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Pots and Pans Recommendations for Re-Equipping a Kitchen

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After a long hiatus of doing little in the kitchen other than heating water for tea, scrambling eggs and nuking pre-made frozen dinners, I have started cooking again.

Since I am re-equipping my kitchen, I was wondering what kinds of pots and pans Chowhounders would especially recommend. I have a smallish kitchen with not a lot of storage space and I don't want to waste money and space buying things I am never actually going to use. I am a sorta vegetarian - almost never cook meat or fowl and only occasionally fish.

I am thinking of buying a vintage 4 quart Griswold cast iron dutch oven only because I recently bought a vintage Griswold cast iron griddle and absolutely love it (the griddle is perfectly seasoned, seems lighter than new cast iron and is great for pancakes). But I am wondering if someone who never cooks meat and fish actually needs a dutch oven at all, vintage or non-vintage.

I also just ordered a 5 quart Staub bouillabaisse pot at www.cutleryandmore.com because (1) it was on sale for $40 off the regular price; and (2) it was so darn good looking.

http://tinyurl.com/yellep

I don't actually plan to make bouillabaisse but I have been making Japanese dashi soup stock and then simmering vegetables in the stock, and I thought it would be good for that. But I am wondering if I should just send it back when it comes lest it end up being another one of those expensive mistakes that sit unused, cluttering up the kitchen.

So what should I be buying?

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  1. I also have a Staub cocotte that I bought at Costco. It's great - I've made some terrific beef stews, braised short ribs, etc. in it (I always start my braising on top of the stove and finish in the oven - eliminates the risk of scorching the bottom of the pan).

    As for pots and pans, I've fallen for a brand called Cuisinox, and their Elite line, in particular. It's 3-ply throughout (aluminum sandwiched between stainless), and is an All-Clad look-alike that cooks more evenly than the All Clad I own, at a fraction of the price of All Clad.

    Whatever you do, forget about non-stick finishes. They're not only unnecessary, but research shows that they may be carcinogenic. To avoid food sticking to your pans, always heat the pans empty for a few minutes before putting any oil or other ingredients into them.

    Check out the Cuisinox website at http://www.cuisinox.com/

    1. One more thing...

      The most useful pan I own is a 5.3 litre/quart covered saute pan, perfect for frying, sauteing, and simmering. I use it to make everything from chili to bone-in curried chicken.

      Aside from that, you should have a 3.5/4 quart saucepan (plus a steamer insert for it), a large frypan, and a small frypan. A 1.5 to 2 quart saucepan may be used occasionally.

      Since you have the large Staub, you don't really need a medium-sized stockpot or Dutch oven, but you may want to consider an 8-quart stockpot or Dutch oven, in which to make larger batches of soups and stews.

      1. A very useful pan, if space is at a premium, is a saucier; I have the All-Clad stainless 3 quart (or so) and it works for a lot of things, though it's nice to have a shallower frypan as well. But that saucier probably gets used oftener than any other single piece of cookware I own.

        1. Let's keep it simple, for starters by looking at what you may need:
          A pot to cook canned soup in.
          A frying pan for eggs and for omelets.
          A Dutch Oven or equivalent (like a Le Creuset or Batali, etc.) to braise stews in.
          A saute type pan, size depending on how many you cook for.
          Good covers for these pans, or screens to keep fat from flying around, or the type of grated cover that fits many different pots.
          A cast iron or porcelain pan for searing steaks; another one for fish.
          A non stick pan for special delicate cooking.
          A wok.
          A griddle for pancakes and fritters.
          If you like frying, a deep fryer.
          A steamer if you steam food, or steamer insert.
          Interiors can be steel, porcelain, anodized aluminum - I favor non-reactive interiors (aluminum poses problems from time to time) with the exception of well-seasoned cast iron.
          That's a good start. If I omitted something, I'm sure one of the others who read this will fill it in.
          You can buy All Clad, Batali, Le Creuset, Calphalon, plain old restaurant /chefs supply stuff like Vollrath or Eagle. By and large, the All Clad / Le Creuset will cost you, but I've had some of their cookware for over twenty years and its still going strong.
          I wouldn't buy a set unless the cookware covered everything you want and need; but if it does, you can fill in with other brands or types of cookware. No harm in mixing different manufacturers.
          Hope this helps. Give us some feedback about what you ended up with and how it works for you.

          1. I bought a whole set of Calphalon One, because I thought it was non-stick. Big mistake! It actually sticks worse than my All-Clad stainless steel, especially with soy products and egg whites, for some reason. The ONLY benefit is that they release the stuck-on mess after a relatively short soak in hot soapy water.

            A couple weeks ago, I bought a "30-Day-Free-Trial" 7-inch Analon fry pan. First thing I did was Egg Beaters scrambled eggs. With just a light pump spray of olive oil on the pan, the eggs cooked nicely and slid right out. Then I browned a Boca Burger, and it had a little resistance to moving freely with a shake, but an easy nudge with a plastic spatula did the trick. It browned nicely and released onto a plate with no fuss. I've heard that non-stick gets less so, over time. Anyone else here have experience with Analon?

            1. i have a all-clad look-alike set as well, and mine are members mark, from sams club. here's what i would get: a basic set- saute pan, skillet, small and med sauce-pan, and dutch oven. I would get the uncoated in this case. than a set of bakeware- something heavy alluminum- 1-2 half sheet pans, a roasting pan, a loaf pan, and a muffin pan. I got mine from bed bath i think. if you make a lot of stock, a basic alluminum stockpot is invaluable. also, you probably wanna get a small and med nonstick saute pans, for omlets and anything else that sticks. you also need a v-rack for your roasting pan. a nice addition would be a cast iron skillet, and glass pie plates and baking dishes are also a necessity.

              1. Hi

                I love my Scanpan wok, especially useful if your'e a vegetarian...quality products in my book.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kiwichef

                  Kiwichef, how many times a week do you use your wok and what do you make in it? I was thinking of getting a new wok to replace my ancient one, but they are so bulky that I am concerned that I might not use it enought to justify its presence in my smallish kitchen where storage space is at a premium.