But any kid who’s going to spend a lot of time in the kitchen deserves his or her own set of tools. Not only will this encourage their independence and sense of responsibility, it will help keep them safe when they’re playing sous chef. Here’s our favorite gear for young cooks.
Choosing a knife for kid cooks depends on their age and skill level. Toddlers can begin (safely!) learning basic knife skills by using a plastic serrated lettuce knife (or even a butter knife) to cut softer foods like bananas and avocados, then move on to chopping firmer fruits and vegetables with a crinkle cutter. Once kids are ready for something sharper, we love Opinel’s Le Petit Chef set, which includes a wee-size knife, finger guard, and vegetable peeler; or Kuhn Rikon’s Kinderkitchen Essential Set, which features two knives and shears. And for older kids who are comfortable working with sharp knives, we recommend a standard kitchen utility knife or a five-inch santoku-style knife.
Most cooking gear designed specifically for kids ends up being more toy than tool, which is why we prefer giving them smaller versions of grown-up utensils, such as this line of kid-size tools from GIR.
Kids don’t need special pots and pans, but for kids who are old enough to safely work at the stove, we recommend starting with smaller cookware, including our own No.4 and No.6 cast iron skillets.
A standard kitchen stepstool will allow kids to work at counter height, but younger (and more restless) children might need something more stable and safe, such as an adjustable stool with guardrails.
Nothing gets kids more engaged in cooking than choosing their own recipes to make. Some of our favorites include Mollie Katzen’s trilogy of whimsically illustrated cookbooks (“Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes,” “Salad People and More Real Recipes,” and “Honest Pretzels”). More seasoned junior chefs might enjoy “The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes,” “A Grandfather's Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey” by the beloved Jacques Pépin, or the new “My First Cookbook” produced by America’s Test Kitchen.