20 Best Gifts For Aspiring Cooks And Kitchen Novices

Photo: Getty
25 Best Gifts For Cooks 2019 — And People Aspiring To Cook
Editor At Large
Self, Health And Wellness

As part of my pesonal 2019 New Years' resolution, I vowed to become a better cook. Or at least, a competent cook. Or at the very least: better acquainted in the kitchen. (Pre-2019, let's just say my cooking abilities were something to be desired. I lived in a tiny NYC apartment and got take-out almost every night. I know, I KNOW.) Now that I own a home in Chicago (#adulting) and have a gorgeous kitchen and husband I love, my mission was to start learning how to make dishes beyond pasta and chicken. On top of that, I wanted to start saving money by cooking at home more. Add even more on top of that, I wanted to learn how to make healthy meals for my eventual children if/when I decide to have them. (In my life: preparation is everything.) So, here we are. 3/4 of the way through 2019 and I feel proud about my progress as a cook. At this point, I've accepted that 'culinary adept-ness' isn't in my genes (and that's okay, we all have our things) — but I'm now at a place where I can comfortably host a delicious meal for 4-6 people with a main dishes, sides, and appetizers and I feel good about that.

So how did this pb&j-and-cereal-for-lunch gal become a competent hostess? Not without a lot of help, that's for sure. Here are 20 of the best gifts for cooks, aspiring cooks and kitchen newbies hat have helped me significantly become more comfortable in the kitchen and learn my way around. Start here. Start simple. And trust me: if I can put dinner on the table most nights — an actual edible, delicious dinner that other people want ot eat — so can you.

1. Ninja Mega Kitchen System Blender/Food Processor

The Ninja mega kitchen system comes packed with 1500 watts of power to handle all of your drink and meal-making needs. The XL 72-oz blender pitcher features total crushing technology to blast through ice and frozen fruit. Two 16 oz. Nutri Ninja Cups with to-go lids are perfect for creating personalized, nutrient-rich drinks to take on the go. The 8-cup food processor bowl comes equipped with a chopping blade for perfect, even results and a dough blade that can mix up to 2 pounds of dough in 30 seconds.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

2. Insta Pot 

The Instant Pot is a smart electric pressure cooker designed by Canadians aiming to be safe, convenient and dependable. It speeds up cooking by 2-6 times using up to 70% less energy and, above all, produces nutritious healthy food in a convenient and consistent fashion. The Instant Pot Duo is a 7-in-1 programmable cooker, replacing 7 kitchen appliances — as it has the functions of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker & warmer. 

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

RELATED: 7 Ways To Grow A Stronger, Happier Relationship By Cooking Together (Plus: 4 Easy, Delicious Sheet Pan Recipes!)

10. Slotted Spoon

This nylon slotted spoon is perfect for straining vegetables while cooking. The heads are heat-resistant up to 400°F and won't scratch non-stick cookware.

(Walmart, $12.55)

4. WÜSTHOF Gourmet Twelve Piece Block Knife Set 

Family owned and operated since 1814, WÜSTHOF embodies the highest levels of tradition, craftsmanship and quality. Every piece of WÜSTHOF cutlery is meticulously crafted in Solingen, Germany and carries the Solingen name, a designation reserved for products that meet the strictest quality standards. PS: A good knife set is clutch to becoming more adept in the kitchen; flimsy knives only make your work harder and more frustrating. This knife set is pure quality — I've had it for years now — and will last you a lifetime, assuming you get them regularly sharpened. Which brings us to the next item... 

(Macy's, $465)

5. Priority Chef Knife Sharpener

Forget the other sharpeners. If you’re looking for a high-quality, reliable sharpening tool, this is the best system in the market today. This product will keep any straight edge steel knives constantly sharp. With its 2-stage sharpening system, you can polish your blades to razor-sharpness. This product is also designed for comfort.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

6. Stainless Steel Spoon Rest

A spoon rest is one of those things I didn't even think about until I started using my oven regularly and I had no place to put my ladle/slotted spoon when I took it out of the bowl/saucepan, etc. I use a double one because I often have two things going at once. The above spoon rest is modern and stylish and you'll never have to worry about getting your kitchen messy or having your spoon drip all over the place when cooking or serving because YAY: there's a place for it.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

7. Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven

Also known as a Dutch oven, this updated kitchen classic enhances the cooking process by evenly distributing heat and locking in the optimal amount of moisture. With ergonomic handles and an advanced interior enamel that resists chipping and cleans easily, Le Creuset's French ovens blend the best of the past with the latest innovations in comfort and functionality.

