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I need a gift suggestion for a young cook

What would be a good gift suggestion for a young woman who likes to cook?She has plenty of cookbooks, so I would like to get her something utilitarian for her kitchen. What would be a good tool, gizmo, etc? The only thing I can think of is a food processor...but I'm not a cook. Is there anything else that might be appreciated more? Thanks for your suggestions!

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  1. A very good quality knife is something she will cherish and use forever.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Motosport

      Knives...of course! Great suggestion!

      1. re: thornburg913

        Along with a new cutting board and a knife sharpener.

      2. re: Motosport

        The problem with knives -- which is an otherwise great idea -- is that the selection is sorta personal. What feels good in someone's hand is too heavy or balanced wrong for someone else.

        I'm short and have small hands and there are a lot of great knives that just don't work for me.

        1. re: rainey

          Agreed, knives are an extremely, extremely personal choice.

          1. re: TeRReT

            I agree and disagree. I agree that knives are very personal. I would hate someone to get me knives because they will most likely get something I don't like. I know. It sounds horrible, but that is the truth. It is like someone trying to introduce a girlfriend to me, you know? :) The odd is that they will get it wrong.

            However, I think a young/starting cook may not be all that picky. I wasn't. So maybe she is at the stage that a Dexter or Victorinox knife can turn her upside down (in a good way).

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              You don't believe in matchmaking??? I have 2 couples to my credit (each married 10+ years)!

              1. re: tcamp

                <You don't believe in matchmaking??? I have 2 couples to my credit (each married 10+ years)!>

                Yeah, but how many of your matchmaking work vs how many of them do not work?

                I am sure if you buy knives for 10 different people. Few will love your choice, but many may not.

            2. re: TeRReT

              A knife bought at a local store such as Sur La Table with a gift receipt can be easily exchanged.

            3. re: rainey

              While I agree with that sentiment when it comes to a chef's knife, I think it's less true for paring or other utility knives. These are the knives that people new to cooking will rarely buy for themselves but can be a real boon to the cooking process. I was gifted with a Wusthof utility knife from my sister. I love it and think of my sister when I use it (no matter how I write this sentence at 3:19 am it comes out sounding weird (either dirty or vengeful) - sorry!).
              Of course a gift receipt is also a good idea.

          2. You can never have too many tongs or wooden sppons. Tea towels are always appreciated as well.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mike0989

              You're right! Thanks for reminding me!

            2. An immersion blender, silpats if she likes to bake.

              5 Replies
              1. re: babette feasts

                Thanks for reminding me about the blender!

                1. re: thornburg913

                  I have an excellent one from Cuisinart that i found at a great price on amazon, it has become my favorite most used appliance

                2. re: babette feasts

                  Immersion blenders are also wonderful if she like to make soups.

                  1. re: gaffk

                    i have had an immersion blender since they first came out and love it for soups. that being said, it's really the only thing i use it for regularly. In other words, i'm not sure an immersion blender is "tops" on a list of desires for a young cook - i can think of other tools i wanted before that.

                    I vote for a good blender - not necessarily a vitamix if that's too pricey. i've seen some blender videos that have recommended much cheaper brands for occasional usage (of course, i am blanking on the names…sorry)

                    1. re: gaffk

                      My immersion blender has a mini-FP attachment as well as a whisk. I probably use the little FP more than the blender but I highly recommend it as a gift, esp. for a new cook who may not have everything.

                  2. The best quality chef's knife/knives you can afford......but along with it/them a really excellent sharping system like this one:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0018RSEMU/r...
                    Frankly without a sharpening system even the very best chef's knives are no better than cheap ones if they aren't kept razor sharp. To my disappointment I seen chef's using excellent quality knives that couldn't slice a tomato. Too may believe using a 'steel' is adequate. That's assuming they even know how to use it properly. You can ruin the edge using a steel as fast as sawing the knife on a tire rim.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Puffin3

                      Thanks! Those are really good suggestions...and I could use that knife sharpening system myself! Thanks again!

