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5 "Must Have" cookware?


Would like to know the 5 "Must Have" cookware you might suggest I buy for me. When I first got my apt, I didn't think that I would cook much, so I ended up buying the cheap non stick stuff and they are literally falling apart.(scratches, handles coming loose etc...)

Doing some research and seems like All Clad is the way to go. What do you think. Basically, I would like 5 essential or "must have" pots&pans to build upon. I already have a beloved 12" cast iron skillet(but I only used that for steaks and meat).

Any suggestions? Thanks!

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  1. All Clad are definately the way to go and they can help you with your deciion making on what 5 essential pieces. It is always sheaper to buy them by the set. I think they have a small set and then a larger set. We have used All Clad for about 15 years now and I would never use anything else.

    1. We have a small kitchen as well, so there are a lot of things I would love to have (Paderno puts an enormous stockpot in their bi-annual sale at 70% off that I keep saying "when I have a proper kitchen) but don't because I just don't have the room. One thing that I have that I really like is a large, high sided skillet (called sometimes a texas skillet) that I make do for a frying pan, stir fry pan and for cooking batches of chili or spaghetti sauce.
      Other things I love my Paderno egg pan- it's a rectangle about 4x6 inches (a little larger than a cue card- http://www.paderno.com/products/produ...) and it's great for a couple of eggs or a mini omelet or just warming up a bit of something.
      If I had to narrow it down to just a few more things, can't live without my dutch oven (for pasta, casseroles) and two saucepans (although I use the larger one more). I have a small rice cooker- it's maybe a space luxury, but once you've used one, can't cook it in anything else. I have a crock pot, but I don't use it as much as I should. I use it maybe once a month and if I was smart, I would use it twice a week. I just can't get into it.
      The main thing is figure out what you can't live without. If you buy a set, you often wind up with at least a couple of things you just won't use and when space is an issue, it's a real waste. I would recommend going with the same brand for open stock pieces, so there's a better chance you can nest them. I also recommend going with items that can go in the oven, to give you more flexibility and save you having to buy casserole dishes that will take up space.

      1. If you have limited space (which it sounds like you do if you want to keep to five), then I would recommend against getting a set -- a set always includes at least on piece that's not very useful. Also, different kinds of pans are better for different kinds of cooking, so getting all one brand isn't necessarily the way to go.

        What pans you need really depends on how you cook. What pans do you use the most now? Which ones are sitting in the back of the cupboard? Are there times when you look at your pans and none of them are really right for what you're going to cook? How many people you cook for on a regular basis will determine what size pans you need -- no point in getting a 7 quart dutch oven if you never make large quantities, etc.

        Personally, I'd start by replacing the pans you use the most -- you can get good deals on individual pans online (especially if you check the Friday sales on Amazon.com), or using one of those 20 percent off Bed Bath and Beyond coupons.

        I don't think there's actually much difference between pans of similar construction from different manufacturers. After years of anodized aluminum, I went back to multiply stainless -- I have both Cuisinart and All-Clad frying pans, and there's no difference in how they perform, although I do like the design (handles, lip) of the Cuisinart better.

        1. 1. Dutch oven. Enameled cast iron with ovenproof handles is the way to go.
          2. Very large heavy-bottomed pot for making stock, boiling pasta, blanching vegetables, etc.
          3. Small heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
          4. Medium-large heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
          5. Heavy-bottomed skillet with a tight-fitting lid.

          Am a big fan of multi-ply stainless. All-Clad is great but you're paying for the name and it's overkill if you have a small electric apartment range. Like Ruth Lafler, I prefer the design of the Cuisinart, though the heft, fit and finish of the current Korean-made line doesn't begin to compare with that of the original line made in France.

          1. I mostly cook for two. The 5 pots/pans I use most:

            1) 5.5 enameled cast iron dutch oven( i use this for stock and boiling water for pasta as well)
            2) 3 qt covered saute pan(also sometimes called a chef's pan)
            3) 12 in copper skillet
            4) Small roasting pan
            5) 8" nonstick skillet(for eggs only)

            For basic cookware tri-ply is a great way to go. All-Clad is good stuff but you don't have to pay for the name...there are other tri ply out there that is good quality without the markup for the name.

            Skip the set and build your collection a piece at a time based on what you use the most.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ziggylu

              I also usually am only cooking for two and my list is similar to Ziggylu's, though I could use something bigger from time to time (like that 12 inch skillet!). I can't afford the most expensive lines, so these are all mid-range to cheap products but work fine for me. My 5 most-used are:

              1. 4.5 qt dutch oven
              2. 4.5 qt taller "pasta pot" with colander insert and lid. (Used as "heavy-bottomed pot" Carswell describes).
              3. 10" nonstick skillet (like Ziggylu, for eggs only)
              4. 10" (2" deep)nonstick "everyday pan" with cover, which I really do use almost every day. If I got this again I wouldn't care so much about nonstick.
              5. 2-qt. stainless saucepan with glass lid

              And for a bonus, I also have a very small saucepan (4 c.) that is perfect for small jobs, which I use for melting butter, making small amounts of sauces, and more. It's almost too lightweight. It looks to be aluminum and it's a little old (a hand-me-down pot), so I'm looking for a new one in case I'm now eating my aluminum!

              1. re: Neuromancer

                the all-clad 1 qt saucier is a "try me" piece and priced at $50. You might want to pick up one of those: http://www.surlatable.com/product/col...


