Not everyone can channel their inner Gordon Ramsay or Julia Child at home. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cook. It’s never too late to learn the ropes. Before you know it, you’ll be experimenting with more elaborate dishes, modifying recipes based on your taste and experience, and venturing into new territory. There are small appliance gifts and kitchen tools gifts that can help someone just getting started.
Small appliances for novice cooks
The first small appliance I’d put on the list for novice cooks is the Instant Pot. While there are stories of newbies feeling overwhelmed by all the buttons and options, it’s a short learning curve before they’ll be Googling and bookmarking recipes and working like a pro. If you’ve used one before, help them through a few basic recipes to get them started. Make sure they focus on the core pressure cook function in the beginning. Once they master that, the world is their oyster!
Check out our comprehensive Instant Pot buying guide to make sure you choose the right size and model to meet their needs.
An air fryer is a thoughtful small appliance gift for novices. They can toss in frozen nuggets and French fries when they don’t feel like tackling a more daunting recipe. But when they have the time and patience, they can experiment with all sorts of dishes. A simple mix of spices and some pork chops and they’ll get a heavenly, flavourful main dish they won’t believe they made themselves. You’re guaranteed a nice, crispy texture every time, making this a foolproof small appliance. Plus, clean-up is a breeze.
There are so many guides online with air fryer cooking times for everything from chicken wings to battered fish. All they need to do is tap a few buttons, flip, and enjoy.
A stand mixer is a great small appliance gift for someone who wants to try baked goods and homemade bread. With numbered speeds and recipes that typically indicate how vigorously or lightly batter needs to be mixed, a stand mixer takes the guesswork out of the equation. A dough hook attachment, meanwhile, means they can make their own fresh bread or pizza dough without building some serious biceps as they knead manually.
Cookware and bakeware for novice cooks
A Dutch oven is one of those must-have pieces of cookware that makes you feel like you’re an expert even if you have no idea what you’re doing. Just dump ingredients into the oversized pot and whip up a batch of everything from soup to sauce, chilli to stew.
A true cast iron Dutch oven is very heavy, but there’s a benefit to that: it retains heat well and distributes it evenly, making it a virtually foolproof way to cook when using a recipe. They can taste as they go, adding spices and ingredients until they find the perfect flavour profile.
Cast iron skillet
Another cast iron item that any novice cook will appreciate is a cast iron skillet. After receiving a quality one for Christmas last year, I realize the difference between that and a basic frying pan. Nothing sticks to the surface, even without oil, allowing for perfect fried eggs, pancakes, and even crepes. Since the heat is retained well and distributed evenly, they can cook on low or sear steaks in a jiffy. They are simple to clean since food doesn’t stick to them.
With a bit of oil to “season” it after each use, a cast iron pan can last a lifetime as well. But a little sign of wear and tear will make novice cooks proud to show visitors how much they have used it.
Non-stick baking sheets
When it comes to bakeware, baking sheets are a must in any kitchen, and for novice bakers, they are a kitchen gift that will be used over and over again. They can be used for everything from fresh salmon to roasted potatoes to a fresh batch of homemade cookies. Make sure to get them a non-stick set that they can place items atop without having to add a piece of foil or waxed paper to avoid crusted up and burned pieces sticking to it. You can help them preserve these even longer by getting a silicone baking mat to put on top of one. It’ll make clean-up a breeze, too.
Speaking of silicone, silicone bakeware is a game-changer and a kitchen gift they didn’t even know they wanted. There have been times when I have baked muffins or banana bread and completely forgot to grease the pans or muffin tins or didn’t do a sufficient job. You end up with baked crumble instead.
The best investment I made was in silicone bakeware, including silicone muffin liners. There’s no greasing with butter or shortening needed: simply pour the batter in and bake. From pies to muffins and cupcakes, quiches to pot pies, each will fall nicely out of the pan. There won’t be any mess and minimal clean-up.
Kitchen tools for novice cooks
Measuring cups and spoons
When it comes to kitchen utensils and gadgets, measuring cups and spoons are essential items. I have three measuring cups, including two 2-cup sized ones and a larger 4-cup sized one along with two sets of measuring spoons. And I use them all. Having multiples makes it easy to measure out both dry and wet ingredients at the same time without having to rinse and dry the same cup over and over.
Novice cooks will want to make sure they take precise measurements of spices and ingredients for cooking. Sure, once they get the hang of things, they might be comfortable with “a little bit of this” and “a pinch of that,” but even professional cooks use precise measurements for things like baked good.
There’s nothing more frustrating when cooking than having to dig through a cupboard to find that hidden spice container of paprika. It’s even worse when your hands are dirty from manually mixing ground beef for a meatloaf or coating raw chicken.
It’s a good idea to have your spices and ingredients all laid out on the counter before beginning. But sometimes, you might be in a rush, or may have forgotten something. When it comes to other kitchen tools, a spice rack will make it really easy to find and grab the spices they need. As a bonus, this kitchen gift will also keep their kitchen cupboards neat and organized.
For cutlery sets, a good spatula set can really make cooking easier. Get one that has various sizes, including wider spatulas for bigger items they might otherwise have difficulty flipping (think large pancakes or a large piece of salmon). It’s also a good idea to have a mix of silicone, great for use while baking, and wood, good for things like sauces and mixing dry ingredients. If you know they have one or the other, get them the other kind. Having different spatulas to tackle different jobs will offer a bit of comfort in the cooking process.
Premium knife set
Having a premium knife set can help novice cooks feel more confident in their cooking. When it comes to slicing and dicing, a premium knife set will make the job easier. It should include all the necessary knives, including a versatile Chef’s knife, paring knife, bread knife, and others. Slicing through everything from cuts of meat to hard vegetables will be like butter.
Help novice cooks feel more confident in the kitchen
Even skilled home cooks started somewhere. I admittedly wasn’t the best cook when I entered adulthood. But I grew to develop a passion for cooking, a love of exploring new recipes, and determination to tackle difficult culinary challenges. I have since made things like homemade beef patties, did my best to replicate my grandmother’s curry recipe, and even conquered chocolate lava cakes and traditional New York-style cheesecake. I still have more to learn: next on my list are souffles and French macarons!
Any of the small appliance and kitchen tool gifts on this list will help a novice cook feel more confident about their cooking. As they learn the ropes, they’ll feel more comfortable in the kitchen, whipping up more elaborate dishes as they go. As they experiment, they’ll continue to add new items to the list. But the ones on this list will always be useful pieces in their cooking repertoire.