A KitchenAid stand mixer is a great investment, even if you don't bake. It has a variety of available attachments to cut down on the number of separate devices you have to buy, and can replace a food processor, juicer, meat grinder, pasta maker, ice cream maker and more.
There are a lot of options for the KitchenAid model, but they'll run anywhere between $300 and $1000. You can get cheaper brands, but make sure they're as high-quality as a KitchenAid (which should last a lifetime if cared for properly) and that they come with the attachments you'll want.
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Great knives are essential for a proper kitchen. But avoid the temptation to register for a set. A quality knife set is very expensive, reducing the likelihood you'll get it. You can get better (and more expensive per blade) knives if you register for them separately as needed. For example, this chef's knife from J.A. Henckles is rated well by Epicurious' Matt Duckor, but is a steal at $55. At a minimum, you need a chef's knife, paring knife, long serrated knife (aka bread knife), short serrated knife (for tomatoes and other waxy-surfaced fruits) and boning knife (two of whichever you're both likely to use at the same time). While you should also consider other knives if you think you need them, don't forget a quality honing steel for sharpening.
You should be looking for the most expensive as practical (based on the relative spending likelihood of your guest list) on each knife — a minimum of $50 each. You can buy a block or magnetic knife strip later if needed.
These generally come in nesting sets, and that's really what you want. I recommend getting two sets, especially if you like baking, but if you only want one set, stick with glass or stainless steel so it can also function as a double-boiler (either way, steer clear of cheap plastic, which will need to be replaced more quickly... high-quality plastic is OK if that's really what you want). Those that come with lids are nice, but not always necessary.
These are fairly inexpensive gifts, which is great, but don't cheap out either. Think $30 (for a set of three) and up.
Everyone needs a good-quality thermometer for meat and other cooking (if you like cooking candy, that's a separate thermometer, but if you like cooking candy, you already knew that). Normally, I'd just say to get a high-quality one, but the reality is, the Thermapen is superior.
I cannot stress enough how important tongs are. You need them for frying, for barbecuing, for easy grabbing when a spatula, spoon or fork just won't do. I recommend quality silicone-tipped or metal tongs for frying or barbecuing (these JFSG tongs are rated for up to 480 degrees F) and silicone- or nylon-tipped for nonstick and other regular cooking.
I really like having several sizes and types lying around, but in general, you should be looking at models costing $10 to $15 each.
You do need great place settings, but fine china is largely useless for most people. You're better off investing in a set of quality place settings that stand the test of time. I like Fiesta (who have their own bridal registry, which I'd recommend for several other things on this list too) because they're high-quality, durable and best of all stand the test of time as long as you don't invest in overly trendy colors. And if anything ever gets broken, you can usually replace a single piece or place setting without replacing the whole shebang. You need at minimum four settings, but I really recommend getting six to eight so you have something nice for the occasional dinner party (even if you don't throw that many) and the set will grow with you as your family grows.
Look for place settings that cost at least $15 per person for a four-piece set (dinner plate, salad plate, bowl, coffee mug). Fiesta (often used by restaurants) costs a little over $30 per set, but is totally worth it. And don't forget about specialty stuff if you need it (fajita skillets, soufflé, dishes, soup crocks, etc.).
A heavy-bottomed Dutch oven is one of the most versatile tools in the kitchen. Quality ones go from stove top to oven and they're superior to an electric fryer (they can get much hotter than the built-in limits on a non-commercial fryer). I like an enamel-coated cast-iron Dutch oven for its durability and heat-retaining properties — and the enamel coating makes it a beautiful serving dish too.
Look at one that's at least between $50 and $75 and double check that it goes from stove top to oven. This is something you'll want to last a long time.
Kitchen shears are a must-have. Quality ones aren't terribly expensive and can cut through packaging, bones, vegetables and more. They also come apart (but not too easily) for cleaning and sanitizing. Some, like this model from Checkered Chef, come with multiple tools such as bottle openers, can openers, a nutcracker, a fish scaler and even a screw driver built-in.
Look for kitchen shears in the $10 to $15 range.
Quality cookware is essential, but you don't need to spend thousands. Depending on how many guests you have who are likely to pop for pricier gifts, you can register for everything you need a la carte or in a single set. You'll need two or three skillets (various sizes), two or three saucepans (various sizes) and a large stock pot. A good thing to keep in mind is that you don't need as much nonstick as you think, so look for good, heavy-bottomed models in materials that are durable like stainless steel or copper.
I would advise registering for a set that's $300 or $400 (it will be more if you go with individual pieces). I've had the same set of KitchenAid pots and pans for over 10 years now and they're practically pristine (except for the nonstick, which is showing signs of wear).
Buying nonstick cookware is an entirely different beast. First, no matter how well you take care of it, the nonstick surface will eventually be damaged by use. You can absolutely invest in the really expensive stuff and it will definitely last longer. But I've found I'm better off thinking of them as almost disposable.
You can also absolutely buy a full set of nonstick cookware. But the reality is, you don't need nonstick for most jobs. Nonstick is best for things that, well, tend to stick no matter what you do (like eggs). Since they can't be used at high temperatures without the risk of PFC poisoning (you know, that stuff they banned from your aerosol sprays), they aren't as versatile as other pans (and if you're so inclined, a good cast-iron skillet costs about the same, gets almost as nonstick if properly seasoned and lasts forever when properly cared for).
Other than my wearing KitchenAid, I have one nonstick, an 11.5-inch T-Fal Thermo-Spot fry pan recommended by America's Test Kitchen. They cost $15 to $30 each (depending on where you buy and which model you get) and I'll never go back. They weren't kidding about how well those bad boys work. And it isn't a huge deal to replace it once a year given how much you'd spend on a high-quality one you'd have to replace in two to four years anyway.
