November 8

The Rational Kitchen Ultimate 2019 Gift Shopping Guide

By trk

November 8, 2019

Happy Holidays 2019!

Here, we share our favorite kitchen-, cooking-, and food-themed gift ideas for 2019. 

If you have someone in your life who loves to cook (or eat), you're sure to find something for them here! 

How To Use this Guide

It's a long shopping guide, so here are a few tips to getting the most out of it.

Navigation. You can use the Table of Contents (above) to click to what you're interested in. At the end of each section, you can click "back to top" to rinse and repeat.

Prices. While we don't list products in any particular price order, we did mark the lower cost gifts with asterisks:

  • One asterisk means a product is under $100.
  • Two asterisks means a product is under $50.

No asterisk means a product is more than $100, sometimes considerably more than $100. Some outrageously more than $100. Since these are gift ideas, we wanted to include only the best of every category. And even if those items are beyond your budget, they're still fun to look at.

Clicking the links. When you click a link or button, you will almost always be taken to a buying site: Amazon, Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table, Bed Bath & Beyond, and others. For many of these, we get a small commission if you complete the purchase; this does not add to the product's price. These commissions are how we make our living, so we are most grateful for your clicks and purchases if you've found our advice helpful.

Thank you!

About Buying Online

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide online buying

For people who hate to shop, the Internet is nothing short of a miracle. You can literally get all your shopping done--including gift wrapping, cards, and delivery--without leaving your couch. 

Buying online is smart for your wallet, too: in a global market, competition for sales is fierce. It's easy to shop around and compare prices and be certain you're getting the absolute best deal.

Here are a few tips to shop smart and maybe save yourself a little money:

  • Go beyond Amazon. Prices may be the same everywhere, but you might find deals at a kitchen store you won't find on Amazon. For example, if you buy a KitchenAid mixer, Bed, Bath & Beyond will often throw in a free accessory; Amazon does not. Or if you buy a set of All-Clad cookware at Williams-Sonoma or Sur la Table, they may give you a free piece with purchase (often a roasting pan, which is an excellent extra piece to get). 
  • Being a first-time buyer on a site can save you some money. Often when you sign up for a site's mailing list, they'll give you a discount on your first purchase. (This is nothing new, but we thought we'd remind you of it just in case you're in an Amazon rut.)
  • Don't buy at a site that doesn't have free shipping. Unless the deal is outstanding, including shipping, keep looking. 
  • Use a credit card that has a buyer protection plan if possible. Shopping online is very safe these days, but you should always protect yourself every way you can.

You can also check out our articles How to Buy Online: Teach Yourself About Technical Products and Get What You Can Truly Love and Can You Trust Amazon Reviews?

For holiday and gift-related articles, see:

The Rational Kitchen's 2018 Ultimate Gift List for Cooks and Food Lovers

50+ DIY Super Easy Homemade Holiday Gifts for the Culinarily Challenged

23 Things to Do With Melted Chocolate (Most Don't Need a Recipe)

Thinking of Getting Someone a Coffee Pod? Go Old School Instead

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If you're going to buy someone cookware, get them something very nice. Something a person wouldn't buy for themselves. Our picks for this category include a beautiful copper skillet if you don't need induction compatibility (or set, if money is no object), a high end cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, or a piece (or set) of top notch clad stainless

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide hanging cookware

What's a good type of pan to buy for a gift? If you know someone wants cookware but aren't sure what type of pan they want, you have a few options. You could go with a skillet, as that is typically the most-used pan in the kitchen. Or you could go with a lovely cast iron Dutch oven if they don't have one; this will definitely be appreciated. Another option is to buy an less common piece that you know they don't have and wouldn't think to buy for themselves; here, ideas include a saucier pan, a chef's pan, or a sauteuse (basically a short-handled sauté made for oven use)--all very versatile pieces that wouldn't languish on the kitchen sidelines.

Another one of our favorites is the deep sauté pan, which is maybe even more versatile than the chef's pan:

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide All Clad D3 deep saute pan

What about size? We recommend a 12 inch frying pan for the best all around size, unless only cooking for one or two people. Remember: you can use a larger pan for a smaller job, but not the other way around. And in general, go with larger sizes, unless you're buying on the small end for a specific purpose (for example, if someone asked for a 1 quart copper sauce pan).

