Gifts for foodies

Cooking: for some it’s a necessity, but for others it’s an art form. Of course, the right tools can make all the difference around the kitchen.

Is there a chef on your gift giving list? We’ve got some ideas so suit their tastes and well as your budget:

The World’s Kindest Nail Brush (Lee Valley, $1.70 per pair, $8.50 a dozen). It’s the perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who likes to get his or her hands dirty. The soft, nylon bristles are gentle enough to use directly on the skin — both human and vegetable — and the soft bristles can get into all those nooks and crannies.

Chop-Safe Finger Guard (Lee Valley, $4.85 for a set of eight). Spare your fingers while you chop and slice! This handy guard slips over your finger to offer protection while you cook.

Bendable Chopping Board (Canadian Tire, $4.99/4 pack). Stir-fry cooks know it isn’t always easy to get the chopped veggies or meat into the pan. These flexible boards let you bend the board into a u-shaped “slide” to prevent escapees. (Or try the Chef’s Planet Stainless Prep Taxi Food Scoop from Chef Tools, $9.99 USD.)

Spurtle (Lee Valley, $4.95). You don’t see them often in North America, but this unusually named utensil is a traditional Scottish stir stick made for porridge, sauces and stews. Its narrow diameter cuts through thick ingredients to break up clumps, and the wood won’t scratch surfaces.

Trudeau Silicone Multi-Use Tie Wraps (Amazon, $5.99 for a set of eight). These ties are perfect for your kitchen dilemmas — like securely closing food bags for storage or keeping cords out of the way. The silicon tail slips through a hole on the leaf and won’t slide back.

Egg Timer (Lee Valley, $5.95). Simply drop it in the pot with your eggs and the heat-sensitive plastic will change colour when eggs reach soft, medium or hard consistency (and those in-between stages).

Measuring Pours (Lee Valley, $6.20 each or $16.90 for a set of three). Get the perfect measurement every time, whether you’re measuring oils and vinegars or drizzling syrups. The liquid fills the portioned reservoir and empties when the bottle is tipped. Five different measurements are available: teaspoon, tablespoon, one ounce, two ounce and free flowing (for those who like to “eyeball it”).

Magnetic Knife Guards (Lee Valley, $6.50 to $9.50). These magnetic guards shield knife blades against damage when they’re in drawers, plus they make knives easy to pack for a picnic or lunch. Available in three sizes, you can further customize them with a quick trim of the scissors.

Knife Guard (Lee Valley, $7.95). Trying to chop a tough turnip? This guard slides over the blade, allowing you to press down on both sides of the vegetable — without risking your fingers.

Garlic Peeler (, $8.00). Cooks love garlic, but not necessarily the smell or the mess. This flexible silicon tube makes it easy to slide off the peel without smelly fingers.

Folding Trivet (Lee Valley, $8.50). The perfect solution for tight spaces. Made from durable, heat-resistant silicon, it fits neatly in the drawer (and gift bag) and can go in the dishwasher too. Unfold it into a cross shape and it will hold pots and pans with a non-slip grip.

Flexible Spatulas (Lee Valley, $9.90 each or $18.50 a pair). Made of heat-resistant, stain-resistant silicone, these flexible tools will work just about any angle and won’t leave scratches. Get every last drop of batter or jam, then throw it in the dishwasher.

Are you thinking “go big, or go home”? Try the Amco Nylon & Stainless Steel Large Flexible Spatula (City Chef, $9.95) — it has a large, flexible head that can easily slip under food.

Fruit & Vegetable Peelers (Lee Valley, $9.95 per pair). Lose the peel, not the flesh! A comfortable handle pairs with pivoting blades — one for hard fruits and vegetables, the other for soft ones like peaches, kiwis and tomatoes.

Poach Pod® (Lee Valley, $9.95/pair). Crack an egg into this silicon pod and set it afloat in boiling water for the perfect poached egg. (You can also use these pods for custard and melting chocolate too.)

J&G Tongs (Canadian Tire, $9.99). All tongs aren’t created equal — this set has rubber grips on the side, and locks closed for easy storage. No more drawer jams!

Stackable Cooling Grid (Wilton, $14.99). When counter space is at a premium, think up! Available in nickel or non-stick, these cooling racks can be used individually or stacked for a bigger job. (And yes, they collapse for easy storage.)

If you have counter space but are short on storage space, try an Expandable Cooling Rack instead (Lee Valley, $22.95).

