‘Tis the season to rush to your nearest mall and figure out what to get all of the people you love for a gift! First, sorry for the lack of posts this week. My best friend was visiting so I took a bit of a hiatus from real life, including keeping up with the blog. (Side note: Look out for a bit more on our day trip to Waco in the new year!) But I’m back! And I’ve got a long one for ya. So, let’s go out with a bang, and close out my holiday-themed posts than with a Gift Guide for the Cook or Baker in Your Life. Because what better gift could you give than the gift of cooking and baking items to someone who really loves to do either (or both!)?
Included below are a few things that I think us kitchen folk would not only need but want to have. If I’m being honest, some of these items are from my own Christmas list this year! After moving away from my parents’ fully stocked kitchen and into my starter kitchen, I am desperate for some upgrades this holiday season. Some of these items are things I’ve bought already and fully recommend. Everything else are either things I think are useful, fun, or will one day add to my list/kitchen. And as Santa said, let there be gifts…
Let’s break this down: so, there are a lot of things you need when you want to start seriously cooking. Pots and pans–yes, those are necessary. But which pots and pans? Outside of the very basic things, there’s some more glorious cookware you could add to your list. Case in point: the cast iron skillet. These babies are amazing. They are thick–made of cast iron–and sturdy. When you sear or fry, everything comes out perfectly crispy. You can even use them to make bread and/or dessert. The only downside is their cleaning and maintenance–but it’s well worth it! There’s no better pan for cooking. Get yours on Amazon now.
Along the same vein, there’s the dutch oven. It’s not actually an oven–duh. Similar to the cast iron skillet, they are thick and heavy pots that are designed to spread heat out evenly for a better cook. Dutch ovens are also safe to bake, which make them perfect for pot roasts. Other things they’re useful for? Deep frying, making soup or chili, and cooking those beautiful Filipino stews. Get yours on Amazon now.
Recently I picked up my braising pan from World Market. It was my way of appeasing my need for a Dutch oven. Braising pans are also oven-friendly, which fit well for the recipe I needed it for. However, they are not as thick or heavy as dutch ovens. They also have a very different shape–more saute pan than stock pot. But they are the perfect size for frying, sauteing, or, ya know, braising! Two months later and my pan is still works well and in great condition. I definitely recommend it.
Other suggestions: Stove-top grilling station, grill pan, wok or crepe pan.
Now, the aforementioned cookware, and the basics I’ve discussed at length, will cover you for most things. But then there’s the special cookware–things that go beyond what you can make with just your regular repertoire. Let’s start off with one of my favorites–a steamer. I love steamed fish. There’s no better way to bring out the texture of a beautiful, buttery, white fish than steaming it through. I bought a basic 10-inch round that goes on top of any round pan from World Market. My parents bought theirs from one of the several Asian grocery stores near our house (ugh, I miss home and these stores). Either way, you could also use your steamer to make steamed veggies or even steamed dumplings.
Back way in the beginning of the year, I woke up with awful stomach pain. It felt like my insides were ripping out and twisting. Turns out I needed surgery to remove my gallbladder, which ultimately required a drastic change in my diet. My dad bummed out real hard on this because he loves fried food. And one of the things I couldn’t have was anything drenched in oil–literally deep fried foods. So, my mom bought him an air fryer so that we could still enjoy the fried texture without all the greasy grossness it comes with! You guys, these things are magic. They turn around a heated chamber–like an oven–and fry to a crisp. Trust me, you won’t miss the greasy mess. But if you do, you could also get a deep fryer! Those things come way in handy for fried chicken or lumpia! Get an air fryer or deep fryer on Amazon now.
Other Suggestions: Mini pizza oven
What is a chef without their tools? What is anyone without tools, really? We all need those little things that make all the difference in expediting the making of big things. Recently, I struggled (yet again) with getting a can open to cook. Our can opener wasn’t getting the job done, and I found myself really missing the electronic can opener that my parents and I picked up for nothing at Walmart. It made opening cans easy, painless, and quick. Again, this one is a bit selfish, but anything that makes the cooking process easier, is a great gift in my opinion.
A while back I raved about a meat grinder attachment that my mom got for our stand mixer. It was a fantastic gift! Stand mixers are handy for baking, certainly (see below). But they have about a million attachments that actually make them extremely handy for cooking as well. I definitely recommend the meat grinder for anyone who buys a lot of meat but doesn’t necessarily want to make chunks all the time. But you could also get the pasta roller, veggie spiralizer, veggie dicer, or even an ice cream maker. Get them all on Amazon now.
Other Suggestions: For that coffee snob in your life, a fancy schmancy coffee/espresso machine, or go for the full chem-x system like my brother!
This section is all about creating that organization in your kitchen, allowing you easy access to your items, easy clean up, and creating an overall more efficient cooking experience. Recently, I splurged and got myself a few storage items for the house. For the holiday cookies I baked, I got a cookie jar. But I also grabbed a couple large canisters with an air-tight seal for my dry items that often fall out of their flimsy paper bags–sugar and flour. Having storage for these items really helped alleviate some of my mess stress, and helped keep the items fresh longer. Get all of these storage items and more at World Market now.
