The Host

Table-worthy cooking tools, plus beautiful service pieces and drinkware to make the most of entertaining.

Do you know someone who's getting into tea? Like, really into tea? This is the tea set to get for that person. It comes with a traditional Chinese brewing vessel (a gaiwan), a decanter, four tasting cups, and a beautiful wood tea tray with a rack to store all the pieces. At $120, it's not cheap, but it's a bargain compared to other well-made tea sets, especially when you consider the high-quality, paper-thin porcelain. For tea lovers looking to dig into tea ceremonies, this set has everything you need.  — Serious Eats Staff

Spending $50 on cheese knives feels a little silly, especially when a regular knife does the trick just fine. But that's why they're the perfect gift—arguably unnecessary, but nonetheless useful, they feel like a real luxury. I'm pretty sure they also raise your "real adult" status by at least 10 points. Especially when they're these beautifully crafted Dubost Laguiole knives. I like the simplicity of the olivewood handles, but they do come in other colors and styles, with the same high-quality blades.  — Niki

Functional, but with an elegant twist: The width of the forks and spoons is just slightly smaller than that of your standard set, and they feel slightly longer in the hand. This set is a good and long-lasting upgrade to those starter Ikea sets.  — Sho

With their smooth surface and cool temperature, marble pastry slabs are a baker's best friend. They're great for rolling out pie crusts, laminating doughs, and tempering chocolate—plus, this one's pretty enough (albeit heavy) to use as a serving platter.  — Niki

I'm finally at the stage of my life where I have Nice Things—pieces of furniture I actually want to have around, and keep looking good, for years to come. That means I've finally become a coaster devotee, and I'm a big fan of these cork-bottomed ceramic ones by Xenia Taler. They're vibrant and shiny, so it feels like they add to your decor, rather than detracting from it. If you're not into this particular color scheme, she has a range of other cute designs to choose from.  — Niki

When Serious Eats builds a customized gift basket, it looks something like this heady, pork-heavy array. Start with a bag of addictively salty-hot white cheddar–jalapeño popcorn, and then move on to the main course: smoky-sweet bacon-caramel popcorn, alongside a bag of sriracha-spiked bacon jerky. Finish off with a few hunks of salty-nutty-sweet peanut butter crunch toffee, and let the food coma begin. Bonus: Your giftee will also get a handy tote bag from our friends at Mouth, to commemorate their feast.  — Serious Eats Staff

It may sound nuts to mail-order cornmeal and grits, given that they're found on any supermarket shelf. But I'd argue that you haven't experienced the best cornbread, grits, or other classic Southern dishes until you've had them made with the kind of high-quality stuff Anson Mills is selling. It'll change how you understand those foods and what they can be.  — Daniel

They may not come in the most festive or glamorous packaging, but you can't go wrong with Effie's Oatcakes. Buttery, crumbly, nutty, and salty-sweet, they're insanely addictive. Case in point: I've eaten three in the last 10 minutes. My advice? Purchase them in bulk so you can stuff a stocking or two and hoard the rest for yourself.  — Niki

If you're following my advice to buy someone julep cups, you might as well go all the way and grab a canvas Lewis bag as well: It's used to smash ice into a fine powder with a mallet. Unless, of course, the person you're buying for already has an ice crusher.  — Daniel

This cookbook has been my guide to learning how to use my donabe cooker, and thus far it hasn't let me down. It offers a wide range of recipes to help give you an idea of just how many one-pot dishes can be made using a donabe, plus background on the history and variety of donabe cookers.  — Daniel

A New York Times best-seller! The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenji López-Alt, is his column by the same name on this very website, blown up to 900-plus pages (and seven-plus pounds) of concentrated culinary science. Gorgeous color photos, detailed how-tos, and elaborate explainers cover ingredients, technique, gear, and the secrets of the universe underneath it all. May include puns.  — Serious Eats Staff

It's hard to find a better-curated food catalog than Zingerman's. They are righteous folks, they know seriously delicious food when they come across it, and they sell it at a fair price. Nothing in the catalog is cheap, but then again, good food rarely is. So whether you order cheese or olive oil or bread from Zingerman's, you can be confident you're going to be very happy when it arrives at your house.  — Ed

Sack-like contemporary aprons may do the job, but they’re far from flattering. This ‘50s-style cut, on the other hand, is the kind of apron I wish I could wear out on the town—it’s colorful, lightweight, and fitted for equal parts comfort, function, and fashion.  — Niki

