Some days, I cannot believe my luck. I'm a food and kitchen editor, which means I get to work with some of my favorite brands all year, trying new gadgets, taste-testing new foods before they're available in stores, and doing side-by-side analyses of new cookware to see how brands are innovating for us, the consumers.
Often, I'm trying these products for free. Companies send their gadgets, foods, and cookware to editors because they know we have a vast amount of experience and can report honestly and accurately to readers. That also means I get to try brands I might never if I weren't in this position, and it means I often discover when certain buzz-worthy brands aren't, well, all that brilliant.
That's why when friends and family ask me for my recommendations for gifts or new kitchen purchases, I feel completely confident in what I suggest. In short, I've tried almost all of it.
For this holiday season, I've edited dozens of gift guides with all sorts of themes, from gifts for people who love candy to picks for people who'd rather be baking. Our editors truly are in step with the best, hottest, and most thoughtful gifts you can give. But since it's crunch time, and we're all just trying to figure out what will really make the greatest gifts (and what we can get in a very short window of time), I've put together this list of 10 gifts that are my absolute favorite of the year.
So if you're still looking for foolproof presents for the people on your list who love their time in the kitchen as much as I do, I could not recommend these gifts below more.
I first met with the folks from Snake River Farms this summer (virtually, of course), and they sent me several of their selections. I was blown away first by the packaging. It's brilliantly wrapped and packaged so the meat is never at risk of thawing (a serious problem I encounter with a lot of food shipments). But of course, the main event was the flavor and texture of their American Wagyu and Kurobuta Pork.
It is simply like none you've ever had, and as a gift, it's really nice way to treat someone to a fine meal when we can't all dine out. Snake River Farms also does a really nice job explaining how their meat is such high quality, with informative side-by-side photos of the meat you can buy in stores and what you're getting from them. Because if you're going to the work of ordering meat and shipping it to a loved one, you need to know it's the best of the best.
If you don't have time to get it before the holidays get here, just order a gift card, and let them pick what they want.
Buy it: $227; snakeriverfarms.com
The first time I tried Roelli's Dunbarton Blue Cheese, I wanted to marry the cheesemaker. Fortunately for me, he was sitting next to me. Unfortunately for me, he is married. But I can still buy this fantastic cheese and have it shipped right to me, which is the type of gift I imagine we should all be treating ourselves to this year — unique, treasured, and it helps out a small farmer or producer.
The good news for the cheese lover on your list is that places like Madison, Wisc.'s Fromagination know the makers in their communities and bring together the best of the best into brilliant gift baskets. This Gold Collection Gift Set contains (in my taste test experience) the best cheeses Wisconsin has to offer, from incredible Gouda, Roelli's Cheddar blue, and the state's most awarded cheese, Upland's Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
Here again, you can send a gift card and let your favorite cheese fiend pick their prize, or you can make a selection and send it in the post-holiday daze, when the calendar is confusing and eating cheese and snacks all day is socially acceptable. (Wait, hasn't that been acceptable for all of 2020?)
Buy it: from $125; fromagination.com
The DIY food movement found new life this year, as we were all locked up and shut down for months on end. Since the next few months will likely look a lot like the first few of the COVID-19 pandemic, you should absolutely gift this homemade hot sauce kit to the cook on your list that loves to test and experiment.
The kit includes everything they'll need to make two signature blends. Then, when they feel confident in their saucy skills, they may just feel brave enough to start their own collection — and, of course, share one with you.
Buy it: $50; williams-sonoma.com
Earlier this year, we explained why no kitchen should be without a Microplane, and while it may not seem like the most glamorous gift, it's certain to be among the most useful you can give. The all-purpose gadget can be used to grate fresh citrus zest for salad dressings or cocktails, chocolate for dessert, cheese for pasta, ginger for stir-fry, and much more. My personal favorite Microplane trick: grating garlic so you can avoid getting out a cutting board and knife.
If you do want to give a grater/zester that really looks like a gift, Williams Sonoma also has three lovely olivewood-handled versions that are perhaps more beautiful than any other utensil in my kitchen.
Buy it: $15; williams-sonoma.com
When friends ask me what Dutch oven I recommend, I say Staub's round cocotte, hands down. It is by far the best one you can buy, in my opinion and experience (and my kitchen has about six different Dutch ovens, so I have some experience).
The enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven is easier to clean than a regular cast iron pan, and the dark textured enamel interior won't show stains the way others with a white interior definitely will. You also get all the benefits of regular cast iron — heat retention, great searing, and durability.
Around the holidays, Staub marks down their four-quart cocotte hundreds of dollars so more folks can gift this great pan, so grab it right now for just under $100.
Buy it: $100; williams-sonoma.com
This year, Hamilton Beach introduced their Alexa-enabled Smart Coffee Maker. It's exactly what you're probably thinking it is: a coffee maker that you can turn off and on with a command to Alexa. But it comes from one of the top coffee machine makers in the country, which means your cup is guaranteed to be just as tasty as you need
I really love this coffee maker for my grandmother, who frequently worries about the coffee machine from several rooms away. To keep her from having to walk in there, she can just use her phone or tell Alexa to shut it off, which provides her with peace of mind. (It also has an auto shut-off feature.) Also, she tells me she's used it to turn on the coffee maker before she gets out of bed. So maybe she's a bit spoiled now.
Buy it: $90; amazon.com
Carbon steel has been big in professional kitchens for quite a while, and true to form, Made In is taking pro kitchen items and bringing them directly to consumers. They're prized because they have less carbon, which makes them more durable than cast iron. The pan does require seasoning, but the natural finish is slick, so the non-stick nature of the pan is easier to achieve and maintain than cast iron.
Another bonus: carbon steel is a bit lighter than cast iron, too, which may make it easier for some cooks who have a hard time lifting their heavy cast iron pans.
Buy it: $69; madeincookware.com
KitchenAid's stand mixer is the coveted gift item every year. This year, Crate and Barrel has two exclusive colors that will make the choice of which mixer to buy even harder.
The luscious Steel Blue shade is regal and sophisticated. It reads as a neutral, so really it will look great in any kitchen.
The second color, Shaded Palm, is similarly majestic, in a deep, luxurious green. It too could be a neutral in most kitchens but would stand out beautifully if their kitchen is mostly white or gray.
Buy it: $380; crateandbarrel.com
If you don't know why you should get a spill cleaner for a person who loves to cook or eat, you've not been around them enough. We make messes. And sometimes, we make messes that need more than a paper towel.
I originally tried this over the summer, when my combination of everyday cooking and my cat's love for wet food (and tipping over her bowl) was creating a sticky mess in the kitchen floor. Instead of breaking out my big mop every time I needed to clean, I kept this ready to go in my laundry room. Instantly clean, rinse, and put away. It's almost too handy.
But then I let my sister-in-law try it. She has two dogs and a six month old, which means she's getting far more use than I could have ever, and she won't let it out of her sight. Whether it's the messes the dogs make or the baby food spread all over the floor, courtesy of my niece, my SIL always has a reason to use it.
Buy it: $69; walmart.com
In any other year, I don't know if a hands-free soap dispenser would make a great gift, but these are like little pots of gold in 2020. Most sold out within days earlier this year, and companies are just now rebuilding their stocks.
Everyone on your list could benefit from one of these. I love this one from Simplehuman because it's battery-operated — they have others that are rechargeable — but I don't have any outlets right beside my kitchen sink, so the battery option was the right one for me. With the hands-free pump, I can come in, drop my bags, and immediately wash my hands before I touch any other surface in my house. This helps protect me and others from possible exposure to any germs I bring in.
Buy it: $45; amazon.com
If this gift doesn't seem glamorous, that tells me you've never owned your own set of towels from Williams Sonoma. I use these towels daily, and they still look nearly brand new two years later. The 100 percent Turkish cotton towels feature a classic stripe pattern and come in several shades so you can match a kitchen. While I keep mine hanging over my oven handle and a towel rack, there's a great loop sewn into the towels for easy hanging.
After two years of daily use, I can say these are only getting better with age. They're soft enough to be my hand-drying towel, but they've mopped up many spills. They're also very thick, which makes them a great back-up pot holder when I need to grab something from the oven. Wrap up a few of these with a nice bottle of soap, and honestly, it'll be one of the most thoughtful gifts you can give.
Buy it: from $12; williams-sonoma.com