It’s been a difficult and unusual year for most of us—just the kind of year that could be improved by extra generosity this holiday season. The shortening days and cooling air are a good reminder to start thinking about what to give those special people in your life, especially the loved ones whose worlds have been turned upside down recently.
It’s impossible to offer a pitch-perfect gift idea for every person on our readers’ lists (though we’re going to try) and so it seemed appropriate to first offer some ideas in broad categories to get the creative process started.
If you have any specific product questions—or a friend who really has you stumped this year—feel free to reach out on the PopSci Deals Facebook group or by contacting Popular Science’s Commerce Editor Billy Cadden directly. Prime Day is also coming up on October 13th, so make sure to keep an eye out for deals.
If none of the products below speak to you, you could always browse these curated gift guides on Amazon. Here are some of the most popular categories:
The Vitamix A3500 Ascent series smart blender is our top pick. This advanced blender can be controlled via the Vitamix Perfect Blend App. The app gives you access to over 500 recipes and 17 blending programs. Five of the most common programs settings are accessible via the touch screen, so you don’t have to use your phone if you don’t want. Use the 64-ounce container to whip up large batches of margaritas or soup. You can also set a timer on your blends and tend to other matters while the Ascent Series does its job. If you’re tossing in tougher ingredients, use the tamper to push them down. More blender choices can be found here.
The best kind of cast iron scrubber also happens to look like it could be part of a medieval suit of armor. And Knapp is one of the most trusted names, thanks to their chain mails made of food service grade stainless steel. To use it, just run warm water onto your cast iron, and scrub—no soap needed. It’s tough enough to scrub off the meltiest of cheeses from late night quesadillas, or crusted-on flour from baking.
You might be surprised that such a compact machine could turn your food into fresh soil in only hours, but Vitamix always comes through. The FoodCycler can hold a substantial amount of food, even crush chicken bones and eggshells, and dramatically cut down the volume of your food waste. It includes a removable waste bucket that’s super easy to clean, as well as two carbon filters that you can replace when needed. Your plants will wish they could thank you, and you’ll be pleased without the odor of food scraps or the hassle of a trip to drop them off.
KitchenAid is the most well-known brand of kitchen mixers. This timeless mixer features 10 mixing speeds from a slow stir to a quick whip. The five-quart mixer can hold up to nine dozen cookies or seven pounds of mashed potatoes. It comes with a coated flat beater, a coated dough hook, a six-wire wire whip, and a pouring shield. The KitchenAid touts its planetary mixing action feature, which hits 59 touchpoints each rotation around the bowl, ensuring the perfect mix. With four additional speeds and more advanced features than other options, this mixer is the best option available.
Since KitchenAid is known for its legendary stand, it’s no surprise that the brand’s stylish five-speed hand mixer is one of the best on the market. It comes in a huge variety of colors and has a lockable 36-inch swivel cord that’s designed for ease of movement in your busy food workspace. The two included stainless beaters are easily ejectable for quick cleaning if you’re switching between bowls.
Most seltzer makers require you to manually pump CO2 into your water. This SodaStream model is powered by the CO2 cylinder. Place it into the machine and grab a bottle of pre-chilled water from your fridge (colder water carbonates better). This bundle comes with 2 cylinders that each make approximately 60 liters or 250 8oz glasses of seltzer, plus two BPA-free 1-liter bottles, and lemon and orange calorie-free drops to add flavor. Every time you open the bottle carbonation is gradually reduced, so if you like to sip your seltzer you might want to also pick up a few of SodaStream’s ½ liter size to avoid flatness. Be sure to exchange (rather than throw away) your empty cylinders.
Thoughtful design choices set this Wolf toaster apart, from its extra-wide bread slots to its guides that automatically adjust to every thickness of toast. It’s great for modern kitchens, has two slices at once, plus the slide-out crumb tray offers easy cleanup after a busy breakfast. In addition to the easily adjustable toast darkness settings, it also offers custom modes for bagels and frozen foods—or for simply keeping your toast warm while you finish in the shower.
