So many of us are shopping for more practical gifts for the home cooks and foodies on our holiday lists this year. After all, we’ve all been forced to cook a lot more in 2020 — whether you’ve got a huge family needing 21 meals a week (plus snacks!) or you’re just taking on new pandemic hobbies in the kitchen.

If that sounds like someone you’re shopping for this year, then you’ll find some fantastic ideas among these practical holiday gifts for home cooks. The part I like best though, is that  they all support small businesses this year, who need it more than ever.

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Related: Outrageous gifts for cooks who have (or want) it all

Gifts for the home cook: A fresh apron

Gift ideas for the home cook: A new apron from Rendall & Co.

If there’s one thing I really need in the kitchen this year, it’s a fresh apron. Because oof, so much cooking! So much mess! There are a lot of great brands out there, but I’m excited about these minimalist, modern aprons from Rendall Co. Not just because they look amazing, but the company sources all their materials from small businesses in the Los Angeles area. In other words, you’re really supporting lots of small businesses with one purchase.


Gifts for the home cook: A new cookbook

Gift ideas for the home cook: A new cookbook from an indie bookshop

Support your local indie bookstore and your favorite cooks by giving a new cookbook as a practical gift for a home cook this holiday. A few suggestions we are excited about: The Mexican Kitchen by Mely Martinez; Xi’an Famous Foods by Jason Wang (from the famous New York noodle shop that Liz included in her list of favorite NYC food gifts that deliver); Pieometry by Lolo Ko of Lokokitchen on Instagram; Chaat by Maneet Chauhan, whose Nashville restaurants are a local favorite of mine; Dinner Done by the writers at Between Carpools; and East by Meera Sodha, with 100+ vegan and vegetarian recipes.

We also included the Downton Abbey Christmas Cookbook on our list of favorite gift books for grandparents. Basically, there’s something for everyone, if you just hit your local bookstore.


Gifts for the home cook: Private cooking lessons

Gift ideas for the home cook: Private lessons from League of Kitchens

Give an adventurous home cook the gift of a private cooking session via the fantastic League of Kitchens. This idea is so cool: woman who have immigrated here each teach the culinary secrets of their countries of origin, right from their own New York City kitchens. I’ve been obsessed with this concept for so long, and since I’m outside the City have been out of luck — until now. Like so many experts during the quarantine, League of Kitchens has taken their lessons to Zoom to make those authentic Mexican tamales or Greek baklava accessible to anyone on your list.

Related: The best make-ahead food gifts for Christmas to save you time later.

Gifts for the home cook: Specialty ingredients they might not buy themselves

Gift ideas for the home cook: A specialty ingredient, like Diaspora Co.'s spices.

A serious home cook will really appreciate being able to use ingredients they can’t find on their regular grocery-store shelves — or might not think to splurge on for themselves. Indulge them with some handcrafted sauces from Chilau; high quality Brightland olive oil; authentic vanilla-bean sugar for bakers at Lola’s Cocina, or gorgeous, indigenous Diaspora spices (above) from India, which support the actual farmers at the source. A lucky friend or relative will think of you every time they reach for one of those bottles.


Gifts for the home cook: Specialty cooking tools

Gifts for the home cook: Give a specialty cooking tool, like a popover pan

Visit your local, indie cookware supply company — like Whisk in Brooklyn, Northwestern Cutlery in Chicago, or the high-end home store Hugh in Detroit — to pick out the perfect specialty cooking tool. There are many dishes you just can’t cook or bake without the proper tools, so the gift of a popover pan or a smoking gun or a tagine could actually inspire a home cook to discover a whole new cooking style, not just a new recipe.

Other ideas: Think about what someone is really into eating or cooking. If they have a sweet tooth, a digital candy thermometer is so cool and affordable. Got a vegetarian cook? Think  about a hand-forged Korean vegetable knife that will be put to excellent use every time they cook.


Gifts for the home cook: An heirloom quality, handmade kitchen knife

Practical gift ideas for the home cook: A hand forged Santoku kitchen knife from Nafzger Forge

Speaking of kitchen knives, they make fantastic gifts. As for me, I sheepishly admit I have just one really good all-purpose kitchen knife, and wow, would some new ones up my home-cooking game! I just discovered the heirloom quality kitchen knives from esteemed bladesmith Ben Nafzger and wow. A knife like this Santoku chef’s knife would be amazing — and while you’re at it, I’d like a good paring knife, a nice serrated knife for bread, and maybe a good cheese knife.

Related: 15 delicious food gifts for dads supporting black-owned businesses — but we like them too!


Gifts for the home cook: A cookbook holder

Gift ideas for home cooks: A 100% recycled Italian lucite cookbook holder from Newly

While so many of us have switched to online recipes over the years, I’m hearing more and more friends return to their trusty cookbook collection during the pandemic, for trusted, tested, family-pleasing ideas. In which case, a cookbook holder could be a terrific gift for the home cook. I know I’m often running back and forth across my kitchen, trying to remember where I set my cookbook between steps, and if you know a (ahem) disorganized home cook like me, they’ll appreciate this 100% recycled Italian lucite cookbook holder at Newly. It protects your pages while still letting you see them — which is more than I can say for the dish towel, or whatever else I may grab to keep my cookbook pages open.

Gifts for the home cook: A gift that supports a favorite local restaurant

Gifts for home cooks: Supporting their favorite restaurant workers with a donation to Southern Smoke
Photo: Petr Sevcovic  on Unsplash

Across the country, the restaurant industry is slated to lose $240 billion by the end of the year, and the ripple effect on chefs, servers, contractors, suppliers, and  restaurant owners who have slowed down — if not permanently closed — is so painful. So if you’re looking for a gift for home cook, consider one that supports one of their own local restaurants right in their community.

My very favorite Nashville spot, City House, is donating 100% of the proceeds from their t-shirts and other swag to their hourly employees’ tip jar, and hey, maybe your own local favorite is selling coffee mugs, cookbooks, bottles of wine you can’t find in local liquor stores, or even bulk ingredients and cooking kits, as we described in this post about creative gifts that support local restaurants and restaurant workers.

A gift card is a solid gift too — even the most dedicated home cooks need a break some nights, right?

But I’d like to end on a favorite gift idea of ours: make a tribute donation to Southern Smoke Foundation, the organization that’s been working tirelessly to provide emergency funding to restaurant workers in crisis around the country this year.  Or look at the wonderful #ChefsForAmerica initiative from World Central Kitchen, which is partnering with hard-hit restaurants, employing them to make meals for seniors, students, hospital workers, and others in need.

In fact, maybe add a tribute gift right along with any other gift idea on this list.

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