There was a question posted at SeriousEats.com (of which I am a member) which garnered at least 64 comments:
First, we will review my answer to the above question as I responded on the site - add suggestions and pictures to help visualize how this would work for anyone. (of course, if you are extremely messy and uncoordinated then there may not be a 'happy' medium for you and your kitchen)
A few thoughts:
The knife (as one person said) may be a more personal purchase, but maybe not if you spend more money on it than he would!
*Good forged metal well-known and trusted brand knives can be found at Marshall's, Ross, and TJ Max in the 'kitchen' section at great reductions...knife sets are a waste of money unless it's a chef's, paring, serrated/bread knife set. You don't need 7 to 14 knives. These three do most of the jobs you are going to do in your home kitchen with some exceptions. Kitchen Aid, Cuisinart, Chicago Cutlery also have good starting knives at Target and Wal-Mart. Most in the 30$ or less range.
Cast Iron skillet (as somebody suggested) would usually be a good recommendation, but being in an apartment with a small kitchen, those things tend to smoke too much...and it's not about controlling the heat. It's about 'seasoned' cast iron heating up and smoking.
But consider this, I bought 2 twelve inch COMMERCIAL non-stick pans from Sam's Club (because at that time they came in two AND Sam's has a commercial restaurant supply section now - BUT NOT COSTCO DARN IT!) pretty cheap and they are made from thick aluminum under the non-stick coating...2 years later they still have the coating. I pulled the rubber handles (good for oven temps up to about 350) off and threw them away, cook on top, finish in the oven. Works wonderfully. Heavy-duty, lighter, and less smokey than cast iron.
Someone suggests getting a mini-processor from Cuisinart, but I say get the KitchenAid mini processor (3 cups model) not the Cuisinart. The reason being is because the 'catch' for making the motor work is a long piece of plastic protruding down from the lid, prone to breaking off! Kitchenaid, not so much small 'catch' on both sides of the lid that doesn't protrude past the lip much, even if you manage to drop the lid on the floor and break one, you can still swivel the lid to the other.
*BUT now you can order thru amazon.com or go to target and get an Oster blender with 3 cup processor attachment...here is a picture of what that looks like. The one at target is cheaper than mine because its sold as a combo and my blender is the more expensive one. AGAIN, if you already own a Hamilton or some kind of Oster blender you can order the processor unit separately on Amazon.com. Why is this important? Because it doesn't create another electric appliance that needs a plug/outlet. AND saves space.
As someone mentioned, electric hot water kettle. Starts things that need hot or boiled water much quicker. The one pictured is about $20 at Target.
Is he a serious tea or coffee drinker? Bodum (french press) goes good with that electric water kettle. $16 Target or Wal-Mart.
Small microwave as already said. $30 to $50 depends on how good a sale you find! Good for melting things, heating things, mostly good for leftovers & quick fixes!
Coffee bean grinder for grinding spices or coffee $15. (I have 2, one for coffee, one for spices)
I buy bar towels in bulk from Sam's or Costco's, there just like the ones in commercial kitchens I use...and they're cheap. $10 for 20? (approximate)
Immersion blender, as already said. This thing should be a must. It's terrific. $15 at some Longs Drugs or $19 on Amazon.com with a 4-star rating or higher. Procter-Silex.
My pasta roller still comes in handy for (duh) pasta, and also: pita bread, rolling thin tortillas, flatbread...etc. $30 for most brands. This one $22 Amazon.com 4 stars (out of 5).
If you going to spend some money, then buy a nice kitchen cart with storage underneath...then you can roll a 'chopping' island around to use and store these small appliances underneath when not in use.
OK, I'll stop here...I cook professionally as well as not letting my small kitchen in my apartment keep me from cooking extensive and 'fine dining' meals at home. This list is not made to be comprehensive of all things needed, but a help. Just like using 3 knives in the kitchen pots & pans need not be in 20 piece sets...good cutting board, tongs, whisk, grater...
I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about my suggestions, stuff you currently using, or your own recommendations for this list!