If you're looking at sets, try to find a set with good sized pieces and no filler pieces (e.g., two small sauce pans or two small skillets instead of a small one and a large one. For example, a 1.5qt and a 2qt sauce pan are both small. You're better off with a 1.5qt and a 3qt, or larger). 8-inch and 10-inch skillets are standard, but some sets have 10-inch and 12-inch skillets. These are a great find as most people find a 12-inch skillet a more versatile all-around size.


Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide oxidized copper

Copper is the best cookware on the planet. It heats incredibly fast and incredibly evenly, and it's beautiful. While copper performance isn't required for most kitchen tasks, many chefs would welcome a copper frying pan--the piece which benefits the most from copper's unbeatable responsiveness. 

It's definitely a want, not a need. Which is what makes copper cookware such a great gift. Just remember: Copper is not induction compatible. If you want that, you may want to consider All-Clad Copper Core, which is also very nice cookware. (See our Copper Core review for more information.)

We like Mauviel because it's been around for a long time and has a reputation for being one of the best. We also like that it states right in the name how much copper you're paying for: its two lines, 150 and 250, refer to millimeters of copper. We recommend going with the 250mm, but you will also get good performance from the 150mm pan if you want to save a few bucks. 

2019 Gift Guide Mauviel Copper Frying Pan

Mauviel M'Heritage 250C 10.2" copper frying pan with cast iron handle (from Amazon). 

This pan, in any size, will delight any semi-serious cook. And remember: polishing is optional, as the cookware will perform flawlessly with our without a patina.

Mauviel M'Heritage 250C copper frying pan with cast iron handle in 3 sizes

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Mauviel copper set

Anyone lucky enough to get this set for a gift will remember it for the rest of their lives.

Mauviel M'Heritage 150C 12 pc set. This set from Williams-Sonoma is soooo gorgeous. It also contains great pieces, including 10in. and 12in. skillets, 2 good sized sauce pans, and a fancy oval cocette (aka Dutch oven) that's pretty enough to use for serving. The bronze handles on these pieces take them over the top. 

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide All Clad Copper Core set

All-Clad Copper Core. All-Clad Copper Core is beautiful cookware. And though it's better to think of it as really, really nice clad stainless and not as a competitor to the "real" copper brands, it's still very nice cookware. It is also induction compatible so it's one of the very few cookware brands that contain copper and can be used on an induction cooktop.

Another nice thing about Copper Core is that in addition to the standard pieces--frying pans, sauté pans, sauce pans, stock pots, and Dutch ovens--you can get just about any specialty piece of cookware known to man in Copper Core. So if you know someone who already owns Copper Core, there are a ton of options for gifting them that special piece that you know they don't have. (This probably works for people who don't have Copper Core, too.)

For more information, see our review All-Clad Copper Core: Is It Worth It?

Cast Iron

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide le Creuset Dutch oven

Hint: Get a color that matches the color scheme of the kitchen.

le Creuset Dutch ovens have a light-colored interior that makes it easier to judge browning and fond development. Not all brands do.

le Creuset 5.5 qt. Dutch oven. An enameled cast iron Dutch oven is an essential piece for any cook who does oven braising, soups, or stews. The Dutch oven that came with that clad stainless set isn't going to cut it. You need a heavy pan with a heavy lid if you do any kind of braising at all. And, you need enamel so your tomato-based recipes don't taste metallic from the raw cast iron.

What's the best size? We've linked to the 5.5 qt., which is an excellent all around size. But use your best judgment: If your chef routinely cooks for large numbers, you may want to go bigger. Or, if you're buying a second pot that he/she's going to use for side dishes, go smaller.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Finex cast iron frying pan

It may not be worth the All-Clad-like prices to you, but then again, it might.

Finex Cast Iron Skillet with Lid in 2 sizes at Williams-Sonoma. High-end cast iron cookware may seem like a contradiction in terms. After all, a $25 Lodge skillet will last forever, too, and perform just fine.

But you can't buy someone a $25 Lodge skillet for a gift. Just don't do it.

