The Host

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

Marble and Acacia Wood Cake Stand

Like a pretty Bundt pan, a beautiful cake stand has an aesthetic value of its own, even without a cake—but present it with Mom's favorite cake on top, and it will also be a nice reminder of the day.

Snow's Barbecue Brisket

Even if you live in Texas and want to avail yourself of the incomparable brisket at Snow's BBQ in Lexington in person it's not easy to do. You see, they're only open on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) from 8 am until the 'cue runs out.

Snowe Flatware

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.

Benton's Country Ham

Benton's country ham is an exemplar of American charcuterie. We recommend the deboned and trimmed smoked ham (just $3 more than the whole smoked ham), but the cured, unsmoked ham is also fantastic. With shipping, it's about $90, which is still a steal when you consider the quality and quantity, and the fact that the trimmings can be used to make many, many super-smoky pots of beans. Fry slices up with brown sugar and brewed coffee, and eat them with a stack of parathas—trust us.

Life of the Party Puzzle

Puzzles are back, baby. This holiday season, give the gift of hours of screen-free relaxation with this sturdy 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle from Piecework. This one features a fistful of cake, but there's a broad selection to choose from.

White Serving Platter

This simple, affordable serving tray from Williams-Sonoma will be a boon to even the most minimalist of cooks: The generous size of the large version (14 by 18 inches) holds a dinner party's worth of side dish or pasta, the classic white goes with everything, the handles and surprisingly light weight make it easy to maneuver, and it's dishwasher-safe on top of it all.

Black Matte Dinner Plates

Get these if you want to up your Instagram game! These are the plates we use the most in our photo shoots—the matte texture makes a great surface on which to make any food pop.

Presto Tilt-N-Fold Griddle

Presto's Tilt-n-Fold model is very simple to set up and operate, and it has a compact design that makes it easy to store in kitchen cabinets when not in use. It has a large, smooth, nonstick cooking surface that heats mostly evenly, can be set at an angle to drain grease, and is easy to clean. We love the price, too.

A 10-Day Tour of Umbria With Sasha Marx

If you're looking to pull out all the stops this year, send your favorite food lover on a once-in-a-lifetime, 10-day food tour in Umbria next March, led by Sasha Marx, Serious Eats senior culinary editor and resident Italian-food expert. The itinerary is packed: cooking lessons and demonstrations, wine tastings, chocolate-making, and a fishing trip, plus visits to cheesemakers, a porchetta master, olive oil producers, and organic farms in the “green heart of Italy"—even a lecture on the history of pasta. Accommodations in a 15th-century castle certainly won't hurt, either. It’s going to be an unforgettable experience.

Whiskey Set

If you like to give a nice bottle of whiskey for special occasions, try switching things up with some nice glassware. This whiskey set from Snowe is durable and elegant, sure to get serious use in the homes of your spirit-loving friends for years to come.

Zingerman's Gift Certificate

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.

Kitchen-Helper Stool

Daniel's one-and-a-half-year-old son has a new and urgent interest in whatever's happening up on the kitchen counter that he can't see. He begs to be picked up, but that means Daniel can cook with only one hand, which, while kind of, sort of, maybe possible, is extremely difficult. Plus, the kid is heavy. It's time to add a learning tower to the kitchen so he can stand and watch, sometimes even help, while Daniel continues to get dinner ready. This one is great because it folds up for easy storage.

Serious Eats X Gustiamo Gift Box

Gustiamo is one of our favorite Italian-food purveyors, and this year, we got the chance to create a Serious Eats custom gift box featuring a collection of our go-to pantry items, from a silky pistachio spread to a funky colatura. Pick one up for yourself, and send another along to an Italophile friend.

Handheld Seltzer Maker

If you're short on space, this compact soda maker fits snugly into any refrigerator door. The iSi Sodamaker Classic can carbonate 0.9 liter of water at a time using recyclable, 15-gram CO2 cartridges. This unit also maintained the carbonation level of the water over the long term better than the other models we tested.

Removable-Cup Spice Grinder

The high-capacity removable bowl and lightning-fast grinding speed make the Cuisinart the ideal spice grinder for the spice fanatic. The grinder cup easily locks into place with a twist and is dishwasher-safe for fast cleanup. The cord tucks away into the base for tidy storage, and the grinder is activated simply by pressing down on the lid.

