Advanced Home Cooks--What's on Your Wishlist? (Assuming You Were Good!)
November 25, 2013 7:25 AM   Subscribe

Cooking is probably my main hobby these days. And, as a late-thirties professional, I have a fully outfitted kitchen. I'm being asked for gift ideas for Christmas, and I think I'll probably limit myself to 1) whisky and 2) stuff for the kitchen. Fellow advanced home cooks with fully stocked kitchens, what's on your wishlist this holiday season? Not looking for gimmicky stuff; rather something I'd actually use for years to come.

My lovely wife and I cook seriously. This past weekend, I spent north of 12 hours cooking, and that's a pretty common occurrence.

I've been cooking seriously for probably about 15 years. In that time, I've accumulated most everything I could want or need for the kitchen, from quality pots and pans (cast iron and steel, of all sorts), to a tagine, sous vide stuff, IR thermometers, stand mixer, food processor, rice machine, pasta machine, large torch, immersion blender, food mill, and a few nice knives (and a knife sharpener).

There is really nothing missing from the kitchen, but I'm being asked for gift ideas, and kitcheny things would be nice since our families know we love to cook and entertain. And, as I mentioned in an earlier AskMe, we make nearly everything used in our home.

There must be others in the same boat. What are you asking for? One thing I've mentioned to my wife is that I'm getting some fatigue with our main current knives after two or three hours' use (I think they're both about 8"; one is a traditional chef's knife, and the other is a santoku). I was thinking about maybe a nakiri, but don't know whether that would be more comfortable for slicing, or after that amount of time.

If you have everything in your kitchen, what one more thing would you make room for?
posted by Admiral Haddock to Home & Garden (53 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
You said it yourself, you already have all the stuff. Ask for edibles. A CSA box, a whole goat or grass fed beef form an organic farm, a small beehive for your backyard - maybe people can pool their money to get you something like that.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:38 AM on November 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

Large pizza stone, food grade lye granules, double boiler, igrill (bluetooth-connected meat thermometer), cheese-making equipment & culture, you may want to research automated/connected bbq smokers OOTB, like QBOX or DIY.
posted by rocketpup at 7:39 AM on November 25, 2013

How's your pantry? I like giving and receiving high-quality or hard-to-find ingredients - herbs, spices, local honey, salt, etc.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:40 AM on November 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

- A Vitamix
- MORE MICROPLANES. You can always use more/different microplanes.
- One of those slotless knife blocks with the zillions of tiny rods in 'em
- Some Szechuan buttons (oh how I covet those)
- A really luxe cutting board (ala a Boos block)
- ANYTHING from Penzey's - ideally, EVERYTHING from Penzey's
- A complete setup for doing home rice-bran pickling
- A kimchi fermenter
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:41 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a fellow home-cook enthusiast (I was in the kitchen from 4:30 pm Friday more or less straight through noon on Sunday this weekend), I think our process falls down in a couple of areas.

We're probably going to get a slow cooker some point soon, for various reasons. Personally, I feel more comfortable leaving something in one of those on a slow simmer for hours/days than on the stovetop or in the oven, especially if I'm asleep or out of the house. You can do tomato sauce and chili, sure, but I really could have used it to render lard this weekend and do confit and other fun stuff like that.

How are you on the presentation side of things? I would love to have a few really nice wooden serving boards, some unique platters, large serving utensils, stuff like that. After spending all that effort to cook something delicious you may as well make it look pretty, too.

If you think of gift requests as "stuff I'd like to have but would never spend money on it myself" then I would go for stuff like fancy garnishes, odd dishware like large flat-bottomed spoons for serving amuse bouche, those neat bamboo skewers with the little twist at the end for cocktail garnishes... Unusual liquors for drinks? Fancy carafes or decanters?
posted by backseatpilot at 7:41 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

so you have cast-iron and steel cookware, but do you have heavy-gauge copper? mauviel cuprinox, their heaviest gauge at 2.5 mm of copper on the outside, is available at sites like, and it's hella expensive. this comment could end up costing your family several thousand dollars. i have several mauviel cuprinox pieces, they're wonderful.
posted by bruce at 7:43 AM on November 25, 2013

nitro charger?
A collection of MG chemicals?
Have them rip though Cocktail Kingdom for some awesome barware?

I have a bunch of stand alone induction burners that I use in lieu of a slow cooker or when I need extra stove space.

Pastry Slab?

Are you a baker? If so Proofing Box, Brotforms.

I have a Romertopf clay oven that goes into my regular oven that is pretty great.

Otherwise - Pantry things are always great

N.B. - Japanese knives are one sided and are a little bit different to use.