Winter is all about slow-cooked braised dishes, and Molly Stevens's text is the bible on the subject. Stevens first devotes dozens of pages to discussing the equipment and technique behind braising in incredible detail. Then she provides unfussy but impressive-sounding recipes to make the most of your newfound braising skills. A little hint: The vegetable recipes are some of the best.  — Serious Eats Staff

I must admit that I'm predisposed to like any confection that's simply called a "finger." A finger implies a certain size and scope that speaks to me. When the box of Nuubia SF's chocolate fingers I'd ordered arrived at our office, I made a beeline for the countertop that serves as Food Central at Serious Eats World Headquarters. It's a good thing, because they were gone in a minute—and with good reason. Creamy hazelnut praline mousse, surrounded by smooth and not-too-sweet dark chocolate, is my idea of a perfect finger food.  — Ed

This is hands down the KitchenAid attachment I use most often. It takes all of the frustration and fussiness out of making fresh pasta, and, unlike the manual alternatives out there, it's incredibly easy and efficient to operate on your own. Hello, homemade ravioli!  — Niki

No pasta machine? No problem. This book is devoted to the art of handcrafted Italian dumplings, from yeasty, spindle-shaped cecamariti to classic gnocchi to golden-brown parallelograms of deep-fried crescentine. If the adage "practice makes perfect" fills you with excitement rather than dread, this is the kind of book that will make you utterly determined to prevail.  — Niki

Sure, you can serve crushed-ice cocktails in a regular old glass, but these shiny pineapple-shaped tumblers really up the ante and make a tiki party feel special.  — Serious Eats Staff

A good steak knife should cut steak well, and it should look good while doing it. French-made Laguiole knives are the gold standard in performance, with extra-sharp edges for easy cutting, a long life, and gorgeous handles with distinctive bee-shaped bolsters. (Beware inexpensive knockoffs!)  — Kenji

Salad servers should be functional, but it doesn't hurt to have a set that actually looks good on your table. This olivewood duo is sturdy and durable, with a warm, lustrous finish and natural wood-grain pattern that's complemented by smooth, polka-dotted bone handles.  — Niki

Published on what would have been the late British author’s 100th birthday, Elizabeth David’s On Vegetables will teach you how a bag of grocery store onions can be transformed into an unforgettable roasted side dish, and how some fresh shelled peas can yield the most vibrant soup you’ve ever tasted. Filled with recipes that are simple, straightforward, yet often revelatory, this book also features a few of David’s best essays, as well as gorgeous photography.  — Serious Eats Staff

When I tested bread knives earlier this year, I was absolutely blown away by the cutting quality of Tojiro's bread knife. It surpassed every other serrated knife I tested, cutting beautifully clean slices of even the most tender bread, and making quick, neat work of ripe tomatoes. It's a must-have as far as I'm concerned.  — Daniel

The best ham on earth doesn't come cheap, but this is the caviar of pork: jamón ibérico puro de bellota, from purebred Ibérico pigs raised on acorns for a ham that's nutty and sweet, with meltingly soft fat.  — Serious Eats Staff

These wine glasses feel fancy enough for an elegant dinner party—and you can throw them in the dishwasher after, which is a pretty rare attribute. Their sturdy construction means you (or your giftee) can expect to hang on to these for several years.  — Serious Eats Staff

I've never been to Zahav, the Philadelphia restaurant where Michael Solomonov serves his Israeli cuisine, but its namesake book has nevertheless changed the way I cook. His recipe for tahini sauce, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon, is alone worth the price of admission. I've loved the Yemenite beef soup (and the accompanying hot sauce), his wide focus on vegetarian-friendly dishes, and a host of homemade condiments that will elevate almost any meal, even if you don't follow full recipes from the book.  — Kenji

How much praise can I throw at a Le Creuset Dutch oven? This is one of those things couples put on their wedding registries and desperately hope someone buys for them. This is a pot you hand down to your kids. This is a piece of cookware that you will use for everything, including serving at the table, and then you won't want to put it away because you just like looking at it. This is a workhorse of the kitchen. Yes, it costs a lot. But things that are built to last a lifetime despite daily use usually do.  — Daniel