And the truth is, there IS a difference. The artisanal cast iron cookware that's popped up on the market in the past decade is finished differently than a Lodge skillet. It's more polished, with a smoother cooking surface. If you're looking for cast iron to replace nonstick cookware, this is a big deal: that smoother surface is going to season up much closer to nonstick than a Lodge. 

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide le Creuset frying pan

le Creuset 11.75in. Cast Iron Skillet in several colors. le Creuset is another option for high end cast iron cookware. There's not much else to say here, except to make sure the pan you buy matches the kitchen decor.

Clad Stainless

Much as we love clad stainless cookware here at TRK, it's very utilitarian, so it doesn't necessarily make a great gift unless someone specifically asks for it. If you have someone on your list who would love to have some clad stainless cookware, here are our favorite pieces.


2019 Gift Guide Demeyere Atlantis Set

Demeyere Atlantis 6 pc set. We wish the 9.4in. skillet were larger, but other than that, this is about the nicest set of clad stainless cookware on the market. Beware: this is heavy cookware--much heavier than All-Clad tri-ply. So if your cook has issues with lifting heavy objects, this may not be the best choice.

2019 Gift Guide Demeyere Proline Skillet

Demeyere Proline skillet in 3 sizes from Amazon or Williams-Sonoma. This is the skillet from the Atlantis set (above). If there's one piece to invest in, it's your skillet. The Proline is the best clad stainless skillet out there. But again: it's heavy, so maybe not a great option for, say, your grandmother.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Demeyere Silver7 set

Demeyere Silver7 6 pc Set. A Sur la Table exclusive, this is basically Demeyere Atlantis with double-walled lids and different handles. The two large skillets (9.5/11in) plus the insulated lids make this an excellent set for anyone looking to upgrade: no filler pieces here!

2019 Gift Guide Hammer Stahl Cookware Set

If your cook hates the handles on All-Clad (as many people do), this set is definitely a step up.

Hammer Stahl 10 pc Cookware Set. This is a lesser known American made cookware brand, but every bit as nice as All-Clad. In fact, this 7-ply cookware is closer in construction to Demeyere Atlantic, including the 3-ply exterior stainless layers designed to protect the magnetic core, which corrodes more easily. The set includes only one skillet but it's good sized at 10.5 in., plus a deep sauté pan (one of our favorite and most versatile pieces!) and a good sized sauce pan.

Clad Stainless Cookware Set Under $300

All of our above picks are made in the USA or Europe. None are made in China. However, there is some nice made-in-China clad stainless cookware, including Cuisinart Multiclad Pro and Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad.

If money is an object, these are both great options, and anyone who desires a set of stainless cookware would be glad to have it. 


Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Tramontina 12 pc set

This 12 Tramontina piece set shown here is our pick because it comes with two large skillets (10/12 inch) The smaller sets have 8/10 inch skillets. Also comes in 8-, 10-, and 14-piece sets, but only the 12- and 14-piece sets have the big skillets. We recommend buying from WalMart, which tends to have the best prices. You can see the set at Amazon and Bed, Bath & Beyond, but WalMart has the best buying options. Tramontina makes this same cookware in China and Brazil, but we recommend the Chinese sets: they are identical and lower-priced.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Cuisinart MC Pro set

The Cuisinart Multiclad Pro is also a really nice set. The skillets are smallish at 8/10in., but the sauté pan is extra deep and the steamer insert is a nice piece, too. We prefer the larger frying pans in the Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad set, but if the smaller skillets here don't bother you, it's the best quality you'll find in Chinese-made clad stainless cookware. Also available in 7- and 10-piece sets. Other sized sets may have glass lids, so if you don't want that, be careful.

Nonstick Skillets (Just Say No--If You Can)

We don't recommend buying someone a nonstick pan for a gift, primarily because we discourage you from spending a lot of money on nonstick cookware, and who wants to give a $25 pan for a gift? However, if you're in the unfortunate situation where someone has asked for nonstick cookware, you still shouldn't spend a lot, as these pans just do not last. And if someone asks for a nonstick set, please consider not buying them one.

Skillet: Yes. Entire Set: Get clad stainless! (You can skim our Cookware Archives to learn more about nonstick and clad stainless cookware.) 

