Our Favorite Culinary Gifts Under $100

20171130-under-100-collage.jpg

Do you have a lifelong pact with a friend or a family member to stay within a certain price range when buying gifts? Did you maybe forget someone's birthday this year and promise to make it up to them around the holidays? Do you have a buddy who's had a difficult couple months or year (2017, amirite?)? Is there a person out there who did you a huge favor and you're still trying to figure out how to thank them?

Well, cash never hurts. Just send them some cash. Paper money, yes: cash.

But if you'd rather buy them a nice gift, one just pricey enough to make a palpable dent in your finances without breaking the bank, then we've got several recommendations for nice cooking gear that cost less than $100. (For items a little gentler on the wallet, check out our collection of presents under $50.) But if you're ready to spend a little more, upping the ante gives you some great options.

A Powerful Multi-Cooker

Everyone loves the Instant Pot! Haven't you heard? It's the "it" cooking tool of the year, and with good reason: The Instant Pot is a very efficient multi-cooker at a very nice price point. In our review of multi-cookers and pressure cookers. It's the perfect gift for someone looking to get into pressure cooking, or really anybody hoping to save space on appliances—think slow-cooker, steamer, pressure-cooker, hot pot, and rice-cooker all rolled into one.

Our Winning Immersion Blender

[Photograph: Emily Dryden]

We just recently reviewed all the immersion blenders out there and our top pick will run you just a hair under $100. This blender is a great gift for pretty much anyone in your life—it's useful for tasks ranging from making soups to zipping up two-minute mayo to creating silky-smooth sauces. Even if the recipient already has an immersion blender, if it isn't this one, they'll be getting a serious upgrade.

One Impressive Boning Knife

boning-knife.jpg

This stainless steel boning knife is one of my new recommendations for this year's gift guide: I own it, I love it, I can't stop talking about it to anyone who will listen, and—hurray!—you are my captive audience. This is a great gift for the budding knife geek in your life, but it's also particularly good for anyone who butchers chicken regularly (and more people should: it's easy and fun and very economical). For the knife nerd, this blade is a great introduction to the wide world of specialty Japanese blades, since it's modeled on the honesuki, or poultry knife.

If that intimidates you, know that there are a couple key differences that make it more appropriate for a novice. It's relatively easier to sharpen, and it isn't just a single-use knife; it can be used as a petty knife in a pinch, and because of the way the blade is shaped, can even be used to chop stuff up using a rocking motion.

But where it shines is in cutting up poultry. If you have a cook friend who's talked about experimenting with yakitori, butterflying chicken wings, or making a ballontine (or turducken!), this is the knife for her. If you've got a buddy who complains about the high price of deboned quail and squab, bring him this blade. The thin, sharp tip is ideal for maneuvering around wee little bird bones. In contrast to a traditional Western boning knife, I've found that it's easier to use this blade to cut around the bones rather than to scrape them, although the wide, sturdy base excels at scraping, too, so it's also good for Frenching chops, or when you really have to get some chicken legs deboned in a couple of minutes for some fajitas.

And the best part? Its price. Specialty Japanese knives can get very pricey very quickly, and given the materials of its construction, the price at Chefs Knives to Go is a steal.

The Fastest, Most Accurate Instant-Read Thermometer

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Hi. Yes, we are recommending the Thermapen as a gift, again. Why? Well, it is simply the best instant-read thermometer on the market. An accurate instant-read thermometer will make your cooking more reliable and eliminate the guesswork from any recipe—it's a crucial tool for beginner, intermediate, and serious cooks.

"Why are you recommending it as a gift, though?" I hear you asking. Well, some people do not have it (like me; I don't have it. Hint, hint!) Why do I need it? Well, I don't, but if someone were to gift it to me I'd be mighty pleased (in fact, I purposely never bought one because I thought for a long time my lovely family members would gift me a Thermapen! A good gift, please!). It'll give you an accurate temperature reading in two seconds. And it's got a huge range—-58 to 572°F (-50 to 300°C)—which means you can use it for perfectly cooked meat, making candy, deep-frying, whatever (deep-freezing?!?).

It is a guaranteed home-run present—even for those cooks who insist they cook by the sound of the sizzle or by the bubble of the boil. One day they'll realize the grievous error of their mumbo-jumbo ways and thank you.

A Quality Sharpening Stone

sharpening-stone-1.jpg

Let's face it: Most people who cook a lot are cooking with less-than-sharp knives. This is mostly because knife-sharpening is seen as some abstruse skill, something only butchers and chefs and hunters and barbers have any use for. But a knife—any knife!—is like a brain: dull = dangerous; sharp = safe (and very sexy). This present may cross the line from gift-giving to obligation-giving, since the recipient probably hasn't ever had a sharpening stone before, but if you've got a budding knife nerd in your life, or if you know someone who has complained about their very expensive nice knives becoming uselessly dull, then it's perfect. With just a little bit of practice, they'll be sharpening their blades on the regular, and they may even thank you by offering to sharpen your collection of blunt blades.

This sharpening stone is a basic Japanese combination water stone, with one side that has a medium grit (1,000) and the other has a fine grit (6,000). The medium grit side is coarser and takes off more metal, and will do the bulk of sharpening, while the fine grit side is more for polishing and fine-tuning the sharpening job. While it is true that combination stones are inferior to stones of a single grit, the combination stone is a great way for someone just starting out with sharpening to familiarize themselves with how to use and care for water stones.

You will want a "fixer" to give along with the stone, which will ensure that the stone's surface remains flat, but even with the fixer added on, the total price of your (very thoughtful, amazing, excellent) gift will be below $100.

(FYI: If your budget is really limited—I've been there—but you still want to give an avid cook a nice gift, offer to take their knives in for sharpening somewhere. If you don't know of a place, ask your butcher or look around online. It should cost you ~$5 per knife and the recipient will truly appreciate it).

A Professional-Grade Apron That's Easy on the Eyes

apron.jpg

Personally, I've never had any use for an apron, because I don't have any nice clothes. But if I did have shirts and slacks and stuff of a decent enough quality that I wouldn't want it to get ruined while futzing around in the kitchen, I'd want an apron. But there are aprons and then there are aprons. Most aprons come with some kistchy decal or slogan, and that's all well and good, but if you're looking for a high-quality gift right smack in the middle of the $50-$100 range, then the aprons from Tilit are a wonderful option. They're made for professionals, so their waxed cotton can handle most any spill of grease or splash of sauce, but they're really, really, ridiculously, ridiculously good-looking—enough so that the recipient could proudly wear one as they welcome guests into their home.

But Wait, There's More!

We're not done. You can find plenty more gift ideas right this way »