To me, cooking nirvana is when you have a recipe in mind, your mise en place all set, and you can focus on getting that perfect sear or saute. But before you get there, having the right equipment for the job goes a really long way. So for the adventurous cook in your life, here are some of our favorite kitchen gadgets that would make excellent gifts this holiday season.
KitchenAid Cordless Variable Speed Hand Blender
While KitchenAid’s cordless hand blender isn’t as powerful as some of its wired rivals or countertop models, what it lacks in oomph it makes up for with convenience. There are no speed dials to adjust, just squeeze harder on the trigger to make it go faster. Meanwhile, the lack of wires gives you one less thing to worry about when you’re making sauces or smoothies (especially if you’re doing it on the stovetop). And with a battery life that can blend up to 25 bowls of soup on a single charge, your loved one will probably run out of energy before this thing does. — Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter
Kyocera Ceramic kitchen knife
Everyone has their preference when it comes to cutting tools, but I think everyone could use a ceramic knife in their arsenal. Starting at under $50, they’re relatively affordable. But more importantly, they are much sharper,hold an edge up to 10 times longer and are lighter than traditional steel blades. That makes them less tiring to use, and you don’t ever have to worry about them rusting either. Just remember, ceramic is more brittle than metal, so tell your giftee to stick to slicing fruits, veggies and boneless meats – leave hacking through bones to other knives. — S.R.
Mise En Non-stick pans
After being disappointed with a bunch of non-stick pans from big names like All-Clad to smaller brands plastered across social media, I went on a quest to find something I could trust. And after trying out Mise En’s options, I found a winner. Not only are Mise En’s pans significantly cheaper than premium legacy brands, but I’ve also found they maintain their non-stick coating (which is also PFOA-free) much better over time. So if you know someone who would appreciate a good, affordable no-nonsense pan for cooking eggs, crepes or anything else that can get a little gummy, look no further. — S.R.
Instant Vortex Plus air fryer
Air fryers might seem like just a fad. After all, they’re just compact convection ovens, right? That’s true, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work. In our experience, pod-shaped air fryers are able to produce crispier foods than their convection oven counterparts and they’re much easier to clean too. If you have someone in your life who loves the idea of “frying” foods without the oily mess, an air fryer could potentially be a fantastic gift.
Our favorite air fryer is the 6-quart Instant Vortex Plus with ClearCook and OdorErase. It has a display window so your giftee can check how the food looks. It also uses odor-eliminating filters that help reduce cooking smells – a feature that many air fryers lack. The six-quart size in particular is what we recommend; it’s large enough to fit four large chicken thighs or a whole pound of wings. The basket internals are nonstick so it’s easy to clean, plus the inner rack is dishwasher safe. — Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer
Hedley & Bennett Essential apron
Any home cook will tell you cooking is a messy affair. No matter how neat and tidy you think you are, you’ll inevitably encounter oil spitting at you as you’re frying potstickers or perhaps an accidental splash of tomato sauce as you mix in meatballs. If you have a loved one who cooks often enough, they’ll certainly appreciate an apron to avoid getting any of that mess on their clothes. Hedley & Bennett makes perhaps the best commercially-available apron on the market. The Essential Apron is made from 100 percent cotton twill fabric that’s durable enough to withstand frequent use, and it comes with pockets – one breast pocket for a perhaps pen or a clip-on timer and two large front pockets big enough for a phone or a small tablet each. These aprons are also sold in a wide variety of colors and patterns, so you’re sure to find at least one that’ll fit your loved ones’ taste. — N.L.
Anova Precision Cooker
An immersion circulator (aka a sous vide machine) isn’t for everyone. But it can do things that no other gadget can. It can take the guesswork out of nailing the temp on a steak before finishing it off with a quick sear in a cast iron skillet. A sous vide machine can also create the perfect jammy center on a soft-boiled ramen egg or simply add a range of aromatics to various types of meat while they cook. This is the kind of thing that a lot of home cooks dream about but can’t quite justify buying, which is precisely what makes it a perfect gift. — S.R.
Microplane classic grater
A good grater is a must-have in the kitchen, and just like Band-Aid is to adhesive bandages and Kleenex is to tissues, Microplane has become synonymous when it comes to zesting and grating. The classic model comes with a no-slip plastic handle and an included protective cover and it can handle anything from parmesan cheese to garlic to nutmeg. And priced at $16, it’s an ideal kitchen gadget gift even if you don’t have a ton to spend. — S.R.