If you're going to buy someone a nonstick pan for a gift, here are our recommendations.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide All Clad HA1 skillet set

All-Clad HA1 nonstick frying pans offer a durable anodized aluminum exterior, with a cast aluminum body thick enough to provide excellent heating properties. These pans are also induction compatible and surprisingly affordable at about $30 apiece if you buy the set of two.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Anolon Nouvelle Copper skillet set

Anolon Nouvelle Copper: With a 5mm layer of copper in the bottom, plus induction compatible stainless, this skillet is one of the best nonstick performers on the market. 

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Can you really buy someone an induction burner for a gift? We think so--but it should be a really, really nice one; one that they wouldn't buy for themselves. 

If your budget doesn't allow for one of our picks, you could go with the Mirage Cadet, or a Duxtop model, which are the best of the budget PICs. For more info, read our Duxtop induction burner review.

What about induction cookware? Any of the clad stainless and cast iron cookware we recommend will work with induction. Just stay away from copper cookware because it isn't induction compatible (All-Clad Copper Core being the exception). 

IMPORTANT: If buying either of the induction burners below for home use, we recommend buying an extended warranty. These are commercial products, and the warranty won't cover home use.

2019 Gift Guide Vollrath Mirage Pro

Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P Portable Induction Cooktop. If you've read our portable induction reviews, then you know how much we love the Mirage Pro. Temp range: 80-450F. Settings: 100. Accuracy: +/- 10F. No, it's not good enough to sous vide,  but it's more accurate than just about any other PIC on the market, and as good as most full-sized induction cooktops. The only one better is the Control Freak, which is reflected in the price (about 3x the cost).

2019 Gift Guide Breville PS Control Freak

If money is no object and you have a techie gadget geek on your list who's also into cooking or home brewing, the Control Freak would make a fun gift.

Breville PolyScience Control Freak. We haven't tested this induction cooktop yet, so we can't vouch for it 100%. At about $1500, we assume that it's built like a tank and does what it says it will do. 

The exposed temperature sensor (center of cooking surface) provides instantaneous feedback, so the Control Freak holds temperatures insanely accurately. It has 397 temp settings--total overkill--and you can program it to remember your most-used settings. It has a probe you can use for instantaneous feedback that keeps temps extremely stable. 

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Sous Vide

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide joule in pot

10 years ago, no one had ever heard of "sous vide" or "immersion circulator." Today it's practically a kitchen mainstay, and just gaining more and more popularity. Immersion circulators have been a popular gift item for kitchen geeks for the past several years now.

Anova and Joule are the circulator brands that dominate the market. Both are Chinese imports and, in truth, really nothing special, although they'll get the job done. We used to love the Joule (see our glowing review of the Joule immersion circulator), but now we dislike that Joule requires the use of a smart phone as it has no controls of its own: having to connect to the Internet just to heat a container of water is a bit too...Big Brotherish...for us. But if this doesn't bother you, it's a sleek, powerful immersion circulator with the most sophisticated and easiest-to-use interface on the market. We much prefer it to the Anova, which is a bit overpriced (we think) for what you get: you could do just as well with another Chinese knockoff for a considerably lower cost (see our picks in our article on the best vacuum sealers under $100). 

Sous Vide Accessories: Check out our article Sous Vide Accessories: What to Buy, What to Skip. We at TRK think the most important accessory is a vacuum sealer, but you can make up your own mind about that. 

What if your sous vide lover already owns a circulator? Many will welcome a second (or third) immersion circulator or water oven. Different foods have to be cooked at different times and temperatures, so with added circulators or water ovens, people can cook entire meals sous vide. (It also solves the light meat/dark meat dilemma beautifully.)

If you want to get someone a really special, fancy, upscale sous vide gift that they probably wouldn't buy for themselves, here are our picks:

2019 Gift Guide Tribest Sousvant

Tribest Sousvant SV-101Complete Sous Vide Circulator. 1000W. We haven't tested this product yet, and some of the bad reviews give us pause. But we love the concept, so you may, too: a compact, self-contained water oven that will take up about as much counter space as a drip coffee maker. If you go in this direction instead of an immersion circulator, you don't need to invest in any more infrastructure--it's in there!

