Best Gifts for Graduates 2023

Teenagers and young adults are notoriously hard to shop for. This gift guide will help you find the perfect gift for those who are culinarily-oriented.

Published June 2, 2023.

Graduation season is in full swing. Whether the graduate in your circle is moving into their first apartment or en route to college, something for their kitchen can make an exciting gift that’s also practical. 

If you know someone who loves cooking, this guide will help you find the perfect present to mark their new beginnings.

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For the Grad Who's Starting a New Kitchen

Our favorite carbon-steel skillet: the Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Frying Pan

If treated correctly, this carbon-steel pan will last a long time—well beyond their first apartment. From searing steaks to sautéing onions to frying eggs, a carbon-steel pan can do wonders to a person's daily meals. Favored by restaurant chefs, carbon-steel cookware recently also got the attention of home chefs, as these pans are great at browning foods as well as keeping delicate ingredients from sticking. 

The carbon-steel alloy contains 99 percent iron, which makes it incredibly durable but still relatively lightweight compared to some other materials. For those who don’t have the time to fuss with seasoning their new cookware, carbon steel’s smooth surface makes it easy to achieve the nonstick patina of polymerized oil during seasoning. 

For the Impromptu Picnic Goer

Our favorite picnic backpack: the Sunflora Picnic Backpack For 4

There are many reasons to sit outside while enjoying a delightful bite of snacks and sipping refreshing beverages. This picnic backpack is ideal for those who don't want to carry a bulky old-fashioned basket on the subway or bus. 

But don't be fooled by its compact design; it's spacious, packing four sets of silverware, napkins, plastic plates, and plastic wine glasses. After all that, it still has room for sandwiches and drinks in its insulated compartments. In our review, we especially loved that it comes with its own picnic blanket!

For the Coffee Aficionado

Our favorite pour-over coffee maker: Hario V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper 02

For those who are coming out of their dining hall–coffee era, a pour-over coffee maker is easy to use and lets you customize the coffee. These devices are also perfect for small apartments: They won't take up much space and can be put away if needed, unlike a bulky drip coffee maker.

We liked the cone-shaped Hario V60, as it consistently helped us make full-bodied cups of coffee. It was also a breeze to clean and maintain.

Meals Made Your Way

Cooking for One

Is your grad getting used to solo living? With 168 perfectly portioned, flexible, and customizable recipes, this cookbook will help them indulge in the delight of dining alone.

For the Grad Who Only Needs One Pan

A stellar cast-iron skillet: Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet

People swear by their cast-iron cookware—for a good reason. Cast-iron pans are sturdy and forgiving and can give foods a nice sear and smoky flavors. When treated correctly, it’s cookware that’ll last a long time and bring out many memorable meals. This is why a cast-iron skillet makes a great graduation gift. If you’re feeling generous, throw in an on-theme cookbook to get them inspired.

Is your grad a newbie to cast-iron cooking? Never fear—we have a full guide to help them learn how to season, maintain, and take care of their skillets so they'll last a long time. 

For the Hands-Off Cook

Our favorite multicooker: Instant Pot Pro

For any budding home cooks, a multicooker is a great entry point to a vast range of recipes. It normally has a number of functions, which include braising, slow cooking, pressure cooking, and sometimes even air frying. A good multicooker, like our favorite Instant Pot Pro, offers a hands-off cooking experience and won’t heat up your kitchen. 

We liked the Instant Pot Pro because it was quite the kitchen workhorse that made delicious meals at a touch of the button. If the grad on your list wishes for a gadget that does the majority of the work for them, a multicooker is the way to go.

For the Grad Who Loves Frying Without the Grease

Our favorite air fryer: Instant Vortex Plus 6-Qt Air Fryer

It goes without saying how popular air fryers are these days. And I'm convinced that these appliances are especially popular among 20-somethings, as my sister-in-law swears by hers. A good air fryer not only speeds up the cooking process for most foods, but it's easy to use for those who don't want the fuss.

And air fryers are good for so much more than just late-night food. Sure, they make excellent french fries, but you can also use them for toasting nuts and spices, making steaks, baking just a few cookies, and so much more.


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For the Novice Chef

A subscription to our Online Cooking School

If the graduate in your life enjoys cooking and wants to learn more, why not give them a cooking-school subscription? Featuring more than 320 courses that’ll cover most culinary skills, ATK cooking school is designed and hosted by the same test cooks who developed our fabulous recipes over the years. 

And why not go all out and get them the cookbook New Cooking School: Fundamentals? It's the perfect companion to the online subscription and will help them learn new techniques and recipes no matter what stage they're at in their culinary journey. They'll be able to ensure the success of each recipe with helpful highlights and step photos as well as troubleshooting checklists.

For the One Who Packs Lunch

Our favorite bento-style lunchbox: Monbento MB Square, Litchi

Get your favorite grad a bento-style lunch box so that they can skip the lunch rush at their new job. Our favorite model offers ample space to hold a large amount of food and is leakproof. It’s microwave-safe and easy to clean, which is great for those who are always in a rush. 

It also has the advantage of a compartmentalized design, which means you can organize your dishes so that they keep separated during transportation. Its two 4-cup compartments could also be used together or individually, giving you a versatile lunchbox that could accommodate all appetites. 

For the Neatnik Who's Moving Into A New Pad

Our favorite handheld cordless vacuum: Black + Decker 20V MAX Cordless Pivot Vac

A handheld cordless vacuum has many advantages over the bulky, traditional canister or upright versions. For one, it's great for tackling small to moderate messes and getting into hard-to-access areas. It can clean so many things from car seats to couches. And the storage of a handheld vacuum won't cause a headache: It's so compact that it won't take up much precious closet space!

Perfect for pet owners, our favorite handheld vacuum excelled at getting rid of dog hair from sofas and car floors. It's easy to maneuver, and its nozzle pivots more than 200 degrees, making especially hard-to-reach areas easier to clean.

For the Backpacking Enthusiast

Our favorite backpacking cookware set: GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset

A dedicated camping cookware set is essential to the success of any hiking trip with a backpack. If the grad on your list often posts their outdoor adventures, a camping cookware set should be on your shopping radar. As an experienced hiker would tell you, the best cookware set on the trail should be versatile, compact, and lightweight.

Our favorite set covers all three bases and has a little more to offer: nonstick coating that makes cooking and cleaning a lot easier and stability when positioned on a camping stove. Needless to say, this cookware set will put a smile on any outdoorsy person's face. (Feeling generous? Throw in some backpacking meals while you're at it.)

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