AndyTalk: Top 10 Gifts for the Cook in Your Life

Categories: Chow Bella

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I am lucky. I have received a lot of great food and cooking gifts. I'm thankful for every gift I've received. Before culinary school I cooked because it made me happy. I asked for a soufflé dish in high school. I made a cheese soufflé that rose high, had a crusty top, and was light and fluffy. I was disappointed to find out that a soufflé was really just eggs, and I didn't use the dish again for 15 years.

If you're looking for a kitchen-friendly gift I have a few ideas. That said, you know your cook best - and despite what I say, common sense should prevail. Here are my top ten gifts for cooks:

1. A magazine subscription is a great gift - especially for a young cook. I started getting Gourmet Magazine in high school. Until my last move I had every issue but one that spanned few decades. Gourmet is gone, but Bon Appetit is a wonderful way to explore good food. Cook's Illustrated is great for the cook who wants to know how to make recipes and why certain steps are essential.

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2. A set of heavy glass or ceramic mixing bowls. When the set nests it only takes up as much space as the largest bowl. If the bowls are heavy they stay in place while you stir. Glass and ceramic are non-reactive - so they won't impart an off taste or color with certain, often acidic, foods.

3. A good chef's knife is to the cook what a rifle is to a private in basic training. It's a best  friend, a savior, and becomes more personal than non-cooks understand.

4. Sharp knives are good knives. Treat your cook to a knife-makeover and get their knives sharpened at The Knife House

5. A digital instant read thermometer lets the cook know if all sorts of things are done or raw. You'll know if the meatloaf is a chilly 150 F or a safe 160-165 F. You'll get the chicken to 165 F and not overcooked and dry. I know my cheesecake is done at 150 F even if it's a bit wiggly.

6. A KitchenAid stand mixer is in every serious cook's kitchen, or on the list of things they want. If you're looking for a big ticket item this is it. Because of AndyFood I've got 4.5, 5-, and 6-quart models to use. For normal size recipes I like the 4.5-quart best and that's what I have at home. It's the only one with a top that tilts back, which makes it easiest to scrape down the bowl and add stuff. It also has an optional 3-quart bowl. For some home recipes 4.5 quarts is just too big.

7. Technically a food processer is not required for most recipes. That said, it makes quick work of many tasks that are tedious. Because of my food processor I can make pizza dough in 5 minutes - which means I make it for dinner on a weeknight. Mini food processors are also nice and not too pricey (under $40 last time I looked).

8. A few years ago I'd have dismissed using a rice cooker. Then I got one. If they're good enough for the Chinese and Japanese they're good enough for me. I also use mine for lentils, quinoa, and bulgur wheat.

9. An Alessi peppermill - works and looks great.

10. Recipes - give your child or grandchild your recipes. My grandmother died without me ever getting a number of recipes that I loved. Write them out and your kids can scan them in, or put them on a disc... Pass on a cookbook you've used for years - with your marginal notes... Those cookies you always make - give them with the recipe. Better yet, invite your son/daughter/granddaughter over and make the cookies with them.

I can say with certainty that spending time in the kitchen teaching what you know to someone else is a gift for both parties.

(Photos in collage, from left: papercut of a Kitchenaid from averlypapercuts; letterpress recipe file from 1canoe2; vintage pink Pyrex mixing bowls from sassyboxclassics.)

Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.

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8 comments
Linda Rubright
Linda Rubright

One thing that I can't live without is Matt's Mix All Purpose Seasoning. I have to buy it online because I don't live in Michigan (www.mattsmix.com) but seirously this stuff is INCREDIBLE. It was voted one of the Top 10 Must Try's Made in Michigan. I seriously don't eat a meal without it. p.s. I want that peppermill.!

TheCosmicJester
TheCosmicJester

Adding my thoughts to some:1) There's a terrific new food magazine called Lucky Peach. Combination of essays and recipes, put together by David Chang of the wildly successful Momofuku restaurants in New York.2) I go for stainless steel. Not as impressive looking as a nice set of ceramic or glass bowls, but they're much lighter (a huge plus when you're working with an 8-quart bowl of something), and won't break if you drop one. If you're worried about skidding, put it on a small rubber mat.3) Best introductory one is the Forschner Fibrox.4) Can I get an AMEN!5) My most-used kitchen implement. Go for a Thermapen if you can afford one, they're the best by far.

If you need a good stocking stuffer, I can highly recommend a bench scraper. I'm partial to the Bash & Chop made by Progressive. They're all of five bucks (if that) and I don't know how anyone could get along in the kitchen without one. It's infinitely useful, from smashing garlic cloves without worrying about a sharp knife edge, to scooping up chopped things to transfer them into a pan, to scraping stuck dough off of a rolling surface.

Miriam Miller Wolk
Miriam Miller Wolk

All great ideas. I'd also add a mandoline slicer to this list.  I received one as a bridal shower gift this summer and it's been an invaluable asset to my kitchen.

TheCosmicJester
TheCosmicJester

For a mandoline: There's a lot of godawful ones out there. Most of the really expensive ones are in this category.The very best one out there is Benriner, a Japanese brand that looks like something that you'd buy on late-night TV, but it's a winner. You'll find one in almost every professional kitchen.

Cappellom
Cappellom

So now I know what to buy for you .

Mel

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