Best Holiday Gifts for Home Chefs

Instant Pot, Le Creuset, Calphalon, and KitchenAid are some of the stars in Consumer Reports' tests

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Illustration of a mixer and gift boxes Illustration: Lacey Browne/Consumer Reports, iStock

Want to know the fastest way to a cook’s heart? Give a gift that makes food prep easier and serves up delicious results. Here are gift ideas from Consumer Reports’ kitchen labs. And if you’re the one cooking or baking, consider these for yourself. Or start dropping serious hints.

Need more holiday inspiration? Check out some of our other gift guides: Top Gifts Under $50, Top Home Gifts Under $100, Stocking Stuffers Under $25, and Top Gifts Under $75.

Go to Consumer Reports’ Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.

Cooking Tools

Lodge has been making cast-iron frying pans in its Tennessee foundry since 1896. It’s one of the few surviving iconic American brands. This 12-inch Lodge cast-iron pan is top-notch at browning scallops and earns an Excellent rating for searing a steak. Baking is only so-so, though. Heating evenness is also mediocre. It weighs 7.8 pounds, which is about average.

For more options: Best Cast-Iron Frying Pans

The 5.5-quart Le Creuset Signature tops our ratings for this category. It earns an Excellent rating in our browning tests, the only Dutch oven to do so, and is a cinch to clean. It weighs 12 pounds, less than most, and has an 8-inch cooking diameter. We found that the loop handles are nice and wide, not always a given on Dutch ovens.

For more options: Best Dutch Ovens From Consumer Reports’ Tests

Made in France, Mauviel is one of the better-known brands of copper cookware. This 10.2-inch pan earns a Very Good rating in CR’s tests for cooking evenness and is average at sautéing. The handle is sturdy and stays cool to the touch. The pan is lined with stainless steel, and it’s oven-safe to 450° F. It has a lifetime warranty and, like most copper pans, it’s pricey.

For more options: Best Copper Frying Pans From Consumer Reports’ Tests

The 12-piece Cuisinart Green Gourmet nonstick set aces all our key cooking tests. Pancakes brown evenly in the frying pan, and eggs slide out one after another without sticking. We were able to easily maintain sauce at a low simmer, and the 6-quart Dutch oven quickly brings water to a near-boil. This top-scoring set is made of anodized aluminum, a process that hardens the surface. One of the pieces is a steamer insert.

For more options: Best Cookware Sets

This nicely priced 10-piece set should satisfy most of your cooking needs. The lids are glass, so you can watch what you’re cooking without letting any heat escape. Cooking evenness is top-notch, and this set earns high ratings for both speed of heating and gently releasing eggs from the pan. The handles stay cool to the touch but could be sturdier.

For more options: Best Cookware Sets

Small Appliances

This Calphalon waffle maker makes two square waffles at a time. It scores a Very Good rating for even browning but loses some points in the color-range test, in which it scores a Good. That means there’s less variation between the dark and light settings; waffles cooked on the light setting still come out brown. This model has a countdown timer, an alarm that sounds once the waffles are ready, and a wraparound moat to collect excess batter.

For more options: Waffle Makers

Bread Maker

Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro BB-SSC10WZ

The Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro BB-SSC10WZ has a relatively small footprint. Its control panel on the front is angled for easy viewing and displays each step, such as “knead” and “rest,” so you don’t have to guess where it is in the process. This bread maker mixes the batter well and has an automatic ingredient dispenser for adding nuts or dried fruits at the right time in the cycle. A delayed-start feature means you can put your bread ingredients in at night and wake up to fresh bread for breakfast. This model comes with a recipe book, and there’s also a handy recipe for white bread printed on a label right on the machine itself. It’s the only bread maker we tested to provide recipe ingredients by weight as well as by volume. That’s a plus, because baking by weight is more accurate.

