Stocking Stuffers

Small gifts that don't skimp on quality and thoughtfulness.

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.

These PackIt cooler bags come in a variety of sizes and styles, and all of them can be collapsed and chilled in the freezer overnight to provide refrigerator-level temperatures for a 12-hour period. Not a lunch bag person? No problem—it's still handy toting beers to the park or beach, or transporting raw meat to barbecues and campsites.

Docking provides steam vents so doughs lie flat. Sure, you could stab your raw pizza dough a thousand times with a fork. Or you could just give it a quick pass with this tool, perforating the whole thing quickly, evenly, and perfectly. It's also our favorite way to dress up cookie and cracker doughs, as the uniformly spaced polka dots add an undeniably professional touch to treats like chocolate-filled shortbread cookies, DIY Wheat Thins, and chocolate digestive biscuits.

A bean is a bean is a bean. Or is it? Once you go down the rabbit hole of eating quality dried beans, you'll fall in love with their variety of flavors, textures, and colors. Some are starchy, some are nutty, some are earthy, and some are slightly sweet. Rancho Gordo is one company that sells some really cool ones to try.

We've used many oyster knives as Serious Eats staffers and the R. Murphy Duxbury knife is our 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. The slightly sharpened blade edges make slicing through the muscle and removing the top shell as smooth as butter.

These fluted cookie cutters add flair to any basic cookie.

A good ice cream scoop is worth keeping in your kitchen utensil drawer. This one works for both right and left hands, and features a specially designed handle that transfers heat into the scoop, helping it slide into more solid ice cream without too much trouble.

A great mandoline will rapidly make photo-worthy cuts of your favorite vegetables, whether thin slices of radishes for a salad or potatoes for a gratin. The OXO slicer has four thickness settings and a fold-down stand allows this slicer to either be set on a cutting board (with the legs down) or perched over a bowl (with the legs up).

Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous dollops of yogurt, a heap of cooked grain, or a serving of sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.

Forget flowers—they'll be dead by the end of the week. These flower waters, on the other hand, will last (most of) a lifetime. Both rose and orange flower water will stay good just about forever on the shelf, and a drop or two is all that's needed to give any recipe an aromatic boost. Try a splash of rose water with a strawberry or rhubarb dessert, or orange flower water in a classic New York cheesecake, where its gentle perfume can work wonders.

You don't want your pastry brush to shed its hairs (or get nasty rust) all over your pie dough or homemade Cheez-Its We like this one by OXO because it holds its bristles longer than most other brands and it's easy to clean.

Sorghum syrup is made from the pressed juice of sorghum grass, which grows prominently throughout the American South. This amber-colored syrup has a unique, nutty flavor that's both sweet and savory. And since the 1960s, the Guenther family of Muddy Pond, Tennessee, has been making some of the best.

Magnetic knife strips are not only space-saving but they also look pretty badass hanging on your wall. They'll keep your knives from rubbing up against other utensils, which can make them dull (and can be dangerous, too).

This isn't your standard hot cocoa. It's a rich drinking-chocolate mix, made from organic, 74% cacao single-plantation chocolate from the Dominican Republic and 68% cacao wild-harvested chocolate from Bolivia. Whisk the ground chocolate with warm milk for an intense cocoa experience: It's silky and deep, with hints of orange zest, cinnamon, and juicy berries, tempered by a subtly bitter edge.

The quick pickles common in Japanese cuisine that go by the name asazuke, or "morning pickles," are typically made in a contraption similar to this one. The screwable tamper is spring-loaded, which exerts consistent pressure on sliced, salted vegetables, which presses out excess water and creates a highly seasoned brine, which then flavors the vegetables. The small size is perfect for anyone who wants to experiment with the technique.

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.

Paring knives don't need to cost a lot to do their job—questions of balance and build quality matter less in a knife that fits almost entirely in the palm of your hand. Of all the ones we tested, this inexpensive blade from Wüsthof came out on top, with a razor-sharp edge and comfortable grip. This is our new go-to paring knife, and we already have several of them at work and home.

Souper Cubes is the brainchild of two Serious Eaters, Michelle and Jake, who wanted to develop a better way to portion and freeze soups, stocks, and stews. The food-grade silicone mold features four one-cup cube molds, perfect for meal-prepping and stocking up on winter warmers for the long, cold months ahead.