2019 Gift Guide Oliso Smart Top/Smart Hub

Oliso Smart Top and Smart Hub Induction/Sous Vide Cooking System, 11qt. Same concept as the Tribest Sousvant, with an added feature (at a higher price): a built-in induction plate. So when you're done sous viding, you can remove the "Smart Top" and sear your meat on the "Smart Hub" induction burner. At 1500W, this is one of the most powerful water ovens on the market (although, full disclosure, we haven't tested this unit either, so that 1500W may only apply to the cooktop and not the water oven). The Smart Top is insulated to prevent heat loss, a nice little extra that may save you a few cents on your power bill.

You can read more about the Oliso Smart Top on Oliso's website, and also on the Sur la Table Oliso page.

2019 Gift Guide PolyScience Chef Immersion Circulator

If you go this route, you're pretty much ensured that  your recipient will have the fastest, coolest, most durable immersion circulator on their block.

PolyScience Chef Commercial Immersion Circulator, 1100W. This is a powerful, built-like-a-tank immersion circulator marketed for commercial use. It's got a nice compact design and it's going to perform better than any lower priced import, including Anova or Joule.

No, you don't need a circulator this expensive. A cheaper one will heat water just fine. So why invest this much in a circulator: Build quality for one: this circulator is built for commercial use, and you can tell the instant you pick it up by its heft and solidity. Power for another: it's going to heat your water a lot faster than a 900W or even 1000W circulator can.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide SousVide for the Home Cook Baldwin

**Sous Vide for the Home Cook by Daniel Baldwin. With the popularity explosion of sous vide, a ton of sous vide cookbooks have flooded the market. Aside from the Modernist Cuisine tomes (see the Modernist section below), which are our primary choice for sous vide technique, Daniel Baldwin's guide is a good reference and guide book. You can also find a lot of his information online, but it's great to have everything in one convenient place. 

Another popular sous vide book is Thomas Keller's Under Pressure. This is a gorgeous book with breathtaking photography, but may not be the most helpful guide for home sous viders. It makes a great coffee table book, but the recipes may or may not wow you.

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Vacuum Sealers

A vacuum sealer is also utilitarian, and therefore may not make the best gift. But you may have circumstances where a vacuum sealer would amaze and delight the recipient, such as:

  • If the person asked for one (obvs).
  • If the person is really into sous vide and has all the other accessories (yes: a vacuum sealer is that much better than the water displacement method).
  • If the person is really into meal prepping or prepping in general and hasn't gotten a vacuum sealer yet.
  • If the person is a kitchen geek and loves techy/geeky tools.

If you think a vacuum sealer would be a welcome gift, here are our favorites. (And again, we suggest buying a really, really nice one--but if your budget doesn't allow, check out our favorite sealers under $100). 

Chamber Sealer

We really like VacMaster products, even though they're made in China. (It's hard to find a chamber sealer under $1000 that isn't made in China.) VacMaster and Weston vacuum sealers are both Chinese imports--but with a good reputation for quality. 

2019 Gift Guide: VacMaster VP112S vacuum sealer

VacMaster VP112S. It's a chamber sealer that you set below an upper cabinet and it will still fully open. Read our VP112S review for more information. There's a rumor that VacMaster is going to update their lineup, so our pick may be different next year. For now, this is the one to get. 

Prices have jumped around but have remained stable for the past few months. Amazon is typically the best place to buy, as the VacMaster website prices will be considerably higher.

Note: Chamber vacuum sealers are a bigger initial investment, but the bags are quite a bit cheaper than edge sealer bags, so you save money in the long run. If you do get someone a vacuum sealer, don't forget the bags

Edge Sealer

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Weston Pro2300 vacuum sealer

Weston Pro 2300 Edge Sealer. If you want an edge sealer, this is one of Weston's most popular models. It's got an extra long sealing bar and is built for commercial use. (See our review of Weston vacuum sealers.)

Don't forget the bags.

Handheld Sealer (for Reusable Bags)

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Vesta handheld sealer
Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Vesta handheld sealer

**Vesta Precision Handheld Vacuum Sealer. Who says you have to spend a small fortune on a vacuum sealer? This handheld sealer from Vesta Precision--the new kids on the block in the world of sous vide--is a great gift even for someone who already has an edge or chamber sealer. Why? Because it's a slightly different concept than the long-term sealing the bigger vacuum sealers are designed for. This little handheld uses resealable (and reusable!) zip-top bags with a special opening made just for use with this sealer. 

