Pixelated Crumb

Holiday Gift Guide: Kitchen Essentials

holiday gift guide: kitchen essentials

I just can’t believe that’s we’re already almost halfway through December. On top of the usual business of the season, work is starting to get a little crazy (not to mention the fact that we just moved to a new office building!). Joseph and I are pretty behind on our Christmas shopping and cookie baking, but that’s not going to stop me from giving you some ideas!

I love, love, love kitchen gadgets and talking about them is almost as fun as picking them out and using them. Last spring a friend who was getting married sent an e-mail out asking what she should put on her registry and, kitchen geek that I am, thoroughly enjoyed reading other people’s responses and giving my own two cents. I’ve always meant to write a post up on those essentials, but it’s always been on the back burner. But last minute shoppers, give a sigh of relief because here it is! Now let’s get down to business.

Here are some of our favorite kitchen things (in no particular order) which we believe would make excellent gifts:

SodaStream Sparkling Water & Soda Maker


My coworkers gave us a SodaStream as a wedding gift (in addition to dinner at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, because that’s how awesome they are!) and it’s one of our very favorite things. We don’t drink much soda, but I grew up in a family addicted to seltzer water and this baby feeds that addiction much more economically and is also much more environmentally friendly. Added bonus? No more lugging heavy bottles home from the store.

Thermapen – Instant Read Thermometer

I got this for Joseph last year and it was money well spent. This instant read thermometer is America’s Test Kitchen’s favorite, and for good reason. Gone are the days when we would hover over the meat in the oven with the oven door open letting all the heat out, waiting impatiently for a temperature reading. This thermometer gives you a precise temperature in just three seconds, which means you’ll know right away if your meat is ready or not. It’s our most important tool for getting perfectly cooked meat, and it also comes in handy when making ice cream and other custards.

Trudeau 10-Inch Silicone Spatula

Trudeau Silicone Spatula

It’s such a small thing, but this spatula is easily one of my favorite kitchen utensils. When I’m baking, I want to make sure that not a single drop of batter goes to waste and this spatula does the trick better than any other spatula I’ve ever tried. And because it’s silicone, I can use it for cooking on the stove too. It was a gift from a friend of mine who is an incredible cook, and when she gave it to me 2 1/2 years ago, I had no idea what a difference it was going to make in my kitchen life. This is the one machine washable item in the kitchen that I always insist is hand washed, because I just can’t wait for it to go through the dishwasher. Luckily because there are no separate pieces, it’s incredibly fast and easy to hand wash. Trudeau also makes a 9-inch spatula and a classic (non spoon-like) 10-inch spatula that I also love.

Epicurean Cutting Boards

Epicurean Cutting Boards

These cutting boards are great. They come in a bunch of different sizes, they’re easy to clean, resistent to bacteria, don’t dull knives, and they’re made from non-porous wood fiber composite from trees harvested under guidelines of the North America Sustainable Forestry Standards.

OXO Good Grips Silicone Oven Mitt with Magnet

OXO Oven Mitt

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law got these for us a couple of years ago and I love them. Not only are they great at keeping my hands cool, the built in magnets make them super accessible. Grab them right off the fridge as you run into your kitchen to pull the nearly forgotten cookies out of the oven, and throw them back when you’re done. Couldn’t be easier.

Wilton Cake Caddy

Wilton Cake Caddy

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I bake a lot of cakes. This cake caddy is awesome for toting cakes safely to parties or the office, or just for keeping cakes fresh on your counter.

Salter Glass Electric Scale

Salter Electronic Scale

Joseph got me this digital scale for my birthday the year we started dating and it’s still going strong. It has a place of honor on our crowded counter because we use it all the time, not just to have more accurate measurements for baking (and to save having to wash all those measuring cups!), but hey, we even measure out the cat’s kibbles to make sure we’re not overfeeding her.

KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer

KitchenAid Mixer

Right after my scale, the gadget that I use in my kitchen the most is my KitchenAid mixer. This baby is a workhorse and as big as it is, I love this machine and the power it has. The professional grade has more horsepower and the mechanics are sturdier, which really allows you to push it and it’s great for attachments like the pasta roller. Once upon a time I had a moment of doubt and wished I had a smaller KitchenAid so I had less to lug out when I needed it, but that day is long gone. That said, this mixer is better suited for someone who does quite a bit of baking (especially if we’re talking high volume batters), and the classic KitchenAid is a wonderful machine for those who will only use it once or twice a month (or less).

