The ChefSteps 2014 Gift Guide

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Finding great gifts for the culinary enthusiasts in your life can be daunting. What, for instance, do you buy the modernist gadget-hound who seems to own every kitchen tool imaginable? The culinary school hopeful looking to refine her skills? Or your bachelor brother who’s all about his Paleo diet?

If you watch ChefSteps videos, you’ve seen our development kitchen in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. This window-lined culinary lab is stocked with great stuff that our chefs have discovered over years working in the best restaurant kitchens around the world. Here, we’re sharing the tools and accessories that help us create signature recipes like our Molten Chocolate Soufflé and Sous Vide Pastrami. This curated collection is designed to offer something for a range of cooks—from newbies to pros, old-school to majorly modern. Read on to discover a gift to delight your favorite kitchen tinkerers, then hit up the site for all sorts of one-of-a-kind recipes you can share with them. Happy holidays—let’s start shopping.

FUN NEW GADGETS

A Whipping Siphon (plus accessories) and Companion Class

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You know those fancy whipped cream canisters you see at good coffee shops? Well, those so-called siphons—we recommend the Isi Gourmet Whip—can do all sorts of stuff beyond just creating a fluffy topping for your caffè mocha. You can garnish dishes with colorful foams; serve fizzy cocktails at your next dinner party; make your own bitters, liqueurs, sodas, or cold-brew coffee; and much more. If you have a cocktailian or mad experimenter on your list, help her advance her skills with this truly unique gift.

An Immersion Circulator and Helpful Sous Vide Classes

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Sous vide is a cooking technique in which food is cooked slowly and gently in a water bath. In restaurants, chefs use it all the time to create tender meats and vegetables and yield predictable results conveniently. Now it’s the home cooks’ turn. In recent months, a crop of new affordable machines known as immersion circulators have appeared on the market. Among the options, one of our favorites is the Anova Precision Cooker, which retails for $179. They’re selling faster than the company can make them—if your giftees have to wait, send them to our Cooking Sous Vide: Getting Started class, which is free and will teach them how to use an improvised method until their machines are ready. Once their circulators arrive, they can learn the theory and techniques that chefs use to take their cooking to a whole new level with Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics.

BOMB BLADES AND ACCESSORIES

A Durable, Inexpensive, Japanese Mandoline

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We use mandolines all the time to get thin, evenly sliced vegetables. And while it’s possible to spend a lot of money on an expensive model that requires a lot of careful cleaning, we keep returning to the plastic Benriner model from Japan. It’s built for the long haul and easy to use. And for just over 20 bucks, the price is hard to beat. Know a cook who is always struggling to get skinny veg slices with his knife? Stuff it in his stocking (along with a copy of this Red Onion Jam recipe).

A Hand-Forged Japanese Knife and Sharpening Stone Kit

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The recent death of legendary, third-generation knifemaker Mr. Tsuneo Yoshida signals the end of an era, and makes his gorgeous stainless steel chef’s knives all the more rare and special—once they’re sold, no more can be made. This is a gift of extraordinary significance that is also a remarkably useful and beautiful kitchen tool. Throw in the sharpening stone kit to help your loved one keep that knife sharp for a lifetime.

A Great Cutting Board
Cutting boards come in all shapes and sizes, materials and prices. We’ve found none we love more than the inexpensive, well-made workhorses from John Boos.

THE BEST BOOKS

Awesome Eye Candy

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Alexandre Gauthier is chef at La Grenouillére, a seasonally driven restaurant housed in a 16th century French farmhouse. His new book is game-changing and gorgeous, with dazzling cutaway shots and wilderness pics, plus tons of ideas for anyone who appreciates an artistic flair in the kitchen.

For Foundational Recipes

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The long-awaited book from Parisian chef Pascal Barbot, Astrance—which came out in 2012 but still feels exciting and fresh—is a collection of narrative recipes that take the reader inside the kitchen at three-Michelin-star L’Astrance. It’s a gorgeous and inspiring publication that includes a separate booklet of step-by-step recipe instructions that allow home cooks to create incredible dishes in their own kitchens. A must-have for aspiring culinarians of all levels.

A Technical Tome
Many technical cooking books cost hundreds of dollars and prove unsuitable when it comes to extracting practical takeaways, thanks to inscrutable infographics and a superfluence of scientific jargon. Enter The Kitchen As Laboratory, edited by César Vega, Job Ubbink, and Erik van van der Linden. With techniques and recipes that range from grilled cheeses to jellified beads, this essential volume is both educational and inspirational.

