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16 great food gifts for grads

More than a dozen gift ideas to ease the transition from cafeteria to kitchen.

Looking for a great gift for a grad? Look no further than the kitchen because, hey, everyone's gotta eat and that's especially true for a twentysomething with a dwindling bank account. Plus, after four years of dining hall marathons, mini-fridges and questionable late-night (early morning?) pizza runs, it's time for all those college graduates to transition to more adult kitchen and cooking practices. You may not have the heart to explain what will eventually happen to that metabolism of theirs, but you can certainly nudge them in the right direction with a great food or cooking gift that'll set 'em up for post-college kitchen success. 

Since your grad doesn't likely have an excess of cash on hand at the moment, and they even may be stocking an entire kitchen for the first time, you can't go wrong with anything you see as vital to your own home. From cookware to kitchen gear and gadgets, serverware, barware, bakeware and more, there are endless useful gifts for grads that will last far longer than a Venmo dump or wad of bills. But just in case you're drawing a blank, here are 16 great gift ideas for every type of food-loving graduate. 

Read more: The best meal kit sign-up offers in 2021: Meals as low as $2 per serving

Sunbasket

One harsh reality that accompanies graduation is that food doesn't magically appear any more. Whether your grad has been back home enjoying meals prepared by Mom and Dad or leaning on the campus cafeteria for sustenance, one thing is clear: It's high time they learn to cook. 

One of the easiest ways to help that process along is with a subscription to one of the many great meal kit services in 2021. Sunbasket is my favorite overall meal kit of the 10 or so I've tried. It has loads of interesting recipes that aren't terribly complicated -- even for a beginner. It also offers budget-friendly meal kits, meal kits aimed at healthy eating and even a slew of fully prepared meal delivery services for the truly kitchen-phobic.

Sunbasket allows you to send a gift in any amount for your grad to use on making healthy meal kits, instead of on a bar bill. Sorry, champ!

Goldbelly

This gift is one part "wink wink, nudge nudge" and one part absolutely delicious. I'm not sure if college kids are still eating that salty, bland Top Ramen stuff anymore but, if they are, now is as good a time as any to graduate to "real" ramen. While making the good stuff from scratch can be time-consuming, you can send them a mostly prepped yuzu shio ramen kit for three from Portland hot spot Afuri from wherever you are. Adulthood isn't looking -- or tasting -- so bad after all.

Beast Health

I've been using this shiny new blender system from the founder of Nutribullet for a few months now and I've got to say, I'm sold on the aptly named Beast. It's a personal blender but feels more grown then it's category counterparts. Beast has plenty of power to crush ice for smoothies -- the most important test I have for a small bender -- but it's small enough to slide in seamlessly with the rest of the countertop inhabitants. Plus, it looks and feels pretty slick, just like a good gift should. 

Read my full review of the Beast blender and pick one up for a graduate you know. 

MistoBox

If they've already got the burr grinder, chemex, aeropress or the Hario pour-over set, give them a gift that will help power your grad through their first few months of adult life: a six-month coffee subscription. These beans are curated to surprise and delight even the snootiest of coffee snobs, sourced from some of the best craft roasters (who in turn source from the best growers) around the world.

Momofuku

If you want to support a restaurateur and saddle a grad with some seriously special pantry staples, this Momofuku starter set is the gift to give. Bring some Momofuku flair to their new kitchen with David Chang's signature spicy seasoned saltssoy saucetamari and the viral chili crunch

Fresh n' Lean

If the person you're buying for isn't getting much of a break -- they're busy heading to grad school, starting a busy new job or the like -- they might not have time to cook at all. In that case, a subscription for a prepared meal delivery service might be your best bet. I tested more than 10 of the most popular services and Fresh n' Lean was my favorite. Yes, the food is healthy but it's also delicious and tastes fresh. You can pop the meals right into a freezer too and defrost one whenever you're in need of an easy lunch or dinners with tasty recipes including braised beef with coconut-cilantro sauce or tender chili-lime tofu with veggies. 