(Nordstrom, $480)

8. Angled Measuring Cup

I use this baby all the time for liquid measuring — so much easier than getting every single one of your measuring spoons dirty. (Less dishes = happy Andrea.) Its patented angled surface lets you read measurement markings by looking straight down into the cup and eliminates the need to fill, check and adjust the amount of liquid you are measuring. The handle is soft and non-slip for a firm grip. Oh, and it's diswasher-safe.

(Target, $8.99)

9. Nested Mixing Bowls

Whether you need a large bowl for mixing ingredients or a small one for dip, this 6-piece  mixing bowl set is a must-have for your kitchen. Made of durable heavy-weight plastic, which makes them dishwasher, microwave, and freezer-safe, anyone who loves cooking and baking will find an instant use for these food prep bowls. Bonus: You can also use also use them as serving bowls and make a funky, colorful statement, because who doesn't love an item that has multiple uses?

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

RELATED: 5 Reasons Doing This In The Kitchen Will Bring You Much, Much Closer As A Couple

10. Martha & Marley Spoon Home Delivery Meal Service

One of the things I struggle with the most with cooking is finding recipes. I'm a no-fuss, no-frills kind of cook (if a recipe takes longer than 30-40 minutes, no thanks!). Jessica Seinfeld's book (see #18) has helped me in the past but after using it for a few years, I exhausted all the recipes and felt like I needed to change it up. My dilemma? I loaaaaathe looking online and through recipe books— it's just not what I'm passionate about. (Sorry, foodies!) This is also a good time to mention I loathe going to the grocery store, too. I find it extremely stressful and overwhelming — as Marie Kondo would say: it does not spark joy. And yet: I'm very type-A(ndrea) so following a recipe is no big for me; I do very well with detailed instructions and photos, verses say, giving me a pile of ingredients and having me 'whip something up' — impossible.

All this being said: home food delivery has changed my life for the much, much better. And let me tell you, I've tried 'em all and this new service from Martha Stewart is one of my faves. (Who knew Martha Stewart got into the home food-delivery market? I sure didn't.) Here's how it works: You pick your meals in advance from a plethora of ever-changing menus on the app — which really easy to use by the way; criticial for a tech buff like me. All the ingredients are sent at the beginning of the week in cute little lunch bags that remind me of grade school. Recipes with visual step-by-steps come included, too but you can also access them on your app under a 'My Recipes' section: incredible UX. (Just beware: sticky hands don't do well with phones, so prop it up instead.) Then all you have to do is follow the instructions and voila! Dinner is made. If I sound overenthusiastic, it's because I am: I actually look forward to making dinner now and the food is GOOD. Like, really good. (That was one of my chief concerns when I went this route.) In fact: I'd even say that this service has bettered my abilities as an aspiring cook because it forces me out of my cooking comfort zone — yesterday's recipe, for instance, involved moving an oven-safe skillet from the stove-top to the oven; I didn't even know that was a technique; it ended up being this delicious casserole thing and it was glorious. For real: aspiring chefs? Get thee home delivery food service (not that kind that's prepared; the kind that has you follow instructions); because the best way to hone your skills is by learning and doing. And OMG, do you save time by not trekking to the grocery every week and searching for ingredients you'll probably only use one or twice.

(Martha & Marley Spoon, prices vary)

11. Pyrex Baking Dish With Lid

This Pyrex easy grab 2-quart dish makes a perfect, versatile dish for baking, serving, and storing yourfavorite meals. Pyrex glass is dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, pre-heated oven, and freezer safe and I love that it has a lid because it means post-baking/cooking, if there's any leftovers, I just pop the lid on and put in my refrigator. So easy.

(Walmart, $12.98)

12. Immersion Blender

Blend, crush, chop, whisk, and puree smoothies, sauces, baby food, soup and more — quickly and conveniently.

