What to Buy a Home Cook for the Holidays, According to Chefs

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  • Insider asked 10 professional chefs what kind of gifts they’d get home cooks for the holidays. 
  • They recommended chef’s knives, Dutch ovens, a gift basket of pantry staples, fancy chocolate, and more.
  • This article is part of the “How to Holiday” series, which highlights the best ways to embrace and prepare for the festive season.

When it comes to buying gifts for home cooks, it can be hard to think of things they don’t already have. 

So, Insider asked several chefs for their advice on the best gift ideas for every level, from beginners to professionals.

A good Dutch oven can become an heirloom

dutch oven pot on stove

Good Dutch ovens are built to last.

Erin McDowell/Insider


Luigi Fineo, Michelin-starred executive chef of TATEL Beverly Hills, said Dutch ovens are great for home cooks who you want to impress. 

“My favorites are from Le Creuset,” he said. “They are very versatile as they can be used for stew, soups, and risottos. They are easy to clean and very sturdy — they literally last forever.”

Make spice mixes for stocking stuffers or group gifts

If you’re opting for homemade gifts or trying to stick to a tighter budget this year, Michelin-starred chef Shaun Hergatt of Vestry in New York City suggested putting together a spice mix.

“Just combine nice salt with another spice you enjoy and pour it into a beautiful jar or vessel,” he told Insider.

You can personalize it to each recipient’s taste or share flavors you love.

Pressure cookers are great for making comforting winter stews

Fancy new multi-cooker appliances have been dominating wish lists for several years, but they might not hold up as well as a standard pressure cooker.

“These days, people typically go for an Instant Pot, but all my favorite, most comforting stews are made in a pressure cooker,” Hergatt said. “It’s a classic and a great thing to have in your kitchen.”

One of the top suggestions from chefs was a high-quality wood cutting board

Picanha steak sliced on a cutting board

Solid cutting boards can be expensive.

Luiz Nelli/Getty Images


Multiple chefs told Insider that a wood cutting board would make any home cook happy.

You can find some inexpensive options, but it’s best to get one that will last a long time. A high-quality board is something home cooks may not be prepared to invest in themselves, making it a special present.

Chef Brian Malarkey, a judge on “Guy’s Grocery Games” and a former “Top Chef” finalist, suggested supporting “local wood craftspeople by buying local cutting boards.”

Help the home cooks in your life upgrade their meals with a truffle shaver

Gianpiero Ceppaglia, executive chef of Angelini Osteria in Los Angeles, suggested gifting home cooks a truffle shaver.

“You can elevate any dish by topping it with freshly shaved truffle,” he said.

For an extra special touch, you can also include some fresh truffles.

Kitchen towels make for an endlessly useful gift

kitchen utensils and towels hanging on a bar

Everyone could use kitchen towels.

Pereslavtseva Katerina/Shutterstock


Home cooks use a lot of kitchen towels, whether they’re drying their hands, wiping down the counter, or grabbing a hot pan.

Chef Chris Siversen, owner of Maritime Parc in Jersey City, told Insider you can never have enough towels, making them a foolproof gift. They can even be used for wrapping additional presents. 

He said to go for “good quality, like those sold at Williams Sonoma.”

Inspire home cooks to try new recipes by building their library of cookbooks

There’s no shortage of incredible cookbooks for gifting, but these chef-recommended options offer plenty of meal ideas for all experience levels.

Gabriel Lopez, executive chef of Willa’s in Tampa, loves gifting “Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner … Life” by Missy Robbins.

“It covers all the basics from getting started grocery shopping and choosing ingredients to navigating a small kitchen,” he said. “The ‘best-roasted chicken’ recipe is a go-to for me at home where I don’t have a rotisserie oven. Missy makes cooking whole chickens approachable for the average home cook, and I love gifting this book for this reason.”

Howard Kalachnikoff, chef and partner at Rolo’s in Ridgewood, Queens, suggested “Where Cooking Begins” by Carla Lalli Music, “Charred and Scruffed” by Adam Perry Lang (which is required reading for chefs at Rolo’s), and “River Café Cookbooks” by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.

Chef Mike DeCamp of Jester Concepts in Minneapolis recommended Jacques Pépin’s “La Technique” or Julia Child, Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which “are great for getting the basics down and making delicious food.”

He added, “For more contemporary and relevant cookbook gifts, I’d suggest  ‘Momofuku’ by David Chang — there’s nothing too extremely complicated and most dishes can be done with minimal experience.”

A chef’s knife is perfect for any experience level

A pair of hands using a knife to cup the top third off an artichoke

Every home chef needs a good set of knives.

Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images


Whether the recipient is a novice or professional chef, a good knife is crucial. 

“A chef’s knife is a perfect all-purpose tool in the kitchen, and Korin are experts in knife-making,” Hergatt told Insider. “Can’t go wrong.”

Siversen also recommended combining the knife with a high-quality sharpening stone, which he also said you can find at Korin. 

A mandolin is essential for finely slicing vegetables

Siversen recommended gifting home cooks a mandolin, which finely slices things.

It’s perfect for making gratins or shaved vegetables, and it’s versatile and can really cut down on prep work.

There are many options for every budget, and Siversen noted that even the inexpensive plastic mandolins work great for slicing fruits and vegetables.

A mortar and pestle is a handy tool that looks nice on the counter

mortar and pestle muddler

Spice blends, dips, and sauces can be made with a mortar and pestle.

Fabian Plock/EyeEm/Getty Images


For the cook who loves making their own flavorful mixtures by hand, a mortar and pestle is a great gift.

Michael Johnson, a private chef and former development chef for British Airways, suggested this gift for cooks who enjoy “crushing spice blends, making pastes, and marinades.” 

The tool makes it easy to whip up homemade guacamole, pesto, chimichurri, and more.

Create gift baskets of pantry staples for a personal touch

For the home cook who has just about everything, Nancy Lee, chef and founder of Cooky Mom, suggested putting together a practical gift basket with high-quality, hand-selected pantry items.

“Make sure to include stuff with a long shelf life and can be refrigerated for future use because you don’t have an idea when the receiver will use them,” she said. “Some of the items you can place in the gift basket are salt and pepper, canned anchovy paste, flour, pasta, canned veggies, pickled vegetables, sherry vinegar, and olive oil.”

Home cook or not, luxe chocolate is a thoughtful gift

Melted chocolate in a bowl.

Deluxe chocolate can be a delightfully tasty gift.

LenkaPrusova/Getty Images


Gourmet chocolates from a chocolatier make for an incredibly indulgent gift.

Johnson recommended Candid Noons because the brand is “sustainable and delicious.”

Consider finding a local chocolate shop and go for anything from chocolate bars to truffles. For serious home bakers, you could also find some high-quality melting chocolate or chocolate chips.

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