Gift Guides Archive

Thursday, December 10, 2009

build your own smitten kitchen

build your own smitten kitchen: a practical gift guide

Does anyone run out of ways to spend their hard-earned money? I suspect they do not and it is for this reason that I generally shrug at gift guides. I mean, really? That a $3,400 razor set has been marked down to $1,700? Oh thank heavens! I was wondering what to do with this money tree in my backyard that never stops growing.

But all most sarcasm aside, I do, you know, spend some time in the kitchen. And my kitchen is tiny, even tinier than the one I had when I wrote this, which means that paring down my kitchen purchases to the most utilitarian items is more essential than ever. These are the things I couldn’t get by without. My interest is in items that are practical, well-constructed, clever enough to multitask, pretty enough to move from kitchen to table, and — look, this is just my personal schtick as I fear things that melt close to temperatures I routinely use when cooking — involve as little plastic and silicone as possible.

So why do these fairly basic things make great gifts? Because I think the best presents are the things that you either might not think of or might not want to shell out for but end up making your life easier, everyday. More than one-off, silly or amusing kitchen tchotchkes, odds are people will be using these same ten items in ten years, fondly remembering that kick-ass person who bought it for them in 2009.

total showoff

1. A Dutch Oven [Which Doubles as Both a Doorstop and Exercise Weights, which comes in handy when you need to work off all of the lush things you cooked in it] Heavyweight pots that go from stove to oven are essential for any and every type of cooking, especially the stewy soups and braises this weather demands. Staubs are my personal favorite; I not only like their cool industrial design but two features that others do not have — little divots, called “self-basting spikes” under the lids and handles that are steel, not plastic, meaning that you do not have to worry about them melting should your oven exceed 450°F. You only *need* one but I’ve been unable to resist two over the years. My 7-quart oval [more colors here] is great for big meals, dinner parties and is large enough to hold a whole roast or bird, i.e. 6 to 12 servings. My 5-quart round [more colors here is the perfect size for everyday cooking, i.e. 4 to 6 servings.

Can’t get enough? I’m hopelessly in love with Staub teapots [sadly,the square are no longer available unless your stalk stores with dwindling supplies], but the obsession is form, more than function. I mean, they work just fine but mostly I just find them real purty. Slightly more functional, you probably see this 2-quart roasting dish about three times a month on this site. I bought it over two years ago and haven’t put it away since.

[Links: Staub 7-Quart Oval Dutch Oven, plus more colors; Staub 5-Quart Round Dutch Oven, plus more colors here; Staub Round Teapots, Staub Oval Roasting Dish]

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