11 Gifts for the Aspiring Chef, Baker, or Mixologist

iStock
iStock

Whether the folks on your list are just learning how to boil water or have memorized Larousse Gastronomique, they'll love one of these handy tools and gadgets in their home kitchen.

1. FOOD FOR THOUGHT PLATES; $30

Cocktail plates from Z Gallerie
Z Gallerie

You can add a dash of humor to your giftee's next party by giving this cute set of four 7.5-inch porcelain plates. They all feature sayings with cheeky double entendres: "Holy shiitake," "I love it when you call me Big Papaya," "It takes two to mango," and "I'm kind of a big dill."

Find It: Zgallerie

2. CRUCIAL DETAIL PORTHOLE INFUSER; $120

Crucial Detail Porthole Infuser
MoMA Store

Designed by Crucial Detail founder Martin Kastner, the Porthole lets your foodie friends create their own infused oils, vinegars, teas, or even liquors. First, lay the six-inch-diameter, tempered glass vessel on its flat side and release the center screw. Add a selection of fruit, herbs, or chili peppers to the vessel. Reattach the lid to create an airtight seal, stand it up, and pour plain olive oil or other liquid through the spout. Then, steep until the mixture reaches peak flavor.

Find It: MoMA Design Store

3. PROJECT 62 COPPER CHEESE KNIFE SET; $17

Target Project 62 copper cheese knife set
Target

This four-piece cheese knife set is one of the items in Target's new line of mid-century modern-inspired housewares and décor, Project 62. The gray marble handles and bright copper blades will add flair to holiday cheese boards and hors d'oeuvre trays.

Find It: Target

4. KOLOSSOS GREEK ORGANIC WINE VINEGAR TRIO; $30

Kolossos Greek wine vinegar trio
Rocky Luten/Food52

Enliven salads and other bites with a spritz from one of these piquant organic vinegars, all made from heritage grapes grown in Greece. The red wine vinegar uses fruit from 2000-year-old vines in Nemea, the white wine variety is made with D.P.O. Roditis grapes from Patras, and the white wine balsamic style uses the Roditis grapes with a splash of raw, unfiltered wildflower honey.

Find It: Food 52

5. YEDI DESERT GOLD CUPS AND SAUCERS; $30

Yedi desert gold espresso cups and saucers
Amazon

This elegant and affordable four-piece espresso cup set will perk up your pal's morning coffee routine. Each 2.5-ounce porcelain cup features a cobalt blue, grass green, sunny yellow, or slate blue hue on the inside of the cup and reflective gold exterior, plus a saucer in matching tones.

Find It: Amazon

6. MEEHAN'S BARTENDER MANUAL; $20

Meehan's Bartender Manual
Ten Speed Press

Mixologist and author Jim Meehan, formerly of New York City's Gramercy Tavern, Pegu Club, and other hotspots, offers this chic compendium of everything there is to know about cocktails. From a history and evolution of drinks—did you know punch was popularized by the British navy because it didn't spoil on long sea voyages?—to serving techniques and cocktail recipes with beautiful photos, this hefty book will earn a special place on your giftee's bar cart.

Find It: Amazon

7. CRAFTHOUSE BY FORTESSA SMOKING BOX; $250

Crafthouse by Fortessa smoking box
Amazon

When your friends consider a standard cocktail too pedestrian, offer them this streamlined smoker. Just place an adult beverage in the box, close the door, and put a pinch of woodchips (two kinds are included with the set) in the attached smoking gun's reservoir. Then, light the smoking gun. A stream of smoke will waft directly into the box, infusing the drink with smoky complexity. The smoker can also be used for non-alcoholic drinks and foods.

Find It: Amazon

8. TEN THOUSAND VILLAGES JIGSAW PUZZLE CUTTING BOARD; $29

Jigsaw puzzle cutting board
Ten Thousand Villages

Fair trade artisans in Indonesia create these handy wooden cutting boards from sustainably sourced suar wood, which features a thick grain pattern and walnut-like hue. Chop up nibbles on the rectangular surface, then split up the four interlocking pieces to serve cheeses, fruit, crackers, and more.

