There’s something incredibly special about stringing up fairy lights and picking up special somethings for your loved ones. The way their faces light up at the perfect item, or the perfect card, or 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 decimate my O’Henry stash and immediately hang my Christmas wreath. I’ll track the perfect toys for kids, or the perfect handmade item for my best friend, 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, and one that I’m at the far end of. While I’m a completely proficient cook, no one in my household really comes close to the chef title.
Despite that, however, my ideal gifts for the chef are really just things that I love or want. My partner and I share our kitchen duties, but I do most of our “fancy” cooking. (Want delicious pork chops in 20 minutes? He’s your guy. Want a great carbonara with panna cotta to finish? I’ve got you, but you’re going to have to wait at least an hour.)
If you’re going to be in the kitchen for a while, having the right tools really does make a world of difference. They can’t give you skill or practice, but they can and do elevate the experience! Get ready to get a fine veggie cut, some non-bruised herbs, and a really easy one-pot meal on the table.
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? For many of us, 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 wary hands. It felt like a natural extension of my forearm while 8+ inch chef’s knives have always felt like giant swords.
My knife skills improved practically overnight as I adapted to the new dimensions of a knife that was better suited for me. (And hey, if your home chef already has a full knife block, why not look into sharpening stones instead?)
Cast iron gifts for the chef
I’m a huge fan of cast iron in the kitchen, 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. While many chefs are picky about their cast iron pans and will keep them for years, you have a little more flexibility with items like
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, for those who don’t love cast iron: there’s always stoneware and stainless steel. (How cute are these mini casserole stoneware pieces?) As much as I love cast iron, my heart lies with a great, stainless steel cookware set. I’ve reviewed the Cuisinart 11-Piece Hand Hammered Stainless Steel Cookware Set before, 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 it’s so much easier to clean—with a good patina, your food remnants practically slide right off under hot water.
If you have the space in your kitchen for it, my vote is always to make sure your home chef has 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. These tools from KitchenAid are perfect for chefs who bridge the divide.
KitchenAid has the most popular consumer stand mixers on the market. They have strong motors, easy-to-clean attachments, and sleek lines 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, 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 also a great tool to transition into a more conscious workspace, allowing your chef to grind their own raw, organic pet food or spin themselves some fresh zucchini noodles from your backyard bounty.
Gifts for the chef who loves to batch-cook
I’m a batch cooker, which makes not having an at-home chest freezer really difficult. Chest freezers are great: I love them because I can make 60 sour cabbage rolls all in one day and not have to worry about eating them all within the week, but they’re definitely useful beyond that! They’re great for storing bulk purchases, like large amounts of free-range meat that you’re getting directly from a local butcher or farmer. (Local bison was a big part of my childhood here in Alberta—we liked that it was more ethical and more affordable.)
Even if you’re not buying groceries for your family in bulk, a high-quality chest freezer can make your life way easier. It’s so efficient to be able to batch-cook for your family on a monthly basis and just pull meals directly out of the freezer, and models like the Insignia 17 Cu. Ft. Frost-Free Upright Freezer are awesome. (Anyone who has ever spent fifteen minutes digging listlessly to the bottom of a chest freezer will quickly see why.)
While upright freezers and chest freezers make an awesome holiday gift for the hero of your home, I will add one small point: this is one that they might want a little early. All of that storage will definitely come in handy for holiday cooking, baking, and hosting!
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. My family home has an induction stovetop, and it’s been a huge upgrade from our old electric coil. The smooth glass top is incredibly easy to clean. Plus, the induction surface keeps our family safe when someone (my sister) 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. 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 wish list for my next home. It has a gas range for quick 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.)
Mouthwatering or not, a new knife, a brand new chest freezer, or a 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.
Shop gifts for around the home to get ready for the holiday season.