Kitchen Gifts Your Friends will Love--and Actually Use

It's late in this gift-giving month, and you're still not done buying presents?  As in past years, Shelf Life Advice can help. If you put "gifts" into our search box, you'll come to a sizable number of articles listing gift ideas--for example, "Food-Related Gifts Recommended by Experts." And, despite the fact that this site's editor is short of time (I haven't finished my gift-shopping either), I'll post a few new suggestions.  I'll start with ones from our Advisory Board scientists and conclude with just one from me.  Two of our scientists came up with the same idea--high-quality knives.  Therefore, we'll start with those.  Here we go.






Henckels is probably the most well- known brand, but they have so many versions out there it can be hard to know what to pick.  Zwilling J.A. Henckels makes the best knives:  I prefer the Pro series, but the Pro S aren’t bad for starter knives, and they’ll be less expensive.  J.A. Henckels International knives aren’t as good (in my opinion), but they do have a forged version that would be ok:'s-Knife--7954.html


My favorite knives are Mundial.  I have 8” Henckels Pro and an 8” Mundial chef's knife. The Mundial is my preference.  Mundial knives are better weighted so they're easier to control and hold their edge longer when I sharpen them. In addition, they cost about half as much as the Henckels.  My all-time favorite knife is my 6” Mundial chef's knife (but I have very small hands).


Just remember to look for a forged blade, not stamped. As explained on the Calphalon website, forged blades are the top of the line in quality. Forging is one of the oldest methods of construction using handcraftsmanship to produce the strongest and sharpest blade. Forged knives are produced when a steel bar is heated to a very high temperature, set into a die and hammered to form the blade. It is then tempered, sharpened, and finished, sometimes in up to 50 separate steps, mostly done by hand.


 On the other hand, stamped blades are punched out from a thin ribbon of steel, much like dough cut by a cookie cutter. The blades are tempered, sharpened, and finished, but machines handle most of the process. The blades are usually thinner, lighter and lack the balance of forged knives; therefore,  the knives require a firmer grip and more pressure when chopping, mincing, etc. They are usually priced lower than forged cutlery.





A Damascus kitchen knife by Yoshihiro would be a welcome addition in any serious chef’s kitchen. These knives are expensive (An 8.25” Chef’s knife is $130 on Amazon;, but they are well worth the cost and will last a lifetime of precision cutting. The only drawback is that they are hand-wash only. But who would want to put a work of art like these knives into a dishwasher? If you insist on dishwashing your knives, Zwilling J.A. Henckles does make a line of stainless steel Damascus knives that are incredibly rugged and still maintain the beautiful appearance of a hand-made blade. For comparison, an 8” Chef’s knife sells for $365 on Amazon ( This knife is gorgeous and durable, but so expensive!






Reusable Evert-Fresh Green Bags™ are a great way to maximize storage time for fresh fruits and vegetables. The bags are designed to absorb gases (ethylene) to slow down the ripening process. My wife says they work great! I have noticed a difference, too. They can be purchased directly from the manufacturer at: Beware of imitations that are of inferior quality.







I am back to canning gear as a recommendation for this year's holiday gifts, based on the number of questions we get about it annually.
My list of items is below.


Pressure canner:

Make sure it is Underwriters Laboratories approved.

There’s some good advice on purchasing a canner at:


You should use pressure canning for low acid (neutral pH) foods such as meat, green beans, carrots, potatoes, etc. You can use boiling/hot water bath canning for acid foods such as pickles, relishes, jams, jellies, etc. However, you can also use pressure canning for these products as well. It’s just not necessary.


For more info about canning go to:


For water bath canning info, go to:


There’s even an automated water bath canning machine. However, it shouldn’t be used as a pressure canner.

Go to:



Ball home canning book:


USDA home canning:


There are a number of sites with information about canning accessories.


For technical info, I only recommend  academic Extension sites such as these:






Bagels have gone beyond being limited to one ethnicity to being almost everyone's bread of choice for a person who likes food that demands lots of chewing and that rewards the effort by  sticking to the ribs for hours.  However, cutting them in half for a large family or a big party can be a pain. That's why we're glad to have a bagel cutter.  We've had the same one for years, and it effortlessly handles the frequent bagel requests of our 5 grandchildren. The one we own is the white plastic and stainless steel bagel guillotine by BigKitchen. At the moment,  it's listed on Amazon for $27.99.  Just don't give it to the under-age kids to play with like a toy.  It's sharp!


Reminder:  Online prices can change from day to day.




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


Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D. , Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering


Catherine Nettles Cutter, Ph.D. , Pennsylvania State University, Department of Food Science "What's the difference between forged  and stamped cutlery?"'s-the-difference-between-forged-and-stamped-cutlery%3F


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