Still searching for that perfect gift for the cook in your life? I ran my list by some of my favorite professional chefs and ardent home cooks and they made a few additional suggestions.
Le Creuset Dutch Oven
My wife thought I was insane when she discovered what I spent on my first Le Creuset Dutch Oven. She quickly became a convert. I have two of them now, the 7-1/4qt shown and a 6-3/4qt wide version and we wouldn’t part with them for anything. The heavy cast iron makes for great heat retention and the enamel coating allows for easier cleanup. Mine see action at least once a week. If you really love someone, say it with cast iron.
Heavy Duty Sheet Pans
Most cookie sheets and jelly roll pans are way too flimsy for regular use. Commercial sheet pans, on the other hand, are made of heavy gauge aluminum and make a world of difference in your baking. Not the most glamorous Christmas gift ever, but sure to be appreciated, especially if you accessorize as I recommend. A residential oven won’t fit a full size sheet pan, but 1/2-sheet pans are just about perfect. Add in a non-stick Silpat baking mat and a fitted wire rack and you’ve got an unbeatable combination. The Silpat makes cleanup amazingly simple. Nothing sticks to it, so even problematic items like Parmesan crisps (frico) release easily. It can withstand temperatures up to 480° and can be reused thousands of times. A simple wipedown after use is usually all it needs. The wire rack is sold as a cooling rack, and it’s fine for that too, but the real magic comes when you use it to make bacon in your oven. Yes, in your oven. Lay your bacon strips on the rack in the sheet pan, slide the pan into a cold oven and set the temperature to 400°. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Flip the bacon when the timer goes off and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or so. Done. Your bacon stays flat, is perfectly cooked, and has conveniently drained all of its grease into the sheet pan below for easy disposal. You are a freaking genius. As an added bonus, it is hands-off and frees the stovetop for everything else.
Stocking Stuffers: Microplane grater, a bench scraper, and the perfect spoon
Now they come in a variety of configurations and handles, but it’s hard to beat the classic Microplane grater/zester. Zest citrus without getting into the bitter pith, create clouds of fluffy parmesan, grate numeg — hands down, this is the best tool for the job.
The Oxo Goodgrips pastry scraper is the deluxe Coupe de Ville of bench scrapers. I love mine with an inordinate fervor. Comfy cushioned grip, a solid, straight blade (bench scrapers with cheap wavy blades are miserable) and a slight bevel to the edge make this one a standout for scraping dough off your counter, bashing garlic cloves or scooping herbs off your cutting board.
And finally, the Gray Kunz spoon
For the cook who truly has everything, or simply insists on the best of the best, the Gray Kunz sauce spoon is a unique and thoughtful gift. I have two. The deep 2.5-tablespoon bowl, extra long handle, and perfect balance makes them great not only for saucing plates, basting, and forming quenelles but for serving as well. There is a smaller 1.33-tablespoon size for more delicate work. I know chefs who have adapted their recipes to measure wet ingredients in 1.33 and 2.5 tablespoon increments simply because of them. There’s even a long-running eGullet discussion about the Kunz spoons. Makes a great stocking stuffer.
Did I miss anything? Please add your suggestions if you’ve got the perfect gift for cooks.