Gifts for people who are learning how to cook

Every chef has to start somewhere.

If you’ve started learning how to cook, it can be hard to venture far from just boiling pasta every night and dousing it with sauce. And while that’s totally delicious, getting creative with your dishes is never a bad thing. After all, with more time in lockdown this winter, perfecting a delicious winter roast or batch of holiday cookies isn’t such a terrible use of those chilly, cozy evenings. Here are the perfect gifts for every amateur chef’s kitchen.

A versatile cooking vessel

Our Place Always Pan ($145)

Everything you need. Our Place

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Stocking a kitchen with the right tools can be stressful. For starters, how many pots and pans does one person really need, and how do you pick them? Luckily, Our Place has just the thing for a cook just starting their culinary exploration. The Always Pan can replace eight different pieces of equipment in one adorably colorful product. You can boil, saute, and steam to your heart’s content without having to curate an entire restaurant’s worth of cookware.

Some sharp starter knives

Oster Lindbergh 14 Piece Stainless Steel Cutlery Set Black Block ($24.99)

Slice through any obstacle. Amazon

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To cook well, you need to prep your ingredients well. Chopping veggies and slicing bread with that same knife that you use to eat with simply isn’t going to cut it (sorry). This Oster set comes with all the basic necessities, from paring to carving knives, so you can slice and dice your way to culinary mastery.

A sleek work surface

Farberware bamboo cutting boards ($8.99)

Protect those countertops! Amazon

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One way to make sure that your new hobby gets under the skin of your roommates and family members is by using your nice new knives right on the countertop. (And for what it’s worth, that’s not just bad for the counter—it’ll wreck your knives, too.) Avoid the angst by snagging a few chopping boards, like these Farberware antimicrobial and eco-friendly bamboo slabs. Having more than one is key if you’re planning on cooking meat, since you wouldn’t want raw chicken coming in contact with the fresh fruit or vegetables you’re planning to snack on while you wait for dinner.

High-quality baking sheets

Wildone stainless steel baking sheet ($27.79)

Three sheets to the wind. Ama

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One of the holy-grail dishes of the starter cook is the sheet-pan dinner. Throw all your ingredients right on the pan and pop it in the oven, and voila, you’ve got a tasty, flavorful dish. Snag a couple of rimmed sheet pans to keep those precious ingredients from tumbling out into your oven while they roast.

A full spectrum of measuring spoons and cups

Prepworks by Progressive Ultimate 19-Piece Measuring Cups & Spoon Set ($7.49)

Cups of cheer. Amazon

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If you’ve been cooking for a while, you may be able to just intuitively scoop out a teaspoon of salt or sugar. But, since we’re just getting started, it’s probably in your best interest to be precise. This set of measuring spoons and cups covers just about any measurement you’re likely to find in a new recipe, and comes in fun colors. Just make sure that when you’re baking brownies, you’re measuring out sugar and not salt.

Dishes for baking and storing

OXO Good Grips Freezer-to-Oven Safe Baking Dish ($15.99)

Anyone up for a hot dish? Amazon

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Casseroles are an easy answer to any meal. Not only are they super delicious when eaten fresh and hot, but they are also perfect for freezing for later. If meal-prepping is on your mind, a casserole or baking dish that can go straight from the oven to the freezer is going to be your best friend to keep hearty suppers ready for reheating at a moment’s notice.

A set it and forget it appliance

Crock Pot 2-1/2-Quart Slow Cooker ($24.99)

Low and slow is the way to go. Amazon

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For stews, yummy dips, or even massive fluffy pancakes, a slow cooker is often the way to go. Just pop in some ingredients and, like magic, the dish literally cooks itself while you’re off doing other things. If the large sizes of typical slow cookers are intimidating for you, or if you’re mostly cooking for just one or two people, these mini cookers are a fabulous start so you don’t end up eating the same soup forever. And how can you resist those polka dots?

Sauces to spice things up

Haven’s Kitchen Sampler Sampler 6-Pack ($69)

A little saucy. Haven’s Kitchen

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Still getting the hang of making your own sauce? Don’t worry, you can still sample out the pre-made ones, like these fabulous Haven’s Kitchen sauces from all of your favorite foodie locations across the globe. One little package will dress up five home-cooked meals, so you can count on a month of flavor with just one round of saucy packets.

A cookbook to guide your journey

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking ($20.98)

Now it’s time to start becoming a master chef. Amazon

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Anyone can print out a recipe and follow it, but cookbooks aren’t obsolete: a good one will teach you how to be creative in the kitchen. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat does just that—it teaches you how to cook, the science of what makes food taste good, and how to gain your own flavor sensibilities and confidence in the kitchen. Don’t worry: there are also 100 key recipes to follow, so you’ll have some training wheels before taking what you’ve learned and running with it.

Sara Kiley Watson

Sara Kiley WatsonSara Kiley Watson is an assistant editor at PopSci. Her work has also been featured in NPR and Business Insider. Contact the author here.