Last-Minute Gifts for the Dedicated Amateur Cook (Or: Oh shit, is it seriously this late in December already?)

Let's get choppin'

When you start cooking, there are just some things you absolutely need in your kitchen (I’ve covered the cabinet essentials here). There are also some items you may not view as necessary that may surprise you with their importance. My roommates and I agreed on the following list of objects that have helped us immeasurably in our kitchen. If you’re scrambling for a last minute gift for the well-meaning but probably woefully unprepared cook in your life, here are some ideas.

BEFORE WE BEGIN: No, none of these companies are paying me. I wish they would. A girl’s gotta pay the rent.

  1. One good knife. I used Victorinox’s FIBROX® PRO 8-inch chef’s knife (pictured above) recently at my parents’ house. It’s a recommendation from Cook’s Illustrated that my dad followed (as he does with just about everything Cook’s Illustrated tells him to do), and I have to say, this knife is incredible- it’s versatile and lightweight without feeling flimsy. It’s (currently) $34.99, which is a good price and definitely worth it if you know a poorly equipped cook or just looking for One Knife to Rule Them All.
  2. A cutting board with a good grip. Enthusiastically chopping away on a cutting board is all fun and games until it starts sliding away… and then it requires extra focus to chop and hold the board in place. Here’s one from the set we have in our house, and they’re awesome:
  3. A flat spatula. The thin edge makes it awesome for doing basically anything (but especially handy for stuff that can get a little messy, like over-easy eggs). Get one in plastic because metal can scratch a nonstick surface.
  4. A regular rubber spatula. Get one that can withstand high temperatures (silicone), because one day that amateur may find themselves mixing ridiculously hot corn syrup to make candy glass for a workplace baking contest. Hypothetically speaking, obviously.

    Like so.
  5. One good nonstick pan. My roommate bought this pack of two Cuisinart non-stick skillets when we first moved in and the larger one is good for most things on planet Earth. Something worth noting is that our stove is really uneven (on account of our floor being uneven) so the heat is, too, but the pans heat pretty evenly in spite of that. This is pretty important in dishes that require fast cooking like stir fry.
  6. A box grater. Four grating options eliminate the need to individually slice veggies or cheese to make them evenly sized (which is annoying AF even when you know how to)- this is especially handy with carrots because they’re irritating to deal with, but our box grater has saved the day more than once.

    Box graters ftw
    Not all heroes wear capes.
  7. An oven-proof pan. Some recipes call for cooking stuff in a pan and then popping the whole mixture, still in the pan, into the oven. This is done for reasons I don’t care enough about to look up- all I know is that I was pretty excited to have a cast-iron pan with a metal handle that I could use in the oven so the dish came out heated evenly and baked beautifully. Just be careful that you don’t forget that the handle is hot. To that end…
  8. Good-quality oven mitts. Throw away those weird cloth square ones that don’t protect from the heat at all and go for some decent oven mitts that give a little more flexibility and greatly reduce the risk of your favorite amateur burning themselves when they do something stupid.
  9. Tupperware. Leak-proof and microwave safe. I grew up in a lawless, tupperware-free household and now that I’m living with people who fully endorse the concept of rectangular containers for leftovers, my life is a lot easier. Except, of course, when this happens:

  10. A good baking dish. I’ve used Pyrex basically forever because it’s what my parents had in the house. The baking dishes are ridiculously durable and are great at heating evenly- and most of them are dishwasher safe… so they’re perfect for lazy assholes like me who hate cleaning up after themselves.
  11. A set of embossed measuring cups. Measurements just printed on the surface can fade in the dishwasher (even if they act like they won’t, they will). I guess at some point in my life I might be able to eyeball a tablespoon or a teaspoon, but that time is not now, and so I need these. (Another example is in the photo at the top of this post.)

    Embossed measuring cups
    Fun fact: we found these in a drawer in my house when we moved in and our landlord had a meltdown when we told him we wouldn’t throw them out.

There you have it! If you know a budding cook who has the essentials but maybe not the most versatile kind, these are some great Christmas gift ideas. Yeah, okay, it’s weird to say “Merry Christmas, I got you this box grater” but they’ll be pretty grateful when they want evenly or finely shredded pieces for a recipe! Maybe for that one get them a box of Band-Aids too… because the next time they invite you over for dinner, you don’t want knuckle skin in your food.


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