On preview - back seat pilot - try the induction burner thing - as safe (maybe safer) than a slow cooker but much much much better outcomes and you can use your own pots to braise in.

Also my slow cooker is too hot for confit.
posted by JPD at 7:43 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not a direct answer to your question but as my family ages past the point of Needs Fulfilled, Wants Fulfilled we find ourselves both giving and receiving more consumable stuff. So perhaps give some thought to things you might want to cook with. This year for example I am giving infused honey; Himalyan and Black Lava salts; and grilling rubs.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:43 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oooh, fun! Definitely ask for ingredients - you can invite people over or take pictures of the food. If I was your friend I would get you a big basket of oils and spices and flours and stuff.

Also the KitchenAid (yes!!) stand mixer has tons of attachments, do you have many?

Also how much do you entertain? If you're making masterpieces you should be sharing and fancy dishes and linens count as "kitchen stuff."
posted by polly_dactyl at 7:45 AM on November 25, 2013

I'd also ask for edibles instead of equipment. Truffle oil. Fancy finishing salts. A fresh supply of spices.
posted by donajo at 7:45 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you have a copy of Cooking for Geeks? If not, add that to your list.
posted by alms at 7:46 AM on November 25, 2013

Balsamic vinegar, the kind that's a hundred bucks for a tiny bottle.
posted by canoehead at 7:48 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Stovetop smoker: budget version, frou-frou version.

Granite mortar and pestle.

Dedicated spice grinder.

Large Chinese clay pot.

Masala dabba.

Fancy garlic press.

High-end pepper grinder and an assortment of peppercorns (Tellicherry black, pink, Szechuan).

Salt pig and delightful assortment of salts (fleur de sel, French grey, Hawaiian pink, black lava).

Ultra high-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

And my kingdom for a high-capacity pot rack.
posted by divined by radio at 7:49 AM on November 25, 2013

Baking steel; the special edition (thicker) one. My boss has one and has really been talking it up.
posted by ftm at 7:49 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

oh, and an authentic parma prosciutto ham, about 16-18 lbs from a site like, is worth every penny of the $230 or so it will set you back. you will also need a prosciutto knife to go with it (wusthof makes a good one). cut a thin slice, crumple it up and it's the best pizza topping meat there is.
posted by bruce at 7:53 AM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hey, how about a dehydrator? My Nutritionist friend has one of these, and makes crazy delicious raw food bars with it, not to mention drying her own fruit and veg for winter. Especially good if you live in a place with inconsistent levels of sunshine!
posted by greenish at 7:53 AM on November 25, 2013

Spice blends from La Boite
posted by neroli at 7:54 AM on November 25, 2013

Double oven. Two dishwashers.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:54 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have one of those big-ass outdoor gas-fired woks?
posted by HotToddy at 8:04 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you dont have a nice mandoline I would ask for one of those. I got mine as an xmas present last year and while I havent used it every week (more like once a month) when I've used it the time and ease of use were amazing. It makes dauphinoise potatoes into something you can make as an easy side and even helps with some things that you wouldn't expect like making an apple cake.

Be sure to get a cut proof glove to go with it to save your fingers and also not have to use the crappy holders.
posted by koolkat at 8:05 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you homebrew?

If no, why not?! :)

If yes, ask for better equipment - stainless steel boil kettles ain't cheap. Do you keg? If no, get started. And then get a stainless steel growler.

How's your pressure cooker?

What about the little things? Do you have enough dredgers? Silicone spatulas and spoons? I love silicone spoons! How's your mise? Do you have enough prep bowls?

What's your spice rack look like? Is it sad little containers that don't match with ten year old spices clumped inside?

I love my Kyocera Everything Mill, I use it for grinding grey salt.

Do you have heavy duty sheet pans and silpat mats?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:05 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am more or less in the same boat as you.

Suggestions for things you may not have but will likely use would include:

- chamber vacuum
- a deba for fish butchery
- a VitaPrep 3
- a bigolaro (aka torchio) for making pasta
- a spaetzle maker
- a vegetable juicer (I think the low speed masticating type is best for home use)
- an EdgePro knife sharpening system
posted by slkinsey at 8:08 AM on November 25, 2013

I'm asking for an instant-read digital thermometer.
posted by michellenoel at 8:08 AM on November 25, 2013


- a giant sized pressure cooker for making stock (and canning it for storage)
- a chest deep-freezer
posted by slkinsey at 8:11 AM on November 25, 2013

Pig lard from Chef's Shop. Contrary to popular belief, lard is a very "elegant" fat (more neutral than more commonly used frying oils and fats, in the sense that it doesn't add its own flavor) and also quite healthy.
posted by rada at 8:20 AM on November 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Tons of great suggestions here! I would add checking out if there are any classes you might be interested in - a technique you haven't tried, a style of cuisine taught by someone really immersed in it, or even something like knife skills if you taught yourself.
posted by brilliantine at 8:27 AM on November 25, 2013

French rolling pin. I have this one and it's excellent.
posted by jon1270 at 8:28 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Step up your sous vide capability with a chamber vacuum sealer.
posted by nicwolff at 8:32 AM on November 25, 2013

If you have lots of cookbooks, a subscription to Eat Your Books.