Pretty Pinch Bowls

These colorful bowls make setting up your mise en place a little more fun, but they're also great for bringing extra seasonings to the table, like fennel seeds and pepper flakes for pizza.

Le Creuset Stoneware Rectangular Dish

When fall and winter roll around, we 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.

Best Carving Knife

For our money, this is the best carving knife on the market, ready to dispatch a roast turkey, leg of lamb, or bone-in ham with aplomb.

Nice Apron

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.

Anchovy Colatura

If you want to give the gift of umami, you owe it to your intended recipient to check out this aged Italian fish sauce. Hailing from the town of Cetara on the Amalfi Coast, colatura is made by aging anchovies and sea salt in chestnut barrels for roughly three years, producing a rich, deeply savory fish sauce that can be used as a flavor enhancer for meats, fish, or vegetables. Or, try it as the star of the show in spaghetti con la colatura.

Table Runner

A simple geometric design to bring some warmth to your table while protecting its surface during entertaining season.

Julep Cups

We 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. If you don't have an ice crusher, check out our Lewis bag suggestion as well.

2-Piece Boston Shaker Cocktail Set

We prefer to use a Boston shaker over a three-piece metal cobbler set, which has a tendency to seize up. Boston shakers open easily, they're relatively inexpensive, and even if the mixing glass breaks, you can replace it for cheap. Using a Boston does require you to have a separate strainer, but that means you can choose a strainer that'll do the job well.

Iittala Essence Glasses

No matter what your father likes to drink, it'll look good in these universal glasses from Iittala. They're big enough to accommodate a 12-ounce beer, his favorite cocktail, or a monster pour of wine...because it's Father's Day, and he deserves it.

Mediterranean Vinyl Floor Mat

This mat will solve the quandary of many a renter who loves to cook, best summed up as "I hate the way my kitchen looks, but there's not much to be done about it." Get this mat. It's stylish, colorful, and incredibly durable—and it really looks like fancy European tile installed over your questionable laminate flooring.

Jono Pandolfi Serving Platter

Now that Ariel finally has some space in her apartment for entertaining, she's been on the lookout for attractive and affordable serveware. She received this Jono Pandolfi serving platter as a gift and has been stocking up on beautiful items from the brand ever since. This platter comes in a few different sizes, depending on your needs. The best part? It's dishwasher-safe, making cleanup after your glamorous meal that much easier.

Dansk Kobenstyle 2-Quart Casserole

A few months back, Kristina's mom stopped dead in her tracks when she spotted a pair of Dansk Kobenstyle pots in the window of a cookware store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "Can you imagine doing a fondue party out of one of those?" she squealed. If there's one thing Kristina's mom loves, it's a themed party, especially one with cheese involved. And Kristina has to agree that these little guys are perfect for all your entertaining needs—they look great on a table, and the lid doubles as a trivet to protect surfaces while you're serving.

AeroGarden Harvest

Cooking with fresh herbs makes every recipe better. Cooking with fresh herbs that you grew all by yourself makes life better. The AeroGarden takes the guesswork out of growing herbs inside, with an automated light to keep your parsley and thyme thriving and weekly reminders for water and nutrients. Just prepare yourself for epic amounts of basil.

Laguiole en Aubrac Steak Knife Set

If you're into more of a classic luxe look, then you'd be hard-pressed to find a more iconic design than a Laguiole-style steak knife. Unfortunately, the term "Laguiole" is not protected or regulated by a trademark, which means that there are a lot of shoddily made knockoff "Laguiole" knives on the market. However, there are a small number of real-deal producers, like Laguiole en Aubrac, that make beautiful knives of exceptional quality with a timeless aesthetic.

Jono Pandolfi Condiment Bowls

For a delicate little stocking stuffer, pick up a few of these lovely handmade condiment bowls from Jono Pandolfi. Put them on your holiday table to hold flaked sea salt and other seasonings, then use them again and again for smaller mise en place items, toothpicks, matches, and more.

Pineapple Tumbler

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.