                      1. re: Monica

                        to be honest, If i were a young cook starting to collect kitchenwares, I'd love to get gift certificates from Amazon.com. Forget william sonoma.

                        1. re: Monica

                          Amen!!! W-S was once a resource for cooks (40 years ago). Now it's a temple for yuppies into conspicuous consumption.

                      2. If your budget allows and she doesn't have one - my vote is for a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: The Oracle

                          +1 on the mixer. I may not be a "young cook", but if you need to adopt another person to give gifts to, I would love a KA stand mixer!!!

                          On the other hand, depending on what you want to spend, I love my Food Processor, Food Saver and my mixing bowls with a pour spout. All variations in pricing, but love them just the same. Also with babette on the immersion blender.

                          1. re: The Oracle

                            If I knew for sure that she loved to bake, I would say yes to the stand mixer, but for all-purpose and for all-life, I have to go with a dutch oven.

                            1. re: bourbonnie

                              I agree. I've had my KA for nearly 40 years and I understand they aren't made the say way today. King Arthur has moved on to other brands at this point too.

                              But the clincher for me is that I rarely pull it out anymore I rarely use my food processor too. A mini food processor and hand mixer (love the KA 9-speed) work as well for most applications. Meanwhile, what do you substitute for a good dutch oven or covered roaster?

                                1. re: The Oracle

                                  Dutch Oven is so overrated. I would get a French Oven. Clearly French is better than Dutch.

                              1. re: The Oracle

                                I love my stand mixer but 99.9% of the time I only use it for making pasta and grinding meat.

                              2. Great suggestions so far.
                                If you're in the food processor price range, that's a great kitchen staple that should last a very, very long time.
                                The KA stand mixer is also a great idea (and very generous!). Costco has the 6 qt. lift/lower model on sale for $289.99, a $60 savings, through 11/20.

                                I would also highly recommend visiting your nearby Home Goods store if you have one. Last weekend, the place was literally bursting with kitchen inventory. Bursting. Never seen it so full of really good buys on top shelf items, including another suggestion I have, and that is a Le Creuset dutch oven.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: monavano

                                  +1 on the Le-Creuset as well. Wow, there are so many good suggestions. It is all going to boil down to your budget. To be honest, I use my LC DO at least once a week.

                                  1. re: boyzoma

                                    I'll camp on to the DO recommendation too. My budget doesn't run to Le Creuset, but Lodge is a nice alternative if there is price to consider. The Dutch ovens I have given the young cooks in my life have been very well received and much used. And I am getting holiday gift hints to perhaps add to the collections, so I take that as an affirmation of good-gift-ness!

                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                      I agree. I don't have any Le Creuset either. I have Lodge. Both the DO and the skillet (as the lid is interchangeable). And they are so well used. And, you can get both the DO and the skillet for less than the LC cost.

                                  1. Good black pepper. Also, a really good grinder.
                                    (one that doesn't use your wrist)

                                    3 Replies
                                      1. re: Monica

                                        sweetmarias.com should have some "coffee grinders" (the ones by hand), one of those should do.
                                        I got mine from pensey's, back when they had proper grinders.

                                        1. re: Monica

                                          A Unicorn pepper mill is a nice, relatively inexpensive, and excellent item for a cook. An OXO digital scale. A Thermapen digital thermometer.

                                          All of these will be used and appreciated for a long, long time.

                                          Also love the idea of a gift certificate for Penzey's or Spice World.

                                      2. Did anyone recommend a cooking class? Depending on the area you can book class(es) through community colleges, private chefs, cooking schools, markets and community centers.

                                        16 Replies
                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Thanks HillJ...you have in one swoop solved a gift-giving quandary for me. Great suggestion! Son and son's SO are going to love it!

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              Heh, or exciting for me! I am not so sure my generosity is about them, but tasting what they create! Kidding, kidding - or maybe not. Your post made me think of the Home Ec thread, and the YouTube versus hands-on discussion. The son and SO are of an age that they've done both (hands-on in mom's kitchen and their own, and a LOT of YouTube stuff), but I think they will really enjoy a class (they are academics).

