Food

Best gifts under $25 for food lovers, chosen by star chefs

The rush of Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be over, but chances are, you’ve still got a long list of gifts to buy this holiday season. For culinary-minded friends and family, there’s an ever-growing list of gadgets and tools out there (the Food Sniffer, anyone?).

But what gifts will stand the test of time? TODAY Food recently spoke with star chefs at a tasting event hosted by New York magazine who revealed their top budget picks for the home cook. Here are 7 great gifts for foodies under $25. Bonus: the chefs also shared the dream culinary gifts that they’re hoping to receive this holiday season.

Best Budget Picks for Home Cooks

Casey Barber
There's a Microplane for every kind of grating you might need to do.

1. Microplane

What's the No. 1 inexpensive tool to have in your kitchen? A microplane, according to many of the chefs we spoke to. "That should be in everybody's kitchen," said Leland Avellino, executive chef at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

RELATED: Do you really need a Microplane for your kitchen? Yes, and here's why

Miro Uskokovic, pastry chef at Untitled and Gramercy Tavern, agrees. "Especially for the pastries and the sweets, I think a microplane is one of the most useful things that you can have," he said. "You can use it for the spices; you can grate nuts — cheese, obviously."

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2. Cast iron skillet

Dale Talde — a former "Top Chef" contestant who runs his namesake restaurant in Brooklyn, along with the newly opened Massoni in Manhattan — picked both the microplane and another kitchen workhorse, the cast iron skillet.

"Those are really cheap and they'll last forever," he told us. "And you'll always remember the person who got it for you."

RELATED: 6 myths about cast iron pans busted

RELATED: The one step you shouldn't skip when cooking with your cast iron pan

RELATED: How to season a cast iron pan so you can use it for a lifetime

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Mmm pancakes! An electric griddle is a great and inexpensive gift for food lovers

3. Electric griddle

Talde also loves a cheap electric griddle — "whatever griddle you can get at Walmart (above) or Target or anything online." He says even his restaurant favors this tool for making perfect pancakes. “You know that rule where the first pancake sucks?” he said. “Not on an electric griddle."

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4. Pepper mill

Another must-have tool? A real pepper grinder. "Fresh pepper makes a very big difference, and it's not just grinding it freshly but getting good quality," said Daniel Rose, the Chicago-born chef who has three restaurants in Paris as well as his first stateside venture, the buzzy Manhattan restaurant Le Coucou. "Pepper can have a very sweet flavor, not just spicy and harsh ... those are the little secrets that we use to make our food vibrant. I think home cooks don't often get around to it."

RELATED: Oprah's Favorite Things of 2016 for foodies

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5. High quality chocolate

Those with a sweet tooth may appreciate a simple yet high quality bar of chocolate. "You don't have to do anything to it and just enjoy the product," said Jessica Weiss, executive pastry chef at Maialino and Marta. "A lot of the fair-trade stuff is usually great."

RELATED: Guilt over eating chocolate only makes it more delicious

Casey Barber
Using a kitchen scale to measure cupcake ingredients makes baking so much faster, easier and tastier!

6. Kitchen scale

And for bakers, a kitchen scale is also essential (put away the measuring cups!). "You can find a good and easy one for $20, $25," said Uskokovic, who also loves the quick cleanup. "You take a bowl, a scale, and you scale everything directly in a bowl; it doesn't require 10 other items that get dirty."

Easy Homemade Granola
Homemade Granola
Grace Parisi / TODAY
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7. Homemade food gifts

Floyd Cardoz, a "Top Chef Masters" winner who recently opened Paowalla in Manhattan, the best gift is something closer to the heart. "I always love when people give other people things they've made themselves," he said. "I do golden cherries, or I'll do a chutney of some sort."

RELATED: 3 super easy (and yummy!) homemade food gifts your friends and family will love

Avellino recommends making your favorite sauce or other signature dish. "You can buy the ingredients, maybe hand them a recipe, and say, ‘Here, this is something I do,’” he said. That way, you can impart a bit of "entrepreneurial knowledge," he said, "not just a gift, but something you can give somebody (who) can own that recipe and then use it going forward.”

RELATED: 9 last-minute cooking tips to ensure you're ready when holiday guests arrive

Bonus: What Star Chefs Actually Want to Receive

When it comes to extra special gifts, or for those with a bigger budget, what items are worth the splurge? Professional chefs have their pick of equipment, but even they have wish lists.

All-Clad, the Pennsylvania-based cookware brand, is a favorite for many. "Any kind of food gadgets is what we like at our house," said Avellino. "All-Clad is my go-to." Talde, who recently bought a new house, is looking to stock his kitchen with pans. "Straight All-Clad, baby," he said. He also loves Big Green Egg for barbecue.

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Al Roker grills pizza in a 'Big Green Egg'

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Al Roker grills pizza in a 'Big Green Egg'

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Uskokovic would happily add another KitchenAid to his arsenal. "One is never enough," he said.

As for Rose? He's looking for something money can't buy: quality time spent with loved ones — what the holidays are all about, after all. "Maybe an afternoon where my kids have just woken up from their nap and we can bake cookies together, or bake a cake or something like that," he said. "Because sometimes I want to do it, sometimes they want to do it, rarely does it happen at the same time.

"So I would ask, if somebody could provide that, for a moment in the day when we would all be thinking the same thing: Let's cook together."

Write to Robin Kawakami and find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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