TASTY TREATS AND TOOLS
Finding a holiday gift for the serious foodie who uses only the snazziest cookware and knows where to find the most authentic late-night ramen can be intimidating. But a frugal shopper can delight an epicure for $25 or less. A dash of budget-savvy imagination can lead holiday shoppers to gourmet ingredients and practical kitchen gear.
Price: Starting at $10 | Buy it at Chef Salt
This useful holiday gift of small-batch artisan salts adds a brilliant pop of flavor to gourmet and everyday dishes. There's a $25 option of a decorative gift box of any two jars plus recipe cards. Volcanic and sea salts are blended with herbs and spices to create varieties such as Bamboo Curry and Holy Mole.
Price: $13.50 | Buy it on Amazon
What's salt without pepper? Tellicherry black peppercorns deliver a deep, complex flavor with a bite. A pound should last about a year. Alternatively, divide the haul into four stocking stuffers -- a little jar of peppercorns bedecked with a ribbon promises to spice up any meal.
Price: $13 | Buy it on Amazon
Unleash the barbecue beast within and give the gift of Cave Tools Meat Claws. Strong enough to shred slow-cooked, grilled, or smoked meat, the claws also can be used to pick up food and carve large pieces of meat without slippage. More than 1,000 reviewers award the claws an exceptional 4.7 stars.
Price: $14 | Buy it on Amazon
Truffle flavor is incorporated everywhere from pasta and pizza to fries and even high-end sushi. Truffle mushrooms are expensive, because they must be sniffed out by trained hogs or dogs, but truffle oil is a cheaper alternative.
Price: $5 to $26 | Buy it at Olio&Olive
Bacon now enhances foods from cupcakes to beer. Cooks often use pancetta, pork belly, or the standard smoked variety, but guanciale -- cured meat from the jowl of a pig -- makes a singular Christmas gift for a pork-loving foodie. Popular in central Italy but little known on this side of the pond, guanciale is leaner and boasts a more pronounced flavor than bacon.
Price: $25 | Buy it at New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.
Hands-on chefs will enjoy cheese-making while stuck inside on a wintery day. This kit lets a home chef turn milk into mozzarella or ricotta in about half an hour.
Price: $20 | Buy it on Amazon
Teary-eyed cooks will happily don RSVP International's onion goggles. The handy accessory comes in different colors and has won hundreds of enthusiastic (and grateful) reviews online.
Price: $20 | Buy it at Jacques Torres
Chocolate aficionados will delight in "bean-to-bar" artisanal chocolate. This Wicked Hot Chocolate mix contains enough cinnamon, allspice, and chili to rouse the taste buds of the most jaded palate.
HICKORY FARMS SAMPLER
Price: $16 | Buy it at Hickory Farms
A common sight at holiday gatherings and parties, Hickory Farms' samplers contain a summer sausage, toasted crackers, a smoked cheddar blend, and sweet hot mustard. They average more than 4 stars among reviewers on multiple retail sites.
ELECTRIC WINE OPENER
Price: Starting at $20 | Buy it at Best Buy
Save loved ones from wrestling with stubborn wine corks. The Oster electric wine opener has won over thousands of consumers who have posted reviews on retail sites. The opener is cordless and comes with a charging base. One charge opens up to 30 bottles.
JUMBO SILICONE ICE TRAY
Price: Starting at $9 | Buy it at Crate & Barrel
Inexpensive silicone ice trays, like a jumbo cube version, make a thoughtful gift to enhance the quality of drinks all year round. Given the price, consider giving a couple.
MINI GRATER AND SLICER
Price: $11 | Buy it at Kohl's
This two-in-one tool is a space saver and multitasker for cooks. The handheld device grates everything from cheese to citrus zest and also slices small fruits and veggies (similar to a mandoline but on a smaller scale). The flat design makes it easy to store or take along for gourmet picnics that call for freshly grated cheese.
Price: $24 | Buy it on Zazzle
Although most people keep their recipes in digital form, there's still something special about a handheld recipe book, such as a personalized binder with a rustic design. It can inspire culinary-minded loved ones to start a tangible collection to be passed on for generations.
MICROWAVE POPCORN MAKER
Price: $15 | Buy it on Uncommon Goods
This stylish device makes a perfectly sized batch of popcorn in the microwave for a quick snack and easy cleanup. This gift will be appreciated by lovers of DIY snacks.
