The Meat Lover

Delicious cuts and the tools you need to cook them right.

REC TEC offers high-quality pellet smokers featuring excellent digital controllers and sturdy construction. With a 40-pound pellet hopper, a 680-square-inch cook surface, and nine inches of headroom, the REC TEC 680 is a large, smartly constructed pellet smoker. It also looks awesome.

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.

This is the holy grail of inexpensive chef's knives: incredible quality and design, high-end materials, perfect balance, and a razor-sharp edge.

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.

One of the more affordable options among the German-style knives tested, Mercer's Genesis chef's knife delivers good bang for the buck. The knife is quite a bit lighter than the Wüsthof Classic and has a grippy rubber-and-plastic handle that's comfortable to hold.

If you're looking for proof that the future of grilling involves technology, look no further than Weber's Genesis II line of gas grills, which come preconfigured with a dedicated spot for the installation of their latest iGrill3 Bluetooth-enabled digital thermometer. This speaks volumes to us, because a mass-market brand as big as Weber has never before built this kind of tech right into the grill itself. The signal is clear: Weber believes better temperature-monitoring technology is the future of grilling.

This santoku from MAC's professional line is an absolute pleasure to use, no matter the task. It's lightweight, well balanced, sharp as can be, and comfortable to hold. It made perfect carrot cuts, broke down a chicken with ease, and filleted a whole fish as if it were a fish-shaped block of butter.

If you love beautifully seared steaks, golden-brown grilled cheese sandwiches, and crispy-skinned fish and poultry, this is a great thing to have in your kitchen. Chef's presses help you get even contact between ingredients and your skillet. They're vented, so you won't accidentally steam your food, and they're stackable, so you can get a couple for weighing down heftier items.

This isn't just a chili cookbook. Author Robb Walsh digs deep into the beloved dish's ancestry, tracing threads through Mexico City, San Antonio, Santa Fe, Hungary, Greece, and the Canary Islands. Walsh is one of food writing's best storytellers, so the book is a satisfying read best enjoyed with a big bowl of chile con carne.

While it’s one of the most precise thermometers we tested, the ChefAlarm is also easy to use. The probe, which comes with a pot clip, has about six inches of usable length to reach into the thickest roasts, and springs on both ends of the 47-inch-long cable that protect it from wear at common failure points.

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.

In this book, Meathead Goldwyn, the founder of AmazingRibs.com, distills decades of research on the art and science of barbecue and grilling into a single volume that shows not just the best ways to take food to live fire, but why the techniques work. Far more than a recipe book alone (though there are tons of bulletproof recipes), this text will teach your favorite barbecue lover the hard-tested fundamentals of outdoor cooking, giving them the confidence to cook anything, even without a recipe. The myth-busting and equipment tips alone were enough to get us hooked.

If you're dead set on a traditional German knife profile—characterized by a more curved blade that's bigger and heavier than the Japanese options—the Wüsthof Classic continues to be a stalwart. It weighs more than most of the other knives tested, giving it a solid and sturdy feel, but it still handles well and has a sharp edge.

What's the point of perfectly roasting that turkey or prime rib if you don't have a pretty surface to carve it on? We 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.

Ruhlman and Polcyn do a great job of demystifying one of the more abstruse cooking arts, and, while charcuterie may seem daunting, it can be gratifyingly easy. Start simple, with the pancetta, confit, rillettes, and duck prosciutto, and you'll find yourself with a mold-inoculated curing chamber in no time.

After countless failed grilling mitts, we got ourselves a pair of welding gloves to use when grilling or smoking and never looked back. With great heat protection, dexterity, and construction, these are a necessity for every backyard cook.

A deft and nimble blade, Misono's UX10 is one of the lightest-weight knives we tested. It's razor-sharp right out of the box and handled every task we threw at it with ease, dicing an onion as if it were as soft as a blob of Jell-O and making paper-thin slices of smoked salmon as if the knife were a true slicer.

If the concept of receiving cooking-themed mystery boxes piques your interest, then CrateChef may be right up your alley. The subscription service partners with a different chef every two months to deliver a curated selection of tools, gadgets, and ingredients right to your kitchen. And this month, we're excited to announce that their newest partner is...us! Order your box to find a great selection of gift-worthy picks from the Serious Eats culinary team, chosen with holiday entertaining in mind.

