Every year around this time, I'm asked to compile a list of great gift ideas for people who like to cook.  As the resident "foodie" in the building, I guess I have some insight into what's trending (or sometimes more importantly what's not trending) in the culinary world.

For starters - I cook.  A lot.  And, I don't like gadgets.  I subscribe to the theory that a gadget that serves a single-purpose really shouldn't have a place in your kitchen.  So you won't find things like garlic presses, quesadilla irons, or boxed mixes here.  This list is full of things that I would welcome for Christmas and in turn, I believe many people who truly like to cook would as well.

These would also work well for your own kitchen - so buy doubles!

Here is my list for 2014:

  • Silpats.  Don't let the $25 a piece price scare you off;  Once you start using Silpat silicone baking sheets, you will wonder why you didn't buy them sooner.
  • Silicone baking pans.  If you bake muffins or loaves of bread - you need to switch from metal pans to silicone.  They bake well, clean up easily, and make baking a whole lot easier.
  • Half-sheet pans.  Throw those so-called "cookie sheets" away.  You know the kind I mean.  Professionals use half-sheet pans for a reason.  They don't warp.  They'll last forever.  The lip around the edge prevents spill-overs.  And their weight encourages even heating.  Half-sheet pans are useful for everything from baking cookies to preparing bacon.  (If you're still making bacon on your stovetop, click this link to change your thinking).  Half-sheet pans are also useful for making meat loaf (why are you baking that in a loaf pan?) and they make useful trays in the kitchen.
  • Silicone spatulas.  Every kitchen needs a ton of spatulas and the silicone models are better than the older one made from rubber.
  • Bamboo spoons and stirrers.  Bamboo hit the home kitchen world pretty hard a few years ago and it's for good reasons that many cooks have made the switch.  These tools hold up well, don't conduct heat, and they clean up easily.  They also last for a long time.
  • Mop rags.  You might call these kitchen towels, but professionally they're known as "mop rags".  Do yourself a favor and skip the kitschy ones with colorful designs.  Go to a cooking store or a wholesale club like Sam's Club and get real mop rags.  They're a little thicker, more absorbent, and they'll last a longer time.
  • Mason jars/rings/lids.  Canning is as big as it ever was and it seems like more home cooks are getting into the preservation mode.  But even if you don't can with the jars they still have a place in your kitchen.  Glass is simply better to store items like salad dressings or vinegrettes.  They also make good containers for soups.  The glass doesn't transfer food tastes and odors and Mason jars are easy to clean in your dishwasher.  One tip:  Pick up some of those screw-on plastic lids that are sold in the same section.
  • A knife sharpener.  Every cook needs sharp knives and getting an edge on yours is easy with the correct equipment.  The price range (and quality range) on these varies - but my advice is always "the best knife sharpener is the one that you'll use".  At the same time, pick up a steel to maintain that sharp edge between sharpening sessions.
  • Kitchen-Aid stand mixer.  Looking to splurge?  EVERY cook needs a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer.  And don't scrimp.  Many cooks buy the smaller mixers and then they regret it later.  You need to buy the professional models - with a 6 or 7 quart bowl.  And do yourself a favor and don't buy the tilt-head model - Get the bowl-lift model instead.  The bowl-lift models are better built with bigger motors and they'll hold up longer.

Hopefully you've found some gift ideas for your loved one who likes to cook on this list.  Merry Christmas and Happy Cooking!


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