SLATE CHEESE BOARD
Price: $10 | Buy it at Crate & Barrel
This specialty item adds class and sophistication to any spread. Surprisingly inexpensive, the slate cheese board is cheap enough to give a set of two. Complete the gift with some chalk for labeling the cheese on the board.
Price: $20 | Buy it at Uncommon Goods
Good enough to eat with a spoon or inspire an entire menu of sweet treats, a sampler of six caramels makes for an indulgent gift set for someone who loves caramel or a Secret Santa gift for someone you don't know very well.
Price: $20 | Buy it at Target
This gift is a surefire way to inspire a foodie to dream up an endless variety of thirst-quenching creations. In addition to inspiring creativity, a fruit infusion pitcher will encourage the recipient to drink plenty of water and save money (and the environment) by cutting down on plastic water bottles.
PURE MAPLE SYRUP
Price: $8 | Buy it on Bespoke Post
A bottle of pure maple syrup from the Catskill Mountains makes a wonderful holiday gift. This can be used on pancakes and waffles, and foodies will appreciate the notes of coffee and dark chocolate.
HOLIDAY TEA SAMPLER
Price: $25 | Buy it at Stash
An inexpensive indulgence during the cold of winter, this tea gift set has a complete lineup of seasonal favorites such as pumpkin spice and holiday chai to last through the holidays. A tea lover will appreciate the variety of flavors and superior quality of the brand.
Price: $9 | Buy it at BevMo
Mostly known as a cocktail flavor enhancer in the United States, aromatic bitters are actually considered a food flavoring in most of the world. Recommended uses on the classic Angostura label include adding a few dashes to soups and sauces or morning coffee. A secret blend of botanicals gives it a unique flavor and it makes a low-cost option for foodies.
Price: $12 | Buy it at West Elm
A wood and copper salt cellar is a chic countertop accent, with elegance a standard salt shaker can't match.
NINJABREAD MEN COOKIE CUTTERS
Price: $10 | Buy it on Amazon
These cute cookie cutters are a twist on classic gingerbread men that will bring a smile to anyone who loves holiday baking (or eating). This gift by Fred & Friends is appropriate for cooking enthusiasts of all ages.
PERSONALIZED CUTTING BOARD
Price: $15 to $20 | Buy it from Bed Bath & Beyond
A personalized bamboo cutting board in the shape of a beloved state can be made especially for a food-loving friend or family member in a distant part of the country.
CUSTOMIZED OVEN MITT
Price: $10 | Buy it on Pychobaby
Make cooking and serving more fun with heat-resistant, customized oven mitts and potholders in a variety of styles -- an affordable stocking stuffer for cooks young and old.
Price:$5 | Buy it at MexGrocer
This handy, traditional tool is used to mix up a batch of frothy Mexican hot chocolate. Crafted out of beautiful wood, it is one of the oldest symbols of Mexican gastronomy.
Price:$17.50 | Buy it at Hayneedle
Tea towels come in virtually any pattern, color, and novelty message, which makes them a versatile and stylish gift. A modern style can add a touch of useful class to anyone’s kitchen.
Price:$16 | Buy it at Terrain
Metal straws are a one-time purchase that add a sophisticated touch to any beverage, with the added benefit of being a sustainable option for the planet. Terrain offers particularly nice metallic colors.
Price:$10 | Buy them at World Market
These cute little teacups are for small servings, creating an intimate experience around each pot. A traditional look makes them feel like ancient heirlooms.
Price:$18 | Buy it at BeesWrap
An ingenious and sustainable solution to wrapping and saving food, these reusable, all-natural beeswax wrappers are a trend in home cooking. There are a few companies making these alternatives to plastic wrap, in a variety of styles.
Price:$8 | Buy it at Bed Bath & Beyond
Some of the best kitchen tools come in small and inexpensive packages, including this multi tool that removes stems from leafy greens and herbs in one swipe. This cheap plastic tool will save time and frustration for those who love cooking with greens.
Price:$17 | Buy it at Sur La Table
Mandolins are usually one of the last kitchen tools to be acquired, but one of the easiest way to upgrade so many dishes. Mini versions take up less space and can be used for most of the classic items to be sliced thinly, including cucumber, chili peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
Price:$10 | Buy it at Amazon
Novelty aprons may have gone out of style, but a clean and modern style is a thoughtful gift for those who love to cook without ruining their clothes. This denim apron is dark enough to stay clean-looking through years of messy cooking and baking.
