You're bound to have someone on your Christmas list who wants to learn how to cook or cook better in the New Year. The thing is, it's not all that hard. You don't need fancy tools or crazy gadget—you just need the essentials.
Trust me, I know! I spent five years of Christmases working at a Williams-Sonoma, wrapping popcorn poppers, espresso machines, and wine saving systems for boyfriends and fiances and gift=givers who had no idea what they were doing. Well she/he likes coffee, the shopper would say. But if that's your approach, you're going about it all wrong. You need to give quality, cover the bases, and you'll help turn the budding chef into your life into a regular Julia Child.
Here are some tools to get your mother/brother/sister/cousin started in the kitchen.
This might sound like a big duh, but a good, heat-resistant spatula is a must-have in the kitchen. It will work for you whether you're baking a pie or basting a roast. And honestly, this is one of those gifts it's ok to dupe! You need more than one in your kitchen. $10 [Williams-Sonoma]
Once again, this might seem obvious, but a wooden spoon—a good wooden spoon—is an essential. Your wannabe chef will use it every day, even if all he can muster is scrambled eggs. $10 [Amazon]
Like many things, measuring cups and spoons are better in stainless steel because they'll last longer. We're really hammering home the basics in this here gift guide again, but for good reason! Once your young Gordon Ramsay really gets into haute cuisine, he or she will need multiple measuring tools. $9 [Amazon]
The garlic press is the dark horse of cooks' tools, but it is absolutely necessary. No one wants that lingering smell of garlic hanging onto their hands for four days. A garlic press will do the dirty work for you. How thoughtful! $20 [Williams-Sonoma]
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Every good cook started out with a good guide. New York Times food guru Mark Bittman is as good as any, and his bible to navigating one's culinary journey should have a place in every kitchen. $20 [Amazon]
Every kitchen needs one really good piece of cookware you can use for pretty much anything. Le Creuset's dutch ovens are exactly that, and they'll last until you're dead. Seriously! Ask your mother—chances are, she's using one she either got as a wedding present forty years ago, or she has a piece of Le Creuset her mother used to have in her kitchen. It's basically a family heirloom-quality gift. $250 [Amazon]
This is another one of those things that hasn't changed much over the years, but you'll find in every well-oiled kitchen around. It's indispensable for any baking project or anything that involves dough or making cream stand up on its own, and it gets more technical from there. There are about three dozen attachments you can pop on the KitchenAid, so you can do everything from making pasta to food processing, and so much. You can even make ice cream. I must note that this is a selfish addition because this is one thing I don't have in my kitchen that I would love to have. And it will last for decades! $300 [Amazon]
Now we're getting a little more specific, but we're still in the realm of basic stuff you need to get by. The microplane will zest and grate to your heart's content. It's a great stocking stuffer and one of those things the person you have in mind might not realize they even need. $13 [Amazon]
There's a solid chance you've just been using something else to make food that's better served by a cast iron skillet. Biscuits? Yep. Bacon? Most definitely. Breakfast and life are better with a piece of cast iron cookware. $23 [Amazon]
So maybe the person you're buying for has a lot of the items I've listed above. Maybe last year was the year they started out on their kitchen vision quest, and this year, they're just a little more adept as a chef. A digital scale is a good next step for someone who's gone further down the food rabbit hole. $13 [Amazon]
It's funny because the apron makes you look like a big fat Santa. C'mon, you have to embrace the holidays and the fun behind it. Go with a silly apron, because nothing should ever be too serious. Especially not a holiday centered around a fat man weaseling his way down your chimney to gorge himself on cookies. $13 [Amazon]