The best gifts to give a foodie this year
This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.
Finding the right gift for a foodie can be a tough task, especially if you’re not also gastronomically obsessed. Food folk are generally all over the latest cooking techniques, food trends and kitchen novelties. Plus, they tend to snatch up the latest gadget or appliance before you have a chance to buy it for them. Kind of rude, actually.
Ah, but they can’t know and own everything. Below you’ll find some great gifts for people who love to cook, including cutting-edge gadgets as well as gadgets to cut with. Not to mention a few high-quality analog culinary tools, like this modern knife block or painfully handsome Staub Dutch oven (on sale and arrives before Christmas!), any of which should satisfy the food and drink needs of a discerning home chef. These kitchen and cooking gifts are a just bit more creative than wine charms or a bottle of Scotch (not that we don’t love Scotch), so tuck your napkin into your shirt and feast upon the best gift ideas for a foodie on your list. We’ve checked and just about all of these gifts will arrive before Christmas and with plenty of time to wrap, and we’ve noted any that may not.
Read more: The best food and drink gift boxes and subscriptions to send
Toaster ovens have long gotten a bad rap as impersonal gifts with little to no cachet but I’m here to prove this platitude false. An air fryer lets you cook food with far less oil (olive oil or otherwise) while mimicking the effects of deep-frying — which is scientifically proven to be the most delicious form of cooking. For me, the one big drawback of traditional air fryers is that the baskets limit what you can make in them. You get more versatility with this chic combo air fryer and convection from Calphalon that you can use for toasting, broiling, baking, warming and air frying. it heats up fast, cooks with precision and lets you watch your food’s progress through a glass door, and the steely black finish won’t stain or tarnish as quickly as silver. Best Buy has free next-day shipping on the unit or you can pick it up in-store as soon as you want.
Amazing gift alert: As of this writing, the Staub cherry-red Dutch oven — down to $99 at Food52 — will indeed arrive before Christmas.
A true foodie may already have a Dutch oven, so you should do some digging before you buy, but I’ve personally been surprised to learn how many of my friends and family don’t own an enameled cast-iron pot. For me, it’s an absolute must-have for stews, braises, soups and Sunday meatballs in sauce. Dutch ovens simply don’t get much better (or better-looking) than Staub’s cocotte. I dig the 4-quart size, which is plenty big for most recipes but won’t require CrossFit muscles to move around. It comes in three colors and is on deep discount right now, marked down 65% to $99.
There are certainly more budget-friendly Dutch ovens too, like this Lodge 6-quart number, but there is just something undeniable about a Staub.
If the foodie you’re buying for has decent knives but keeps them clanging around in a drawer — the No. 1 knife storage sin — it’s time to put an end to that abuse. This handsome Schmidt Brothers knife block is made of rich acacia and acrylic, and magnetized on both sides to store and display up to eight blades.
Fulton Fish Market
Unless you live close to the docks, the easiest way to get quality seafood may be via one of these great online fish purveyors. Fulton Fish Market has one of the best selections anywhere — web or otherwise — with loads of wild salmon, trout, scallops, shellfish, caviar and more for unique edible gifts. Snatch a bundle and have this unique gift delivered directly to your giftee’s home. They’ll certainly appreciate making one less trip to the market.
The only problem with this magnificent Stella Falone cutting board is the pangs of guilt you’ll feel when you first drop a sharp blade on the perfectly treated West African ebony. Fear not, it can withstand the wear and tear of daily cooking and still make a stunning vessel on which to serve your cheese and charcuterie. The gorgeous, dark boards are handmade from the same Cameroonian ebony wood used to make Taylor guitars. In the spirit of leaving the Earth better than they found it, founder Bob Taylor and his team have planted over 15,000 ebony trees in West Africa since 2016. That’s many more than they’ve used to make guitars and cutting boards.
The reversible board comes in two sizes, at $129 for the small and $199 for the large. Both are sold directly through the Stella Falone website. This should arrive before Christmas, but Stella Falone offers two-day shipping for just $25.
