At last--our long-anticipated 2021 holiday shopping guide! This year, our list is full of all-new items. We include everything from stocking stuffers to over-the-top luxury items. Our main goal this year, as always, is to help you find unique, special, beautiful gifts that your loved ones probably wouldn't find on their own--and if they did, probably wouldn't buy for themselves.
Gift ideas are organzied by type, for example, Cookware, Baking, Small Appliances, Sweets, Meats and Seafoods, etc. They are in no particular order of price, but the price--or approximate price--is given for each item.
If you don't find anything interesting here, be sure to check out our old guides for ideas:
So, just because the cookware section (for example) in this 2021 guide doesn't contain the same items it did last year doesn't mean we no longer recommend those items: it just means we've grown and expanded our list. We still love Le Creuset, Demeyere, and All-Clad; we've just found more to love.
To make it easier--if you don't want to look through the old guides--we'll include links to some of our favorites. But we only do write-ups on items that are new this year.
Cookware makes a great gift, if you know the person wants it and if it's a piece or set that the cook wouldn't buy for herself.
In addition to our old favorites All-Clad, Demeyere, and Le Creuset, we're adding a new brand this year: Hestan Cookware. (Check out last year's gift guide for other cookware recommendations.)
We did a review of Hestan cookware recently and were surprised at how much we liked it. The NanoBond is a totally new thing, clad stainless coated with "titanium nanolayers" that make it extremely strong and scratch resistant. The performance was as good as All-Clad and while it's not nonstick, it sticks less than standard clad stainless.
It is also spendy enough to make an impressive gift.
ProBond is Hestan's clad stainless line--TITUM is the nonstick version. CopperBond is a tri-ply clad copper line; it's beautiful but if you're going to pay that much, go with a traditional copper brand like Mauviel.
Well, "because it's a gift" is a good reason. And of all the artisan brands of cast iron that have popped up in recent years, we like Field the best because it offers something unique: their pans are the lighter than other brands with no sacrifice in performance.
This doesn't mean Field pans are light, exactly. But they are a pound or two lighter than other brands of cast iron (depending on size).
They're also incredibly smooth, which makes them nearly nonstick out of the box; if you go with Lodge, that only happens after months of use.
They're also fairly reasonably priced compared to some other boutique brands. And they're beautiful. So if you have a cast iron lover on your list, Field is a great option. Starting around $100.
We aren't really knife experts at TRK, though we have done a lot of research into the market. We tend to go with tried-and-true brands like Wusthof and Shun; both are top-of-the-line and would make a great gift for any cook.
We added a new brand this year, Global. They make lightweight knives that make a great gift for someone with ergonomic issues. Here are the details.
This year, we're only adding one new favorite, the Shun Classic 7-in Santoku. We're really loving this Santoku knife these days. It's great for all prepping jobs if you prefer a flat cutting motion to a rocking one, as used with a traditional chef's knife. The Shun classic 7-inch is the perfect size for smaller hands, and it's just as beautiful as the much spendier Bob Kramer/Shun santoku (linked above). About $160.
Global knives on Amazon. (Global knives at Williams-Sonoma) We've always loved the minimalist look of the Global brand, but hadn't had a chance to test them until recently. We were worried that the steel handles might get slippery if your hands are wet, but that is not the case; the knobbly, textured handles are highly effective at providing excellent grip.
The Cromova 18 high-carbon stainless steel is extremely strong. These Japanese-made knives are as capable as any Shun or Wusthof, and they are exceptionally beautiful.
We don't normally recommend knife sets because they're usually overkill. A well-equipped kitchen only needs a few knives. These 3-piece sets have the three knives that you will get a ton of use out of.
Global also makes bread knives, steak knives, and much more. Check out Williams-Sonoma for the best selection.
3-piece sets around $200.
Of course a KitchenAid mixer is the ultimate baker's gift, and we've provided lots of options in previous gift guides. (You can see all the models and accessories at that link.) But if your baker already has one, there are countless other items they will appreciate.
