The creativity, satisfaction and fun of conjuring up a culinary masterpiece cannot be overstated. From the novice taking their first tentative steps into the world of cooking to the seasoned cook whose creativity has been piqued by a myriad of television shows, everyone is getting in on the action.
Even those who already spend a lot of time in the kitchen are becoming inspired to experiment and expand on their everyday recipes, to transform ordinary dishes into new delights.
If you have the next Jamie or Nigella in your life and are looking for thoughtful, quality gift ideas which will encourage and foster their creative juices, then read on.
Professional Prep — A Chef’s Best Friend
Every chef is only as good as his tools. If that is not a saying, then it should be! After all, a quality knife set can impact not only the ease of preparation of food but also the presentation, consistency, texture and in turn, taste.
Unlike other kitchen tools which may only get infrequent use, knives are in constant demand and the sharper the better.
So when considering purchasing a quality chef’s knife set as a gift, what attributes does it pay to look for? Here are a few markers to put on your checklist:
- Manufactured from the highest quality steel — carbon steel may have a superior edge to stainless steel but will rust and tarnish over time, so maintenance can be an issue.
- A design which optimises weight and balance.
- Sharpness and edge retention.
- Precision engineering — consider German and Japanese knives.
- Ergonomic design.
- Made from a single piece of steel which extends the length of the knife.
- A substantial handle made from toughened material.
- There should be no welds or joins as these would be ‘weak spots’.
- Streamlined — with no spaces where bacteria can breed.
The list of knives found in a professional kitchen, can be quite long so, if budget is an issue, look for pre-packaged sets. A full comprehensive set consists of most, if not all of the following:
- Chefs Knife
- Paring / Vegetable Knife
- Utility Knife
- Filleting Knife
- Cheese Knife
- Tomato Knife
- Bread Knife
- Carving Knife
- Boning Knife
- Pastry Knife
- Palette Knife (often used for rounding edges such as icing or toppings).
A solitary diamond is worth far more than a handful of rhinestones — the same comparison can be made for knives. It may be more prudent to give a gift of one or two fine quality knives, which will last many years, rather than a lot of cheaper knives which will never quite be up to the job.
Where The Action Happens — Pots and Pans
If knives are a chef’s tools for preparing ingredients, then pots and pans are what brings the ingredients together.
Look for high quality equipment made from stainless steel or cast iron, and which have a heavy base — copper and aluminium conduct heat well so they are often used in bases to facilitate even heat distribution. This allows for more precise and easy-to-predict outcomes for the chef.
Handles are often the first thing to fail on pots and pans so look for welded or at least riveted joints, rather than screws.
When an induction stove is being used, look for induction compatible cookware. An induction cooker will have no gas jets or electrical elements visible, rather it cooks using magnetic flux.
Chopping Boards — A Chef’s Home Plate
If someone were to ask, “What makes a great chef?”, the answer may well be, ‘Talent and Preparation’. That being the case, several high quality chopping boards is the base where all good chefs operate from to conjure up their magical talents, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary!
Not only a versatile and useful piece of kitchen equipment, a chef’s chopping board can add a touch of country charm to any scullery. A stylish block gives a modest kitchen a professional touch, transforming it into a serious workspace.
Traditional chopping boards made from wood have always been a popular choice, though rubber chopping boards are becoming increasingly more popular in commercial kitchens due to their self-healing abilities, durability and kindness to a knife’s blade.
Electric Assistants — Blenders, Mixers and More
As any budding chef can tell you, the process of food preparation can be very calming and therapeutic. Unavoidably though, nothing beats a food processor when it comes to getting a light and fluffy cake batter or blending ingredients to the perfect consistency.
Consider the following gift ideas, each one a handy and helpful kitchen aid.
- Food Processors
- Rice Cookers
- Waffle and Crepe Makers
- Pressure Cookers
- Basket Deep Fryers
Weighing Up — Scales
Many recipes are finely balanced and require exact quantities, so sensitive, precise scales are a necessity for any kitchen.
The majority of scales available on the market today will be electronic and have a digital display. Depending on your budget, a quality set of scales can cost in the vicinity of $30 up to and beyond $200. The main differences will be weighing capacity, size and the materials they are made from — ranging from plastic, to long lasting, heavy duty stainless steel.
Another handy benefit of using electronic scales is the ability to convert between metric and imperial measures.
Providing the chef in your life with the right tools for the job has many benefits, not the least being that you can expect to share some sumptuous dining. The pleasure of watching them flourish as they master the culinary arts will be a true gift.