The best gift you can give a serious cook—which we’ll liberally define as anybody who talks (and likely brags) about cooking, religiously reads this website, or is paid to make food for others—is something they’ll actually use. To ensure that our gifts fulfill this utility requirement, we asked the most serious cooks—professional chefs—to highlight their favorite, most-useful pieces of kitchen equipment they’ve both given and received. Here are their answers.
The kitchen equivalent of socks, underwear, and toothbrushes. What these stocking-stuffer gifts lack in style points, they more than makeup for via utility and durability.
High Heat Rubber Spatulas
For Lauren Desteno, executive chef of New York City’s Altamarea Group (which includes restaurants like Marea), there’s no world in which her kitchen could have too many spatulas. As far as materials, her personal preference is “high heat rubber or silicone.”
Chuck Cruz—a classically trained chef who regularly posts some of the most enjoyable cooking videos on TikTok—wants his kitchen stocked with spoons. “Big, small, slotted, and everything in between. For measuring, plating, and tasting,” he says.
“I think there are plenty of things in the kitchen you can always have more of, one of them being electric scales—they are crucial for accurate and consistent recipes,” says Doug Brixton, the Michelin-Starred chef running New York City’s The Golden Swan.
Specialized items that will improve your everyday kitchen experience. These are things found in professional—and serious home—kitchens that have specific focus but far reaching benefit.
“I gave my cooks sharpening stones for Christmas one year,” says Doug. “It’s a great gift because it’s something you need to use on a regular basis when it’s essential to have sharp knives.”
For Doug, an immersion blender is the most memorable gift he’s received from another. It’s easy to see why—these handheld tools are perfect for making soups, sauces, and smoothies.
de Buyer Carbon Steel Pan
“I gave my mom a de Buyer carbon steel pan for her birthday. It’s my favorite pan,” says Chuck.
In a perfect world, Doug said he would have a restaurant-quality vacuum sealing machine in his home kitchen. “This machine has so many uses for bagging, storing products, and cooking,” he said. Unfortunately, these machines are expensive—like $4,000 expensive. However, you can incorporate the benefits of vacuum sealing into your cooking with this affordable alternative from ZWILLING.
These pieces of equipment expand your home cooking capabilities. They’re generational gifts that will be cherished—and often used—for decades. Gift any of these to a serious cook—or budding professional chef—and they’ll forever thank you.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer
When asked what he would give a friend if he had an unlimited budget, Doug had a clear frontrunner. “A KitchenAid—they are great tools and have so many different ways to use them including making pasta, bread doughs, grinding meats, and making sausages.”
Re: Making pasta with a KitchenAid. Chuck’s dream gift is a pasta extruder—a pasta-making machine commonly found in high-end restaurants. Sadly, when purchased as a standalone appliance, these machines are quite expensive. The good news? You can transform your KitchenAid into an extruder with these—more affordable—attachments.
Am I a chef? No, definitely not. But, for a few years I was a pretty decent line cook. If I were to buy one of my chef friends a gift, these are the tools at the top of my list.
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What are you buying your chef friend this year? Let us know in the comments below!