Last year, I did a Christmas list for foodies and one for the treehuggers on your list – be sure to check out those if you’re interested. This year, I tried to think about a few of the more basic items that I use on a near daily basis in the kitchen. If you have a cook on your Christmas list, chances are they could maybe use one of these items or an updated version if they have an older one. Be sure to add your kitchen must-haves in the comments!
From left to right, top to bottom.
- Chemex coffee maker: My sister gave this to Grant last Christmas along with some organic, whole trade coffee beans that we had never had before. Before the Chemex, we were firmly in the French press and Aeropress coffee snob camp (side note: if you have someone on your list who loves coffee and who doesn’t have an Aeropress, that would make a wonderful gift as well), but the Chemex consistently makes the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. We use the filters three times (see, we’re not true coffee snobs) and compost them when we’re finished to reduce the amount of waste. Buy your coffee snob some local coffee beans, a Chemex, and filters, and your gift will be talked about for years to come!
- Cast-iron skillet: I use this thing nearly every day. I love how it goes so seamlessly from the stove-top to oven for roasting chicken and vegetables, frittatas, and all sorts of other stuff. If you don’t already have one, I think you would be surprised how frequently you’ll use it.
- Knives: You really can’t go wrong buying a cook a new knife. I actually have a set similar to these knives that we bought a few years ago. My parents have also supplemented with a few Cutco knives over the years, so I have a little bit of a mish-mash. I was intrigued by A Couple Cooks’ review of a regional knife company called Warther Cutlery (plus, isn’t that steel design pretty?!).
- HIC porcelain lasagna pan: I’m actually in need of another one of these. I bought it originally several years ago after rave reviews like this one, but I dropped a heavy pot IN it earlier this year, as I was trying to do too many things at once in the kitchen. The pot fell in such a way that it cracked the whole pan, and I’ve been missing it nearly every week since. Every kitchen needs a big porcelain or ceramic pan that can go from oven to table.
- Zyliss easy spin salad spinner: We use our salad spinner at least once a day, most days twice a day. We try to eat greens from our garden or buy local ones throughout the season as much as possible, which means they often still have a bit of dirt on them, so the salad spinner is a must-have. I find I use it for herbs and all sorts of greens as well. When I can’t get local greens, we buy red leaf mostly, and if we resort to the bagged versions at the store, I still wash them beforehand because that chemically wash kinda freaks me out. I actually have this version, but I had the Zyliss one for nine years (a wedding gift – thank you to whomever found that gem for us!) until the string finally gave out this past summer. I had always thought the string functionality was a little prone to failure, so I checked all sorts of reviews and went with the Oxo Good Grips. I really miss the Zyliss. It did a much better job. I figure we will stick with the Oxo until it breaks, which it seems might already be imminent even though we’ve only had it for six months or so.
- HUGE stainless steel bowl: Costco started carrying a line of commercial kitchen quality cookware earlier this year. I found a gigantic stainless steel bowl there for around $8 I think. I grabbed it and have been surprised at how frequently I use it. Some cookbook I read a long time ago said to always, always use a bowl bigger than you think you’ll need. This thing nearly always fits that requirement. I use it to make soaked granola, to make big batches of cole slaw, to soak beans, and all sorts of other things.
- Aluminum baking sheets: I use these things nearly every day, as well. Especially in the colder months, I’m always roasting something (or lots of things) in the oven, and I use these for all of that. Costco actually carries some really nice, heavy duty, and affordable ones (jeesh, I should really get a commission from Costco!). Caveat: I am careful not to scrape the aluminum bakeware and recycle it when it gets any scratches.
- Small spoon spatula: My mom actually gave me this exact set several years ago for Christmas. I’m not married to the Rachael Ray version – just find a really small one like the smallest one available in that set. I love how this one is the “spoon” variety too, which makes it easier to maneuver. I definitely use it once a day, and I always hand wash it because I typically use it several times throughout a cooking session. It fits into all sorts of tight spaces to help me make sure I get every last bit out of whatever I’m making.
- Garlic press: I gave myself one of these for no reason earlier this year because I got sick of peeling so much garlic. This press allows you to put the whole clove, skin and all, in the press. I think I lose a bit of garlic in the process, but it’s a negligible amount and so worth it not to have to do all of that peeling, especially with as much garlic as we eat around here.
- Glass measuring cups: Again, I use these everyday. I have two two-cup versions, one four-cup, and one eight-cup. They stack easily, so if your cook doesn’t have one capacity, that would make a great gift.
- Apron: Find an apron locally if at all possible. I am a bit picky about my aprons, though. They need to have at least two large pockets, be made out of comfortable, easily adjustable material, and very washable.
- Bluetooth speaker: This is stretching things a bit here, but this might be a fun option for the cook who has everything. I actually bought this for Grant last year for his office, but I have since adopted it as my own in the kitchen. I love to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and music while I’m cooking, so this makes it super easy to put the speaker right close to my work station. I can cook and learn at the same time. It also puts off decent enough sound for a good dance party if the rest of the family is around (or even when they’re not!).
- Cutting boards: I have decided to recycle all of my plastic cutting boards this year. I’m taking this tactic, and I’m going to buy a beautiful hand-carved maple cutting board like this one to keep on the counter for all of my fruit and veggie cutting. I’m planning to buy one or two plastic cutting boards like this (the bigger, the better if you ask me) to reserve for meat, poultry, and fish. I’ve known that I needed to do this for some time, but most of my cutting boards are on their last legs so now is the time to make the switch. Of course, using only locally-raised meat and poultry from local farmers helps decrease the concerns of getting sick, but two cutting boards seems like a good solution.
- Glass jars: You can’t go wrong giving glass jars, if you ask me. We use them for food storage, as drinking glasses, for canning, and a few other things I’m not thinking of I’m sure. Even better if you fill them with something first!
- Electric kettle: I think I’ve raved about this thing before, but they are so great, especially if you love coffee or tea. I really like this one because you can adjust the water temperature depending on what type of tea or coffee you’re making. I find other uses for it as well, basically anytime I need hot water in a hurry. If you need a nice gift, this would be a great idea to couple with some locally roasted coffee or local tea.
- Pressure cooker: I know pressure cookers can be a bit scary, but the new versions are much safer and more dummy-proof (obviously since I use it everyday!). I wouldn’t have time to cook nearly as much as I do without the pressure cooker – stock and beans especially.
- Wide-mouth funnel: This thing came with my very first canning set many years ago, and I have quickly found all sorts of other uses for it besides canning. I dare you to buy one and not be pleasantly surprised at 1) how many times you use it and 2) how many messes it saves you.
- Immersion blender: Tons of my soups are soo much easier with an immersion blender. They’re inexpensive and so practical that I think everyone should have one. Holiday festivity tip: whenever I’m feeling like I’ve overindulged a bit, I roast whatever veggies I have on hand and throw together some roasted vegetable soup to eat for a few days and get me back on track.
Ok, now it’s your turn – what’s your favorite kitchen basic? What have I missed?!
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