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If you have a friend with a deep love of cooking, they've probably already got a great collection of kitchen must-haves. What do you get for the cook who already has everything? Surprise them with more advanced tools to help them tackle cake decorating or learning to create their own spice blends. This list includes even more esoteric endeavors like molecular gastronomy and cheesemaking, so they can venture into new culinary territory. From anti-microbial dish towels to an heirloom-quality pepper mill, this list will help you find the best gift for even the most gourmet chef in your life.
Best Dutch Oven: Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
As one of the most useful pans or pots one can own, a cast iron Dutch oven can be used in a multitude of ways, from baking to deep-frying. This 6-quart Dutch oven by Lodge features a durable porcelain enamel that provides a smooth surface that is also resistant to stains and scratches, and comes in a variety of colors to complement any kitchen decor.
Use this beauty to make generous batches of chile con carne or bake beautiful boules of artisanal bread. You can also take advantage of cast iron's heat retention properties to deep fry Southern hush puppies. Suitable for use on any cooktop as well as in the oven, gourmet cooks in your will appreciate the versatility of this long-lasting piece of cookware.
Best Grinding Tool: ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle Set
Freshly ground spices have a more full-bodied aromatic and flavor profile than their pre-ground counterparts, so it makes sense to invest in a tool that allows you to grind ingredients right before you have to use them. This set from ChefSofi is made from unpolished granite, giving you natural friction for effortless grinding and crushing. Its heavy weight ensures it won't slip around on the counter during use, and its generous 2-cup capacity gives you room to prep more ingredients without having to refill it.
Use this to grind seeds, spices, herbs, and more for your own blends, or as a vessel to make homemade guacamole, sauces, and mustard. Before its first use, you'll want to rinse it to remove any granite particles, then season it (grinding white rice, cumin, salt, and pepper), give it another rinse, and let air dry.
Best Precision Cooker: Anova Culinary Precision Cooker with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Sous vide (French for "under vacuum") is a trending cooking technique embraced by chefs and food tech lovers around the world. Foods are placed into an airtight container and immersed in a temperature-controlled water bath, gently cooking meats, seafood, and vegetables to perfection. Chefs use this method in restaurants to ensure consistent cooking for proteins, and home cooks find it useful for batch-prepping for parties or weekly meals. This circulator by Anova has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can control and monitor it from your phone. Use it to cook anything from soft-yolked eggs to a juicy steak, or to aid in curing homemade pastrami and pickles.
"I chose this particular (model) based on good reviews and on the clear display," says Dr. Julia Skinner, food historian and founder of Atlanta-based Root Kitchens. "It's very easy to use! I primarily use it as part of a setup to cure higher-temperature ferments, and it maintains temperature well even over long periods."
Best Decorating Kit: Kootek 42-Piece Cake Decorating Kit
Those who love to bake can explore their artistic side with this cake decorating kit by Kootek. This set includes 36 stainless steel icing tips, including a variety of petal and leaf tips to perfect making edible floral motifs. The two 12-inch reusable pastry bags are made from food-grade silicone, a great alternative to single-use plastic pastry bags. This set also includes two reusable plastic couplers, which will let you easily switch between icing tips, and two flower nails to create icing flowers. All supplies are corrosion-resistant, non-toxic, easy to clean, and dishwasher-friendly—it's everything you need to turn a plain cake or cupcake into a true work of art.
Best Bread Making Basket: Bread Bosses Banneton Proofing Basket
Avid bakers with a penchant for bread making will love this classic proofing basket by Bread Bosses. Commonly used in traditional bakeries, these rattan forms (called banneton) allow air to pass through and create a skin on the surface of the dough, yielding beautiful crusts that artisan breads are known for.
This style is made from durable natural rattan cane that resists splintering and molding. The basket measures 9 inches in diameter (large enough to hold 1.5 pounds of dough) and features ridges that create a spiral ring pattern on the finished bread. This set also includes a bread lame to aid in slashing the dough before baking, a bench scraper, and a cloth liner—everything a bread baker needs to create a beautiful loaf.
