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Let’s face it: food lovers are hard to shop for. Sure, it’s easy to find gadgets that are fun for a day… but how often will someone actually use that banana slicer or pair of herb scissors? (If the home chef in question is any good, they’d likely rather use a good knife instead!)
And speaking of knives, that’s a perfect example of another kind of gift you shouldn’t buy. A passionate home cook already knows what they want in their kitchen essentials. Unless you know their exact preferences, steer clear of knives, pots and pans, and other staples. It’s all too easy to get wrong.
So what’s a gift-giver to do?
On this list, we’ve compiled gifts that the creative cook in your life will actually use. All of these gifts open up culinary doors by unlocking new flavors, techniques, and methods.
This list of the best gifts for foodies is a collaboration by several of the writers behind the scenes at Cuisine Technology. We’re all passionate (or obsessive) food lovers, and all agreed to only include items that all of us would love to receive as a gift.
A Smoking Gun
Traditionally, adding smoke flavor without actually smoking your food has been an elusive task. Sure, there’s liquid smoke… but one drop too much and your food ends up tasting acrid and burned instead of just pleasantly smoked. (Plus it feels a bit like cheating, doesn’t it?)
Enter the smoking gun. These handheld devices use a pinch of small wood chips to generate enough smoke to add distinctive flavor to everything from sauces to cheese to steaks to drinks. In fact, playing with them becomes downright addictive.
The newly armed foodie will likely spend hours working out exactly which type of smoke goes best with various foods. Is pesto butter better with a hint of delicate cherry wood smoke, or some strong hickory? Is apple wood or mesquite smoke a better addition to a classic Old Fashioned cocktail?
While you can buy a smoking gun on its own, we recommend opting for a kit if you’re giving it as a gift. That way, the lucky recipient can get started right away!
The budget option: the Kaven Smoking Gun.
To be honest, we’re not in love with the quality of this gun, and we recommend going for a higher-quality option if you can. But if you’re on a tight budget (and aren’t we all, around the holidays?!) this still makes for a striking gift for your favorite foodie. Just be aware that it doesn’t come with wood chips, so unless you order those separately, they won’t be able to use it right away.
The splurge option: the Breville BSM600SIL Smoking Gun.
This is the perfect option for a gift, as it includes everything you need to get started(except a container)! The kit comes with a couple small jars of wood chips (that will last a surprisingly long time), the required batteries, and some truly gorgeous recipe cards.
(Writer’s note: after being involved in testing several smoking guns, the Breville is the one that I personally use and love in my own home kitchen!)
The complete kit: the homia Smoking Gun Wood Smoke Infuser – Extended Plus Kit.
While the price is similar to the Breville Smoking Gun, this kit comes with even more. You’ll get 7 kinds of wood chips, a smoking lid, a smoking dome, a smoking ball for drinks, a cleaning brush, and the (required) batteries. We suggest the Breville for its higher quality construction, but if you prefer a true all-in-one gift, the homia is a very strong contender! You definitely won’t go wrong with this one.
A Sous Vide Machine (or Kit)
We’re thrilled that sous vide cooking isn’t just for professional chefs anymore. This modern technique lets passionate home cooks deliver restaurant-worthy results every single time.
Basically, food is put into plastic bags, then immersed in a water bath that’s held at a precise temperature. This ensures that the food is cooked perfectly—no more accidentally well-done steaks, for example!
And it’s easy to get started. Your food lover probably already has two of the three things needed to get started! If they have Ziploc-brand bags and a large pot, all you’ll need to give them is a sous vide immersion circulator.
Our top pick for a gift: the Anova Precision Cooker Nano.
This sleek device is one of the most popular sous vide options—and for good reason! It’s consistent, reliable, and easy to use. Plus it’s more affordable than many other options, so you won’t break the bank.
The budget option: the Inkbird WIFI Sous Vide Cooker
If you’re watching your money this year, the Inkbird WIFI Sous Vide Cooker is a great choice. It’s more affordable than the Anova Nano (but check for sales on that one before you commit, because sometimes they’re almost the same price!). The device itself is fantastic, but be aware that the app has some issues.
The complete kit
If you really want to go all out with your gift, you can get the home chef in your life a complete sous vide kit. In addition to an immersion circulator, we recommend the following pieces:
- Sous vide weights
- A sous vide container (many of these come with lids and racks, so don’t buy a rack separately if you don’t need to!)
- A sous vide rack (only if your container didn’t come with one!)
