Our Favorite Splurge-Worthy Gifts for Cooks and Food Lovers

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Last week, we scoured the world of cookware to find and share our favorite gifts under $50 and under $100. These affordable presents are a good reminder that buying essential kitchen goods doesn't have to leave you without money for groceries. But we know that sometimes you want to give someone a real showstopper, a splurge gift to blow all other gifts out of the water. Maybe you feel guilty because you've been slacking on dishes duty; maybe you're just appreciative of your friends and family. Either way, we found a great assortment of splurge-worthy gifts to make everyday cooking feel just a bit more luxurious.

Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker

Treat the griller in your life to this WiFi-enabled electric smoker. It's about as "set it and forget it" as it gets, delivering all the notifications you need to your smartphone, while delivering impressively professional results.

Easy-to-Grow Herbs at Home

I treated myself to an AeroGarden earlier in the year, and it's been the best purchase I've made for my kitchen in ages. This hydroponics system makes growing fresh herbs at home absolutely idiot-proof. Plop in the seed pods, add some water, and follow the notifications for when you need to add more water or nutrients. The lights go on and off automatically to keep your basil, mints, thyme, parsley, and the like thriving. In just a few weeks, you'll have bushels of fresh, aromatic herbs, meaning you'll never want for pesto ever again. If you want to get a little more advanced, you can also grow cherry tomatoes and peppers in there. And while the machine itself is pricey, it'll pay for itself in yield over the coming months and years.

Breville Ice Cream Machine

When we started doing research for our ice cream machine review, we tested two different models. One is a canister model; the other is a compressor. Where canister models take a bit work—you need to freeze all the components way beforehand in order to get your ice cream cold enough to, well, become ice cream—compressor models do literally all the work for you in a super sleek machine. Just pour in your base, press the button, and without any prior freezing or chilling, your ice cream will whip up in no time. Our favorite ice cream maker, made by Breville, also comes fully loaded with 12 hardness settings and precool and keep-cool options, as well as classic ice cream truck tunes that alert you when your ice cream is done churning. A song to celebrate ice cream made well? Yes, please.

A Crumb-Free Kitchen

We spend a lot of time talking about what goes into a great meal at Serious Eats, from selecting the right ingredients to using the best technique to choosing the perfect cooking vessel. Unfortunately, we spend much less time talking about the best way to clean it all up. One thing we can all agree on is that having a Dyson in your clean-up arsenal makes all the difference in the world. Use this handheld one to gather up pesky crumbs between your stove and dishwasher or dropped nibbles after a dinner party. It's so powerful that it makes cleaning—gasp!—actually fun.

The Finest Belgian-Waffle Maker

Few experiences compare to waking up to the sweet, buttery aroma of freshly made waffles, whether they're yeasted or made with buttermilk, Belgian-style with deep, square pockets for syrup or the thinner and circular American-style variety. We tested over a dozen waffle makers, and this super-swanky number from All-Clad was a clear winner. If your giftee swears by crisp-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside Belgian-style waffles with deep divots for luscious toppings, this is the machine to make them smile.

KitchenAid Pro Stand Mixer

Now we get down to the iconic kitchen splurges. With a KitchenAid Pro stand mixer, your giftee will be able to tackle a whole new realm of recipes. Think Stella's one bowl cinnamon buns (ideal for a holiday breakfast), effortless angel food cake, and, with the right attachments, armloads of fresh pasta. For our full guide to what to do with this mammoth machine, click here.

The Best Dutch Oven

A good enameled cast iron Dutch oven is made to last. And when it's made by a time-honored brand like Le Creuset, you can bet it'll be as beautifully made as it is useful and durable. Tuck one of these under the tree (or the Hanukkah bush) this year to guarantee the recipient a lifetime of braises and stews, crusty breads, and so much more. Add some Bar Keeper's Friend to the package to help your giftee keep it looking new for years to come—it may just become a family heirloom.

The Best High-End Blender

Like said Dutch Oven, a Vitamix is a kitchen tool that will never go out of style. It's certainly a splurge, but our culinary team swears by the Vitamix for just about anything you can imagine, like milling grains, making smoothies, and blasting through ice. If you have the funds to get a Vitamix, we highly suggest you pick one up.

For more recommendations, head over to our gift guide ».