Frankies 457 Olive Oil

Fancy olive oil always makes a good gift, but there's a difference between fancy olive oil and good fancy olive oil. The house oil from Frankies 457 Spuntino in Brooklyn is delicious (i.e., great on fresh bread and in dishes), is DOC certified, and comes in a chic tin that prevents light from spoiling the product.

Serious Eats X Murray's Holiday Gift Box

We're pretty serious about cheese at Serious Eats, so we're excited to be partnering with Murray's this holiday season to offer a gift box full of some of our favorite varieties. Pick up a box for a pre–holiday dinner cheese plate, or send it to someone you love (who also loves cheese).

Cocktail Strainer

This type of strainer, called a Hawthorne strainer, consists of a flat disk affixed to a coiled spring. The spring traps large chunks or slivers of ice and other solid ingredients, such as muddled fruit or mint leaves. The spring also allows you to control the flow of liquid from the shaker, and the strainer does a generally excellent job of keeping small ice chips, citrus pulp, and particles of muddled ingredients in the shaker, where they belong.

Sizzle Platter

Rarely found in the home but extremely common in restaurants, sizzle platters are one of the most useful pieces of kitchen gear around. We reach for them any time we want to cook or reheat small portions of food, like one or two pork chops, chicken breasts, or steaks. Even small roasts, like a pork tenderloin or lamb shoulder roast, will fit on one, saving you from having to use larger pieces of cookware (and clean them up) for jobs that don't require them.

Le Creuset Cake Stand

If you've ever been given a homemade birthday cake, return the favor by buying your favorite baker this iconic cake stand. Its heavy base keeps cakes secure and makes all types of decorating techniques a breeze.

Espresso Cups

Pretty espresso cups make a nice hostess gift and stocking stuffer on their own for coffee fiends. But when they're Le Creuset, they're even better—mostly because everything from the French heritage brand is aesthetically pleasing and built to last. Oh, and these cups might be the most affordable Le Creuset pieces on the market. So, if you want in on the trend for a moderate price, they make a good starter item.

Le Creuset 5 1/2–Quart Dutch Oven

As far as Dutch ovens go, the Le Creuset is the gold standard and, while pricy, it lives up to its reputation. The pot is easy to cook in, has comfy handles, and is backed by a solid reputation for quality enamel.

Cast Iron Revolving Cake Stand for Decorating

We 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 on the dinner table, piled with condiments and toppings, even when there's no cake in sight.

Ceramic Utensil Crock

To store tools like spatulas and whisks, a good old crock will do the trick. We like this ceramic one, which looks extra pretty on the counter. Keep it right next to your stove so your most-used tools will be at an arm's length whenever you need them.

Pedra Artisan Oval Platter

A large platter is a must-have for any household, especially during the holiday season. This oval platter has high enough sides to accommodate saucier dishes, while the gray-and-white hand-glazed finish gives it a one-of-a-kind feel.

Staub 5 1/2–Quart Dutch Oven

The Staub's classic flat lid hides spikes underneath designed to evenly shower your food with moisture. We found it heats evenly, is a pleasure to cook in, and is handsome enough to serve from at the table.

Get It Right Bottle Stopper

This clever little silicone bottle stopper is a true wonder. A tight seal keeps wine from dripping out, whether the bottle is on its side in the fridge or flipped fully upside down (Ariel's tried!). It comes in several colors and shapes and makes a perfect stocking stuffer for all your wine-loving friends.

Otherland Candle

This hand-poured soy-wax candle will look beautiful on your kitchen table—and the scent of Champagne, saffron, and leather is just fragrant enough to offset any accidentally burnt foods that no one needs to know about. Plus, the packaging, which comes with a customizable matchbox, makes the candle an impressive gift that's also affordable.

Presto 22-Inch Electric Griddle

This lightweight model comes with fully detachable handles that make cleaning and storing it a breeze; it will easily slot into the cabinet with all your baking sheets and cooling racks; and its nonstick surface has a textured crosshatch pattern that helps keep pancakes from sliding around and eluding your spatula when you're trying to flip them.

Mercer Serving Bowl

With a neutral color and simple silhouette, this serving bowl is versatile enough to complement any table setting. It's also big enough to accommodate a big salad or crowd-sized portion of stew.