Click and Grow
Nothing goes better with fish than bright, fresh herbs, but they’re not the easiest thing to keep on hand. You’ll have better luck if you’ve got a personal herb garden such as the Click & Grow Smart Garden 3 at your disposal. It has a built-in water tank and LED grow lights so you won’t need much of a green thumb to cultivate the many available seed pods.
You may need different types of cookware depending on what you’re making and the results you’re after. For searing steaks, burgers, pork chops and other meats, it’s hard to beat carbon steel. For one, it holds heat well, getting and staying hotter than Hades, but it’s also lighter than cast iron so you can maneuver it over the stovetop easily. Pair this sleek pan with a box of quality cuts of meat from one of our favorite online butchers.
As the name suggests, multicookers do a lot. No foodie gift guide would be complete without one. But this nifty, space-saving extension makes them even more capable when it comes to cooking. Attach the CrispLid to the top of a Mealthy MultiPot — or any other 6- or 8-quart electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot — and boom, you’re a chef using less oil with an air fryer. Set the time and temperature, then watch the magic happen through the transparent tempered glass lid. This package also comes with a raised trivet, fryer basket, stainless-steel tongs and heat-resistant silicone mat — all of which are dishwasher-safe.
It is likely that the chef on your list has knives and just as likely that many of them are dull. Sharpening knives at home by hand is a bit of a tricky business, so I say leave it to the experts. The startup Knife Aid sends a package out to you that you use to safely pack and ship knives off to be sharpened by pros. I had this done and the results were impeccable; the blades came back in just over a week.
You can send a gift card so they can decide when the time is right, or go ahead and order a sharpening and the initial box will just show up in the mail. It’s $59 for four knives (less than $15 per knife) but if you consider that they only really need this kind of treatment once a year or so, it’s absolutely worth it. It’s also a perfect gift to give someone you may not be seeing in person.
If their knives are long past saving, consider outfitting your foodie friend or family member with one good chef’s knife. Knives are an important kitchen tool that home chefs often overlook or don’t realize needs an upgrade. Hook them up with Made In’s super sharp 8-inch chef’s knife and they’ll sing your praises every time it slides through a carrot or turnip with the greatest of ease. It’s perfectly balanced, forged for strength and available in cherry red, black or gray.
Instant Pot via Amazon
On the off chance your foodie doesn’t already have one, the Instant Pot Duo makes a great Christmas gift and is a slam dunk for a quick and easy meal. It’s seven devices in one: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute pan, yogurt maker and warmer. If that’s not enough, a number of models feature additional modes for preparing specific foods like rice or cake — or even sterilizing bottles and jars. You can buy it in three 3-, 6- and 8-quart sizes, and you can practically go through your whole recipe journal with this one item.
Vitamix has set the bar for blenders — and the E310 Explorian is worth its lofty price. Sure, it makes unparalleled smoothies, but it’s also great for making all sorts of food, like soups, nut butters, salsas and even baked goods. Unlike other blenders, the Explorian’s aircraft-grade stainless-steel blades are tough enough to tackle bread dough for baking. And though most blenders can be a pain to clean, a drop of dish soap and warm water will make your Vitamix good as new.
Vitamix also just released one of its best blender accessories ever, in my opinion: a 12-cup food processor attachment. (Though worth noting it’s currently only compatible with the Ascent series). It ain’t exactly cheap, but if you were to spring for a stand-alone food processor with as much power and precision as a Vitamix, I promise you’d pay a whole lot more than that.
Not everyone needs all the power of a Vitamix. For a more wallet-friendly blender that still whips the dickens out of dense or frozen fruits and more, the Ninja Pro won’t let you down. The patented Auto IQ technology senses when ingredients need a quick pulse or a faster speed to help get the exact consistency you want.
These French-inspired steak knives are oozing with Parisian cafe charm and are on discount for just $21 at Macy’s with special code FRIEND.
If you’re still making your stir-fries in a regular old frying pan, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you’re doing it all wrong. Woks were designed for quickly and evenly pan-frying veggies and meats. This Analon 14-inch nonstick wok makes a great gift with a modern look and easy-grip handles. It’s also down to $60 right now at Macy’s.
