Shopping season is officially here, and after this hell of a year, it’s worth ordering early, shopping local, and giving those lists some extra thought. Kitchen tools are always a hardworking gift, and they’ve never felt more essential, with so many people still cooped up and trying to cook up comfort at home. To cut through all the gimmicky appliances and discount deals, we went to the food and drink pros, to see what they’re giving for the 2020 holidays. Because rather than the Instant Pot or air fryer five thousand, wouldn’t you rather get a serrated knife recommended by a sourdough baker? And isn’t it a thrill to discover what wine glasses a master sommelier doesn’t even mind breaking at home?
Here’s the holiday hookup on chef-approved gifts.
A Trusty Thermometer for Holiday Roasts
Last year, I gave my mother-in-law a thermometer, to check the cooking temperatures on roasts. It’s a good thing to have in the kitchen, if you’re cooking a big piece of meat, or even a torte or paté — it’s the easiest way to tell exactly if things are ready or not. I got one with an alarm, so you plug it in, put it in the oven, and it rings at temperature. It’s the same one I have at home, so I can put a chicken in the oven, and go play with my daughter. It cost about 40 bucks. It’s not a fancy model. — Nicolas Delaroque, Michelin-starred chef, Maison Nico
Buy: Thermoworks ($43)
A Stylish Jigger for Mezcal Margaritas
A jigger is the best way to have consistent drinks, measure over and over, and measure accurately. Just like if you’re baking cookies, you don’t want to throw them together haphazardly. Don’t wing it. Even if I’m making a margarita at home … I always measure, so it doesn’t have too much lime and get too acidic, or too much syrup and too sweet. … Any [jigger] will do, and there’s the classic cone shape. But if you want, the bell shape from Cocktail Kingdom is a little more elegant. … And you always have a good bottle in your bar. I love a mezcal margarita, that’s my jam. So throw in a good artisanal mezcal, from your local bottle shop or corner shop. — Eric Ochoa, bartender, Elda
Toast Essentials for Sourdough Obsessives
For an everyday gift, Riverview Orchard organic almond butter and any flavor Mountain Fruit Co jams. For a special gift, a Shun stainless steel bread knife. Real bread needs a good knife. — Thomas “Mac” McConnell, sourdough baker, the Midwife and the Baker
Buy: Williams-Sonoma ($149.95)
A Pour-Over Kettle for Coffee Aficionados
Pour-over kettles (hot water kettles with a narrow spout for precision) are sort of the chef’s knives of a specialty coffee professional, and I use my Fellow Stagg EKG every day. You can set it to the exact temperature you like, and it has convenience features like shutting itself off if you forget. — Nicholas Cho, head barista, Wrecking Ball
Buy: Stagg ($149) / Williams-Sonoma ($149)
Wild Glassware for Beer Buds
The latest trend in beer is not the beer itself but the glass you drink it out of. Stylized glasses imprinted with colorful art and custom “vasewear” in wild shapes are eye catching ways to add more personality and dimension to your Instagram beer photos. Shops like Juan Travolta and Synth Hop have a plethora of fun shapes, sizes and designs to choose from. — Tim Sciascia, head brewer, Cellarmaker
Everyday Glasses and Bubble Stoppers for Wine Lovers
A wine essential is an all-purpose wine glass. At our house we have a ton of different wine glasses, but we only ever use our all-purpose glass, a Schott Zwiesel riesling glass that costs just a few dollars a stem. It’s really just a standard white wine glass, but it’s my go-to glass for any type of wine. Since it’s not expensive at all, if it breaks (or when), it’s not a big deal.
I [also] consider a champagne stopper to be a necessary household item. I even (used to) travel with a plastic one, just in case, and I’ve used it. I’ve done so many virtual tastings over the past few months and have learned that most people don’t have a champagne stopper in their house; this needs to change. When stored correctly champagne will taste great for 2 to 3 days. You can get a 3 pack on Amazon for under $10. — Rebecca Fineman, master sommelier, Ungrafted
Buy: Glasses from Sur la Table ($84) / Stoppers on Amazon ($9.99)