If you have a friend who has only recently started cooking, it's likely that their kitchen is missing a lot of essential tools. Whether it's a new graduate moving into their first apartment, a newlywed couple starting out on their own, or just someone who survived on takeout until now, new cooks need a lot of gear. Help them expand their culinary expertise (and kitchen gadget collection) by gifting them with something from this list, where you'll find suggestions for beginning bakers or coffee lovers, as well as must-have tools recommended by chefs that will help a novice cook step up their game in the kitchen.
Material The reBoard
There are few recipes that don't call for slicing or chopping, which puts a nice cutting board tops on the list of necessities for any new cook. But the cutting boards doen’t have to be just another bland necessity; if it's an item you're going to use every day, shouldn't it look nice?
Material’s The reBoard has a simple and minimalist design, is dishwasher-safe, and is available in five different striking colors. Plus, it's eco-friendly, made from a mix of other kitchenware makers' plastic scraps and renewable sugarcane. (There's also an extra-special charitable opportunity this season: Half of profits from the pale-pink To Pó-Po with Love color benefit Heart of Dinner, an organization that delivers free meals to Asian elders in need in New York City.)
Price at time of publish: $35
Materials: 75% recycled plastic, 25% sugarcane | Dimensions: 14.8 x 0.4 x 10.8 inches
“These gorgeous cutting boards are lightweight (but they don't warp!) and they come in a bunch of great colors. They're also dishwasher safe and are made of recycled plastic.” — Ariel Knutson, Associate Editorial Director
Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
An enameled Dutch oven like this one is one of the most versatile pieces of cookware one can own. From baking bread to making chili, the heavy cast-iron construction of a cast-iron oven retains heat well and promotes even cooking for long braises and simmering stews, while the heavy-duty porcelain enamel coating prevents sticking, looks great, and can hold up to the stovetop or oven. This Dutch oven from Lodge holds 6 quarts, a big enough capacity to make a generous amount of beef bourguignon—or even a Moroccan chicken tagine, which our tester made: "This was one of the easiest and tastiest dishes I've ever made—and my guests agreed on the latter point." This is a piece of cookware that will last for a lifetime.
Price at time of publish: $80
Weight: 13.7 pounds | Dimensions: 13.5 x 10.9 inches
"All Dutch ovens are not created equal. But when it comes to performance, the Lodge seems to cook just as well as its more expensive competitors." — Tierney McAfee, Product Tester
Rachael Ray 10-Piece Cucina Nonstick Bakeware Set
For cookies, cakes, muffins, and breads, this set includes everything a beginner baker might need. The cake pans, cookie sheets, loaf pans, and muffin tin are made of heavy-gauge steel with a nonstick coating, with silicone grips on the hands for a solid grasp moving pans in and out of the oven. But these pans aren't just for baking brownies or cupcakes; simple sheet pan meals are an easy and delicious way for a beginner to cook dinner.
Price at time of publish: $110
Includes: 2 (10x15-inch) sheet pans, 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, 9-inch square cake pan, 9x13-inch rectangular cake pan with lid, 2 loaf pans, 12-cup muffin/cupcake pan
OXO Good Grips Chef's Mandoline Slicer 2.0
For those who are still working on their knife skills, a mandoline can help speed up shredding and slicing tasks. "Our choice at home is the Oxo chef's mandoline," says Omid Tavallai, chef and co-founder of Emperor Norton of Paris. "The straight blade can be turned around and used as a wavy blade for making crinkle-cut pickles or even waffle fries. It's an easy way to add some fanciness to your cooking without risking your fingertips."
Its simple design consists of a single stainless steel blade on one side that provides even, precise cuts; adjust the thickness of your slices using the knob on the side. It also comes with a plastic safety grip to hold onto whatever you're slicing while protecting your fingers—which our product tester says is the mandoline's best feature, adding that it was far superior to other mandolines she's tried. The blades all attach to the mandoline, and the food holder snaps onto the bottom to keep all the parts together for storage.