We're focused mainly on bread this year. See last year's guide for more ideas.
Bread Baker's Dream Set
Bread Baker's Dream 4 Piece set. If you have a bread baker in your list, this 4 piece set is a practical as well as beautiful gift. The Emile Henry bread pot is something few people would buy for themselves (they'd make do with a cast iron Dutch oven). But the bread pot is much easier to lift dough into and fresh bread out of. The gorgeous handcrafted lame makes this set extra special. About $200.
Banneton. If you don't want to go with a whole set (above), then a banneton is good choice. Bread baking took off in the pandemic quarantines of 2020, and it is still going strong today. A banneton is an inexpensive gift, but it is often something bakers wouldn't buy for themselves, and it can make a huge difference in loaf quality and appearance. This one comes with a dough scraper and proofing cloth liner. About $14.
Vanilla beans. For someone who bakes, vanilla beans make a wonderful gift. They are something every baker appreciates, though they rarely buy them for themselves. And at this price--under $20--you can buy some for yourself, too.
Modernist Bread. From the creators of the outstanding--and extremely comprehensive--Modernist Cuisine comes Modernist Bread. It's a 5-volume, 2,600+ page set and the most thorough books on the history and techniques of baking bread. We are huge fans of the Modernist books, which explain not only the how, but the why. If your baker is really into bread or otherwise loves to geek out in the kitchen, Modernist Bread is an over-the-top gift that they'll use and love for decades to come. About $500.
Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System. Billed as "The World's Most Advanced Smart Cooking System," Hestan Cue is a "smart" induction burner that, along with smart cookware and an advanced app that guides you through recipes step-by-step (with lots of videos). It's not for everyone, but if the cook in your life loves technology, cool gadgets, or wants to level up their cooking game, the Hestan Cue just might be the perfect gift.
You can find out more in our detailed Hestan Cue review. (You don't need the whole set of cookware, but recipes are cookware-specific. Your best bet, if you don't want the whole set, is the skillet or the chef's pan.) Starting around $300 for Cue induction burner + smart skillet or chef's pan.
Philips Pasta Maker
Philips Pasta Maker. Now you can make pasta as easily as you can make bread. The Philips pasta maker does all the work for you. Easy to use, comes with 4 disks with more available. Recipe booklet includes a lot of Asian noodles, too. A pasta drying rack is the perfect accompaniment to this pasta maker. About $300.
If you want to upgrade, Philips makes a fancier model for about $50 more.
You may think the Opal Nugget Ice Maker is a luxury item, but if you're a lover of chewy ice--also called nugget or Sonic ice--it is a necessity. Chewy ice, if you aren't familiar with it, has a soft, easy-to-chew texture, and it's become a cult favorite among a growing number of Americans. (If you've ever had Sonic ice, from the drive-thru restaurant, you've had chewy ice.)
You can spend thousands more on a stand-alone ice maker (like this one), but most home users don't need this much ice, so the counter-top Opal is the better choice. You have to fill it manually, and filtered water is best. But it's a fabulous and much-loved chewy ice maker that's high quality, easy to install and use, and higher rated than any other chewy ice maker made for home users.
Get the side tank, too: it greatly simplifies the process.
Our last bit of advice is to buy sooner rather than later, because this is probably going to be a popular gift item this year. About $580 (with side carafe).
Vitamix Immersion Blender. The Vitamix blender gets all the love, but this Vitamix immersion blender is a fabulous tool. $150 might seem like a lot to spend on an immersion blender, but it's just the right price for a high-end gift. With a 625 watt motor, this is one of the most powerful immersion blenders on the market. It's the number one brand on dozens of lists this year.
One drawback is that it's made in China (unlike the all-American made Vitamix blender). If you want something not made in China, go with the Bamix. It's the original immersion blender, handbuilt in Switzerland. It was our favorite immersion blender for years, but some people find it awkward to use, which isn't likely to be the case with the Vitamix. About $150.