Find It: Amazon

9. PHILIPS TURBOSTAR AIRFRYER; $227

Philips Airfryer
Philips

This sleek appliance can fry, bake, roast, and grill with almost no added oil, meaning your giftee won't feel quite so guilty when a craving for onion rings strikes. The TurboStar technology circulates hot air through the heated chamber so one never needs to flip or stir food while it's cooking, and the control dial with presets for popular foods ensures the right temperature and cooking times for healthier, tastier meals.

Find It: Amazon

10. WILLIAMS SONOMA HOLIDAY COOKIE GIFT CRATE; $80

Williams-Sonoma holiday cookie gift crate
Williams-Sonoma

Whether your friends are noobs in the kitchen or could win the Great British Baking Show, give them this adorable gift set as a fun and delicious way to celebrate the season. Each crate contains rich shortbread cookie mix, peppermint "snow" to sprinkle on top, four stainless steel cookie cutters in snowflake, candy cane, pine tree, and gingerbread man shapes, a cute snowman spatula, and striped tea towel.

Find It: Williams Sonoma

11. RETRO CANDY GIFT BOX: CHOOSE YOUR DECADE; $35

Candy Crate gift box of 1980s candy
Candy Crate

Better than any Halloween haul, Candy Crate's gift boxes include about 55 pieces of candy in full and fun sizes from the decade of your choice. For example, the 1980s box offers vintage faves like Nerds, Fruit Stripe gum, Charms Blow Pops, Atomic Fireballs, Jolly Ranchers and much more. Sugary selections from the 1940s to the 1990s are available.

Find It: Candy Crate

Ninja’s Hot & Cold Brewed System Is the Only Coffee Maker You’ll Ever Need

Amazon
Amazon

Update: The glass-carafe version of the Ninja Hot & Cold Brewed System is currently on sale for $99 (a 50 percent discount) on Amazon and Walmart. That's the cheapest price we've ever seen, so grab it while you can. The thermal-carafe version is on sale on Amazon for $168, a 27 percent discount.

For people who just want a cup of joe to help them get out the door in the morning, the French presses, Chemexes, Aeropresses, Moka pots, and other specialized devices that coffee aficionados swear by probably seem more overwhelming than appealing. Ditto the fancy cappuccino machines at local cafes. That’s where Ninja’s new Hot & Cold Brewed System comes in: It was created to give coffee addicts a myriad of options with minimal fuss, not to mention minimal equipment. And it makes tea, too!

“Coffeehouses are known for having an endless selection, but current at-home brewers haven't given users the vast variety of choice we thought possible, and certainly not all in one product," Mark Rosenzweig, CEO of SharkNinja, said in a press release. "The Ninja Hot & Cold Brewed System changes the category entirely. This innovative system is more than just a machine you use in the morning; it's your all-day brewing partner.”

The Hot & Cold Brewed System comes with two baskets: one for coffee and one for tea. It knows what you're making to make based on the basket you insert, and the available options for that basket will light up. The machine allows the user to make six different sizes of coffee or tea, from a single cup all the way up to a full 50-ounce (10-cup) carafe.

And of course, as the name suggests, the system can make both hot and iced beverages. For coffee, it has five brew options: classic, rich, over ice, cold brew, and specialty (a concentrated brew for milky drinks like cappuccinos). If you’re making tea, you can choose between hot and cold brews optimized for herbal, black, oolong, white, or green tea.

When you select an over ice or cold brew, the machine automatically doubles the strength of your beverage so it doesn't get overly diluted by the ice cubes in the carafe. Even better, the Ninja can make cold brew in just 10 to 15 minutes, whereas other systems and methods typically take hours. (Hot coffee is brewed at 205°F, while the cold brew is made at 101°F.) And the system has a hot and cold frother that folds into the side so you can make barista-level lattes, too.

These bells and whistles sound impressive on paper, but how do they perform in real life? Ninja sent me Hot & Cold Brewed System to test for myself.

Ease of Use

Though it might look like something developed by NASA, the Hot & Cold Brewed System is designed to easily work with the twist of a dial and the push of a button, and it delivers. From loading in the correct amount of grounds with the system’s “smart scoop” to picking what type of brew you’d like, it’s simple enough to use even while bleary-eyed in the morning. It’s also easy to schedule a delayed brew so you can do the rest of your morning routine while your coffee brews. (Here’s the only drawback I can think of about this machine: When it starts brewing, it’s kind of noisy—loud enough to make my cats jump. It’s not a dealbreaker, but if you live in a small apartment and plan to brew coffee so that it’s ready right when you wake up, it might be something to consider.)

