The Beginner Cook

Helpful basic kitchen supplies for the cook who's just starting out on their own.

A great mandoline will rapidly make photo-worthy cuts of your favorite vegetables, whether thin slices of radishes for a salad or potatoes for a gratin. The OXO slicer has four thickness settings and a fold-down stand allows this slicer to either be set on a cutting board (with the legs down) or perched over a bowl (with the legs up).

More and more children are interested in cooking, and that means they'll eventually need to learn to wield a real, grown-up-style knife. The decision on when to put a safety-feature-free blade in their hand is best left to the parents, but when that day does come, this short chef's knife is a good size for young hands.

Microplanes do fine grating work way better than those tiny, raspy holes on a box grater. Whether you're quickly grating fresh nutmeg or cinnamon, taking the zest off a lemon, or turning a clove of garlic into a fine purée, the Microplane is the tool to reach for.

Magnetic knife strips are not only space-saving but they also look pretty badass hanging on your wall. They'll keep your knives from rubbing up against other utensils, which can make them dull (and can be dangerous, too).

We were impressed by all the Mac knives in our testing, across their range of price points, but this one came out on top thanks to its combination of price and performance. While not inexpensive, it was one of the more affordable Japanese-made knives we tested. This blade is comfortable in the hand and has hollow-ground dimples to help reduce friction when cutting.

The Magimix impressed us with each slicing, chopping, grating, and pureeing test we tossed at it, especially with pizza dough, which it combined so well no additional kneading was required.

If you ever plan to tackle homemade pie crust or rolled sugar cookies, you'll need a rolling pin. Tapered French rolling pins are more maneuverable and more durable than other styles, and they're easier to clean as well.

We tested dozens of stovetop pressure cookers before settling on Kuhn Rikon's Duromatic. It has a heavy sandwiched-aluminum-and-steel base that gives you even heat, and a pressure gauge that makes telling exactly how much pressure has built up inside visual and intuitive.

If you eat a lot of rice, or if you want to eat a lot of rice, you should absolutely invest in a rice cooker. There are many options on the market—and you can, of course, use a multi-cooker, like an Instant Pot, or a simple pot and lid—but the reason Japanese households invariably have rice cookers is that they produce consistently great results, with very little effort. Zojirushi is the gold standard among rice cooker manufacturers, and this five-and-a-half-cup model is perfect for almost any family. Because the heating element in the cooker surrounds the rice receptacle, the Zojirushi will produce perfectly cooked rice when used correctly, with no scorching and no mushy pockets of waterlogged grains. Finally, it also plays a very sweet and not at all annoying melody when you start cooking and when your rice is ready.

How much praise can we throw at a Le Creuset Dutch oven? This is one of those things couples put on their wedding registries and desperately hope someone buys for them. This is a pot you hand down to your kids. This is a piece of cookware that you will use for everything, including serving at the table, and then you won't want to put it away because you just like looking at it. This is a workhorse of the kitchen. Yes, it costs a lot. But things that are built to last a lifetime despite daily use usually do.

The five-piece Norpro Grip Ez Stainless Steel Measuring Cups took the top spot in our tests for accuracy, and it wasn't even close. Not only that, the bowls are securely joined to the comfortable nonslip handles, and manufactured to tight tolerances, which helps with level sweeping. The unique oval cup shape comes to a narrow end, acting like a shovel to dig into compacted ingredients, like brown sugar.

While we don't believe that a roasting pan is generally the best tool for large roasts—a wire rack set in a sheet pan often works better—there are times when a roasting pan with a rack is ideal. Cuisinart offers one of the best values in roasting pans on the market, and it can handle any job just as well as its more expensive competitors.

The Breville Smart Oven performs consistently and is very intuitive to use. It scored high marks in each round of testing, producing one of the better pieces of toast, baking frozen pizza to yield melted cheese on top and crispy crust below, cooking a frozen chicken pot pie, and baking perfect cookies. The styling is handsome, and the bright LCD screen is easy to navigate with just a few dials and buttons.

Old cast iron has a perfectly smooth nonstick surface that's surprisingly easy to maintain. You can sear, bake, roast, braise, stew, and deep-fry in it, and there's nothing more thoughtful than a gift that you have to expend a bit of effort to find (check out eBay, yard sales, and flea markets). These modern Lodge pans will do in a pinch if vintage isn't in the cards.

