The holidays are fast approaching, which means you need to get to shopping. If someone on your list is serious about cooking, drinking and eating, we have the perfect tools and toys to make their kitchen a happier, tastier place.
A Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
I may be a bit biased when it comes to this particular method of cooking, but there is no denying that an immersion circulator will seriously up your game in certain culinary undertakings. Meat, seafood, creamy desserts and eggs all come out consistently perfect when cooked this way, and an immersion circulator is also a great tool for infusing your way to bespoke oils, vinegar and booze.
There are two great models out there for the home cook: The Anova Precision Cooker ($239) and ChefSteps' Joule ($US199 [$265]). Both make great tasting food, but there are some differences in form and function, so check out our sous-vide showdown to pick the right one for yourself (or your very lucky giftee). The Anova also currently doesn't ship to Australia, so you'll have to put some extra cash and planning into a mail forwarding service.
Chopping chives and other herbs into tiny pieces can be a huge pain, but a pair of stainless steel herb scissors like these Kilo Herb Shears ($10) cut down your work by a factor of five, and produce consistently-cut little bits of delicious "herbal confetti", ready to be stirred into soups, stews, pasta or used as a beautiful garnish.
Maybe you are a much smoother operator than I, but I cannot tell you how many times I have burned the top of my hand trying to pull something out of the oven. A heat-resistant silicone oven pull like this one from Joie lets you drag hot dishes and pans (or even the rack itself) from the deepest depths of your oven, preventing bodily harm by way of burns. (It would also look super cute sticking out of a stocking.)
Silicone Scrape and Scoop
No amount of Nutella should ever be thrown out with its jar, and the Tovolo Scoop & Spread Multi-Purpose Spreader ($10) ensures you get every little bit. In addition to making sure there is no spread left behind, this silicone spreader distributes soft cheeses in a manner that is most pleasant.
Nibble Cake Tasting Pan
How many times have you baked a cake for a function, decorated it and then waited with bated breath, unsure of how it tasted, until it was served? The Quirky Nibble Cake Pan ($18), which comes with its own little mini-me built right in, eliminates your did-this-actually-turn-out-OK anxiety by letting you literally have your cake and eat it too.
Hands Free Bag Holder
Whether it's for sous-vide or food-storage reasons, I put a lot of things in plastic bags. I only have two hands, and sometimes I need both of those things to pour, scrape or otherwise transfer food from its original receptacle to said bag. This neat little rack clip from Jokari ($6) makes the whole process a lot easier by holding sandwich, freezer and other resealable bags open and stable, preventing spills, slips and other messes.
Reusable Food Huggers
Resealable bags have their time and place, but storing every little odd and end in a plastic bag can really add up, waste-wise. These washable, silicone Food Huggers fit around all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and can be used to cover the tops of jars, wide-mouth bottles and bowls of food, eliminating the need for plastic wrap. They're also dishwasher safe, which is nice, because washing things by hand is a drag, man.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, should have a kitchen thermometer, and you can't beat the super-fast, splash-proof, seriously reasonably priced ThermoWorks ThermoPop, which can be found for $US29 [$39] on their website. Not only is it extremely responsive — it gives you a reading in about five seconds — but the digital display rotates with the click of a button, letting you read your accurate temperature from any angle, and any hand.
Heat Conducting Knife
I keep my butter out on the counter, but it can still be a little tough to spread in the colder months. The Spread That Butter Knife ($32) uses your body heat to warm the butter, while the serrated edge scrapes it into super-spreadable ribbons, making your morning toast just a little more attainable.
Jigger Bottle Stoppers
These cute little jiggers ($20 for four) will make you feel equal parts mixologist and scientist, with demarcations in both ounces and millilitres. These multi-functional stoppers are also very unlikely to get lost, as they live right on top of your booze, streamlining your at-home cocktail making.
Monthly Spice Subscription
Playing around with new spices and flavours is a lot of fun, but buying a whole bunch of a spice you're unfamiliar with can be intimidating (and expensive). Raw Spice Bar's Spice of the Month Club ($US6 [$8] per month and up plus shipping) introduces you to exciting new seasonings with just a enough spice to get you going (or flowing) and delicious recipes that make sure your getting the most flavorful bang for your buck.
You should all probably be drinking more water, and the best way to do that is to ensure you have water with you at all times. Cold water is more enjoyable than warm water (at least for me) and the double-insulated, stainless steel Hydro Flask will keep your beverage cold for up to 24 hours, and it comes in a wide variety of sizes and colours.
I've mentioned it before, but my stick blender is the underrated workhorse of my kitchen. Not only is it portable, light and easy to operate and clean. It makes great shakes, smoothies, aioli, sauces and spreads, and it is indispensable in making creamy soups. I love my two-speed Cuisinart, which can be found for around $90.