Bryant Terry's brilliant cookbook Afro-Vegan is a love letter to the food of the African diaspora. In it, he remixes the traditional dishes of his ancestors by replacing animal products with fresh, flavorful produce. There are no apologies or tricks to cover up the flavor of the substitutions; if there's cashew cream in a dish, Terry highlights its silky nuttiness instead of hiding it behind a few tablespoons of maple syrup. But the best part of Afro-Vegan has nothing to do with its dietary restrictions: Each recipe strikes a balance between tradition and creativity, encouraging us to always put ginger in our collards or Creole blackening seasoning on our cauliflower.
Dish Towel and Apron in One
A plentiful supply of kitchen towels is always welcome in any cook’s kitchen, but these can also double up as a half apron in a pinch.
Laurie Colwin is the best friend you never knew you had. Her tales of cooking, both successfully and disastrously, are charming, honest, and hilarious. While the book reads like a memoir (that you won't be able to put down), its recipes are accessible and sound so delicious that you'll want to make them right away. That is, after you've finished the book.
Stoneware Pinch Bowls
To help kids get organized before cooking a meal, make sure they have their mise-en-place in these handy, colorful stoneware bowls.
The Man Who Ate Everything
Despite its fast pace, self-deprecating style of humor, and easy readability, there's an insane amount of usable information packed into every paragraph of The Man Who Ate Everything, and, what's more, you find yourself actually remembering the stuff. Not everything he writes about is immediately useful in the kitchen, but it's guaranteed to make you successful at cocktail parties and Jeopardy! tournaments alike.
This remarkable book, from Martin and Rebecca Cate of San Francisco's Smuggler’s Cove, traces the birth and evolution of exotic drinks and tiki bars—bars that embodied an American escapist fantasy. A lively exploration of our country's drinking history (and the current tiki scene), it's essential reading for rum lovers, offering the best categorization we've encountered of the head-spinningly diverse spirit. The mai tai recipe is great, too.
Silicone Ball Whisk
They may look like novelty whisks, but ball whisks are super useful for reaching into the sharp corners of a pot, where the rounded tines of a balloon whisk won't quite fit, as well as whisking across flat surfaces, like a wide skillet, when you're making scrambled eggs. We use ours almost exclusively for whisking things in measuring cups, where the tines of a ball whisk will splay to reach the corners. Plus, it's longer, easier to handle, and more effective than a simple fork.
This All-Clad model features extra-deep divots for maximum syrup capacity, makes two small waffles at a time, and contains a drip tray for minimizing spills and messes. The heavy stainless steel body and plates heat up quickly and evenly for consistent browning. The machine is compact in size and features cord storage and locking handles, making it easy to tuck away into any cabinet or on any shelf.
Perforated Sauce Spoon
While it’s called a “sauce” spoon, this perforated spoon can’t really be used for spooning sauces given its holes. But it’s incredibly handy to have—in many instances it’s much less awkward to use than a long-handled slotted spoon for fishing solid ingredients out of sauces and liquids.
Diaspora Co. Turmeric
This turmeric is as bright as a bar of gold, with a lovely, sleek label to match. Apart from the high-quality turmeric and nice packaging, the spice comes with a feel-good story: Diaspora Co. is run by queer women of color, and each jar purchased puts a much-higher-than-average amount of money back into the turmeric farmer’s hands.
The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Another encyclopedic essential for the vegetarian kitchen, Deborah Madison's The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is one of the most beloved vegetable cookbooks out there. It's thorough and approachable, combining coverage of the fundamentals with a reverence for produce that feels distinctly Northern Californian. Madison has lived in Santa Fe for a long time now, but she got her start cooking in and around San Francisco, including at Chez Panisse, and it shows. This is not a new book—the original Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone came out in 1997; this update was published in 2014—but that California sensibility has given it an enduring vitality that some other, older vegetarian cookbooks lack. Like the newer generation of vegetable-forward chefs, Madison champions placing fresh, local ingredients at the center of the plate.
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.
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.
Taketsuru Pure Malt Japanese Whisky
Anyone who appreciates Scotch (or good spirits in general) will embrace Nikka's exquisite whiskies. The Taketsuru Pure Malt is named for the company's founder, who studied in Scotland before bringing whisky distilling back to Japan. This bottling has a slight fruity character, with lingering sherry on the finish.
Round Cookie Cutter Set
A set of nested round cookie cutters that will see you through 99% of common baking projects.
Digital In-Oven Thermometer
Pastry projects are best done using a digital thermometer with a clip-on attachment, so you can monitor every second of the candy-making process, which can go from success to failure in a split second. (Most instant-read pocket thermometers require three or four seconds to register.) Our favorite is Polder's In-Oven Thermometer, which has a temperature-alert function so you don't have to watch the readout like a hawk. We love that it has a timer as well.
9-Inch Glass Pie Plate
Cheap pie plates made of tempered glass give you much better results than heavier (albeit prettier) ceramic pie plates. Glass is also nonreactive, which makes this type of dish perfect for all sorts of pies.
If you're interested in dabbling in modernist cooking, start with a gram scale. Capable of measuring to the hundredth of a gram, this is an absolute must-have when you're working with hydrocolloids, where accuracy is paramount.
While organization is key for cooking effectively, it's also helpful to be organized and stocked for cleaning up. To make the process less stressful and time-consuming, make sure you have everything you need at arm's reach, starting with soap. This Command soap rack can hang right next to your sink—and won't leave any holes in the wall when it comes time to move.
At their core, cooking chopsticks are just like tongs, except with way more precision thanks to their delicate, narrow form. They're longer than the chopsticks that come with takeout, which keeps your hand farther away from the heat, and a string keeps the pair connected. We keep a pair in the utensil crock by the stove and use them instead of the more traditional fork when making a French omelette.
Pourover Coffee Brewer
There are enough coffee-brewing devices on the market to drive a person crazy, but it's hard to beat a quality pourover brewer like this Japanese one. It's compact and solid, making it ideal for home or the office, and it brews a mean cup of coffee. It claims to make two to four servings, but we find it's perfect for a full 12-ounce single cup, too (note that you need these filters for it).
BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
By the time you're done reading BraveTart, not only will you know how to make Stella's favorite brownies (or Little Debbie's favorite Oatmeal Creme Pies), you'll have been sufficiently schooled in the underlying science and technique to be able to make your own favorite brownies, whether you like them fudgy or cakey. (And, because of Stella's infectious infatuation with history, you'll note that the cake-fudge paradigm shift occurred sometime in 1929.) Where Willy Wonka relied on magic to bring his creations to life, Stella relies on science, history, and fanatical testing and devotion to her craft. This is good news for us. You have to be born with magic, but science, history, and technique are lessons we can all learn.
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.
Breville Smoking Gun
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.
Mercer Culinary Genesis Santoku
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.
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.
Shallow Sixth Pan
Hotel pans are vital to restaurant kitchens. There are all sorts of sizes (all of which nest into a full-sized hotel pan), but we find the shallow sixth to be an MVP. Daniel uses his to keep blanched and drained vegetables, cooked grains, and more. Cover it with plastic wrap and secure it with an elastic band for easy and safe storage.
Porcelain Baking Dish
This baking dish is both lightweight and durable, at a price that’s hard to argue with. The large looped handles are easy to grip with both oversize oven mitts and kitchen towels, making it easy to lift from a hot oven. It is broiler-safe up to 500°F (260°C) for crunchy, golden-topped casseroles and gratins.
Stella loves that these Good Cook Silicone Spatulas are thin and flexible and heat-resistant. Plus, their bamboo handles are easy to grip and won't get slick with steam.
Stainless Steel Honing Steel
This is our top pick among stainless steel honing steels for your knives. It's inexpensive and comfortable to hold, and, like most metal steels, it's magnetized, which means it'll hold on to any tiny bits of metal that might come off the knife, and prevent that stuff from getting in your food.
Cutie Pie Onesie
A cute, punny onesie for the baby and future food lover in your life.
Cooks Standard Skillet
This is the least expensive of our top three picks for inexpensive skillets that perform just as well as fancy ones. While its curves are deeper than those of the other two skillets we like, it still has a nice, wide cooking surface to work with.
Shun Multi-Purpose Shears
Kershaw's Taskmaster 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.
Washoku: Recipes From the Japanese Home Kitchen
The food you'll make out of this book is undeniably healthy. It's full of vegetables, whole grains, pickles, miso and other fermented foods, and lean protein. Much of it is also the kind of food that works equally well served hot, at room temperature, or straight out of the fridge the next day. It's convenient when you're cooking out of a book primarily for flavor, but health and easy-to-use leftovers tag along for the ride as well.
Stolzle Eclipse Wine Glasses, set of 6
The Stolzle Eclipse Wine Glass is a great pick if you frequently host large parties or events. The price per glass is extremely low, and the glasses come in sets of six, as opposed to two or four. This was the least expensive glass we tested, and it performed nearly as well as some of our other favorites. It is shaped very similarly to the other classic glasses we tested, but is slightly bulkier, heavier, and less elegant.
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.
A vertical spoon rest is the kind of sensible, space-saving kitchen innovation you won't realize you need until you try it. This one is a clean-and-simple two-part affair, with a dishwasher-safe stainless steel bowl and accompanying vertical rack. Rather than taking up precious countertop with the long handle of your cooking utensil (all while its business end relaxes in a puddle of the sauce that you're ostensibly trying to drain from it), simply prop your spoon or spatula upright against the rack, allowing the liquid to drip off more thoroughly.
Tramontina’s 12-quart pot is well built, comfortable to hold, and quick to come to a boil, but it stumbled a bit when sweating vegetables. The 16-quart version shares the same build quality and is a good choice if you’re sticking to boiling pasta water or making a stock rather than sautéing vegetables.
Cocktail Kingdom Julep Cup
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.
Cuisinart 5-Quart Dutch Oven
For those who can’t justify spending hundreds on a heritage brand, the Cuisinart is a smart choice that'll serve home cooks well. A wide bottom, short sides, and a heavy build that retains heat very well make this pot a bargain in the crowded under-$100 market.
Granite Mortar and Pestle
With both parts made of rock-solid granite, the Thai mortar and pestle is (literally) a heavy hitter, and arguably the most versatile type of large mortar and pestle you can own. Its heft and weight, especially when combined with the stone-on-stone action that the all-granite build provides, make it ideal for one of its intended uses: making a Thai curry paste.
For quick, even baking and the perfect crust on treats from brownies to hot cross buns, what you want is a nine- by 13-inch anodized aluminum baking pan. Anodization ensures the metal is nonreactive, which keeps recipes such as lemon bars and lasagna from taking on a wonky metallic flavor. Our favorite brownie pan goes the extra mile with a removable bottom, making it easy to extract fragile desserts for slicing into bars.
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.
OXO Good Grips Two-Piece Grilling Set
A quality spatula and tongs are essential for good grilling. Seek out ones with long handles, such as OXO's two-piece grilling set, to keep your fingers as far from the heat as possible. The nearly flat, scalloped edge on the OXO tongs is especially appealing—it's extra easy to slide the tongs under meat, vegetables, and other ingredients on the grill.
Bayless's skills as a recipe writer are exemplary. As is true of any good recipe writer, his recipes are meticulously tested and designed with the constraints and knowledge of the home cook in mind. There are only a few photographs, interleaved on glossy inserts, but the printed pages of the book are sprinkled with clear illustrations that demonstrate unfamiliar techniques, such as how to tuck banana leaves around chicken for pollo pibil (the original pit barbecue from the Yucatán) or how to fillet whole fish for pescado a la veracruzana (poached fish topped with tomatoes, capers, and olives).