OXO Pop Containers

Not all food storage containers are built the same. OXO's Pop Containers stack neatly in the cabinet, make it easy to see exactly what's inside, and have a neat push-button top that forms a perfectly airtight seal, keeping your dry pantry goods fresher for longer.

Egg Cups

Anyone who loves soft-boiled eggs deserves the perfect cup to eat them from. These sturdy stoneware Le Creuset cups come in a range of beautiful colors. They're totally classic, which is a good thing because they'll also last for generations to come.

Colorful Tea Towels

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.

Marble Pastry Slab

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. This marble version is pretty enough (albeit heavy) to use as a serving platter.

GelPro Floor Mat

If you love to cook and host parties, you'll know that a lot of prep time is spent on your feet. Why not make at least the cooking part a bit more comfortable with one of these gel mats? It'll provide some nice cushion under your feet, so when it's time to put on your party shoes, you'll be ready.

Le Creuset Dutch Oven, 7.25-Quart

How much praise can we 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.

Fixed-Cup Spice Grinder

The sleek and minimalist design of the Krups means it's easy to hold, handle, and store—perfect for anyone tight on space. Even without a removable bowl, cleanup is a cinch because spices never get trapped beneath the blade, and there are no unnecessary ridges or notches to clog with spices. The one-touch operation makes it easy to use, and it quickly yields a fine and consistent grind in both large, tough spices and smaller seeds.

The Cocktail Chronicles

Having The Cocktail Chronicles at your side is like having a friend who always knows a good drink recipe for whatever you've got on hand. It doesn't talk your ear off or suggest something with a dozen ingredients. Instead, it shares classics, recent spins on classics, and drinks you've never heard of but can easily mix up and enjoy, and the introductions are never preachy or boring.

Perceval Steak Knife Set

The 9.47 knife was designed by a former Michelin-starred chef, and, unsurprisingly, it's a dream to cut with. While its modern, minimalist look isn't for everyone, there's no arguing with its performance.

Citrus Press

If you've ever thought that citrus presses are overhyped, absurdly specific, rarely useful, space-consuming, money-wasting gadgets, you're not alone. But it takes only one use to see just how wrong you are—not only does a citrus press guarantee that you'll get way more juice out of every lemon and lime you squeeze, but you can say good-bye to stinging papercuts and all those infuriating attempts at pinching slippery stray seeds from your salad dressings and cocktails.

Fancy Glass Pitcher

Niki received this classic Waterford pitcher as a wedding gift, and it's become a workhorse in her home. When she's not using it to decant wine, it's hard at work serving cocktails, ice water, and juices. And in between any special occasions, you can drop in some fresh flowers and use it as a vase.

Bar Cart

If you want your home cocktail equipment a little less out of sight and out of mind, consider highlighting your bourbon and bitters with a bar cart. The combination of curves, straight lines, and brass finish in this one makes it feel very mid-'50s. Mix drinks on the upper shelf and stash ice buckets, glasses, and other supplies down below.

Terra Cotta Cazuela

Daniel's owned these terra cotta dishes in several sizes for many years now. They're attractive enough to go straight from the oven to the table, and versatile enough to be used as baking dishes for cooked foods or as serving dishes for snacks when you're hosting guests.

Fancy Cheese Knives

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. We're pretty sure they also raise your "real adult" status by at least 10 points. Especially when they're these beautifully crafted Dubost Laguiole knives. We like the simplicity of the olivewood handles, but they do come in other colors and styles, with the same high-quality blades.

Pralus Pyramid of Dark Chocolates

I don't mind baking with supermarket chocolate bars, but for snacking, I'd rather spring for the good stuff. If you're a "bite of dark chocolate after dinner" kinda person (which means every bite needs to count), that's where this stack of single-origin chocolates comes in. It's a fun way to explore the world of chocolate, and learn how different beans and countries of origin can impact its taste.

Riedel Vinum Zinfandel Glasses, Set of 2

These elegant crystal glasses from Riedel came out on top in our tests, impressing both professional sommeliers and casual wine-drinkers with their ability to capture the aromas of red, white, and bubbly wines.

