Things can change quickly in the cooking world. This can be a bad thing for the cooks but it's great for the people who give them gifts!
Sometimes it can be hard to find good gifts for the chef in your life. Luckily, with there are several options for great gifts you can give. Here are some of my favorite tools and books.
If there is something specific you are looking for, you can jump right to that section of our guide.
I've put together some great collections of items to help cooks get started out in modernist cooking or in a specific technique.
Know someone interesting in trying out modernist cooking? Whether they have just started dabbling or just starting to explore, my Getting Started collection contains the equipment, ingredients, and instructions to jump right in!
The whipping siphon is an amazingly versatile tool. It allows you to create foams, carbonate liquids (and fruit!), and infuse alcohols and vinegars with flavor. My collection highlights the best gear to get started whipping in style!
Sous vide is one of the most popular modernist techniques and one that is pushing modernist cooking into the mainstream. Sous vide has two huge advantages for both the novice and experienced cook. Most importantly it will allow you to significantly increase the quality and consistency of the dishes you create on a daily basis. And for those whose lives are harried, the sous vide technique also allows them to create remarkable meals while working around their hectic schedule.
You may be thinking,"My grandmother used a pressure cooker!"; what does it have to do with modernist cooking? It's certainly true that modernist cooking sometimes takes advantage of the latest in cooking equipment. However, more often than not modernist cooking simply uses existing equipment and ingredients in new and different ways.
Today pressure cookers are being viewed by home cooks as the new healthy, time-saving, and energy-saving way to prepare food. Moreover, today's pressure cookers have numerous devices built in to guarantee their safe use.
This Modernist Cooking Kit is the perfect introduction to the basic techniques and ingredients that you will need to enter the world of Molecular Gastronomy. Includes 8 ingredients and tools to get you on your way to becoming a modernist cook including my 250 page Getting Started book.
This Premium Modernist Cooking Kit has what you need to master the primary techniques and ingredients that will have them talking about your next dinner party for months. Includes 18 ingredients and tools to get you on your way to becoming a modernist cook including my 250 page Getting Started book.
This Ultimate Modernist Cooking Kit has everything you need to begin mastering modernist cooking including all the main techniques. Includes 34 ingredients and tools to get you on your way to becoming a modernist cook including my 250 page Getting Started book.
Sous vide is becoming more and more popular and the lower cost of high quality machines makes it more accessible than ever for the home cook. Running under $200, these new circulators give the sous vide enthusiast a high quality water bath without needing to make a large financial commitment.
One of the least expensive machines is the Gourmia Sous Vide Pod, it is often on sale for under $100. If you want bluetooth or WiFi on your circulator, the Anova offers both types of machines, and the small but powerful Joule also is WiFi enabled.
The final step in most sous vide recipes is to "finish" off the surface of the protein. This might include making chicken or fish skin crispy or creating the Maillard reaction on a piece of meat to get that dark, crunchy, flavorful crust. This usually entails searing, and there are numerous ways to perform this function. Perhaps the most "exciting" way to do this is by using a torch.
The best torches for searing sous vide are ones designed for "industrial" uses such as soldering copper pipes, brazing and hardening steel, as well as light welding. For a variety of reasons I strongly recommend the BernzOmatic TS8000 torch.
I also recommend that you use the larger 16.4 ounces single propane cylinder with this torch. This provides a much more stable base than the smaller cylinder. I have found it's easiest to just pick up these cylinders at the local Home Depot for about $4.
If you are interested in a sous vide torch on steroids you might want to look into the Sansaire Searing Kit. This product was a joint venture between Sansaire and BernzOmatic and includes a torch similar to the TS8000 but with a different nozzle which provides a wider, longer and hotter flame. The kit also includes the larger propane fuel cylinder as well as a searing rack and drip tray. Although it is pricey, it's all you need to finish off your protein like a pro.
No list of sous vide torch accessories would be complete without mentioning the Searzall. This cone-shaped attachment converts the torch's single hot flame stream into a more cooking friendly source of infrared, radiant heat. This seems to help eliminate some of the potential disadvantages such as torch taste. In a nutshell, it turns the torch into a hand-held mini broiler; perfect for quick searing applications after sous vide.
The Gourmet Whip Plus is a versatile piece of modernist equipment for preparing either hot or cold foods. It can create a wide variety of foams as well as infuse liquids and foods, and carbonate anything with water in it. A whipping siphon works by pressurizing a canister filled with liquid or food, then either dispensing it out a nozzle or venting the gas and using the liquid by itself.
It's fun to use and makes some really easy dishes that will impress the heck out of your friends when they come over!
This high-quality unit comes with an ergonomic pistol grip for easy control. It has an 8" immersion depth for deep pots and 15 adjustable speeds. I really like the non-scratch guard on the bottom to prevent chipping and scratching of non-stick cookware.
