For the vast majority of uses, when you consider
price, it's hard to argue with cast-iron cookware. You
can pick up a set of three different-sized Wagner cast-
iron skillets at Lechter's right now for $17.99.
My prefernece among the widely available consumer
cookware brands is All-Clad. The company makes several
lines of cookware, all of which are good, at various
prices. The basic anodized aluminum with stainless
interior--the least expensive--should do the trick.
All-Clad makes non-stick skillets, but, for non-stick,
I prefer Calphalon "Professional" Non-Stick.
re: Steven Shaw
As far as where to buy cookware, I strongly endorse the
housewares section upstairs at Zabars. They have a
very good selection of pots and pans (and everything
else) and their prices are really excellent--much
better than Macys' The Cellar, for instance. Not sure
how prices compare to Lechter's, but I'd be surprised
if Lechter's selection was as big. Also Zabars carries
a large selection of very inexpensive cast-iron
cookware in every size imaginable. I picked up a great
10 inch skillet for about $12.95, and the thing is
seriously heavy enough to clock any NYC robber on the
head with. Oh...it also cooks well--especially Tuna
re: Dan Sonenberg
All the above are excellent recommendations -re the stainless steel preference, I have had bad experience with high-end stainless pots with a thick aluminum core only on the bottom. The pan gets extra hot - and the contents tend to stick and burn - right where the core ends and the pan side begins- just the place where it is hard to stir adequately. Two other suggestions - the thick-walled, all-aluminum calderos sold at many supermarkets, and hispanic and chinese food and 5-and-dime stores are great, cheap, relatively light multipurpose pots, with solid covers, and good for stews, curries, fried dishes, braises, etc. Second, Century 21 and other discounters, like Odd Lot (Job?) and Costco are worth checking out for mid-range non-sticks and sometimes fancier items.
I vote for cast-iron...the best
hasn't been made for about 40
years, but you can find Griswold
pans (classic cast iron skillets and
Dutch ovens the most common, but
really cool cast iron waffle
makers, too) at second hand stores
and the NYC equivalent of garage
sales...turn the pan over and look
for a cross within a circle and
name Griswold inside that...dealers
know the value and may charge
accordingly ($15-40/pan), but
sometimes you get lucky.
re: Steven Shaw
My strategy is to go to Zabar's and buy pieces separately. If you buy a set, you do save money IF, and it's a big if, you really want or need all the different elements in the set. But do you really need a 2-quart AND a 3-quart saucepan?
I have to admit that I love All-Clad LTD (the nonstick is durable, too). Zabar's routinely runs terrific sales on La Creuset saucepans and casseroles. They weigh a ton and last forever. And the big Z also does carry Wagner cast-iron skillets.
I note that despite the hyping of All-Clad and Caphalon, many chefs seem to prefer stainless steel.
In the last year I have investigated and cooked on
several pans. I have recently found the following pans
absolutely necessary : Wagner Cast Iron skillet,
All-Clad 10" Fry pan, 6 Qt All Clad sautee pan -
replaces the need for a 3 Qt and Stock pot (I had
limited space and $$). I have a scanpan 9 "frypan - I
have found that the iron skillet does better omelets -
if I had known this I would have saved $30!
I have shopped around - Zabar's is a good choice
in NYC - Broadway panhandler Prince and Spring ?, In
NJ or by phone 800-272-2170 or (908) 782-1735 is a
store in flemington, NJ where all-clad, scanpan,
wustof trident knives among others for about 1/2 the
price. They have a webpage, but I could not find it.
Call them and they will tell you or they will send you
a pamphlet with info.
re: christina z.
re: christina z.
I agree with Christina Z. completely. Also Cutlery Direct Catalog. If you live in NYC area, you'll generally find Zabar's prices the most competative. And Bridge Kitchen Supplies have even the most obscure items (@ a premium price). I favor cast iron, enameled cast iron, All-Clad stainless steel for sauces and all things acidic, and Scanpan for non-reactive sauteeing and non-stick cooking. If you have to start somewhere go cast iron and enameled cast iron(the cheap ones) first. Oh, and a big cheap enamel speckled tin pot for pasta.
The poster who warned against buying a set was right.
Since different pan materials excel at achieving
different results, sets generally make no sense at
all: the heavy cast iron, say, that makes a skillet
great for sauteing would make a rust-prone pasta/stock
pot too heavy to lift. My advice is to think about
what you need the pan to do. Do some reading on
properties of various materials, and invest slowly if
you're not sure what you really want. A $100 All-Clad
skillet can be a bargain if it fits your needs, an
expensive mistake if not. Better to start out with
something like T-Fal (not expensive and often
discounted, serviceable if not particularly durable)
and then move up as you figure out where you want to
move. Then buy the best; I'm still happily using some
pots, pans, and knives more than thirty years old.