Staybowlizer® (Lee Valley, $16.95). Tired of bowls that slip while you whip? This non-slip silicon ring cradles bowls while you work — no hands required! The heat-resistant material makes it easy to slip in the dishwasher or use on a pot of boiling water to create a double boiler.

Bamboo Prep Towels (Pampered Chef, $17.50 pair). Why a bamboo blend? Bamboo is ultra-absorbent and anti-microbial, making them handy around the house and eco-friendly. These towels also come equipped with a snap loop so they can be attached to belt loops or door handles for convenience.

Over-the-Sink Colander (Lee Valley, $18.50). It can be tricky to manage a pot in one hand and a strainer in the other. This colander solves the problem with its extendable handles that extend to suspend it over the sink — allowing the cook to have both hands free. While the colander itself is made of sturdy stainless steel, the handles have a protective rubber coating to prevent counter top scratches.

Stainless-Steel Compost Pails (Lee Valley, $19.95 and $23.95). Doing your part for the environment and your garden? They’re the perfect pail for waste because they won’t break, stain and absorb the smell of discarded food.

Safeli Out Fire Blanket (Home Depot, $19.99). Kitchen fires happen — but they shouldn’t be devastating. This fire-proof blanket quickly and easily smothers kitchen fires without mess or the need to handle a fire extinguisher. They’re not only perfect for the home, they can be used at the cottage or boat as well.

Oven Guards (Lee Valley, $22.50/pair). Save your forearms from hot oven racks. Made from NOMEX® (a fire-retardant fabric used by firefighters), this protective strips snap around the edges of oven racks to help prevent burns. The snaps won’t rust and they’re washable too!

Stainless Rasp & Holder (Lee Valley, $21.95). Stop borrowing from the tool shed! Once a woodworking tool, this 12″ rasp is now famous for zesting oranges, grating ginger and turning parmesan cheese into gossamer-fine shavings. (The rasp is available separately for $13.95.)

Tupperware Can Opener (Tupperware, $25.00). Manual can openers are a must-have item for the kitchen. While this one is a little pricier than most, it’s unique features make it safer to use for people of all ages. The blade is kept away from the food, preventing both contamination and sharp edges. It’s also ergonomically designed, making it easy to grip and twist.

EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale (Amazon, $26.95). Many European cooking shows and books use weights rather than volume for improved accuracy. Chefs will love this set because it can accurately weigh ingredients, and they can set the “tare weight” to eliminate the weight of the container they’re using.

Professional Quad Timer (Lee Valley, $28.50). Cooks don’t make just one dish at a time — especially during the busy holiday season. This device has four independent timers that can be set to let you gauge the cooking process or to remind you when it’s time to start the next dish. The timer combines an easy-to-use rotary dial with LED digital display, and even has lights to indicate which burner the timer is for.

Squeeze-It™ Decorator (Tupperware, $29.00). Many decorating tools aren’t easy to handle — for adults or children. This accordion-style container is easy to grip, has a wide mouth for filling, and comes with five nozzles for decorating, garnishing and fillings.

Hand-Held Micro Torch (Lee Valley, $36.50). Bring a blow torch to the table — sort of. This hand-held tool has an easy push-start operation with a safety lock. Perfect for caramelizing a crème brûlée!

VE Multi-Purpose Pot (Epicure Selections, $49.99 for 8 cup, $64.99 for 12 cup). Perfect for cooks setting up their own kitchen or for experienced cooks. It is available in 8 or 12-cup sizes, and comes equipped with a pouring spout and lid with straining slots. Use it for soups, vegetables, pasta, rice or even a large pot of herbal tea.

Kinderkitchen Kids Cooks’ Tools Set (City Chef, $54.95). Is there a budding chef in your family? Kuhn Rikon’s tool set is specially made for small hands — with safety in mind, of course. Kids will love the fun shapes and colours.

Maslin Pan (Lee Valley, $89.00 including lid). Shaped like a giant teacup, it’s the perfect pot for making jellies, jams, candy and preserves. Its thick, heat-distributing base prevents hot spots and fits nicely on a burner, and the sides flare out to a wide top for evaporation. A side and central handle facilitate pouring, and the pan comes with an optional lid for making soups or other dishes too.

Updated November 2012 with new items and prices. Please note prices and links are subject to change.

Photo © Snaprender

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For more festive ideas and inspiration, visit our Holiday section. –>