Price at time of publish: $100
Weight: 3.4 pounds | Dimensions: 3.8 x 17.6 x 7.1 inches
"The sheer number of settings make this device feel like a professional tool." — Rachel Ellison, Product Tester
Click & Grow The Smart Garden 3
Fresh herbs are a great way to liven up home-cooked dishes, and this self-watering machine with built-in LED grow lights is a plug-and-play option for home gardening. Click & Grow's pods combine soil and seeds to grow each of its many plants perfectly. The Smart Garden 3 holds three pods at a time—there are more than 75 options, including herbs, lettuces, fruits, veggies, and flowers, but the kit comes with three basil pods. Available in three colors to coordinate with any kitchen, this is a fun way to add some plant life to an indoor space without taking up too much room. Customers rated this garden kit highly for how easy it is to set up and use, even for those who don't have a green thumb.
Price at time of publish: $80
Dimensions: 9 x 4.9 x 12.5 inches | Weight 3.5 pounds
Laguiole En Aubrac Solid Horn Waiters Corkscrew
As anybody who's tried to throw a party without one can tell you, every kitchen should have a wine key on hand. There are plenty of cheap, utilitarian corkscrews out there, but if you're giving one—whether to a newlywed couple or for a 21st birthday—you should make it something special. This beautifully crafted wine key by Laguiole is handmade in France—this model's handle is made of solid buffalo horn, and the foil cutter and worm are made of heavy-duty stainless steel. Each corkscrew is pieced together by a single craftsman and comes in a beautiful ebony storage box that makes it perfect to give as a gift. This is a serious investment, but Laguiole guarantees its products with a lifetime warranty.
Price at time of publish: $160
Weight: 9.6 ounces | Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 3 inches
Hario Ceramic V60 Coffee Pour-Over Kit
If you want to get serious about coffee, pour-over is probably the brewing method for you, and this kit includes everything needed to get started on building the perfect cup of coffee. For nearly a decade, Omid Tavallai's company, Emperor Norton of Paris, has worked almost exclusively with specialty coffee purveyors as they began to sprout up around Paris. He noted that while other brewing methods have come and gone, the pour-over setup has been a constant fixture at popular coffee shops around the city and is easy to use at home.
"Hario's glass seems light and delicate but it's sturdy and compact," he says. "Add in their gram scale to get the perfect brew. If you want to go over the top, splurge on a conical burr grinder and the Hario Buono electric gooseneck kettle for water at the perfect temperature for brewing."
This kit comes with a ceramic dripper, glass serving pot, filters, and a coffee scoop to get you started on building that perfect morning cup of coffee.
Price at time of publish: $40
Includes: Ceramic dripper, glass server, measuring spoon, 100 filters | Capacity: 4 cups
Alpha Grillers Instant Read Thermometer
Cooking meat can be intimidating for new cooks, but this digital instant-read thermometer takes all the guesswork out of measuring the doneness of a cast-iron seared steak or grilled chicken breasts. Simply use the thin probe to gauge the internal temperature of your meat in about four to seven seconds, according to our product tester. The backlit digital display shows temperature in both metric and imperial measurements and has a range from -58 to 572 degrees. Alpha Grillers claims that this thermometer is accurate to within a single degree when used within a temperature range of 4 to 392 degrees. Our tester tried out this claim by placing the probe in boiling water and discovered that it was indeed accurate, showing a reading of 212 degrees.
This thermometer can also be used for making candy or monitoring oil temperature for deep-frying. The body is waterproof, so you don't have to worry about splashing or accidentally dropping the thermometer into water.
Price at time of publish: $20
Weight: 4.8 ounces | Dimensions: 6.3 x 2 x 1.6 inches
"The length also helps to keep your hands away from the scorching heat of a grill or stovetop." — Rebekah Joan, Product Tester
Great Jones Hot Dish
The “casserole dish” is for a lot more than just casseroles. A heavy, oven-safe ceramic dish like this one holds heat well for even cooking of lasagnas, brownies, vegetables, or anything else that needs a good roasting. We love the simple, retro design and high functionality of this Great Jones version, with its convenient carrying handles. It's microwave- and dishwasher-safe, so you can reheat leftovers right in the pan and then then toss it in the dishwasher without worrying about damaging the glaze. There are even four different color options to match any decor.
