The 13 Best Gifts for Cooks in 2020, According to Professional Chefs

A gift guide for ambitious home cooks who want to step up their game

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Our Top Picks
"Uses spring-load technology to make simple work of opening most stubborn jar lids and caps."
"A scale can open up your recipe files because it does the heavy lifting of translating imperial measurements."
"The blade is constructed of premium stainless steel designed exclusively for the brand"
"If you're looking for a professional-level knife without the pro price tag, Misen makes a fantastic one."
"You get all the juice in a much faster process with little to no strain on the wrist."
"Does the work of a frying pan, saute pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, and nonstick pan."
"Black-owned, woman-owned home goods brand Reflektion Designs has collaborated with Society 6 to create a line of beautiful cutting boards."
"Hands down makes slicing super easy."
"Use it for all kinds of things from cleanup to cutting doughs to carrying chopped things from the cutting board."
"Helping cooks compose beautiful stories with food."

We’ve seen a major return to home cooking lately, and it’s a trend we think (and hope) is here to say. From the pros to the “I can’t make toast” crowd, everyone is searching for tools and tips to diminish the potential stresses and failures of cooking at home. So what can you gift the cooks in your life? There is an entire world of tools and devices that can boost your technical skills, keep you safe, and help you produce world-class dishes in your own kitchen—but it can be difficult to know what exactly to buy. So we enlisted the advice of some of the best in the industry to help you gift the cooks in your life (and maybe yourself, too). 

It’s important to remember that at the heart of good cooking are the people behind the food. Chef Jocelyn Jackson, founder of People’s Kitchen Collective and Justus Kitchen, shared her choice for the ultimate cooking tool: “The most steadfast cooking tools I have are the stories and memories of Black women. For inspiration and technique and ancestral connection, I turn to authors Edna Lewis, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Jessica B. Harris, and their sistren,” she told The Spruce Eats. “The equipment of cooking is important, but the food stories passed from generation to generation are essential for our culture to continue and our people to thrive.” 

Swing-A-Way Comfort Grip Jar Opener

Cookbook author, food writer, and founder of Equity at the Table Julia Turshen loves the Swing-A-Way Comfort Grip Jar Opener. It's a stainless steel kitchen helper that uses spring-load technology to make simple work of opening most stubborn jar lids and caps. "It gives me reassurance that I can open any jar or bottle no matter what,” she told The Spruce Eats. “In the grand scheme of cooking, I appreciate any tool that prevents a headache!"

OXO 11-Pound Stainless Steel Food Scale

Rising culinary star and Top Chef Junior finalist Rahanna Bisseret Martinez’s go-to baking and cooking tool is her food scale. An accurate kitchen scale is essential for anyone cooking in a professional setting or at home. A scale can open up your recipe files because it does the heavy lifting of translating imperial measurements to the more globally used metric. This one from OXO features an easy-to-read digital screen that pulls out so shadows never get in the way. You can measure in ounces, pounds, grams, or kilograms, and there’s a button for taring the scale so you can then add additional ingredients to weigh. 

Posed to be a culinary leader, Rahanna knows that cooking from a broad range of cultures is the future of culinary. "I think the more international thinking we are as cooks, the more our baking reflects our local experiences,” she explained. “When we are engaged in our local ways, we preserve those traditions. If that is done personally or in a business, we all benefit as a society.”

Global 7.5-Inch Chef’s Knife

British writer and cook, founder of Zoe's Ghana Kitchen (a Ghanaian pop-up), and author of the cookbook Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen Chef Zoe Adjonyoh says that a sharp, well-cared-for chef's knife is essential. Finding one you feel comfortable with is just as important. In fact, Chef Adjonyoh still has her first professional knife. She explained, “I love the weight of that knife and how strong I feel when I'm using it!" A knife should feel good in the hand and make you feel confident in your cooking. Global Cutlery USA makes a gorgeous 7.5-inch Japanese chef’s knife, which is our top pick. 

This is a limited-edition, anniversary model featuring a hollow handle filled with sand designed to provide the perfect weight and balance for all your chopping. The blade is constructed of premium stainless steel designed exclusively for the brand, and it’s ice tempered and hardened so that the blade stays sharper longer.

Misen 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

Misen chef knives were made for the people by the people, backed by over 13,000 people on Kickstarter. They are made from AICHI AUS-10 steel, so when cared for properly, they maintain their sharpness over time. They also feature a sloped bolster to encourage a proper “pinch grip.”

Misen comes in at a close second for our choice of chef’s knives. If you're looking for a professional-level knife without the pro price tag, Misen makes a fantastic chef's knife at a great value.

Chef'n FreshForce Citrus Juicer

Chef Ashleigh Pearson, a brilliant chocolatier based in DC, is always reaching for her citrus juicer by Chef'n. "I don't have many kitchen tools that do a singular job, but I feel this one is necessary! I zest lots of citrus for the natural oils they add to my baked goods and chocolate fillings,” she told The Spruce Eats. This model might not be super decorative, but she says you can’t beat the ease. “With the Chef'n citrus press, you get all the juice in a much faster process with little to no strain on the wrist." 

