When it comes to small great gifts, kitchen tools can’t be beat.  Items like the above Benriner mandoline, a tool you’ll find in just about every professional cook’s knife kit, is perfect.

But there are many many ridiculous small brightly colored kitchen items out there tempting those who don’t cook with promises of ease and convenience . Last year my mom got me these pink silicone trussing bands —I do not recommend! This is the kind of stupid product that makes me crazy.

But a great pepper mill, that’s something truly valuable—there are good ones and bad ones. Pugeot’s are excellent. This one from opensky is top of the line with an adjustable grind.

The side towels I offer at opensky (there’s lots of great stuff in my kitchen collection there).

Any of the products Mac and I have created available at opensky and at shop.ruhlman.com, again make wonderful moderately priced gifts.

I’ll mention a few of my favorites and link to the others below.

One of THE most important tools in the kitchen is a kitchen scale. This is the one I’m now using. MyMeigh K8000 they also make one that measures by percentages.   handblender is one of my most valuable tools, making soups, sauces, and mayos. Love it.

Over at opensky, I love the goliath mortar and pestle. It rocks. Fabulous for quickly crushing toasted spices, making quick salsas and guacamole.

I use the maverick digital instant read thermometer all the time. And I adore this redicheck cable thermometer.

The microplane zester, originally made as a wood working tool, is a game changer.

There are so many truly useful small kitchen tools that make great gifts if you know what to look for.


If you liked this post on small holiday gifts, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


16 Wonderful responses to “Gift Week: Affordable, Useful Gifts”

  • mary lynn

    Michael, I liked the small Benriner mandoline, but when I used your link to Amazon, all they showed was the large mandolin. Where did you get the small version? Thanks, mary lynn

  • Victoria

    Good post. I love the Microplane Zester that is medium ribbon. It grates in both directions, and I use it to grate onions for meatballs. There are no little tiny pieces of onion mixed in the meat but all the flavor. My Italian meatballs are completely plain – good meat, one beaten egg to a pound of meat, salt, grated onion, chopped parsley, and dry breadcrumbs, (no garlic) handled lightly for the mixing, and rolled into 1-1/2 inch meatballs, lightly browned in olive oil, and eaten plain or cooked in sauce for a short time, keeping the flavor in the meatballs and not losing it to the sauce.

    I also like a particular spatzle maker. It’s expensive but works well and is something I use quite often. It’s a Spatzle Hobel by Sonntag, not very easy to find.

    The other thing I have that’s good for a present is a cavatelli maker. The one I have has wooden, not plastic, discs. It really works, and I found a great tip on YouTube. Put your pasta dough into your meat grinder (without the grinder discs, of course) and make ropes from your dough so you can put them through the cavatelli maker. This would be a great unusual Christmas present combined with the Frankies Spuntino Cookbook.

  • mary lynn

    Michael, Where did you get the small version to the mandolin? Amazon only displays the larger version. Thanks, Mary Lynn

  • Will

    Don’t take this the wrong way. I enjoy your books and articles, and I understand that everyone’s got to make a living, but I think your web log and online presence would be more pleasant without all the attempts to drive traffic to your Amazon links, Opensky store, etc. Ultimately, having an online journal is a good way to communicate with readers, but if it just becomes something about trying to make money, I think it will hurt your credibility as a writer.

    • David C.

      C’mon, Will…if you think this site is just about making money, you haven’t spent much time here. Ruhlman’s site is a treasure trove of useful info, tips, techniques, etc. And I really don’t think Ruhlman’s credibility is at risk. How many times has Thomas Keller asked you to help write his cookbooks? And how often does Bourdain have you on his show? Petty comments are best left unsaid.

    • mantonat

      His books are another way for him to make money. Maybe he should give them away for free so as not to affect his credibility. The points is that this is all stuff he uses and stands behind. I’d rather read about useful products that Ruhlman may get a cut of for selling than to see adds for mortgage loans and erecile dysfunction in the sidebars.

  • Victoria

    P.S. I think your Bad-ass Spoon is the greatest and would pair it with an All-Clad SS 2-quart Saute pan as a great present. Maybe with English Muffin rings and a recipe for English muffins, poached eggs, and Hollandaise Sauce.

  • Kevin

    For zesting, I like to use the Ped Egg (yes, its made for your feet!) It takes off just the right amount of zest without pith, and the zest ends up in a compartment that you can then throw in the fridge to keep any extra.

  • Swain

    Good list of kitchen gadgets. One I would switch is the pepper mill. Peugeot does make the best and their other model is simply the best pepper mill I’ve ever used and I have dozens. Checkout this link on Amazon. Also if you look around you might find it for a better price. I purchased one for about $80 and then Willams Sonoma had the close out sale and I was able to pick up 4 more of them for $50-60 range. Yes I like this pepper grinder that much to have 4-5 of them and they make great gifts.



  • Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I adore my microplane, but a woodworking tool? Really? I had no idea that was its origin.

    I’m a little disappointed….at first glance I thought it was a redneck cable thermometer. I was so curious!

  • Paul C

    a very useful thing to go with the mandolin is one of those kevlar cut-proof gloves. Helps to avoid having to fish around the bowl of sliced cabbage for a finger tip.

    • Tucker Keene

      I bought kevlar gloves for my mandolin, but I’ve found that they make it difficult to keep a good grip on things, which can lead to slipping more, which while likely safe because of the protection offered, feels pretty dangerous.

  • Dacey

    Wow!These gifts are really affordable and i think these gifts are really suitable for the women since they love too use this kind of unique kitchen wares

  • Gael N

    I can find a good pepper mill. What I really want is a salt grinder for wet Celtic sea salt or sel gris from Brittany. The salt mills I usually see only grind dry salt. When I try to use wet salt with it, it has a very hard time working.


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