Price at time of publish: $75
Weight: 5 pounds | Dimensions: 16.5 x 9.3 x 3 inches
"Doesn't looking at this dish make you feel happy? I love the updated midcentury design on this versatile, oven-to-table ceramic stoneware. Splurge on the whole Fully Baked set if you’re flush." - Adriana Velez, Senior Editor
Mac Knife MTH-80 Professional Hollow Edge Chef’s Knife
A high-quality chef’s knife is a worthy investment, as it’s one of the most-used kitchen tools. “A good knife is an extension of your arm,” says Roger Sitrin, lead recreational chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. And a bad knife makes chopping and slicing an awful chore—plenty of new cooks might like cooking more if they had better tools...like this one.
The Mac chef's knife received top marks in our Lab testing, during which our experts tried it on garlic, onion, tomato, and even a piece of paper. The hollow edge design (those little "hollows" carved into the side of the blade) also keeps sliced food from sticking to the side of the knife. The 8-inch chef's knife is really the workhorse of any kitchen, good for everything from hacking up hard squash to breaking down a chicken to mincing garlic. If you're getting someone what will be the only knife in their kitchen, this one should be it.
Price at time of publish: $130
Materials: alloy steel blade, pakkawood handle | Blade Length: 8.3 inches | Handle Length: 4.3 inches | Weight: 6.8 ounces
When cutting the garlic, onion, and tomato, we essentially let the weight of the knife glide through the items—very smooth.” — Donna Currie, Product Tester
KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer
A stand mixer can be quite a financial commitment, but it's a worthy investment for those who love to cook or want to learn to love to cook. According to Amy Sins, chef and owner of Langlois in New Orleans, "if you’re a novice chef, it is perfect, and it is a tool you can grow into with tons of attachments."
While Sins has faithfully used a commercial-sized version of this machine in her restaurant kitchen for over 15 years, the KitchenAid Artisan Series is a much more manageable home version thanks to its smaller footprint. It has 10 speed settings and a tilting head for easy access to the stainless-steel bowl, and comes with whisk, paddle, and dough hook attachments. Great for making yeasted bread, mixing cake batter, beating egg whites, and more, a KitchenAid mixer will last a decade or more even under heavy use.
There are also lots of additional attachments as your cooking gets more advanced, from a meat grinder/sausage stuffer to a pasta machine to a spiralizer. The mixer also comes in dozens of different colors for a more personalized gift. (Pro-tip: Check multiple sites if you're looking for a unique color. There are lots of limited-edition and retailer-specific options you can't find everywhere.)
Price at time of publish: $460
Weight: 22.8 pounds | Dimensions: 8.7 x 13.9 x 14.1 inches
"Even with lightweight tasks like whipping cream or mixing cake batter that could be done by hand or with a hand mixer, this machine proved its worth." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Oxo Good Grips Pro Swivel Peeler
Peeling is one of those everyday kitchen tasks that, depending on the tool you use, can be a breeze or total nightmare. This top-rated option from Oxo makes peeling nice and smooth, with peels falling away instead of getting stuck in the blade. Our tester noted that it took just 30 seconds to peel an entire potato using this peeler. It was even comfortable to hold after a long session, peeling wonderfully in both directions, making it an ideal choice for both right- and left-handed users. So when Thanksgiving rolls around and you need to make a big pot of mashed potatoes or apple pie from scratch, you’ll be glad to have this in your utensil drawer. It's even dishwasher-safe!
Price at time of publish: $16
Blade Material: Stainless steel | Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.3 x 0.8 inches
"It took an average of 30 seconds per potato to peel average-sized potatoes. The peeling felt smooth, and the peels fell away from the peeler rather than getting stuck in the blade." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Bellemain 6-Piece Stainless Steel Measuring Cup Set
Dry measuring cups are essential for not just baking but also pretty much every recipe, and this six-piece set has everything you need—even the more elusive 2/3- and 3/4-cup measures that aren’t always included. Each cup is etched with cup measurements and their metric equivalents right on the handle so you can tell what measurement is in your hand even if the cup is full, and you don’t have to worry about painted measurements wearing away over time. They don’t come attached to one another, but if that’s your preference, there’s a hole in each handle to keep them on a ring.
Price at time of publish: $25
Material: Stainless steel | Includes: 6 measuring cups
"This is a great all-around measuring cup set for dry ingredients. This feels like the set you'd find in serious home cooks kitchens." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Oxo Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set
It's an important lesson that's the reason many new cooks' recipes fail: You can't use dry measuring cups to measure liquids, or vice-versa. This set of dishwasher-safe and BPA-free plastic cups are calibrated in both metric and American measurements, with non-slip handles that makes them easy to hold even with mess hands. The most innovative feature is that these cups can be read from the side or above, so you can see how much water, juice, milk, or oil you're pouring while you're pouring it.