Small Kitchen Tools (No Outlet Required)
These are miscellaneous cool or beautiful items that somebody is certain to fall in love with. We love handmade, artisan objects and extremely useful tools that people might be reluctant to buy for themselves.
There are a ton of options for handmade wooden bowls on Etsy. Whether you're looking for salad bowls, serving bowls, cheese plates, or something decorative and unique, you can find it here. Most of the prices are reasonable, and all are beautiful. One of our favorites is pictured here. ($90, 12-in. diam.)
Ruffoni 6 Piece Olivewood Tool Set. Not all wooden spoons are created equally. If you want a utilitarian spoon and don't care about aesthetics, you can get one for under $10. But if you want utilitarian wooden tools that are also beautiful and rugged, you need to spend a little more.
These tools are not cheap at about $140, but they make an excellent gift and are great kitchen tools that anyone would appreciate. And you get much more than just spoons, too.
Probably everyone has heard of Thermapen by now, the super-fast, super-accurate, waterproof instant read thermometer. We have recommended them in the past as the best instant read thermometer on the market.
It still is, but they have some new models out! The Thermapen One (about $100) gives you a readout in less than one second. And the Thermapen IR (about $140) is a combination of an instant read and an infrared thermometer in one.
Their older models are also available--the MK4 is our choice-- some now at reduced prices. If you know someone who bakes or grills and doesn't have a high quality instant reader, a Thermapen is a great gift.
Thermoworks makes a variety of other tools for cooks who need accuracy. You can see them at Thermoworks.com.
Ceramic Soy Sauce Dispenser
Ceramic soy sauce dispenser. This is just a cute little item that anyone who loves Asian food would enjoy. Much prettier than putting a bottle of soy sauce on the table.
If the one on Amazon (pictured here) isn't fancy or pretty enough, check out the Etsy link, where you'll have dozens of options. About $15.
Fermentation container. Our favorite from last year is no longer available, and fermentation is such a great way to eat healthy! So we found another one to love. This one costs less, and with great features like a locking vacuum lid and adjustable press, it's a fantastic design (even though it may not be as pretty).
So if the healthy eater on your list wants to eat more fermented foods, this is a great way to help them do so.
If you want something more traditional (i.e., ceramic or wood), check out Etsy for dozens more options.
The container pictured starts at around $15.
Gifts for Pizza Lovers and Grillers
With the growing popularity of home pizza ovens, we've got some high-priced options this year. But if you have a hard core pizza maker or serious griller on your list, one of these ideas may inspire you.
It may seem odd to put pizza and grilling in the same category, but they have more in common than you think. Both are outdoor activities (at least with the pizza ovens we're recommending they are), and both are largely geared to the male chef.
Whatever your pronouns, though, you may badly want one of these fancy specialty cooking tools.
Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker
Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker. At about $200, this electric smoker is a great gift for the right person. It's easy to set up, easy to use, and produces great smoked foods.
We recommend getting the cover to go along with it--protecting it from the elements will give the user many years of enjoyment.
Traeger Ranger Portable Pellet Grill and Smoker. For about $400, you can have a portable grill and smoker. Keep in mind that it's portable, so it's best for small groups (4-5 people max), and a great gift for an RV or camper enthusiast. As with most hybrid products, it does both things adequately, but if you're leaning more one way, you should probably go with a grill or a smoker. However, if you want something easy to use and easy to travel with, the Traeger Ranger is a fun little tool. It gets stellar ratings on Amazon, but you should probably read the reviews before you decide if it's the right gift.
Roccbox Gozney Portable Outdoor Pizza Oven. This pizza oven makes the favorite list on dozens of food and review sites, including Serious Eats. The Roccbox heats to over 900F and you can use propane, wood or briquettes to heat. Multiple fuels is a nice feature, but the truth is that you'll likely use propane most of the time; it's clean, cheap, and easier to maintain the flame than other fuels.