                                              I have never bought a food class for someone before; do you have any recommendations (no, not local, just general) from your experience? I know you've raised some food-oriented kids, so I'd love to hear what you have to say on this.

                                              1. re: cayjohan

                                                Do you have a Sur la Table in your (or your son's) area? Last year my sisters gave me a cerificate there that enabled me to purchase both a great boning knife and a knife skills class. With a gift card they could select the class that mostappeals. I know my local does various themed "date night" classes (French, Tuscan, etc) as well as seasonally inspired savory classes, sweet classes, etc.

                                                1. re: gaffk

                                                  Ah, so it's like a package deal: knife purchase plus class? I like that configuration: tangible object (gift) plus ways to use it (gift-plus). We do have Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma available in our metro, so that's a great idea. A rather high-toned fun thing to do against their usual kitchen reality, and I think they'd like that. Thanks for the tip!

                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                    Both are excellent suggestions and they usually post their class schedules in the store.

                                                2. re: cayjohan

                                                  I love what you wrote! I've taken classes and given classes as gifts. There are so many to select from!

                                                  I've taken classes in the home of a caterer and she had guest chefs come in to teach regional cooking. That was a great deal of fun (pasta making, sauces). Also cooking schools running 1-3 day classes for cake decorating, bread and pastries. I've taken a few at King's Foods (a grocery chain) on meat selection and prep, fish cleaning, soup making that were very inexpensive and I've taken classes at farms (gardening, tomato cooking, jams). Off the top of my head I'd say my favorite class was learning more about meat because I had a great deal to learn about cuts, prep, proper techniques.

                                                  My oldest daughter runs a restaurant school and she's taken and given classes that really run the gamut including running a restaurant on a ship.

                                                  What avenues do you think will work for you?

                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    I love the idea of a meat course for my son - he'd love it! (Heck, I would!) That gives me a great start for investigation. Did you talk to local meat purveyors to find such? I might have to get two classes, really, as son's SO is a vegetarian and maybe we can get some cross-training going on! (Their omni+veg situation works just fine for them, really; no conflicts there.) The SO is involved in farm-to-table for schools, farm work and cider-pressing and pickling and wine-making, so I have a lot to choose from there, but with a higher bar, I think, than just intro-level. I am so excited about this! Thanks for the idea!

                                                    One question that is difficult to answer across regions, but I'll ask it anyway since you have a lot of experience on food classes: what is a reasonably expected cost for, say, one-off classes of this nature? I know it can be an apples-and-oranges question, but I don't even know the apples and oranges involved in this equation.

                                                    Thanks for your help; I may be fleeping brilliant with birthday gifts this year!

                                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                                      In my area, $60-$80 is a usual price for a class lasting 3ish hours.

                                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                                        Thanks for that benchmark; it's a doable pricepoint. Having no experience, I was thinking classes were way out of my budget.

                                                      2. re: cayjohan


                                                        Here's from the SF Cooking School for their one-off classes. I took an Asian dumpling class from Andrea Nguyen in the spring and it as SO worthwhile and LOADS of fun.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Let me just say how green with jealousy I am on the Mourad class on that list. Wish I could gift that! (To me!) Clearly I need to check out local chef classes.

                                                          1. re: cayjohan

                                                            Yes, let me add that, that class must have been all that and more!

                                                        2. re: cayjohan

                                                          Okay, let me breakdown some of your exciting questions. The King's butchers ran the first class I took and it was free right at the market, you just registered and showed up. We learned how to butterfly and identify meat cuts.

                                                          Second time was at my butcher right before the holidays and he ran the class as an incentive to order meat from him for the holiday period. We learned how to use all the parts of the animal and how to freeze properly. I spent $300.00 on beef/veal that time.

                                                          The last time was through a culinary school. Two classes; $45.00 each. We learned how to sear, roast, braise and grill beef and this included eating what we made and review each dish. 4 'recipes' were followed.

                                                          I've been eyeing a class on venison of late. One of my kids is hunting now and I know zero about venison meat.