This two-slice toaster from Breville has a five-stage browning dial and buttons for bagel, frozen, cancel, and “a bit more.” That last button allows you to extend the toast time without going overboard. Another special feature of this toaster is the “lift and look” lever, which allows you to check your toast without stopping the heating process. This sturdy stainless steel toaster also has adjustable sound alerts to let you know when your bread is ready.
All of your favorite desserts require the right size pan for shapely and evenly-cooked results. This comprehensive set includes a 10 x 15-inch baking sheet for cookies, biscuits, and scones, a medium loaf pan, two 8-inch round cake pans, a 9 x 13-inch pan for sheet cakes, and a 12-cup muffin and cupcake pan. The nonstick coating spares you the stress of seeing your perfect confection fall apart when you take it out of the pan to cool. Each piece of bakeware is designed with a steel core to prevent warping and to provide uniform heating. They’re also oven safe up to a temperature of 450 degrees. For more baking essentials, click here.
Kohler’s Sensate smart kitchen faucet is elegant, beautiful, and pricey. It’s got a motion sensor that allows you to turn on the faucet without touching the lever and can connect to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, meaning you can control the flow of water with your voice.
If you are unsure of why you’d need a smart faucet, there are some serious benefits to consider. If you ask Alexa to dispense one cup, you’ll save time measuring out water for recipes. The faucet monitors your water usage and can detect leaks, too. If you want to clean around the sides of your sink, you can pull down on the magnetically-held faucet head for greater maneuverability and spray control. It comes in four finishes—Matte Black, Vibrant Stainless, Oil-Rubbed Bronze, and Polished Chrome—and has a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute.
A smart toaster might sound unnecessary, but having the extra finesse is actually nifty. You’ll be able to choose what type of food you want to eat—bagel, waffle, Pop-Tart, etc.—and then pick how well-cooked you want it on the device’s touchscreen. You can even note whether bread is fresh, frozen, or just needs to be reheated.
Once you’ve made your choice, the toaster will automatically lower the food and trigger a countdown. (No more eggs sitting there for an extra 30 seconds as you wait for your bread to toast.) The Revolution Cooking toaster also has a removable crumb tray, so it minimizes that counter mess.
This sprayer has a bold, sleek ergonomic design and boasts a fan pattern sprayer which helps propel and coat foods evenly. With 1.35ml of oil per spray, you can use less oil per spray to cover foods, which help reduce calories/amount of oil consumed. Although the bottle says “Evo” the sprayer includes reusable bands to label specific oils/vinegars being used. Please note the tube in the bottle sprayer can be adjusted depending on use/amount of oil in the bottle.
While it’s certainly an investment, this kitchen addition is in it for the long-haul—and you’ll be wondering how you survived whipping up pasta sauce without it. The wide-bottomed pot can withstand temperatures up to 600°F from your oven or broiler, and it blends stainless steel with an aluminum core for truly even cooking free of hot spots. The lid is designed to securely fit the pot, plus the whole tool is phenomenally easy to clean and resistant to corrosion, meaning it will last you for ages.
With a brassy finish and easel-like style, this stand would look beautiful in a contemporary or mid century modern kitchen. This cookbook stand can also double as a display shelf for artwork or ceramic.
If you like your lunches simple and have a place to store them when you arrive at your destination for the day, this beautiful take on the plain brown paper bag is a must-have. The blue leaf pattern set against a tan background evokes a quaint pastry shop or local market, even if you’re just carrying saltines and string cheese. The bag is made from waxed canvas. At 14 inches high when rolled, 9 inches wide, and 6 inches deep, it also has room for a bento box.
