What to Buy Your Favorite Cook for the Holidays: 2005 Buyers’ Guide

This year we tested out an awful lot of cookware and cookbooks, both items sent to us for review and things we own ourselves. I thought I’d summarize some of my highest recommendations here to help you figure out what to get your favorite cook for the holidays. All recommendations include a link to a full review for more information!

Conversation Pieces

If your favorite cook already has plenty of the basics, one alternative is to give them something a bit different and interesting. Specialized items, or items of unusual design, are a good option. Here are some of the ones I personally find interesting; see if you think any of them would appeal to the people on your list:

Cuisipro tea infuser: It may be small, but it’s certainly got style. This little gadget looks like some sort of alien device, but it’s actually a very handy little tea infuser. Great for folks who like to make their own tea from loose leaves. [Read review]

Microplane Nutmeg Grate-n-Shake: For anyone who enjoys fresh-grated spices, particularly nutmeg, this is a great little doohickey. It makes grating nutmeg fast, easy, and surprisingly safe on your fingers. [Read Review]

The Toddy Cafe Cold Brew System: If there’s someone in your life who loves coffee and wants something better than your average cup of whatever, the Toddy system produces some of the least bitter/acidic coffee I’ve ever tasted. And it’s just plain nifty, too! [Read Review]

“Williams-Sonoma: Fruit Dessert,” by Carolyn Beth Weil, is a gorgeous coffee table book (as well as a delicious cookbook) with many inspiring photos. A wonderful option for those who want their cookbooks to be beautiful as well as functional. [Read Review]

“Hot Chocolate,” by Michael Turback, is filled with some of the most unusual and adventuresome hot chocolate recipes in the world. For the truly open-minded chocoholic on your list! [Read Review]

High-Quality Basics

Sometimes good-quality basic kitchen equipment makes a better gift. This is particularly true for recent college grads, newlyweds, and someone who loves to cook but doesn’t have the budget for the kind of equipment they’d really love to use. Here are some pieces I find particularly invaluable:

Lodge Logic Cast Iron Cookware: I think it’s essential to have at least one good piece of cast iron cookware around the house. Not only can you make some truly wonderful food with it, but there’s a certain tradition and ritual to using cast iron that can feel particularly cozy around the holidays. [Read Review]

Kaiser Springform Pan: How can you possibly make a truly scrumptious cheesecake without a Kaiser springform pan?! Okay, you could, but why would you want to? [Read Review]

Maxam Multi-Baker/Roaster with Wire Rack: I love the tall sides and wonderful surface of this roasting pan. I also love its surprising versatility–it’s like getting three pans in one. [Read Review]

Rival Programmable “Smart Pot”: Rival’s programmable crock pot provides a wonderful way to slow-cook food with very little time and effort invested. [Read Review]

KitchenAid Epicurean 6 qt Stand Mixer: Does your favorite cook like to make intricate cakes and pastries, or plenty of bread? Then they’d probably adore this heavy-duty stand mixer. [Read Review]

Cuisipro Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls: These heavy-duty mixing bowls are perfect for every cook’s needs. I use ours for nearly every recipe we make. [Read Review]

Extra Cookbooks

Everyone’s different when it comes to cookbooks, so try to make sure you know what your favorite cook likes. What kind of food is she partial to? Does she prefer coffee-table cookbooks with elegant photos? Does she like cozy, homey, old-time favorites or modern styles?

“Caramel,” by Peggy Cullen: Chronicle cookbooks tend to be high on both production value and taste, and that makes them wonderful gift cookbooks. “Caramel” is one of their best, filled with some of the most delectable desserts I’ve ever tasted! [Read Review]

“The Thanksgiving Table,” by Diane Morgan, is still one of my favorite holiday cookbooks after all these years. It has recommendations for decorating, sure, but what truly makes it are the enticing recipes. [Read Review]

“Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book” is a nostalgic, scrumptious trip down memory lane, as well as one heck of a baker’s delight! [Read Review]

“Apple Pie Perfect,” by Ken Haedrich, is the definitive answer to one of the most popular desserts of all time. If that cook on your list is looking to get it just right or find a new variation, this is the ideal book. [Read Review]

Hopefully something here will help you fulfill your favorite cook’s wish list!

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