All-Clad One-Quart Saucier
The low, sloping walls of this small 1-quart saucepan make whisking easy, perfect for making and finishing delicate sauces, and reducing small volumes of liquids. It’s also small enough to double as a butter-melter.
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.
The Best Bialys
Everyone talks about New York bagels and their Montreal counterparts in quasi-religious tones, but our prayers get answered every time we eat a Hot Bread Kitchen bialy. Bialys are an endangered species (think of them as a toasted Jewish English muffin with caramelized onions in the center), but Hot Bread Kitchen is doing its best to make them fashionable again. Now, if only Taylor Swift would put an HBK bialy on her Instagram feed.
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 paper cuts and all those infuriating attempts at pinching slippery stray seeds from your salad dressings and cocktails.
Stainless Steel Dry Measuring Cups
The five-piece Norpro Grip-Ez Stainless Steel Measuring Cups took the top spot in our tests for accuracy, and it wasn’t even close. Not only that, the bowls are securely joined to the comfortable nonslip handles, and manufactured to tight tolerances, which helps with level sweeping. The unique oval cup shape comes to a narrow end, acting like a shovel to dig into compacted ingredients, like brown sugar.
Mercer Culinary Genesis Chef's Knife
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.
Shallow Ninth Pan
Shallow ninth pans are useful for dry storage and for holding your mise en place before you start cooking. Once every ingredient has its place, you can whip up just about anything, then toss the pan into the dishwasher for a quick and easy clean. Should you have extra herbs or veggies lying around, cover the pan with plastic wrap, secure it with an elastic band, and put it in the fridge.
Cast Iron Combo Cooker
A combo cooker is the key to getting a gorgeous, shattering crust on homemade bread. It acts as its own little steam chamber, like what you'd find in a professional bread oven, and it costs way less than a kitchen renovation.
We usually aren't the biggest fans of the big and beautiful cookbooks put out by super fancy restaurants, in part because they have limited appeal to most home cooks, even if they are fascinating windows into the processes and methods of some of the best chefs in the world. We'll make an exception for Estela by Ignacio Mattos, though, since it's as inspiring as it is informative.
Curious Chef Kid's Mitt Set
Our very own Sasha Marx did a ton of testing on the best kids' tools while working at Cook's Illustrated. He recommends Curious Chef oven mitts, which are designed with little hands in mind.
Small Toaster Oven
At just over $100 at the time of testing, this Panasonic punches above its small size. The Flash Xpress is the smallest toaster oven we tested (as well as the funkiest-looking), making it ideal for tighter kitchens. But it was also the quickest to melt cheese and the best at holding a consistent temperature.
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.
Rimmed Baking Sheet
One of the most frustrating parts of grilling is the parade of bowls, plates, and tools you have to carry from the kitchen to the grilling station outdoors. A stack of inexpensive rimmed aluminum baking sheets makes this easy: Just load them up with food or utensils, and you're ready to go. Of course, in the off season, they're the best pans for roasting meat, baking cookies, and charring vegetables.
Misen Chef's Knife
This is the holy grail of inexpensive chef's knives: incredible quality and design, high-end materials, perfect balance, and a razor-sharp edge.
Embossed Rolling Pin
For the baker who has it all, embossed rolling pins can make even the most traditional shortbread seem exciting again. We love this large, open paisley pattern—its design works well with many styles of dough, so it's a great starting point before you experiment with pins that have a more intricate pattern.
Inexpensive Wire Grill Brush
Grill brushes come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, but for a tool that sees so much use, we find it hard to justify spending a huge amount of money. This simple, heavy-duty wire-style grill brush has served us well for years, and if it ever wears out, well, it's cheap enough to replace.
Plastic Liquid Measuring Cups
If concern over weight or risk of breaking glass has you in the market for a plastic set of measuring cups, these lightweight OXO Good Grips 4-Piece Angled Measuring Cups were the second most accurate ones we tested, and they include a handy quarter-cup measure.
Rarely found in the home but extremely common in restaurants, sizzle platters are among 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 a small roast, 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.
OXO Airtight Food Storage 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.
Breville Electric Countertop Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker is the cooking vessel that just keeps on giving: Once you discover the time-saving feats it's capable of, you'll never look back. If you have the space for it, a countertop electric model, in particular, gives you set-it-and-forget-it convenience. Breville’s Fast Slow Pro Cooker gives you complete control over your pressure-cooking, but also works as a slow cooker and a rice cooker.
Magimix 14-Cup Food Processor
The Magimix impressed us with each slicing, chopping, grating, and puréeing test we tossed at it, especially with pizza dough, which it combined so well that no additional kneading was required.
The Complete Nose to Tail
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.
Best Budget Blender
The KitchenAid is a solid budget blender choice that brings mayo together easily and purées soups to a smooth consistency. Available in 21 colors to match just about any decor, this KitchenAid was the quietest machine we tested, and the jar has one of the best drip-free pour spouts.
Instant Pot Accu Slim Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
Of the affordable immersion circulators that we tested, the Accu Slim performed the best. It's a bare-bones machine with a simply display interface—no bells and whistles, no paired app, no Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity—but that's what makes it appealing and such a great deal. It knows its lane and keeps to it, performing the essential task of an immersion circulator quite well: heating and circulating water at a precise temperature.
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.
V-Blade Mandoline Slicer
This slicer from OXO has four thickness settings (plus a locked storage setting for safety), which can be quickly set with the turn of a dial on the side of the slicer. Each setting is clearly marked in both millimeters and inches, making it easy to instantly know the thickness of the slice you're going to get. 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).
Level up this year's pecan pie by giving the bakers in your family or social circle a big bag of fat and buttery wild pecans. Their freshness, flavor, and tender texture will ruin everyone for those limp and withered supermarket brands.
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.
Think Like a Chef
Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef is not one of those inflated coffee-table chef books. Instead, it helps you think of cooking in broad-stroke techniques: Roasting. Braising. Blanching. Stock-making. Sauces. Sure, you’ll make dinner by following a recipe, but, as Colicchio tells us, cooking isn't about learning to follow recipes to the letter, just as real art isn't created by following a paint-by-numbers coloring book. Colicchio helps you avoid getting bogged down in the minutiae of a recipe, so you can focus on what really matters: the food that results.
Fixed Can Opener
The Gangy uses a single tooth-like blade to repeatedly puncture the can’s lid and has no gears where food, water, or grease can accumulate and get funky. The opener’s wide, rounded metal body is comfortable to hold, and, while it’s not as fast as a rotary version, with practice you can work around a can fairly quickly.
Sesame Street Let's Cook!
Keeping kids inspired can and should go beyond the kitchen, too. One of our freelance food contributors, Katherine Martinelli, has two young kids, and she highly recommends Sesame Street cookbooks.
Fluted Pastry Wheel
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.
When you're portioning out cookies and muffins, a good scoop can be a huge help. This one is the perfect size for most drop cookies, and a natural for ice cream and even meatballs.
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.
A tourné knife can be good for more than just tormenting culinary students. It's perfect for peeling onions and garlic, hulling strawberries, removing stubborn potato eyes, and much more.
Wine Carafe with Oak Stopper
I spent most of 2018 getting into wine, and one of my biggest takeaways was that most wines could benefit from a decant. Does a wine feel closed—like it has only one note on the nose or the tongue? Then it definitely needs to aerate in a decanter. This one is an inexpensive glass model with a chic wooden topper, from the Scandinavian brand Sagaform. It looks just as good on your bar cart or shelf as it does on the dinner table, and will give your Bordeaux a little room to breathe.
Wusthof Classic Chef's Knife
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.
Vitamix High-End Blender
Oh, man, do we love our Vitamix blender. Whether we're making super-quick smoothies or the creamiest, smoothest purées and soups imaginable, the Vitamix is unparalleled in its power.
To make doing the dishes a little less, well, wet, we suggest a good drying mat. This one from All-Clad is super absorbent and machine-washable. It also comes in six colors, so you can match it to your kitchen—true, color coordination isn't a must for your cleaning supplies, but we'd call it a plus.
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.
A sushi mat (tatami in Japanese) is the only way to successfully make maki rolls, which means that if you ever host sushi parties, you'll need to have a few on hand. They consist of thin bamboo sticks knitted together with thread, so they're very flexible in one direction but rigid in the other. This makes forming tight, even rolls a simple task.
Korean Fermenter Crock
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.
Dinosaur Kids Apron
For the little paleontologists out there (who also love to cook), here are few adorable dinosaur aprons because dinosaur aprons are adorable.
Handheld Seltzer Maker
If you're short on counter space, or if you simply prefer seltzer by the splash rather than the glassful, this handheld soda maker fits snugly in your refrigerator door. It uses 15-gram recyclable CO2 cartridges to charge chilled water instantly.
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.
This two-layer tiffin is neat and attractive without being too cutesy, and it's small enough that it won't occupy too much space in a shared office fridge. In the warmer months, it'll do just as well for packing sandwiches and individual portions of salad or fresh fruit for a picnic.
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.
Wooden Pizza Peel for Launching Pizzas
Wooden peels absorb excess moisture and have a rougher surface than metal, which means that your stretched and topped pizza dough will remain loose and easy to launch far longer, saving you from potential pizza-spilled-all-over-the-oven accidents. Though there are cheaper options around, the Baker's Board Perfect Peel is handcrafted to last a lifetime from gorgeous solid cherrywood. They'll even put initials or a logo on it if you'd like!
Budget 12-Quart Stockpot
If you’re the type of cook who forgets to use oven mitts when reaching for hot pots, the rubbery grips on the Cook N Home might just save you from a serious burn. During our boiling test, the rubber stayed cool enough to touch without oven mitts (though keeping them close by is a good idea).
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
For anyone new to vegetarianism, or even just new to cooking in general, the vegetarian volume of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything series should be considered essential. If what you want most is a cookbook that will teach you how to cook, this is it: Bittman excels at laying out the basics and showing you how to riff on them, becoming a self-sufficient cook in the process.
Char-Griller Kamado Smoker
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.
Silicone Mini Flipper
The GIR Mini Flipper is a great silicone spatula that's sturdy but still has a relatively thin edge that slides right under your food. It's made of one solid piece of silicone with a fiberglass core, so there are no seams or crevices for food to get lodged in. Those details make it a sturdier tool for stirring stews or scraping the bottom of a pan, and potentially a better choice for someone who plans to use their nonstick spatula frequently for a wide variety of tasks.
This 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.
All-Clad Immersion Blender
A high-speed hand blender is great for whipping up silky soups and purées, making emulsions like mayonnaise and Hollandaise, or smoothing out sauces, all right in the pot. No need to dirty up an extra blender jar!
Louie Mueller's Brisket
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.
Messermeister Knife Case
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.
SAF Instant Yeast
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.
Beyond Curry Indian Cookbook: A Culinary Journey Through India
Indian food has a reputation for being difficult and time-consuming, with hard-to-find ingredients and new techniques. 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. We're also super stoked that she's included notes with every recipe on whether it's vegan, vegetarian, and/or allergy-friendly.
Melissa & Doug Cutting Food
While Kenji's cooking, he’ll often set Alicia up on her helper stool, armed with a small cutting board and wooden knife from Melissa and Doug. The knife is sharp enough to get through things like cucumber and cheese, but not sharp enough to cut her.
