Buying gifts for a beginner cook can be difficult, if only because the gift-giver has an embarrassment of options. But it's pretty simple: Just pick a price point and buy a quality gift—we have plenty to choose from.
Good Pots and Pans: A saucier and a skillet are always good bets (and, frankly, many an experienced cook would welcome these tri-ply stainless steel products in their kitchen). The saucier is crucial for the new cook's first experiments with sauces, gravies, and custards: The wide top encourages the right amount of reduction, while the sloped bottom ensures lump-free whisking and minimizes the chances of any bits getting stuck in corners and burning. The skillet is what they'll use for a whole range of tasks, from searing off steaks to saucing pastas. A great Le Creuset casserole is similarly essential—a superior cooking vessel in which to make gratins, lasagnas, and, of course, casseroles (it has the added benefit of being pretty, too).
Interest-Specific Tools: Looking to inspire a novice cook to get more serious in the kitchen? It helps to give items that will make their culinary dreams more achievable realities. If your neophyte is interested in all things meat, you can't go wrong with the ThermoPop thermometer, which will make their first forays into roasts and steaks far more successful. If they're fanatics for brunch, consider getting them an All-Clad immersion blender, which they can use to make our foolproof Hollandaise sauce (plus a host of other soups, condiments, and beyond).
Knives: If you've got money to burn, a high-quality knife is always an impressive gift. If your novice cook already has a decent chef's knife, though, a sharp bread knife is also a wonderful, often-overlooked gift idea. Strapped for cash, but still interested in fueling their culinary prowess? You can always help out in the knife department with an easy-to-handle paring knife, or even a bench scraper to discourage the recipient from using their shiny new knives to scrape ingredients off their cutting board.
Finally—and this gift works for even some of the more seasoned cooks I know—buy them a salt cellar. Not only is it far more convenient wherever measuring spoons are called for, it'll encourage them to step away from using the saltshaker as the appropriate salt-delivery device and embrace the ease and better distribution that a generous pinch can deliver.
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