Graduation Gift Ideas for the Kitchen

It’s graduation season! If you’re looking for the right gift for the college grad in your life, something to help them stock their kitchen might be just the thing. 

When young adults are just starting out, it can be hard for them to justify spending money on quality items for the kitchen when that money could be better spent on, well, food or bills. Graduation is a great time to help them out with some of the grown-up must-haves. Here are some ideas to help you determine what sorts of kitchen gifts would be welcome in their first kitchen.

Cookware

Cookware is one of the last things young adults want to buy, and many end up with hand-me-downs or cheap sets. This is usually fine for getting them by, but the gift of a nice set can be a great idea, especially if the grad enjoys cooking or is trying to build up their home with stuff that will last a long time.

You can find our full list of the best cookware here, but here are our top picks for grads:

The Cuisinart Multiclad 12-Piece Stainless Set is affordable given the quality, and it’s absolutely a set that will last the recipient for years to come. 

A good nonstick frying pan can go a long way in the kitchen, and we’re big fans of the All-Clad Hard Anodized Nonstick Frying Pan. The 12″ might be overkill for a single adult, so this set of two (an 8″ and a 10″) might be a better choice.

Grads who love to cook might love to start collecting some cast iron, so either a cast iron skillet (like this popular — an inexpensive — one from Lodge) or an enameled cast iron dutch oven would both make thoughtful gifts.

blue lodge dutch oven with baked bread
Dutch oven bread is simple and delicious

Small Appliances

There’s just so much you have to buy for your first place, and it’s easy to forget the most important things (like a coffee pot or a toaster), and it also adds up quickly to a pretty big bill even when you keep it cheap. Help your grad out by giving the gift of a small appliance that will give them big results. Here are a few possible essentials:

Is the graduate in your life a coffee drinker? A quality coffee maker, like our top pick from Cuisinart, is a great gift any coffee lover will appreciate.

Other important appliances include:

The Instant Pot is a super popular small appliance that could actually be a wonderful gift for a college grad who is acclimating to the “real world.” Working 9-5 can be hard to get used to after college, so an appliance that simplifies cooking can help them have an easier time after work. (Learn more about it here: All About the Instant Pot)

Meal Kits

One of the biggest kitchen crazes of the past few years is the meal delivery kit. These services provide everything you need to create delicious meals, plus they come with easy-to-follow instructions. Our favorite is Blue Apron, which has an excellent selection of yummy meals that are simple to create. (Read a full review here).

The benefit of gifting a meal kit is that the recipient can choose meals they want to try, learn how to make those meals, and have all the ingredients arrive right at their doorstep.

 Consider a gift card to one of the services so the grad can figure out the best time to start it (the deliveries include several days’ worth of meals, so it’s good to plan it for a week when they’ll be home to cook). 

Other services we’ve tried and liked: Hello Fresh, Plated, and Home Chef.

Spice Rack

Stocking up on spices is time-consuming and costly, so a spice set is an easy way to get started with basics. Long-time cooks will tell you that it’s better to buy spices individually in order to get the freshest jars, but that’s something your grad can learn down the road.

Help them get stocked right away with a set that includes all the key players (like garlic, basil, and the like) and that comes in a stylish rack — this McCormick set comes in a nice wooden rack, or there are spinning racks, like the one above with 16 herbs and spices.

Knives

Knives are another one of those kitchen must-haves that can be expensive to buy. That’s why so many young adults end up with cheap sets that make it difficult to prep with — they get dull quickly, are hard to handle, or tend to rust. For the grad who loves to cook, a nice knife set or single chef’s knife can feel like a real treat.

We have found our favorite knife sets for every budget, so you can definitely find something great that works for your price range. For example, you can purchase a J.A. Henckels International set for under $75. It’s highly rated and will last for years to come.

Another option would be that single chef’s knife — which, again, can be found at practically any price-point. An inexpensive option is the bestselling Victorinox 8″ Chef’s Knife, which is under $30. And, if you have a bit more to spend, the Mac Knife 8″ is an excellent choice (Epicurious magazine called it the best for your money).

Dishes

Dishes — from plates and sets to glasses and mugs — tend to be one of the last things a college grad wants to invest in, so many end up with hand-me-downs or mismatched dishes. And typically, that’s fine. However, it can be a nice gesture to help them out by picking up a matching set that has everything they need, and makes them feel more like a grown up.

A dish set doesn’t have to be fancy — the Amazon Basics white set is practical and durable, yet nice enough for company. It has service for 6 and includes dinner plates, dessert plates, and bowls.

Or, get the graduate a nice set of wine glasses (we recommend stemless to last longer!) but don’t forget to include a bottle of wine.

Other Essentials

There are, of course, a ton of other items that they’ll need to complete their first kitchen, so if you wanted to do some different essentials beyond what we’ve listed here, we have a few other ideas:

Gift Cards

Don’t discount the value of a gift card, especially if it’s tailored specifically for the kitchen (or home). You could give an Amazon gift card with the designation that it’s meant for house and kitchen wares, or you could pick one up at a kitchen store like Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma — just keep in mind that those places can be a bit spendy.

 

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