Your holiday season shopping might include gifts for someone who enjoys cooking or being in the kitchen. With that in mind, I tested a number of items that could make it onto your gift list.
Keep in mind that my experience is based on a "cooking-for-one" basis, and that I used these items for less than 2 months. Many of these gifts are investment appliances that will last for many years, which makes them great things to treat yourself or others to this holiday season.
1. Artisan Mini 3.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer
As a baker, a good mixer is your best friend in the kitchen, if you have the space of course. Countertop space can be hard to come by for some, and kitchen closet/cabinet storage is also sometimes difficult real estate for appliances. This new KitchenAid mixer has a very small footprint, but does not compromise on the speed and capability of a standard KitchenAid mixer. It is a great gift for someone with a small living space that loves to cook and bake, and comes in a wide variety of colors. The bowl twists on and off the base for secure mixing, and is very easy to clean. I also tested a 6 quart mixer to compare power and speed, and I did not notice a visable difference in quality or speed, just that the capacity was greater in the larger-bowled mixer.
Major pro: With a 3.5 quart bowl, I found that it made about 5 dozen cookies, and the machine itself is much lighter and easier to transport around the kitchen.
2. Tribest Sousvant
Sous vide cooking is not often mentioned on home cooking shows, but is supposed to deliver 'restaurant quality' results in your own home. This particular method seemed like it would be easy, and without much clean up involved, and it is just that. This would be a great gift for someone who really enjoys cooking or wants to do their meal prep in a clean way. There are many different sous vide machines available, and most attach to a stock pot, and then place a sealed plastic bag of prepped food in the pot to cook. This particular device is all-inclusive, and comes with the clear plastic cooking container that you set on top of the base. The handles on both sides come in handy when dumping out the water after use. The one thing to consider about cooking with a sous vide in general, is that when cooking meat, you will notice it will look pink or raw once finished, and you can put it in a pan on the stove to sear it. Additionally, even though 'sous vide' is French for 'under vacuum,' a vacuum sealer is not required, and plastic sealing bags can be used.
Major pro: Unlike cooking in a metal pot, I enjoyed being able to see the food while it cooked, and was impressed with how it retained moisture.
3. IMUSA Electric Tortilla Maker
Quesadillas and fajitas are personal favorites of mine, and usually store-bought tortillas are the closest I come to authentic. This machine makes it easy for someone inexperienced like myself to make homemade tortillas with little-to- no clean up. The machine's cooking surface is non-stick and can be wiped with a wet cloth or paper towel to clean.
Major pro: This machine makes flour or corn tortillas and unlike making tortillas in a pan, does not use an open flame, so it is safer for younger chefs.
4. Portable SilKEN Grill
For someone who enjoys cooking and entertaining, without the hassle and cost of a full-sized grill, this is a great portable option. It is a flameless and smokeless electric grill that incorporates an award winning high temperature silicone lid which stays cool to the touch when cooking. The size of the grilling area is sufficient for serving four people comfortably, and is really easy to clean. The grill is designed to work with a disposable aluminum pan as a drip tray for a real no-hassle experience. The price point on this grill is slightly higher than a press-style grill, but it seemed to maintain a lot more flavor and liquid in comparison.
Major pro: This gift will last several years, with no maintenance necessary, and can build on itself for several years if you wish to purchase the attachments. Please note that the attachments and stands are not needed to use the grill.
5. Single Serve Brewer
Single-serve brewer coffee systems don't make sense for everyone, so this is a take-it-or-leave-it item. I've found that when I'm making coffee for one, using this machine is very efficient, and with very little mess to clean up, compared to a traditional coffee maker. This particular model by Cuisinart is lightweight, and is compatable with K-cup coffee pods. The benefit to the Cuisinart machine versus a competing brand is that you have the quality guarantee of Cuisinart.
Major pro: If you forget to turn off the machine, it has a 30-minute auto shut off feature to save electricity.
6. Hurom H-AA Slow Juicer
The juice trend is not letting up, and there are so many different options on the market, but this juicer by Hurom is not just functional, but a beautiful addition to a kitchen. What I have found with juicers in the past is that they are very difficult to clean, as they have many parts and small crevices. I was hesitant to test this juicer because of the price point, but found it to be very quiet while operating, and extremely easy to clean.
Major pro: Since it is a juicer that has one main purpose, to juice, which many other, much less expensive juicers also do, I would say the major benefit to this product is the design and the sleekness. Juicers can be bulky and not sustainable for years on end, but this one is made to last. This is a definite splurge gift, but Hurom offers a $40 off coupon code if you sign up for their email list, and they warranty the motor for 10 years, and the remaining parts for up to 2 years.
7. SodaStream Fizzi
SodaStream found a way to make crafting sparkling water a snap without electricty or batteries. This item is a great gift for someone who enjoys sparkling water by itself, or someone who might like to make mixed drinks at home that use it. The set up took 2 minutes, by inserting the provided CO2 cannister, and pressing the "Start" button at the top of the machine.
Major pro: SodaStream warranties the Fizzi for up to 2 years, and you can replace its cannister when empty, for a small fee at any SodaSteam retailer.
8. Smeg electric kettle
This is a luxury item that does the same thing most kettles do, but it looks great doing it. It heats up the water quickly, and keeps it warm longer than my traditional stovetop kettle. This is great for someone who wants to display their kettle on their countertop and uses it daily for making tea or French press coffee.
Major pro: The Smeg kettle holds just under two liters of water, and has a "keep warm" function that keeps the water warm long after the set temperature is reached. The removable limescale filter is also a helpful feaure of this kettle.
9. VertuoLine Evoluo Machine
I became a coffee drinker over the past year, and went through a phase where any cup of coffee was delicious. After tasting quality coffee and special drinks at boutique coffee shops, that ship sailed. I was excited to try out the Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo machine because my own family has raved about the quality of the machine, but most of all, the coffee that is offered. You must use special VertuoLine capsules, which are slightly different in shape from OriginalLine Nespresso capsules.
Major pro: This machine brews both large-cup coffee and authentic espresso (unlike the original Nespresso machine) using revolutionary Centrifusion technology, and the capsules are recyclable for free with included bags to send back to Nespresso.
10. CookFresh Digital Glass Steamer
Cooking fresh, homemade meals is usually compromised in my kitchen when schedules pile up and time runs short. I found that this steamer made the food I chose to cook quickly and full of flavor. Its glass cooking surface was easy to wipe down once cool, and left very little mess. I prefer the one-pot cooking trend as a home cook because time is of the essence. The price of this steamer seemed on the higher end of most steam cookers I have used, but I found the quality to be much better in the CookFresh model.
Major pro: The downside to other steam cookers I have tried in the past is that the water tank is not detachable, and this one is. It holds 1 liter of water, which was enough to cook four servings of chicken and vegetables.