While for many, this has been one to forget, this year has created scores of burgeoning cooks, forced out of restaurants, and into the kitchen at home. Even experienced cooks have had to up their game, and with plenty of opportunity for practice, it has never been a better time for home cooking.
Now, with Christmas on the way, it’s the perfect moment to buy kitchen gifts for the cook in your life. There’s nothing I’d prefer to unwrap on Christmas Day than a beautiful cast iron pan, a proper chef’s knife, or a burl oak chopping board. If you choose wisely, these are gifts that last a lifetime, and make a difference every day. And all that wonderful food produced is going to end up on your plate too!
The problem, however, is what to buy. The choice is endless, and bewildering. It can be hard to know what will be truly useful. Don’t worry – I can help. Here, in no particular order, are my top twelve Christmas gifts for cooks:
1. Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron Casserole – These classic french casseroles are the perfect choice for slowly braising beef shin, lamb shoulder, ox cheeks or other stews. They will last forever. They now come in a variety of different colours, but the original, and best of all is this ‘volcanic’.
2. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet – Searing meat on the hob is best done in a cast iron skillet. The results are undeniable. No steak-lover should be without one of these indestructible pans. Look after it, and it will look after you.
3. Le Creuset Stainless Steel Saucepan Set – I have the five piece set of these. They’re as good as new, and perform perfectly, every day. If you buy quality like this, it pays you back over and over again in the long run. They also do a set of three.
4. ETI Thermapen Mk4 Professional – There’s only one way to know how well cooked your food is. You need to know the maximum internal temperature it has reached. Every other method – timing, poking and prodding etc is subject to a degree of guesswork. You will not find a professional chef without a folding probe thermometer, and the one they choose is the Thermapen. These come in all sorts of colours.
5. Meater Plus, Wireless Meat Thermometer – I love these probes – they’re wireless, and so easy to use. They work on the barbecue, and in the oven, displaying the temperature inside and outside the meat, numerically and graphically on your phone. I use mine all the time.
6. Vitamix Ascent A2300i – Whether you’re a homely cook, who likes to make thick, comforting soups, or a fine-dining chef, puréeing vegetables, there is nothing better than a Vitamix. It is the ultimate tool for the job.
7. T&G Tuscany, End Grain Chopping Board – For my money, a good chopping board should be big, thick and heavy. These end-grain boards are better for your knives, and large enough to cope with a proper joint of meat, or quantity of vegetables.
8. Trespade No8 Manual Meat Grinder – Grinding your own meat is a serious upgrade, both in terms of texture, and safety. A stainless steel manual grinder is a lovely thing to own, and it says a lot about the sort of cook you are.
9. Sous Vide Cookery Kit – Some cooks like the classic, traditional methods, while others are all about the gadgets and technology of modernist techniques. Sous vide, the cooking of food in a water bath is a favoured approach of chefs all over the world, and for good reason. If you’re after the most perfectly cooked steak, poultry or fish, results are guaranteed. Furthermore, the ability to seal portions of food for freezing prevent freezer burn, and makes for far easier defrosting. A great gift.
VPCOK Sous Vide Precision Cooker Immersion Heater – I bought one of these for my brother last Christmas. He’s loving it, and it’s working perfectly. Considering the low cost, it’s a no-brainer.
Amazon Basics Tabletop Vacuum Sealer – I’ve got one of these myself. I use it constantly. It’s incredibly affordable, and works perfectly. Not only is it brilliant for sous vide cookery, but also for sealing portions of food for freezing, ensuring zero freezer burn, and easy defrosting in water.
Kitchen Boss Vacuum Sealer Bag Rolls – Again, these are the ones I use in my kitchen. They come with a handy dispenser that has a built in cutter – you just roll out the length you want, and slice across.
10. Zwilling Pro 20cm Chef’s Knife – There’s an old saying that it’s bad luck to give a knife as a gift. Traditionally you include a penny, which the recipient gives back to you in payment for the knife. You can certainly do that if you prefer, but in my experience, giving a knife brings good luck, mainly in the form of a very grateful loved-one. With this 20cm chef’s knife, and a 10cm paring knife, no cutting job is too big, or too small.
11. Sage Kitchen Wizz Food Processor – For those who love their kitchen gadgets, this is the ultimate food processor. It’s exceptionally capable, robust, and looks stylish in the kitchen.
12. Ruston’s Boneyard T-Shirts – We have some awesome Christmas-themed t-shirts, guaranteed to raise a smile over the festive season. They’re fantastic quality, made from certified organic cotton, and shipped in paper, not plastic. Check them out!