Read my full review of Fresh n' Lean here. Plans start as low as $8 a meal and there are keto, vegan and paleo meals to choose from for those keeping to a special diet. 

Read more: Best prepared meal delivery for 2021

Taylor Martin/CNET

Every serious cook needs a cast iron companion. This handy and affordable set comes with a frying pan for searing steaks or making the perfect grilled cheese and a Dutch oven for making soups, stews and braising meats. You may want to include a warning to take good care of the seasoning... or hide it from roommates.

Made In

I've got in the habit of snooping in all my family members' kitchen drawers or knife blocks to see if they've got one good chef's knife. If they don't, I'll set them up with one on the next gifting holiday, and it's always a big win. For whatever reason, it's one of those things people don't pay much attention to or cheap out on. They shouldn't!

You can spend fortune on a knife but you don't have to to get a good blade. Made In's 8-inch chef knife is fully-forged with a full tang -- the two things you really want in a knife for strength and balance. It also feels wonderful to hold and it's a reasonable $89 with free shipping.

World Marker

Nothing says "I'm an adult" quite like a nice cutting board, but instead of something utilitarian, opt for an extra-pretty option like this one. It's made in India from natural mango wood and it absolutely doubles as a cheese board. Throw in some cheese knives and a gift card to Murray's to really make it pop.

MasterClass

With the food hall now a distant memory, it's time for these ex-college kids to learn how to cook for themselves. MasterClass offers dozens upon dozens of in-depth online tutorials on just about anything you could think of, and there are cooking classes aplenty. 

Icons such as Thomas Keller and Alice Waters teach invaluable kitchen skills or go in-depth on Mexican cuisine with Gabriela Cámara, Texas barbecue with Aaron Franklin or learn to make a perfect martini -- they don't teach that in college -- with MasterClass' sweeping cocktail lesson.

A MasterClass subscription ain't exactly cheap -- $192 for an annual membership with no monthly option -- but with more than 100 classes taught by legitimate luminaries in fields from fiction writing to poker, there's something here for every graduate. 

Staub

If you want to give your grad something special that they'll cherish forever, go for a timeless classic: the Staub Dutch oven or "cocotte." This handsome pot will last a literal lifetime if you treat it right, and the grad you give it to will think of you every time they make something cozy and comforting. 

File this gift under things you'd probably never keep in a dorm room. Whether they're making it for themselves or for their first dinner party in their new apartment, what could feel more grown-up than making pasta from scratch?

Cocktail Kingdom

This kit from bar industry favorite Cocktail Kingdom has everything your grad needs to jumpstart their bar cart -- except, you know, the bottles. Throw in all of the ingredients for a top shelf martini or Manhattan and you'll win the gift-giver of the year award. Slide a nice bottle of a mixable spirit, aperitif or bitters and you're in business. The bar business. 

Food52

This pair of extra-long rolling pins is a game-changer for perfect pies, tarts, pizzas, cookies... really anything that asks to be rolled out to a certain thickness. The cleverness of the design is sure to be appreciated by any recipient who loves to bake, but especially the meticulous type.

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Consider this your opportunity to impart a little knowledge, along with the message of congratulations, in the form of one of your favorite cookbooks. Can't decide on a title? Choose from Chowhound's list of the best cookbooks for beginners, or go with something totally classic like Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Bonus thoughtfulness points for bookmarking favorite recipes or including handwritten notes. 

Food52

Whether it's for Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, Food52 or whatever your favorite kitchen and cookware shop might be, a gift card in an amount big enough to fully cover a big-ish item is an invitation for your foodie grad to pick out something special that says, "I'm a grown-up now!" according to their own taste. That's actually better than cold hard cash, which (let's be honest) will probably be spent on takeout before it's spent on a Boos Block or French table linens. Plus, any one of these is great to send from afar if you won't be seeing your grad this spring.