Kuhn Rikon 4-Inch Colorful Paring Knife
This Kuhn Rikon paring knife is the perfect paring knife for a budding cook. At 4 inches, it's a great size for smaller hands but it is just as sharp as any professional knife (so be careful!).
One-Handed Kitchen Tongs
Even if it's possible to unlock your tongs with just one hand, most models require a free second hand to pull a tab and lock them again. Oftentimes when you're cooking, there's no second hand available to do that when you need it. For that reason, we looked far and wide for true one-handed locking tongs. The best of the bunch are the Rösle Locking Tongs. These feature a sliding mechanism that's activated by the tongs' angle: Point them toward the floor, squeeze, and they unlock; point them toward the ceiling, squeeze, and they lock again.
Hands-Free Soap Dispenser
Messy cooks—or germaphobes—will love this easy-to-use soap dispenser. Unlike some other models that have finicky settings, this Simple Human dispenser changes how much soap you get based on where your hands are: Keep them up high for just the right amount to wash your hands, or move them lower for enough to clean a few dinner plates.
The BoardSmith Maple Carolina Slab Butcher Block
A fine piece of woodwork, this maple end-grain board from The BoardSmith is thick, solid, and gets all the details right. It's also been time-tested by the author for three-plus years of heavy home use, so we know that with proper care, this board can last. It comes in a variety of useful sizes, and by default has feet attached, but you can request for them to be left off (you can also add a juice groove and other customizations, if desired).
The One True Barbecue
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.
Nice Chef Apron
There's form, and then there's function, and 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.
KitchenAid Food Grinder Attachment
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 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.
The Flavor Thesaurus
This guide is equal parts science and poetry, exploring the curious and complicated relationships that underlie flavor pairings both classic and new. If you know someone who's always searching for the perfect bottle of bitters or just the right type of cinnamon, this book will soon become a treasured favorite of theirs.
Roccbox Outdoor Pizza Oven
The Roccbox is an incredible little oven with simple, reliable operation, whether you're using gas, wood, or charcoal to fire it. It consistently hits wood-fired-oven temperatures and maintains them for as long as you are cooking, with no fussing or babysitting, which means more time enjoying pizza with friends and family and less time coddling a temperamental flame.
Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking
Tackling all the food in China is no easy task, which is why we tend to gravitate more readily to works that keep a more limited focus on specific regions and cooking styles. Still, a single book that provides a good overview is extremely helpful when trying to get one's bearings. This book by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo does a laudable job at that, starting you out in the market with an introduction to shopping and ingredients, then proceeding into the kitchen to cover basic techniques and classic recipes.
Kid's Make-a-Cake Mixer Set
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!
Miracle-Gro Twelve Indoor Growing System
After previously lauding Aerogardens for how easy they make it to grow herbs at home (and how having a constant supply of fresh herbs has changed her cooking), Ariel's upgraded to this larger system from Miracle-Gro. The increased size—it's about as big as a side table—and bright lights allow you to grow a bounty of lettuces, herbs, and other greens, and you can program the app to turn the lights off and on according to your schedule. An expensive but excellent gift for anyone who loves fresh produce and fears their own black thumbs.
Native to Cincinnati, Ohio, goetta (pronounced "get-a") is a sublime beef and pork sausage made with steel-cut oats (as opposed to the cornmeal used in its close cousin, scrapple). Glier's is one of the biggest and best producers of the German-style pork product. Just slice it, fry it, and serve it with eggs and toast.
Kid's Cutting Board
These fruit-themed cutting boards will help kids get excited about honing their knife skills. Along with being fun and colorful, they have non-slip edges to keep kids focused on what's important: safety.
PDT Cocktails App
Enter all the bottles you have at home when you start, and the app will tell you all of the drinks you can make, with recipes straight from New York's famous PDT cocktail lounge. You can also search for drinks of a certain type or cocktails created by a specific bartender, and save favorites for making again.
12-Inch Stainless-Steel Locking Tongs
The steep, 13° angle on their stainless steel scalloped ends enables the OXO Good Grips Tongs to securely grasp foods in a large range of 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.
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.
Kid's Nylon Knife Set
We spoke to the experts about the best knives for kids and the resounding answer was to pick up a set of nylon knives by Curious Chef. They're safe for kids to use but have a plastic serrated edge that can cut most foods.
An Amazing Bottle of Rum
Drinking Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum—with its dark caramel and vanilla on first whiff, and its rich and velvety-smooth feel as you sip—is like drinking a crème brûlée, but with a long, dry finish. Add an ice cube if you must, but it's really worth it to give it a try without first.
Redbreast 15-Year Irish Whiskey
For those who find Scotch too smoky, bourbon too sweet, and rye too spicy, Irish whiskey is the ideal gift. Redbreast emerges from the barrels complex and substantial; some of the whiskey is aged in sherry casks, lending it a weight and dark hue, while some is aged in bourbon casks, imparting characteristic vanilla flavors. There's a hint of fruit up front and spice on the finish.
Ultra-Deep Cake Pan
Whether you're baking cakes from scratch or from a mix, giving the batter more room to grow will minimize doming, for thicker, more level layers. Light, reflective metal also minimizes browning to keep the cake crust delicate and pale. Because the pans are nonreactive, they can also be used with poke cakes that involve acidic liquids, like lemon juice.
Can't install a proper dishwasher, but hate doing dishes? This baby takes up about the same amount of space as a large dish rack and hooks up to your sink when you're ready to run a load. It fits roughly six place settings at a time and does an excellent job of blasting them clean. Say good-bye to that pile of dirty dishes in the sink—this one's a game-changer.
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.
Matching Bear Aprons for Parents and Kids
Want to match your kids in the kitchen? Go for this apron set, which comes with sweet chef's hats and other fun cooking accessories.
The River Cottage Cookbook
What makes it worth reading? Turns out that the usefulness is hidden in its prose. It's Hugh's geeky but down-to-earth fascination with raising and foraging your own food that will either fascinate or bore you. Each of the four chapters—Garden, Livestock, Fish, and Hedgerow—starts with a lengthy study of not just how to grow and harvest vegetables, livestock, seafood, and wild plants, but also what has the best flavor when, and the environmental impacts of the various choices you can make.
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.
Docking, or pricking with holes, provides steam vents so doughs lie flat. You can do it by stabbing your raw pizza dough a thousand times with a fork—or you can give it a 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.
The New Best Recipe
If you're tired of pancakes that fall flat, if you're sick of roast chicken that looks lovely on the outside but is dry and stringy inside, if you get paralyzed by choosing between the dozens of banana bread recipes a quick Google search turns up, if you've never made a meatloaf in your life and want to make sure it comes out right the very first time—The New Best Recipe is an invaluable resource that you'll turn to again and again.
Elegant (But Dishwasher-Safe) Wine Glasses
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.
Leave-In Probe Thermometer for Grilling
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.
OXO Pizza Wheel
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.
Yoshihiro Fish Scaler
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.
Budget Coffee Maker
While we tested machines that are five times pricier than the Braun, its performance in taste tests, its ease of use, and its wallet-friendly price pushed it to the head of the pack.
Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder
It's almost impossible to find good-quality Dutch cocoa in supermarkets, so make it easy for your favorite baker (or yourself) to whip up the best possible chocolate treats by buying it in bulk online. This cocoa powder is unusually dark, with an earthy chocolate flavor that produces out-of-control brownies, devil's food cake, and ice cream.
Silicone Liquid Measuring Cup
Unlike glass measuring cups, this flexible silicone version has a textured pattern on the surface, so it won't get slick or slippery when wet, and it's thick enough to provide a temperature buffer if you're working with hot liquids. It's equally well suited to adding chicken stock to risotto and pouring cold ice cream base into the machine.
Ceramic Utensil Crock
To store tools like spatulas and whisks, a good old-fashioned 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.
Mediterranean Mortar and Pestle
In the south of France, Italy, and other Mediterranean regions, marble mortars with wooden pestles (often made of olivewood) are quite common. It's next to impossible to find this variety in US stores, unless you get lucky and find one at an antiques shop or estate sale. They can, however, be ordered online. We got ours through an Italian vendor on Etsy, and it's an object of pure beauty. More importantly, it excels at making pesto and similar sauces, as well as emulsified sauces like mayonnaise and aioli.
Nylon Omelette Fork and Turner
The nylon fork-and-spatula set from Calphalon includes a stiff fork that works perfectly for agitating eggs into creamy, tender curds for a classic French omelette, while babying your pan's surface like a newborn infant.
The Whirley Pop is the fastest, most convenient way to make popcorn, popping out cups of the stuff in under a minute, with virtually no un-popped kernels. It also produces fluffier popcorn than any other stovetop method (air poppers might have it beat in that department), and it's excellent for distributing toppings.
Modified Martini Glasses
Ah, martini glasses: so angular and sexy, so prone to making you look like a drunk as you 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. So we 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 we're being honest, will make us all the more inclined to actually use that stem instead of clutching the bowl for dear life). Got no space for unitasking glassware? These double nicely as pretty dessert dishes.
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.
Recchiuti's Chocolate Mendiants
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.
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.
Colorful Matte Plates
These small plates are some of our favorite photo props, not only because they come in an array of soothing colors, but because their matte finish doesn't reflect too much light. Hello, gorgeous cheesecake.
A utility knife may not seem like it belongs with all your other essential kitchen knives, but it’s one of the most useful to keep on hand, as it ensures you're always one quick snap away from a freshly razor-sharp blade. Perfect for detail work, this knife will finely dice apples and cut a perfect basil chiffonade even when all your other kitchen knives are in need of sharpening.
An ideal gift for any lover of cherries, Manhattans, or whiskey in general, these cherries trade the cloying sweetness of maraschinos for the boozy bass notes of great whiskey. Use them in your go-to whiskey cocktail, or to top a favorite dessert.
Chef's Knife for Younger Kids
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.
Reinventing the Wheel
Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese is the perfect gift for anyone who loves cheese. Written by the husband-and-wife duo of Bronwen and Francis Percival, it offers a fascinating look into how industrialization has transformed cheese production, and some insight into positive aspects of the cheesemaking process that may have gotten lost along the way. If you haven't already, do take a look at our interview with the Percivals to get an idea of what the book contains.
Plastic Cooking Spoon
This bi-material scraper spoon has an exceptionally well-designed shape from top to bottom, with an elliptical, ergonomic handle design and a business end with a wide, deep bowl for scooping and a flattened end for scraping up fond. The glass-reinforced nylon that it's made out of is about as heavy-duty as nylon utensils get.
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.
OXO Bench Scraper
A good bench scraper is one of those tools people don't think they need until they start using them. We use it for everything from transferring chopped vegetables or herbs from one place to another, to portioning dough, to giving our cutting boards a quick clean.
KitchenAid Pro Stand Mixer
A stand mixer is obviously great for mixing batters and doughs, but we also love the range of KitchenAid attachments available for purchase—once you have the base, there's suddenly a whole world of homemade sausages, pastas, and fresh juices at your fingertips.
Ice Cream Scoop
The Zeroll is our favorite ice cream scoop because it’s comfortable and lightweight, and it forms nice mounds of even the chunkiest flavors. Inside the aluminum handle is a food-safe mineral oil that transfers the heat from your hand to the tool’s bowl, which makes cutting through rock-hard ice cream easier.