Mario Batali Pizza Pan

Mario Batali Pizza Pan

We make pizza about once a week and this pan is great for getting a nice even, crisp crust. It’s cast iron, which means it won’t crack like a pizza stone, and the handles are great for puling it in and out of the oven. You can even use it on the stovetop if you want to!

Epicurean Pizza Peel and Silicone Grip Handle

Epicurean Pizza Peel

This pizza peel may be a little more expensive than some, but you can cut your pizza right on the peel and serve it straight from the peel. The handle is comfortable and easy to grip so you don’t drop your pizza.

Cuisinart CBK-200 2-Pound Convection Automatic Bread Maker

Cuisinart Bread Machine

Sure, you could make your own pizza dough, but we love making it in our bread machine. It’s just so easy, and you can even program it make your dough or bread several hours later, so you can do it before you leave for work for the day. There’s nothing better than coming home to the smell of freshly baked bread!

Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender With Whisk & Chopper Attachments

Cuisinart Immersion Blender

My mother-in-law gave this to us a few years ago and while I knew I would love the immersion blender for making soups, I never knew how often I would use the attachments. I especially love the little mini chopper, which I use all the time when I have a small job and I don’t want to pull out the food processor. It’s great for grinding nuts! If we hadn’t lost the whisk attachment in our last move, I would be using it to whip cream.

Lodge Logic L10SK3 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Everyone needs a cast iron skillet. May as well get one that’s pre-seasoned!

All-Clad Stainless-Steel 12-Inch Fry Pan

All Clad Stainless Steel Fry Pan

It’s a bit of a splurge, but we love our skillet. It conducts heat extremely well, making for perfectly seared skillets and caramelized onions. My parents got this for Joseph a couple of years ago and he makes a mean sear with this pan!

All-Clad Stainless 3-Quart Saucier Pan

All-Clad Saucier Pan

While the 12-inch All Clad is probably Joseph’s favorite pan, mine is the saucier. We actually have a 3 quart and a 1-quart and they’re great for all kinds of sauces. Making pastry cream in a pan with straight sides and a flat bottom was all it took to get me to run out and buy my first saucier years ago. Because the bottom is sloped, it’s much easier to stir in this pan, preventing things from burning in the crease that straight-sided pans have where the bottom of the pan meets the sides.

Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 10- and 12-Inch Omelet Pans

Calphalon Nonstick 10 and 12 inch Skillets

Nonstick pans are an absolute essential in the kitchen and for just 50 bucks, this set gets you two very nice pans. You can also get the coordinating lids.

Shun Classic Chef’s Knife

Shun Chef's Knife

A good, sharp chef’s knife is a kitchen essential and this Shun 8-inch blade is our favorite. It has a subtle D-shaped handle that’s perfect for right-handers (lefties, here’s one for you!).

Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Round Cake Pans

Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Cake Pan

I love the entire Goldtouch line of bakeware from Williams Sonoma and these round cake pans are no exception. Cakes bake evenly and pop right out when you want them to. I’m also a huge fan of Williams Sonoma’s Anniversary Bundt pan – I have never had a bundt cake stick in it!

The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Cooks Illsutrated Cookbook

Last, but most certainly not least, this latest cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen is the perfect gift for anyone who ventures into the kitchen. The book has over 2,000 recipes of tried and true recipes straight from America’s Test Kitchen. The instructions are well written and the recipes cover everything from appetizers to curries, to grilling, to pizzas, to pies and tarts. It’s a must-have for anyone who wants to cook really good food.

And More…

Well, I could go on and on, but those are my top picks. For more Pixelated Crumb kitchen favorite, check out the Pixelated Crumb Amazon Store. For more of my favorite cookbooks, go to the Cookbook section.

Oh, and one last thing… Congratulations to Candace who won’t the OXO Good Cookie Spatula from last week’s giveaway! Thank you to everyone who participated!