The 10 Best Gifts for That New Cook in Your Life
Make their holiday bright with these fantastic choices for upping their kitchen equipment.
One of the things that this gifting season has blessed us all with is that almost all of us have new cooks in our lives! It could be a spouse or partner who took up the mantle of family chef, newly kitchen-passionate offspring, or friends or family who used to live at restaurants and now are cranking out three meals a day plus snacks in their new work- and school- from home realities. New cooks are enormously fun to shop for. They haven’t yet kitted themselves out completely and are always excited to be introduced to a new game-changing piece of equipment or special ingredient.
Here are my top ten current favorite gift-able items that are ideal for the new cook in your life.
A great cutting board
You’d be surprised what a difference a proper cutting board can make in a cook’s daily culinary practice, and how many people are working with an inferior one. Ideal boards are wood, heavy enough to withstand chopping, but not so heavy you can’t move it easily for use and washing. Edge grain wood often wears and self-heals better than end grain, and the best boards are made of woods that have natural anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties. And for new cooks, who often are working with limited storage space, buying one that can double as a serving piece helps save room and makes it a very special and flexible tool My current giftable boards are from Fab Slabs, a company out of Australia making beautiful boards from anti-bacterial camphor laurel wood.
Buy it: Fab Slabs Natural Wood Camphor Laurel Large Cutting Board ($74.99), amazon.com
A real chef’s knife
The 8” chef knife is the single most important thing any cook can possess, and most professional chefs will tell you that if you have a great one, there is almost nothing you cannot do in the kitchen. Many new cooks have not yet invested in really good knives, which both makes their practice harder, and more dangerous. A dull, improperly balanced, or badly weighted knife is probably the single biggest risk to a new cook whose knife skills are a work in progress, so gifting them a good one is not only generous, but also an investment in them keeping all their digits intact. My favorite knife right now is the Made In 8” Chef’s Knife. It is perfectly balanced, has a well-defined curve for proper rocking motion when you cut, and is terrifically sharp. Even better, for a premium quality knife that functions as well if not better than the luxury brands, the price is similar to more mid-point lines of the famous brands.
Buy it: Made in 8 Inch Chef Knife ($89.00), madeincookware.com
A stylish juicer
New cooks getting started will soon discover how great a role citrus juice plays in great cooking. From beverages to salad dressings, sauces to soups, marinades to baking, citrus juice is a culinary powerhouse. It can also be very annoying to squeeze, especially if you need a lot of it. Ever make a Key lime pie, when you need a cup of juice out of limes that give only a tablespoon per? Having a great way to effectively get juice quickly without having to invest in an electric juicer is a godsend, and one that is attractive enough to sit on the counter is a bonus! I love this retro looking freestanding version from Verve: The perfectly balanced lever-action makes fast work of even the toughest little limes, and extracts more juice than any hand-held I’ve ever worked with.
Buy it: Hand Press Citrus Juicer by Verve Culture ($90.00), amazon.com
A terrific apron
Great aprons are harder to come by than you might think. Once you get past kitsch and cleverness, a new cook needs an apron with good coverage, that is adjustable to fit them well, durable for many washings, and with some bells and whistles that make the wearing more useful than just protecting against spatterings. I am loving this organic hemp and cotton denim version from Our Green House. Naturally anti-microbial and mildew resistant, it has adjustable straps and generous pockets. My husband and I both use it and love it, and it fits us both really well despite a nine-inch difference in our heights and obvious differences in our builds.
Buy it: Organic Apron - Denim Blue ($39.99), ourgreenhouse.com
A produce subscription
For new cooks, getting introduced to some cooking challenges can be really exciting. Opening a box of fresh produce that offers a variety of products to work with can be a terrific starting point to some kitchen experimentation and recipe research. If you have a local farm to support with a CSA box, sign your new cook up. If you don’t, look to a national brand, especially one that might have a philanthropic connection as well for a feel-good gift that will keep on giving on both sides of the purchase. I really like Misfits Market for this: You can build your own box, choose a one-time purchase or a subscription, and add some specialty items along the way. Even better, they are committed to using foods that would not otherwise make it to market, cutting down on food waste.
Buy it: Misfits Market Box ($22-35), misfitsmarket.com
If you watch cooking shows with pro chefs, you will often see them finishing a dish with a twirl of a great oil. Different than the oils you cook with, these are designed to bring out the flavors of your food and are meant to be used in moderation and as almost a garnish. Fat carries flavor, so adding a little at the end of a dish will help the eaters enjoy it that much more. New cooks can really take their food to the next level by exploring how a little drizzle of a premium quality oil can change the way their dishes taste. It is a product to be used in teaspoons, not cups, so while there is a luxury price, a bottle lasts a good while. I’m currently loving the The Governor olive oils from Greek company Kyoord. They have amazing flavor and provide just the right oomph at the end of a dish (whether it is a simple salad or pasta) or that perfect anointment to a perfectly cooked steak.
Buy it: The Governor Ultra-Premium Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($79.00), amazon.com
A cookbook/tablet stand
New cooks are often working out of cookbooks and off of their tablets as they hone their craft. Having a convenient way to wrangle these for ease of use is enormously helpful. I love this wood and acrylic version that can work with either cookbooks or electronic tablets and is adjustable for the best angle for the cook.
Buy it: Toscana Prodigio Acacia Wood Cookbook Stand ($39.99), amazon.com
A kitchen bible
Having a one-stop shopping reference for everything from how to organize your kitchen space to what to stock in your pantry can be a serious gift for even the most practiced home cook. So, for new cooks, it will be the gift that never stops giving. Food52 has taken the best of all their years of kitchen experience and condensed it into a small easy-to-use guide that even had some things to teach me, after more than four decades in the kitchen!
Buy it: Food52 Your Do-Anything Kitchen: The Trusty Guide to a Smarter, Tidier, Happier Space ($16.08), amazon.com
A set of essential spices
New cooks are just learning which spices they like and how to use them, and often are just sourcing them from the grocery store. But a gift of thoughtfully sourced high-quality spices can help them begin to fully understand how these flakes and seeds and powders can change everything about how they cook. Spicewalla, one of the best spice companies out there, has thoughtfully pulled together its 18 most essential spices in a gorgeous set that would make any new cook swoon.
Buy it: Spicewalla Kitchen Essentials Spices and Seasonings Set ($89.99), amazon.com
A versatile appliance
Some of the most useful appliances in my kitchen are my immersion blender, my mini chopper, and my electric whisk. So, giving the new cook in your life a set that combines the best of all of these, with some bonus features to boot, is a great investment with a small storage footprint. Breville is always one of my go-to brands for exceptional quality and durability, and I have relied on them for small appliances for decades. Their new All-In-One Processing station starts with their exceptional immersion blender, and then starts to add in the attachments, including a 6-cup food processor/slicer/shredder/chopper, a whisk attachment, a masher attachment, and even ice crushing capability. All in a handy small-footprint storage base.
Buy it: Breville All-in-one Processing Station ($179.99), amazon.com