Good baking sheets help your cookies bake evenly and efficiently. For people who don’t want to purchase pans with non-stick coating, silicone mats are an alternative to keep cookies together without using disposable parchment paper. Each of the 3 rust-resistant stainless steel baking sheets in this set (9″ x 7″, 9.65″ x 12.25″ and 12″ x 16″) comes with their own reusable silicone mat. The pans are designed to retain their shape and feature smooth edges with a 1-inch depth to keep food in its place. The food-grade silicone and durable fiberglass mats keep your snickerdoodles, macaroons, and cowboy cookies from sticking, and can be washed with soap and water or thrown in your dishwasher for future culinary extravaganzas.
A pizza wheel from KitchenAid is a classic way to get great looking slices. It has a simple, straightforward, familiar design for easy use. The wheel is made from rust-resistant, 430 stainless steel that is going to stay sharp longer. The angled handle is comfortable and features a finger guard to protect your hand from any slippage. It’s compact and dishwasher safe so you will have no problem cleaning and storing this pizza cutter. Try this wheel out on your next batch of dessert bars for an unbelievably easy cut.
Yamazaki’s line of home goods brings a minimalist,Japanese-designed perspective to common use items like dish racks, valet trays, and end tables. This stylish dish rack has a steel tray, for sliding in dishes and cutlery, a plastic tray to collect water, and wooden handles, for a touch of warmth.
This mandoline is designed with a spring loaded handle that allows you to push items down to be sliced, therefore keeping fingers away from the chopping blade. Options are available as it allows for 30 different vegetable cuts, including julienne, matchstick, dice and slicing. Please note, that this item is designed to be a compact tool so the capacity of slicing isn’t large. For larger jobs, you may need to load multiple times. A cleaning brush is included.
This double-burner griddle from All-Clad is a great all-around choice for its versatility and has an impressive finish that’s appropriate for any home. Its anodized aluminum body stretches to 13 by 20 inches and ensures quick and even heating, and the small lip around the edge keeps your ingredients from falling over the sides. It’s topped off with a tough nonstick finish that’s also dishwasher safe, and the whole griddle can even go straight in the oven and endure temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Forged in Germany, Wusthof’s santoku knife marries the best elements of a chef’s knife and a cleaver. This 5-inch model is especially agile, with a balanced feel and nice weight despite its small stature. And, of course, it has a wonderfully sharp blade.
Sometimes, simple is all you need. Although touted as multipurpose, these OXO kitchen shears aren’t loaded with special features—just a simple pair of sharp blades that can be detached, and an herb stripper nestled between two padded and comfortable handles. The best part is that the OXOs are machine washable, and can withstand a lot of use (and washing) without developing rust or discoloration on the blades. The stainless steel blades can also tackle cardboard and twine as well as meat and veggies.
The AeroGarden is an incredibly easy way to grow fresh herbs right on your kitchen countertop. 40 Watt LED grow lights help herbs grow strong and bushy, without sunlight or placement concerns. Seeds are grown in water—avoiding the mess of soil—and watered through filling up a removable bowl at the bottom. A touch screen tells you how much water is left in the trough, making vacations easy to prepare for.
John Boos Blocks are longstanding favorites—they’ve been around since 1887, and are made in the USA using durable woods like maple, walnut, and cherry. These boards measure 18 x 12 inches and are 1.5-inches thick. They’re reversible and heavyweight. Pure wood boards require a little extra care when it comes to oiling and cleaning (don’t let it stay wet!), but cooks will be rewarded with a fantastic durable surface that is gentlest on knives, and sometimes self-healing (meaning no knife groves left like on plastic boards.)
Bento lunch boxes are having a moment, and with good reason. They’re stylish, space efficient, and great for portioning out mains, sides, and snacks. This set merges the convenience and portability of a snap lid with the functionality of a bento, thanks to a set of inserts. It’s great for keeping food separate—especially for picky eaters who hate certain foods touching—and even has a special lid space for cutlery.
This cooker from Anova is Wi-Fi enabled and super easy to use thanks to its compatibility with Anova’s proprietary app, which allows you to control the cooker from your phone and choose from a range of precise temperatures to get your meal cooked exactly the way you want. It’s no more complicated than placing the cooker in your pot, adding water, and setting the temperature and time. The app includes recipes too, making it even easier to expand your personal list of dishes.