SUPERIOR STOCKING STUFFERS

A Pro-Style Apron

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When the ChefSteps YouTube commenters aren’t remarking on the sexiness of our chef team, they’re often asking what aprons they wear. Use the holiday as a chance to help your favorite cook stock up on some pro apparel.

A Coffee Subscription

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A great companion gift to a new espresso or other coffee machine: a coffee subscription from our favorite roaster, Herkimer. Also, now tell your caffeinated loved one to check out our free Espresso class to learn the ins and outs of extraction.

A Digital Scale

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When we cook, we weigh everything. It’s not only more accurate than measuring by volume, it’s just easier. A digital scale is a great gift for helping your favorite cook yield better results every time. The one we use is a little pricey, but is very precise and durable—a great gift for a seasoned cook who will make frequent use of such a tool. Beginners might opt for a cheaper model to get started—they’re available at every price point.

A Thermocouple Probe and Two-Channel Reader

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When you give the gift of a thermocouple technology, you’re significantly helping to reduce stress in the kitchen—not to mention the wasted food that comes from overcooking. Perfect food, every time: if there’s a better holiday offering than that, we want to hear about it.

37 thoughts on “The ChefSteps 2014 Gift Guide

  1. Wow, sin duda alguna son excelentes regalos. Empezare a escribir mi carta a Santa; buena elección equipo Chefsteps.

  2. Is Anova sous vide for real? I booked one and they have delayed the delivery date without telling me. I am worried it is a scam and they are waiting for the time bar on my credit card so I cant dispute the transaction and get my money back

    • I bought an Anova a year ago. Love it.

    • Definitely not a scam. Just got our Sous Vide from Anova. We ordered it back in May when it was still on kickstarter for a bit of a discount as they were incentivizing people to back them. We just got it two days before thanksgiving. We love it. My understanding I’d that they worked overtime to get the orders out in November when the original Plan was by the end of October. They didn’t quite make the deadline but I say they did pretty good. The info I am hearing is that shipping times for new orders won’t be fulfilled until end of Jan or Feb. they simply have had that much demand for them. I would recommend being a bit more patient. It is worth the wait!

    • Yes, they are for real. I have two. They emailed it out a couple of days ago that they are sold out for the holiday shipment and expect more in January. Give them a call, they are very good customer service wise.

    • Mine arrived last week. Hang in there!

    • I finally received mine yesterday — but I bot several months ago through Kickstarter.

      They are legit – like they said above – demand is extremely high and they are having trouble making them fast enough.

      Worth the wait though.

    • I have 4 of them… there real and great!

    • It has to be the incredibly high demand and the holiday timing. I’ve bought two with absolutely no problem. They’d be stupid to scam you as they’re very successful thus far.

    • Yes they are for real. I ordered one about a year ago. they were backed up then too. It took a couple of weeks to arrive but they were good about giving me updates as I remember. I couldn’t be happier with the circulator. this is the third circulator I’ve purchased for a restaurant. The other two cost about 5 times more and this one performs just as well if not better in some repects. That’s why they are so backed up on production.

    • I ordered mine from the Kickstarter and have had it for a few weeks now. It’s awesome. It’s real. It works.

    • I bought one in may, and received it in 5 days, I think they have sold out and is making new ones. I use it professional (I have a caféen in Denmark) and it did a fantastic job, every day for 5 months. I have tried 3 different types a d the anova is the easiest to use.

    • Anova is for real! I order a subnersion heater and it was perfectly deliverd in The Netherlands, so don’t whorry.

    • Yes, Yes. I was worried that I would not get it before X-mas in the Netherlands (some perceived 230V problems), but suddenly last week there it was. So great. As stated: They’re selling faster than the company can make them, that’s the only problem.

    • If you ordered directly from Anova you shouldn’t have a problem. Just give them a call. If you’re really that worried about it cancel your order and order it from Amazon.

    • They are for real and they are awesome!

    • The ANOVA sous vide circulator is the real deal! I bought one last year and it’s amazing. Yours should arrive soon, it’s a small company – not a mass produced item. Cook well!!!

    • Chefandrewjulius

      I am a chef and I got one last christmas and I not only use it at home but also at the restaurant that I work in, only complication for large quantity use is the 22L volume limit. but its an all around good immersion circulator

    • I received my kickstarter Anova this week

  3. I really like chef step, especially your scientific and the way you cook food. I hope I can be your student and learn more new stuff from you guys.