The Chef'n Citrus juicier gives 20 percent more juice than other handheld juicers and uses a dual-gear mechanism to reduce hand fatigue during big jobs. This tool comes in handy, whether you're in the kitchen or making a cocktail.

Our Place The Always Pan

Chef India Johnson, the one and only Sauce Queen, produces a video series called “Sauce, Spice, and Smoke,” where she teaches viewers how to produce great sauces using spices and smoke and incorporate them into everyday cooking. One of her top essentials? Cookware of all shapes and sizes.

However, when it comes to gifting you may not know what your recipient already has—and you might not want to splurge on a full set. That’s where The Always Pan from Our Place delivers. It covers all your cookware needs by doing the work of a frying pan, saute pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, and nonstick pan. The Always Pan comes with a pour spout, a non-toxic, non-stick ceramic coating, and a nesting beechwood spatula with integrated spoon rest.

Reflektion Design Mud Cloth Pattern Cutting Boards

If you need more ideas, Chef India Johnson has you covered with some of her other “must-haves” in the kitchen. "The first thing I grab in the kitchen is a chef’s knife, a good cutting board, and a kitchen towel,” she said. “Every meal usually starts off with some form of chopping. Gotta have everything ready before you really get into things!"

Black-owned, woman-owned home goods brand Reflektion Designs has collaborated with Society 6 to create a line of beautiful cutting boards each with classic African prints with a modern twist.

Benriner Mandoline Slicer

The mandoline is a kitchen tool that makes many a home cook nervous, but it can be your MVP for food prep with proper technique. It’s the perfect tool for anything that requires uniform cuts—like potato gratin or homemade potato chips. Chef Catina Smith, founder of Just Call Me Chef, always has her Benriner mandoline at the ready. "Hands down makes slicing super easy. It's the uniform cuts for me," she told The Spruce Eats. The Benriner is made with four Japanese stainless steel blades from straight to course, and its current model is BPA free.

Ateco Bench Scraper

Any bakers on your gift list? There are tons of essential tools to delight a baker and some are more versatile than others—like bench scrapers. Brilliant baker, pastry chef, James Beard-winning essayist, and author of the recent memoir Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger Lisa Donovan always has her bench scraper ready for action.

She prefers the wood-handled model by Ateco: “I use it for all kinds of things from cleanup to cutting doughs to carrying chopped things from the cutting board," she says. With a stainless steel blade and comfortable wooden handle, it's a workhorse built for professional or home use. Plus, this one is super affordable.

Mercer Culinary 7-Piece Plating Kit

Cooking duo and founders of Food Plus People Chef Sicily Johnson and Chef Mavis Jay Sanders recommend Mercer stainless steel spoons. Mercer has been creating plating tools in various shapes and sizes for over 30 years, helping cooks compose beautiful stories with food. This seven-piece plating spoon kit is an excellent gift for ambitious home cooks. 

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro 4 ½-Inch Mini Cleaver

Chef Sicily Johnson and Chef Mavis Jay Sanders also recommend the Henckel 4 1/2-inch cleaver as a go-to kitchen gift, as it is well-balanced, comfortable, and ideal for meal prep. Cleavers are great for prepping woody vegetables, breaking down a chicken, or chopping through large quantities of garlic. This handheld chopper boasts a balanced weight ratio so it’s comfortable in the hand.

Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen

Sometimes the best gift you can give is something that inspires the cooks in your life. Kalisa Marie Martin is a classically trained chef with a degree in food science, and her favorite food reference guide is the James Beard award-winning classic On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. This is the ideal book for the curious cook. It’s a deep dive into cooking and food that you didn’t know you were missing. If you’re curious but are still overwhelmed, Kalisa has a food science video series that takes you through chapter by chapter, “highlighting the fun food sci facts, and showing them with simple recipes.”

Earlywood Designs Essentials Utensils Set

Earlywood Design creates culinary hand tools with care and intention. Each utensil is made to be passed down through the generations, well-loved, and used. The Essentials utensil set is the perfect place to start your collection. It includes the brand's popular Trifecta set (flat saute tool, scraping tool, and spreader) and adds an additional Large Flat Saute. The wooden flat saute spatulas are ideal for serving salad or the perfect saute. 

These are go-to tools for Chef Therese Nelson of Black Culinary History. She explained, "Their signature label feels like an heirloom, the tongs are just waiting for a big dinner party salad, and the rolling pin is beyond stunning. I've had Earlywood in my knife roll for a while, and aside from their durability in professional everyday cooking, they just look great. Nothing sexier than pulling out beautiful tools to make something beautiful."

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Tiffani Rozier is a chef, food writer, co-founder of Set the Table Media, and creator of the Afros and Knives podcast, an interview series that raises the visibility of Black women working, leading, and innovating in food, wine/beer, hospitality, and media. She has worked in restaurants and led culinary teams in NYC, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Nashville, and Seattle.  

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