Ironwood Gourmet Acacia End-Grain Prep Station
At a fraction of the cost of our other favorite boards, this acacia end-grain cutting board will do its job more than well enough. We've given this brand many years of home and test-kitchen use, and our boards hardly look different from when they came out of the box. The harder acacia wood will be a little less gentle on your knife blades, but not so much that you should rule it out.
All-Purpose Drink Carbonator
This is the only soda maker capable of carbonating any pulp-free liquid, not just water. Inject CO2 into liquids with the easy-to-use button located on the top of the unit; the hissing noise indicates that the beverage is fully carbonated. It uses refillable 14.5-ounce and three-ounce CO2 cylinders.
Fish & Shellfish
In this book, Peterson not only explains the most important cooking methods for various kinds of fish and shellfish, but also provides an abundance of recipes in which to try them out. You'll also find very useful step-by-step color photographs of how to prep, clean, and fillet just about any seafood you can imagine, including eel.
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.
Large Piping Tips
Most piping sets include a vast array of tiny tips that never get used, but these tips are large and versatile enough to be put to work on a near-daily basis. Whether you're using them for classic cupcakes, swirls of whipped cream, deviled eggs, or twice-baked potatoes, these tips will make every piping job more beautiful.
The Taste of Country Cooking
There are countless great books on American regional cooking, and dozens of them on the South alone. But Lewis's tribute to Southern cooking is particularly important, because it goes beyond just great recipes to tell her story of growing up in Virginia in a farming community founded by freed slaves. The Taste of Country Cooking is less an overarching reference work on Southern cooking and far more of a personal tale, and, given the history, that's what an essential book on the topic demands.
If you make a fair amount of noodle soups at home, particularly for multiple people, you should pick up a couple of these baskets. (They're also great for blanching small quantities of vegetables.) The baskets are cheap yet sturdy, and they're smaller than a lot of the fancier ones out there, so they'll fit in pots that are more home kitchen–sized.
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 with 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.
In-Drawer Knife Storage
If you prefer to keep your knives tucked away, as opposed to on the wall, this in-drawer knife dock is a great solution. It keeps knives out of sight but easy to grab, without the risk of nicking yourself in the process.
Zoie + Chloe Silicone Rolling Pin for Kids
Let your kids help roll out dough with these colorful rolling pins from Zoie + Chloe. They’ll help children develop motor skills and are useful for all sorts of recipes, like pizza, pie dough, cookies, and fondant.
Due Buoi Wide Spatula
We love the Due Buoi Wide Spatula almost as much as the beautiful smashed burgers it helps make. If you're partial to burgers or do a lot of grill or griddle work, add one of these to your arsenal. It's got a business end that's five inches long, a generous girth of 3.9 inches at the front, and a hefty weight of 7.76 ounces—it's just large enough to successfully smash a ball of beef into a four-inch patty, but not so large that it doesn't fit into a small skillet.
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 version is pretty enough (albeit heavy) to use as a serving platter.
OXO Rectangular Measuring Spoons
The most accurate set we tested, the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Spice Jar Measuring Spoons have narrow heads for access into most sizes of spice jars, while their shovel-like bowls scoop easily into powdery cinnamon and densely packed brown sugar. The five-piece set's handles are covered in comfortable nonslip rubber, and the bowls are a cinch to sweep level after scooping.
Small Baking Steel Griddle
We like to keep this solid slab of steel permanently atop one of the burners of our stove. One side has a pebbled surface—ideal for getting extra-crisp, better-than-a-baking-stone crust on homemade pizzas. And, unlike a baking stone, this thing is going to last forever. The griddle arrives as shiny steel, but with just a few uses, it seasons up into a dark, slick nonstick surface that can be used for everything from pancakes to eggs to hamburgers to grilled cheese.
Mercer Culinary Chef's Knife for Older Kids
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.
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.
The Breville produced crispy brown waffles the fastest and with the most consistent color of all the batches we tested, making it the best option if you prefer thinner waffles. Although it makes only one waffle at a time, it reheats and cooks rapidly, so you can crank out waffle after waffle with ease. The built-in drip tray, nonstick surface, and minimal design keep cleanup effortless.
2-Quart Glass Baking Dish
Whether you're making a rhubarb crisp or tiramisu, a two-quart baking dish (usually measuring seven by 11 inches, or else eight by 10 inches) is the perfect size for most baking projects. Pyrex makes a reliable baking dish, and you can't beat that accompanying lid!
OXO Handheld Mandoline
A great mandoline will rapidly make photo-worthy cuts of your favorite vegetables, whether it's thin slices of radishes for a salad or potatoes for a gratin. This basic OXO slicer has three thickness settings and perches over a bowl to easily catch the slices as they fall.
Preserving the Japanese Way
If her first two books are any indication, Nancy Singleton Hachisu is poised to become the Julia Child of traditional Japanese home cooking. In her second book, she tackles the deeply fascinating world of Japanese preserving. From easy pickles made by packing foods in miso (kabocha squash! eggs! apple pears!) to homemade miso, salt-rubbed vegetables, and air-dried fish, these recipes should be the next frontier in all your home preservation undertakings.
Bamboo steamers are particularly useful when you're steaming largish things—say, a small whole fish, like a porgy or small sea bass. They're also super easy to clean.
Joy of Cooking
A staple of American kitchens for close to a century, Joy of Cooking continues to be a valued resource for all the basics, from pancakes and waffles to casseroles, stews, and roasts.
Hot Sour Salty Sweet
Rather than focusing on the cuisine of a specific country, in this book, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid trace the connections between flavors and cultures along the Mekong River. The book starts in southern China and follows their travels through Burma, into Laos and Thailand, and finally down into Vietnam. With gorgeous photography and compelling essays, Alford and Duguid present a version of Southeast Asia that is at once peaceful, dynamic, and captivating. Never has a book caused us to want to book a plane ticket so quickly—though this urge was matched by an even stronger desire to jump into the kitchen.
One of the best cookbook gateways into Middle Eastern cuisine, and 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.
Iwatani High-Output Torch
Forget those puny kitchen torches designed to make crème brûlée for ants. If you want some serious torching power in the kitchen, for putting the final touch on fancy desserts or for finishing off a sous vide steak, you want a high-output torch like this one. You'll get a deeper char than you'll ever be able to get from using a skillet alone.
Hamilton Beach Immersion Blender
Our budget pick outperformed immersion blenders four times the price. It’s great for whipping up silky soups and purées; making emulsions, like mayonnaise and Hollandaise; or smoothing out sauces, all right there in the pot. No need to dirty up a blender jar!
You could use any old spoon to stir a cocktail, but a bar spoon is best suited for the job. Long and slender, it can reach to the bottom of a tall mixing glass packed with ice, without getting stuck on the way in or out. Its twisted handle isn't just for aesthetics, either—it's designed to spin gracefully in your fingers as the spoon goes round and round, minimizing the jostling of the contents with the spoon bowl and reducing splashes and spills. Plus, it just looks cool.
The Noma Guide to Fermentation
The hottest new nerdy book of kitchen geekery has to be The Noma Guide to Fermentation by Rene Redzepi and David Zilber. If you know someone who's mixed koji up with dried fish to make a kind of fish sauce, this is the book for them. Also a good gift for anyone who's into drying meats or pickling—it details methods and processes that take those hobbies a step further.
Best Poultry Shears
OXO's poultry shears include a locking mechanism that's easy to engage and disengage, a looped handle that won't allow greasy hands to slip when squeezing hard, and a take-apart hinge for thorough cleaning. But what really makes it our top pick is that it's one of the only pairs of shears we tested that can both snip through squirmy skin and cleave through bone. If your poultry shears can't do that, you might as well not own them.
The simple geometric design of this runner will bring some warmth to your table, while protecting its surface during entertaining season.
Stainless Steel Rail
Install this bar on a wall over your stove, and you can hang small pots and pans, ladles, and other frequently used tools on it for rapid access. Place it elsewhere, and you can hang not only kitchen towels from it but also bottle openers, scissors, honing steels, and anything else you use often and would rather not rummage around in drawers for.
The Instant Pot Duo60 is a fantastic value and performed almost as well as the top pick among countertop pressure cookers we tested. It's easy to use, the company has a reputation for great customer service, and there's an avid and helpful community of users online to boot.
These hand-poured soy-wax candles will look beautiful on your kitchen table—and the scents (think Champagne/saffron or rosebud/pear water) are 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 them an impressive gift that's also affordable. $36 for 1, $89 for 3 (and free shipping).
The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook
While you certainly can make dumplings on your own, it's always better (and more fun) with company. Use this amazing compendium of dumpling recipes to throw a good old-fashioned dumpling party.
Misono 440 Molybdenum Chef's Knife
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.
Marco Colzani is a great Italian bean-to-bar chocolate maker, with a number of excellent products under his brand, Amaro. But it's his spreads that have Ed addicted, particularly the Cacao Nocciole, or hazelnut-and-chocolate variety. Imagine a Nutella-like substance, but made with the freshest roasted hazelnuts and extra-chocolaty high-quality cocoa powder.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking
What is there to say that hasn't already been said? This is the original work that exposed countless Americans to classic French cooking, forever changing the course of this country's cuisine. Never mind if some of the recipes are a bit labyrinthine. You should own it. Both volumes. Period.
8-Inch Offset Spatula
If you're crumb-coating a cake or loosening homemade Oreo dough from the counter, an eight-inch offset spatula will always get the job done.
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.
Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse
This is a book for people who like to live extra large, and by that we mean people who are intrigued enough by the microwaved foie gras recipe to consider trying it some day. It's a text that espouses an eating- and cooking-philosophy as much as it is a collection of recipes.
One of the most common things we see in the home kitchens of friends and family is salt that's way too inaccessible: It's either squirreled away in a cabinet or sealed inside a shaker that dispenses salt in a frustratingly slow sprinkling. But salt is the ingredient we use more frequently than any other, and it needs to be within easy reach at all times. One of your best options is a dedicated salt pig, a ceramic container designed just for this purpose. They tend to have wide openings that make it easy to reach in and grab big pinches of salt. An overhanging top helps keep dust and other unwanted particles from falling inside. They're also large enough to hold a decent supply of salt, reducing the frequency with which you'll have to top up.
Awesome Chef's Knife
High-quality Swedish steel and Japanese design, along with great features like a perfectly balanced handle and blade and an ergonomic bolster, make the Misono UX10 Santoku one of our favorite knives.
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.
This meat cleaver has a well-balanced weight, sharp edge, and solid construction—a boon since a lot of more-affordable cleavers like this one feel very cheap and after repeat use get wobbly around the handle.
Jacques Pépin's New Complete Techniques
Jacques Pépin has more than 20 cookbooks to his name, but this one might be the most universally useful to home cooks. Clear photos and descriptions walk newbies through holding a knife properly, then using it to slice and dice an onion and debone a chicken. But there's also an endless number of little tricks and tips, like why your salad greens should be bone-dry before you dress them, that will raise your kitchen IQ.
Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers
This cookbook by Julia Turshen, author of Small Victories and Feed the Resistance, is full of simple, delicious meals for everyday eating, parties, and holidays. Better yet, each one includes a bunch of suggestions for how to remake it as leftovers. It's a trove of great, creative ideas, and a must for any bookworm.
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.
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art
Shizuo Tsuji's masterwork on Japanese cooking is as useful today as it was when it was first published, more than two decades ago. He takes you through essential equipment, cooking techniques, ingredients, recipes, and the philosophy that underlies it all. Reading this book doesn't just help you learn to cook Japanese food; it helps you to understand and appreciate it far more, too.
