Whether you're buying for someone who's building a real, adult kitchen for the first time (like your fresh-out-of-college cousin) or for someone whose well-worn kitchen tools are in need of a serious upgrade, the items on this list are essential to any kitchen.
That's our way of saying that you may want to buy a few of these things for yourself, as well. Happy holidays to you!
- Wusthof 8-Inch Chef's Knife, $99: There's a reason why Wusthof knives are coveted by professional chefs — they're truly the best. The classic German knife company creates perfectly balanced stainless steel knives that will stand the test of time. And though there are a million different types of knives to buy, a chef's knife is the most crucial.
- OXO Good Grips Cake Pan, $22: Crafted out of commercial-grade, heavy-gauge steel, this cake pan features a textured bottom which promotes air circulation, reducing the possibility of burning. And although it's made with cakes in mind, it can also pull double duty for casseroles.
- Umbra Sinkin Dish Rack, $20: Perfect for kitchens with limited counter space, this dish rack (available in mint, red, black, or white) is compact and cute.
- Le Creuset 7 1/4-Quart Dutch Oven, $370: No kitchen is complete without a Dutch oven, and serious cooks covet the Le Creuset Dutch oven, specifically. The legendary French company has become synonymous with Dutch ovens, so you know you're buying something good. The only thing you may be unsure of? Which color to get.
- John Boos Reversible Cutting Board, $58: Tour any professional kitchen, and you're bound to see Boos cutting boards in use. The solid maple cutting board is reversible (so you can switch between meat prep and vegetable prep without having to stop and clean), and way easier on knives than plastic cutting boards.
- Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set, $24: It's important to have a set of mixing bowls on hand, and this set is perfect. It offers three varying sizes that are dishwasher-, freezer-, and refrigerator-safe. Bonus: Each bowl comes with a lid, turning them into storage containers in a pinch.
- All-Clad Nonstick 9-Inch Skillet, $100: We suggest every kitchen gets stocked with a nine- and a 12-inch skillet. The smaller one becomes a great go-to for morning eggs, which is why we like this nonstick option. And because it's from All-Clad, you know it'll stand the test of time.
- Pyrex 3-Piece Measuring Cup Set, $21: Having multiple measuring cups on hand allows for the measuring of a few ingredients all at once. Plus, this way bakers can pick the best size (one, two, or four cups) for the job.
- Silpat Nonstick Baking Mat, $15: This baking mat turns any sheet pan into a nonstick pan, replacing the need for butter, grease, sprays, and even parchment paper. It also helps distribute heat evenly, which means you're less likely to find burnt cookies.
- GIR Silicone Spatula, $17: This is our all-time favorite spatula. It has a strong, flexible blade, making it easy to scrape every last bit of batter out of that bowl (and if that's not essential, we don't know what is). And it's all one piece, so it's extra easy to clean.
- Vremi 5-Piece Bamboo Spoon Set, $18: Wooden spoons are an old-school kitchen essential, and this set is updated to be even better. Crafted out of bamboo, the spoons won't crack or absorb odors like traditional wooden spoons, and the handles add a pop of color to the kitchen.
- OXO Good Grips Tongs, $13: A good pair of tongs — like these! — work as an extension of busy hands.
- Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Opener, $18: This can opener leaves behind smooth rims, so that no one has to worry about cutting themselves while trying to fish the lid out of the can.
- Breville Immersion Blender, $98: Fact: Soup-lovers need an immersion blender. This one is a staff favorite because it's extra efficient and has a non-scratch base, which means it can be used in nonstick or stainless steel pots.
- KitchenAid Hand Mixer, $32: Available in a rainbow of colors, this hand mixer is a great alternative if you can't afford to get someone an actual stand mixer. Trust us, no one will complain!
- Rubbermaid Brilliance Container Set, $13: Being able to efficiently store leftovers is key to any well-run kitchen, and this six-piece container set will help make that happen. The clear containers allow hungry cooks to see exactly what they have on hand and the airtight seals keep everything fresh. They're also microwave-safe, so they're perfect for reheating leftovers in a snap.
- Joseph Joseph Nesting Bowl Set, $40: This colorful nine-piece set includes two mixing bowls, a colander, a sieve, and five measuring cups. Best of all? They all nest together, storing compactly in the cupboard.
- AmazonBasics Kitchen Shears, $8: Not only do these shears come apart for easy cleaning, but they can also be used as knives in a pinch. Plus, there's a built-in bottle opener.
- Kai Wasabi Paring Knife, $20: When a chef's knife is too big for the job at hand (deveining shrimp, mincing a single clove of garlic, etc.) this four-inch paring knife can step in. It's ideal for smaller tasks like peeling and slicing.
- OXO Good Grips Whisk, $10: Having a good whisk on hand is essential for anyone who bakes frequently, but whisks are necessary for savory dishes, like fluffy scrambled eggs or smooth-as-silk polenta.
- Taylor Connoisseur Digital Folding Thermometer, $18: No matter how many times a person has made a steak, we always suggest using a digital thermometer to make sure it's really ready. This one provides an instant digital read-out on its LCD display, has an alarm setting, and even folds for easy storage.
- Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, $43: If your grandmother doesn't seem to be willing to part with her cast iron skillet any time soon, consider this 12-inch skillet for your brother or sister. It even comes with a removable silicone handle for easy grabbing.
- Vollrath Quarter-Sized Sheet Pan, $12: This is our editor's favorite sheet pan because it can really take the heat of the oven without warping.
- All-Clad 10-Inch Stainless Steel Fry Pan, $69: Everyone can use a high-quality frying pan. This stainless steel one from All-Clad can be popped right into the oven to finish off seared meat.
- Emile Henry Classic Pie Dish, $30: Its scalloped edges make it adorable, but this ceramic pie dish is more than just a pretty plate. Made by Emile Henry (which has been crafting high-quality cookware in France since 1850), it can withstand oven temperatures up to 520°F and retains heat well, so that warm apple pie will stay warmer, longer.
Note: All prices were accurate during the editing process, but may have fluctuated since then. If they have, hopefully the items are less expensive and not more expensive!