                                                          I'd recommend starting with a butcher if you have one in town. The win/win learning/sell is really ideal for a one on one class.

                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                            Thanks for that info! We do have a couple of culinary programs in town to check out, as well as some possibles on butchers. Have I mentioned how jazzed I am about this?!

                                                            My son wishes to hunt now that his grandpa is gone, but things get complicated (like, firearms training? field dressing? butchery?). Learning about venison, for me, was having a deer(s) hanging in the basement, but most of the cutting was left to my elders that I tended to ignore at the time. The venison class sounds great; I've learned what I know about venison the hard way.

                                                            1. re: cayjohan

                                                              If the class works out I'll start a venison thread soon after. I'm sure the class alone won't be enough but a hands on start. I have no doubt CH's have tons of insight!

                                              2. Another suggestion would be a gift certificate to Penzey's or another fantastic spice vendor of your choice - I know there are several that have been mentioned on this site.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: boyzoma

                                                  Penzey's is wonderful. Also great: Tom Douglas spice rubs.

                                                2. A great pot. If she's just starting out she may not have been able to afford the last-forever heavy substantial materials things. Depending on your budget you can get something small or something larger and more utilitarian.

                                                  There's a world of great stuff out there. Stainless steel, enameled iron or steel. I am very fond of Emile Henry's Flame casseroles.

                                                  I replaced so much cheap temporary stuff and had such disappointing cooking results until I could start making the investment in a pot at a time. There's no question that the good stuff is expensive but I've incinerated my All-Clad roaster on the BBQ grill and then put it in a bag of ammonia overnight. If you looked at it now you wouldn't know the stories it could tell. I've also got some of the initial entries into the laminated metals technology (Farber Advantage) that look good and work like work horses 40 years later. So that's what I wish someone had done for me when I was young.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: rainey

                                                    Could you please give me more info on the "All-Clad roaster on the BBQ grill and then put it in a bag of ammonia overnight." story? I could use that!

                                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                                      I just incinerated it. Inside and out. I put about a cup of full strength ammonia in it, placed it in a trashbag and sealed it up with a knot. I let it sit maybe 12 hours. Maybe longer. I sloshed the whole thing around from time to time to make sure all the surfaces were getting covered but I think it's the fumes themselves that do the job.

                                                      Do this outside. The smell of the ammonia could curl your toenails.

                                                      When I took it out of the bag I hosed it off and took it inside to scrub with some SoftScrub (there are other fine gauge products) and a nylon pad. Good as new with a bit of elbow grease but not all that much really.

                                                      Most important of all -- 'cause you can still get great results with a stained and scarred pot -- there was ZERO warping and delaminating at even BBQ temps that can easily exceed 500˚.

                                                  2. Hi, thornburg:

                                                    This thread probably belongs in Cookware, don't you think?

                                                    I think my answer would depend on her level of cooking experience, interests and what kitchen tools she already has.

                                                    But just shooting in the dark, if she doesn't already have a good instant-read thermometer, those are almost universally appreciated. I have a Taylor I like, but the Thermapen is wildly popular.


                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                                      Great suggestion! I cooked for decades without one but now I don't know how I'd manage without it. Soooo many fewer embarrassing or disappointing mistakes.

                                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                                        Not sure I agree kaleo. There are a lot of suggestions for cookware, but there are also suggestions for foodstuffs (i.e., spices), classes, etc. Or maybe I disagree because I don't read the Cookware board, but I'm really enjoying this thread; here, I thought my kitchen was pretty well stocked, but now I realize I need a thermapen.

                                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                                          We do house exchanges and I travel with one. It's my one can't do without kitchen tool.

                                                        2. This set of 10 stacking bowls is one of the most useful and most used things in my kitchen. The large bowls are perfect for mixing and the small ones for having your ingredients ready. They take up no more room than just the large bowl since they stack and are dishwasher safe.