The Breville hand blender has an adequate 280 Watt motor and comes with a whisk attachment, blending jug and a chopping bowl. This blender is very highly rated on Amazon and was the highest rated immersion blender tested by Consumer Reports. I highly recommend this product.
Arguably the most popular sous vide water bath container is the 12 Quart Camwear Polycarbonate Square Food Storage Container by Cambro. It cost around $23 and is approximately 12" (30cm) square and 8" (20cm) deep. This makes it relatively easy to get two or three of the gallon-size Ziploc bags into the water bath at one time.
Cambro has been bringing innovative high-quality products to the food service industry for more than 50 years and offer a large selection of food pans and storage containers that can be used for a sous vide water bath.
If you are using a polycarbonate container, you can obtain a matching lid to effectively keep in heat and reduce water evaporation. These lids are easy to cut with heavy scissors or a utility knife to make room for the immersion circulator. The lids are also quick to remove to gain access to the contents of the water bath to reposition the sous vide pouches etc. It's an inexpensive item that gives you a big return!
Once programmed, this electric pressure cooker brings itself up to the set temperature and maintains the high pressure throughout the cook. When the cooking cycle is finished, the Instant Pot turns itself to a warming mode and lets the pressure start to come down naturally. Even though I rarely use them, it comes with 14 preset cooking programs that you might find convenient. The pressure cooker has a durable, stainless steel cooking pot that I found easy to clean. There is a slight learning curve with setting the digital control panel, but the "program it and walk away until it's done" aspect of using an electric pressure cooker makes it worth a little up front study!
As a result of my research and experience I heavily use and recommend the Fagor 8-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker. It is plenty large enough for all of your pressure cooking needs. It is constructed from 18/10 stainless steel and comes with a basket insert, with legs and a loop handle, making it ideal for draining pasta or steaming vegetables. The Fagor has received kudos and awards on numerous established cooking websites.
This high quality, calibrated professional grade cooking thermometer by ThermoWorks gives an accurate reading in just 3 seconds. The probe is long enough to easily reach the center of a roast or to keep your hand far enough away when deep frying. Cook's Magazine rated this superfast Thermopen #1.
Every cook needs a good fast-reading digital cooking thermometer. If cost is more of an issue than precise accuracy or long-term durability, then this unit is worth considering. It reads temperatures in 4-7 seconds with enough accuracy for most cooking applications. Alpha Grillers enclosed it in a splash proof casing.
Can't afford a fancy smoker but still love the flavor of smoked meats? I was quite leery of this product until I got one and tried it. It actually works surprisingly well considering the cost. I also like it because I can use it indoors in the winter.
A moderately priced juicer is the Breville BJE200XL Compact Juice Fountain. This juicer is the entry-level model of the Breville juicer product line and is available at many stores for around $100. Breville is a well-known juicer manufacturer with one fifth of the world's juicer sales. I've had this juicer for more than a 2 years and I really like the way it performs. I enjoy making juice from fruits and vegetables and then using modernist techniques to create foams and gels.
This inexpensive pocket-size gram scale is simple to use and easy to read. It measures in 0.01 g / 0.001 oz increments and is accurate enough for almost all cooking applications. It even has the important "zero" or "tare" function which allows the scale to be reset to zero when making measurements. Then you can continue to add ingredients to the same bowl. Its small size makes it great for storage between uses. This food scale by WAOAW is a great value for the cost!
You can use a standing mixer to create dense foams, marshmallows, and other great modernist dishes. For modernist cooking it's imperative the stand mixer has an effective whisk attachment. You can also use a stand mixer for many traditional applications.
From my experience I highly recommend the KitchenAid Stand Mixer, it's the best and will last for ever. They have half a dozen models including both tilt-head and bowl-lift types. They come in more than 20 colors. All support the large number of attachments that are available. It's no wonder that KitchenAid owns about half of the stand mixer market. I'm sure you can find one perfectly suited to your needs.
Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide is the authoritative guide to low temperature precision cooking and it will help make sous vide a part of your everyday cooking arsenal. Sous vide is a simple and extremely effective way to cook. This book covers every step of the sous vide process, from seasoning, sealing, and temperature control to how to determine the times and temperatures needed to turn out great food. There are also extensive write ups for the main types of food including steak and red meat, pork, fish and shellfish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and much more.
The bulk of this book is the more than 85 recipes it contains. Designed so you can skim the recipes, looking for something that inspires you, or turn to a specific recipe to learn all about how to cook the cut of meat it features.
The new EveryDayCook book is a personal collection of Alton Brown's recipes. His 101 recipes are easy to follow, nicely laid out and arranged by "time of day". Not only does he provide the recipe, but Chef Brown gives informative explanations of why he chose a particular ingredient or method for making the dish. His book includes just the right amount of nerdy science and with Alton Brown, there's always lots of humor!
In Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto shows how you can make flavorful, exciting traditional Japanese meals at home. He introduces readers to the healthy, flavorful, and surprisingly simple dishes preferred by Japanese home cooks. The explanations are clearly written with fantastic colorful photos for every recipe; he even included many additional pictures showing the preparation process. This is an excellent gift selection for any cook in your life!
This book focuses on presenting the three main uses of the whipping siphon: Foaming, Infusing and Carbonating. It delivers the information you need to understand how the techniques work and provides you with over 50 recipes to illustrate these techniques while allowing you to create great dishes using them.
This book was written by Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, co-owners and chefs of Fat Rice Restaurant and their former sous chef Hugh Amano. It provides authentic recipes that capture the unique flavors of food prepared in Macau, China. Its heritage was formed from the many world travelers crossing through the area, creating a culinary fusion of Chinese, Portuguese, and Malaysian cooking.
Even though the cookbook has a comic-strip feel to it, it presents a vivid picture of the history and culture of Macau. Beware there is small print and long recipes, so wear your glasses and plan ahead - the end product is definitely worth it!
This book provides all the information you need to get started amazing your party guests with modernist cooking. It is all presented in an easy to understand format along with more than 100 recipes that can be applied immediately to your next party. Learn to amaze and delight your friends!
As the title indicates, this book is geared to help improve everyone's home cooking, regardless of your experience level. It was authored by Naomi Pomeroy, a self-taught chef and owner of 4 restaurants. Step-by-step she breaks down detailed complex culinary information to reveal the simple methods chefs use to get professional results. Chef Pomeroy explains how to balance ingredients in order to bring out the best in each.
The cookbook contains about 140 recipes written in a paragraph format. Because many of the recipes are elaborate, it can make some of them tricky to follow. This book will definitely help elevate your home cooking through the correct use and preparation of easily available ingredients!
This book is the ultimate guide to crafting flavorful infusions using modernist and traditional techniques. It includes more than 140 recipes to help you explore the infusion process. Now you can create many wonderful dishes, from custom cocktails and personalized sodas to flavorful vinaigrettes and sauces. Discover how to create vibrant and amazing infusions that will amaze your family and friends!
To achieve consistent, succulent BBQ and grilling results, understanding the science behind the interaction of food, fire, heat, and smoke is vitally important. Meathead cookbook was written by the popular AmazingRibs.com website founder and editor Meathead Goldwyn, and physicist and food science professor Greg Blonder. They have produced an easy to read and understand blend of chemistry, physics, meat science, and humor.
This extremely popular BBQ cookbook has a 4.9 out of 5 stars rating on Amazon. It contains more than 100 recipes accompanied by full-color photographs. If you want to master barbecue and grilling so you understand how your equipment and recipes work, then this book is for you!
Chef and owner of Sqirl Restaurant, Jessica Koslow has been instrumental in moving the new California cooking scene along. Her book features healthy but delicious dishes, ones that look appetizing, taste refreshing and feel exciting. Chef Koslow shares 100 of her favorite recipes and even provides notes for adjusting her dishes for specific dietary tastes and needs.
Diana Henry has received numerous awards as a food journalist and author. In her book Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors her recipes take simple ingredients and transforms them into dishes with unique creative flavor combinations. Because of her journalism background, Diana clearly and concisely explains her recipes. She makes cooking dinner a fun adventure!
Modernist cooking is quickly gaining popularity in high end restaurants and working its way into home kitchens. However, clear, concise information for getting started isn't readily available. That's where Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Getting Started comes in!
This book provides all the information you need to get started with modernist cooking and molecular gastronomy. It is all presented in an easy to understand format, along with more than 80 recipes, that can be applied immediately in your kitchen.
In The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, J. Kenji López-Alt focuses on the science behind treasured American dishes, but his recipes are still firmly rooted in practical home cooking. J. Kenji López-Alt is the managing culinary director of SeriousEats.com, author of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, and a columnist for Cooking Light. This full-color illustrated collection of explanations, techniques, and recipes is a must have reference and cookbook for serious cooking enthusiasts.
Modernist Cuisine at Home is by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet. If you want to learn how modern cooking styles can produce amazing taste and presentation in your kitchen, this is the modernist book for you. The focus of the Modernist Cuisine at Home book is on techniques and the use of equipment which are new or recently resurfaced.
Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes that Will Change the Way You Cook written by Kristen Miglore is destined to become many cooks go-to resource for clever, memorable cooking. So what makes a "genius recipe" for Miglore? One that surprises us into rethinking an approach, uses an unexpectedly simple technique, debunks a kitchen myth, or applies a familiar ingredient in a new way.
Do you take pride in cooking great food for yourself, your family, and friends? Are you an extremely busy individual that is on the go all day long? Sous vide has many benefits for people who are busy during the day. Once you understand how to take advantage of these benefits you can get great meals on the table while working around your schedule.
Here are links to some of my favorite gift items. If you'd like more information you can find more detailed descriptions above.
Are there some gifts you are really hoping for? Anything you'd found that is the perfect gift? Let me know in the comments!