Cookware set recommendations?
Time to buy a new cookware set and since I am going to be using it probably for the next 10 years or more and I would like something high quality with great reviews from real people.
I am thinking Le Creuset but am open for any suggestions since I dont know what is out there lately (my last set was Chantal-it was just "ok"-I bought it more for looks than quality, not that they were bad pieces)
I have a few cast iron pans that are nicely seasoned and I will be keeping those but everything else is hitting the trash as soon as I find something I want to buy.
Don't buy a set. Buy the pieces you need that fit your cooking style.
You do a lot of sauces? Copper sauteuse... Mauviel, Falk, Bourgeat.
Saute pan? French chef's pan? Regular pots? All-Clad. Or go copper. Or save money with Calphalon tri-ply.
Dutch oven? Le Creuset, Staub, or any of a number of enameled ones on the market now.
Agree with ThreeGigs, stay away from the sets. What and how you cook should determine the pieces
Full disclosure, so I don't offend anyone. I teach wok cooking and started selling a preseasoned cast iron wok set because people have so much trouble finding the right wok. Glad to hear you have cast iron pans! Are they the heavy ones? Le creuset is beautiful but heavy. If you're small like me, it's makes cooking a chore to keep lifting up and down on a daily basis.
I am a big believer that you can cut down on all the clutter, the saying, "the French have a pan for every sauce, but the Chinese can carry their whole kitchen under one arm."
Get one medium size pot for soups and stews and then a cast iron wok which can be used for cooking most anything except curries and acidic foods. At least that's what my husband and I do. We have a wonderful setup with an Iwatani, 10,000 btu portable butane gas stove which sits on top of our electric burner (it's useless for wok cooking).
I just braise on my gas stovetop, it's perfect because of width and depth of the wok. I've not used my wok in the oven yet but I want to try baking bread using Mark Bittman's recent recipe. Talking about Mark, I wrote to let him know about my setup because it's torture watching his videos when he stir frys using that wood spatula and on that glass electric cooktop. Need 3 essential components for successful stir fry - high heat, good wok and fresh ingredients. He responded that it was a brilliant idea! But, I've not seen him put into practice yet.
I agree with the others, if you get a set you will deprive yourself of the benefits of different cooking surfaces. Get some stainless (saute, frying pans), some cast iron (frying pans, dutch ovens, some enameled cast iron (dutch ovens), aluminum, some copper (frying and saute) if you can afford it, and some non-stick if you have to. Each surface has advantages and disadvantages.
wow thanks already and it makes so much sense to buy pieces to fit what I need, probably a dutch oven and maybe a pasta cooker is all I really need after the 2 cast irons, i have a wok as well (ty eleanor btw but that needs reseasoning, no big deal it is carbon steel and I have done it before) and 1 le creuset nonstick for omelets.
good advice I will also check out the brands mentioned here
Always happy to talk about the benefits of cast iron pans/woks. Dupont, the manufacturer of non-stick pans warn not use above medium. That's why a lot of people get "soupy" stir frys. You need high heat. So, as long as you're just doing your omelets, it's O.K.
My mother introduced me to using this thin walled, 3 pound wok and I've been thanking her ever since. It's actually quite difficult to find in America, so my students love that I've tracked it down.
I don't understand why you have to keep reseasoning your carbon steel wok? Unless it has gone rusty. A few students mentioned theirs did and also cruddy. The one on Wikipedia looks disgusting. That's the beauty of cast iron, the more you use it, the more patina it builds up and becomes a natural non-stick surface and lasts a lifetime.
After reading a number of the posts here ...
Especially since you also have some ususable ware, sets may disappoint you. You'll most likely be buying some pieces that just take up space. For instance, in the near future I'm going to be giving away some expensive pans I never use.
(They'll go to a good family:).