A Kitchen Torch
The smoking guns we recommended before are all about cold smoke, whereas a kitchen torch actually adds fire. These tools, which range from delicate flames to full-on blasting fire, let the foodie in your life brûlée, caramelize, sear, or char foods.
When you’re picking out your gift, the basic information that you need to know is that there are two main types of kitchen torches:
- Butane torches are generally smaller and more delicate, ideal for crème brûlée or similar uses.
- Propane torches are generally more powerful, and are fantastic for uses like searing a sous vide steak before serving it.
That’s why we’ve included recommendations for carnivores and pastry chefs. Think about whether the foodie in question is more likely to want to precisely finish a dessert or small dish, or blast a chunk of meat with serious heat.
For the carnivore: the Bernzomatic TS8000 High-Intensity Trigger Start Torch WITH the Searzall Booker & Dax Torch Attachment.
This combination is a truly remarkable gift that the meat-loving foodie will cherish for years to come. As a propane torch, the Bernzomatic is delightfully powerful. Add on the Searzall attachment and it basically becomes a handheld broiler.
For the pastry chef: the EurKitchen Culinary Cooking Butane Torch.
This torch is a fantastic all-around kitchen tool. It earned the top place on our list of the best crème brûlée torches thanks to its versatility, high-quality construction, and longer-than-average flame. (Writer’s note: this is my go-to torch in my home kitchen!)
It may sound counterintuitive, but cooking with cold (instead of heat) is actually a powerful technique. And it’s only in recent years that this technology has become available to home chefs thanks to the Anti-Griddle by PolyScience.
Before we go on, let’s be very clear: this is absolutely not a budget gift, or a good choice for the casual cook. It’s a real splurge that won’t be truly appreciated by anyone who isn’t into making high-end gourmet food.
But if you want to give a creative and experimental home chef the gift of a lifetime, read on!
The Anti-Griddle is basically what the name suggests: the opposite of a traditional griddle. Instead of allowing people to cook on a hot surface, it cools to -30 degrees Fahrenheit so that cutting-edge chefs can quickly freeze foods, opening the door to a wide range of textures and culinary creations not achievable through traditional methods.
The gift of a lifetime: the Anti-Griddle by PolyScience
The budget alternative: the Whynter ICR-300SS Automatic Instant Maker Frozen Pan.
This machine isn’t nearly as powerful as the Anti-Griddle, and doesn’t reach the same ultra-low temperatures (it goes down to -10°F instead). But if your favorite food-lover is more into ice cream than molecular gastronomy, this can be a great alternative. While still pricey, it’s definitely more budget-friendly!
A Chamber Vacuum Sealer
Sure, a chamber vacuum sealer is great for packing and storing food. But did you know it’s also a culinary tool in its own right? A vacuum strong enough to crush empty soda cans has all sorts of creative uses in the kitchen, from marinating meat to making quick pickles to infusing liquors to compressing fruits and vegetables.
So what makes a chamber vacuum sealer so special? Why bother getting one for someone who already has a standard suction vacuum sealer?
The magic is in how they work. Instead of using suction to create a vacuum, chamber sealers regulate the pressure inside the machine. Creating a vacuum this way means that the air is removed without sucking out any liquid inside. While a suction vacuum sealer is fine for packing foods for storage or sous vide, it wouldn’t be able to handle any of the uses described above.
For example, if you wanted to sous vide a steak with a marinade, a standard suction vacuum sealer would suck out the liquid (and possibly break in the process). A chamber vacuum sealer, on the other hand, would simply remove the air—leaving the steak and marinade perfectly bagged and ready to go.
A word of warning: these don’t tend to come cheap. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly gift, try other options on our list instead!
Our top pick for a gift: the Avid Armor Model USV20 Chamber Vacuum Sealer.
Despite its surprisingly low price for this type of device, you can’t go wrong with the USV20. It has a dry pump (meaning it’s low maintenance), and it’s more compact than many other options, making it ideal for the home cook.
If you really want to splurge, you could go for the USV20’s larger cousin, the Avid Armor USV32 Chamber Vacuum Sealer, instead. This one benefits from a slightly larger chamber, but the more affordable USV20 is more than sufficient for most home cooks.
A Whipped Cream Dispenser
Bear with us for a moment here. Yes, we said this list wouldn’t include single-use devices, and at first glance, that’s what a whipped cream dispenser sounds like.
In fact, this device is incredibly versatile, and useful for far more than whipped cream.
With this in hand, the foodie in your life will be able to easily whip up anything from mousse to nitro coffee to espuma (that’s a fancy word for those gourmet culinary foams). Switch the chargers from N2O to CO2, and they’ll be able to craft homemade sodas with ease.