Broil King Professional Portable Nonstick Griddle
The Broil King was the top-performing electric griddle that we tested in terms of consistent heating and cooking results, turning out batches of perfectly browned pancakes. What's more, the legs of the Broil King can be adjusted to pitch the cooking surface, which helps drain fat into its grease trap.
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.
If you ever plan on hosting a taco party featuring hard-shell tacos, having a mold to shape those freshly fried shells is essential. We like this single-shell model because we can use it to fry in our wok; the multi-shell models require a deeper vessel or a dedicated deep fryer, and the oven-baked versions don't come out as delicious.
Play-Doh Noodle Makin Mania Set
This Play Doh noodle-making set comes with its own extruder for tiny pasta fans. There's also a tiny ravioli maker and (non-edible) toppings.
8-Inch Nonstick Skillet
No matter how well you maintain your carbon steel and cast iron pans, they won't deliver the same degree of cling avoidance as a modern nonstick surface. For this reason, we like to keep just a couple of nonstick pans at home, which we use exclusively for cooking eggs, though they're helpful for making thin pancakes like crepes as well. An eight-inch skillet like this one is the perfect size for making a classic three-egg omelette.
The Cadillac of kitchen thermometers, the Thermapen is indispensable when you're roasting meat, cooking steaks, making candy, deep-frying, or carrying out any other task that requires precise temperature control. It's got a big display and a blazing-fast measuring time of under two seconds.
Leave it to the former owner of Murray's Cheese Shop, Rob Kaufelt, to come up with a cheese that is both global and local at the same time. Kaufelt's crew discovered cheesemaker Walter Rass's extraordinary Annelies cheese in a small village in Switzerland. Wheels of the stuff are shipped to the New York shop, where they're aged for nine months in the Murray's cheese cave before being sold to the public. The result is a nutty, caramelly, toasty cheese that needs no cracker for completion.
Pasta by Hand: A Collection of Italy's Regional Hand-Shaped Pasta
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.
Nordic Ware Rimmed Quarter Sheet Tray
Quarter-sheet pans are half the size of a half-sheet pan, the rimmed baking sheets we favor for cookies, roasted vegetables, and more. These smaller versions are perfect for all kinds of recipe tasks, like holding small amounts of ingredients for prepping, or toasting nuts. We reach for them just as often as we do the half-sheet size—because sometimes you need the SUV, and sometimes you need the compact.
Ceramic Sangria Pitcher
This pitcher arrives sangria-ready. 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!
Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat
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.
Stainless Steel Boning Knife
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 one has a double-beveled, asymmetrical blade, so it's a little more multipurpose—it can be used for deboning poultry and other meats, but it can also be used for slicing and chopping in a pinch—and it's easier to maintain for novice knife sharpeners than a single-beveled blade. But it really shines at deboning chickens. If you're used to using a flexible 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 curving shape of a balloon whisk conforms nicely to bowls and sauciers, making it easy to scrape every surface and reach every corner. Because there aren't too many tines, it won't get gunked up when you're making thick batters, like the yukone for Stella's bagels and crusty dinner rolls, and its hollow shape makes it easy to knock out whatever's trapped inside.
Martha Stewart 6-Quart Dutch Oven
We cooked a very good pot of jambalaya in this under-$100 model. While you can spend two or three times as much on fancier Dutch ovens, there's a lot to like about the Martha Stewart: a large-diameter pot bottom, comfortable side handles, and a simple, handsome design. But, at nearly 14 pounds, it's also the heaviest six-quart model we tested.
What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained
The books are set up in a question-and-answer format that really appeals to us. Best of all, these are questions that people really ask. "Does blowing on hot food cool it?" "When I cook with wine or beer, does all the alcohol burn off, or does some remain?" "I know that a calorie is a unit of heat, but why does eating heat make me fat? What if I only ate cold foods?" And so on. Each question is answered in a manner that's personable and relatable, but also authoritative.
OXO Citrus Reamer
OXO Good Grips makes a simple and affordable citrus reamer that'll take up very little space in your cupboard; it performed quite efficiently in our tests, despite the drawbacks inherent in all reamers.
Mini Rubber Spatulas
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.
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.
Breville 12-Cup Food Processor
The smaller version of our favorite 16-cup food processor, this Breville Sous Chef has the same adjustable slicing blade and an easy-to-assemble work-bowl design, with quiet yet powerful performance.
Kid's Wooden Play Kitchen
If you want to get your tiny tots into the kitchen but far from the heat and potential spills, set them up a this wooden play kitchen where they can imitate your moves at a safe distance.
Bonavita Electric Kettle
This electric kettle has an elegant gooseneck spout that makes pouring a thin, controlled stream easy—very helpful for Chemex and other pourover coffee methods—and a base with controls that allow you to set a specific temperature and hold it there.
This cookbook is a great guide to learning how to use a donabe cooker. 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.
Almost every element of this slicer is a little unorthodox, so we were surprised when it clearly outperformed all of its competitors in our slicing tests. If you're looking for the tool to make quick work of your next prime rib, this is it.
Rancho Gordo Beans
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.
Not only can you cook perfect plain rice in this traditional Japanese clay pot, but it doubles as a vessel for flavorful one-pot stews and hot pots, and an infinite variety of noodle and rice dishes. Anyone interested in Japanese home cooking should have one.
We've owned many models of corkscrew over the years, but a good old folding waiter's corkscrew is still our favorite for ease of use, ease of storage, and longevity. A good one will have a two-level lever system to make pulling out even tough corks a snap, along with a beer bottle opener and a foil cutter.
Best All-Around 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 decor.
This versatile cocktail jigger features two primary measures for one- and two-ounce pours, but what makes it especially useful are the etched markings inside each cup indicating 0.5, 0.75, and 1.5 ounces, so that you don't have to get out multiple jiggers just to make a cocktail.
Anova Precision Cooker
Sous vide cooking—cooking foods in vacuum-sealed pouches in precisely controlled water baths—is no longer the exclusive preserve of fancy restaurant kitchens. The Anova Precision Cooker is one of the best home water-bath controllers on the market, with an easy-to-use interface, Bluetooth support, rock-solid construction, a sleek look, and an affordable price tag to boot.
Kid's Kitchen Learning Tower
Kenji says that the best thing he has for his daughter is her helper stool, which is like a step stool with a little fence around the top so she can get at counter height on her own without the danger of falling.
Kids Cut Resistant Gloves
As you start to introduce real knives into your child's cooking habits, make sure to keep hands and fingers safe with these cut-resistant gloves, which come in plenty of fun colors and sizes.
Piping Tip Set
This epic set of stainless steel pastry tips is perfect for the home baker with professional-grade aspirations...or the food-enthused, arts-and-craftsy kid in your life. With this kit in hand, nothing but practice stands between you and gorgeous piped flowers, leaves, stars, and beyond.
Tsukemono Round Pickle Press
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.
This cast iron workhorse spans two burners, making it perfect for high-volume indoor grilling projects (did anyone order skewered shrimp?) on one side, and griddled classics, like pancakes and smashed burgers, on the other.
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.
Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Heritage Bundt Pan
A Bundt pan is essentially a functional sculpture that can spruce up an open kitchen shelf quite nicely, even if it never gets any use. Give one to the baker (or bakeware admirer) in your life, and, as long as you promise shared cake, we're sure you'll be allowed to borrow it any time.
High-Tech Propane Grill
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 its 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.
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.
Safety Can Opener
The Kuhn Rikon has an intuitive design that makes latching onto cans a cinch. While safety can openers are usually a little harder to turn than traditional rotary-style ones, the Kuhn Rikon is about as easy as a safety can opener gets. It also has built-in metal pincers that lift the lid off without getting your hands messy.
Aluminized steel isn't our favorite material for layer cakes, as it encourages the development of a heavier crust. But for that very reason, it's amazing for baking an evenly browned loaf, whether we're talking about classic banana bread or a sour cream pound cake. We like the sharp corners and tall sides of Chicago Metallic's eight-inch aluminized steel loaf pan, also known as a "one-pound" loaf pan.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a true pantry at home. If that's you, try some of these under-cabinet storage sets. They can hold up to six pounds of whatever you want to store, from dish soap to snacks, and help you make best use of the space you do have. As with most Command technology, you won't need to poke any holes in your cabinets to hang these up.
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen
On Vegetables, a new book that's generated a lot of buzz among chefs, is organized alphabetically by ingredient, although recipes for "larder" items, like dressings, sauces, pickles, breads, and garnishes, are separated into an appendix. The author, California chef Jeremy Fox, has a reverence for vegetables, leading him to include some recipes so simple they barely warrant the name—like broccoli di cicco dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic and served with burrata.
Masala Dabba Spice Container
There's a lot to say about how to manage your spice collection. First and foremost, pay attention to freshness: If you can't remember when you bought that bottle of paprika, chances are it's transformed into sad red sawdust. To keep your spices at their peak (and keep them organized), pick up a masala dabba like this one.
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.
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.
What Einstein Told His Cook 2
What we find really great about both books in this series is their episodic, casual nature. Have a few spare minutes? Just flip to a page and find out what bones contribute to a good stock (collagen, baby!), or what freezer burn actually is (and find out that airtight plastic wrap isn't actually so airtight after all).
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.
White Piggy Otoshibuta
An otoshibuta is, in essence, a lid; the original ones are made of wood. But it's not just any lid: It's submergible. That means you can set an otoshibuta directly on the surface of the food you're cooking, which is useful for simmered foods and pickles that require keeping everything covered in liquid. Since they're not made of metal and fit a variety of diameters, they're also really handy as bowl covers when you're reheating food in the microwave.
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.
Metal Pizza Peel for Retrieving Pizzas
Wooden pizza peels are too thick to easily slide under a pie once it's hit the oven. For that, you'll want a thin-bladed metal peel. Basic models made of thin-gauge aluminum, like this Kitchen Supply peel, are just fine for the occasional baker, but they'll bend and warp eventually. If you're going to be making pizza multiple times a year for many years to come, you might want to spring for something a little more heavy-duty. We recommend the KettlePizza Pro Peel, which has a thick-gauge aluminum body that extends fully past the solid teakwood handle.
Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder
There's a lot to be said for Baratza's entry-level Encore grinder, which comes in a lighter-weight, all-plastic housing. It packs the same motor as the more expensive Virtuoso, and it includes a slightly less effective burr set that grinds nearly as well as—and slightly more slowly than—the Virtuoso. Also worth knowing is you can upgrade the burr set in the Encore to the one made for the Virtuoso, if you do ever end up feeling like the Encore isn't quite cutting it.
Manual Pasta Machine
Fresh pasta is incredible, but unless your rolling pin skills are in the 99th percentile, there's no real way to get pasta dough thin enough without a pasta machine. We own and occasionally use a KitchenAid stand mixer attachment, but we find a clamp-on manual countertop model to be almost as easy to use (and far cheaper).
Dishwasher-Safe Flexible Slotted Spatula (Fish Turner)
If you're looking for a dishwasher-safe fish spatula—which happens to be less expensive than our winning Victorinox, though it's also slightly flimsier—we recommend the Wüsthof Pro Slotted Fish Spatula. At about $15, it's one of the least expensive spatulas we tried, and it still does a fine job of flipping and scraping, even in a crowded pan. The flipper flares a little wider than the one on the Victorinox, so lifting things like pancakes is a bit less of a balancing act. But the Wüsthof flipper is also more flexible than the Victorinox one, so, while it could still hold a hefty burger, the perch felt more precarious.
