There’s something incredibly special about stringing up fairy lights and giving your loved ones gifts. The way their face lights up when you’ve found the perfect item, or written the perfect card, or baked the perfect cookie brings me a sort of joy that you just can’t achieve in any other way. So, as soon as Halloween is over, I start planning for the holidays. I’ll track the perfect toys for kids, or the perfect handmade item for my partner, or the perfect gifts for the chef.
There are people who cook at home, and then there are at-home chefs. It’s a wide division. While I’m a completely proficient cook, no one in my family comes even close to the chef title—to love cooking with an intensity and a proficiency that’s hard to rival.
Top tools for the chef
Buying a great tool for your experienced, at-home chef doesn’t have to break the bank. A high-quality chef’s knife is a simple way to upgrade your loved one’s tools, or add to their ever-growing collection.
I know a few number of chefs who insist that Japanese steel is the very best, but honestly? I think that’s more posturing than anything else. Most Japanese steel is hard but brittle, with a thin edge: ideal for fine work but less than optimal for being a workhorse. German or Swiss steel, on the other hand, will be a slightly softer steel with a thicker blade profile. You’ll have to sharpen a gorgeous knife like the Victorinox Grand Maitre 7″ Santoku Knife more often, but it’ll handle tasks like cutting open a spaghetti squash or slicing through a chicken carcass far better.
Why a Santoku? Well—personal preference, really. Most chefs will lean either towards a Santoku or a chef’s knife as their primary kitchen tool, so have a peek at your home chef’s knife kit if you can! I grew up solely using chef’s knives, and found them to be unwieldy and difficult to manage. The first time I held a Santoku, I knew immediately that it was a better fit for my small frame and wary hands. It felt like a natural extension of my forearm while chef’s knives have always felt like giant swords, and my knife skills improved practically overnight as I adapted to its new dimensions.
Cast iron gifts for the chef (and more)
I’m a huge fan of cast iron in the kitchen as well, and it’s not hard to see why. Cast iron is great at providing an even cooking surface that’s nigh-indestructible. Each cast iron pan creates its own unique seasoning, and a well-seasoned pan can have great non-stick qualities.
Cast iron comes in plenty of forms beyond your traditional cast iron pan, too. It’s found in more specialized items like pizza pans and gorgeous, enameled casserole dishes. And, for those who don’t love cast iron: there’s always stainless steel. As much as I love cast iron (and I do; I’m enthusiastic about it to the point of annoyance), my heart lies with a great, stainless steel cookware set. I’ve been using the Cuisinart 11-Piece Hand Hammered Stainless Steel Cookware Set recently, and the weighting and styling of each piece is just incredibly spot-on.
I find that I get a much more even heat distribution with stainless steel, and I prefer it for searing meat or sautéing certain veggies. But cast iron holds heat better, and has a certain presentational flair that stainless steel lacks. If you have the space in your kitchen for it, my vote is always to have both: stainless steel for steaks and beans, and cast iron for cornbread and taco meat!
Professional-grade stand mixers
A professional-grade stand mixer can be to a baker what a great knife is to a chef. If your chef bridges that divide, then the perfect set of gifts for the chef might just include baking tools.
KitchenAid has the most popular consumer stand mixers on the market, with strong motors for at-home use. They’ll help minimize exertion while maximizing consistency, but what makes them truly special is that they aren’t just stand mixers. Think of a KitchenAid like a motor covered in a glossy cage: a multi-purpose tool that’s going to do a lot more for you than just make holiday cookies.
With a couple of attachments (it’s the gift idea that just keeps giving), a KitchenAid can make pasta, spiralize veggies, grate cheese, grind meat, fill sausages, and slice veggies. Different bowls can make ice cream or heat chocolate, and dough hooks can knead bread. They’re a great tool to transition into a more conscious workspace, allowing your chef to grind their own raw, organic pet food or spiralize fresh zucchini noodles from your backyard bounty.
Easy listening gifts for the chef
While your chef gets to work in the kitchen, consider giving them something that they can comfortably wear around. Directional shoulder speakers like the Bose SoundWear Companion Bluetooth Wireless Speaker and Sharp AN-SS1 Bluetooth Wireless Shoulder Speaker are the middle ground between room speakers and headphones.
The directional nature of these speakers means that less sound will be heard from outside of the room—ideal for open-concept living—but both are great gifts for the chef because they keep the wearer’s ears free. Cooking with music on in the background can be really enjoyable, but doing it with earbuds or headphones on is tough! All of your senses get involved when you cook: you can watch something brown, smell something cook, and feel something’s texture. But at the same time, you can hear a pot boil. You can hear a pan sizzle. And you can definitely hear your alarm chiming.
Spoil the chef in your life
Finally, let’s close out this gift guide with one really big-ticket gift idea. The ultimate gift for the experienced home chef, in my opinion, isn’t a kitchen implement: it’s a brand new, ultra-luxe range. To seriously treat the at-home chef in your life, consider upgrading a major kitchen appliance to make their life a little easier (and more luxurious).
Depending on your chef’s preferences, I’m a big fan of either gas or induction stovetops for their reliability and efficiency. We have an induction stovetop, and it’s been a huge upgrade from our old electric coil! The smooth glass top is easier to clean, and the induction surface keeps our family safe when someone inevitably leaves a burner on after the pots and pans have already gone into the sink.
Induction stovetops heat up your food faster than an electric range, shaving a few minutes off of your cooking time each day. (I especially appreciate how quick induction is when I’m boiling water.) Look to Miele for the very best, with products like their 30″ Induction Range with M Touch Display.
Another great, gift-worthy range to spoil your home chef with is the Samsung 30″ 5.8 Cu. Ft. Slide-In Self-Clean Dual-Fuel Convection Range—which is on my wishlist for my next home. It has a gas range for quicker temperature changes and a electric oven for consistent results. The dual-door oven is designed as a “Flex Duo” oven, allowing you to set the oven’s temperature uniformly (for larger dishes, like a turkey) or set two different temperatures for smaller dishes (like simultaneous casseroles and cookies.)
The Samsung also features a warming drawer and five gas burners, which is just… Is it wrong for a range to be described as “mouthwatering”?
Mouthwatering or not, a new knife, upgraded pots and pans, or heavy-duty stand mixer are gifts that any chef would swoon over. Click on the banner below to plan for the only thing that’s better than receiving a great gift: getting to give one.