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Dec 3, 2016

Save or Splurge? Recommended Gifts for Your Favorite Cook or Baker

Save or Splurge? Recommended Gifts for Your Favorite Cook or Baker

When I first got into cooking and bread baking (not very long ago), I started collecting kitchen tools, gadgets, cookbooks, pots and pans, small electrics, and various other things one might find at Sur la Table or Williams Sonoma. Remodeling our 1960s kitchen and the completion of my master's degree collided. 

First, I needed shiny new kitchen toys to match my shiny new kitchen. Second, after completing a 60 unit degree, I couldn't read anything other than books meant for teenage girls (I completed the entire series of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), or cookbooks. 

After a few years of trial and error, here are my recommendations for splurging: 

Save or Splurge? Recommended Gifts for Your Favorite Cook or Baker

  1. The Breville Smart Toaster Oven: This thing has been a total workhorse for me. It's about $250, but has been well worth the money. I only have one oven, so this one has served as a backup, including the time when my oven's computer crashed in the middle of baking bread, and I had to finish it in this. It toasts, broils, bakes, convection bakes, reheats, and performs miracles. It is my backup oven on holidays. I've owned it a long time and have zero complaints. In researching this post, I just discovered that they've come up with an even larger version of this oven. Let's just say, I'm in big trouble. 
  2. The KitchenAid 7 Quart Pro Line Stand Mixer: True confession time... I have two stand mixers, this one, and the 5 Quart Artisan. Once I started baking bread, I realized that the Artisan would not hold up to making breads with a stiff dough, such as bagels. I have not regretted purchasing this mixer. I've owned mine since 2013 and it shows no sign of wear and tear. 
  3. This Vitamix Blender is well worth the extra money. While I don't use a blender that often, when I do, I'm so happy I have this one. It's reliable, easy to use, and so easy to clean. There is nothing this thing can't handle. 
  4. Hello Thermapen! If you bake bread, grill meat, or bake poultry, you need this tool. Trust me on this one. This thing is so accurate and fast, and will be your new favorite kitchen toy. I use this every day. I keep back up batteries on hand, just in case. I love mine! Don't settle for cheap imitations. This is the real deal. 
  5. There are a lot of expensive food processors out there, but my favorite is the classic 14 cup Cuisinart. I have this one, and back it up with a mini food processor, rather than deal with one with multiple containers.  I have owned this food processor for about four years, and have used it at least once a week. It's another work horse in my kitchen. 
Here are some of my recommendations for Saving (or not splurging):

Save or Splurge? Recommended Gifts for Your Favorite Cook or Baker

  1. Half Sheet Pans. You can't own too many. The ones I love are about $15 each, and I use them for baking everything. I also love these quarter sheet pans. There is no need to buy anything that is more pricey. 
  2. While the temptation to buy gorgeous expensive knives is compelling, you can't beat Victorinox Fibrox knives for value. I own the 10 inch bread knife, the Granton edge slicing knife, the chef's knife, and several paring knives from the line. I've noticed no difference from higher priced lines. 
  3. This Swissmar Borner V Slicer is a great substitute for an expensive mandoline. At 25% of the price of a stainless steel mandoline, you will be able to easily and safely slice and julienne vegetables and fruits. 
  4. A carbon steel flat bottomed wok is very inexpensive. Do not get lured into getting a nonstick or electric version. Call Tane at the Wok Shop and tell her that one of the Wok Wednesdays participants referred you. She will take good care of you. 
  5. Cookbooks! Of course! Some of my newest recommended titles include Dories Cookies, Breaking Bread: A New World of Israeli Baking, Sourdough: Recipes for Fermented Bread, and A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood
Other thoughts on Save or Splurge? 

I'm a big fan of All Clad pans. They are really pricey, so I fill out my collection by hitting the Williams Sonoma Outlet in Primm, Nevada (it's pretty much my Disneyland), or ordering from Cookware and More

What recommendations do you have for gifts for your favorite cook? Where do you find deals? 

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase, I will receive a tiny commission. 

Would you like to comment?

  1. I debated whether to open your post or not. Evidently, I could not resist your charm, so here I am...

    we do have a lot of gadgets and tools in common - I own a very small food processor and have been flirting with the idea of upgrading, but my heart has been leaning towards the Breville - the problem with the Cuisinart is reading the poor reviews on amazon. I often wonder if those people got bad luck with their purchase, because reviews can go from stellar to pathetic for the exact same processor. As far as reviews to, the Breville seems to get consistently awesome ones - but then again, the thing is pricey. I also wonder about the size, as I've never seen one face to face - I like to keep mine over the counter top, so if it's a huge elephant, it could be a problem

    of course, you tempt me too with a bigger, more potent Kitchen Aid.

    Karen, Karen.... what am I going to do about you? ;-)

    1. That Breville food processor has tempted me too! I get comfort in the fact that America's Test Kitchen recently chose the Cuisinart as their top rated. But then I don't think they tested he Breville....... oh dear..... PS, you have such a gorgeous kitchen, a big red KitchenAid would go so nicely. :)

  2. What a great post, Karen! I love the thermapen, and also have the 7qt KitchenAid - maybe I should take up bread making (lol), for it seems to be too large for regular baking; I find myself needing to start with a hand mixer/or by hand (like beating one egg) and transferring it to the mixer bowl. Love my cuisinarts too. :) Been thinking of a Vitamix as well.

    1. Thanks Cathy! I know what you mean about the KitchenAid. I kept my 5 quart Artisan for smaller jobs. That's 2 mixers on my counter, which always gets me teased when people come over, lol!!!

    2. Ha ha - at least it's justifiable in your case. :)


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