If the concept of receiving cooking-themed mystery boxes piques your interest, then CrateChef may be right up your alley. The subscription service partners with a different chef every two months to deliver a curated selection of tools, gadgets, and ingredients right to your kitchen. And this month, we're excited to announce that their newest partner is...us! Order your box to find a great selection of gift-worthy picks from the Serious Eats culinary team, chosen with holiday entertaining in mind.

There's form, and then there's function. The aprons from Tilit are great on both fronts. Made from waxed cotton, they offer breathability along with water resistance, but they're also damned handsome.

While the usefulness of a vegetable peeler should be obvious to anyone who's ever cooked, the necessity of a Y-peeler may not be quite as clear. But trust us: They are categorically better than those swivel peelers a lot of people use. And they're cheap!

Our top pick among stainless steel honing steels for your knives.

This is the holy grail of inexpensive chef's knives: incredible quality and design, high-end materials, perfect balance, and a razor-sharp edge.

If you love beautifully seared steaks, golden-brown grilled cheese sandwiches, and crispy-skinned fish and poultry, this is a great thing to have in your kitchen. Chef's presses help you get even contact between ingredients and your skillet. They're vented, so you won't accidentally steam your food, and they're stackable, so you can get a couple for weighing down heftier items.

If you love to cook and host parties, you'll know that a lot of prep time is spent on your feet. Why not make at least the cooking part a bit more comfortable with one of these gel mats? It'll provide some nice cushion under your feet, so when it's time to put on your party shoes, you'll be ready.

A New York Times best-seller! The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenji López-Alt, is his column by the same name on this very website, blown up to 900-plus pages (and seven-plus pounds) of concentrated culinary science. Gorgeous color photos, detailed how-tos, and elaborate explainers cover ingredients, technique, gear, and the secrets of the universe underneath it all. May include puns.

A good bench scraper is one of those tools people don't think they need until they start using it. We use it for everything from transferring chopped vegetables or herbs from one place to another, to portioning dough, to giving our cutting boards a quick clean.

A good carbon steel pan has many of the qualities that make cast iron great—it's durable, it forms a completely nonstick surface if cared for properly, and it's inexpensive. But it's lighter and easier to maneuver, making it great for sautéing and searing everyday foods.

The slope-sided skillet, like this one from All-Clad, is a chef's best friend and one of the most versatile pans in the kitchen, whether you're sautéing vegetables, searing meat, or cooking one of our dozens of one-pan meals. The best have solid stainless steel construction, with an aluminum core for even heat distribution.

To store tools like spatulas and whisks, a good old crock will do the trick. We like this ceramic one, which looks extra pretty on the counter. Keep it right next to your stove so your most-used tools will be at an arm's length whenever you need them.

There are so many classics cookbooks out there but for a beginner James Peterson's Essentials of Cooking is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Color step-by-step photos walk you through basics like roasting a chicken, prepping vegetables, making sauces to next level techniques like butchering a fish.

This cookbook by Julia Turshen, author of Small Victories and Feed the Resistance, is full of simple, delicious meals for everyday eating, parties, and holidays. Better yet, each one includes a bunch of suggestions for how to remake it as leftovers. It's a trove of great, creative ideas, and a must for any bookworm.

A stand mixer is obviously great for mixing batters and doughs, but we also love the range of KitchenAid attachments available for purchase—once you have the base, there's suddenly a whole world of homemade sausages, ice creams, pastas, and fresh juices at your fingertips.

How do you make perfect caramels, ice cream, gravies, and reductions? A nifty pot called a saucier. The durable stainless steel is cladded with aluminum for even heating, essential for temperamental ingredients like caramel and egg custards. A curved bottom makes whisking a snap (no more lumpy gravy!), and the wide top encourages evaporation for fast sauce reductions. You can buy cheaper versions than this All-Clad saucier, but this is one piece of equipment in which quality really makes a difference.

A staple of American kitchens for close to a century, Joy of Cooking continues to be a valued resource for all the basics, from pancakes and waffles to casseroles, stews, and roasts.

A fine-mesh strainer is indispensable for a whole range of kitchen tasks, from making sure your chicken stock is free of sediment to producing silky-smooth custards.

A good digital scale is an essential tool for bakers or home charcuterie makers. This one comes with an easy-to-clean, removable stainless steel weighing surface; great accuracy and precision; and a backlit pull-out display to make measuring easy, even for large or unwieldy items.

The Instant Pot Duo60 is a fantastic value and performed almost as well as the top pick among countertop pressure cookers we tested. It's easy to use, the company has a reputation for great customer service, and there's an avid and helpful community of users online to boot.