Price at time of publish: $24
Material: Plastic | Includes: 1-, 2-, and 4-cup measuring cups
"They're easy to use thanks to the angled measurement markings on the inside of the cups and they stack for compact storage. This set will replace my old Pyrex glass liquid measuring cups, which are heavier, bulkier, and don't stack as well." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Espro French Press Everyday P3
There are a million ways to brew coffee, but we like the French press for daily brewing because it offers a good balance of speed and simplicity with the ability to preserve delicate flavors and customize your brew. After Lab testing more than 20 French presses, the Espro French Press Everyday P3 was declared the best overall—and for good reason. The coffee it makes tasted better and had less sediment than its competitors, which can be partially attributed to its patented double filter system. The simple, yet stylish design is sure to look at home in any kitchen.
Price at time of publish: $65
Capacity: 32 ounces | Dimensions: 4.2 x 6.6 x 9.9 inches
"The P3 tied for the best brew quality, not so coincidentally with the Espro P7. The ultra-fine, double-filter construction ensures a consistent, high-quality brew every time." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Top Notch Kitchenware Black Walnut French Style Rolling Pin
The handle-less, slightly oval-shaped French rolling pin lets you feel the dough and control its thickness much better than one with separate handles and roller (and it's much easier to clean, to boot). You can roll out pizza or pastry, or even crush crackers or nuts, with this high-quality gift that will last a lifetime. It's made of striking black walnut that can be displayed on the countertop when you're not using it.
Price at time of publish: $45
Material: Black walnut | Dimensions: 18 x 1.8 inches
Emile Henry Made in France Flame Pizza Stone
If there's one food that's the best way to turn someone on to cooking, homemade pizza has to be it. The key to great pizza is lots of heat, and that's what this heavy ceramic pizza stone is designed for. It can handle temperatures of up to 930 degrees, which makes it suitable for use in the oven, under the broiler, or on a grill, and it's also dishwasher-safe when the pizza party is over. A clever feature of the Emile Henry stone is the series of ridges on the bottom, which allow air to circulate underneath the pizza and contribute to crisp crust. The durable glaze can even hold up to cutting pizza right on the stone without any damage. Our tester was impressed with its performance, and its aesthetic appeal makes it quite giftable.
Price at time of publish: $70
Material: Glazed ceramic | Weight: 5.3 pounds | Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.0 inches
"The surface is sturdy enough that you can cut the pizza right on the stone, and it retains heat well enough that it keeps the pizza warm while everyone is eating." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Hamilton Beach Keep Warm 2-Slice Toaster (22811)
Simple, speedy, and consistent, the Hamilton Beach Keep Warm 2-Slice Toaster gets the job done. It has settings for regular toasting, bagels, defrosting, and even has a keep warm button should you need a little more time to finish making your coffee or eggs. It easily took the top spot in our toaster tests.
Our tester was elated with how well the appliance toasts both sides of a regular piece of bread, leaving no area untoasted. She also raved about the bagel setting, which cooks the inside of the bread without making the outside overly crispy. The toaster also features a “Toast Boost,” which raises your slices out of the toaster, making them easier to remove without burning your fingertips.
Price at time of publish: $50
Dimensions: 7.8 x 11.3 x 11.3 inches | Capacity: 2 slices | Power: 800 watts
"It performs reliably and has several settings, making it a worthwhile investment for any home." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Set
One way you can tell if you're in the kitchen of someone who loves to cook is to look for the knife block. An assortment of cutlery stored safely and right at hand is indispensable in the kitchen, while knives tossed haphazardly into a drawer get dull and damaged. This set includes a full block of high-quality cutting implements at a surprisingly affordable price.
In addition to the actual knife block for holding them all, the collection includes a large chef's knife, serrated bread knife, two santokus, a utility knife, a paring knife, and a set of eight steak knives. There's also a sharpening steel and a chop assist, a device that sits on the back of the blade to make chopping lots of food more comfortable. Our tester used each knife to slice, dice, and chop everything from bell peppers to ribs to crusty baguettes. In the end, it offered impressive performance and superb versatility.
