Just like everyone else, cooks like their toys. Some, of course, are more useful than others. Do you really need that strawberry huller just to remove the greens? Probably not. But here's a selection of terrific presents that almost any cook will actually find useful. These are gifts that will be used and enjoyed long after the unwrapping.
Nomiku immersion circulator
Finally, a compact sous-vide appliance for the home cook. Clip the Nomiku to the inside of any large water-filled stock pot, press the screen to turn it on, and turn the knob to adjust the temperature. It's that simple. When you're done, the hand-blender-sized immersion circulator easily stows away in a drawer. $299.95, at nomiku.com.
While new cast iron can be found at most home and cooking supply stores, antique and other collectible cast iron has a growing fan base and can make a great gift. Look for pieces from reputable dealers or sellers, finding out as much about the quality of the piece before purchasing. Prices vary. Antique and collectible pieces can be found online at auction sites and through dealers such as griswoldcookware.com and panman.com.
Essentially nothing more than a round tool fitted with a flat layer of fine mesh, this deceptively simple kitchen appliance can be used in a variety of ways, from straining to sifting, doubling as a food mill or simple sieve. The flat mesh is often easier to use than a rounded strainer or cone-shape chinois. Tamis are typically metal or wood, fitted with a variety of different types and gauges of mesh. Prices vary but usually start at about $15. Tamis are widely available in cooking stores and online.
KitchenAid pasta attachment
Will this be the year you finally get back into making fresh pasta? It will be if you pick up this pasta roller, which eliminates the "third-hand problem." Buy just the roller; the set with the cutters is much more expensive and not necessary. From $74.99 including shipping from everythingkitchens.com.
Thrill a wine collector with this revolutionary wine preservation system that makes it possible to "open" a bottle of wine without removing the cork. The wine in the bottle will continue to evolve as if it had never been touched. $299, at coravin.com.
Pizza baking steel
What does it take to turn your home-pizza-making around? Try 15 pounds of quarter-inch-thick steel. Heat it well in your oven and you'll make the crispiest crusts yet. $79 with free shipping from bakingsteel.com.
Paella kit from La Española
Paella is a dish that everyone's talking about. Now you can do something about it. Harbor City Spanish foods legend La Española is offering a paella starter kit that includes a 13 1/2-inch polished steel pan and authentic arroz bomba and peppers and chorizo for garnish. It's $64.99 at La Española, 25020 Doble Ave., Harbor City, (310) 539-0455, or at laespanolameats.com.
The iGrill is the grill geek's nirvana: a remote thermometer that transmits temperature via Bluetooth to your iPhone or iPad. Now there's a miniature version that has a slightly shorter range and handles only one probe, but it's half the price. $39.99, at store.idevicesinc.com.
Hagino Mitsunobu vegetable peeler
For the serious cook whose vegetable peeler has gone rusty, this one was created by Japanese product designer Hagino Mitsunobu. It's stainless steel painted with heatproof matte black silicone, and its components are welded rather than riveted. These features mean food and oils won't get stuck in any joints. It's also ergonomic. $52, at rikumo.com.