As Kenji at Serious Eats says, the Roccbox is "attractive, solidly built, weatherproof, and portable." It goes for about $500.
Ooni Koda pizza oven. The Koda is Ooni's gas-powered pizza oven, which we have found to be the easiest fuel to use by far. They also make a multi-fuel option, the Karu, and a wood-fired model, the Fyra. You may think you want that wood-fired oven, but propane produces identical flavor (who knew?), so it's the one we recommend. (Wood can be hard to use with the small oven.)
The Ooni doesn't get quite as hot as the Roccbox, topping out around 750F, but it makes excellent pizza and gets stellar reviews. The 13-inch model goes for about $400, the 16-inch for about $600. We recommend the smaller model, as Neopolitan pizzas are generally on the small side.
Modernist Pizza. From the creators of the now classic Modernist Cuisine books comes their long-anticipated tome on pizza. If you have a pizza lover obsessed with the science behind the cooking and is forever in search of the perfect pie, Modernist Pizza is for them. About $380.
Flame Boss 500 Smoker Controller. The Flame Boss offers complete control over the smoking process--all remotely! With the Flame Boss app, you can set smoker conditions from your smart device, and the Flame Boss will control the flame with the attached fan to keep both the pit and the meat temperatures within the boundaries you set. Multiple probes allow you to control different meats to different temps--all at the same time!
Kits include everything you need to get started; extra meat probes are sold separately.
Also, be sure you get the right model: one is for ceramic smokers (like the Kamodo Joe or Big Green Egg), one is for steel smokers. About $360.
Gifts for Coffee Lovers
Who doesn't have a coffee lover in their life? Here are a few simple gifts that we think any coffee lover would love.
Oversized or customized coffee mug. What coffee lover doesn't want a giant mug? You can find just about any size you want on Etsy, from 12 ounces up to 30-plus. And just as cool, you can get many of these designs personalized. So whether you want a serene ocean blue glazed ceramic or one with someone's name--or favorite saying--on it, Etsy has something for everyone. From about $15.
Bialetti Moka. The company has been around for 90 years. Why? Because the Moka makes delicious, strong, espresso-type coffee on your stovetop. The Moka is beloved the world over, and it's an easy way to make a great cup of coffee.
Everyone needs more than one way to make coffee. This makes the Bialetti is a great gift. There are dozens of models in different colors, shapes and sizes, some small enough to pack in a suitcase and take with you--so you always have a way to make great coffee. From about $25.
Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker. People have been trying to simplify espresso making for ages, with the result being an easier way to make a bad cup of espresso. The Nanopresso is different, though, because it puts out a rich, flavorful cup. Small enough to fit in a purse. It's fully manual, easy to operate, and easy to clean. Great for camping! About $70.
Wine can be tricky, but you can still manage to find great gifts that will impress the true aficionados. And if you're buying for a newbie who's just learning, we've got ideas for them, too.
Gifts from Wine.com (Prices Vary)
Wine.com gifts. This site has hundreds of gift ideas for wine lovers, from the perfect bottle to the perfect accessory. You can even find wine and cheese combos that are sure to delight and impress.
If you know the palate of the person you're buying for, you can get them a wine subscription. You can have a bottle (or bottles) sent monthly. Or, you can buy a gift certificate and let the person pick out their own perfect bottle or wine accessory.
Reidel wine decanter. Reidel is one of the top names in wine glasses. Supposedly, a Reidel glass will enhance the flavors of the wines you put in them. The same is said for these decanters, which which are beautiful enough to pass as art. For the wine lover who has everything, a Reidel decanter (or glasses) makes a wonderful gift. Decanters from about $300.