Use your bigger sealer for long term storage, but use this one for leftovers, for items that you'll want to open and re-seal a number of times, and, of course, for sous vide. The vacuum isn't as strong as you'll find on a bigger sealer, but for leftovers and sous vide purposes, it's perfect: reusable, and you still get the added freshness that comes from vacuum sealing.

Plus, it's adorable.

Don't forget the bags!

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Gifts for the Baker in Your Life

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide donuts

If you have a baker on your list, consider one of these baking-themed gifts. (Your generosity will no doubt be rewarded with a scrumptious homemade dessert.)

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide KitchenAid mixer

NOTE: Kitchen stores like Williams-Sonoma and Bed, Bath & Beyond often have deals where they throw in the accessory of your choice (e.g., pasta maker, juicer, meat grinder). So be on the lookout for those kinds of deals.

KitchenAid Mixer, 5 qt. (Amazon) If the baker you love doesn't have a KitchenAid mixer yet, then this may be the year to get him or her one! Keep an eye out for deals, which will be abundant leading up to the holidays. Not only from Amazon, either: you'll see them on sale at Best Buy, Sur la Table, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and maybe even Home Depot and Lowe's.

The link above to one of the best prices we've seen on Amazon--with your choice of colors--but stay vigilant for even better deals. 

See KitchenAid mixers at Bed, Bath & Beyond

See KitchenAid mixers at Williams-Sonoma

See KitchenAid mixers at Sur la Table

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide baking steel

Baking Steel Stainless Baking "Stone." Yes, it's made for pizza, but it will improve and simplify baking tasks, too: no blind baking pie crusts with the steel. Cookies finish faster (though you have to keep an eye on them). And if you do use it for pizza, too, well, that's great, too! Also: what a fun gift to open (who's ever going to guess what's inside that huge, heavy box??).

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide vanilla paste

**Nielsen Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. Vanilla has skyrocketed in price in the past few years, so any baker would appreciate a gift of artisan vanilla bean paste. It has more complexity than vanilla extract, and it's almost certainly something they wouldn't buy for themselves.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide French maple rolling pin

**J. K. Adams French Rolling Pin, maple, made in USA. If your grandmother (or any other baker in your life) is still using an old-fashioned cylindrical rolling pin, you should buy them one of these immediately. Don't even wait for a holiday or birthday--do it now. The difference in ease of use is shocking. It just may result in more homemade pies in your life.

**Ateco Revolving Cake Decorating Stand (several size options), cast iron. If the baker in your life loves to make fancy layer cakes, then he or she is probably secretly dying for a cast iron cake decorating stand.

Why cast iron? You need that stability! And it will last forever!

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Bravetart cook book

**Brave Tart's Iconic American Desserts Cookbook. Anyone into baking knows who Stella Parks is--the resident baker at Serious Eats. This cookbook is full of fabulous, educational information--not just how you do something but why you do it--plus cool recipes like homemade Oreos. That's just tough to beat.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Modernist Bread

Modernist Bread. If someone is into bread baking and modernist technique, this 5-volume tome may be the ultimate gift for them. The photography is stunning, the techniques: let's just say they're like no other bread baking book you've ever seen. As awesome as this set is, the person really has to be into bread, or these books are more likely to be coffee table conversation pieces (which is okay, too).

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Bread Baker's Apprentice

**The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. While The Bread Bible is the most popular bread baking authority, we love Peter Reinhart's comprehensive and easy-to-follow style. We think it's a must-have volume for anyone who wants to master the art of bread baking.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Emile Henry pie plate

Williams-Sonoma usually has the best price--about $10 less than on Amazon.

**Emile Henry Pie Plate. These are fancy and lovely pie ceramic pie plates. If your baker needs good bakeware, this is a great start to upgrading their collection.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide OXO scale

NOTE: For small amounts (tenths of grams), check out this scale (you can read more about it in the Modernist Cuisine section below).