Best Ice Cream Scoop: Zeroll 1020 Original Ice Cream Scoop
Not all ice cream scoops are created equal—this classic design has been patented since 1935 and is favored by American ice cream parlors for good reason. The heat-conductive liquid in the handle transfers the warmth from your hand to the bowl of the scoop, allowing for smooth scooping and easy release. The design of the bowl also eliminates compression, creating bigger looking portions that aren't also super dense.
Carve out perfectly round scoops from your favorite gelato, sorbet, or ice creams without worrying about any mechanism failure—its single-piece aluminum construction makes it extra durable. This style is also great for right- or left-handed users and features a color-coded end cap to indicate size (this model portions out 2-ounce scoops).
Best Cheese Kit: Standing Stone Farms Basic Beginner Cheese Making Kit
Making cheese is a time-honored and respected craft that can be intimidating to those who have never done it. This kit from Standing Stone Farms is a great introduction to the process and will help you tackle some basic cheesemaking projects right in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Make your own mozzarella, cream cheese, ricotta, chèvre (and more) with the included components: liquid rennet, soft curd drain bag, cheese salt, calcium chloride, citric acid, and disposable gloves. You'll need to supply your own fresh milk and a few other key pieces of equipment (a thermometer, slotted spoon, and stainless steel pot), but you'll be able to create delicious fresh cheese in as little as 20 minutes.
Best Fermentation Crock: Ohio Stoneware Fermentation Crock
For advanced cooks, experimenting with fermentation can be a fun project, turning produce into pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other preserved goods. Skinner, who is an expert in fermentation, relies on Ohio stoneware crocks for her own ferments. "They're sturdy and well-made, and you can buy fermentation weights to go with them that are just the right size for your crock," she notes.
Made of a clay mixture fired at 2200 degrees and finished with a proprietary glaze, these heirloom-quality crocks are built to last for generations. They are available in various sizes, but the 3-gallon size is perfect for small to medium batches and also attractive enough to sit on the counter.
Best Wine Preservation System: Coravin Model 3 SmartClamp Wine Preservation System
This gadget is a must-have for oenophiles, especially those who have taken an interest in higher-end, age-worthy wines. The Coravin is designed to let you drink any still wine in any amount without pulling out the cork—a thin needle pierces the cork and draws out the wine while argon gas is pushed in (preventing oxidation). The cork will reseal itself naturally, and the bottle can remain in your possession for weeks, months, and sometimes years as if it had never been opened.
Wine bars and restaurants have adopted the Coravin to be able to pour single glasses of wine without the rest of the bottle oxidizing. Wine collectors will be able to use it to check whether a wine is ready to drink. For home use, it's perfect for hosting dinners with multiple wine pairings or for any instance where you won't be finishing a bottle in one sitting.
Best Food Scale: OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale
Measuring cups are handy in the kitchen for scooping up general amounts of ingredients, but many seasoned cooks often eschew these traditional tools in favor of a kitchen scale. Kitchen scales provide unmatched accuracy when it comes to measuring out ingredients—particularly important when it comes to baking (for example, a cup of flour can carry different weight depending on how it's been measured).
This scale from OXO can weigh up to 11 pounds of ingredients, and can also switch between metric and imperial (handy when exploring recipes from other parts of the world). The large, backlit screen is easy to read, and the display pulls out so it doesn't get hidden by the edge of a large bowl or plate. The stainless steel platform is removable for easy cleaning, and the slim design makes it easy to store when it's not in use.
Best Salt Set: Jacobsen Salt Co. Infused Salt Set With Stand
"I love salt blends," says Pace Webb, executive chef and owner of LA-based Taste of Pace, who named this as one of her favorite items to gift and receive. "I have one of the small pocket-sized plain Jacobsen Salt Co containers in my purse for any unsalty moments!"
This set of Oregon sea salt blends from Jacobsen Salt Co is a perfect gift for cooks who like to experiment with flavor. The salt is made from hand-gathered water from Netarts Bay, gently evaporated to form delicate crystals, and blended with an array of herbs and spices. The six flavors (Rosemary, Habanero, Pinot Noir, Black Garlic, Black Pepper, and Pure Flake Finishing Salt) are artfully displayed in a branded wooden rack that will look beautiful on the counter.