                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                            I like using stainless bowls instead, they're much lighter and less destructible. I have 5 in varying sizes, including 2 very large ones (professional size) that are great for prepping salads or anything in large quantities. 2 were part of a 3 piece set I got over 30 years ago, 2 were purchased at a restaurant supply store and the last one I got from Home Goods. I use them all the time and eventually donated all my Pyrex bowls to Goodwill (and was sorry to see a collection of Pyrex in an antique store--I can't imagine what mine were worth, made in the late 1970s).

                                                            I also use metal sheet pans that I bought in a restaurant supply store. 2 half pans and 2 quarter pans get constant use; I line them with foil or parchment depending on what I'm making and there's virtually no clean up. I go rid of my nonstick ones and am not sorry about that either.

                                                            1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                              I'm the opposite. I put my SS bowls away and they come out when someone is sick.

                                                              I like a heavy clay bowl that is going to stay in the spot where I put it down no matter how heavy the batter or the vigor with which I'm beating it.

                                                              I also like silicone bowls that will moosh down to a pour spout when I'm feeding something into the bowl of the mixer while it runs.

                                                              1. re: rainey

                                                                A really beautiful heavy pottery bowl of good size is a nice idea, too, and has been a standard wedding gift from our household. I agree that the weight and sturdiness is of value, and it's another one of those "forever" pieces like a good Dutch oven. It's my own bias, but I never underestimate the power of Beauty in my cookware. It makes the whole process of cooking "a little more."

                                                                1. re: cayjohan

                                                                  I'm happy to read others like heavy bowls. I have a couple gorgeous earthenware bowls that I use for proofing and mixing and they look gorgeous and just feel substantial.
                                                                  I love using them, even though I know they're far from indestructible.
                                                                  Pretty counts too!

                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                    We have a couple of local/regional potters that we favor for the elegance of their thrown forms and for their glazes. The "art" aspect adds a little gloss to the utilitarian aspect and makes them special in the kitchen. Maybe not what every young cook needs, but then again, a beautiful pottery mixing bowl can double as a signature serving piece. Pretty in two places, no?

                                                                  2. re: cayjohan

                                                                    Amen! Beautiuful tools must be why primitive people who had to work so hard to survive still carved bone and wood fishing implements and bowls, etc.

                                                                    It lightens a task and adds another element to the pleasure of the work.

                                                                2. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                  I have stainless bowls as well but they are no sub for the glass set I linked to. I use them for different things and the stainless set I have doesn't have the very small bowls that I've come to find absolutely indispensable. We also have several vintage pottery bowls that are beautiful but never get used for more than holding fruit or onions and garlic on the counter.

                                                                3. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                  Wow! What a bargain too! Very nice for any kitchen.

                                                                4. - A vintage cast iron pot or skillet (Griswold, Wagner, etc)
                                                                  - A nice enameled iron dutch oven
                                                                  - a nice chef's knife (though most are very particular about this)
                                                                  - set of water stones

                                                                  Can't go wrong with a nice enameled dutch oven, Le Creuset or similar.

                                                                  1. There are many great suggestions to your query so far. My vote is for a couple of really good knives. Life in the kitchen is so much better with good knives!

                                                                    1. Cheaper than a food processor: A mandoline.

                                                                      And band aids.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Westy

                                                                        <<And band aids>>

                                                                        I don't know about the rest of you, but my kitchen can be the most dangerous place in my house. And I don't think I am alone. A first aid kit that is ready to go in the kitchen is, to me, an essential. Not a fab gift, but maybe a necessary one for young folks that don't always realize how much heat-and-sharps can derail a cooking session when injuries are involved.

                                                                        1. re: cayjohan

                                                                          I have a nice crescent shaped scar on one of my fingers froma razor sharp japanese mandoline. Bled everywhere....

                                                                          A fireextinguisher is not a bad idea, either.....

                                                                          1. re: Westy

                                                                            I've had too many not-to-be-reported ghastly kitchen mishaps to ever be without first aid at the ready.

                                                                            You make an excellent point about fire extinguishers.

                                                                      2. Surprised no one here mentioned a Thermapen.

                                                                        Even if she already has a thermometer, this one is probably faster and more accurate.

