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A Home Cook Gift Guide: Kitchen Tools & Ingredients They Will Actually Use

two happy women cooking in the kitchen

This post is for the home cook in your life. The ones who you never know what to gift them. And no, there will be no bulky pasta markers here.

When you’re a home cook, family members usually gravitate to give gifts related to food. Sure, they most likely don’t know anything else about you and a lot of us home cooks make this hobby our entire personality online.

“Who, Fulana? Yeah, they’re really into food.”
Credit: New Yorker.

When you’re a home cook, sometimes you’re doomed to random gifts that are downright useless. For example, pasta makers! I used mine that was a gift from my inlaws once 5 years ago. Beer kits “I saw you ferment something once!” I could go on.

I don’t like clutter. And I don’t like having things I don’t use in my house, especially in my kitchen. Thinking about this I decided to make a gift guide of useful things for the home cook in your life. Whether they’re a home cook who’s been into it and deep into youtube or someone who’s interested in learning about cooking and techniques. There’s a little something for everyone!

11 Kitchen tools and ingredients home cooks will actually use—a gift guide!

1. Joy Chen Kitchen Scissors

In my household there’s a lot of confusion on what a “pair of kitchen scissors” is. I think it’s because my husband is an engineer and doesn’t really care to discern, which is fine. That’s why I made a point to get these bright red kitchen scissors that actually work and don’t dull out. The official pair of kitchen scissors.

I use them to trim herbs, flowers, spatchcock poultry, cut up meat, cut pizza slices, or cut twine. You can buy it using my affiliate amazon link.

joy chen red kitchen scissors

2. High grade matcha

I will go out on a limb and 100% guarantee you that someone in your life is going to cut down their coffee intake and pivot to matcha—if they haven’t already. Chances are you already know someone like this. Or maybe “tHeY dOn’T lIkE cOfFeE” and are more inclined to tea. So why not give them nice matcha? Rather than bitter green powder that alleges to be matcha.

My picks:

3. A set of pots that isn’t pathetic

No shade to the inexpensive pot section of Ikea. We’ve all been there. If you’ve started or are going to take cooking seriously getting a set of pots that are good quality and that’s aren’t going to fall apart in 1-2 years is paramount. Why? Girl. You really want to have to change pots every year? By the way, take care of them!

My pot picks:

  • Tefal: Perfect for all nonstick needs— 12-piece set goes for $145
  • Le Creuset: The lifetime warranty makes the price bearable, in my opinion— Budget wise it’s at the higher end—5-Piece set retails at $525
  • Hestan: Fantastic staineless steel brand—10-Piece set retails at $639.96
  • Circulon: Great nonstick with grippy handles—10-Piece set retails at $200

4. Garlic press

Mincing garlic is a fool’s errand. Whenever someone asks me “oh what can I help you with?” in the kitchen, I usually ask them to chop or peel garlic. This little tool will save you the nightmare that is mincing garlic. And your fingers won’t smell as much.

This garlic press goes for $11.95. They also have other fun colors like rose or gold if the person you’re gifting is into that…

5. A spice grinder

Once I thought it would be “more practical and effective” to grind coffee in my spice grinder. I thought I could “rinse it and use it for whatever”. Big mistake. Turns out the ground cumin seed was so strong it infused the coffee rendering it undrinkable.

A dedicated spice grinder that you only use for grinding spices can be very useful if you’re making food with seasoning. And I hope you are.

I use the Wirsh grinder because it’s like a little pod. It’s easy to store and quick to clean. It goes for $21.

6. A scale that’s sensible but not dramatic

If you’re a home cook and don’t own a scale, you probably don’t bake enough. And that’s fine. When you do start baking you’re gonna need a good scale because, when it comes to baking, the metric system is exact and less volatile than the imperial and volume systems. In the context of baking, you want to be exact.

What I mean by saying “a scale that’s sensible” I mean that you want something that won’t be too sensitive to weight. When I say nothing too dramatic it’s because there are industries who take measurements much more seriously, like the pharmaceutical industry, for example, imagine going a gram over on medication or going off the measurements while making weed butter.

This is the one I use and it goes for $10.50.

person weighing food
If you plan to get into sourdough…a good scale is important!

7. Good paring knives

If you’re gifting a home cook who is just starting to gather their bearings, 1-2 paring knives will be super helpful. They’re very useful and not intimidating. It’s a good way to cut their teeth. Here’s a little secret from someone who has been cooking consistently in many different contexts for over 15 years: you don’t need too many knives if you’re a home cook. You just nice a good large knife and a really nice pair of paring knives that work.

Paring knives are great for peeling small ingredients like garlic ::internal screaming intensifies:: or shallots or peeling a Fuyu persimmon.

I like the Henckles stainless steel pairing knife because:

  1. It has a really good grip
  2. It’s stainless steel. That’s enough for me!
  3. It’s $10

8. Hand cream

Bear with me. Home cooks always be cooking and we always be cleaning. When you’re in the kitchen you wash your hands between tasks. And if you don’t, you should. Especially if you’re dealing with seafood, meat, or poultry. Don’t get me started on garlic again and other alliums. Chances are is that you’re not using gloves (I rawdog my food) and you’re washing your precious porcelain hands with dish soap means you’ll have little sandpaper hands!

The antidote to sandpaper hands? A good tube of hand cream. I keep a few laying around the house: In the kitchen junk drawer, by my desk because I spend a lot of time in my office, in my purse… Also, when you’re cooking and prepping food… Your hands are your most important tools and it’s important to take care of them.

Hand creams that I love:

9. A manicure & hand massage!

See above point 8. Hand care is self-care! This is a really simple and straightforward gift. Get a certificate from a mani place or a groupon, whatever you want I don’t need to spell this one out for you 🙂

10. Technique forward cookbooks

I love recipe forward books because I can go back to those recipes and perfect them again and again. However, I think there is so much value in learning about techniques that you can apply to everything and anything. You can follow a recipe any day and anywhere. But once you nail down techniques the world is your oyster.

Here are a few of my favorite technique forward cookbooks:

  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat—This book taught me how to better understand what makes a balanced dish and what makes food taste good. It’s full of techniques that you can play with and recipes and manu ideas you can keep on coming back to. $17.
  • Ottolenghi Flavor: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenhi, Ixta Belfrage & Tara Wigley—This powerhouse is by far the most inspiring publishing conglomerate out there. There is not a book or instagram post I don’t inmediately fall in love with. This book really nails down techniques that are “not deemed for the home cook”. It explores techniques that are usually gatekept by restaurants and chefs but are so simple they are maddening, such as infusing ingredients in oil or charring vegetables for depth of flavor. $24
  • Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook by Carla Lalli Music. This book keeps it promise on being uncomplicated. What makes this book brilliant is how Carla hones in on simple every day techniques like steaming and searing and teaches you how to use them. She also creates a masterful shopping framework for those who need systems in place for their home. $16
  • Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence by Claire Saffitz. Believe the hype. I used to be a person who did not enjoy baking because it really put me in a vulnerable position of fucking up quantities. Claire managed to remove that boundary by making baking much more approachable. There’s also a lot of space to improvise and spin things and make it your own. $22.

11. The Grand Microplane!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the grand ole Microplane. It comes in handy when you need to zest a little lemon on your green beans or some fancy-looking parmesan over some jamón. $15.

There are many other things you can also gift the home cook in your life but I think this list of 11 (and then some) is quite solid. Happy gift giving!

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