Price at time of publish: $130
Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Weight: 13.4 pounds | Dimensions: 16 x 10.3 x 9.5 inches
"Aside from the unsymmetrical slots, the Chicago Cutlery knife set is well-made and looks great in our kitchen. Weighing over 13 pounds, the knife block was heavier than we expected, but that’s probably a good thing—as it certainly won’t tip over easily. We like the slanted design as it allows for easy retrieval." — Sage McHugh, Product Tester
Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System
If you're buying for a tech-obsessed cook or someone with no space for a stove, this induction burner set is like cooking in the future. The stainless steel pan has a built-in temperature sensor that connects to both the burner and your phone, with a smart app that not only guides you through recipes with simple steps (and even video demos) but also controls the cooking temperatures automatically. "This is a tool my hubby, who doesn’t cook, feels confident using when I’m out of town," says Sins. Though it comes with a hefty price tag, it's a tool that can help novice cooks expand their cooking repertoire and gain confidence in the kitchen.
Price at time of publish: $498
Includes: Induction burner, 5.5-quart pot | Power: 1,600 watts | Dimensions: 12.5 x 12.5 x 2 inches
"While grilled cheese seems simple, it’s tempting to rush the cooking at a high temperature, so the bread burns before the cheese is properly melted. Using the Cue to control the pan, the cooking time seemed long, but the wait was worth it. The bread was perfectly golden brown on both sides and the cheese was warm and melted. It was better than the grilled cheese sandwiches that my mom made. I made that same recipe several times, with perfect results each time." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
All-Clad Hard Anodized E785S264/E785S263 Set of 2 Fry Pans
Expert home cooks will rave about their home-seasoned cast iron and how nothing sticks to it. But for the rest of us, a nonstick pan is an absolute must for delicate tasks like frying eggs or searing fish. All-Clad's pots and pans are all high-quality, and its nonstick ones were declared the best overall pick by our testers. The thriple-layer nonstick coating is long-lasting and performs well without being too expensive, and it's even dishwasher-safe. This two-pan set includes and 8- and a 10-inch frying pan.
Price at time of publish: $110
Material: Aluminum | Includes: 8- and 10-inch pans
Lodge Blacklock Triple-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
If you give someone a cast-iron pain, you're giving them a future family heirloom. The pans from legendary brand Lodge are made not just to last a lifetime but also to be passed down from generation to generation. In our Lab tests, the Blacklock model was the top-ranked Lodge thanks to its thinner width, which makes it heat up twice as fast and significantly reduces weight. The pan also comes pre-seasoned, ready for stick-free cooking right out of the box. (Just make sure the recipient knows how to care for cast iron—it doesn't go in the dishwasher after use!)
We tested the 10 1/4-inch model, a nice all-purpose size, but there are four sizes available, from 7 to 14 1/2 inches.
Price at time of publish: $60
Dimensions: 10.6 x 17.3 x 2.6 inches | Weight: 4.2 pounds
"This triple-seasoned pan was low maintenance between foods we made; it did not lose its seasoning after the first couple of tests and washes." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Escali Primo Digital Food Scale
For proper results when baking, you really should measure ingredients—especially dry ingredients—by weight. But a scale isn't just for pastry nerds; you can use it to measure ingredients directly into bowls, pots, and pans, which means fewer dishes to wash. The Escali Primo took the top spot in our Lab testing of scales with its combination of compact performance and low price. It's accurate down to the twentieth of an ounce (aka 1 gram) and has a capacity of up to 11 pounds (aka 5 kilograms). An added bonus is that it comes in a bunch of different colors, from low-profile gray and black to bright orange and pink.
Price at time of publish: $27
Dimensions: 8 x 6 x 1.3 inches | Maximum Capacity: 11 pounds
Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer 11-in-1 (8 Quart)
In the last few years, the Instant Pot and the air fryer have become super-trendy kitchen appliances, and this versatile machine combines the capabilities of both. With its traditional Instant Pot pressure-cooking lid, it can make quick work of soups, stews, beans, and other long-simmered foods, but if you swap in the taller air-fryer lid, it'll put out crispy fries and chips and chicken nuggets instead. With an 8-quart capacity, the machine can hold a whole chicken or slab of ribs, and it has preset cooking programs for sous vide, steaming, keeping warm, and even more functions.
