it with you somewhere, and super-easy to clean.”
“I want a copper tamagoyaki pan,” Craig Koketsu, the executive chef of Quality Branded, the restaurant group behind Quality Meats and Quality Italian, told us. “I’m really into making omelettes right now, and this pan allows you to roll a perfect omelette that’s evenly filled from end to end.” As it’s smaller than most pans (at six-by-six inches), it’ll also please any chef in your life whose kitchen isn’t as big as they’d like.
Chef Sohla El-Waylly told us this fish weight — a stainless-steel press designed to sit on top of fish in a pan, allowing for even cooking and a crispy skin — is one of her favorite tools. And, according to her, the weight would make a thoughtful gift whether or not your recipient cooks fish, because it is quite versatile in the kitchen. “It’s heavy enough to weigh a fillet down, but not so unruly it bruises the flesh, with a thick body that retains and transfers heat,” El-Waylly says. “This makes it perfect for more than just fish — I use mine for everything from grilled cheese and quesadillas, to smashed crispy potatoes and chicken thighs.” [Editor’s note: Fortnum & Mason lists prices in British pounds, so the price below is an approximate conversion in U.S. dollars.]
Chef Jeremy Blutstein told us this charcoal grill setup makes a great gift for chefs of any experience. “I just bought this combination for my sous chef,” he told us. “It has tons of applications, can achieve a high heat, it’s compact, and produces a great flavor.” If you really want to impress your recipient, Blutstein says to throw in some charcoal. The Binchotan charcoal he recommends is known for burning without any smoke, making it a favorite for chefs who like to hover over their grill and perfect what’s cooking.
“A donabe is just my favorite thing,” says Lauren Stanek, the chef and other half of Kitty’s restaurant. “I find myself wanting more and more of them. It’s the most beautiful version of a steamer that you can keep out on your counter. It feels handmade, with no brand name in sight. Plus, you can also use it as a Dutch oven.”
Chef Chad Shaner says he’d love to receive a nice juicer. “I’m usually on the run in the morning,” he explains, “and if I don’t start my day healthy, it snowballs.” As for what juice he’d make with it, he says he’d replicate his “shift drink” that he has while on the job: a mix of kale, green apple, ginger, orange, and matcha juice. This Breville Juice Fountain also made our list of the best-reviewed juicers on Amazon.
Genevieve Ko, cooking editor at the Los Angeles Times says she would love to be gifted a Yaki Yaki San smokeless indoor grill. Its clay material (heated over an electric or gas stovetop) prevents smoke while a reservoir of water captures excess fat. “I’m fascinated by how it works and would love to be able to grill indoors without smoking up my kitchen,” says Ko. “Also, it’s gorgeous enough to bring to the table as a serving piece.”
If you’d like to splurge on a top-of-the-line blender as a gift, Brandon Jew, the chef and owner of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco, told us he’s “really into the Vitamix Ascent.” Among its many features, Jew “likes the blender’s timer, which is built right in,” he told us. “The auto functions are great, too.” If you think your chef would like a blender, but want to shop around, we’ve written about plenty of other options at various price points in our lists of the best-rated blenders on Amazon and the best blenders for making smoothies, according to experts.
Preeti Mistry, the author of the Juhu Beach Club Cookbook, has a slightly more techy item on her wish list. “I have some ideas I want to play around with on a home sous vide machine,” she says. “I’m not big on modernist cuisine, but I do think a sous vide machine’s interesting when it serves a purpose.” Grub Street editor Alan Sytsma has written about this very gadget for the Strategist, calling it one of only “two real contenders in the at-home sous vide game.”