Graduation Gift Ideas for the Kitchen

It's graduation season. That means thousands of young people are headed out into the world, getting new apartments, settling into new routines . . . and reaching for the takeout menus.

But it doesn't have to be that way. We're going to a friend's graduation this weekend, and so we've been shopping for a good gift, and pulling together a few suggestions for you all as well. These aren't necessarily the same as the items on our stocking a new kitchen list. These are things that someone who barely cooks will find useful, and thus will be encouraged to use his or her kitchen more.

Graduation Gift Ideas for Beginning Cooks and Non-Cooks

A blender Yes, it will probably be used for making smoothies and frozen cocktails at first. But include a few recipes for basic pureed soups and sauces, and they might just start experimenting.
Best Product: Waring Pro Blender
Good Product: Immersion Blender with Whisk
A basic spice set For the first four months of living on my own, everything was seasoned with either garlic, onion powder, chili powder, or cinnamon. Why? Those were the spices the dollar store sold, and I was too broke to afford anything else. For this gift, just put together a good basic collection of spices, including oregano, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, tarragon, or even some spice blends.
Storage for Spices
Smart Spice: TSP Spices
A decent knife We've talked before about the value of a good knife, and how having one can exponentially increase your joy in the kitchen. For a graduation gift, give them a decent quality knife, and enclose a letter with your tips on the care and use.
Good Product: Victorinox 8-Inch Chef's Knife
What Is the Best Chef's Knife?
A good skillet and/or a good saucepan If you've ever experienced the frustration of trying to make something in a flimsy pot, and watching it burn so easily, then take pity on your graduate. Get them a heavy frying pan or saucepan that will distribute the heat.
All-Clad's New French Skillets
Bigger is Better: The 14-inch Pan
A sheet pan and a mixing bowl One of the first things people learn to make in a kitchen are cookies. So encourage them to get cooking by giving a sheet pan, which can be used for cookies and other dishes as well, a mixing bowl, and your favorite cookie recipe.
Five Essential Baking Tools: Pans
Five Essential Baking Tools: Prep
A toaster oven Somehow a toaster oven is less intimidating than the big one. And again, it's a gateway drug appliance. If they start making toast, maybe one day they'll make their own bread.
LG Combination Microwave Toaster and Oven
Toaster and Toaster Oven from Avanti
The Joy of Cooking This classic is still one of our go-to books, and it's great for a brand new cook. Whether they're wondering how to boil an egg, or how to make a hamburger, Joy of Cooking will have the answer.
• Buy Joy of Cooking, $23.10 at Amazon
• Another great option for a new grad: How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman, The Minimalist. $14.93 at Amazon.

Graduation Gift Ideas for More Experienced Cooks

And for those graduates with more kitchen skills, who are thrilled to have their own kitchens, here are a few additional ideas:

A stand mixer Even people who don't cook that much have learned to idolize the colorful KitchenAid stand mixer.

Coming Soon: 90th Anniversary KitchenAid Stand Mixer
Survey: What Kind of Stand Mixer Do You Have?
A Microplane We can't imagine our kitchen without one or two. And, since most post-college kitchens are small, they take up less space than a box grater.
Microplane: New Colors
Good Product: OXO's Good Grips Zester
A large wooden cutting board It's just nice to be able to spread out when you're chopping, and not resort to something flimsy and plastic.
Space Maker: Corner Cutting Board by Peter Meier
Bamboo Cutting Boards and More From Tru Bamboo
A pretty set of dishes Help them show off their cooking successes on new plates and bowls, rather than grandma's hand-me-downs.
Dessert Inspiration: Porcelain Forest Branch Bowl
French Table Treasures from The Blissful
New Tabletop from CB2
What would you give to a new graduate?

Related Gift Guides

Gifts for Good Causes
Best Last Minute Online Gifts for Cooks
Gifts of Kitchen Love and Service
Post-Holiday Gift Guide: Vintage Serving Dishes

Images: All from Amazon.com: KitchenAid Mixer, Magnetic Spice Rack, Toaster/Convection Oven, Joy of Cooking

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