The season of giving is upon us, and that means it’s time to start Christmas shopping for the food geek in your life. Let’s face it: he (or she… but who are we kidding, it’s a he) is hard to shop for. He already owns 4 kinds of microplanes, he’s got more cookbooks than Barnes & Noble, and his spice rack is organized by atomic weight. A waffle iron just isn’t gonna cut it this year.
For just that reason, I’ve rounded up the best and geekiest kitchen gifts of 2010. And, if you’re feeling extra generous, I also threw in a few “luxury items” sure to induce a Christmas morning nerdgasm.
2010 was a great year for cookbooks. In fact, all of the books below are new this year, with the exception of Modernist Cuisine, which is available for preorder but won’t ship until March. At $475, it’s not exactly a stocking stuffer, but you can spread out the joy by wrapping each of the five volumes separately.
- Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet – $475
- Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes by Harold McGee – $19.23
- Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi – $32.97
- Sous Vide for the Home Cook by Douglas Baldwin – $25.95
- Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter – $20.71
- Modern Gastronomy: A to Z by Ferran Adria – $43.90
Modernist Cooking “Ingredients”
If the food geek on your Christmas list is dying to pull off the latest techniques, he’ll need some ingredients. I’ve found the WillPowder brand to be a great value for the price.
- For spherification (you’ll need all three): Sodium Alginate – $27.69, Calcium Chloride– $15.08, and Sodium Citrate – $13.62
- For gels: AGAR AGAR – $52.35, Methylcellulose F50 – $28.64
- Thickeners: Ultratex 3 – $13.42, Ultratex 8 – $18.12
- For foams: Versawhip 600K – $36.08
- For powders: Tapioca Maltodextrin – $14.13
Essential Kitchen Gear
Who doesn’t like playing with new toys? Over the last year, prices of induction cooktops have plummeted. They are a great way to expand your stovetop capacity, and they’re extremely energy efficient for heating small quantities of food.
- Max Burton 6000 1800-Watt Portable Induction Cooktop – $99.99
- Whip-It! Professional Cream Whipper – $49.99
- Infrared Thermometer – $47.96
- Distilling Apparatus – $55.12
- Bernzomatic Self-Igniting Torch – $20.89 (fuel sold separately)
In My Dreams…
Some guys dream of sports cars, some guys dream of rotor/stater homogenizers. Here is the equipment in the kitchen of my dreams.
- Torbeo Hand-Held Homogenizer – $841.00
For blending sauces into a consistency that is unachievably smooth using a conventional blender
- Ultravac 250 Vacuum Chamber Packaging Machine – $4600.00
Step aside, FoodSaver, this is a vacuum sealer for the big boys.
- Polyscience Sous Vide Professional – $799.95
Hands-down the best sous vide machine I’ve ever tested.
- Vacuum Rotary Evaporator – $9230.00
For distilling and extracting essential oils. No more store-bought vanilla extract!
- PacoJet – $3950.00
Best known for making extraordinarily smooth and creamy desserts.
- Freeze Dryer – $2,000-20,000
DIY astronaut ice cream!
- Centrifuge – $7000
For separating and clarifying stocks and sauces.
- Laser Cutter – $30,000
For making templates, etching and cutting foods