15 Really Useful Kitchen Items for Your Favorite Cooks

Un-Gift Guide 2008

This is a homemade, handmade Christmas for many of us, and over the last two weeks we've shown you a great deal of homemade treats and sweets. But perhaps you don't have the time to make food gifts, or you would prefer to buy something new for a friend?

Here is our roundup of Really Useful Things for the kitchen -- items that are not trendy or specific to this season, but classic and perpetual good ideas. They are all very useful, practical, and inexpensive, and we think that any one of them would make an excellent gift.

We call these "Un-Gifts" because they don't really fit the idea of a fancy or impractical gift. They are plain, practical, and useful. Some of them, though, are still things that people don't think to buy for themselves but will enjoy enormously once they have them -- our idea of the perfect gift.

  1. Cast Iron Skillet
  2. This Lodge cast iron skillet is a timeless classic. Inexpensive, endlessly practical, lasts forever. Every cook should own one or two. $15.95 at Lodge.

  3. Oven Thermometer
  4. Make their oven more functional. An oven thermometer is the perfect stocking stuffer for a baker. $6 (or less) at Amazon or your local grocery store.

  5. Chef's Knife
  6. This Victorinox chef's knife is a killer deal, and a great knife too. Ours is going strong; it's a wonderful knife. $22 at Amazon.

  7. Glass Storage Containers
  8. We are moving all our leftover and fridge storage containers from plastic to glass, gradually. These sturdy, attractive glass storage containers would make practical gifts. $5.99-$7.99 at The Container Store.

  9. Porcelain Ginger Grater
  10. We use our ginger grater all the time -- it's useful for garlic too. $3.95-$9.95 at The Wok Shop.

  11. Chinese Cleaver
  12. These cleavers are so awesome -- cheap, sharp, and long-lasting. We would love to unwrap one of these on Christmas morning! Prices range, but our favorite is only $10.95 from The Wok Shop in San Francisco.

  13. Tiffin Lunch Pail
  14. A new lunch box is always a good gift, especially when it's as classy and cool as this one. $9.99 at World Market.

  15. Perfex Pepper Mill
  16. At $80 this is a little more expensive than most of the things on this list. But we love its classic shape and heavy weight; it's an heirloom-quality pepper mill. $80 at Sur La Table.

  17. Dutch Oven
  18. Another slightly higher-ticket item, but sure to be well-loved. We use our Dutch oven probably every other day. It's a $40 model from Target, and it still looks great. The one pictured here is $52.99 at Target.

  19. Japanese Mandoline
  20. Oh how we love this mandoline, which we also received as a gift. It makes short work of onions, fennel, carrots, and other vegetables that need to be shaved thin. It's a wonderful tool, but one that many cooks don't think to buy. $23 at Amazon.

  21. Heat-Resistant Spatulas
  22. We always want more spatulas; we reach for them constantly. Here's a very pretty Le Creuset set for about $30 at Amazon, but we would probably prefer these Lehman's spatulas for $3.95-$6.95 apiece.

  23. Slow Cooker
  24. Want to encourage a friend to cook at home more often? Buy them a slow cooker! We think these are the perfect tool for busy city cooks. Hamilton-Beach 5-quart programmable slow cooker, $39.99 at Amazon.

  25. Microplane Zester
  26. We use our Microplane all the time; it's the best way to zest lemons and other citrus, and we love creating soft piles of Parmesan cheese with it too. 2-Piece Microplane set, $27.50 at Sur La Table.

  27. Stainless Steel Bowls with Lids
  28. We have tons of bowls in our cupboards. Guess which ones we use? The two stainless steel mixing bowls. They are almost never in the cupboard; they are either in the fridge or the drying rack. This is a very practical and economical gift: 5 nesting stainless steel bowls with tight-fitting lids for $14 at Amazon.

  29. Wooden Spoons
  30. Wooden spoons are a classic gift -- beautiful in their simplicity and functionality. They can be $2 spoons from Crate & Barrel, or heirloom, handmade spoons from Jonathan's ($18-$20).

That's our list! Do you have other ideas for practical and long-lasting kitchen gifts?

Related: Good Question: Tools for a New Kitchen

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