This holiday season, you don’t need to be an expert to find a gift for your kitchen-dwelling friend. Here are a few ideas that will get your thoughts cooking and will give your friend’s kitchen skills a boost. Some of these items also have some unexpected benefits and dual purposes that may come in handy.
Cast Iron Skillets
These are a popular item around the holidays, according to Pat Rochford of Peppercorn. They are heavy, come in a variety of sizes, and make pretty much everything taste better after a few uses.
Peppercorn carries the Lodge cast iron line, and prices range from $7.50 for a mini skillet to $41 for a 12-inch skillet. With proper care, these babies will last a lifetime, says Rochford.
An added bonus is the self-defense aspect of a cast iron skillet. Tom and Jerry weren’t exaggerating all that much with the effects of a good swing, and if that zombie apocalypse ever does come, your friend’s new skillet will stop the undead in their tracks and, if swung properly, is guaranteed to keep the family alive at least through breakfast.
Any frequent cook will tell you that a good, sharp knife makes a huge difference in the kitchen. Suddenly slicing a raw potato or beet won’t require half your friend’s body weight to get the blade through, and chopping an onion won’t make them cry as much. Also, if your friend is a little clumsy, sharper knives are actually safer than dull ones — they are less likely to slip, and if they do catch a finger, the cut will be thin and typically less damaging. So, by giving your friends a nice kitchen knife for the holidays, you will not only cut their prep time in half, you will also save them tears and possibly digits.
Peppercorn has a wide variety of knives suited for multiple skill levels. You can start your friend out on a Zyliss, an affordable option at $8.95 for a single knife and $14.99 for a set of three. It comes in pretty colors but is still sharp, according to Rochford. You can also send them to the big leagues with a Shun, a brand of knives that gets most cooks drooling and range from $69.95 to $150.
Crockpots and Slow Cookers
Crockpots and slow cookers may be old-fashioned, but oh my goodness do they make life easier and tastier. The beauty of a crockpot is that in the morning you just toss in the ingredients you need to make your dish, turn the setting on low or high, depending on how long you are planning on being gone, and when you return at the end of the day, your house will smell heavenly and dinner will be ready to serve.
These are definitely ideal presents for the busy cook and, if the previously mentioned zombie apocalypse does come around, having a meal ready after a day of trying to stay alive will be very much appreciated by your friend. Crockpots can be found at McGuckin’s and range from $19.99 to $54.99.
If you feel like getting a little fancier with your slow-cooker gift, check out the Le Creuset Dutch Ovens at Peppercorn. These are a bit more expensive, ranging from $199 to $250, but they will last for a very long time. If your friend is pretty well-versed in the cooking world, excited shrieking is to be expected with this one.
To go with all this cookware, include a cookbook from the Boulder Bookstore. The shop stocks a wide variety of cookbooks and has a staff picks section for suggestions. The Art of Simple Food is a helpful book with a lot of easy recipes good for the new cook, and the Healthy Baker or Big Vegan offer a lot of recipes for the gluten-free and vegan cooks. Food 52, a cookbook compiled of the best home-cooked recipes from a contest, is another popular option, says Stephanie Schindhelm of the Boulder Bookstore.
For your locally minded friend, look at Colorado Organic, a cookbook filled with recipes inspired by local and seasonal products.