Holiday Gift Guides

The Best Gifts for Home Chefs Under $50, According to Two People Who Get Paid to Cook

What's cookin' good lookin'?

Thrillist | Grace Han
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Finding great gifts for the home chef is no easy task. These are people who have rigorously tested out pots, pans, appliances, and utensils in hopes of finding the creme de la creme of culinary craftsmanship. That said, there's no real timeline for anyone to discover the joys of cooking at home—and kitchenware will continue to improve in both quality and quantity. 

To make sure we have the absolute best gifts for the chef (or chefs) in your life—at a reasonable price point—we talked to Lisa McManus, executive editor of ATK Reviews at America's Test Kitchen, the product-review team of the multimedia company, as well as Kat Thompson, Thrillist's resident food writer and devoted home chef. 

Here are the 10 best gifts under $50 for home chefs, according to two people who made a career out of knowing food.

Thrillist | Grace Han

Lisa recommends:


Lodge Classic Cast Iron 12" Skillet

Price: $20
Why it's a great gift: "This pan provides a lot of bang for the buck; you can cook everything in a cast iron skillet, and it will only get better with time and use, as the seasoning makes it more and more nonstick. You can roast chicken, bake cornbread, and fry anything in this pan. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Zero Japan Bee House Salt Box

Price: $39
Why it's a great gift : "Salt containers placed near the stove make it easy to season a steak or a pot of boiling water on the fly. Our favorite holds 2 cups of salt and the lid protects it from splatters, but can be flipped up with one hand. Solid and roomy, it sits sturdily on the counter, requires infrequent refilling, and even cooks with large hands find it easy to use. You could buy a box of our test kitchen-winning Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt to go with it."

Thrillist | Grace Han

OXO Good Grips 11" Balloon Whisk

Price: $10
Why it's a great gift: "A whisk seems simple, but a good one like this is a game-changer. With an ergonomic rubber handle and a balanced, lightweight feel, this whisk whips cream and egg whites quickly, thanks to 10 wires that are thin enough to move through liquid fast, but thick enough to push through heavy mixtures and blend pan sauces to smoothness."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Cuisipro Fat Separator

Price: $35
Why it's a great gift: "This is a pretty specific unitasker, but when the time comes to need one, it's essential: If you ever make gravy—like around the holidays—a good fat separator makes an enormous difference. This innovative one by Cuisipro is a test kitchen winner. You pour the pan drippings through the perforated top, which strains out solids, let drippings sit a few minutes while the fat rises to the top, then use the lever on the handle to release only the defatted juices from a hole in the bottom. It's very easy to stop right as the fat reaches the opening, so you get perfect separation every time, so you can make flavorful gravy. It's also easy to clean in the dishwasher."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Kyocera Adjustable Slicer

Price: $20 
Why it's a great gift: "This little paddle is a terrific choice when you want fast, precise slicing. You change the slice thickness by turning a bar on the back, without handling sharp blades. Its ceramic blade stays remarkably sharp for years—and it stows in a drawer."

Thrillist | Grace Han

What Kat recommends:

Chrissy Teigen Aluminum Frying Pan Pack

Price: $34.99
Why it's a great gift: "This is the glossiest, easiest-to-clean non-stick pair of pans I’ve ever used. The smaller pan is perfect for mornings spent frying eggs while the larger I’ve used to boil pasta (if you can believe), make fried rice, and flip pancakes with ease. I’ve bought this exact set for my mom as a gift; it helps that they come in such cute colors."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Three Bluebirds Swedish Dishcloth

Price: $6.95
Why it's a great gift: "These towels are a godsend if you’re making messes in the kitchen as frequently as I am. They’re incredibly absorbent, can replace 17 rolls of paper towels, and they don’t get that funky old sponge odor that lots of consistently wet sponges and towels do. There’s a ton of fun prints to choose from to perfectly suit your kitchen."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Spam Musubi Mold

Price: $8.45
Why it's a great gift: "I make a lot of spam musubi in my household. It’s easy, delicious, and serves as the perfect afternoon snack. This mold was gifted to me by a friend and has made the process so much easier and less messy, resulting in perfectly pressed musubis."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Yamanazaki Magnetic Spice Rack

Price: $34.99
Why it's a great gift: "As a food writer, I am constantly trying new spices and hot sauces—which unfortunately leaves a whirlwind of food products in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. To keep up with the clutter, I’ve had to get a bit creative. This magnetic spice rack lives on the side of my fridge and displays all my favorite hot sauces, chili oils, and honey."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Mesh Tea Ball

Price: $5.99
Why it's a great gift: "I’m a big tea person: English breakfast in the morning, green tea during my afternoon slumps, and chamomile or decaffeinated Earl Grey before bed time. I always have to have a mesh tea ball in my kitchen for my favorite loose leaf variations, but these also double as soup infusers. I use them to make kai polo, a comforting Thai five spice soup filled with cinnamon, cloves, anise, coriander seeds, and plenty of peppercorns."

Lisa McManus is Executive Editor of ATK Reviews at America's Test Kitchen, the product-review team of the multimedia company, home of Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines. She also appears as the onscreen gadget expert on the PBS TV show "America's Test Kitchen," now in its 20th season, and on the YouTube series, "ATK Gearheads." Follow her on Twitter @lisamcmanus and Instagram @lisam_atk.
Kat Thompson is Thrillist's resident food writer. She was born in Bangkok, raised in LA, and lives in New York. She knows good food. Follow her on Twitter @katthompson.
Alex Robinson is a writer & editor for Thrillist. He knows to never soak a cast iron. Follow him on Instagram @alexanderrobinson.
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