This knife is a good choice for kids who are transitioning into using grown-up blades. It has a plastic loop to keep the index finger safely away from the edge, and a guard for the other hand, allowing the child to practice the claw with less risk if they make a mistake.

Bamboo steamers are particularly useful when you're steaming largish things—say, a small whole fish, like a porgy or small sea bass. They're also super easy to clean.

This Zyliss salad spinner was far and away the top performer in our tests, due to its space-efficient design, solid construction, and minimal-effort drying mechanism.

For great performance at a low cost, Mercer is killing it these days, and its santoku knife is no slouch on either front. One of the most affordable knives we tested, Mercer's blade outperformed many knives that cost more than twice as much. For the price, you might as well grab one—it's the perfect knife for guests who want to be helpful in the kitchen, but whom you don't trust with pricier blades.

Vicky's four-year-old niece is obsessed with Stella. This wooden stand mixer set is a perfect gift for the young baker. It has eggs that you can actually crack!

Jacques Pépin has more than 20 cookbooks to his name, but this one might be the most universally useful to home cooks. Clear photos and descriptions walk newbies thought holding a knife properly, then using it to slice and dice an onion and debone a chicken. But there are also an endless number of little tricks, like why your salad greens should be bone dry before dressing them, that will up your kitchen IQ.

Proper seasoning is one of the most important parts of cooking, and if you're still using plain table salt from (heaven forbid!) a saltshaker, you're shooting yourself in the food. Using kosher salt from a salt cellar lets you feel exactly how much salt is getting into your food, whether it's a tiny pinch or a big ol' wallop.

These shears set the bar for excellent heavy-duty scissors. They're strong enough to cut out a chicken back without hesitation, they're sharp enough to snip chives as cleanly as any pair of shears could ever hope to, and they come with all the accoutrements a good pair of kitchen shears should (even if you never use half these things): bottle opener/lid lifter, flathead screwdriver head, nutcracker, jar opener, bone notcher, and more.

Souper Cubes is the brainchild of two Serious Eaters, Michelle and Jake, who wanted to develop a better way to portion and freeze soups, stocks, and stews. The food-grade silicone mold features four one-cup cube molds, perfect for meal-prepping and stocking up on winter warmers for the long, cold months ahead.

Fancy olive oil always makes a good gift, but there's a difference between fancy olive oil and good fancy olive oil. The house oil from Frankies 457 Spuntino in Brooklyn is delicious (i.e., great on fresh bread and in dishes), is DOC certified, and comes in a chic tin that prevents light from spoiling the product.

The Fletchers' Mill Federal grinds consistently and quickly, excels at fine grinding, and comes in 11 finishes to match a wide range of kitchen decors.

This cast iron workhorse spans two burners, making it perfect for high-volume indoor grilling projects (did anyone order skewered shrimp?) on one side, and griddled classics like pancakes and smashed burgers on the other.

The four-piece Amco Advanced Performance Measuring Spoons are accurate and easy to work with. The handles have little stands on them that help keep the bowls nearly level for accurate filling when the spoon is on the countertop, and the wide, shallow design makes it easy to clean out sticky ingredients, like honey, with a small spatula.

These were the most accurate set of glass measuring cups we tested and include 1-, 2-, and 4-cup measures. Only the smallest cup was off by more than a milliliter at full volume, which is very accurate for kitchen use. The cups have durable, easy-to-read markings; a classic shape that nests well; and spouts that are easy to pour from.

The Cuisinart is an easy-to-use, powerful blender that aced many of our tests. This model's dashboard is intuitive, and it features a built-in timer that counts down for you or can be programed to stop after a certain amount of seconds.

When fall and winter roll around, we start thinking about rich, comforting casseroles, which means that these stoneware baking dishes get pulled out, filled, and popped into the oven at least once a week. They're great-looking on the table and provide gentle, even cooking all around for really nice, crisp edges on your lasagna.

A high-speed hand blender is great for whipping up silky soups and purées, making emulsions like mayonnaise and Hollandaise, or smoothing out sauces, all right in the pot. No need to dirty up an extra blender jar!

A good wooden spoon is a must for any kitchen. This one, from Le Creuset, is top notch. It's gorgeous to look at; it has a flat front, which makes it great for scraping up fond or stirring vegetables; and it's got a smooth, ergonomic grip that makes using it a joy.