Another point of frustration? Having to search through the pantry for everyday items like oil. I got myself a couple of glass easy pour containers that I leave out on the counters now. These are so great for two reasons: 1) they’re pretty and 2) they pour so easily. Have you ever tried to slowly pour soy sauce into a dish and it all just spills over in a big puddle? Put your soy sauce in a small control-spout container instead. The same goes with oil. Again, it created an ease to my cooking and settled my mind when it came to trying to find these items in a pantry that four other people use. Get all of these pour items and more at Amazon now.
This last item, I haven’t actually tried. But I really want to! Enter: The Grommet. My sister introduced me to this website. It’s full of really awesome gadgets and doo-dats that other people invented and you suddenly really, really want! In their kitchen section, they have these cutting board extension bins. They attach easily to your cutting board, then when you’re done cutting just push them into the extension bin and remove. Instant bowl! Again, the Grommet has a million items like these. You just have to look for them.
Other suggestions: splatter guards, a variety of food storage, and beautiful custom cutting boards
Baking is a science–in measurements and routine. There are things you absolutely need in order to do things well. One of those things is a mixer. The best version would be a stand mixer. This also happens to be at the top of my Christmas list this year, because after making cupcakes with only a hand mixer and a lot of patience I really need one of these. Most stand mixers come with a variety of mixing attachments (i.e., mixer, whisk, bread kneader) that help evenly mix your ingredients. Thus, it makes things easier when you bake. Hand mixers only really mix in circles. Also, as I mentioned before, stand mixers are also handy for cooking once you buy several different attachments. Get yours at Amazon now.
Yet, you could also opt for the less-expensive, still-useful hand mixer as for things that don’t require an exact mixing, like my many Christmas cookies. Hand mixers only really come with beaters, which is why they aren’t super great for all baking. But there definitely useful and handy. Need to beat a huge batch of eggs? Get you one of these. I use mine mostly for cookies, brownies, and several kinds of dough. Get yours at Amazon now.
Other suggestions: casserole dishes, baking pans, and baking sheets.
There are basics of baking dishes that you need–cookie sheet, baking pans, and cupcake tins. But there are those few that require specialty pans. My sister got me a donut pan from World Market for my birthday last year, which works like a charm–case in point. My mom had a craving for Madeline cookies one day so my dad and I got her a pan as her birthday gift. World Market has some other specialty baking pans as well, like this mini bund cake pan or this ceramic scone pan.
Other suggestions: Nothing wrong with the good ole fashioned cheesecake spring-form pan
Tools for baking involve measuring spoons, cups, scales, sifters, etc. Measuring spoons and cups are one of my favorite things to buy. But instead of getting your run-of-the-mill plastic kinds available at any grocery store, opt for a ceramic version. World Market has great options for cute, ceramic tools. The nice thing about ceramic is that it lasts forever! We once had a set of spoons and cups that were plastic and over the years the numbers faded away so we never knew what anything was. And again, they’re pretty.
You could also get a fancy scale, or a vintage one, at Amazon. Some serious bakers prefer to use scales rather than measuring tools. It’s a more precise way to measure items than just cups or spoons. Another great tool to give? A sifter. Have you noticed in many recipes they ask you to sift out your dry ingredients before whisking them together? It’s so that you get rid of those clumps in the batter. I’m too lazy to actually do this, but maybe I wouldn’t be if I had a sifter! It easily separates everything for you with very little effort on your part.
Other suggestions: Cast-iron trivets for resting hot plates, large wooden mixing tools, or mixing bowls
Lastly, what is baking without a little decorating? Sometimes this can be the most fun part of the whole process! Mostly because it’s often the part that can be most creative. I mean, it’s fun for me to think of flavor combinations and all that. But for others, the most fun part is making this look pretty! I would suggest going on Amazon and ordering one of these many decorating kits for the avid baker in your life. Or to narrow it down, consider just getting a batch of pastry bags and a variety of reusable tips to go with them. Some of them even come in cool containers to keep them organized!
Another great idea is to get something that would double as both a useful decorating tool and a serving platter–the lazy Susan. I’m sure there’s a more official baking term for this, but it’s the thing that can turn all the way around. This makes icing cakes, in particular, super easy. You just place the cake on the stand, leave your hand in one place, and turn the cake stand around. Saves you a whole lot of time and mess! Might I suggest this option from World Market? Once you’re done, consider this gift: something to show off their handy work as well with on of these many cake stands.
Maybe I’m the only one who loves shopping for kitchen linens–I think I am. It kind of became necessary with my blog and all. I use them for picture backgrounds. But linens are necessary in the kitchen–they keep everything clean. They also add some color! But anyways, you could get them at your grocery store or Walmart. But I get mine at (surprise!) World Market because theirs are affordable and beautiful.
They also have a gorgeous line of aprons which often look like dresses. Aprons are also quite useful for keeping all that baking stuff off of you. And in my own selfish desires, consider adorable pot holders. Our current pot holders don’t actually stave off much heat, and are a little too big for my tiny Filipino hands. So, one of these pretty looking-heat reducing options might be the way to go.
I’ve got a thousand more ideas, but hopefully that’s enough for now. Christmas is quickly approaching, so grab one of these gift ideas quick! Bonus: if you have a Prime membership, you could easily still ship from Amazon to your home before Monday. Now in all honesty, gifts are great, and giving the perfect gift is also a wonderful thing, but this time of year for me is all about family. I’m psyched to be seeing mine soon. And from the bottom of my heart, Merry Christmas to yours and a Happy New Year, too!