My number one pick for a great inexpensive gift to give a cook is a Japenese mandolin, aka a Benriner (the brandname). This is a tool virtually all cooks own, used for all manner of slicing, julienning and brunoising. Gnarly sweet potatoes become gorgeous chips. Under 20 bucks—can’t beat it. My most used small appliance is the hand blender, or immersion blender, a fabulous tool for pureeing soups and sauces, making vinaigrettes and mayos. Wouldn’t want to be without one. (The above link is to an inexpensive CuisinArt blender, here’s the KitchenAid version nearly 3 times as expensive but some feel it’s worth it.) If you’re really in to cooking, these round cutters come in handy for all kinds of baking, cooking, plating needs. I recently bought this fat separator and love it—simple ideas work Read On »

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Christmas, 1992, my mom’s beau, an avid cook with whom I shared many happy hours in the kitchen, gave me a KitchenAid standing mixer.  It quickly became and remains my most relied upon countertop appliance.  I use it for mixing all kinds of dough, whipping meringue, making big batches of pate a choux, and, when I joined forces with Brian Polcyn to write a book about sausages and other forms of food economy and preservation, to grind meat (via the grinder attachment) and to mix the meat afterward (more this later).  It was one of the best and most useful gifts I’ve received ever. Christmas is a time when we indulge the people we love with gifts they wouldn’t be able to afford or to justify buying on their own.  For those of you who Read On »

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