Larousse is the serious food encyclopedia for the serious cook. Its focus is mostly on French preparations, though more recent editions have attempted to remedy that with some more international entries. Arranged alphabetically, Larousse offers up historical context, recipes and cooking instruction, and definitions galore.

Trying to get your mom to finally write down all those family recipes? This sleek Moleskine journal will get her organized and become a precious family heirloom in the process.

Even lighter in weight than its more expensive sibling, the UX10, the Misono 440 offers an incredibly agile experience, with an especially sharp out-of-the-box blade. It handled all our testing tasks with ease. The price variance between this one and the UX10 mostly comes down to the steel used, a difference most home cooks won't likely notice, making this one a good intermediate choice.

Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This perforated one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous mounds of beans, vegetables, and pieces of meat from their cooking liquid or sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.

In the inexpensive-thermometer department, the ThermoPop comes in an impressive package. An easy-to-read display rotates at the touch of a button, so you don't have to twist your head to read it. It takes a few seconds longer to read temperatures than its big brother, the Thermapen, but it's every bit as accurate.

Peterson has long been the master of writing comprehensive works on major subjects. In Sauces, he breaks down sauce-making in all its intricacies, starting with stocks and leading you through the classics of French and Italian cuisines and beyond.

This is a great introductory stone for sharpening Japanese knives. The combination of grits gives you everything you need: The coarser side quickly restores an edge, while the fine side smooths and polishes.

A combo cooker is the key to getting a gorgeous shattering crust on homemade bread. It acts as its own little steam chamber, like what you'd find in a professional bread oven, and it costs way less than a kitchen renovation.

The steep, 13-degree angle on their stainless steel scalloped ends enables the OXO Good Grips Tongs to securely grasp a large range of food shapes and sizes, from a whole chicken to thin spaghetti to tail-on shrimp. The build features a responsive and durable spring, large rubber grips, and pinch-free, stay-cool handles.

Not all food storage containers are built the same. OXO's Pop Containers stack neatly in the cabinet, make it easy to see exactly what's inside, and have a neat push-button top that forms a perfectly airtight seal, keeping your dry pantry goods fresher for longer.

A pressure cooker is a cooking vessel that just keeps on giving: Once you discover the time-saving feats it's capable of, you'll never look back. A countertop electric model gives you set-it-and-forget-it convenience. Breville's Fast Slow Pro Cooker gives you complete control over your pressure cooking but also works as a slow cooker and a rice cooker.

Tojiro's santoku knife held its own throughout the testing. It feels a little chunkier in the hand than our top pick, and it cracked one slice of carrot before sailing through a dozen more slices without any problems. It's a well-made knife, offering an excellent money-to-quality ratio.

Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous dollops of yogurt, a heap of cooked grain, or a serving of sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.

When we're cooking with garlic, we're pulling out the press nine times out of 10, because, even with the slightly fussy cleaning, it's still faster and easier than chopping fresh garlic on a board.

For those who just don't want to spend much, or who want a "beater" knife—one that they can abuse without feeling guilty—this option from Mercer is hard to, um, beat. It's not the best knife by any measure—its balance feels off, and its thick handle can make a chef's grip awkward for smaller hands—but it has an impressively sharp edge and a price that's just about as low as it gets.

Woks are the best tool for stir-frying if you want to get that distinctly smoky wok hei flavor, but they're also versatile vessels that you can use for braising, deep-frying, or even indoor smoking.

Paring knives don't need to cost a lot to do their job—questions of balance and build quality matter less in a knife that fits almost entirely in the palm of your hand. Of all the ones we tested, this inexpensive blade from Wüsthof came out on top, with a razor-sharp edge and comfortable grip. This is our new go-to paring knife, and we already have several of them at work and home.

When we tested bread knives earlier this year, we were absolutely blown away by the cutting quality of Tojiro's bread knife. It surpassed every other serrated knife, cutting beautifully clean slices of even the most tender bread, and making quick, neat work of ripe tomatoes. It's a must-have for any kitchen.

Cooking with fresh herbs makes every recipe better. Cooking with fresh herbs that you grew all by yourself makes life better. The AeroGarden takes the guesswork out of growing herbs inside, with an automated light to keep your parsley and thyme thriving and weekly reminders for water and nutrients. Just prepare yourself for epic amounts of basil.

One of the more affordable options among the German-style knives tested, Mercer's Genesis chef's knife delivers good bang for the buck. The knife is quite a bit lighter than the Wüsthof Classic and has a grippy rubber-and-plastic handle that's comfortable to hold.

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