An Everlasting Meal
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.
Le Creuset Wooden Spoon
A good wooden spoon is a must for any kitchen, and this one, from Le Creuset, is top-notch. It's gorgeous to look at; it has a flat front, which makes it great for scraping up fond or stirring vegetables; and it's got a smooth, ergonomic grip that makes using it a joy.
Best All-Around Flexible Slotted Spatula (Fish Turner)
The Victorinox Chef's Slotted Fish Turner is an all-around great spatula for a little over $20 (at the time of testing). The curve of the flipper and the angle of its front edge are just right for slipping under a delicate piece of fish or scraping the bottom of a pan. It's lightweight, flexible, and easy to control, but still strong enough to lift a half-pound burger. The wood handle is comfortable, though it's also the only downside—it means this spatula is not dishwasher-safe.
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.
Provisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking
Hoping to familiarize yourself with Jamaican food beyond jerk chicken and curried goat? Want to learn more about the evolution of Caribbean cuisine? Provisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking is the book for you. Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau share 150 bright and exciting vegetarian recipes inspired by the women who first taught the two sisters to cook. The recipes are accompanied by gorgeous photos, and a thorough history of Caribbean foodways. It's an inspiring—and delicious—ode to the women who make Caribbean food great.
The Art of Mexican Cooking: Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aficionados
This is arguably the book that set the United States straight: Those burritos you've been calling Mexican food? Not so much. Kennedy was one of the first English-language authors to call out Mexican cooking as distinct from the Tex-Mex and SoCal versions that many had come to assume were the real deal. In this seminal book, she covers regional variations, ingredients, techniques, and more.
Culina Stainless Steel Grilling Basket
A good grill basket should be durable, with a tight enough weave to allow very small foods to be cooked without risk of getting lost. Finally, it's worth hunting down one that's sizable enough to cook large batches of food in one go. One of our favorites is the simple Culina stainless steel basket. The metal mesh keeps even the smallest food items up on the grill grate where they belong. You can even toast or smoke nuts in it.
Small Mortar and Pestle
Whether or not you follow him on Instagram, you can probably imagine that Kenji is the king of getting his daughter, Alicia, in the kitchen. She even has her own mini mortar and pestle to use when Kenji’s using his!
Mac Knife Chef's Knife
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.
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.
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.
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
Kenji has described On Food and Cooking as the most important, most referenced, and most cherished book in his library. Alton Brown has called it "the Rosetta Stone of the culinary world," but that doesn't quite do it justice. Harold McGee didn't simply translate the history and science of the kitchen into lay terms; he collected, translated, collated, and rewrote hundreds of primary research documents into the most complete and useful collection of cooking science ever conceived.
Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking
Fuchsia is a scholar of the highest order, and her recipes are packed with interesting cultural and historical lessons and observations. She's also a technician, which means that you're going to learn about the 23 distinct flavors of Sichuan cuisine (no, it's not all má and là), as well as the 56 (56!) different cooking methods employed by Sichuan chefs. On top of that, her recipes truly work.
Leave-In Dual-Probe Thermometer
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.
Weber Spirit E330 Liquid Propane Gas Grill
The Spirit E330 was introduced last year to replace the E320. The two models are identical except that the 330 adds a 7,500-BTU sear burner between the left and middle main burners. Sear burners are one of our favorite extras for gas grills. You'll love turning this baby up to 11 when searing steaks and burgers.
OXO Scale With Pull-Out Display
A good digital scale is an essential tool for bakers or home charcuterie makers. The OXO Food Scale comes with an easy-to-clean, removable stainless steel weighing surface; great accuracy and precision; and a backlit pull-out display to make measuring easy, even for large or unwieldy items.
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 your giftee's favorite cake on top, and it will also be a nice reminder of the day.
Since first getting his hands on a jar of this pistachio spread, Sasha hasn't shut up about it. Made from Sicilian pistachios, olive oil, sugar, and sea salt, it's sweet, slightly salty, incredibly creamy, and just flat-out delicious. While it's not cheap, this is one of those specialty products that are actually worth the price tag, and it makes a great gift. Spread it on bread, drizzle it over ice cream, or just eat it by the spoonful straight from the jar.
Unlike crackable baking stones, the Baking Steel is a solid sheet of steel. Not only will it last forever, but, with superior thermal properties, it produces the best pizza crusts we've ever seen in a home oven.
Plastic Squeeze Bottles
Having a couple of plastic squeeze bottles around is always a good idea; they're great for making salad dressings and storing other homemade condiments. They also open up the possibility of buying certain sauces and oils in bulk, which will save you a bunch of cash in the long run.
How to Read a French Fry
Russ Parsons's How to Read a French Fry doesn't try to be everything to everyone, and it doesn't pretend to be an encyclopedia of food science. Instead, it's a well-curated package of only the most useful and interesting scientific tidbits, with a straightforward, "just the facts, ma'am" approach. Each of the six chapters is about a single basic concept of food science: how frying works, how vegetables ripen, how beans and pasta soften, how meat reacts to heat, how eggs are the most useful culinary tool on the planet, and how fat, flour, and water come together to form pastries and cookies.
Brooklyn Biltong Dried Beef
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.
Brushed Nickel Command Hooks
To store utensils and make better use of wall space, we love Command strip hooks, which come in a wide variety of sizes and finishes. They're quite durable and can stay on walls for years. If you're a renter, they're an especially good way to store tools, towels, oven mitts, and more without poking too many holes in the walls.
Diamond Honing Steel
This is our top pick among diamond honing steels. While diamond steels are a bit controversial, as some say they remove far too much metal from the blade, this Messermeister won't set you back too much if you want to try one out.
Affordable Instant-Read Thermometer
This thermometer is in almost every way equal to the ThermoPop, which was the best-in-class from our inexpensive-thermometer tests. The only area in which it falls short is the length of its probe, which isn't quite long enough for bigger roasts.
KitchenAid Pasta Attachment
This KitchenAid attachment 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!
Pretty Melamine Plates
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 we're so in love with these plates, which look like hand-painted ceramic, with the weight and heft of, well, plastic.
Be Your Own Bartender
This is a fun, interactive book featuring over a dozen flowcharts to guide you to the perfect drink for every mood and occasion.
Staub 5 1/2–Quart Dutch Oven
The Staub’s classic flat lid hides spikes underneath that are designed to evenly shower your food with moisture. The pot heats evenly and is a pleasure to cook in. It's also handsome enough to serve from at the table.
Set of Two Rectangular Grill Grates
If you've ever used a gas grill and grown frustrated with unfixable hot and cool spots and overall weak performance, this tool is for you. Made from hard anodized aluminum, the GrillGrate system sits directly on your existing grate, amplifying and evening out the heat, which allows for more even cooking, flare-up resistance, and exceptional sear marks.
In My Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes
To those who are already devotees of Deborah Madison's classic volumes on vegetarian cooking, parts of her book In My Kitchen will seem familiar. The recipes published here, as Madison explains in the introduction, have all made their way into her regular routine, and they include tweaked and tinkered-with versions of dishes that have appeared in past books. And yet nothing in this cookbook seems repetitive or dated. In step with vegetarian food generally, Madison's cooking has evolved over the years, becoming lighter, brighter, and often simpler. "We change as our culture changes," she writes, "and I found I have been cooking in a more straightforward, less complicated fashion."
With so many buttery casseroles, bacon-laden vegetables, and heavy meats to eat over the holidays, it's impossible to not get a stomachache at least once. That's why we like to buy Gin Gins by the pound. Suck on one of these super-spicy hard candies after a meal, and you'll soon feel relief. Take it from experts in the art of eating too much: There really is nothing better for postprandial indigestion than Gin Gins.
Elizabeth David on Vegetables
Elizabeth David 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.
Larousse is the serious food encyclopedia for the serious cook. Its focus is mostly on French preparations, though more recent editions have attempted to remedy that with some more international entries. Arranged alphabetically, Larousse offers up historical context, recipes and cooking instruction, and definitions galore.
Le Creuset 5 1/2–Quart Dutch Oven
The Le Creuset is the gold standard among Dutch ovens, and, while pricey, 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.
Leave-In Probe Thermometer
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.
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.
There are plenty of fancy built-in storage solutions out there for your pantry, but many sacrifice utility for looks, while saddling you with a hefty bill. Metro shelves, on the other hand, will run you under $60. They're affordable, easy to clean, and tall enough to fit larger appliances. What's more, if you get some S hooks, you'll be able to hang all of your utensils, strainers, mandolines, and even pots and pans right from the unit.
Island Creek Oysters by Mail
Few things get us as excited as a good raw bar, but most of the time, we eat far too little because, after the first couple dozen oysters, 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 you can order their oysters online by the 50- or 100-count for much less than they cost at most restaurants, for an at-home shucking extravaganza.
An Invitation to Indian Cooking
Madhur Jaffrey has become one of the foremost authorities on Indian cooking since she published An Invitation to Indian Cooking in 1973. It and her subsequent books helped introduce American cooks to a cuisine that, at the time, was hardly known here at all.
While an immersion circulator can be used with any old pot, we strongly suggest using a Cambro container, small or large (or both) depending on what recipes you have your eye on. Pots aren't as well suited for sous vide as Cambros, as plastic is a better insulator.
Palm Leaf Napkins
From stuffing to mashed potatoes to turkey, the holidays tend to feature a lot of brownish foods. And we're not complaining. But if you'd like to add some green to your table without actually eating any, these vibrant cloth napkins are a great way to do it.
Deep Sixth Pan
You can use a deep sixth pan to store all sorts of items, including braises and stews, cooked beans in their water, and grains. Once you're done using them, toss 'em in the dishwasher, then nest them together for easy storage.
MAC Professional Santoku Knife
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.
Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill (WiFi-Enabled)
We believe Green Mountain's Davy Crockett is the best portable pellet smoker currently on the market. It 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. Plus, its WiFi capabilities enable you to monitor and control the smoker from your smartphone or laptop.
We love a good multitasker, and this lid organizer definitely makes our list. Of course, it can slide into a cabinet and keep lids in order, but it can also serve as a dish-drying rack for your plates.
Misono UX10 Chef's Knife
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.
These small rimmed baking sheets are one-eighth the size of a full sheet pan (most baking sheets at home are half sheets, not full sheets). This tiny size is perfect for roasting or reheating a portion or two of meat or fish, or toasting a small portion of nuts or grains. They're also great for organizing prepped ingredients and small kitchen tools.
All-Clad 3-Quart Saucier
How do you make perfect caramels, ice cream, gravies, and reductions? A nifty pot called a saucier. The durable stainless steel is cladded with aluminum for even heating, essential for temperamental ingredients like caramel and egg custards. A curved bottom makes whisking a snap (no more lumpy gravy!), and the wide top encourages evaporation for fast sauce reductions. You can buy cheaper versions than this All-Clad saucier, but this is one piece of equipment in which quality really makes a difference.
Even pros like to use rulers when they pick up a rolling pin. Our favorite ruler has measurements that start from the very edge, so it can be stood upright to measure the thickness of any dough. Rulers are also great for keeping you on track when you cut rectangular cookies, crackers, and strips of pie dough for a lattice-top pie.
