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Need new "big gift" kitchen tool/appliance

The girlfriend wants to get me something nice for the kitchen for my birthday, but I'm blanking on ideas. A few we were kicking around:

-Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer: Cool idea, but takes up alot of space and I'm not sure how much I'd use it...do you all use it mostly for breads? I do alot of no-knead bread making, so I wouldn't need the mixer for that, and do pizza dough by hand, and sweet breads like banana with a hand mixer. Seems like the Kitchen Aid wouldn't get used enough.

-High quality auto meat grinder: Another cool idea, and very convenient, but not sure if it's unnecessary since I already have an old (1905) hand crank grinder. I use it, but notice that it sometimes puts out "globs" of meat rather than grinds...not sure if this is due to the meat not being semi-frozen enough however. Would the auto grinder be that much of an improvement?

-Sausage stuffer....worth it? Practical? Can't we stuff by hand?

Other ideas like floated around, but seemed unnecessary. VitaMix is cool but I already have a blender.

Any wild ideas we didn't think of? Thanks in advance!

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  1. These are not big items so may not be suitable for your needs but I thought I would mention them anyway...
    Gel mats - we have three and LOVE them!
    Pasta maker - ours is the attachment set for our KA stand mixer
    I know you mentioned VitaMix and the fact that you already have a blender but a VitaMix does SO much more!

    1. I have a very small apartment kitchen with limited counter space, but if my KA stand mixer broke tomorrow, I'd replace it immediately. I don't do a huge amount of baking, but when I do, I want that machine handy. I also have the meat grinder (used to make sausages more than I do now, but have begun grinding nearly all of my own meat), the sausage-stuffer attachment (see previous), and the pasta rollers (homemade pasta was a revelation, and I rarely buy the dried stuff anymore). Buy the KA and you can get three of your ideas in one.

      I agree with chefathome that a VitaMix is much more than just a blender. But if your blender does everything you want it to do . . . .

      Do you have a good-sized freezer? Do you cook and/or shop in bulk? Do you want to? I'm really annoyed with myself that it took me so long to get around to buying a FoodSaver. Makes an extraordinary difference in the freezer- and shelf-life of so many foods and ingredients.

      1. How esoteric do you want to go and what's her budget?

        If you're into modernist cuisine, Julabo sells excellent FusionChef immersion circulators and tanks, and there are rotavaps, sonicators, antigriddles, countertop centrifuges.

        On the old school side, a 390 mm Masamoto HA-series takobiki could be good for a giggle. Or a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker (the big one). Or a konro grill, though you'd probably want to do the grilling outside.

        1. mt7187,

          I think Chefathome's idea of a gel mat is great. There are also similar products beside the offical gel mat. KitchenAid Mixer would be great if you bake a lot. What about a nice kitchen knife? Not a physically big item, but a good one can cost some.

          1. I think the kitchen aid would be worth it. It makes baking easier and more enjoyable, so maybe you would do it more? I don't make much bread, but I love it for cookies and cakes, its so much easier when you can just set it to cream the butter and sugar and walk away, then come back and add the other ingredients. Its nice to have both hands free. Plus it really comes in handy if you bake a lot for the holidays.

            How about an induction hob? I have been thinking about one just to see what induction is all about but I don't really know if it would get used.

            Do you drink a lot of coffee? How about a Keurig? I have had mine for about a year now and I love it.

            Do you have a good enameled dutch oven?

            1. You can buy meat grinder and sausage stuffing attachments for a KitchenAid stand mixer (in addition to pasta attachments and other fun things). I adore my KA mixer. It sits out on my counter, but I use it a couple times a week, sometimes more. I mix anything from bread dough, cookie dough, cake mix, pancake batter, whipped cream, etc. I also will beat things like pureed lentils to make them creamier for soups and things like that.

              1. This may seem like an odd thing to suggest, but my most favorite kitchen gadget purchase of the last 5 years is a Zojirushi water boiler. This is the one I have: http://www.amazon.com/Zojirushi-CV-DS...

