There are moments when you want to go all-out on a gift, and for those times we have plenty of splurge-worthy culinary recommendations for you. But a present doesn't have to be expensive to be great—there are tons of kitchen tools, books, and more that are impressive, useful, and won't leave your bank account in the red. Below you'll find a whole bunch of ideas that range from $50 to $100—all of them are tried and tested by our culinary team—that will bring some much-needed delight to any avid cook in your life.
A Great Knife
Yes, there really are some great knives out there that will cost you under $100, like this Japanese chef's knife by Mac Knife. In our review of the best chef's knives, we found this blade to be the perfect combination of quality and cost-consciousness. It's on the affordable end as far as Japanese knives go, and it's a great blade for any cook in your life.
And a Way to Keep It Sharp
Most people who cook a lot are cooking with less-than-sharp knives. But a knife is like a brain: it's only as good as it is sharp. And while many see sharpening as an unachievable skill, something only butchers and chefs are good at, the truth is that anyone can learn to do it with some practice.
This sharpening whetstone combines two grit options in one, with one side that has a medium grit (1,000) and the other a fine grit (6,000). The medium grit side is coarser and takes off more metal, and will do the bulk of sharpening, while the fine grit is more for polishing and fine-tuning the sharpening job. You'll also want a fixer stone, which will ensure that the whetstone's surface remains flat (for more consistent results), but even with the fixer added on, the total price of your gift will be below $100.
A Big, Beautiful Tagine
This hand-painted tagine is a gorgeous addition to any cooking arsenal, and a handy piece for making flavorful North African stews that can go straight from the stovetop to the table. If your giftee's kitchen is already fully outfitted with basic cookware, a beautiful piece of earthenware like this is a great way to push their collection to the next level.
A Cookbook Classic
Part coffee table book, part culinary bible, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is quite simply a must-have for anyone who loves food and cooking. Get them this two-volume set, then bookmark a few recipes you want to make together.
The Best Immersion Blender
There's so much you can do with an immersion blender, from blitzing up a quick batch of homemade mayo to puréeing soups until they're creamy, and getting pesky clumps out of gravy. We tested a whole range of immersion blenders, and the All-Clad beat out the competition, with super-sharp blades and a whole lot of power. Luckily for you, it's just under $100.
Exact Temps Every Time
An instant-read thermometer is a required piece of gear on our kitchens, with countless uses that will ensure better, more consistent results. For everyday temping, we love the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 for its lightning-fast readings and accuracy. It's a no-brainer for anyone who still relies on that plastic Butterball doohickey or is still using a crappy analog thermometer from who knows where, or someone who suffers from a raw-meat phobia (they exist and this writer is one of them).
A Powerful Multi-Cooker
Everyone loves the Instant Pot. It's been the "Cooking Tool of the Year" for...years! And for good reason. The Instant Pot is a very efficient multi-cooker at an equally appealing price point. It's the perfect gift for someone looking to get into pressure cooking, or really anybody hoping to save space on appliances—think slow-cooker, steamer, pressure-cooker, hot pot, and rice-cooker all rolled into one.
An Indoor Grill Set-Up
For grilling fanatics who don't feel like enduring the frost of winter, we have the solution. This little electric grill provides you with that desired grilling char, whether you're cooking yakitori, a fish fillet, or even chicken wings. Despite only having an on-off switch and two heat levels, Sho says that this little machine is "surprisingly effective"—high praise from our discerning editor! He uses it for all sorts of preparations, including blackening onions for pho broth and for grilling up lamb chops. His one caveat: The grill is excellent if you're cooking for just a couple of people, but for a larger group, you'll want to find something a bit larger.
A Better Gas Grill Set-Up
If you are dedicated to the art of gas grilling, you can markedly improve your set-up with a set of GrillGrates. In Daniel's words, "If you really want to turn your grill into a beast, you need to get a GrillGrate." You can read his full ode to his GrillGrates right here, but his argument is clear: These easy-to-maneuver grates mitigate two of gas grills' biggest issues: inconsistent hot and cold spots, and the frequent inability to maintain searing temps. Here's how. Each GrillGrate is a sheet of aluminum with raised fins, which act as the bars on a standard grill grate. The aluminum sheet traps much more heat under it than the wide-open spaces of a traditional grill, building significantly more heat and searing ability. And the aluminum itself is an excellent heat conductor, which helps even out those hot and cool spots.
The Baking Steel
We have been broadcasting the benefits of The Baking Steel since the company was in its infancy in 2012. Read here: The Baking Steel delivers. Since then, we've only continued to use it for crusty-bubbly pizza dough, just-browned English muffins, and even fluffy pancakes. While it might be a bit pricier than a baking stone, it's far more durable, gets hotter, and stays hotter for longer. At $89, you night even call it...a steel.
Daniel's Favorite Pasta Pan
This year, Daniel found the perfect pan for making pasta. With excellent heat conduction and ample capacity, this pan—which vacillates in price between about $30 and $55—is the ideal gift for anyone who loves a silky cacio e pepe or creamy penne alla vodka.
According to Daniel, "Anyone who makes pasta with any frequency should own this pan." So maybe pick one up for yourself, too.
An Outdoor Wok Set-Up
Over the summer, Kenji did lots of testing to find the best wok set-up for Cantonese-style stir-frying at home. That means getting a super-hot wok and a big enough flame to impart that torch hei smokiness into your food. To do it right (and safely), he recommends getting an outdoor wok burner paired with a round-bottomed wok.
The Eastman Outdoors Big Kahuna Wok Burner is just under $100, has telescoping legs for stability (and portability), and can produce better wok hei than some other more powerful and expensive models on the market.
A More Affordable Immersion Circulator
It wouldn't be a Serious Eats gift guide without an immersion circulator! For the budding sous-vide enthusiast, there's no better starter circulator than the Instant Pot model. This no-frills tool has a simple display interface without any WiFi or Bluetooth. But that's okay! It performs the essential tasks of an immersion circulator very well: heating and circulating water at a precise temperature.
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