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College Graduate Looking for a new set of pots

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I've graduated a while ago and now looking for a new set of pots and pans to replace my old college ones.

I cook for just my boyfriend and I and I have a steady job and make a good paycheck. I don't want to wait till I'm married to get a nice set of pots, I'm looking to buy something that will last me for a long long LONG time.

I've been so use to cheap pots and pans that would chip all the time in college, I'm will to pay a heftier price for something that will do a good job and really last. Here's some things I'm looking for and my cooking styles:

-I sir frying vegetables A LOT. I usually never use a spatula, I just flip the pan till they're done, but I'm not very strong..I was looking at All-Cad frying pans but they're so heavy I could never use one hand to flip things.

-I sear meats a lot, too

-The pans have to be oven proof

-I love cooking dungeness crab so I'm looking for a steamer that will fit 2 dungeness crabs at a time. I only cook 2 crabs at a time so I don't need something too insanely big, and I have to be able to use it on the stove.

-Something to make soup in, not to big, not to small.

-What size pot do you recommend just to boil water? I usually just boil water to make coffee in the morning for my boyfriend and I, we use a coffee press.

-I make bread so any recommendations for a good dutch oven and size recommendation for two would be great! I've heard good things about both a Le Creuset and Staub.

-I also make Shabu-Shabu, and I'm curious about what kind of cooking appliance is used where they can keep the broth boiling on a table like that.

Thanks everyone for your help and recommendations!

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  1. and.ken.fly,

    I won't want a stainless steel stir fry pan. Not so much about weight but because everything stick to a stainless steel pan. It is not the right tool. I recommand a carbon steel pan.

    For searing meat, I like to go for a cast iron cookware.

    These two are often oven proof.

    I won't pretend knowing about dungeness crab, so I will skip this one. Let more qualified people comment this one.

    For soup, just get a 6-8 quart stock pot will do. Go for stainless steel for this one.

    For, Shabu Shabu just get a Japanese clay or cast iron pot and a portable gas stove.
    http://www.google.com/products?hl=en&...

    1. Since you say you are not very strong, you should either not get a cast iron Dutch oven or one not larger than 6 qts. This can work for searing, braising, and soup as you can do all those on the stovetop and not have to lift the pot until it is empty. On another thread, for bread baking there were suggestions for using a tagine, or, a cheaper alternative, a terra cotta bulb container inverted on its saucer (from the garden supply store).

      I won't get into comparative brands since I think that buying the status brands like All-Clad and Le Creuset is spendthrift, unless you get a deal at a tag sale or on eBay. Kirkland sets from Costco are very favorably reviewed.

      As for the shabu-shabu, look into a portable induction burner. America's Test Kitchen just rated them - recommending 1600-1800 or more wattage, and the Max Burton brand, which is under $100. These heat high and fast, without heating up the room (I am considering getting one before summer hits).

      1. I really like my Caphalon pots and pans. For the most part I bought these in pieces. Caphalon often has promotionals where you get one pan at a good price. I would guess this is to get new buyers. My husband and I have had pieces for 10-15 years and they have held up very well. I don't see us replacing them anytime soon.

        1. My suggestions:

          Stir frying vegetables - 12" carbon steel evasee
          Searing meat - 12" cast iron skillet
          Crabs - ?
          Making soup - 6- to 8-quart stainless steel stock pot with encapsulated aluminum disk bottom (might even go up to 12-quart if you want to freeze lots of leftovers)
          Bread - 5- to 6-quart enameled cast iron Le Creuset French oven
          Shabu-shabu - stainless steel rondeau with encapsulated aluminum disk bottom and a portable induction hotplate

          The pots and pans above should all be oven-safe and induction-compatible (so you can use them on your new induction hotplate now or on a full induction cooktop later).

          1. I won't use my LC enameled dutch oven for bread, since I don't know if it will crack the enamel. I've heard of people using old ones, so I'd maybe suggest a cheaper unenameled one for bread, or a second hand LC.

            I don't know how heavy carbon steel is, but it will be lighter than cast iron for sure.

            However, when you say you're not strong, I recognise that this relates to manipulating the stir-fry pan, which I agree would be difficult. A full dutch oven is still heavy, but you may be able to handle that.