For more options: Best Bread Makers

The secret to a hearty bowl of rice? A dedicated cooker that can get the job done without a hitch. The Instant Zest Rice Cooker is among the highest-rated in our tests. It can hold up to 4 cups of dry rice and can be programmed. It receives a Very Good rating for cooking as well as for convenience and how easy it is to use the controls. The Instant Zest comes with a steamer tray, rice spoon, measuring cup, and condensation collector, ensuring that you have all your bases covered.

For more options: Best Rice Cookers

The NuWave 37001 air fryer boasts a measured capacity of 5.8 quarts. Our experts found its electronic controls with preprogrammed settings to be among the easiest to see and use. The inside and outside of the appliance are a cinch to clean, but cleaning food out of the holes in the basket takes a little extra effort. This air fryer is on the noisy side, earning only a Good rating in our noise tests. The fan is as loud as a countertop microwave, so you’ll hear it running.

For more options: Best Air Fryers

The KitchenAid Classic K45SS excels at mixing, kneading, and whipping. It gets a middling score for noise, however. The 10-speed mixer comes with a 4.5-quart stainless steel bowl, flat beater, dough hook, and wire whisk. It’s compatible with all KitchenAid attachments, so you can branch out from baking into more savory foods, such as sausage and pasta. It weighs 23 pounds and comes in either white or black.

For more options: Best Stand Mixers

The Duo 7-in-1 is Instant Pot’s oldest model that’s still on the market. Even though there are several newer versions out with more functions—the Max, for instance—this comparatively basic model is more than enough for most home cooks. It also usually retails for half the price of the Max and performs similarly in our tests. It earns an Excellent score for pressure cooking and top marks for rice cooking and sautéing.

For more options: Best Multi-Cookers

This 6-quart Hamilton Beach is one of the least expensive of the programmable models we tested, and it beat out the Crockpot, long synonymous with slow cookers, in our tests. The Hamilton Beach is the only model to earn an Excellent rating in our high-setting tests; it’s the fastest in its category. Program this cooker for up to 24 hours; the auto-warm option lasts for 24 hours, too. The owner’s manual includes tips on using the temperature probe and hold-temp mode to cook meat and fish using the sous vide method (placing food in a sealed bag and slowly cooking it in a warm bath of water).

For more options: Best Slow Cookers

The Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004 chopper has a 2.5-cup capacity and features a top-mounted motor that you push down to operate. It earns a Very Good rating for chopping, turning out nicely chopped veggies and nuts in our tests. Included in the set is a larger 5-cup processing bowl and a 6-cup blender jar.

For more options: Best Food Processors & Choppers

Cuisinart introduced the food processor to Americans in the early 1970s, and it has been a recognized brand in the category ever since. The Cuisinart Custom 14 DFP-14BCNY garners an Excellent rating in chopping, meaning it consistently chopped onions and nuts into medium-sized pieces. And it’s one of the quietest models we’ve tested. It operates on 720 watts, has a 14-cup capacity, and stands almost 16 inches high. Many of the food processors we’ve tested have touch buttons, but this one has levers—one for on, the other for pulsing and off. The warranty lasts three years; five for the motor. It’s available in brushed stainless, copper, and stainless mixed with black or white.

For more options: Best Food Processors

Vitamix earns an Excellent rating in predicted brand reliability, according to our survey of CR members. That means this blender will continue to produce thirst-quenching icy drinks for years to come. It’s also terrific at blending soups and can even heat the soup using the friction created by the fast-whirring blades. In our test, raw ingredients went from cold chunks to steaming soup in 5 minutes.

For more options: Most and Least Reliable Blender Brands

In our lab tests, this nicely priced hand mixer outperformed models costing twice as much. It’ll turn whipping cream into fluffy peaks in seconds. Stiff cookie dough, which undoes many bargain mixers, proved no problem. You won’t get much in the way of add-ons, but its wire beaters do just fine.

For more options: Best Hand Mixers From Consumer Reports’ Tests