Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Seven Kitchen Gifts for Newlyweds & New Grads

It's that time of year again when most of us will be inundated with invitations to attend graduation and wedding ceremonies - and of course that means that, in addition to helping our family members and friends celebrate their "big days", we need to come up with some thoughtful gifts, too!

I happen to believe that one of the best things you can do for a young adult is to encourage them to spend more time in the kitchen. Food skills are more valuable than ever in these uncertain economic times, and the earlier in life a person gets into the habit of cooking their meals from scratch, the better. Knowing how to get the most value for your dollar when food shopping, and how to cook simple meals from scratch using minimally-processed foods, means you'll always be able to eat well, even when your budget is tight.

So, if you're helping a young person celebrate their graduation or wedding this month, why not give them a gift that will make cooking easier and more enjoyable?

Here are some kitchen-related gifts that would be perfect for anyone just starting out on their own:

1. An assortment of kitchen utensils. 
Two of the most-used items in my kitchen are my wire whisk and my silicone spatulas. I usually reach for these several times a day. Surprisingly, I've found that you can get decent quality silicone spatulas at the dollar store - mine have performed at least as well as the much-more-expensive one I bought years ago at a fancy kitchen store. Wooden cooking utensils, which can safely be used in nonstick pans, make an elegant and eco-friendly addition to this type of gift (if you know someone in your area who does wood carving, you can  support a local business while you're at it!) If you're a knitter, you can add some knitted dishclothes to the mix for a personal touch.

2. A basic, all-purpose cookbook.
While it's fun to have a wide variety of cookbooks, the ones I've turned to again and again over the years are those tried-and-true tomes that have recipes for all the basics, from cakes to salads to soups to yeast breads, plus instructions on how to perform a wide variety of cooking-related tasks (like how to boil an egg, cook dried beans, or cut up a whole chicken). My personal favourite in this category is The Fannie Farmer Cookbook(of course I love it even more because I scored my hardcover edition for 50 cents at a yard sale). Other good choices are The Joy of Cooking,The Betty Crocker Cookbook: 1500 Recipes for the Way You Cook Today, and Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book . Of course, I'd also highly recommend my book, Cheap Appetit for any young adult who wants to increase their food skills and decrease their food budget!

[Disclaimer: Yes, those are Amazon affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you purchase a book after clicking through any of them.]

3. A good quality set of knives
If your budget will accommodate a larger gift purchase, I think a good quality set of knives is one of the best gifts you could give a young person or couple just starting out. If my husband hadn't sold knives as a part time job during his college years, I might never have been turned on to just how big of a difference quality knives can make in your life. They make so many kitchen tasks quicker and easier and a good set can last a lifetime! I LOVE my Cutco knives, which have a lifetime guarantee. We actually had to take them up on it a couple years ago, and it was hassle-free getting our broken knife replaced. It was about 17 years old at that time, and a new one was promptly dispatched to us. The top three knives I'd recommend are a chef's knife, a paring knife and a mid-sized serrated knife. With this combination, you can perform a wide variety of kitchen tasks.

4. A set of good quality saucepans
The saucepans I received as a wedding gift are still going strong after nearly 17 years of daily use. Look for sturdy pots with heavy bottoms and firmly-attached handles. A set that includes a small, medium and large saucepan will meet most basic cooking needs.

5. A stockpot
Again, the important thing here is to find a good quality one that will stand up to years of use. A good place to find really rugged stockpots at great prices is a restaurant supply store. Here in Hamilton, Chris's Store Fixtures has been, well a fixture for the two decades I've lived here (in fact, you could probably find most of the items on this list at a restaurant supply store for great prices). A good stockpot is not only handy for making stock, it's perfect for canning as well (especially if you're making a big batch of salsa or pickles!)

6. A cast iron pan
I'm a fairly recent convert to cast iron, but since I bought a cast iron pan at a yard sale last summer, I've fallen in love with it. This is another piece that sees almost daily use in my kitchen. Make sure to include some instructions on how to properly care for and season a cast iron pan as many people aren't familiar with cast iron cookware.

7. Pyrex bakeware
Yet another item that should last for decades, Pyrex bakeware is another hard working staple of my busy kitchen. I think every cook should have 8 x 8", 9 x 13" and 11 x 7" pans, as well as one or more 8 1/2"x 4 1/2" loaf pans.

While there are much fancier and flashier kitchen-related gifts that you could give, these are the items I think are most useful to someone just starting out, that will stand the test of time in even the busiest kitchens. Unless they are specifically requested by the recipient, I don't recommend buying bulky kitchen appliances like bread makers or rice cookers - they take up a lot of storage space and may rarely or never be used (I've survived decades of cooking without either!)

What are your favourite kitchen-themed gifts to give to young adults?

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  1. As a wedding or shower gift, I, too, like to give kitchen items. Favorites that I give are old time times that may encourage the cook to branch out. I like to give a rolling pin, pyrex pie plate, apron and angel food cake pan. These are wonderful untensils to make wonderful, almost lost art food.

  2. Those are great ideas, Linda! You could even put together a "pie-making kit" with the pie plate, rolling pin and apron plus some of your favourite pie recipes.

    I do think it helps to know how much cooking experience your gift recipient has - if they are very inexperienced, the idea of making a pie might totally freak them out, and more basic equipment and recipes would be a better choice. If you know they are comfortable with basic cooking, I love your idea of helping them to "branch out" :)

  3. My go to present for weddings has been a towel set (at least one of each on their register depending on price) so I can you my corny bathe or shower in happiness lines in the card. But I think these are great, especially bundling with my favorite recipes.

    1. Ha, that's a good one :) It's nice to have some sort of "standard" gift to give so you don't have to agonize over it too much. I love the kitchen theme b/c it's pretty easy to personalize based on the particular couples tastes and needs.


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