Do you have a copy of Modernist Cuisine At Home? Lots of ideas for unusual kitchen tools in there.
posted by carolr at 8:40 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Vitamix, chamber vac, GOOD pressure cooker (Kuhn-Rikon; it makes a difference).

Outdoor smoker?
posted by supercres at 8:41 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are looking for cheap but immesnsely useful ideas I think silicone pot holders are fantastic and you can never have enough. Great for opening jars, acting as trivets and of course as their intended function. Plus the great thing is they are easily cleanable.

Speaking of silicone if you bake silpat mats might be nice.
posted by mmascolino at 8:43 AM on November 25, 2013

A good Food Mill

(not the one Sur La Table makes!)

A bigger kitchen.
posted by jbenben at 8:50 AM on November 25, 2013

We are starting to update our dishes after updating our kitchen tools. We started with our flatware and are now starting to save for plates and serving dishes. I covet Heath.
posted by Swisstine at 8:54 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ceramic knives. So unbelievably sharp you'll almost cut your finger off on Christmas morning! If you're me.

We have good quality knives that I sharpen regularly but they're still nowhere near as sharp as even the cheapest ceramic blade, and I do suggest getting the cheapest ceramic blades and replacing them every year or so because they don't last forever but can be inexpensive enough that you don't really need them to. (Though I admit we did just buy one of the higher-end ones too, we'll see if it lasts longer than the others)
posted by ook at 9:00 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm giving several friends some sugru this year, with which they can hack their handles/lids/storage/whatever.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:15 AM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do you have one of those special chef's mats? They're really squishy and are great for people that spend a lot of time on their feet.
posted by amicamentis at 9:16 AM on November 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

How are you fixed for kitchen linens? There are lots of new materials in pot holders these days. I also replaced all my old worn out kitchen towels with brand new clean ones and it feels so much better just to be in the kitchen. (the old ones are out in the garage and being used as disposable rags for really dirty cleanups).
posted by CathyG at 9:19 AM on November 25, 2013

How is your storage? Do you need rolling pullouts for your cabinets? Hanging racks for pots? One of those magnetic knife/utensil racks? I'm going to spend 2014 really making our kitchen storage smarter. The kitchen in our old house was incredibly efficient. The eye level space was perfectly utilized for stuff I needed to quickly find.

My other idea is a really nice trash can in an accessible spot. I do not understand the trash under the sink thing.
posted by 26.2 at 10:08 AM on November 25, 2013

You said you have a knife sharpener, but do you have whetstones? A set of proper sharpening stones will work far better than a knife sharpener (it requires more work, but I find it relaxing), especially if you have Japanese knifes. Most knife sharpeners are made for European knives which have blades with 40-45° angles, while Japanese blades have 20-30° angles (this is especially important if you have a santoku, but is critical even if you have a chef’s knife from brands such as Global or Shun). (This, along with the high-carbon steel is why electric sharpeners do absolutely terrible things to Japanese blades.)

Another thought is spices from The Spice House. Penzey’s was started by the children of the couple who started The Spice House, and the quality difference is noticeable even between those two (both are local institutions for me).

A third would be a good set of food books. My personal favorites are:
  • Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking
  • The Flavor Bible
  • Le répertoire de la cuisine for basic recipes (and nothing but the recipes) of French classics
  • Dona Z. Meilach’s Homemade Liqueurs, which has some terrific ideas for making liqueurs for home cooking, and of course…
  • The CIA collection (I’m partial to Baking and Pastry and The Professional Chef)

posted by thebestsophist at 10:42 AM on November 25, 2013

These are likely beyond the scope of most families' Christmas gifts, but these are the things I really want, being in your approximate situation:

A chamber vacuum sealer
A rotary vacuum evaporation system
A lab-grade centrifuge
Some kind of tandoor. Possibly a Green Egg. I haven't gone far enough down this road to know for sure.
A PacoJet
A freeze-drier

More practically, I get a lot out of the high-end cookbooks. I'm currently chewing through this Mugaritz book. Lots of these now deal with the philosophy and history of dishes and the chef's technique.