If you've ever noticed that a recipe's suggested bake time never quite applies to you, chances are your oven's out of whack. It's a matter of not just timing but consistency, too: When ovens run too hot, cookies burn, cakes turn gummy along the bottom, and flaky pastries melt too fast, losing their delicate layers. In cool ovens, cookies turn out thin and pale, cakes develop a wet crumb, and flaky pastries melt too slowly, producing a mealy crust. With a reliable oven thermometer, you can rule out these problems from the start.
The Food Lab Video Series
Serious Eats' own J. Kenji López-Alt brings his popular column to life in this six-episode series. With help from food blogger and cook Katie Quinn, Kenji demonstrates techniques, busts myths, and 'splains the science behind perfect burgers, tender roast chicken, exquisite chocolate chip cookies, and much more. Rent or download individual episodes, or the whole show!
Staub Heritage Baking Dish
It can be easy to brush off appearances as unimportant, but tableside presentation is a big part of a baking dish’s appeal. If you want excellent performance combined with a handsome and classic design that will look great on your holiday table (or on your Instagram account), Staub is your best bet. This heavyweight dish heats evenly in the oven at temperatures up to 575°F (300°C) and has great heat retention, keeping food hotter longer when you're serving. The generous four-quart capacity is ideal for large roasts and extra-deep casseroles.
Kuhn Rikon Vegetable Peelers
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!
Kuhn Rikon Stovetop Pressure Cooker
We tested dozens of stovetop pressure cookers before settling on Kuhn Rikon's Duromatic. It has a heavy sandwiched-aluminum-and-steel base that gives you even heat, and a pressure gauge that makes telling exactly how much pressure has built up inside visual and intuitive.
Microfiber Dish-Drying Mat
A good dish mat, combined with a small rack, is more than adequate for most after-meal cleanup. This mat is made from absorbent microfibers that dry quickly after being dripped on and can be folded up and stashed away when not in use.
Blackstone Pizza Oven
The Blackstone is the oven of choice for high-output, rapid cooking, as it takes very little time to preheat and recover, pumping out pie after pie at a nonstop clip. Users who are comfortable making frequent mechanical repairs and adjustments, and who care more about speed than about versatility and aesthetics, will be happy with this one.
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.
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.
Punt e Mes
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.
Cupcakes do best in aluminum pans, like this one, that keep their crusts delicate and pale.
Joyce Chen Cook Book
Even if you've never heard of Joyce Chen, even if you never pick up a copy of her out-of-print cookbook, even if you aren't a big fan of Northern Chinese cuisine, we can flat-out guarantee that Joyce Chen has changed the way you eat or cook. For one thing, Joyce Chen invented the Chinese lunch buffet that we know from countless suburban strip malls in the US. For another, she's the original patent owner for the flat-bottomed wok that's enabled so many American cooks to begin stir-frying at home. Chen made it her mission to make Chinese food accessible to an American audience, and although the recipes in this book, for dishes like velveted chicken, beef with snow peas, and moo shi pork, may be a little dated (Chen's call for lean meats in many of her recipes reflects the health-conscious trends of the 1970s), they and their creator helped clear the path for generations of restaurateurs, TV chefs, and cookbook authors to come.
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.
Insulated Beverage Bottle
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.
Meia-Duzia Portuguese Jams
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.
S-Hooks for Stainless Steel Rail
If you have a towel bar in your kitchen—or wire shelving units—it helps to have some S-hooks to hang from it. From them, you can suspend bottle openers, scissors, and any utensil or tool that has a hanging loop on it.
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.
The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
Eight hundred recipes. Yes, you read that right. Really, it shouldn't be surprising, given that this definitive work by Claudia Roden encapsulates so much of the Middle East, a region with such diverse cooking styles that each one could inspire a thousand books. Persian food? Check. North African food? Check. Turkish cooking? Check. Everything else? Check, check, check.
Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, 3rd Edition
Peterson has long been the master of writing comprehensive works on major subjects. In Sauces, he breaks down sauce-making in all its intricacies, starting with stocks and leading you through the classics of French and Italian cuisines and beyond.
Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor
At less than half the cost of our favorite 14-cup food processor, the Cuisinart is no slouch. It comes with only the bare minimum, but the Cuisinart punches above its price weight in all the core processing areas, including forming dough.
Cuisinart ICE-21 Ice Cream Machine
The value-to-cost ratio on this lightweight model can’t be beat. It uses a pre-frozen, coolant-lined canister to chill down the ice cream base, eliminating the need for salt and ice or an expensive compressor. When properly frozen, the canister churns up in less time than any other model we tested, for creamy and smooth ice creams and other frozen desserts. This undemanding model has one button, a lid that easily snaps into place, and a small footprint for tight spaces.
Glass Food-Storage Container Set
These glass storage containers are super affordable compared with other dry-storage solutions. They're a little heavier than plastic containers, but they nest well, and they're great if you need to transport any of your ingredients.
4-Inch Offset Spatula
Paleta Iberico de Bellota
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.
All-Clad Two-Quart Saucepan
This small 2-quart saucepan is perfect for making and warming sauces, cooking small portions of grain, and heating liquids.
The Chili Cookbook
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 that's best enjoyed with a big bowl of chile con carne.
When you're storing spices, it's essential to keep them not just organized but fresh, too. Keep them airtight in these spice tins, so they'll last as long as possible. Our suggestion? Make like a professional kitchen and do a little label-making to ensure you don't mix up your paprika with your cayenne.
Lodge 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
If you don't yet own a cast iron pan, now's the time to get on the wagon. A capacious cast iron skillet is an incredibly versatile tool, perfectly suited for searing, baking, roasting, stewing, and braising; if it's well seasoned, its surface will also be relatively nonstick. And, despite the rumors, cast iron cookware is surprisingly easy to maintain, requiring just a small amount of effort to keep it in good enough shape to last a lifetime. This 12-inch version is ideal for baking a big batch of cornbread or whipping up a one-pan, stovetop-to-oven dinner on a weeknight.
Wire Cooling Rack
Wire racks are essential for resting meats, both pre-cooking (if they’ve been salted) and post- (to keep them out of their pooling juices), as well as for cooling cakes, cookies, and the like. Any time you need air circulation around your food, whether before, during, or after cooking, a wire rack is a must. These are designed to fit standard rimmed baking sheets.
The Cuisinart’s build is rock-solid, with riveted handles, a snug-fitting lid, and triple-ply stainless steel cladding (a core of aluminum sandwiched between layers of stainless steel) from the base to the top of the pot’s wall. The wide, flat handles are very comfortable and leave plenty of space for oven mitt–covered hands.
Budget 10-Inch Mercer Carving Knife
If you're looking for a more budget-friendly carving knife, the Mercer is your best bet. It's made from the same steel as the Wüsthof that we highly recommend, but the blade's a bit stiffer and the grip slightly less comfortable. It'll still get the job done just fine.
Hero Dinners: Complete One-Pan Meals That Save the Day
Marge Perry and David Bonom's cookbook is perfect for the giftee who loves to cook but hates a mess. Each recipe requires just one pan (or sheet pan), allowing the cook to enjoy precious downtime with family—and spend less time at the sink.
To make good tortillas at home, you need a tortilla press. Though you might find lightweight aluminum presses out there, this one, made of cast iron, is heavy enough to easily press your masa mixture into perfectly flat little tortillas, with minimal effort on your part.
Incredible Beef Ribs
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.
Oliso Vacuum Sealer
You're definitely going to want this if you're getting serious about sous vide cooking, but it's handy for way more than that. A vacuum sealer makes it really easy to save meats or other foods in the freezer, especially as it keeps air (read: freezer burn) off everything. The Oliso sealer uses a unique resealable-bag system, which means far less wasted plastic than a conventional cut-and-seal vacuum sealer.
Best Glass Liquid Measuring Cup Set
These were the most accurate set of glass measuring cups we tested and include one-, two-, and four-cup measures. Only the smallest cup was off by more than a milliliter at full volume, which is very accurate for kitchen use. The cups have durable, easy-to-read markings; a classic shape that nests well; and spouts that are easy to pour from.
Hawker Fare: Stories & Recipes from a Refugee Chef's Isan Thai & Lao Roots
Hawker Fare is a wonderful introduction to some of the flavors that make Isan and Lao cuisines unique. The recipes are excellent, but what we find so compelling about the book is Syhabout's story: a refugee who arrived with his family in the United States at the age of two, Syhabout went on to pursue a career in fine-dining. Only after establishing himself did he embark on a personal journey of discovery to find out more about the food of his forebears.
If you know someone who has a taste for a well-made cocktail, but lives far from the heart of the Brooklyn drinking scene, this book is the perfect gift. It features 300 innovative and classic drink recipes from the best bars of the borough; every cocktail we've tried from it so far has been killer. The drinks Carey Jones has selected aren't dumbed down at all, but, for the most part, you're not looking at mile-long ingredient lists, either.
Bamboo Expandable Cutlery Tray
There are plenty of utensils that don't need to be out on your counter or walls, and for those, we like this adjustable cutlery tray that can slot right into a drawer. Its many sections are built to fit all sorts of cutlery, from your longest salad forks to those cute baby spoons.
Traditional Can Opener
With a classic shape that’s intuitive to use, the EZ-Duz-It was among the fastest models we tested. This well-built opener grabs on to cans easily, has a balanced weight, and cut smoothly through every size tin we threw at it.
OXO Brew Coffee Grinder
Like many of OXO's products, its burr grinder's design is simple and intuitive. Even more importantly, it delivers excellent grind consistency given its price tag. This is about as inexpensive as a burr grinder gets before the grind quality really starts to fall off, making it a good starter grinder for most home-brewed coffee drinkers.
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.
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.
Dave Arnold, master cocktail maker, inventor, and founder of the now-shuttered Booker and Dax in NYC, won't just accept the common assumptions about cocktail technique—his mission in this excellent book is to dig into the science of how the very best drinks are made. This is a must-read for inquisitive types who like to host cocktail hour at home.
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.
Bocuse's Regional French Cooking
Unlike so many chef cookbooks, this one features simple, honest recipes for classic regional French dishes. No crazy flourishes or flights of fancy; just solid French country cooking from a master.
The iGrill thermometer connects to up to four different ambient and leave-in meat probes. The ambient probes can be set near the surface of the grill grate, allowing you to accurately track the temperature inside your grill, while each meat probe can be inserted into whatever you're cooking, allowing you to keep tabs on exactly what's happening in your grill while the lid is closed, all via Weber's app. You can set alerts, too, so that your phone will summon you as soon as each piece of meat reaches your desired temp.
Magnetic Knife Rack
Not only do magnetic knife strips save space, 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).
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.
Curious Chef Hand Mixer
This kid-friendly mixer is the perfect size for small hands to help with mixing up batters, dressings, and more. You also won’t need to worry about finding a spare outlet, since this mixer is manually operated and requires no electricity.
Silicone Kitchen Tongs
When you're cooking with scratch-prone, nonstick, or enameled cast iron pans, the scalloped silicone ends on these tongs can withstand temperatures up to 600°F (316°C) without leaving a mark. The body is nearly identical to that of OXO's stainless version. While that silicone coating makes the tongs safe to use in damage-prone cookware, it also makes the grabbers a hair more bulky, which means they're slightly less deft than the stainless steel version.
