Budget-Friendly & Practical: 10 Timeless Gifts For Cooks

We read a recent Public Radio Kitchen article on what NOT to get the cook, and snickered a bit. Indeed, who needs another strange uni-tasking gadget to clutter the drawers? Or the latest gimmicky cookbook? No thanks. But there are some timeless, practical, budget-friendly tools that are ALWAYS welcome, to a cook. One can never have too many spatulas, after all. Here are our picks for tools and cookware that are solid, practical, and always a delight to receive. (Happily, most of these are budget-friendly, too.)

For your full reading pleasure, here's the whole article on what NOT to get the cook, too!

What NOT to Get the Cook on Your List at Public Radio Kitchen

Of course, this whole list is just a collection of suggestions that may or may not fit the needs and desires of any given cook. The really important thing in gift-giving is to think about what someone needs and wants, and proceed accordingly. Having said that, these are just a few classic, always-useful items that are quite likely to be helpful in a cook's kitchen.

  1. Cutting Board or Wood Board - One can never have too many cutting boards, especially handsome ones like this Footed Platte Cutting Board in Rock Maple. $35 from Gray Works Design.
  2. Solid Metal Measuring Cups - These are on my own Christmas list this year! I want to dump my old plastic cups for a solid, handsome set of measuring cups. $18.50 at Lee Valley.
  3. Modern, Pretty Trivet - When I go to serve meals, I always feel as if I run out of trivets and hot pads for hot dishes. What about a modern, pretty trivet that will hold a hot dish. (Within your recipient's sense of style, of course!) This bamboo trivet is $12 from Oryx and Crake.
  4. Stainless-Steel Kitchen Shears - A solid pair of kitchen shears is invaluable, and many people don't have a pair. These are $22.50 at Lee Valley.
  5. Benriner Japanese Mandoline Slicer - I know I always add a mandoline to these lists, but seriously. These things are awesome. I don't know what I would do without mine - it's great for salads and every other slicing job. $19.90 at Amazon.
  6. Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven - This is a bit more splurgey, but what cook doesn't want a heavy Dutch oven for stews and braises? I have three and use them constantly. If I had an extra shelf I'd be asking for another one for Christmas! This Lodge version is $77 at Amazon (and frequently goes on sale for less).
  7. Specialty Whisks - Everyone has a balloon whisk (right?) but these specialty whisks can come in so handy, and they don't take up much room in a utensil jar. Frosted Flat Whisk, $14; Rösle® Twirl Whisk, $20; Bubble Whisk, $16 - all at Sur La Table.
  8. Silicone Bowl Scraper Spatula - I love these things. They take up no room in a drawer, and scraping a dough bowl perfectly clean takes much less effort and time. $5.95 at Sur La Table.
  9. Rösle® Potato Fork - Paule Caillat says she uses this more than almost any other tool in her lovely kitchen. It's great for picking up potatoes out of a hot pot, checking chicken, holding the meat while you slice it... a hundred tiny uses that add up into a really helpful tool. $23 at Sur La Table.
  10. A Modern, Elegant Baking Pan - 9x13 pans are perhaps the most-used pans in the kitchen. Cookies, cakes, casseroles, lasagna — the uses are endless and varied. So what about one very nice, table-friendly dish like this modern Slate baker from Emile Henry's Urban line. $46.85.

Here is a similar list from a previous gift guide:

15 Really Useful Kitchen Items for Your Favorite Cooks

Here are a few more lists of kitchen favorites from our team:

Ten Most-Used: Faith's Favorite Kitchen Tools
Ten Most-Used: Sara Kate's Favorite Kitchen Tools
Ten Most-Used: Emily's Favorite Kitchen Tools

What's on YOUR holiday wishlist this year? Any practical presents destined for long-term use?

Related: The Top 10 Most Useful Kitchen Gadgets

(Images: Gray Works Design; Lee Valley; Oryx and Crake; Lee Valley; Amazon; Lodge/Amazon; Sur La Table; Faith Durand; Emile Henry)

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.

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