a tough pots and pan problem....
my cousin is going to college. She's a bit of a foodie (runs in the blood) but doesn't have enough money or space to heavily stock her kitchen in terms of utensils and cookware. I'm trying to help but I'm finding myself just as clueless as she is. any suggestions would be most appreciated.
How many people does she expect to cook for?
When I started cooking for my self I bought 3 pans:
- 8" cast iron skillet
- 2 qt stainless steel sauce pan (Revereware like my mom's)
- 1 1/2 qt pyrex glass baking dish (lid fit the skillet)
In addition, a cutting board, a good chefs knife, some wood spoons and a few pieces of tableware.
Iron skillets are still a good deal, whether used or new ($10 for a Lodge 10" skillet).
Restaurant supply shops are good places to get heavy duty aluminum pans, even in the small 1 qt size. They also have good, inexpensive, knives. Get several small paring ones.
A flat bottom wok is a good general purpose pan, with a small enough base to scramble a couple of eggs, but large enough volume to cook a stew or steam items.
If I had only limited space, here's what I'd probably use (of the pans I have currently:)
12" cast iron skillet (you could go smaller, but this is what I happen to have)
14" saute pan with lid(this is probably the one I use most out of all my pans. Mine is stainless steel with a clad bottom, and came out of a set. Great for making things like spaghetti sauce in, deglazes well when used for browning, and works for the oven too.)
2qt and 4qt saucepans (also good general use pans.)
I actually don't have a lot of pans as is (I've only got an apartment kitchen to work with) but if I had to trim my collection down those are probably the ones I'd use. I have a 10" nonstick frying pan as well, but hardly ever use it (an electric griddle replaces most of what it gets used for) and I have a smaller saucepan I use too, but could do without it. My stockpot (8qt) would be a bit harder to do without, but I could if needed.
If you're looking for a good quality basic set, Costco or Sam's Club usually has some inexpensive options in clad bottom stainless steel. I picked up the set I use in my apartment (some sort of Wolfgang Puck label set) for a little more than $100, which got me 13 pieces total (1, 2 and 4 quart saucepans, 14" saute pan, 10" nonstick fry pan, a stir fry pan, 8 quart stockpot with steamer, and lids) and covers most of the basics. Not the fanciest stuff in the world, but it works well, and cleans up pretty easily. It looks like Sam's may still have a set similar to this available at a similar price.
If she's a bit of a foodie, and has access to a kitchen, she'll be cooking for a crowd in no time. I would get:
one of those 4- piece pasta sets with a 6 or 8 qt pot, lid, and two perforated inserts for draining pasta and steaming. This works for pasta, steaming vegetables, soups or stews, and the perforated insert can substitute for a colander for washing greens, etc.
a 10" skillet, maybe nonstick if she likes them - right size for fixing a meal for one and easy to clean up
a big saute pan with lid - great all around pan for most anything - get one that can go in the oven
a two quart saucepan
a 9 by 13 baking pan - the Pyrex ones are good - with a storage cover if you can get one - she'll need this for brownies if nothing else!
a jelly roll pan - for cookies, roasting vegetables, and containing the mess while carving the chicken she roasted in the Pyrex pan.
paring knives, a chefs knife and a serrated knife for bread
cutting boards - get one that fits into the jelly roll pan for carving, and some of the thin flexible ones.
Does she know what kitchen facilities are availabe? I work at a college and the freshman dorms don't have kitchens, but that's kind of old fashioned these days.
I still have my set of Revere pots and pans from my College days. I prefer my AllClad pots but still occasionally use the Revere one's. Revere pots and pans are great for a starter kitchen and what's even better are the prices. Avoid the lowest priced line though...the metal is really thin so everything burns quite easily. I think that there are three quality/price levels. Try and get the best line. Target Stores sells decent quality Cast Iron pans for $10. Avoid thier non-stick pans though...the non-stick surface comes off quite easily and this can't be good for you. Forget the "8 pan and get the 10-12" cast iron one and pick-up a non-stick "12 inch from one of the major department stores.
Whatever you do, don't get anything NICE or you'll find--to your sorrow, as did my daughter and I--that you just might get a really spoiled rotten, inconsiderate room mate who ruins your chef's knife, your rice cooker, two of your four pots and loses half your silverware and dishes, within a few months of moving in.... :-(
My suggestions for a minimal kitchen:
12" preseasoned Lodge cast iron skillet
10" nonstick pan for eggs
8-qt stockpot with lid
4-qt saucepan with lid
2-qt saucepan with lid
1 Corningware lasagna dish with glass lid
large and small Pyrex mixing bowls
Victorinox chef's or santoku knife
Victorinox paring knife
box or Microplane grater
ceramic vegetable peeler
Optional, but really nice:
3-cup electric rice cooker
5- to 6-qt Le Creuset (maybe Mario Batali?) Dutch oven
You could go for pans that stack, but most manufacturers will tell you not to as it damages the pans.
Cast iron is cheap, as is second-hand LC, if you can collect it. Also, check this out: In my cupboard I have stacked:
pizza tray > baking tray > wok > metal mixing bowl > big (cheese)cake tin > 2 small cake tins.
There maybe more stuff in there, but it all stacks neatly into each other. Admittedly, it wasn't planned, but if you buy smart, you can save LOADS of space.
Another solution I have is a table thing (one of my old flatmates found it, so free) with a bottom shelf.
My stock pot, dutch oven and biggest saucepan go on the bottom, then 2 saucepans, LC saucepan, small sauce pan and stir-fry/chefs pan are hung on some screws I've hand-twisted in around the top. Then on the top, there's a fruitbowl, the utensil holder, and some small pots/chopping board, collander etc. You need a little space, but the main thing is the hanging screws. I'd be really stuck for space without them!