Holiday Gift Ideas for Anyone Who Cooks--or Wants to

Do your relatives and friends come to your house to eat because they hate cooking?  Then this is the wrong gift list for you.  But for those who cook because they must or because they actually enjoy puttering with food, you may find the perfect gift among these ideas, a combination of recommendations from the Shelf Life Advice board scientists and from publications that I (your SLA editor) looked at recently. 





Holidays bring party guests to the home bar.  Whether on a cabinet or in an entire room,

these gifts will get attention:


Wine system: You've probably heard and/or seen ads showing this item. Coravin has placed it in the Bed, Bath and Beyond holiday catalog. The Coravin Model One Wine System gets rid of that annoying struggle with corks.  It punctures a small  hole in the cork.  Then you surprise your guests (if they haven't seen the ads on TV) by pouring their wine through the cork.  Best of all, the hole then seals itself so that the  wine is protected from air, which will degrade it. It's a clever idea and a cute item. But is it worth the price?  


Model One is an expensive gift (about $200), and Model Two costs even more.  Furthermore,  keep in mind that these days many wine bottles don't have corks; they have screw-on metal caps.   Also, it's possible to keep opened wine fresh even after the cork has been removed by purchasing a wine stopper designed for that purpose,  an item far less expensive than this relatively new gadget. But the Coravin system is a gift your recipient will enjoy showing off to friends.  


3-D LED lamps:  Lampeez has a large collection of these.  One particularly appropriate as a bar decoration is the lamp showing a wine bottle, two wine glasses, and a bunch of grapes.  And the lights are red, to match Santa Claus and other Xmas decorations. The last time I checked out the website (, this item was on sale, I believe for $39.99.   Any questions about this product?  Ask the bot on the home page about prices, shipping, etc.   




The three items listed below are all on Amazon.  If you're an Amazon Prime member and what you're ordering is shipped from Amazon, most  items (if not twice the size of a dinosaur) will ship free.   Reach the following products just by using the names given below.


The Original EZ Salad Cutting Bowl: It can cut vegetables, fruit, chicken, and cheese and also serve as a strainer. The knife goes through slits in its dome, so it's less likely to slice your fingers. It's sold by EZ Life Products.  The price listed on Amazon: $14.99.


AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker: The write-up promises 1-3 cup of coffee per pressing  in about one minute.  It also makes espresso  for lattes and other espresso drinks in about 30 seconds. Unlike a French press, there's a microfilter that guarantees no grit in your  drink.  Price: $29.95.


Magisso Cake Server: This stainless steel server is designed to beautifully carry a slice of layer cake from the cake platter to the diner's plate without allowing the layers to separate.  This gadget both cuts and serves, giving each person a  portion that's the same size and is intact. For more info, see the 60 customer reviews.  Amazon's price: $15.




From Dr. Martin Bucknavage's blog "PSU Food Safety News":


"hermoPro TP-17 Dual Probe Digital Cooking Meat Large LCD Backlight Food Grill Thermometer  LINK

Taylor Precision Products Splash-Proof Dual Temperature Infrared/Thermocouple Thermometer LINK

Taylor Classic Series Large Dial Fridge/Freezer Thermometer LINK

Plastic Kitchen Cutting Board Mats Set LINK

Note – We do not endorse any of these items or the seller, but only show as examples of the types of products you can give to those people you care about in order to make food safe."




(Submitted by Dr. Karin Allen, one of the scientists serving on this site's Advisory Board)


"I’ve attended too many buffets over the years where I was hesitant to eat certain food  not because they didn’t look appetizing, but because they looked like they had been out too long at room temperature.  Veggie trays can be tricky.  We usually remember to chill the dip, but peeled, cut, or sliced vegetables should also be chilled. (Since 2013, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, and bell peppers have been recalled for E. coli and/or Salmonella.) "

Chilled vegetable tray:    This product keeps veggies cold over a bed of ice.

Price: 34.99 


"Another issue is how clean people’s hands are as they go through the buffet.  A lot of the smaller tongs are one piece. They’re hard to open up wide enough to grab larger pieces and hard to pinch together enough to grab small, delicate vegetables like olives.  I like the ones that are hinged, especially those with silicone coating so they can be used for hot items, too (such as sausage bites). Size 7 is great  for vegetable trays. That size is also little-hand friendly."  Price: 6.99-8.99,  depending upon color



(Submitted by Dr. Clair Hicks, one of the scientists serving on this site's Advisory Board.)

"Any gifts sent through the mail must be stable during the transport period.  This means that the food  must have a low aw (as do cookies, bread, and other baked products) or be frozen if it's a high-moisture food.  Mail delivery systems have changed such that all mail first goes to a center before it moves toward its destination.  This means that intercity mail takes longer to get to its destination than it did in the past. It also means that a greater understanding of postal travel times needs to be understood  and considered before a food is shipped.

In general, the safest food items to ship are foods in the baked goods category and/or chocolate because they have a sufficiently low aw to resist molding during the transport period.  Canned goods also have a long shelf life, so they can safely and easily be shipped. Some companies do ship frozen foods, but they understand the needed shipping time better than the average consumer." 

[Editor's note: "AW" STANDS FOR "WATER ACTIVITY".  For a more detailed explanation of this process, see the article "Water Activity (aw) in Foods."}



It's good for your brain and your cooking habits to visit a bookstore from time to time and  ask a salesperson to point our some new books.  Books on cooking are wonderful for children

("Get them started early" is my motto).  Ethnic cookbooks are ideal for someone who wants to expand his/her repertoire about foreign cultures or find new recipes for dishes commonly prepared in his/her native country.  Cookbooks are also useful for the man who has just moved into his own apartment, gotten divorced, or bought his first grill.  In short, when all else fails, buy a book.


One of my favorite cookbooks is "Lobsters Scream When You Boil Them: And Other Myths About Food and Cooking" by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough (paperback: $7.02 on Amazon).  Not only does it provide knowledge about foods and how to cook them; it's well-written and quite humorous.


Happy holidays.  Happy cooking.  Happy eating.



Karin E. Allen, Ph.D., Utah State University, Dept. of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Clair L. Hicks, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, Dept. of Animal and Food Sciences

(Other sources are identified in the article.)


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