Beware of the pretty, shiny, expensive steainless steel for frying pans. Just yesterday, for instance, I ran across a commentary by a professional chef who said stainless steel is "horrible." Though that's a bit overstated, I agree with that for frying pans. Awful. But clad stainless I think is fine for saucepans.
My most-used saucepans are anodized aluminum. They're in great shape after 20 years. I don't use metal implements, though.
I've never understood all the talk about cast iron frying pans. Without all that weight,
carbon steel steel pans work fine. They've been used for generations in fine French restaurants, and by home cooks.
For stockpots, you might want to check out restaurant supply places like Surfas and Restaurant Supply (both on the web).
I must have missed mentioning the cast iron wok I use is lightweight, only 3 pounds and has thin walls. I can hold it in one hand even with food in it! Lodge, Le Creuset and Bodum's cast iron woks are over 10 pounds, look beautiful but make cooking a chore because of all that heavy lifting. I know lots of people who thank me for introducing them to my lightweight, cast iron wok. It has made cooking fun again.
re: Eleanor Hoh
I bought an 18" cast iron wok in North Toronto (lots of Asian stores) for $15, and it is great. The walls are thin, so it is as easy to handle as a steel wok, just slightly smaller. The only disadvantage is brittleness. It probably can't withstand a drop to the floor. I cracked a Staub that way!
You're right, thin walled cast iron is brittle BUT being lightweight is so much better. You'll get a laugh out of my husband's video on all the mistakes he made when he first started cooking in my wok! He dropped and broke my wok because it had water in it but with cast iron, it is so quick and easy to build up the patina, we just started using a new one and because we use it everyday, it didn't take long.
We submitted this video to youtube and he's had 15,000 views and quite a few chefs have left humorous comments:
Definitely advise against a set. I have stainless steel, anodized aluminium and non-stick cookware that I use regularly and for specific purposes.
Having said that, I do have more cookware than I really need, and that is because in the early days, I tended to automatically buy several sizes of the same finish. Sad but true, that is almost as bad as buying a set.
With full benefit of hindsight, I suggest you sit down and list out the most common dishes you would cook, best finish(es) to cook them in, and the size(s) you need. If in doubt, hold off. The nice thing about not buying sets is you can build up slowly.
If in doubt, do not buy a particular item until you really get to the point you are sure you need it.
If you don't want to use a wok, this pan here is a steal (price good on amazon for this Friday only but it's always on "sale" every Friday)
It's another "cook almost everything pan", and the lid is domed instead of flat which helps make the pan useful for cooking bigger items. Also Calphalon is very good with honoring their lifetime warranty.
I see nothing wrong with getting a really good set of SS cookware, especially if it discounted, and the items are appropriate.
My local big box store is selling a solidly built Lagostina SS set at $120, and it has enough variety, saucepans and pots, chicken fryer, 6 qt. casserole or dutch oven, that would work well in most kitchens, at low cost. Stainless may not be ideal for everything, but it is very serviceable.
Absolutely nothing wrong with a set of stainless steel sauce pans (1, 1-1/2, and 2 qt), saute pan and a couple of bigger pots, with various and sundry lids. The set is not about preparing that once a week signature dish, but the everyday meal where you might end up with rice in one, veggies in another, and a sauce in a third.
The reality is that cookware has very little to do with the quality of the vast majority of the foods we cook. There are pieces of cookware that are exceptions: woks, cast iron skillets and dutch ovens come to mind. Everything else is, quite honestly, boiling water on the stovetop.
So once you get beyond the really cheap junk, the choice needs to be based on things like care and maintenance (skip anodized aluminum and enamel on steel if you like to chuck stuff in the dishwasher, skip enamel on steel if you are aggressive with handling and washing), appearance (shiny SS vs. the substantial look of anodized Al vs. colorful enamel), compatibility with your stovetop (if you have induction, I understand certain materials don't work so good), and the overall feel of the stuff (metal vs. plastic handles, glass vs. metal lids, balance, etc.) The only thing left is how much you want to spend.