A hefty weight and a narrow head design make this an extremely efficient fish scaler. We've used it on smallish porgies, bigger black sea bass and fluke, and just about everything in between. It's a significant improvement over the clamshell we used to use, and something about its design reduces the spray of scales.

Vicky's four-year-old niece is obsessed with Stella. This wooden stand mixer set is a perfect gift for the young baker. It has eggs that you can actually crack!

These shears set the bar for excellent heavy-duty scissors. They're strong enough to cut out a chicken back without hesitation, they're sharp enough to snip chives as cleanly as any pair of shears could ever hope to, and they come with all the accoutrements a good pair of kitchen shears should (even if you never use half these things): bottle opener/lid lifter, flathead screwdriver head, nutcracker, jar opener, bone notcher, and more.

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.

This knife is a good choice for kids who are transitioning into using grown-up blades. It has a plastic loop to keep the index finger safely away from the edge, and a guard for the other hand, allowing the child to practice the claw with less risk if they make a mistake.

While the usefulness of a vegetable peeler should be obvious to anyone who's ever cooked, the necessity of a Y-peeler may not be quite as clear. But trust us: They are categorically better than those swivel peelers a lot of people use. And they're cheap!

Trying to get your mom to finally write down all those family recipes? This sleek Moleskine journal will get her organized and become a precious family heirloom in the process.

More and more children are interested in cooking, and that means they'll eventually need to learn to wield a real, grown-up-style knife. The decision on when to put a safety-feature-free blade in their hand is best left to the parents, but when that day does come, this short chef's knife is a good size for young hands.

Jessie Kanelos Weiner's vivid and imaginative watercolors have enhanced several of our stories. Her book Edible Paradise: An Adult Coloring Book of Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables, is a great therapeutic outlet. For those who enjoy it, coloring can leave you with a profound sense of zen-like relaxation and accomplishment. Weiner's fanciful landscapes are organized by season; they're a riot of vegetation, edible plant life, and tantalizing market scenes. They'll encourage you to paint (or pencil) the town red—in any colors you like.

Most professional cooks own a knife bag so they can tote their knives around from one job to another. But knife bags can be really useful storage options, as well. They're compact, they can hold many knives, and they can be moved around as needed, which means you don't necessarily need to have a dedicated knife drawer as long as you can find somewhere safe to stash your knives.

The Hydro Flask is designed to keep water cold for hours on end, but its vacuum-insulated walls don't discriminate between beverages: The 32-ounce flask can also accommodate a full bottle of wine or a big batch of margaritas. It's ideal for picnics and trips to the beach, no matter what you're drinking.

When we're cooking with garlic, we're pulling out the press nine times out of 10, because, even with the slightly fussy cleaning, it's still faster and easier than chopping fresh garlic on a board.

On a recent press trip to Alaska, I was introduced to this fancy canned salmon. The king and white king versions blew my mind—hands down the best canned smoked salmon I've ever had. It's pricey, making it more of a special-occasion indulgence than a daily canned-fish option, but one taste will prove its worth.

Grating ginger is a minor pain in the ass—rub it on a Microplane and the grater's holes quickly become clogged with the ginger's long, tough fibers, making the tool less effective and difficult to clean. A porcelain or ceramic grater, like this one from Kyocera, has tiny little pointy teeth that do a miraculous job of rapidly reducing the ginger to a purée, while separating out those annoying fibers. When you're all done, it's a lot easier to clean, too.

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.

We've long loved the beautiful aprons made by Hedley & Bennett, and recently noticed that the brand had teamed up with Parachute Home to make all sorts of kitchen towels and napkins, so you get that cool Hedley & Bennett style with the nice, soft craftsmanship of Parachute. We love these colorful napkins because they're super soft and machine-washable (perhaps the most important thing).

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.

Used in many baking recipes, but difficult to find in the US, a bottle of Lyle's Golden Syrup makes a great small gift for an avid baker. Cases in point: Stella's Homemade Oreos and DIY Cookie Butter, both of which call for the subtle caramel notes golden syrup provides.

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.