The system even tells you when it needs to be descaled. The “clean” button will light up, at which point you simply fill the water reservoir with descaling solution and water and press the clean button. A countdown lets you know how much longer the clean cycle will last.

Taste and Flavor

I swapped out an old, cheap coffee maker for the Hot & Cold Brewed System, and the difference was immediately noticeable. Whether hot or cold, the coffee made by the H&CBS was a better, smoother cup of joe. That’s due to what Ninja has dubbed Thermal Flavor Extraction automated brewing technology, which, according to a press release, “knows the precise temperatures, correct bloom times, and proper levels of saturation for every possible beverage combination to ensure a great taste every time.”

Whatever tech they use, it works. The coffee I make in this machine is consistently tasty. The rich brew setting works exactly as advertised, too, providing a richer, bolder flavor than the classic brew.

Features and Accessories

One of the best things about the H&CBS is the fact that it cuts down on waste significantly. Unlike other machines, it doesn't require any plastic pods or paper filters. Instead, it comes with two permanent filters, one for coffee and one for tea.

And the cold brew function is a game changer if you prefer iced coffee to hot. Not only does it brew quickly, but it eliminates the messy cleanup that comes with making cold brew yourself.

Typically priced at $230 for the thermal carafe version (or $200 for the glass carafe), the Hot & Cold Brewed System is significantly more expensive than a simpler drip coffee machine. But if you’re a cold brew addict looking to treat yourself, it’s worth it. Consider springing for the slightly more expensive thermal carafe model, which will keep your java hot or cold for hours. (I’ve left ice in it overnight and found cubes the next morning.)

You can get the Hot & Cold Brewed System on Amazon, Walmart, Macy's, or directly on Ninja’s website starting at $160.

The Best Deals to Take Advantage Of on Prime Day Today (Updated)

Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Amazon
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Amazon

Shop Amazon's full Prime Day sale here. To see more of our favorite deals, check out our daily deals page.

Each July, Amazon celebrates its founding by throwing a massive sale, slashing prices to levels not seen since Black Friday. This year, Prime Day is actually two days—Monday, July 15 and Tuesday, July 16. The sheer breadth of discounted goods can be overwhelming, so we're rounding up the best ones as we find them. Peruse our favorite sales below, and don't forget to check back in with us throughout Prime Day, because we'll be updating this post with flash deals as they appear.

Up to 35 Percent Off Kindle E-Readers

Kindle e-readers don't go on sale all that often, and Prime Day has some of the best deals we've seen this year. You can get a Kindle Paperwhite—which is waterproof for reading at the pool or in the bath tub—for just $85 (a $45 discount). The most basic Kindle is just $60, while the Oasis is $175 (down from $200 last month). Right now, you can get three free months of Kindle Unlimited and a $5 credit toward an e-book with all three models.

Shop: Amazon Kindle

Big Discounts on Electric Toothbrushes

A Sonicare toothbrush
Philips Sonicare

A number of high-end electric toothbrushes from both Philips Sonicare and Oral-B are on sale today, including some picks recommended by dentists Mental Floss spoke to earlier this year. The Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean, recommended for patients with sensitive teeth, is $35 off, while you can get Sonicare's all-around powerhouse, the DiamondClean, for $84 off. The Sonicare FlexCare Platinum, which features a 3-minute timer for deep cleaning trouble spots, is $67 off. The HealthyWhite+ might represent the best deal, though—at just $49, it's almost 60 percent off list price right now.

Shop: Philips Sonicare, Oral-B

Almost 40 Percent Off Roomba Robot Vacuums

Prime Day is a great time to buy big-ticket gadgets and home appliances, so if you've been on the fence about buying a robot vacuum, go ahead and splurge today. The Roomba 891 vacuum features a 90-minute runtime, app-based controls, and the ability to tackle both hardwood and carpets with ease. Normally $450, it's just $300 today. The newer Roomba 980 is just $550, a $350 discount off list price.