Price at time of publish: $200
Weight: 22.2 pounds | Dimensions: 14.8 x 13.6 x 15.3 inches | Power: 1,500 watts
"Like other Instant Pot pressure cookers, the Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer performs well. I like that its two-in-one capabilities mean less storage space, and despite its lack of presets, its cooking options allow you to tailor a recipe exactly to your needs." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Oster Pro 1200 Plus Food Processor
You might think a blender and a food processor are basically the same thing, but they have pretty different uses. Thankfully, this machine is both, with a separate blender jar and food processor bowl that click into the same motor base. Its 1,200 watts is enough to crush ice or frozen fruit into a smoothie, and there are even built-in smoothie and milkshake programs, along with seven different speed settings. The food processor bowl includes a standard chopping blade as well as a slicing and grating wheel, giving it all the functionality of a dedicated machine.
Price at time of publish: $160
Dimensions: 15.3 x 7.3 x 8 inches | Weight: 11.7 pounds | Capacity: 8 cups (blender), 5 cups (food processor) | Power: 1,200 watts
HOT TARGET Set of 3 Tongs
Tongs are more agile than spoons, forks, or spatulas at flipping, maneuvering, and serving hot foods, but the metal-tipped kind can scratch non-stick and glazed finishes. This trio of silicone tongs has tips that won't damage cookware but can handle temperatures up to 600 degrees. The low-cost set includes three sets of tongs of different lengths—longer is good for grabbing steaks off the back of the grill while shorter offers more control when deep-frying.
Price at time of publish: $16
Includes: 7-, 9-, and 12-inch tongs
Rubbermaid Brilliance Pantry Airtight Food Storage Containers, 8-Piece Set
Say goodbye to leaky old takeout containers and rolled-up bags; these containers blew away the competition in Lab testing. Containers in many sizes that seal well not only keep the cabinets organized but also keep the food inside fresher longer. Our home tester was impressed with the Rubbermaid Brilliance lids, which seal so tightly you can actually hear the air leaving the container. The durable set is dishwasher-, freezer-, and microwave-safe, and comes with four sizes of containers with matching lids. (If you're feeling especially generous, there are also 8-container and 20-container sets available.) You could even give a set and pre-fill it with pantry staples like flour, beans, and rice.
Price at time of publish: $50
Material: plastic | Includes: 16-, 12-, 6.6-, and 3.2-cup containers with lids
"The easy-to-use, leak-proof containers promise to keep food and liquids secure and with a few different size options, you can efficiently store your snacks and meals." — Linnea Covington, Product Tester
OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Flexible Turner
It's one of the most disheartening things that can happen to a cook: You go to flip a burger or pancake, only for half of it to stick and fall apart. Don't worry; this turner will keep that disaster at bay. It's flexible, much thinner than a metal spatula, and comes to almost a knife-point at the edges to easily slide under food and release it from a frying pan, griddle or grate. The silicone material that makes it flexible is also heat-resistant, so you don't have to worry about using it on a hot pan or grill.
Price at time of publish: $14
Weight: 4.8 ounces | Dimensions: 3.8 x 3.5 x 12.8 inches
Joy of Cooking
First published in 1931 and now in its ninth edition, this cookbook has simple recipes for just about everything. "Joy of Cooking" is pretty much the Bible of American cooking, and it's a great gift for a new cook, both for reference and to display as part of a growing collection. This most recent update, from 2019, has more than 4,000 recipes and added 600 new ones, including global flavors like chana masala and beef rendang, along with an updated and expanded set of vegetarian and vegan recipes.
Price at time of publish: $18 (hardcover), $2 (Kindle)
Pages: 1,200 | Published: 2019
The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Especially for someone who didn't grow up cooking vegetarian food, meat-free dishes can be hard to master. There's no better instructor than Deborah Madison, and no better book of hers than this one. A three-time James Beard Award winner, Madison is a chef, teacher, and author who's been advocating for and innovating in vegetarian cooking for more than 25 years. When the first edition of this book came out in 1997, it was quickly recognized as a classic, and its 2014 revised, modernized, and expanded edition added more than 200 recipes.