Reidel tumblers. Reidel isn't just for wine drinkers. They have several drink-specific glasses, and they're all beautiful. If you've got an old-fashioned lover or whiskey aficionado on your list, anything from Reidel would probably be hugely appreciated. About $30 for a set of 2.
Gifts for Hosts and Hostesses
Here some lovely gifts for hosts and hostesses--but they might also work for anyone who loves to entertain, or just loves pretty things (yourself included).
Black Marble Cheese Knives
Marble cheese knife set. These are really beautiful as well as practical. Who doesn't love a fancy cheese or charcuterie board? These are about as fancy as it gets, and only for about $50.
Laguiole Salad Server Set. There's that Laguiole name again, about as classy as it gets! This lovely serving set goes with anything, and extra serving utensils are always appreciated, especially when they're this pretty. About $50.
Appetizer Plates. If you want beautiful custom ceramics, mostly at a reasonable price, there's no better place to look than Etsy. There are so many options you probably won't even be able to view them all. The ones pictured here are some of our favorites. From about $10.
Linen napkins. Linen napkins are an incredibly thoughtful gift: they're beautiful, functional, and help save the planet. Etsy has hundreds of choices, all at reasonable prices. Buy a bunch in different colors and always have a great hostess gift on hand!
You can buy linens on Amazon too, but we like Etsy for the selection (and great prices, too). Starting around $7 per napkin.
Who wouldn't appreciate a box of prime beef or wild-caught seafood delivered to their door? Or maybe a subscription they can use to pick what they want?
Some of these sites are very specific, specializing in one or two types of meat or seafood. Others, like D'artagnan, have hundreds of gourmet foods, from mushrooms to chocolates, many available in gift boxes that make giving easy.
D'artagnan. D'artgnan is the one-stop shop for gourmet foods. They have everything from Japanese beef, heritage poultry, and sustainably sourced seafood to foie gras, charcuterie, and fancy mushrooms. Truffle butter? They've got it. Olive oil? Sure. Artisanal cured meats? Yup.
There's so much variety, you really have to browse for yourself. And maybe best of all, D'artagnan products are sourced from family farms, crafted with natural ingredients, and "dedicated to sustainability, free-range, no antibiotics, and no hormones."
Snake River Farms are purveyors of the very finest beef and pork to be found in North America. They specialize in American Wagyu and Kurobuta pork (a heritage breed from Japan). Their gift page is organized by price, which makes shopping easy.
If you've got a meat lover on your list, there probably isn't a better gift than a box from Snake River Farms. They really are "different than any other beef company."
Butcher Box is another meat subscription service that specializes in sustainably raised beef, pork, chicken, and seafood. The beef is 100% grass fed and finished, the pork and poultry are humanely raised, and the seafood is sustainably caught. All the meat is hormone- and antibiotic-free. Very high quality meats and seafood, but at surprisingly reasonable prices. They have a huge variety of boxes available, including a custom, build-your-own box option.
You can order a subscription, or go to their gift page to send somebody a one-time gift box. If you hurry, you may be able to take advantage of the free turkey they're offering.
Allen Brothers (Prices Vary)
Allen Brothers. If you want classic, old-school beef of the highest quality, it's hard to beat Allen Brothers. They are suppliers of prime beef and serve many steak houses and upscale restaurants around the country. An Allen Brothers steak is the closest you'll get to restaurant quality. They also offer pork, poultry, and seafood, but beef is the big draw here.
You can't really go wrong with chocolate or other sweet treats. We still love and enthusiastically recommend the Kate Weiser artisan chocolates that we raved about last year, but here are a few more treasures we've found.
Milk Bar. Milk Bar, based in Brooklyn, New York, has been the hottest bakery in the world for at least a decade. If you haven't heard of their famous birthday cake or Milk Bar pie, you've probably been living in a cave.
Anyway, Milk Bar will ship their confections anywhere in the continental US, so even if you live nowhere near New York City, you can enjoy this deliciousness. The birthday cake, birthday cake truffles, and Milk Bar sampler are all recommended. Prices vary.