Messermeister Avanta Steak Knife Set

The Messermeister Avanta steak knives deliver premium performance at an unbeatable price. They are well-constructed, remarkably sharp, and very handsome.

Smeg Toaster

After years of putting up with a cheap toaster that she picked up at the supermarket, Stella recently upgraded to this super-fancy Italian job in cool mint. Its sleek design and soothing pastel color transform the kitchen's most boring appliance into a statement piece, and it does a great job with the toast itself. Plus, it's really dang pretty. If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to read this toaster's priceless reviews.

Simple Coffee Maker

The Bonavita is one of the faster models we tested, and it earned high scores in nearly all of our tastings. A single switch governs all of its operations, making the brewing process incredibly simple.

Chinese Tea Set With Gaiwan

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.

Libbey Signature Kentfield Estate Wine Glasses, Set of 4

For a glass that’s inexpensive and features a classic and practical design, the Libbey Signature Kentfield Estate All-Purpose Wine Glass takes the cake. Its height and bowl size put it squarely in the middle of the road. Our sommelier testers liked its lightness, and noted that its bowl was large enough to accentuate the aromas of red wines, though it performed well with white and sparkling wine, too.

Serving Bowl

There's no such thing as too many serving bowls, and this simple two-tone piece goes with virtually everything. At 11.5 inches across, it's the perfect size for side dishes, so it'll quickly become your go-to for salads, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and pasta.

Punch Bowl Set

We have this 10-piece punch bowl set in our office, and it's been put to very good use. It's big and impressive while still being affordable, which are the best qualities you can hope for in holiday-party decor.

Sagaform Gold Loop Candle Holder

Adding candlelight to your table makes dinner feel just a little fancier and more special. We love the physics-defying appearance of these candleholders, which fit two pillar candles apiece.

Schott Zwiesel Wine Glasses, Set of 6

While this glass performed very similarly to our favorite modern glass, the Schott Zwiesel, it has a sparer design, is more compact, and features a thinner stem that some testers preferred.

Glass Tumblers

Ariel's dad lives in Florida and never drinks enough water. These little tumblers are the perfect compromise for getting him to drink just enough to not get totally dehydrated every day. And if he refuses to fill them with water, at least he can use them for alcoholic beverages. The final plus: They stack, so they won't take up too much space in his cabinets.

Dyson Handheld Vacuum

We like to keep our kitchens very clean. This handheld vacuum (which a few of us have, use, and swear by) ensures zero crumbs left behind, whether in that small space under the dishwasher or in the crevice between the stove and the cabinets.

Pianogrillo Tomato Concentrate

This tomato “extract” is concentrated tomato dialed up to 11, a cheat code to better pasta sauces, soups, stews, braises, and more. Think of it like tomato miso. It puts those”double-concentrated” tomato pastes to shame. Do yourself a favor—get one jar of this umami bomb for yourself, and one as a gift for a special someone.

Ceramic Sangria Pitcher

If there is sangria on the menu, Kristina's mom is ordering it. It's an endeavor she's tackled at home only a few times, but with this pitcher on hand, she might be more inclined to make it regularly. The pinched spout is a genius detail that keeps all the fruit and ice from splashing into your glass, and when it's not filled with sangria, it can be used as a vase. We love a two-fer!

Pepper Mill

The Fletchers' Mill Federal grinds consistently and quickly, excels at fine grinding, and comes in 11 finishes to match a wide range of kitchen decors.

Precision Coffee Maker

While you can get it brewing with just the push of a button, the Breville offers layer upon layer of fine-tuned control for the coffee geek who wants to tweak brew variables. Finishing near the top of our taste tests, this spendy machine allows you to control brew-water temperature and time and the blooming phase. It can also make cold brew, and it’s compatible with popular pourover devices like the Hario V60 and Kalita Wave.

Cuisinart Stainless Steel Roasting Pan

While we don't believe that a roasting pan is generally the best tool for large roasts—a wire rack set in a sheet pan often works better—there are times when a roasting pan with a rack is ideal. Cuisinart offers one of the best values in roasting pans on the market, and it can handle any job just as well as its more expensive competitors.

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