Japanese cookware has a knack for marrying form and function in the most intriguing—and sleekest—way. From clay cooking vessels attractive enough to double as serving dishes to folded steel knives crafted with precision (and ridiculous sharpness), the products below make classy gifts for the cooks on your list who value high-design and ease-of-use.
Mushi Nabe Donabe Steamer
Upgrade someone’s bamboo steamer with this stunning earthenware pot. Its unique clay sourced from Japan’s Iga province is highly porous, which helps it heat up slowly and retain its temperature for a long time. Use it as an all-in-one workhorse: cook rice in the bottom and steam Napa cabbage and fish on the removable grate or simmer beef stew all day long in the oven.
Cast-Iron Sukiyaki Hot Pot
Who wouldn’t swoon over a simmering pot of curry or ramen prepared right at home? These 24-ounce cast-iron pots make all your winter cooking dreams a reality. Place them directly on the stovetop to cook and bring them to the table to serve. Each is about the right size for a personal serving.
Zojirushi Rice Cooker
This rice cooker pulls its weight in the kitchen with settings for long-grain white rice, sushi rice, brown rice, steel cut oatmeal, and more. Further cementing Zojirushi’s reputation as rice experts, each machine comes with a microcomputer inside that automatically adjusts the temperature and cook time for a perfect pot every time.
Cast-Iron Round Pan
Add this double-handled fry pan to the cast-iron obsessed’s arsenal. An urushi lacquer glaze ensures this chic metal skillet never rusts. Its 9.5-inch diameter is a good size for one-skillet meals, like roasted butternut squash or baked feta.
The nakiri knife was developed especially for chopping vegetables. However, the straight-edged blade of the lightweight cleaver makes slicing everything, from apples to clothbound cheddar, a breeze. Another great feature? Its natural birch wood handle feels comfortable in your hand.
Ceramic Fermentation Jar
Know someone well-versed in the art of pickling? Berkeley-based designer Sarah Kersten crafts the gold standard for fermentation crocks. The secret? A water-lock seal that keeps cabbage, cucumbers, and any other vegetable worth pickling completely oxygen-free. And did we mention they’re beautifully made? Not a bad perk when some fermentation experiments can take up precious counter-space for weeks.
Yaki Yaki San Grill Pan
This grill pan produces very little smoke, so it’s safe to use inside or outdoors on a gas burner. And because it’s made from the same durable material as many donabe pots, it yields a similar deep umami flavor when used to cook thinly sliced beef, mushrooms, or other vegetables.
Morihata Stainless Steel Grater
Design fanatics will fawn over this minimal and ergonomic grater. Fine touches, like a subtle chevron pattern and striking matte black finish, make this utilitarian tool incredibly enjoyable to use. It also has ridged blades arranged along its concave surface to more efficiently shave chocolate or hard cheeses.
Toribe Kitchen Scissors
From trimming scallions to snipping thin bones from a cut of meat, a sharp pair of shears is an important ally in the kitchen. These stainless steel blades, which hail from an old Japanese blacksmithing town, can be disassembled without additional tools for easy cleaning and sharpening when the time comes.