Don't look for sous vide cookers, wi-fi enabled digital electronic smokers, or enchanted knives forged by the dwarves of Middle Earth on this list. For holiday gift-giving Nancy Leson and I recommend these inexpensive items any cook will be thrilled to get.
Nancy Leson and I both recommend keeping some of those nitrile gloves in the kitchen. My reasons: Sooner or later everybody cuts themselves in the kitchen. Slip on a glove to prevent the band-aid from getting wet or leaking blood into the white sauce. Nance likes them to prevent getting her fingers stained when working with turmeric. If you're handling hi-octane chilies gloves are good insurance against unfortunate transfers of capsaicin to (ahem) sensitive parts of one's body. And, as you can see above, they're also good for a goof.
Three of Nancy's favorites all for around $20.
The Oxo triple timer lets her time multiple activities simultaneously. Wine disks can be folded and inserted in the bottle mouth to prevent drips after pouring. The dough whisk is the perfect tool for mixing batters, soft doughs and sourdough sponges.
A listener sent me a coir (coconut fiber) scrubber AKA tawashi. I've been using it for years to scrub pots, pans and vegetables. It simply would not wear out. Available online.
The Dexter/Russell sandwich spreader is one of my favorite small tools. It's great for spreading condiments, butter or peanut butter. Use the serrated side to cut the sandwich. Available from restaurant supply stores and online.
Any home cook or baker will thank you over and over again for a gift of parchment sheets. Pre-cut to half-sheet pan size they are so much handier than those awkward rolls.
Now that nobody carries matchbooks anymore...you'll never again endure a wobbly table at home or in a restaurant with the (Fabulous) Wobble Wedge!
"Nothing's as mean as giving a little child something useful for Christmas." – Kin Hubbard