You don’t need a degree in mixology when you have the Perfect Drink Pro. The scale and app will help you whip up more than 400 high-quality cocktails. Set down a glass or shaker, pour and stop when you hear the ding. It’s so simple, you should be able to use it even after downing a couple of stiff ones. Mortar and pestle not included.
Yes, this is a splurge and should be reserved for the foodie or kitchen gadget nerd who has everything. Having said that, this space-aged toaster is fairly magical. It toasts bread, bagels and the like just about exactly how you want it — down to the Pantone shade — and does it in literal seconds, not minutes. It can only handle two slices at a time, but that’s more than enough when you consider the speed at which it does it.
Even the snobbiest wine lover will be impressed by this rapid decanter. Featured on HBO’s Succession, this model receives high marks from oenophiles for its speed: A minute in the Sommelier is equivalent to a full hour in a traditional glass decanter. Its unique design allows oxygen to reach every drop of wine — not just the surface area — which improves the flavor. And the Sommelier app provides decanting times based on country, region, varietal and vintage. Bottle after bottle will disappear before you know it, making it great for a post-pandemic dinner party (or board meeting). The Roy family would definitely approve.
Versatility is the hallmark of Ninja’s all-in-one Hot and Cold Brew System. It can handle both tea and coffee — and comes with separate filters to prevent cross-contamination — with five different brew styles and six different sizes. You can also boil water for hot chocolate. This great gift idea turns around hot coffee or tea (tea for me, please) in an instant and cold brew in about 10 minutes, and if you like your drinks frothy, it comes with an extension for that too.
Store-bought pints of delicious ice cream and gelato are expensive to buy, but the Cuisinart ICE-100 empowers you to take the DIY route to more affordable delights. Consult the included recipe book (if you make chocolate, share some with us), pour your ingredients into the commercial quality compressor, set it and forget it. It comes with a pair of paddles for ice cream and gelato.
Keto and paleo foodies take note. The Dehydro produces meat, poultry and seafood jerky for a fraction of the cost of store-bought equivalents — and without the chemicals and other additives. For those more inclined toward plant-based eating, it can also be used to make healthy and delicious snacks (such as fruit rolls) and dehydrate herbs and spices in order to extend their shelf life.
Sous vide is nothing new but the sleek ChefSteps Joule takes the technique to another level. Not only is cooking gourmet food with it faster and more efficient than with similar gadgets, but it’s also half the size of the typical setup. It’s a must-buy for the home chef with limited space.
This is one of those luxury gifts that fits squarely in the splurge category, to be sure, and is for true bean heads. I’ve used the Ode and it grinds faster, more consistently and quietly than others and aims to please even the most finicky coffee drinker with 31 (yes, 31) grind settings. The Ode also looks damn cool, which is never a bad reason to pay a few more bucks for something as long as it works well.
Important to note that the Ode is engineered specifically for drip coffee and not espresso. The claim is that too many grinders attempt to do both and fail to do either well. It’s also not meant to grind large amounts of beans at once, making it ideal for Chemex and pour-over systems.
Earlier this year I put the cookware sensation that’s sweeping the nation to the test. Is it over-hyped? Maybe a smidge, but what isn’t these days? That doesn’t change the fact that the Always Pan is an exceedingly well-designed, multipurpose ceramic skillet that makes for a thoughtful gift. This foodie gift idea is a great size, as easy to clean as any pan I’ve ever used and has a built-in spoon rest — which I can’t believe isn’t a standard feature on more frying pans. The Always Pan is often sold out but is currently in stock and available in any one of five very pleasing colors. The maker of the Always Pan also just recently released a steamer basket insert made especially for it: Perfect for dumplings, fish and vegetables.
Right now all of Our Place’s inventory, including the Always Pan, is 20% off with special discount code ALWAYSPAN20.
More gifts for foodies
This article was written in 2019 by David Klein and updated for 2020 by David Watsky.