Do you have Modernist Cuisine?
posted by cmoj at 10:48 AM on November 25, 2013

A salt block for cooking on?
posted by exceptinsects at 10:52 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get a bunch of cloth napkins and stop using the paper ones.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:59 AM on November 25, 2013

Get a Tefal Actifry. Reviews online are kinda mixed but once you get the hang of them they're excellent.
posted by hazyjane at 11:02 AM on November 25, 2013

You need a Donvier ice cream maker.

Sure, you could buy (or perhaps you already have) an electric one, but this lets everyone participate. Mine, which was found for $5 at Goodwill, is the highlight of my dinner parties. I put the insert in the freezer the night before, and make and chill the "batter" a few hours before the party, and I bring it out filled and assembled to be passed around the table. Everyone gets to turn the crank a few times, then you let it sit for a few minutes and pass it to the next person. In about 20 minutes - maybe more if it's a mojito sorbet or other boozy treat - you've got dessert. Meanwhile, it occupies your guests while you clear the dinner plates and bring out the ice cream bowls.

This is such a hit, with new guests being instructed in the ritual by repeat guests, that one engaged couple thought it would be a wonderful thing to have one at every table at their wedding reception as an ice-breaker (they had to give up on the idea - too expensive for new ones and it would be a chore to round up enough of them at thrift stores).

You don't have to use it with a crowd, though. If you have never had homemade pistachio ice cream, you haven't had real pistachio ice cream, because the store-bought stuff is full of artificial color and flavor. Real pistachio ice cream is not bright green.

If that doesn't float your boat, then you need an electric kettle. It boils water faster than the microwave or the stove, and once you have one you will wonder how you lived without it. I use mine for rehydrating dried fruits, mushrooms and veggies, tea, sterilizing jars, heating water for pasta or rice when I'm in a hurry, and a dozen other things.
posted by caryatid at 11:53 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

GelPro to stand on. I have two in my main kitchen work areas, and those things are some of the best kitchen money I've ever spent. The difference in how my back and legs feel after two hours standing on a GelPro vs standing on the floor is incredible.
posted by little mouth at 12:14 PM on November 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just thought of something else. I was given something I never would have bought for myself but that I use constantly. It's an under-cabinet-mounted combination AM/FM clock radio and phone, so that I can answer calls and listen to public radio while I cook. Apparently they aren't made anymore, which is odd because mine is only few years old. Since I have to have a landline to have DSL, and I don't have a smartphone, it works for me.

In Googling for it I found that you can also get under-cabinet swing-away mounts for tablets, and under-cabinet docking stations for iPods and iPhones.
posted by caryatid at 12:32 PM on November 25, 2013

Depending on how much and what kind of entertaining you're doing with your delicious cooking, it might be worth it to invest in a set of chafers.
posted by mhum at 12:56 PM on November 25, 2013

Do you have canning equipment?
posted by soleiluna at 1:16 PM on November 25, 2013

One thing I love in my kitchen is my magnetic knife rack. Very handy. The other suggestion I have is that you upgrade the countertop accessories to match your personal style. I love hand-thrown pottery and am slowly replacing the cheap versions of olive oil jar, balsamic vinegar pitcher, salt and pepper shakers, lazy Susan, butter bell, etc, with versions that I love to feel in my hands and make me happy to touch.
posted by raisingsand at 2:47 PM on November 25, 2013

Both have been said above and I'm seconding: Modernist Cuisine at Home, and a good mandoline.

How about a meat grinder attachment for your Kitchenaid?

Oh speaking of Kitchenaid, this is what I want: a glass mixing bowl for the mixer so you can microwave the stuff you're about to mix, and see from the sides whether there are unmixed streaks.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:05 PM on November 25, 2013

A simple hand-operated citrus squeezer. I need citrus all the time, and can't bear the bother of the little electric gadgets. Just give me a lever and I'll squeeze the world.
posted by LonnieK at 6:11 PM on November 25, 2013

A chinois.
A top quality mandoline.

Not so much:
A few really good rubber spatulas.
One of those great can openers that slices off the lid from the side (less sharp and has the added benefit of reusing the lid for short-term storage of anything left over in the can).
Sushi accoutrements.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 3:09 AM on November 26, 2013

I agree with getting a good mat. Mine is also a Gel Pro, and it made a world of difference to how I feel while I'm in the kitchen and afterwards. I'm thinking about how the food looks and tastes rather than how my feet or legs hurt. I got a 6' one that covers the area where I walk back and forth from the sink to my prep area to my cooktop.
posted by JaneL at 10:53 PM on November 26, 2013

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