At a certain point, you need to give up on proper knife storage and just think safety: How can I toss this knife into a drawer and not cut myself on it later when fishing around for matches? The answer is blade guards. It's smart to put them on knives in a knife bag, but they're also essential if you're keeping any knives in a place where they're free to bang around—they'll protect the blade edges and you.

Even if you maintain good cleaning habits, a pan can lose its like-new appearance over time. Small spills that run down the outside of a piece of cookware can burn on, oil can polymerize, and eventually that shiny, silvery metal will have splotches tinged yellow and thin stains of carbonized black. The best method we've found to fix this is scouring with the powdered version of Bar Keepers Friend, which contains oxalic acid, among other ingredients. Together, the oxalic acid and the powder's abrasive properties will clean away much of those stubborn stains.

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.

Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This perforated one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous mounds of beans, vegetables, and pieces of meat from their cooking liquid or sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.

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.

This customizable (and monogrammable!) tote, plus a bottle of Sancerre, will make any wine drinker's day.

Microplanes do fine grating work way better than those tiny, raspy holes on a box grater. Whether you're quickly grating fresh nutmeg or cinnamon, taking the zest off a lemon, or turning a clove of garlic into a fine purée, the Microplane is the tool to reach for.

The OXO worked on every bottle and cork we tested it with. The two-step motion—push down, then pull up—yanks the cork out in about two seconds. Repeat the process, and the cork drops free of the opener. The capable foil cutter clips into the body of the tool.

In the inexpensive-thermometer department, the ThermoPop comes in an impressive package. An easy-to-read display rotates at the touch of a button, so you don't have to twist your head to read it. It takes a few seconds longer to read temperatures than its big brother, the Thermapen, but it's every bit as accurate.

On a recent trip to Portugal, Ariel discovered this line of homemade jams and honey, and, worried that she'd never find them again, she brought 12 tubes home. Turns out you can buy them online, too. The packaging is beautiful, and the products, like pumpkin and orange jam with rosemary, fig jam with port wine, and apple jam with cinnamon, will revolutionize your cheese plate.

These dainty little guys will be your new best friends. They are perfect for reaching into the tight nooks of spice grinders or deep into blenders, and ideal for scraping the last bit out of a jar. They're also heat-resistant and great for stirring small pots of sauce or caramel.

Whether we're making a lattice-top pie, a batch of homemade Biscoff, or fresh ravioli, it's amazing how much a fluted pastry wheel can spruce up simple strips of dough.

These fermentation crocks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all have the same smart design: An inner lid can be pressed down against the surface of the brine, ensuring the vegetables remain submerged (and thus don't rot), while the lids lock into place to keep bugs out.

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.

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.

The Trudeau is comfortable, light, and fast—out of the openers we tested, it required the fewest number of turns to sink the worm. The two-step fulcrum works consistently to lift the cork from the bottle, with both synthetic and natural corks.

A cute, punny onesie for the baby and future food lover in your life.

The steep, 13-degree angle on their stainless steel scalloped ends enables the OXO Good Grips Tongs to securely grasp a large range of food shapes and sizes, from a whole chicken to thin spaghetti to tail-on shrimp. The build features a responsive and durable spring, large rubber grips, and pinch-free, stay-cool handles.

Long tweezers have the strength of tongs coupled with the same precision and tight grip of a tool you might find in an ER. They allow you to turn over a thick ribeye with ease and even garnish it with some fragile herbs immediately after, if you're in the mood. If you don't mind getting a little close to the heat, long tweezers are the perfect utensil for carefully flipping vegetables or hot dogs on a grill without letting any slip through the grate. Their simple design means that there aren't any grooves or pockets for food and gunk to get trapped, so cleanup is a cinch.

We know: It might sound nuts to mail-order cornmeal and grits, given that they're found on any supermarket shelf. But we'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.

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.

SAF instant dry yeast is our go-to for every type of baking project: pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, English muffins, waffles, and more. Unlike active dry yeast, it’s super stable and won’t lose potency over time, nor does it need to be rehydrated for use. Buy a pound now and store it in the freezer—it will last for years to come, and produce superior results in all your favorite recipes.

When it comes to portioning pizza, a knife simply won't cut it. At least, not if you don't want to drag cheese and toppings all over the place. For our money, nothing beats a traditional pizza wheel.

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