(Walmart, $39.99)

13. Kitchen Timer

I often have a few things brewing at once and the timer that comes on the microwave and oven don't always cover it. Plus: using your iPhone as a timer is so annoying in the kitchen because you often have dirty hands! Get yourself one of these instead; you'll use it all the time.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

14. Zester/Grater

This grater/zester has a razor-sharp stainless steel blade that won't rust and a comfortable, non-slip handle. Its unique curved sides make it extremely rigid and allow you to apply more force when it's needed.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

15. Hello Fresh Home Delivery Meal Service

HelloFresh is another home food delivery service I'm a huge fan of. The recipes are a little simpler than Martha & Marley Spoon and it's a little less expensive, so my advice on choosing between the two would be to honestly evaluate your kitchen skill level. If you're truly just getting started, Hello Fresh might be a little less daunting. When you feel you've mastered those recipes, I'd suggest you "graduate" to Martha & Marley Spoon. But you truly can't go wrong with either one: the concept remains the same (less stress, less grocery trips, inventive menus that change on the reg — basically less stuff for you to worry about, in general) and the dinners are really quite scrumptious with generous portion sizes. I also love that you can skip weeks when you're traveling without any sort of penalty or mark-up and that the meals are sorted by category: meat & veggie, family-friendly, calorie-smart, etc. because it's crucial to me to be making healthy, heart-friendly dinners. Also: both services, whichever you choose, allow you to pick the number of meals you want want delivered per week (3 works best for me) because let's be honest: I still enjoy a good restaurant night out with my husband every now and then. 

(HelloFresh, prices vary)

16. Garlic Press

So many recipes call for garlic! This garlic press keeps hands clean and smell-free.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

17. Measuring Cups

A good set of measuring cups is clutch in the kitchen — especially for novices like me who aren't great at eyeballing measurements. These set is stainless steel metal with a polished finish which means they'll never rust and they can be placed in the dishwasher safely — guaranteed not to break or bend under normal use.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

18. 'The Can't Cook Cookbook' by Jessica Seinfeld

Ohmygosh, this book started it all for me. Seriously. If you find cooking scary, stressful or just boring, Jessica (yes, Jerry's wife) has a calm, confidence-building approach to cooking, even for those who’ve never followed a recipe or used an oven. (Ahem.) Jessica shows you how to prepare deliciously simple food—from Caesar salad, rice pilaf, and roasted asparagus to lemon salmon, roast chicken, and flourless fudge cake. At the beginning of each dish, she explains up-front what the challenge will be, and then shows you exactly how to overcome any hurdles in easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. My favorite part of the book is that when a recipe calls for an instruction, say, 'chopping onions,' Jessica doesn't just assume everyone knows how to do that and shows you, with photos, how to do simple kitchen tasks. Seriously: this book saved my life. Stand-out dishes: bacon meatloaf and feta pasta. I make 'em all the time.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

19. Kitchen Apron

Duh! A good apron always sets the mood, keeps my clothes clean, and makes me feel fancy. I love this one. 

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

RELATED: 30 Best Comfort Crockpot Recipes For Two People (Who Love Leftovers)

20. A good cooking playlist

So much of enjoying cooking (rather than just doing it, you know, to feed yourself) is making it fun! I have to put on a cooking playlist while I'm preparing food; it makes the experience so much more laidback and chill. Here's my favorite one on Spotify to get you started. 

Bonus gift:

21. A solid coffee mug or wine glass

Like I mentioned in #20, I'm all about setting a cooking vibe. So dependent on the time of day, drinking a strong cup of coffee and/or a chilled glass of white wine while I'm cooking makes the whole experience seem joyful, rather than a pain. And don't just use any old wine glass or coffee cup — make sure it's one you love so that you start equating cooking with your favorite things — it's almost like a mental trick. (Sorry if that's a little too woo-woo for some, but I swear it works.)

My favorite coffee cups are these ceramic tapered mugs by Chris Earl. They actually make me feel happy to hold them while I'm sipping my morning joe.

As for wine glasses, you can't go wrong with Riedel. I got red and white wine Riedel wine glasses for our wedding and they've stood the test of time. (I also own a plastic wine glass set for outside; another handy pro tip for hosting people: they don't break!)

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Andrea Zimmerman is the editor-at-large at Yourtango. She enjoys reading, traveling, and reading while traveling. Follow her on Instagram @angiecat86 or email her at andreaz@yourtango.com.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.

Author
Editor At Large