Tojiro's santoku knife held its own throughout the testing. It feels a little chunkier in the hand than our top pick, and it cracked one slice of carrot before sailing through a dozen more slices without any problems. It's a well-made knife, offering an excellent money-to-quality ratio.

Louie Mueller's beef ribs are so good, we feel comfortable comparing them to Aaron Franklin's brisket. These gargantuan specimens of flesh and bone give new meaning to fall-off-the-bone-tender, and they have such a concentrated beefy flavor, you'll think you're eating beef confit (which, in a way, you are). How big are they? One rib feeds two people, easily.

For those who just don't want to spend much, or who want a "beater" knife—one that they can abuse without feeling guilty—this option from Mercer is hard to, um, beat. It's not the best knife by any measure—its balance feels off, and its thick handle can make a chef's grip awkward for smaller hands—but it has an impressively sharp edge and a price that's just about as low as it gets.

Equipped with an assortment of wood chips, the Smoking Gun allows you to easily smoke anything indoors with just the flip of a switch. It's instant fun right out of the box.

Surprisingly, many of the portable pellet smokers out there still have an antiquated LMH controller, while Davy Crockett employs Green Mountain's advanced digital touch-pad controller, with an integrated meat thermometer that lets you check internal meat temp with the flick of a switch.

The Akorn is a double-walled, insulated steel egg that is much lighter and in some ways more durable than the popular Big Green Egg. It performs fairly close to traditional kamados at a fraction of the cost, so you can spend your saved bucks on getting some great meat.

After experiencing one too many Airbnb kitchens with terrible knives, Daniel invested in a travel knife: a small, sharp blade to take with him so that cooking can be a pleasure even when he's not at home. The wooden sheath makes it safe to keep in a bag, but remember not to fly with it in a carry-on.

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.

Manual grinders are the cheapest way to get good-quality freshly ground meat at home, and are a great choice if you don't own a stand mixer. Our favorite is this suction-mounted grinder from Gideon. The suction cup provides as firm a base as bolt-mounted models we've owned, and it does such an excellent job grinding meat that we often reach for it instead of our stand mixer attachment.

Slow-smoked brisket is Texas's best-known contribution to barbecue culture, and, though you can now get it in just about every major city, you still need to go to the source to get brisket so good it will make you cry. But if you can't make it to Texas, ordering Louie Mueller's brisket is the next best thing—they ship the whole brisket, which means you get plenty of the critically important fatty half.

Biltong is a dried meat, similar to jerky, that hails from South Africa. As we understand it, the process is distinct from making jerky in that the meat is given a vinegar bath before drying, which gives the final product a slight tang. We got samples of Brooklyn Biltong's stuff a while back, and while we can't actually recommend the "Original" flavor, which is a little bland, the "Jo'burg Steakhouse" variety is addictive. The "Zulu Peri Peri" flavor ain't bad, either.

The Char-Broil's WiFi-enabled digital electric smoker is very easy to use and has WiFi connectivity, so you can monitor and control the smoking session from a paired smartphone. Electric cookers lack serious heat and combustion gases, because of the electric element, making them better suited for imparting a light smoke flavor, especially on bigger cuts of meat.

Even lighter in weight than its more expensive sibling, the UX10, the Misono 440 offers an incredibly agile experience, with an especially sharp out-of-the-box blade. It handled all our testing tasks with ease. The price variance between this one and the UX10 mostly comes down to the steel used, a difference most home cooks won't likely notice, making this one a good intermediate choice.

This 400-page guide to meat may be focused on sustainability and local eating, but that doesn't make it any less comprehensive. Krasner goes deep on all the basics of meat, including beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and more, offering anatomy charts, buying tips, basics on animal husbandry, and, of course, plenty of recipes.

If you’re seriously into barbecuing pork butts, briskets, and ribs, the FireBoard is the brainiest thermometer we tested, aimed at making your cooking more predictable. The app enables you to name, chart, and store your smoking sessions, and the base has a port to accept a fan accessory, which controls the temperature of a smoker or charcoal grill by adjusting airflow.

Insightful (and very well-written) memoir by the elder statesman of food and cooking in the United States. From his early memories of picking salad for his mother to his recollection of eating raw clams on a Connecticut pier, the book shows how food is not just a passion or a career; food, for Jacques Pépin, is life.

For great performance at a low cost, Mercer is killing it these days, and its santoku knife is no slouch on either front. One of the most affordable knives we tested, Mercer's blade outperformed many knives that cost more than twice as much. For the price, you might as well grab one—it's the perfect knife for guests who want to be helpful in the kitchen, but whom you don't trust with pricier blades.