Fulfill those childhood monster hunter dreams and make a tray of dinosaur ice pops. The four different creatures molds have ferocious detailed faces, foot handles, and reusable sticks. Mix and match 2.64 fluid ounces of juice, pureed fruit, and ice cream for a colorful and delicious prehistoric creation. Made of BPA-free nylon and silicone, these molds are dishwasher safe and easy to clean.
There is something to be said about pure focus. That’s what the WAF-200 is all about. It’s designed to look as no-nonsense as it performs, and it makes hefty 4-slice Belgian waffles with adjustable browning controls to ensure you get the precise mix of crispy and spongy. The nonstick pads are also easy to clean. It may do one job, but it does it very, very well.
Most people, intentionally or not, marinate their cereal. What if you could treat milk as a dipping sauce instead? This cute BPA-free bowl has a space for up to 15 ounces of milk on one side, and a cup of cereal on the other. Slide your spoonful of cereal on over to your milk for a quick bath or a longer soak, and control your crunch. The bowl doubles as a chip and dip delivery system, so you can do some serious snacking at any time of the day or night.
This smart meat thermometer has two sensors in its single wireless probe—one for internal temperature up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit and another for ambient temperature up to 527 degrees. Both temperatures will be reflected in the free app, which tracks temperature and tells you when your meat is perfect. The app also shows how long it will take for your meat to reach temp and lets you know if you need to adjust the heat at which you’re cooking.
This masticating juicer uses an auger system and 80 rpm motor to force produce into a tight chamber, grinding it up and squeezing out juice. Like all cold-press juicers, the slower engine produces less heat, which helps prevent nutrient loss. The Omega handles not only a range of fruits and vegetables from soft bananas to hard carrots, but it also grinds leafy greens like kale, cabbage, spinach, and even finer ones like dandelion. The simple, five-position knob allows you to adjust the squeeze pressure, and the unit comes with two different screens, coarse and fine. The Omega includes accessories to make nut-butter and mince herbs.
If you crave frozen yogurt, fruity sorbet, or ice cream but want to skip the tedious process of churning your ingredients by hand, this attractive stainless-steel electric appliance delivers up to two quarts at a time. Pop the double-insulated inner bowl into your freezer overnight to chill, and when it’s ready add your ingredients and turn the machine on. An opening at the top allows you to add chocolate chips, fruit, or nuts to mix into your concoction, and you can treat yourself to a dish of butter pecan or mint-chocolate chip ice cream in as little as a half hour. With a base approximately 8 inches square and a height of 11.25 inches, it has a medium-sized footprint on your kitchen counter.
They might look a little like toys, but this bright, fun, multi-colored set includes all the knives for a well-stocked kitchen, including a paring knife, utility knife, Santoku knife, carving knife, chef’s knife, and bread knife. The stainless steel blades have a non-stick coating for easy slicing, and each knife comes with its own matching blade guards. Costing just a fraction of the price of other sets, these are perfect for beginners, students, or casual cooks on a budget.
The Breville isn’t a “smart oven” in the sense that you can connect it to your phone, but it does offer self-adjusting heating elements and an LCD display that lets you select from 10 cooking functions. The oven also includes a slow cooker mode that lets you cook for up to 10 hours. It’s convection-powered, but with the option to switch out of convection mode for tasks like broiling or toasting. While it’s certainly a pricier option, it’s an effective multi-tasker, and large enough to fit a 13-inch pizza or a whole chicken.
If you want a rice cooker that goes way beyond the cheapest models but doesn’t require a huge investment, consider this stylish red-accented option. The aluminum non-stick inner pan holds up to six cups of uncooked rice, and has 8 built-in programs to help cook gaba (germinated) rice, porridge, and even baby food. People who love to customize each dish can control their preferences even further using “My Mode” to choose how soft or glutinous they want their rice to turn out. The self-cleaning auto steam feature is a nice bonus.