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.