            I'd also suggest a cast iron pan for searing, but you'd need to check that you can hold it.

            1. For stir frys I'd get a big carbon steel wok (flat-bottomed). I know your burner is probably not like a restaurant's but there's no tool better to stir fry just by shimmying the handle. You can also buy a steamer rack (like the bamboo ones) to steam whatever you need, including the crab.

              I'd ditto the cast iron for searing and stove-to-oven use. A 12" Lodge weighs 8 pounds and has an assist handle. If you can comfortably lift 8 pounds, this is the best $25 purchase you'll ever make.

              A 5 quart or smaller Dutch oven sounds good for you. If you're not going to be using a lot of acidic ingredients in it unenameled is fine. Again, I'd go with Lodge, but do yourself the favor of going to a cookware store and trying out the handles on a bunch of brands for yourself. See which works for you.

              As for a pot to boil water, get an electric kettle. You can get a great one for $30 to $50 and they're incredibly fast. You can use it to heat water you need for anything; cuts time on heating pasta water incredibly.

              1. I wouldn't buy a set of pans but acquire single pans that fit my needs. There are always pans in sets that you'll never use and will end up storing for the rest of your life. You may also need to test various types to see which ones best suits your cooking style and needs. Pots and pans are like shoes, one shoe does not fit everyone.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kayakado

                  I have to say, I do think the same thing... but sometimes, if you know you're gonna want more than one saucepan for example, and the deals on a set can be better than buying pans individually.

                  Just checked amazon - pans are around £30 individually, or £90 for a set of 5 :/ It's hard to beat sometimes.

                2. "I cook for just my boyfriend and I and I have a steady job and make a good paycheck. I don't want to wait till I'm married to get a nice set of pots, I'm looking to buy something that will last me for a long long LONG time. "

                  Buy a few pots and pans you will use regularly, especially starting out. I big set of pans from a starter package will give you a lot of pans you won’t really use a lot. Buy fewer higher quality pots and pans.

                  "-I sir frying vegetables A LOT. I usually never use a spatula, I just flip the pan till they're done, but I'm not very strong..I was looking at All-Cad frying pans but they're so heavy I could never use one hand to flip things."

                  Do you have a high BTU output burner on your stove top? If so, get a traditional Wok. If not, get a really have skillet and spatula since you will want lots of heat retention for your stir fry.

                  "-I sear meats a lot, too"

                  Good quality cast iron works very well for this. A good skillet or dutch oven are great for this.

                  "-Something to make soup in, not to big, not to small."

                  I find a 4 quart post works well for most things and is a very versatile size.

                  "-What size pot do you recommend just to boil water? I usually just boil water to make coffee in the morning for my boyfriend and I, we use a coffee press."

                  A 2 quart “Windsor” pot should work fine for this. Windsor’s are made to evaporate liquid and concentrate flavors but, I find the sloped sides and spout make a great pot to pour from. This would work real will with a French Press.

                  "-I make bread so any recommendations for a good dutch oven and size recommendation for two would be great! I've heard good things about both a Le Creuset and Staub."

                  Both are great brands. I’m partial to Le Creuset but, Lodge from Wal-Mart will work great for bread and a lot cheaper (just make sure they are properly seasoned ;-)

                  1. Had you been cooking for a long time, I'd suggest you buy individual pots to suit your need. However, a packaged "set" that is midpriced would probably be best for you to start with - steer away from aluminum as it's very lightweight and will burn foods VERY easily. Use them and see which pots/pans you use most often - most people find they have their go-to's while the rest of the set-inventory finds its way to the back of the cabinet.

                    A second suggestion is to buy a "NON" non-stick, stainless set, then separately, buy a non-stick skillet for cooking more delicate items such as eggs.

                    Non-stick surfaces do not allow the best caramelization (browning) when searing meats or browning vegetables, etc - and you want that browning to occur. As you develop/define your cooking technique, fond (brown bits on the bottom of the skillet) will be a much sought after flavor asset for sauces.

                    After a bit, you'll have figured out which pans you want to invest in "that will last [you] for a long long LONG time". Then you can buy the $$$ ones with more confidence that you won't be throwing money away.