This isn't just a chili cookbook. Robb Walsh digs deep into the beloved dish's ancestry, tracing threads through Mexico City, San Antonio, and Santa Fe—as you might expect—but also Hungary, Greece, and the Canary Islands (off the coast of North Africa). Walsh is one of food writing's best storytellers, so the book is satisfying even if you never whip out your Dutch oven and get cooking. You should, though: The fascinating tale is best enjoyed with a big bowl of chile con carne. (Walsh's recipe from El Real in Houston is killer.)  — Serious Eats Staff

I don't often recommend single-function items, but for the cocktail enthusiast, a couple of julep cups really are fun to have. There's nothing like holding that metal cup frosted with ice on a blisteringly hot summer day—glass just doesn't pull the effect off in the same way. If the recipient doesn't have an ice crusher, check out my Lewis bag suggestion as well.  — Daniel

When fall and winter roll around, I start thinking about rich, comforting casseroles, which means that these stoneware baking dishes get pulled out, filled, and popped into the oven at least once a week. They're great-looking on the table and provide gentle, even cooking all around for really nice, crisp edges on your lasagna.  — Kenji

Indian food has a reputation for being difficult and time-consuming, with hard-to-find ingredients and new techniques. I get it. It's intimidating. But in this book, Serious Eater Denise D'silva Sankhé breaks Indian cooking down into simple techniques that any home cook can master to produce amazingly flavorful dishes with minimal effort. Over the course of more than 100 recipes, Denise introduces us to simple cooking from every region of India, focusing on home-style dishes that move well beyond the world of curries. I'm also super stoked that she's included notes with every recipe on whether it's vegan, vegetarian, and/or allergy-friendly.  — Kenji

Few things get me as excited as a good raw bar, but most of the time, I eat far less than I want because, after the first couple dozen oysters or so, it just gets to be too expensive. That's even truer when the oysters are top-notch, like the briny little suckers from Island Creek up in Massachusetts. But here's the good news: You can order Island Creek's oysters online by the 50- or 100-count for much less than they cost at most restaurants, and have them in your hands the next day for an at-home shucking extravaganza. (Obviously, it helps to learn how to shuck first.)  — Daniel

Lightweight and virtually unbreakable, melamine can be super convenient for outdoor entertaining or big parties. Unfortunately, it's not always super attractive. That's why I'm so in love with these plates, which look like hand-painted ceramic, with the weight and heft of, well, plastic. Plus, I get complimented on them all the time.  — Niki

Manhattan chef Jody Williams's Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food is as charming and inviting as the restaurant that inspired it. This is a book to get greasy and damp as you cook through its pages, and it's a nightstand read, dreamy and warm, to flip through as you wind down. Channeling a traditional French bistro, with a bit of Italy and a touch of New York thrown in, the recipes are classics, both inspirational and totally doable. Some are so simple that they hardly count as recipes at all—they're more like suggestions for how to better your day with a plate of food, from breakfast through dessert after a lingering, late-night supper. Perfect for your impossibly, effortlessly stylish friend.  — Serious Eats Staff

What's the point of perfectly roasting that turkey or prime rib if you don't have a pretty surface to carve it on? I love this teak cutting board because it's large enough for major projects, but lighter than thicker boards, making it easy to move from the kitchen to the dining room. It's made from scraps of larger teak products, making this cutting board a good environmental choice as well.  — Kenji

Ah, martini glasses: so angular and sexy, so prone to making me look like a drunk as I struggle to keep a generously poured beverage within their confines. The traditional wide bowl, delicate stem, and sharply sloping sides are meant to enhance the botanical aromas of the gin, keep the drink frosty-cold, and provide a comfortable wall for a cocktail pick to lean against, respectively—but in practice, all those features feel like bugs for clumsy-fingered folk like me. So I sought out a design that wrapped up those attributes in a more user-friendly package, and discovered this lovely set of glasses. The broad mouth remains, but the conical shape has been softened and the stem fattened (which, if I'm being honest, will make me all the more inclined to actually use that stem instead of clutching the bowl for dear life). Got no space for uni-tasking glassware? These double nicely as pretty dessert dishes.  — Miranda

One of the best cookbook gateways into Middle Eastern cuisine—an obsessive and personalized exploration of the many cultures and traditions that make up Jerusalem's culinary world. What will you find here? A recipe for the best hummus of your life, for starters; messy-beautiful dips and salads; and the delicately spiced soups, grains, and vegetables Yotam Ottolenghi has become famous for.  — Serious Eats Staff

