Some of the best gifts go beyond their physical form, inspiring the recipient to strike up a passion or learn something new.
Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite skill-building kitchen gear. From tender homemade tortillas to crispy, bubbling pizza or a perfectly salted steak, there is so much (delicious) fun to be had in the kitchen. Try gifting someone their new favorite hobby this year.
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Breadtopia Round Rattan Proofing Basket (left) and Click and Grow Smart Garden (right)
For the Baker Who’s Ready to Level Up Their Bread Game
Our Favorite Rattan Banneton: Breadtopia Round Rattan Proofing Basket
Our winning banneton released dough beautifully. Used without the liner, the banneton imprints an attractive coil pattern on the dough; used with it, you get a blank canvas to show off the scoring on your sourdough. Add our winning lame, the Baker of Seville Bread Lame, and your pal will be ready to bake with the best of them.
For Your Favorite Plant-Killer
Our Favorite Smart Garden: Click and Grow Smart Garden
Give the gift of fresh herbs, vegetables, and flowers all winter. This attractive garden was remarkably hands-off and intuitive and required the least amount of ongoing effort, perfect for someone who can’t even keep a cactus alive.
Healthy plants sprouted within a week, and the garden yielded abundant lettuce and basil over two months; several weeks later, tomato plants started producing fruit. The light cycles set automatically. The app was simple to use and the garden has a water tank, so you don’t need to water often, and when you do need to, it will tell you. If only humans communicated this well.
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Victoria 8in Tortilla Press (left) and Marcato Atlas 150 Wellness Pasta Machine (right)
For the Taco Fanatic
Our Best-Buy Tortilla Press: Victoria 8in Tortilla Press
Made of hefty yet smooth cast iron, it has a heavy top plate that easily anchored dough balls in place as we pressed, and its wide plates ensured that no dough squeezed out its sides. Its relatively long handle slides easily against the ridge on its top plate, allowing for a smooth, steady pressing motion. We also liked that the handle lays fairly flat for easy storage.
For the Pasta Grannies Superfan
Our Favorite Manual Pasta Machine: Marcato Atlas 150 Wellness Pasta Machine
Homemade pasta is a revelation—bouncy, chewy, and tender. And you don’t have to be an Italian nonna to make it at home (though it does help). Our winning model is the Ferrari of pasta machines, a pleasure to handle at every turn.
It sported both the widest and the narrowest thickness settings in our lineup; we barely had to roll the pasta dough out to fit it through the machine, and we could effortlessly dial the machine down to produce gossamer-thin sheets. The laser-sharp noodle attachment produced perfect cuts every time.
Fresh Pasta at HomeTurn homemade pasta into your new favorite kitchen hobby with foolproof methods and 100+ approachable, achievable recipes. You can make incredible pasta (of any shape!) from scratch using the test kitchen’s rigorously tested techniques.
Nerd Chef Steel Stone (left) and Weber 22-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker (right)
For the Person Who Thinks Pizza Is a Food Group
Our Favorite Pizza Steel: Nerd Chef Steel Stone, Standard ¼"
Give the gift of professional-level pizza at home. The key to pros’ pizza ovens is heat. They get hot, hot, hot. The best way to hack a home oven to produce excellent pizza is to use a pizza steel or stone, which helps capture and transfer heat directly into the pizza dough, for deliciously charred, chewy results.
We had a slight preference for steels over stones in our testing, as they transferred heat a little bit faster for slightly more tender results. This is the number one piece of equipment to up your home pizza game—just remember to preheat it for a full hour for the best results! (Another reason why it’s easiest to just leave the steel or stone in your oven at all times so you don’t forget.)
For the Budding Pitmaster
Our Favorite Charcoal Smoker: Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker 22”
A good smoker opens up the wonderful world of barbecue. Our winner has been around for 40 years, and for good reason. It’s a durable, well-designed charcoal smoker that makes great-tasting, competition-worthy barbecue.
A generously sized charcoal basket lets you smoke for long periods without having to replenish your fuel. It comes in three sizes. The 22-inch model we tested is the largest. With two grates arranged one over the other, it can smoke multiple racks of ribs, many pork butts, and at least two spatchcocked turkeys at a time. It’s easy to assemble and comes with a warranty that covers different parts for two to 10 years.
Bee House Salt Box (left) and Monbento MB Square (right)
For Your Salt Bae
Our Favorite Salt Storage Container: Bee House Salt Box
Properly salting your food is one of the most important skills to learn in cooking. Get rid of the shaker! You need to be able to feel between your fingers how much salt you’re adding. To do so, we recommend a salt storage container.
Our winner is a sturdy flip-top salt box that holds plenty of salt and provides easy access to it, while still protecting it from dust and debris. It was a breeze to fill and clean and could be opened with one hand. Bonus: It’s beautiful and comes in soothing colors like “carrot” and “banana.” Add a box of our favorite salt, Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, for a complete gift.
For the Lunch Box Artist
Our Favorite Bento-Style Lunch Box: Monbento MB Square
Craft Instagram-worthy bento boxes with this cute and sturdy two-level lunchbox. It had the largest capacity in our testing lineup, with two 4-ounce containers that could be used together or separately.
Both containers were more than 2 inches deep, so it was easy to stir in and eat from them without spilling. This was the only container we tested that never leaked. Having a pretty, functioning vessel is the perfect inspiration to pack an artful lunch, even if they’re not ready for kitty cat onigiri yet.