Price:$15 | Buy it at Sur La Table
Mexican food is popular, tacos in particular, and more home chefs are enjoying them at home. This simple, modern tool holds and serves tacos in place for optimal presentation and layout.
MUSHROOM GROWING KIT
Price:$20 | Buy it at Back To The Roots
Grow your own harvest of oyster mushrooms for up to six months, yielding a bounty that surpasses the price, and is fun to boot.
Price:$13 | Buy it at Amazon
Sprouts are one of the most nutritious foods, and elevate dishes such as salads and sandwiches instantly. Unfortunately, sprouts are often expensive and prone to spoiling easily when packed and sold in stores. This sprouter allows you to grow your own for just a few pennies per batch to enjoy at the peak of freshness.
Price:$25 | Buy it at Sur La Table
Every kitchen lover should have a spiralizer that turns vegetables into noodles of different shapes and sizes. While the larger versions cost closer to $35, handheld versions such as this OXO offer a high-quality handheld introduction to the world of spiralizing.
Price: Various | Buy them on Amazon
There’s something to having an actual book, complete with beautiful images and high-quality recipes, that is special, even in this age of Internet recipes galore. Go for something trendy, such as pressure cooking recipes, or alternative diet recipes, that will inspire new meals.
Price:$7 | Buy it at Bed Bath & Beyond
The snapping ball tea infuser is a simple and stylish option that adds elegance to any tea drinker’s ritual, but there are plenty more more kitschy and fun options, depending on the recipient's personality that also make thoughtful gifts.
Price:$20 | Buy it on Etsy
Often handmade, these ceramic bowls are a beautiful piece to display on a countertop, and incredibly useful. They can be used to grate things such as garlic, ginger, and turmeric, making its use in recipes quick and easy. They are often sold at farmers markets as well as online.
Price:Starting at $19 | Buy it at Sur La Table
Steaming food is easiest with traditional bamboo baskets that also create a festive and unique presentation. A basic set comes with two bottoms and one top, and can be accommodated to hold multiple tiers.
Price:$20 | Buy it at Williams Sonoma
Cast iron is one of those gifts that lasts a lifetime and is an absolute essential for those who love to cook. These days it’s easy to find a high-quality pan for a low price.
MORTAR AND PESTLE
Price:$10 | Buy it on Amazon
One of the oldest and most widely used culinary tools, this ancient form of grinding and combining ingredients taps into a primal sense. Most cooks love getting involved with their ingredients, and some even have multiple mortars and pestles for different applications. A basic one in dignified gray marble is a good place to start.
Price:$8 | Buy it at Bed Bath & Beyond
Good cooks know butter does not belong in the fridge, but on the counter. Encourage those just starting out their culinary journeys, or even longtime home cooks, with a modern butter dish. This chic example is contemporary and classic to fit any decor.
Price: $21 | Buy it at Williams Sonoma
Herbs are difficult to manage in home kitchens, often wilting or going bad before being used. A simple gadget to help keep herbs fresh and accessible is a nice touch for those who love to use a lot of fresh herbs in preparation and garnishing.
Price:$8 | Buy them on Amazon
Cheese lovers know that wrapping cheese for optimal freshness can be a challenge with the average store-bought options such as plastic and wax paper. Specialty cheese bags are created for just this purpose and will add extra shelf life to cheese, to the delight of cheese-loving friends.
Price:$5 | Buy it at Central Restaurant
A pizza peel is a simple and inexpensive piece of wood, but makes all the difference when trying to recreate a pizzeria-style pie at home. They are so inexpensive you could even include ingredients to make a few pies with the gift to make it a complete package.
Price:$15 | Buy it on Amazon
Handheld blenders are especially useful for cooks who love to save time cooking and minimize cleanup. As with most home appliances there are a lot of options for price points, but good quality option start surprisingly low.
Price:$6 | Buy it at Target
Being able to make your own cappuccino or add a little bit of volume to a cup of cocoa is a small touch that makes a big difference. A handheld milk frother can instantly upgrade the beverages that many people rely on to start or end their days.
Price:$21 | Buy it on Etsy
Those who love to cook often love to entertain and present their food beautifully. Rather than a specialized serving dish, a simple yet beautiful bread board can be used for so many different presentations. Opt for something with a little character from a local artisan or unique site.