Price at time of publish: $26 (hardcover), $10 (Kindle)
Pages: 672 | Published: 2014
Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set)
Julia Child helped kick off the foodie revolution more than 60 years ago with this cookbook and the TV show it spawned, and it's still an item that should be on a new cook's shelf. The recipes within are old-school French dishes—boeuf bourguignon, cassoulet, soufflé—which can be difficult but are incredibly rewarding to pull off. There are detailed instructions, including drawings, to help you make a really impressive meal for a date or dinner party. This boxed set includes the latest editions of both the first volume of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," with 524 recipes, and its second volume, which is more baking- and pastry-focused, with 257 more.
Price at time of publish: $50
Recipes: 781 | Published: 2009
What to Look for in Gifts for a New Cook
Ease of Use
For someone who's not terribly experienced in cooking, it's probably best to aim for simplicity over a huge range of lesser-used features that are hard to understand. An item like an air fryer, food processor, or toaster oven that comes with a manual full of simple recipes and has only two or three settings is going to be a lot more beginner-friendly than something with 30 different buttons. Similarly, it's a good idea to look for items with automated programs—it's a confidence-builder to not have to worry about timing and temperatures to successfully make something.
Tried and Tested
The great thing about online shopping is that product reviews and photos are readily accessible. Whether you’re checking out reviews on the product page itself or browsing our tested roundups, you’re sure to get a more well-rounded view of how a product will actually perform in your home kitchen and learn about potential pain points.
Whether you’re looking to save money or precious counter space, multi-use tools and appliances are a great way to go. If the recipient is strapped for space, consider how often they’ll use larger appliances and whether or not they already have a cooking utensil that serves a similar purpose to a new one you’re considering.
What kitchen essentials should every new cook have?
Good knives (a chef’s knife, paring knife, and serrated knife), dry and liquid measuring cups, a peeler, and some pans are all great to have, according to Roger Sitrin, lead recreational chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. When purchasing kitchen tools for the first time, it can be tempting to walk down the kitchen aisle at the store and grab anything and everything, but the best way to ensure that you don’t end up with cabinets and drawers full of things you don’t actually use is to take a more gradual approach.
Starting off with a few key tools, rather than buying everything from the beginning, is the best way to build a collection. “This way, you can see what kind of cook you turn out to be and outfit yourself appropriately,” Sitrin says.
What are the most useful tools for budding bakers?
A stand mixer, digital scale, digital thermometer, cake pans, and sheet pans are among the long list of baking essentials that Sitrin recommends. Additionally, staples that need to be replenished, like parchment paper (for lining baking pans and rolling dough) and bamboo skewers (for testing cakes) are also helpful to have.
“For pricier appliances, I’m a sucker for a good quality stand mixer, blender, or food processor,” Sitrin says. “Do your homework and check for sales and refurbs; there are still deals to be had out there.” He notes that his Cuisinart food processor and KitchenAid stand mixer are more than 30 years old and still work well.
When should you invest in pricier appliances and tools?
The short answer: when you can afford it. “I always try to purchase the best-quality products the first time because in the long run, this saves money,” Sitrin says. For him, this means purchasing the best single knife you can afford rather than a set, which may have knives you’ll seldom use. “Put your money where it will be best used,” he says.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The author of this piece, Bernadette Machard de Gramont, is an LA-based writer who specializes in global food and wine content. She spent two years working for Williams-Sonoma HQ and as a result, amassed a solid collection of kitchen gadgets and small appliances. She personally owns and uses several of the products mentioned above, like the Laguiole corkscrew, Global chef knife, Hario V60 pour-over set, and Kitchenaid stand mixer. She also interviewed two experts for this piece: Amy Sins, chef and owner of Langlois in New Orleans, and Omid Tavallai, chef and owner of Emperor Norton of Paris.
Abigail Abesamis Demarest, who updated this article, is a freelance journalist who specializes in food and drink content. Giving gifts is her love language, and she loves finding functional gifts for her family and friends. She has strong opinions about kitchen essentials like nonstick pans and chef’s knives, and believes that with the right tools, anyone can cook.
The Spruce Eats commerce writer Jason Horn further updated this article. He's been writing about food and drinks for more than 15 years and has worn out and restocked most of the items in his kitchen at least two or three times. (Except his beautifully seasoned wok and cast-iron skillet, both of which he assiduously cleans and dries after use and which will long outlive him on this earth.)