Every Christmas one or more of the kids asks for additions to their kitchen paraphernalia. When doing a mental review of my most-loved tools, I thought a summary might be useful for readers looking for gift ideas for the home chefs in their lives. 

#1: A few good kitchen knives. In making my selection, I was reminded of a goofy format for 9 holes of couples’ golf we used to play on Friday nights, which involved playing with only three clubs. To the chagrin of even the most experienced golfers, scores turned out very similar to those that involved hauling an entire set of clubs around. The same applies here. While many of us have up to a dozen knives, including bread, carving and boning knives, we tend to turn to only a couple for most of our prep work.

Whatever your choices, look for a knives with a full tang, which means that the blade extends into the handle in a single piece of steel. Personally, I like hollow-edge knives as the food doesn’t stick as much when you’re chopping. Here are my three “go-tos”.

  • A hollow-edge 8″ chef’s knife. For chopping meat and heavy vegetables like carrots & potatoes.
  • A hollow-edge 5″ Santoku knife. For fine slicing and dicing, like onions and shallots.  I like the fine, flat blade for more control in tight spaces.
  • A 4.5″ utility knife. For small jobs like topping strawberries.

#2: Wooden cutting board: My all-time favourite is a walnut cutting board from Magnus Designs. With a flat bottom, it stays flat and secure on the counter and the rounded edge top makes it very comfortable to work with. A perfect combination. 

#3: Prep bowls: Plain old glass ones, or if you’re up for a splurge, Mason Cash.

#4: Mixing Bowls. Again, glass is great, and the stackable set takes up little room, but my favourites are Mason Cash. They’re sturdy, they feel great in the hand, and they have a lovely, vintage look. I remember my grandmother using them. 

#5: Cast Iron skillets. I have 8″, 10″, 12″ and 15″ Lodge pans. They’re perfect for searing chops or skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts and then finishing them in the oven. I use the 15″ to make frittata for the family. They come pre-seasoned, and all you need to do to maintain them is dry them promptly after washing, lightly oil them and wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel before putting them away.

#6: Good quality olive wood spatulas for stirring, mixing and sautéing. I use a bunch of these and really like the corner one, too. 

# 7: A microplane for zesting citrus. A finger saver, for sure. 

#8: Thirsty tea towels. My absolute, hands-down favourites are the ones from Williams Sonoma. They aren’t exactly cheap, but they last forever (except when chewed by a golden retriever…). They wash beautifully and sop up the moisture from an astonishing number of dishes.

#9: An emulsion whisk. Great for whipping up salad dressings or preparing eggs for scrambling. The circular wire ensures the ingredients are thoroughly emulsified. It works especially well in small bowls, where you don’t have a ton of room to whip up the ingredients.

#10: A digital kitchen scale. It turns any bowl into a measuring device, reducing the need for multiple measuring cups. Simply “tare” the scale with the empty bowl on it, eliminating the weight of the bowl. Then measure the ingredient to the required weight. Invaluable for baking.

#11: An immersion blender. Puree soups right in the stockpot. Whip up baby food from whatever the family is eating. Worth its weight in gold.

#12: A stand mixer with both paddle and whisk attachments. Fabulous for mixing up cake or cookie batter, or for whipping up mashed potatoes.The five-quart size is perfectly adequate for most home cooks. I moved to a professional size a couple of years ago when Adam and I started making pasta, as we found the poor artisan mixer wasn’t up to beating the pasta dough. I like the larger bowl, too, given how much volume we seem to produce with such a large family. 

That’s the list, folks. It’s not exhaustive (good quality stainless steel pots & pans, Bar Keeper’s friend, vegetable peelers, regular whisks, and aprons come to mind). And my daughter Lauren, a professional chef, would have much more to say about the perfect chef’s knife. She is insistent on having exactly the right amount of ” roll” to the blade of the chef’s knife to minimize the amount of effort needed in chopping, and loathes the flat-bladed knife that I love for slicing onions. To each their own! Especially with knives.

I hope you find some ideas for shopping this holiday season.

I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.