There’s no shortage of instant-read thermometers out there, but ThermoWorks’ ThermoPop has been a staple in my kitchen for a long time. Yes, it’s cute, but that’s only one reason to buy it over others. I like that it’s quite accurate and provides temperature readings in just a couple of seconds, plus it's splash resistant and pretty easy to clean. It also has a screen that you can rotate to show you the temperature in different orientations, making it easy to use in all kinds of positions. Plus, you can’t beat its $35 price tag, which is a steal for an accurate thermometer like this that also has an attractive, pocketable design. If you want the latest and great, spring for the ThermoPop 2 that just came out, which is even more accurate than the previous generation, faster and can read temperatures up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor
John Boos cutting board
Anyone who has watched even a handful of cooking shows or videos has probably seen this cutting board in the background. And the reason is that they’re just great products that deliver everything you need and nothing more. Boos blocks are available in a huge range of shapes, sizes and woods, from small circular boards to huge maple slabs with juice grooves. That said, if you’re planning on gifting a cutting board this nice, don’t forget to include proper care instructions, which at the very minimum include oiling it once a month. — S.R.
The Good Shears by Material
Everyone needs a good pair of scissors, and it doesn’t hurt if they look good too. The Good Shears sport soft silicone handles and sharp micro-serrated blades that should make quick work of anything short of beef bones. And unlike a lot of cheaper competitors, the Good Shears are dishwasher safe and can be taken apart for sharpening or cleaning. — S.R.
Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker
Those who eat rice regularly know that rice cookers are a much easier way to prepare the popular grain than using the stovetop alone, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd. Our favorite model is the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy thanks to its “fuzzy logic” tech (yes, that’s a technical term), which ensures perfectly cooked rice even if your water and rice measurements aren’t exact. It has settings for different sorts of rice: white, mixed, porridge, sweet, semi-brown, brown, rinse-free and quick-cooking. Other features include a timer and a keep-warm setting. The Zojirushi rice cooker also makes fantastic polenta, not to mention oatmeal from steel-cut oats.
There’s also an updated (and pricier) option called the Zojirushi Induction Heating System Rice Cooker. In addition to the fuzzy logic tech mentioned above, it features an induction heating tech that heats the inner cooking pan. According to the company, this allows the device to make precise temperature adjustments to cook exceptional rice. This also means the food will heat evenly, as the bottom, side and lid will all generate heat. — N.L.
Vitamix Low-Profile blender
The Vitamix 5200 is often cited as the premium blender of choice among experienced cooks and professional chefs. But the default 64-ounce container is often much too tall to fit under most cabinets. Enter the Vitamix Low-Profile blender, which still has a 64-ounce container but has a much shorter stature so it easily fits in most kitchens. Aside from looks, it’s just as capable and powerful as the original. It can crush ice, make quick work out of frozen fruit and tough vegetables and puree soups with ease. — N.L.
OXO Good Grips Precision scale
A good kitchen scale is an essential kitchen gadget, especially in times when loose volumetric measurements just don’t cut it (like baking). Not only does OXO’s Precision Scale support both metric and imperial measurements, it also features accurate 0.1-gram measurements that go up to six pounds. There’s also an easy-to-read digital display with a built-in timer, and its minimalist design will look good in practically anyone’s kitchen. — S.R.
Admittedly, this might not strictly be a gift for a cook, but it’s definitely handy to have around the kitchen and great for creating a custom sodas or cocktails. The Soda Stream Terra, is the company’s most affordable sparkling water maker. For just $100, the starter kit includes the device itself, a reusable 1L bottle and a CO2 cylinder. You can also spring for the $130 hydration pack if you’re shopping for an avid cocktail maker or seltzer addict. That tacks on two more 1L bottles, two 0.5 liter dishwasher-safe bottles and 40ml lemon flavor drops. The whole setup is super easy to use too, and doesn’t even need to be plugged in. Just attach the CO2 tank, fill up the bottle with water and then tap to add bubbles. From there your giftee can mix and match flavor packs to suit their taste while also cutting down on waste from packaging and transporting heavy cans or bottles. — S.R.
If you have a meat lover in your life, ButcherBox’s Favorites is quite possibly the best gift they’ll ever get. Each shipment will have all of the company’s bestsellers lovingly vacuum-packed and frozen for their enjoyment. The contents include two pounds of ground beef, four eight-ounce boneless pork chops, three one-pound packs of boneless chicken breasts, two six-ounce filet mignons, one pound of sirloin tips, a 12-ounce pack of apple gouda sausage and a 10-ounce pack of bacon. That’s more than enough to keep them satisfied for at least a month, perhaps even longer. At least, if they don’t gorge it all in one go. — N.L.
More Holiday Gift Ideas: Check out the rest of our tech gift ideas right here. Also, you'll find the best ideas for car lovers at Autoblog, gifts for the young (and young at heart) at In the Know, and picks for just about everyone else on your list (moms, dads, teens, nurses, you name it!) in Yahoo’s holiday gift ideas section.