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.

What's important to new cooks? Making dishes that compound in flavor as they cook, require minimal effort, and little in the way of special equipment. That means braising, and All About Braising is one of the best treatments on the subject. Author Molly Stevens breaks down every stage of the braising process for cooks of all skill levels—taking out the mystery of what's going on under the lid. We think that's one of the best ways to learn: master a technique rather than cook from a catch-all encyclopedia. From pages of notes on braising vessels to detailed breakdowns of how it all comes together, she takes delicious-yet-intimidating-sounding recipes like sausages and plums with red wine and makes you shout, yeah, I can do this! Oh, and the vegetable recipes are some of the best.

We were impressed by all the Mac knives in our testing, across their range of price points, but this one came out on top thanks to its combination of price and performance. While not inexpensive, it was one of the more affordable Japanese-made knives we tested. This blade is comfortable in the hand and has hollow-ground dimples to help reduce friction when cutting.

The Smoke is designed for grillers and barbecuers, but it’s a precise two-probe thermometer that can be calibrated and is just as handy indoors. Use the meat probe to gauge the temperature inside a roast and the ambient probe to track the smoker or grill’s temperature.

The Complete Nose to Tail combines Fergus Henderson's seminal The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating with its sequel, Beyond Nose to Tail. Don't let the name mislead you: It does shine a light on offal, but its primary focus is Henderson's unfussy, straightforward cooking, the most famous example of which is his signature dish of roasted bone marrow and parsley salad. While that dish may have spawned a thousand imitators, both here and across the Atlantic, cooks the world over would do well to crib from some of the other recipes in the book. The recipe for duck legs with carrots alone makes it worth the price, and "trotter gear"—chicken stock fortified with wobbly bits of pigs' feet—is a pantry staple that everyone needs in their life.

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.

This knife is perfect for those who want to experiment with specialty Japanese blades without shelling out too much cash, or for those with aspirations of understanding how to make yakitori at home. Unlike a true honesuki, or Japanese poultry knife, this blade has a double-beveled assymetrical blade, so it is a little more multipurpose—it can be used for boning out poultry and other meats, and it can even be used for slicing and chopping in a pinch—and it is easier to maintain for novice knife sharpeners than a single-beveled blade. But it really shines at boning out chickens, and if you're used to using a flexibe western boning knife, it is nothing short of miraculous to experience the ease with which this knife's tip can maneuver around a bird's bones; it sometimes feels as if the knife is willing the bones to rise up out of the meat.

The great thing about buying a meat grinder attachment is that you already know that the hardest-working part of your grinder—the motor—is going to be a workhorse that can power through even the toughest grinding projects. Stand mixer attachments are a great option if you make a lot of sausage. You can grind the meat directly into the processor bowl, then attach the bowl to the machine and immediately start mixing it with the paddle to develop protein. It's a real time-saver.

Kristina's mom's signature dish is her homemade lefse, a Norwegian potato flatbread rolled gauze-thin and cooked on a round griddle, just like this one, at a blazing-hot heat. If you're not into the Scandi thing, you can use this griddle to make crepes, injera, or regular old pancakes.

Lighter fluid is fun to play with, but it can impart an off flavor to your food. A chimney starter is faster, cleaner, more efficient, and better for the environment. It's a tall metal cylinder with holes punched in it and a grate at the bottom for holding the charcoal. It works with the power of convection: When a lit newspaper is placed at the bottom, igniting the lowest coals, the hot air rises up, pulling fresh oxygen in through the vent holes and through the bottom. This constant supply of fresh oxygen, coupled with the fact that the metal efficiently reflects heat back toward the coals, means you require nothing more than a single piece of newspaper and a match to turn a full six quarts of coals into a roaring inferno within 20 minutes.

Race relations, religion, the New South versus the Old: These are just a smattering of the heavy issues Rien Fertel writes about through the lens of—well—smoked meat, in this new book. And, while you might be thinking, "Oh, man, another book about barbecue?", this one stands out from the crowd thanks to Fertel's superb writing and storytelling skills. In a book that's part culinary history, part personal narrative, and part tale of an American road trip, Fertel travels throughout the South, documenting the men who have long stood behind the fires practicing the time-consuming pursuit of whole hog barbecue—the ones who have been keeping alive the embers of what once seemed like a dying art, and the ones who are inspiring a new generation of pitmasters today.

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