Shop: iRobot

20 Percent Off Neato Botvac Robot Vacuums

A Neato robot vacuum next to a smartphone open to the Neato app
Neato

In one of Monday's Lightning Deals, the Neato D7 robot vacuum is on sale for 20 percent off from 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time/10:15 a.m. Pacific to 7:15 p.m. Eastern/4:15 p.m. Pacific on Monday, July 15. It's now just $530, or $300 off the retail price. Note: This deal has now expired.

Update: Now, the Neato D4 is on sale as well: For Monday night, it's 20 percent off from 6:35 p.m. Eastern/3:35 p.m. Pacific to 12:35 a.m Eastern/9:35 p.m. Pacific. It's $320, compared to a retail price of $530.

Shop: Neato

$20 Off Animal-Shaped Pool Toys

A woman lounges in a llama-shaped pool float
Poolcandy

There's plenty of summer left to spend lounging in the pool. Poolcandy's 48-inch, animal-shaped rafts are all on sale for just $20. Get an oversized floating narwhal, llama, giraffe, or unicorn.

Shop: Poolcandy

$75 Off the Gravity Blanket

Though many people find weighted blankets to be a calming respite for anxiety and sleeplessness, the hefty comforters usually come with a hefty price tag. Amazon doesn't usually have many weighted blankets on sale, which makes today's Gravity Blanket deal particularly exciting. You can get the 15-pound, 20-pound, and 25-pound versions of the Kickstarter favorite for just $175 today—a $75 discount. The upgraded cooling version (in 15-pound20-pound and 25-pound options) is also discounted at $187.

Shop: Gravity Products

Up to 38 Percent Off SodaStream Bundles

An SodaStream Fizzi with two extra bottles, two carbon dioxide cylinders, and two flavor bottles.
SodaStream

SodaStream is offering discounts on several of its models for Prime Day. You can get the most basic SodaStream, the Jet, for $50, or upgrade to a bundle with three carbonating bottles, two carbon dioxide cannisters, and two Fruit Drops flavor bottles for $80. You can get SodaStream Fizzi electric sparkling water maker with three carbonating bottles, two carbon dioxide cannisters, and two Fruit Drops flavors for $120. Meanwhile, outside of the Amazon ecosystem, Target is offering its own limited-time SodaStream deal: You can get a Fizzi with one carbonating bottle and one carbon dioxide cannister for $90, a discount of 25 percent. (Note: The Mental Floss office in New York City has its own Fizzi, and it's well worth the upgrade for the one-touch electric carbonation.)

Shop: SodaStream

20 Percent Off Just the Cheese Snacks

Crunchy cheese? Yes please. Just the Cheese (which makes 100-percent cheese snacks, as the name implies) is knocking 20 percent off the price of its variety packs, which come with 12 packs in four different flavors. Each pack comes with two bars, so technically you get 24 crunchy cheese snacks with each order. For your $22 sale price, you get four packs each of aged cheddar, mild cheddar, grilled cheese, and jalapeño cheese flavors.

Shop: Just the Cheese

35 Percent Off KIND Bars

A KIND chocolate peanut butter snack bar
KIND

You can get 35 percent off boxes of KIND snack bars today. That includes 32-count boxes of KIND's new nut-butter-filled bars—available in almond butter or peanut butter—as well as 12-count boxes of classics like the Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt bars and Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate bars.

Shop: KIND

50 Percent Off One Item From Amazing Baby

If you're in the market for a swaddle, plush toys, or other baby product, Amazing Baby is offering first-time customers half off any one item with the promo code 50Welcome. If you're buying for someone else, go with the three-piece gift set.

Shop: Amazing Baby

Competing Deals From Other Retailers

Amazon's competitors are determined to get in on the Prime Day shopping madness, so you can get big discounts at other retailers right now, too.

At Macy's, you'll want to use the code SHOPIT to get 25 percent off Black Friday in July deals. You'll also want to check in on Target's daily deals for July 15 and 16, because they're sure to be more dramatic than usual right now—especially on Target-exclusive brands and products.

If you're heading to the great outdoors this summer, pop into Igloo's cooler sale: You can get 50 percent off the brand's Sportsman waterproof coolers (they come in bag or backpack form) with the code SPORT50.

And if you're in the market for a new mattress, Allswell's wildly popular bedding options are 15 percent off through Wednesday with the code JULY15

To see all of Amazon's current deals, head to the site's Prime Day landing page.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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