How you would answer this question depends on a few factors. How much money do you have to spend? Will you be involved in your recipient's life and can therefore include some hands-on teaching as a part of the gift? Are they really interested in cooking, or will the kitchen only be used occasionally?
Here are six ideas that cover the spectrum of cost, involvement and interest.
1. Go for the Very Basic.
I would say the most essential tool in my kitchen is a cast iron skillet. You really can't go wrong here as a good, well-seasoned pan will go from stove top to oven with no problem. You can do just about anything with a cast iron skillet. Get the highest quality you can, and include a wooden or silicone spoon. And a good hot pad. If you have some cash left over, add a good chef's knife. (You don't have to spend a lot!)
2. Go for Practical.
The Kitchn just posted a fantastic roundup of Essential Kitchen Basics. Go take a look and choose from there. I would definitely pick measuring cups and spoons, a set of bowls and a good chef's knife. A few nice kitchen towels are handy as they can work as a towel to drain and dry dishes, or folded into a hot pad or a trivet, or used as a strainer. And I use my microplane all the time and for more than zesting lemons: grating ginger, pureeing garlic, grating nutmeg.
3. Go for Quality.
I learned early in my cooking career that it is better to buy the highest quality I could afford than clutter up my kitchen and the planet with junk that will just need replacing in a few years. I still have the Le Creuset dutch oven and the All-Clad 12-inch frying pan from my first kitchen and I take good care of them so they will be with me for the rest of my life which, hopefully, will be a long, long time.
So one idea to build a quality batterie de cuisine by gifting it piece by piece over a period of time, starting with the basics like a good dutch oven or frying pan and getting a little more specialized as time goes on and many of the basics have been covered.
4. Go for Inspiration.
Sometimes inspiration can get a new cook further than a bunch of tools and gadgets. Give a certificate to basic cooking class (maybe attached to the above-mentioned frying pan) or a favorite cookbook that helped get you started in the kitchen, with your favorite recipes marked. Several pots of fresh herbs are inspiring, or a selection of your favorite dried herbs.
5. Go for Flavor.
Pack up a box with your favorite oils, vinegar, herbs and spices. Write up a card explaining why you like them and how you like to use them. Go for the basics but add a few interesting thing that will encourage the recipient to stretch and learn (za'tar, for instance, or smoked paprika.)
6. Go for Raw Ingredients.
A cook's most important tool are raw ingredients and knowing how to work with the basics is important. Give a CSA subscription or offer to take them to the farmers' market once a month to help them to learn how to shop for good food. Or come over with a bag of groceries and show them how to prep them up for a week's worth of eating, ala Tamar Adler.
What would you give as a kitchen-warming gift to a new cook?
It's Reader Request Week at The Kitchn! This post was requested by BX.
(Image: Emily Ho)