Best Molecular Gastronomy Kit: Molecule-R Molecular Gastronomy Starter Kit
If you're looking for a gift for someone with fairly advanced cooking technique, encourage his or her sense of culinary adventure with this introduction to molecular gastronomy. Pioneered by Spanish chef Ferran Adrià and his restaurant, El Bulli, this method of cooking combines science and cuisine to create visually delightful edibles (think lemon-flavored foam or olive oil "caviar"). This technique has also made its way behind the bar (molecular mixology), resulting in some pretty stunning riffs on classic cocktails.
This kit by Molecule-R includes sachets of various additives, pipettes, a silicone mold, and a few other helpful tools that will enable you to make things like balsamic vinegar "pearls" or chocolate "spaghetti". The kitchen will be transformed into a fun food lab where playing with your food is totally allowed.
Best Kitchen Torch: Iwatani International PRO2 Culinary Butane Torch
Create Instagram-worthy crème brûlée with this handheld kitchen torch from Iwatani, a favorite of professional and home cooks. While some chefs turn to full-size blowtorches to add that flame-touched quality to their dishes, this torch's smaller size makes it easier to handle and less tiring to hold if you're working with larger batches.
This butane-powered torch lets you adjust flame size and shape to concentrate heat where you need it. Use it to quickly roast and char vegetables, glaze a ham, melt cheese on top of lasagna or other casseroles, and of course, to caramelize the top of a crème brûlée or meringue.
Best Knife: Global 7-inch Hollow Ground Santoku Knife G 80
An experienced cook will likely already have a trusty chef's knife, but the Global Santoku knife will add some versatility to any knife collection. A santoku knife can be used for chopping, slicing, and dicing meat and vegetables—virtually anything that a chef's knife can handle. The blade measures 7 inches long—shorter than most chef's knives—offering more maneuverability, especially in tighter spaces. The indentations on the blade reduce drag and help to minimize sticking.
This Japanese-made knife is forged from stainless steel from handle to tip, ensuring there are no separate pieces or corners where food particles can accumulate. It is also extremely lightweight with a slip-resistant, ergonomic handle, making it ideal for longer bouts of food preparation. Designed to maintain its sharpness longer than traditional European-style models, this knife will be in regular rotation in your kitchen for life.
Best Raclette Grill: Swissmar 8-Person Stainless Steel Raclette Grill with Granite Top
Colder evenings call for comfort food, and melted cheese ranks high on our list of favorites. While fondue is a popular choice for a crowd, you can also impress your guests with a raclette party with this grill from Swissmar. Raclette comes from the French word that means “to scrape” and refers to both the type of cheese and traditional meal hailing from the Swiss Alps and the French region of Savoie—an assortment of charcuterie, vegetables, pickles, and bread with melted cheese and served with plenty of wine and spirits.
This tabletop grill lets you melt eight servings of cheese in individual pans under a broiler while using the granite top to grill vegetables, warm bread, or cook up sausage. When the cheese is melted, pour it over the top of boiled potatoes or bread and eat with the accompanying sides. Cleanup is easy thanks to the individual nonstick pans and scrapers; the removable granite top just requires handwashing to remove any bits of food and the broiler unit can be wiped down with a damp cloth.
Best Dish Towels: Nawrap Binchotan Charcoal Dishcloth
These dish towels by Japanese brand Nawrap are made from fibers infused with binchotan charcoal (made from charred Japanese oak), a substance that is naturally resistant to bacterial growth—helpful for keeping towels from getting smelly. Each cotton towel is made with a multi-layer weave to promote absorbency and a textured surface for superior cleaning power.
"The fabric is stiff until you wash it and it just gets softer every time," says Webb of Taste of Pace. "I have one that is for washing dishes and one that is for drying dishes and hands. I especially like it for getting water spots off of wine glasses since we don't use paper towels at home."
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The author of this piece, Bernadette Machard de Gramont, is an LA-based writer who specializes in global food and wine content. After a 2-year stint at Williams-Sonoma Headquarters in San Francisco, she now researches and tests a variety of cookware, bakeware, and wine tools, and interviews field experts for their insight. She interviewed two experts for this piece: Pace Webb, executive chef and owner of LA-based Taste of Pace, and Dr. Julia Skinner, food historian and founder of Atlanta-based Root Kitchens.