Flavor King Pluot Jam
There are a lot of artisanal jams out there, some good and some grossly overpriced. Though we've tasted hundreds of them, we still haven't had any as good as those made by Oakland's June Taylor, who has been making what she calls "conserves" out of superb Northern California produce for more than 25 years now. The Dapple Dandy pluot conserve tastes like you're taking a bite out of the juiciest pluot in the world, with just enough acidity to offset the sweetness.
12-Inch All-Clad Stainless Steel Pan
A slope-sided skillet, like this one from All-Clad, is a chef's best friend and one of the most versatile pans in the kitchen, whether you're sautéing vegetables, searing meat, or cooking one of our dozens of one-pan meals. The best have solid stainless steel construction, with an aluminum core for even heat distribution.
Yoobi Scissors for Kids
We’ve written extensively about why shears are so important in the kitchen, and they're just as important a tool for kids as they are for adults. We like the blunted ones by Yoobi for safely snipping herbs, greens, and more
Manual Meat Grinder
A manual grinder is the cheapest way to get good-quality freshly ground meat at home, and it's 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.
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.
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South
A wonderful gift for anyone who is interested in history, food, the history of food, and this terribly flawed but nonetheless beautiful thing we call America.
Mini Angled Measuring Cup
This small, quarter-cup liquid measure from OXO is indispensable in the kitchen, making all the awkwardness of measuring something like one and a half tablespoons a thing of the past. You can use it at your home bar, too: Its fluid-ounce markings make it a handy stand-in for a cocktail jigger.
Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater
In this book, the writer, a food critic turned stay-at-home dad and a serious lover of dad jokes and dry humor, talks about his experiences raising his young daughter, Iris, and how he dealt with her ever-changing tastes in food. The book is an easy, fun, and hilarious read, even for folks who don't have children.
This drying rack offers plenty of space to handle after-dinner cleanup. It has five slots for about 10 dishes, and holds them up for efficient drying. The roughly nine- by four-inch footprint means it's easy to store when not in use, so you don't have to relinquish that counter space forever.
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.
Food- and Cocktail-Themed Lip Balms
Every lip balm Stewart & Claire makes uses great ingredients that you won't hesitate to smear all over your mouth, but the coolest are the custom scents devised by the company, many of them inspired by foods. There's also a cocktail-inspired trio that includes Negroni, with spiced orange and juniper, and Old Fashioned, with cedar, vanilla, and black pepper. The Tiki balm is, as you’d expect, tropical, with traces of coconut, mandarin, and mango.
Espro Press P5
Thanks to a few simple innovations in the filter and beaker design, this French press fixes some of the brewing device's biggest drawbacks. The result is a cleaner batch of coffee that won't accidentally over-steep.
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.
Kentucky-based writer Ronni Lundy is an expert on the foods and foodways of the Mountain South. In her book Sorghum’s Savor, she explores the history and folklore, and the many uses, of the region’s staple sweetener. Recipes range from fried chicken to sorbet.
In-Sink Dish Rack
Instead of taking up space on your counter, this dish rack will actually fit right into your sink. This way, wet dishes can drip right into the drain and not muck up any dish towels in the process.
The Foods and Wines of Spain
For decades, Spain stood in the gastronomic shadows of France and Italy, not receiving nearly enough attention for its own amazing ways with food. Then the country's restaurant scene exploded with chefs like Ferran Adrià, and suddenly the rest of the food world was racing to catch up. To understand those chefs requires understanding the traditional Spanish foods that formed the basis upon which they experimented so wildly, and Penelope Casas's book is one of the best starting points to do so. Flip through its pages, and it won't take long to see that Spain has always deserved a more prominent place in the eyes of the hungry world.
Silicone Mini Pinch Bowls
To introduce the idea of mise en place to your kids, try these silicone pinch bowls. They're colorful, dishwasher-safe, stackable, and affordable. They're perfect for kids of all ages.
OXO Silicone Spatula
The misleadingly named Silicone Cookie Spatula from OXO is actually a great all-around tool. Its flipper is silicone-coated steel, so it's strong, but still sharp-edged and flexible. The spatula is on the small side, but its size actually makes it easier to manipulate in a crowded pan. Plus, if you only keep a nonstick spatula around for cooking eggs, you may never feel the need for anything larger.
We love these small pint containers just as much as their nestable and stackable quart-size cousins for storing dry goods, prepped veggies, and even lunches for the week. They're sturdy enough to withstand the dishwasher and cheap enough that if you need to throw one out, you won't feel too guilty about it.
Aprons get all the attention, but they don't protect your clothes nearly well enough, leaving large swaths of sleeves and shoulders exposed to spatters and stains. You could always put on a shirt you don't care too much about before donning an apron, but a protective work coat like this keeps your clothes safe without requiring a complete costume change.
Stainless Steel Ball Whisk
They may look odd, but ball whisks are useful for reaching into the sharp corners of a pot, where the rounded tines of a balloon whisk won't quite fit, and for pushing across flat surfaces, like a wide skillet, when making scrambled eggs. Use them to whisk things in measuring cups, too, where the tines of a ball whisk will splay to reach the corners.
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.
Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America
This hefty volume ranges from regional Mexican cooking down through the complex cuisine of Peru, over to Argentina's famed grilling tradition, and much, much more. If you want to understand how an empanada or arepa differs from one country to the next, this is the book to grab.
Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder
It's not exactly cheap, but this burr grinder does an admirable job of grinding coffee for espresso, pourover, or drip, all at a significantly lower price point than similarly performing competitors.
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.
Balloon Whisk Set
The curvy shape of a balloon whisk conforms nicely to bowls and sauciers, making it possible to scrape every surface and reach every corner. Because there aren't too many tines, it won't get gunked up when you're mixing up thick batters, like for crusty dinner rolls, and its hollow shape makes it easy to knock out whatever's trapped inside.
Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker
Char-Broil's 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, making them better suited for imparting a light smoke flavor, especially on bigger cuts of meat.
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.
From the slide-out rack to the intuitive controls, the Breville is an easy-to-use toaster oven with excellent performance. It quickly and evenly toasts bread and bakes frozen pizza and pot pies. The preset for cookies makes it simple to bake off nine treats in less than 15 minutes.
Nespresso Milk Frother
Many of the milk frothers out there do a poor job of emulating the thick, creamy foam produced by a good espresso machine's steaming wand, over-aerating the milk to the point of developing a light sudsy texture. Nespresso's frother is different—it whisks the milk but manages to get much closer to the ideal cappuccino foam. Plus, it has a nonstick interior that’s easy to clean, and a hot/cold setting for hot or iced drinks.
Who should read Kitchen Confidential, the 2000 memoir by Anthony Bourdain that injected sex, drugs, and rock and roll into the tame world of celebrity chefs? Folks who are in the Venn diagram intersection of "loves cooking," "loves survival horror," and "loves rockumentaries."
Carbon Steel Skillet
A good carbon steel pan has many of the qualities that make cast iron great—it's durable, it forms a completely nonstick surface if cared for properly, and it's inexpensive. But it's lighter and easier to maneuver, making it great for sautéing and searing everyday foods.
What we’re looking for in a slotted spoon is pretty straightforward. It should be comfortable to hold, with a generously cupped spoon that drains quickly. The wide business end on this one has 12 cutouts, so boiling water can find the nearest exit as you fish out eggs, pasta, or dumplings.
Angel Food Cake Pan
A basic two-piece aluminum tube pan is perfect for large chiffon and pound cakes, but it's absolutely essential for angel food cake, which will collapse in a nonstick pan. The two-piece construction allows the sticky angel food to be removed from the pan with ease, and comes in handy for removing crumb-topped coffee cakes as well.
Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling
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.
Le Creuset Stoneware Casserole
When fall and winter roll around, we start thinking about rich, comforting casseroles, which means that stoneware baking dishes like this one get pulled out, filled, and popped into the oven at least once a week. It's great-looking on the table and provides gentle, even cooking all around, for really nice, crisp edges on your lasagna.
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.
Best Round Measuring Spoons
The four-piece Amco Advanced Performance Measuring Spoons are accurate and easy to work with. The handles have little stands on them that help keep the bowls nearly level, for accurate filling when the spoon is on the countertop, and the wide, shallow design makes it easy to clean out sticky ingredients, like honey, with a small spatula.
These cork-bottomed ceramic coasters by Xenia Taler are 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.
Take it from us: Living in hot urban apartments makes storing age-worthy wines nearly impossible, unless you don't mind risking the life of a pricey Burgundy by putting it through years of extreme temperature swings. Anyone with an interest in building even a modest collection of special-occasion bottles should get a wine fridge. It's a small investment that protects your real investment.
Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking
Michael Solomonov's Israeli cookbook has changed the way we cook. His recipe for tahini sauce, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon, is alone worth the price of admission. We'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.
The Cuisinart is an easy-to-use, powerful blender that aced many of our tests. This model’s dashboard is intuitive, and it features a built-in timer that counts down for you or can be programmed to stop after a certain number of seconds.
Breville Crispy Pizza Oven
If a rice cooker got it on with a Roomba, we imagine their offspring might look a bit like the Breville Crispy Crust countertop pizza oven. It's a plug-and-go appliance that promises "professional brick-oven results right in your own kitchen," for about $150.
Hedley and Bennett x Parachute Napkins
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).
The One-Bottle Cocktail
Organized by spirit—vodka, gin, agave, rum, brandy, and whiskey—with an additional section devoted to specific seasons and occasions, The One-Bottle Cocktail makes it easy to figure out how to polish off that lingering liter of rum and is guaranteed to expand your cocktail repertoire for your go-to bottle. It does so by forging surprising, nuanced, eminently sippable flavors from commonplace liquors and fresh fruits, herbs, and other seasonal ingredients, as well as vinegars, spices, and sodas. This is the kind of book that every home cocktail-maker should keep on their shelf.
Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World
Mark Kurlansky's Cod is part history; part biography (fishy biography, that is); part ecological allegory; part cookbook; and all-around great storytelling. It opens with the tale of a waning fishing village in Newfoundland in 1992, at what Kurlansky refers to as "the wrong end of a 1,000-year fishing spree." Over the next 200 pages or so, he tells the fascinating story of how a single fish shaped the course of history.
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.
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
What’s important to new cooks? Making dishes that compound in flavor as they cook, require minimal effort, and call for 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 catchall encyclopedia. From pages of notes on braising vessels to detailed descriptions of how it all comes together, she provides 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.
Wildfish Cannery Smoked Salmon
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.
Cooks who do a lot of preserving, or keep several types of flour, rice, or other dangerously similar-looking ingredients around the kitchen in plastic or glass jars, need a practical way to identify the contents of all those vessels. The Brother P-Touch label maker—which prints and slices off labels quickly, in your choice of 14 fonts, and even on multiple lines—does the job admirably. But that's not the only reason, or even the most important reason, this device should be on your gift list. The real reason is that, for a certain type of organization freak whom you probably know (or are), labeling everything, from bottles of homemade syrups and dressings to recipe files to kitchen cabinets, is a particularly habit-forming kind of fun. Of course, a label maker is handy for all sorts of non-kitchen-related tasks, too, so there's no need to be prescriptive—just let the fastidious recipient's imagination run wild.
10-Inch Nonstick Aluminum Skillet
No matter how well you maintain your carbon steel and cast iron pans, they won't deliver the same degree of cling avoidance as a modern nonstick surface. For this reason, we like to keep just a couple of nonstick pans at home, which we use exclusively for cooking eggs, though they're helpful for making thin pancakes like crepes as well. While an eight-inch nonstick pan works for a cla