Not all whisks are created equal. Good news is, they're inexpensive. You'll need a set of sturdy rust-resistant metal balloon whisks (in various sizes — don't forget a mini whisk... they're handier than you realize) to operate as your typical work horses for baking and the like, a sturdy nylon or silicone balloon whisk (great for mashed potatoes and other thick mixing) and a flat or French whisk for sauces and cooking (they are great at reaching the edges and corners of pans).
Whisks can cost between $2 and $10 each, depending on the quality and whether you find them in a set, but as with all things on your registry, go for quality. Good ones can last decades.
Broiler pans are an absolute essential for roasting, baking or grilling meats and veggies. Lots of ovens come with them these days, but if your home was previously occupied, chances are the previous occupants found it so handy, they took it with them.
Register for broiling pans with dark interiors (they brown better) with a steel core to distribute heat in the largest size you can find that includes a broil/grill pan and grill rack. Make sure it can go from oven to grill if you like outdoor cooking, as they're perfect for using less direct heat to cook fish and veggies on the barbie. Regardless of which model you choose, they'll generally max out at around $20.
Best kitchen tip I ever got was from the executive chefs at LongHorn Steakhouse — the humble Y-peeler is far superior to the stick models. How many you need depends on how many people are typically in the kitchen. If you both cook or if you have kids who do, you'll want two or more.
I have a couple of these Kuhn Rikon Y-peelers given to me by the LongHorn chefs, which are really inexpensive (about $2 each), stay very sharp and have a potato eye remover, but if you prefer a more ergonomic model (and these admittedly are not), they only go up to about $25.
The reality is, unless you're really big on smoothies or milkshakes, you won't bother much with a regular blender, which you'll have to get out each time you use it or give up valuable counter space to store it. If you do need one, go for it, but most of us can get away with a high-quality stick blender.
Look for models with the highest motor speed possible that can crush ice and chop in addition to blending. You can use these in the blending cups they come with or submerge them into pitchers or pots to blend milkshakes for two, soups or sauces. The best models come with both a blending and chopping attachment, a blending cup and a whisk attachment and cost around $100. But if you don't think you'll use it for things like ice crushing or chopping, you can get away with registering for a less pricey option.
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A really big (as large as your counter can handle) wooden cutting board is essential for cutting large cuts of meat, but it also comes in handy for cutting bread. Look for a model with a generously deep dripping groove (or tri-drip models like this J.K. Adams model), especially if you cook a lot of meat. A decent one will usually run you around $100.
You'll also need a few inexpensive plastic versions for cutting veggies (especially those that stain) and raw meat (so you can sanitize them in the dishwasher).
Even if you don't bake much, wire racks are extremely useful in the kitchen. You can use them to keep pancakes and waffles warm in the oven without getting soggy, provide a good resting station for things that need to drip dry (like salted eggplant for eggplant parm) and are perfect with paper towels under them for allowing fried food to drain without losing crispiness.
Even if you already have a can opener, consider getting a nicer one. It makes cooking much faster and is a real wrist-saver if you get an ergonomic or electric model. I personally like the ergonomic models because they don't take up valuable counter space, but that's a decision only you can make based on how you cook and how much room you have.
There are a lot of options for can openers, and if you both cook, you may want to register for two. The handheld models are generally inexpensive, even if you get the best one money can buy, so get what you want. They'll run anywhere between a few dollars for the cheaper models to $25 or $30. If you'd like an electric can opener, ignore the cheaper models, as the motors and blades probably aren't as high-quality and you'll be replacing it sooner than you want. But that doesn't mean they have to be expensive. You can register for a great electric can opener that still only costs $30 to $50. Just make sure you get a model that can handle large cans.
Everyone thinks they don't need a slow cooker... until they do. If you don't really cook, they're even better because the recipes are just chop, drop and walk (away). They're an easy alternative to the oven for roasts, chicken and other meats, but they also work for sides, soups, dips, desserts and more.
Don't try to skimp here. Get one that's bigger than you think you'll need now (so it will grow with your culinary abilities and your family) and opt for a programmable model so you can make dinner in the morning and program it to be ready when you get home. You can get a quality model for anywhere between $60 and $100, but more expensive models are available.
This one only applies to you coffee addicts out there. Once you're married, you'll want to start saving for things like a house, a new car or even kids, which means no more daily stops at Starbucks.
You can register for a decent programmable coffeemaker that only costs $40 to $60. But if your addiction includes fresh-roasted beans that need to be ground or other extras, you could go as high as $200 or more for one with an attached grinder or milk warmer. Of course, you can also register for those separately.
Probably the biggest mistake a lot of brides- and grooms-to-be make: not registering for the stuff you need to serve your food. You'll eventually want to have people over, and there's nothing worse than having to pop $100 on the serving-ware you need to do it or serve it on extra plates from your dinnerware or leftovers containers with the $1 wooden spoons you cook with.
Prices on these items obviously vary too much to give you a firm number, but think about what you'll need and try to get stuff that looks fancy, but can also be used daily. Nice serving spoons (regular, slotted and ladles), serving forks, condiment dishes, trays (more than one, matching) for cheese and veggie plates with small appetizer tongs, a large platter for serving roasts and whole birds, smaller matching dishes for serving sides and veggies, beautiful casserole dishes to bake in so it can go from oven to table, punch bowls and cups, cocktail glasses (red and white wine, beer, margarita, martini, rocks, etc. — whatever you'll actually use), baskets for bread and chips (don't forget the cloth napkins!), butter holders, gravy boats... plus any specialty stuff you need for your own tastes (tortilla warmers, mini-personal creamer pitchers, etc.).
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