                Now, I have oatmeal whenever I want it. Every evening I have a cup of tea while I never would have taken the time to boil the water before I had my Zojirushi. I love it. We got rid of our old drip coffee machine because the Zojirushi makes french press coffee so effortless. I use it for hot water to clean my cast iron pans, I use it to sanitize toothbrushes, I use it to make the kids instant mac and cheese when I'm feeling lazy, I use it to add to pasta water so it doesn't take as long to boil on the stove... When winter comes I plan to have many cups of hot cocoa. It's the best. The first kitchen gadget in a long time that's exceeded my expectations.

                KitchenAid mixers are pretty great too though. But even though I have one, I don't like to bother to break it out for the things you listed. I still make quick breads and pizza dough by hand - it seems easier somehow. I make a lot of sandwich bread, though, and grind my own wheat, so that's when it gets used.

                1. I don't bake a lot but the kitchenaid makes it so much easier than a hand mixer.

                  Best two items I can say I have bought in the past year, is my zorx.x! ( don't remeber how to spell it" rice maker and also the Soda Stream.

                  We now eat rice more than potatoes or pasta. So simple, plug it in and forget it. It even keeps the rice warm until you are done stir fying what ever that happens to be.

                  The Soda Stream is effortless. Don't need an outlet, and you can make really great cola, tonic water, root beer, lemon lime, etc. and with less calories than store bought and no bottles to recycle. When the grandkids come it is easy to make a variety of different sodas for pennies.

                  Hopefully my next purchase would be sous vide as it sounds quite interesting and really easy. Just waiting for the price to come down a bit.

                  1. As I've mentioned somewhere else on these hallowed boards... I'm thirsting for an electric multi-polt (pressure cooker, slow cooker and rice cooker)... I think the Fagor. It's about $100 and seems (from many reviews) to be great for extracting flavor and doing quick stews, soups, curries etc. Whatever you decide on, happy birthday.

                    1. Hi, mt7187:

                      Big? A La Cornu sealed hob, 4-oven range would make a great gift!

                      There is out there a luxe gadget that combines the functions of a food processor and a crockpot/thermowell. It's not sold directly in the USA, but you can get it from England in 110V I believe. There is a poster here named "Huntress" who has one, which she calls "Thermie". If you search those terms or her excellent posts, I'm sure you will find it--if you have interest. {edit: I think it's called a "Thermomix"}

                      A good deep-fat fryer is always a crowd pleaser.


                      1. I've been having an amazing time with my pressure smoker, and would totally recommend that for quick, tender, smoked meat.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Ninevah

                          Please expand on the pressure smoker! Cost and can you use indoors? Thanks-

                          1. re: dklipscomb


                            Yeah, it's made to be used indoors. Can flavor the air a bit like someone's burning wood in the neighborhood, but haven't had a real problem with it smoking up the house yet. I've seen it priced anywhere between $140 and $299, so do some digging on the internet if you're wanting one.

                        2. If space and storage is a problem don't bother with a tagine. Get a Le Creuset french oven. You can make any tagine in it and lots of other things too. The tagine is pretty much a 1 trick pony. I have a big kitchen and lots of storage. I thought the LC yellow tagine was gorgeous and would look great on my cook top but instead I bought a Chantal pan that I use for tagines and a lot more and it is every bit as beautiful.

                          If I were going to go to the "big" gift I'd purchase a Shun Ken Onion 7.5" Santoku knife.Yes they are $200 but it is the knife my husband and i both reach for most often. I may have to buy another so we can each have one

                            1. re: AdamD

                              Oh my... I thought you were joking, but there are really sushi robots, but I am not sure which one you are referring. There is the:


                              and this


                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                they have been around for awhile
                                they have home models

                                that hand robot is insane

                            2. Do you already have a food processor? Depending on use, it could be worth looking into a Magimix

                              I was considering a 9-14 cup Cuisinart or Kitchenaid, but after reading a few threads on various boards, it seems like the same problems pop up. And the modern machines are not lasting as long as ones before. Yet people have had food processors designed by Robot-Coupe for 20+ years with little problems. Some people even use them for bread making (but some with it and a stand mixer, say they prefer the stand mixer).

                              Otherwise I have been looking into a toaster oven (Breville Smart Oven) and induction hob.

                              1. Strongly second the rec for gel mats. I have three and could not work in my kitchen without
                                them. Even if I couldn't fit three, I'd have whatever would fit. They are THAT good and THAT
                                good for feet and back!