**OXO Good Grips Kitchen Scale. Again, not the most romantic gift, but a serious baker needs a good scale. Weighed measurements are much more accurate than the by-volume measuring that's more common in the US. 

You might be surprised that we went with OXO, which is known for practical, affordably-priced kitchen tools. Kitchen scales have a tendency to die after just a couple of short years, but not this one. It's easy to use, with a readout that extends outward for easy viewing; and easy to clean, with a waterproof panel and removable top. Its design hits all the important marks.

Or see a bigger version at Williams-Sonoma:

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Homemade Gifts

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide homemade truffles

We have a lot of ideas for homemade gifts in this article. It's pretty comprehensive, so whether your thing is baking, making candy, homemade liqueurs, or signature seasoning blends, you'll probably find something good (and easy) here. 

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Fancy Foods (That No One Would Buy for Themselves)

Fancy food is a fun gift for anyone, and there are so many options, you could spend days picking something out. And since everyone enjoys eating, it's a great option for people you don't know very well (your boss, your neighbor, your mailman), or are at an absolute loss about what to get for someone (your picky mother-in-law). 

It's really great if you can find something they've never had before, and of course, something they wouldn't buy for themselves.

There are way too many artisanal foods (and food websites) to list here; instead of trying to be complete, we're just going to give a few of our favorites, plus some really fun sites where you can shop.

Onine Meat, Seafood, and Goodies

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide salmon closeup

Alaskan Seafood Company. If you have a fish--especially salmon!--lover in your life, anything from this website should delight them. All of their fish is wild-caught with sustainable practices. It's also delicious.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide rib eye steak Allen Bros

Allen Brothers Steakhouse Steaks. Known for their prime cuts of beef, this is a company that's been supplying restaurants for decades. If you have a beef lover on your list, this is something they would likely never buy for themselves. We suggest you stick with the beef, although all of their meat and seafood is top notch.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Harry & David
Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide pears

Harry and David. If you've never had a Harry and David pear, buy yourself a gift box from Harry and David. These are pears for people who don't like pears--you will love them. Their chocolates, popcorn mixes, cheeses, crackers, and pretty much everything else is equally scrumptious. Gift boxes come in all shapes and sizes with a little something for everyone. It's a top quality food gift that anyone is sure to appreciate.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Zabar's babka

*Zabar's. If you've never bought from Zabar's, an iconic New York deli, get the chocolate babka. It's amazing. 

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Zingermans

*Zingerman's. Whether you're looking for bread or pastries, elaborate gift boxes, cheeses, candies, or something else entirely, Zingerman's is sure to have a gourmet version of it. We list some of their fancy vinegars and olive oils below, too. 

It's the high-end gourmet shop you wish you had in your city.


There are tons of artisan chocolate makers out there. Here we list two of our favorites, plus an old standard, Godiva. If none of these is quite what you're looking for, just get on the Google. Your options are staggering.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Xocolatl gift basket

**Xocolatl Chocolate. Probably the fanciest chocolate bars on the planet. With terms like "single batch" and "flavor inclusion" all over their website, you know you're getting the ultimate chocolate foodie gift. And, the chocolate is really, really good. From exotic chocolate bar flavors to drinking chocolate to elaborate gift baskets, there are a ton of options for the chocoholic in your life. (Best for dark chocolate lovers!)

**Kate Weiser Chocolates. This is chocolate-as-art, and some of the most beautiful candies you'll ever see. Expensive, yes, and almost too pretty to eat, too. But worth it if you love someone with a serious chocolate habit and great taste (both aesthetically and culinarily speaking). Note: The prices are reasonable, but the shipping is high--and someone has to be home to receive the package. 

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Godiva

**Godiva Chocolates. For something a little less unorthodox, you can go with Godiva. They're fancy and delicious, and nobody would be disappointed to get them for a gift. 

Condiments, Oils and Spices

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide Maldon sea salt

**Maldon Salt. Maldon is about the fanciest salt there is, and it's great for finishing any savory dish, and many sweet dishes, as well.

Any chef would appreciate a big tub of it--or even a small box.

Rational Kitchen 2019 Ultimate Gift Guide smoked salt

**Smoked Salt Sampler Package. This is another lovely gift for a chef. These types of gifts can really get the imagination flowing.