This Serious Eats-curated gift bag features a one-stop shop for your (or your giftee's) next holiday party. The theme here is just hot enough to handle—think a fresh and punchy aji pepper salsa, some crunchy white corn tortilla, and a dill and horseradish-packed Bloody Mary Mix. Plus, of course, some vodka to top it off, along with a package of sweet, crunchy toffee to cut the heat. Bonus: your giftee will also get a handy tote bag from our friends at Mouth to commemorate their feast.  — Serious Eats Staff

These thin chocolate disks have a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture and a complex, pleasantly fruity bitterness. But it's the scattered cacao nibs on top that take them from memorable to exceptional. The crunchy bits of bean are toasty and flavorful in their own right, but Recchiuti goes the extra mile, tossing them in caramel and fleur de sel for a brightly salty-sweet finish that electrifies each bite.  — Serious Eats Staff

Heavy-duty kitchen towels have a tendency to accrue big, ugly stains. That's why it's nice to keep a separate set of more attractive towels for gentle drying, transporting too-hot-to-handle serving dishes, and lining bread baskets. These colorful, summery tea towels instantly brighten any kitchen or tabletop, while still doing a stand-up job at the tasks they were made for.  — Niki

There's form, and then there's function. The aprons from Tilit are great on both fronts. Made from waxed cotton, they offer breathability along with water resistance, but they're also damned handsome. Several NYC restaurants have commissioned custom apron designs from the company for their chefs and cooks, and I'm pretty psyched to wear one of these bad boys at home, too.  — Daniel

This hand-blown and -etched mixing glass from Japan looks stunning on a bar cart and even better in action, whether you're stirring a Negroni, a Martini, or a Manhattan. Mixing glasses made from two parts joined together sometimes split at the seam, but this version, made in one piece with a beaker-like spout, can stand up to heavy use.  — Serious Eats Staff

My good friend Jordana Rothman cowrote this thoughtful ode to tacos with Chef Alex Stupak, and it's a must-have for anyone ready to take a deep dive into corn, masa, tortillas, and everything—modern and traditional—you can stuff into them.  — Daniel

We don't know if there's a book about cooking that we've thought about more than this one by Tamar Adler, a former Chez Panisse cook who was once an editor at Harper's Magazine. It's about cooking simply, and enjoying the simple meals that naturally follow from thinking about your ingredients in cycles. We forget, sometimes, that the leftover stems from blanched broccoli are wonderful cooked with olive oil and piled on toast; that their cooking liquid could be the base of a soup; that the stems of greens like Swiss chard and kale make a lovely pesto. She reminds us that stale bread can make something delicious and that yesterday's bean broth could be the start of a pasta dish today. This book sends the valuable message that dinner doesn't always need to be a big deal.  — Serious Eats Staff

I can't fathom decorating a birthday cake without this sturdy, heavy-bottomed stand. It speeds the process of crumb coating and decoration, while allowing for a whole new array of finishing techniques. It can also double as a lazy susan, so it's often on my dinner table, piled with condiments and toppings, even when there's no cake in sight.  — Stella

Punt e Mes is both bitter and sweet, like a rich bottled vermouth cocktail that'll please lovers of Italian amari. It's delicious stuff, wonderful chilled on its own and fantastic with Cynar, lemon, salt, and orange bitters in this cocktail. If your favorite drinker hasn't tried it, make the introduction.  — Serious Eats Staff

I never knew how much I'd appreciate having a soda-maker at home until I got one. I'm a fizz fiend, and that used to mean sugary sodas. Now it means sparkling water any time I want it. For an extra $50, you can upgrade to the Power Source, which allows you to choose your carbonation level at the touch of a button.  — Kenji

I've used many, many oyster knives in my life, and the R. Murphy Duxbury knife is my hands-down favorite. It has a fat, grippy handle that's easy to wield, and a short blade that tapers to a point and always manages to find the sweet spot on an oyster's hinge. Pop! The slightly sharpened blade edges make slicing through the muscle and removing the top shell as smooth as butter.  — Daniel

If you're looking for one definitive primer on pasta-making in its myriad forms, this is it: Superlative step-by-step photographs take the guesswork out of potentially intimidating fundamentals, like mixing and kneading dough, as well as more intricate tasks, like pleating teardrops of corn- and cheese-stuffed culurgiònes. Better yet, author Marc Vetri arms you with the tools and knowledge that allow for controlled, intelligent experimentation and exploration before sending you into the fray.  — Niki

More Gift Guides