Chocolate Trading Company
Chocolate Trading Company has chocolates from many different makers as well as many different chocolate products, from truffles to cocoa powder. The company is based in Europe but shipping to North America is fast. If you want to browse different chocolates or see exotic European brands not typically seen in the US, this is the site for you. Prices vary.
Lindt Chocolate. Sure, you see Lindt bars and truffles in grocery stores. But this doesn't mean it's poor quality chocolate. In fact, Lindt is a Swiss company that makes some of the most delicious chocolate in the world. Check out their gift page here and you'll be amazed at the variety of seasonal chocolate treats they have.
And if you're looking for other goodies, Goldbelly is an excellent source. You can look by cuisine, occasion, city, even restaurant--yes, you can order food from famous restaurants around the US (how cool is that?). $15.
Burlap and Barrel spices. Single sourced and sustainably produced spices, with an amazing array to choose from. Black Lime, Royal Cinnamon, and Smoked Pimenton Paprika are just the beginning. Choose a gift set, or build your own custom set. Any cook would love these spices. Prices vary, with sets of 3 starting at about $25 and the whole collection about $500.
Campari Aged 15 yr. Aged Balsamic. If you've never had a quality aged balsamic vinegar, you haven't fully lived. Drizzle it on greens, on strawberries, on ice cream...or just sip it right out of the bottle. Yes, it's that good (well, almost that good). $50.
Amtiw 4-tier spice rack. Spice storage can be tricky, especially if you're into different ethnic foods and have dozens of spices. This 4-tier rack can stand alone on your ocunter or be hung on a wall, and it holds more than 30 bottles. Unlike most spice racks, this one should be enough for most cooks. About $20.
You don't need to use matching bottles, but if you want to, this rack is similar and comes with bottles and labels. About $40.
Most new cookbooks are so specific that it's hard to recommend any of them. Some of them are great, no doubt, but we think that unless someone asks for a specific cookbook, it's best to stick to general cooking technique or classics that every chef should own.
For these reasons, we're not going to recommend any new cookbooks. You can check out last year's guide for a list of classics (and a few really good specialist) cookbooks every cook should own.
Final Thoughts: What Not to Get the Cook in Your Life
We thought we'd include a section on what not to give the cook in your life. You may be surprised by some of these, as they've been popular gift items for the past several years. But unless the person specifically asked for, say, an Instant Pot or an air fryer, that's exactly why they don't make good gifts: they're shopped out, and no longer a fun or creative gift.
Gifts shouldn't be utilitarian. They should be something the person wants, but also something they probably wouldn't buy for themselves. For example, a skillet is too utilitarian to make a good gift. But a Mauviel copper skillet is something most people would never buy for themselves--thus, it makes a good gift.
Don't buy them a Lodge cast iron skillet--but if they want cast iron, go with Field or Smithey cast iron. (When you click those links, you'll see why.)
So with all of that, here is a short list of what not to get the cooks in your life--unless, of course, they have specifically asked for one of these items:
Indoor Grill--Also kind of dated. A nice grill pan works just as well and takes up less storage space.
Air Fryer--an air fryer is just a tiny convection oven. And it's pretty utilitarian, so not the best gift.
Sous Vide--a good gift if asked for, but also starting to be dated. Unless you upgrade to a super nice model, a sous vide wand doesn't make a great gift.
Herb Grower--It seems like a thoughtful gift for a cook, but in reality, most herb growers get mediocre reviews and don't work all that well.
Toaster Oven--This one might be a good gift if you go with a really cool one that has a lot of features (steam oven! smart features!), or if you know it would be appreciated. Otherwise it falls into the "dated" category, and isn't all that thoughtful or creative.
You get the idea: kitchen-themed gifts can be wonderful, but try to shop a step above utilitarian. Go for the items they'll use, but wouldn't buy for themselves.
Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!
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