  4. Sorry, guys. This is a total credibility looser. $469 for a digital scale. What a ridiculous suggestion!

    I bought a $20 electronic scale and a 100g weight set off amazon.com for less than $30. And the scale is accurate to 0.1g.

    • Jessica Voelker

      Joe:
      I think that’s a great point. I, too, have an inexpensive scale that I use all the time and it works great for my needs. We recommend this model because it’s the one we use in the kitchen—it’s a great gift for people who love to cook and would appreciate a sexy, high-end gadget they’ll use every day.

      Would love it if you shared the info about the scale you use though. Would you be willing to post a link? Thanks!

  5. Dudes Great ideas but a $500 scale? That is a budget breaker:)

  6. i need the gift pleas i need by

  7. That’s a great list and I like how specific you guys are!

  8. They’re legit, Ian. Anova isn’t a company operating outside of a garage. Kickstarter’s are rarely delivered on time. Two months late ain’t bad!

  9. Just wanted to share a cheaper way of getting a good cutting board for the semi-handy people out there. Contact a local carpentry or hardware supply and ask if they can custom cut an untreated edge-glued board in a suitable material e.g walnut or birch. Select whatever dimensions you want, I bought 2 boards at 650x400x20mm for about 35-45$ total and add to this about a liter of paraffin oil to treat your board for max 20$ extra. You’ll have leftover oil for treatment of your cutting board as well with this.

    Arrange a bath for your board using some plastic sheets or something and let the board soak in the paraffin oil for a couple of days. You need to flip the board after soaking a day, as it may have soaked up enough oil to no longer immerse the entire board.

    After soaking the board you just let it air dry for a week or so and then you can use it as normal. Just note that unless, they’ve sanded the surface nicely, you should start with that and within a month of use you need to sand the board again. You can apply some oil after re-sanding the board, but when sanding you’ll expose really oil rich wood as only a very small surface layer will have lost its oil during use/cleaning.

    After the first month’s sanding you shouldn’t need to sand your board, unless you have made deep cuts with your knives that bother you. The only needed maintenance after the first month is to apply a thin layer of oil every month or so to replace the oil you’ve removed during cleaning.

  10. Which probes do you recommend?

    • Miniture needle probes work great for most things. They can be used in liquid as well as inserted into proteins and breads. If you are going to get more than one probe, I would suggest mini needle and just plain wire probe. Be sure to get the wire probe that is coated in PTFE but has a plain tip. There is also a PTFE tip option, this one works great for things like thick liquids and sugar work, but the read time is slightly delayed due to the coating over the tip.

  11. Which thermocouple probes do you use? When I start looking at them I get overwhelmed by the choices. I love doing business with Thermoworks; hopefully Santa’s bringing me a pHmeter and a Thermopen this year.

  12. Thank you so much for the list. Some how I was wondering if any one of my family (or all them together I guess) could give me a centrifugator as the one you display in some of your recipes. They don’t look too big although they may cost their weight in gold . Any suggestions on minimum features I should expect (living in Barcelona, Spain, I guess I should relay on the technical details rather than on brands)?
    Thanks again for your ideas very handy at this time of the year!

  13. I’ve been a chef for over 30 years now and a chef instructor in the military for 10 years, I seen a lot of online cooking programs and classes, and you guys are the best I’ve seen anywhere. my reason for saying this is because I know it’s not easy keeping cooking class exciting for students and you do a great job of keeping it fresh and new and I love the kiss factor in your classes.

  14. Hey, guys.

    Thanks for these really great cooking gift recommendations! The sous vide technique is actually quite fresh to me and I would love to try the Anova Precision Cooker. But I have one question about it. If we wrap our ingredients in to a plastic bag and put it into hot water to cook it, what I am really concerned is whether the plastic material would release any toxic chemical into our food. Of course, nowadays many plastic containers are claimed to be microwave safe but I prefer not to use a plastic bowl for heating food. Is that really OK?

    Except that doubt, I really love these kitchen tools and accessories! And as big cooking fans, my friends and I are actually thinking about simplifying these cooking tools. Specifically, combine the upper left corner, the upper right corner, and the lower right corner of the first photo of this post, into one!

    It is a cool kitchen scale product called ChefBot Kitchen Scale. We have launched it on

    We would love to listen to your thoughts and suggestions.

    • Jessica Voelker

      Jason,
      Thanks for your comment. Good quality plastic is safe at the temperatures we generally use to cook sous vide. Check out this post for some more explanation on that. Also, if you really don’t want to work with plastic, you can cook a lot of stuff using mason jars. We include recipes that use mason jars in our Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics class.

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