Far from being a one-trick pony, these fun devices allow for a huge range of culinary creativity and exploration.
One note to keep in mind as you shop: most whipped cream dispensers are intended for use with cold liquids only. We’ve only managed to try out one (the iSi Gourmet Whip described below) that’s intended for both hot and cold liquids. If the gourmet cook in your life tends to focus on savory instead of sweet, we recommend that one for its versatility.
The budget option: the ZOEMO Professional Whipped Cream Dispenser.
Thanks to opting for aluminum construction and plastic tips instead of stainless steel, this whipped cream dispenser comes in at a delightfully affordable price. And it’s good-quality too, so you’ll definitely be proud to give it as a gift!
(But before you buy: check whether the Pura Vida Professional Whipped Cream Dispenser is on sale. When it is, it’s a fantastic pick in a similar price range, and we’d recommend it instead.)
The splurge option: the iSi Gourmet Whip.
This is our absolute top pick for these devices, and for good reason! Most notably, it’s one of the few options (if not the only option) that’s designed to be compatible with both hot and cold liquids. This makes it ideal for versatile home chefs who want to venture beyond whipped cream and sodas into savory culinary foams and froths.
A Pizza Oven
Everybody loves pizza, right?! Unfortunately, for the pizza connoisseur, the typical home oven just isn’t good enough. And here’s why: with a maximum of around 500° F to 550° F, home ovens generally don’t get hot enough to create a truly remarkable crust, or to ensure that the toppings and crust finish perfectly together.
For context, Neapolitan-style pizzas should be baked at 700° F or higher, potentially all the way up to 900° F. Obviously this is well above what a home oven can offer!
Luckily, you don’t need to buy a full-sized industrial pizza oven, or build your own from bricks and clay (been there, done that…). Instead, gift the pizza-loving foodie in your life a portable pizza oven! These devices are straightforward and easy to use, but capable of achieving truly incredible results with just a little practice.
Our top pick: the Ooni Fyra Outdoor Pizza Oven.
This brilliant oven uses wood pellets to create its heat, meaning your favorite home chef can honestly say they’re making wood-fired pizza! Plus the use of pellets means that the lucky recipient can choose from different types of wood, each of which adds its own distinctive flavor to the pizzas.
(Note from one of our writers: “I’m an obsessive pizza lover, and even have my own blog that focuses on pizza. The Ooni Fyra is what I personally chose for myself, and I’m really happy with it!”)
Cooking Books (More Than Just Cookbooks…)
These days, cookbooks feel almost obsolete—you can look up just about any recipe you can imagine online and find dozens, if not hundreds, of gorgeous options. But with that said, not all cooking books are obsolete.
A particular favorite among several of the team here are the Flavor Bible books (specifically the original Flavor Bible and the Vegetarian Flavor Bible). With thousands of potential food combinations, they’re the cure for the culinary equivalent of writer’s block.
Not sure how to liven up that spinach and apple salad? Wondering what other flavors to pair with mint? The Flavor Bible has you (or, more precisely, the recipient of this wonderful gift) covered.
These books are an irreplaceable staple in the library of many innovative home chefs, because they’re just that good at getting the creative juices flowing. If the foodie you’re shopping for loves to create their own dishes and flavor pairings, these books are invaluable.
If you can, we recommend gifting both as a set. But either book is a fantastic standalone gift as well, and neither requires that you have the other.
(Be aware that this isn’t only for vegetarians—it has brilliant pairing ideas not fully explored in The Flavor Bible, so even omnivores will appreciate it. And I say that as an omnivore myself.)
A Molecular Gastronomy Set
This gift relies on knowing that the person you’re shopping for hasn’t already ventured too deeply into the world of molecular gastronomy. But if they haven’t, one of these kits will open the doors to all sorts of new techniques and ways of thinking about food!
Imagine spaghetti made out of horchata or hibiscus tea. Or spheres of juice that pop in your mouth as you eat them. Or, of course, the ever-popular balsamic vinegar “caviar.” These sorts of modernist techniques are surprisingly accessible to the home chef, and a molecular gastronomy kit is a great place to start!
Our top pick: the Molecule-R Molecular Gastronomy Starter Kit.
This kit (which comes with a full-color recipe book!) is a fantastic introduction to the world of molecular gastronomy. Creative home cooks can learn many basic techniques. The lucky recipient can quickly create their own remarkable and unique components, adding a layer of modern creativity to just about any dish.