Essential Gifts for Beginning Cooks

Whether you're searching for the perfect gift for a novice cook or maybe a new culinary student, these 7 must-haves are just what they need to start whipping up culinary magic. No kitchen will be complete without these essential tools.

  • 01 of 07

    Pyrex Prepware 2-Cup Glass Measuring Cup

    Pyrex measuring cup

    Why is this an essential? Because anyone who cooks is going to need to measure things. But forget about those measuring cup sets that have a half cup, quarter cup, third of a cup and so on. For one thing, whichever one you're looking for is always missing. Or, if they're held together on a ring, they're always clanging around when you pull them out of the drawer, and it's a hassle to wash them. Anyway, you don't need all those cups. You just need a single 2-cup measuring cup -- there's markings on the side. Plus, this one's glass, so it can go in the microwave or the dishwasher — anyplace but the stovetop or broiler, actually. And remember, don't use cups for measuring flour. For that, you're going to need the next item on this list...

  • 02 of 07

    Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale


    A digital scale! Whether you're making pancakes or pizza dough, a digital scale is a must for measuring flour. Professional bakers know that volume units of measurements like cups are too imprecise to produce consistent results. Scooping a measuring cup into a sack of flour will give you more flour than if you spoon the flour into a measuring cup until it looks full. The way to make sure that a recipe works every time is by weighing the flour instead. This scale can be set to grams, which is the unit of weight most recipes use for flour, and it can also be zeroed out so that you can put your mixing bowl directly on the scale.

  • 03 of 07

    OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler

    OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler

    A beginning cook needs a good peeler. But what kind? There's the swivel peeler, which is pictured here, and then there's the Y peeler, which I've used, and it's pretty good too. And there's not much to a peeler, other than it needs to peel — whether it's potatoes or carrots or apples or whatever. And both the swivel and the Y style will work. It's really just a matter of preference. Right? But I just kept thinking: "beginning cooks, beginning cooks," which is who this list is meant for. And that's when I remembered that the swivel peeler works by pushing the blades away from you, while the Y peeler works by pulling it toward you. And blades going toward you are blades that might cut. So the swivel peeler is safer. Plus, when I went to the Amazon page for the swivel peeler, a message at the top of the screen reminded me: "You purchased this item on April 2, 2015." Which is true. And it's a really good peeler.

  • 04 of 07

    Vollrath Half-Size Sheet Pan (18" x 13")

    sheet pan

    Well, sheet pans are like friends, money, and books — you can never have too many. And like your books, your money and your friends, you mustn't be too particular about how your sheet pans look. Because they'll be all shiny and immaculate when you get them, and you'll vow to keep them that way, and you'll scrub them ferociously for the first few times you use them. (And the 18" x 13" size is just right for most people's ovens, without being too big to actually fit in your sink.) But after a while you'll start to appreciate the brown patina of cooked-on oil, because it will remind you of everything you've cooked on that pan. And I mean everything. Roast pork, roasted potatoes, roasted veggies, cookies, creme brulee, everything. After a while, you might get new ones, and they'll be so shiny that you won't want to use them. You'll just keep on using the burnt, blackened ones. And that's when you'll know you're one of us.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife

    kitchen knife

    And here it is. Beloved by culinary students everywhere, it's the best knife per dollar you can buy. It's sharp, it's lightweight, it's durable, it'll take an edge when you sharpen it. The textured grip is a real boon, so that even if your hands get sweaty while you're working, you'll still keep a firm hold on the handle. Plus, since it's so affordable, if one of your fellow students pilfers it, it probably won't bankrupt you. Maybe you go to a nicer culinary school than I did. But in my experience, most cooks are shameless thieves. Anyway, definitely get the 8-inch. A 10-inch knife is a bit too much for a beginning cook. Eight inches is long enough to be useful without being unwieldy.

  • 06 of 07

    Polder Digital In-Oven Thermometer

    Polder Digital In-Oven Thermometer

    You were probably thinking an instant-read thermometer would be on this list, and yeah they're useful, especially if you're working in the food service industry and you're responsible for monitoring temperatures of food that's being held in steam tables, like in catering or at buffets. But for most home cooks, it's much more useful to have a digital probe thermometer that will basically make roasting meats a no-brainer. Simply insert the probe into the center of the meat, set the alert to your desired temperature, then sit back and flake out for however long it takes for your meat to hit the target temperature. The unit will beep to let you know when to take it out of the oven. This is perfect for slow-roasting a pork shoulder or roasting a prime rib or even a leg of lamb.

  • 07 of 07

    CIA Masters Collection 6 Piece Measuring Spoon Set

    measuring spoons

    Next comes the no-brainer. A set of measuring spoons is so obvious that it could almost slip your mind. But what I love about this particular set of measuring spoons is that it includes a half-tablespoon spoon. Half tablespoons are tricky when it comes to halving recipes, because a tablespoon is three teaspoons, which means half a tablespoon is a teaspoon and a half. OK, it probably isn't the worst math problem of all time, but just having a half-tablespoon spoon means you can save some of that mental bandwidth for more important problems.