Because so many people are asking, here is a list of items that I use, I want, or I think are cool. They items on this list range from the essentials (an immersion circulator) to the AWESOME ($200 per ounce Italian white truffles). So, without further ado, I give you my list of last minute gift ideas for the home cook. Aside from the last section of this list, I use all of these items. if you have any questions, feel free to reach out or comment. Happy shopping.
An immersion circulator for sous-vide cooking.
Yeah, I know. You’re tired of hearing about sous vide from me. It really is a life saver. I use it to cook holiday roasts, poach batches of perfect eggs, make jars of custards and yogurts, infuse alcohol for cocktails and tinctures, make perfect fish and juicy chops, I even use it to wash my dog (that last one is a lie). Personally, I love my circulator from Anova, but there are a bunch on the market. GO GET ONE!
Why spend over $100 on a thermometer? This is THE tool that will make you a better cook. Cooking is a science; no real chef cooks by “feel”. A professional is constantly taking temperatures of food. The Thermapen will give you an instant read that is completely accurate every time. Most thermometers take 5-6 seconds to give you an accurate reading. This one takes less than a second. That is a big deal when opening an oven or grill. Plus, the tip is needle-thin. That means you can take temps in different parts of your food without poking big holes in it. I was a skeptic at first, but I can confidently tell you that this tool has upped my game tremendously. BONUS- They have amazing customer service. I have a very old model that that was accidentally run through the dishwasher and started acting flakey. I called them up and had it repaired and sent back within DAYS.
A Cast Iron / Enamel French Oven
This is an investment, but this type of cooker (I use a Le Creuset) can be used for deep frying, braising, making sauces, roasting, and a load of other things. A good quality one will last forever; we have one that is 10 years old and looks brand new. They are easy to clean and look rad.
A Carbon Steel Frying Pan
I use this pan almost every day. It makes fried eggs, extra crispy, and it sears just as good as cast iron. Once it is seasoned properly, it is as non-stick as Teflon. The beauty is, with a little care, the more you use this pan, the better it gets.
Mason Jars of All Shapes and Sizes
These little guys get a bad wrap as being too “hipster”, but I use them for everything. The hold my BBQ rub, they serve as “to-go” cups for salads and overnight oatmeal, they go into my sous vide bath for desserts, they store salad dressings and sauces… basically, they are just the perfect utility player in the kitchen.
A Steamer Lid (preferably pig shaped)
This multipurpose lid can be placed directly over ingredients in a bowl to keep them warm, can be used to cover food and prevent splatters in the microwave, and can even be used as a jar opener. Plus, it is pig shaped and the steam come out from the snout! OINK!
Three Types of Spatulas
I use a fish turner for anything I cook in my carbon pan. It lets you get the food without the grease. I use a silicone spatula for anything I cook in my non-stick pan. I use a heavy duty burger spatula for anything on the grill. I actually have two of those burger flippers because I am a lazy dishwasher and always want to have one on hand.
Lots and Lots and Lots of Kitchen Tongs
Use them for everything that you don’t use a spatula for. It seems like I never have enough of these and I have at least 6 sets.
The “Yeah, I don’t really need these, but they are awesome” Wishlist
Um… Who DOESN’T want a kitchen blowtorch attachment for melting cheese, caramelizing desserts, putting a crust on a steak, or just reheating pizza? Losers, that’s who!
A Pressure Cooker / Slow Cooker
I have an inexpensive pressure cooker and an old, but decent slow cooker. They work fine for me, but I’ve been getting envious reading the reviews for the InstaPot. It slow cooks, pressure cooks, makes rice, steams vegetables, and washes your dog (Again, that last bit is a lie. Do not put your dog in a pressure cooker… ever.) While I can’t vouch for the InstaPot, I can say that a slow cooker and a pressure cooker are great tools for quick weeknight meals. With one, you load up everything and it’s ready when you get home from work. With the other, you can make dishes that would normally take hours in a fraction of the time. I use my pressure cooker for quickly making taco meat, bone broths, and braises that would take another gadget 4-5 hours. I use my slow cooker for everything from mulled spiked cider to short ribs. I’m looking forward to the day that my slow cooker breaks so I can try out the InstaPot.
The “I’ll never get this, but might as well put it on my list in case some long lost rich relative is reading this crappy blog” Items
$200 Per Ounce Imported White Truffles
Just buy them for me… please. Oh, but make sure you get like 5-6 ounces so I’ll have enough to share with others. I’m not greedy.
A Copper Moonshine Still
Obviously, this completely functioning moonshine still COULD THEORETICALLY help you make your own booze- if that were legal. But it’s not, so I just want this for display purposes. I will probably display mine filled with malt… over a low flame… in a shack… in the woods. Yum
A Backyard Brick Pizza Oven
… because who doesn’t want to have a few cocktails and then light up an ultra hot wood-burning oven, so they can have drunk pizza?