            2. Dutch oven small dutch oven, heavy teflon large fry pan, 2 large sauce pans. I've found several really high quality pans at the Goodwill. If you think the construction doesn't make a difference try boiling water in two identical appearing pans. Double the time in my old farberware compared to a newer Cuisinart heavy weight stainless lookalike. Can't remember the brand - it was a gift. You can get a very nice set for $99 on down if there's a sale. I don't like the hole in the glass lid type lid though. I like the solid glass lids but of course they are breakable. Avoid cast iron unless you have very strong arms and wrists. A friend was badly burned when she dropped one. Spilled hot oil on her bare legs. I really like a Wok but it would be my number 6. I also like a smaller fry pan but it would be number 7. Several discount houses have house brands that are very nice and one of the big name chefs has a set that is reasonable also at the member only discount clubs. Be sure a set is out on display before you buy and checkebay but watch out for knockoffs.

              1. I have found that sets can actually be more economical than buying pans one at a time as long as the set matches your needs. You might end up with a steamer that you rarely use, but as long as the other pieces suit your needs you should be fine. This is a good time of year to look at sets because there are a lot of bonus offers out there for extra pans/pieces.

                If you have your heart set on all-clad then go for it, but I have heard some good things about the sur la table cookware. I was thinking about taking one of their cooking classes to see what they cook with.

                T.J Max and Marshalls sometimes have great deals on good kitchen ware and I always look over the clearance stuff on the internet sites.

                1. I would consider any non-stick cookware to be eventually disposable. I like stainless steel cookware with sandwiched aluminum discs in the bottom. Get one non-stick skillet for eggs. It will wear out in a few years and have to be replaced. I also have several pieces of cast iron cookware; 6 & 10 inch skillets, dutch oven. I bought Griswold cast iron pieces from Ebay. It is the best cast iron and has not been made for 50-years.

                  1. Does nobody consider a wok an essential? Alas, I have an electric stove, so mine is not a "real" wok, but a Joyce Chen pan with a small flat bottom, in carbon steel. I use it every day.

                    In sets, there are always some ill-designed pieces, as in Le Creuset - mine had a skillet with a matt finish - not the same as a real cast-iron pan, though I do use it with certain tomato-laden foods.

                    I'd have a hard time picking up a very large Dutch Oven - you mean one of those pots with two handles, I guess, not the oblong type? - in enamelled cast-iron, full of boiling water for pasta. My pasta pot is an old Revere Ware hand-me-down, though the newer ones, alas, are much lighter than the old ones.

                    1. Great point on the wok -- it depends on what and how you cook. For example, I cannot live without a grill pan. I have two -- one cast iron, double burner size and one square LeCreuset. The ridges really do make a difference when doing veggies and meats. I use my wok only occasionally and therefore wouldn't call it an essential for me. A saute pan can do almost the same thing, but it is harder to pull off.

                      My recommendation is the following, after trying virtually every brand once:

                      - the enameled cast iron Dutch oven is a clear favorite. Use it for soup, stews, braises, etc. I don't like very heavy large pots, so stick with 5 to 7 quarts, depending on your needs, unless you are weight training or just really young and strong! LeCreuset is the most common and therefore clear favorite, but not the only really good choice. Marketing plays a big deal in why certain brands are more common. Similar to LeCreuset is Staub or Chausseur. Some are oval. Go with round if you only have room for one -- more even heating. Less money and just ever so slightly less quality are the Mario Batali and other look alikes out there. They will all do a fine job.
                      - One nonstick pan for eggs. The best one I have is Circulon. They are only short termers in the kitchen and have to be replaced every few years, but nothing is better for eggs.

                      - A covered saute pan. If you prefer frittatas, which are finished in the oven, you need to use a pan with an oven-proof handle or use a 4 qt. or more wide saute pan. If you make paella or chicken and rice dishes, the saute pan will be one of your favorites. The All Clad model is deeper and I don't like that as much. I also think a heavy bottomed pan is a good idea here rather than a clad version so that the pan can be used to sear and then finish in the oven. Watch out for handles that stick up too high for your oven. I prefer the flatter, wider shape -- which looks like a tall fry pan. Go with stainless steel for this pan. I have two: a 4 qt. Cuisinart stainless steel and a copper Mauviel that is a little smaller. I use the larger one more often. Larger than three quarts needs a helper handle.
                      - 5 to 8 quart Rondeax or Dutch oven in stainless steel with lid. Use this for pasta or corn and in place of the tall stockpot with insert that seems to be popular. I don't like the insert because I don't like dripping water on my stove. I prefer to pour pasta into a colander at the sink the old fashioned way. Any brand will do -- All Clad, Cuisinart, Paderno, Sitram -- even Revereware and Farberware. You don't want it too heavy because you will be filling it with water mostly. The Dutch oven or Rondeax shape is shorter and wider than a stockpot, but it fits in the oven more easily if you need it. It should be bigger than your enameled cast iron Dutch oven for versatility.
                      - 3 quart sauce pan with tight fitting lid. Rice, veggies, sauces. Anything bigger needs a helper handle on the other side to lift. I used a Cuisinart forever and couldn't kill it. I now use a Demeyere conical sauteusse (clad, rounded bottom), which will also do the job.

                      Okay, that's five. I am assuming you have roasting pans and the like? If you do a lot of stir fry or grilling, swap out the saute pan for a wok or grill pan.