                                                                        Im also not a fan of electric knife sharpeners. I prefer to do them manually with a whetstone.

                                                                        1. Thermapen? I just got mine and I'm having a "Where have you been all my life" moment.

                                                                          1. Rotary beater -----
                                                                            this is the best tool we have in our kitchen - i know it is pricey - however, it works and does not get tangled up (like cheaper rotary beaters do) - gets all ages involved - requires muscles (ie not everything comes from a carton or store,)

                                                                            reasonably safe ---- and someone always gets to lick the beaters

                                                                            NO electricity required - so we can use it on boat, at cottage, during power outage etc.

                                                                            i put mine in my dishwasher - tho you'd have to check about that before you do it (varies by dishwasher and soap and all other details)

                                                                            we use for whipping cream, etc etc


                                                                            another idea is a really good peeler -

                                                                            and also a pastry cutter (i don't know how else to call it - it's a handle with wires - someone else will help me here I am sure


                                                                            3. a really good ice cream scoop - i don't like the spade type of ice cream spoon - i prefer the traditional version - a smaller scoop

                                                                            i see someone already suggested knives - that's good too - and a proper storage wood block for the knives ---- tho it's hard if young person has roomies - so i have tried to think of things that young person can store in their private space

                                                                            for the three above (not the egg beater) i like the "good grips" brand aka www.oxo.com

                                                                            they are good and also go in dishwasher.

                                                                            hope that helps.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Georgia Strait

                                                                              Another Oxo product that I wish I'd had long before last weekend:
                                                                              Their measuring cup set that has a 2/3 cup and a 3/4 cup measure, along with a 1/2 fill line in each cup.


                                                                            2. I have not read all the other response, but I would say that some of the most useful tool you can get for a young cook are:

                                                                              Good quality knife
                                                                              Good cutting board
                                                                              Good fry pan

                                                                              I would have to say that knives are very personal. What you consider to be a great knife, he/she may not.

                                                                              If you are not sure if the person already have good tools listed above, then it is always safe to get them something like kitchen towels. Not super critical, but they are always useful.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Westy

                                                                                  I like that. I actually find a cast iron skillet to be just as useful if not more useful than a stainless steel surface fry pan. However, I can see the cast iron skillet being kind of a "either love it or hate it" item.

                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    it shows up for so many recipes (esp. cornbread), it is kind of indispensable.

                                                                              1. Hands down the most important thing a new cook should have but doesn't is a SCALE! A digital one preferably. I use mine every time I cook. I love it and urge everyone to get one.

                                                                                1. To me, everything is personal, not just knives.

                                                                                  Here are some suggestions:
                                                                                  Thermapen instant-read digital thermometer
                                                                                  Digital weight scale
                                                                                  Digital timer / countdown timer

                                                                                  1. How much are up to spending?

                                                                                    Free form - gift cert to Sur la Table

                                                                                    Big - Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (IF she is a baker or confection person.. its a foundation piece that lasts forever)
                                                                                    Le Crueset French Oven (though cheaper and very good options are out there)

                                                                                    Medium - OXO Steel mandoline, a good scale, a Thermapen

                                                                                    Small - Microplane grater, mise en place bowls, 8 and 9" cake pans, an apron, silpats, a set of ring cutters, HIC porcelain ramekins of various sizes, a large cast iron skillet, wooden spoons,

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                      I'm definitely onboard with a knife. it doesnt even have to be a chef's knife since it's too much of a personal feel kind of tool. I love all the cutesy, colorful knives Kuhn Rikon has. the mini, cheese-cleaver knife is riot to chop garlic with. they got all kinds if paring/utility knives.

                                                                                      if she's a baker, definitely a weight scale and measuring cups.

                                                                                    2. It's hard to guess what she might have already, but one thing that almost no-one buys for themselves is kitchen linens.

                                                                                      I love having some flour sack towels, some knitted dish cloths from a craft fair (you can find great "scrubbies" there, too), some pot holders and mitts, maybe an apron, all tucked up in a basket or bowl with a microplane or a couple of paring knives.