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Recommendations for cookware for vacation rental

My friend owns a country home that he rents out on weekends. He does not stay there during the week. In a typical month, the place is rented out for 3 long weekends, and he uses it himself the 4th weekend.

He's looking to replace his pots and pans, and is trying to figure out how to balance some conflicting needs. The cookware has to be easy to use, easy to clean, and relatively resistant to abuse and neglect (metal utensils, food left for a few days, spillovers, slightly burned food, dropping). Because of the cost of the rental, it should also not look or feel cheap.

Any ideas on what he should get ? This is one of those situations that I don't think throwing a lot of money at will solve, since most expensive cookware requires careful handling.

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  1. We're in this situation also and there are a couple of approaches he might consider. One thing he can do is have the stuff HE uses and store it in a closet or a trunk that locks. And not so much the stuff he uses but the stuff that a tenant can damage. He can also get rid of ALL metal utensils and have only silicone and wood. I just bought a set of Circulon cookware from Costco that I bought because I just switched to induction. It was $200 and is 10 or 11 pieces, divided between various sizes of saucepans, skillets and lids. It's got a nice weight to it and is ovenproof to 400. I also leave written instructions for people. I get VERY specific. For example, "nothing that is wood or plastic can go in the dishwasher." "No cookware can go in the dishwasher." The people who use our places aren't slobs but they just don't know everything that we know. Right??? If I can provide further advice/opinions, let me know. As I've refined my instructions, it's gotten better :)

    Edit: Forgot to mention that the cookware is nonstick.

    3 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Having stayed in numerous vacation homes, I'll give the opinion of the renter. Ignore the assumed need for non-stick and just get stainless - it doesn't have to be great quality heavy weight All-Clad, but it should be something that can take the metal utensils and the dishwasher . . . no matter the instructions you leave, you should really assume that people are just looking for the easiest to use. And, you know what, they are on vacation they can put some fat in the pan. If not used properly, even "non-stick" will stick, and you should assume people will scrub the hell out of them if that happens. I always really appreciate it when I get to a home and find stainless cookware, because I know I'm not going to have to dig for that one pan that doesn't have teflon peeling up all over the place due to the misuse by previous renters. He can get decent looking stuff that doesn't look cheap without spending a fortune, and with stainless it doesn't have to be replaced every year or two due to abuse.

      Oh, and can you please tell your friend that if there is a microwave in the house, then he should have microwavable cookware around -- such a pet peeve of mine.

      My dream rental would have one basic, cover all the bases, set of stainless cookware. One set of Corning Ware that can be used in the microwave or oven, and one or 2 aluminum baking sheets (again, no non-stick surfaces and not those cookie sheets with no sides). That would really allow me to do almost all the cooking I'd want to while on vacation.

      The real problem is knives... there's really no way to keep those in good shape. Not worth getting good ones. Get cheap and know you have to replace them often.

      1. re: centralpadiner

        I always bring my own non-stick fry pan and griddle, because I assume whatever is in the house has been trashed by other renters. I need a big lobster/corn pot, a smaller spaghetti pot, some pyrex baking dishes (9X13 for sure, and a couple other sizes, for oven an microwave use), and a couple of cookie sheets.

      2. re: c oliver

        Second the Circulon idea. The non-stick surface on our one Circulon piece has far outlasted our All-Clad non-sticks. As a regular condo renter (some times high end), a full set of Circulons would be way better than the crud we usually see. Personally, I think a stainless set would get thrashed by the majority of renters.

      3. Agree with stainless. I would keep an eye on estate sales where you can often get great deals on high end pots.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mountaincachers

          I agree with all of this. Knives ARE hopeless; I always pack my own. I'd add a good cast iron skillet to the list, well seasoned (yeah, some folks may wreck it but others will thank their lucky stars, to see it). Don't get TOO good, though. We have a little stone cabin we like to stay in on the edge of the Boundary Waters, in Minnesota. Time before last, we arrived to find a new sink and counters (yay!) and a new fridge (yay) and a wonderful, old, smooth as glass antique cast iron skillet (a Wapak). YAY!

          Next time we came, a year or two later, the skillet was gone. I'm pretty sure it was pinched by a renter...Boo hoo.

          1. re: Beckyleach

            We've never had a problem but, yeah, don't have irreplaceable kitchen things. And lots of cheap, serrated knives are great. I use them regularly.

            We do exchanges actually rather than rent our homes. We and our exchangees always jump for joy when we get a well-equipped kitchen.

        2. From a renter's viewpoint, I'd also say to skip teflon. No matter how clean it is, it skeeves me out, because it's almost always worn, scratched, or worse.

          I'd also suggest some sort of knife sharpener be handy. Not everyone will use it, or care, but even a cheap, dull knife could be helped a bit by one. There's nothing worse than trying to cut a lime for your gin and tonic and having the knife bounce off the skin. What I would have given to sharpen that piece of crap.

          1 Reply
          1. re: irishnyc

            "From a renter's viewpoint, I'd also say to skip teflon. No matter how clean it is, it skeeves me out, because it's almost always worn, scratched, or worse."

            Completely agree with this.

          2. dump123456789, our best friends own a vacation rental (time-share) at a very, very high end resort. Their house rents out for $600/night. You would think that renters who pay $600/night would be high class, right? Wrong. Anything left there gets trashed.

            My suggestion: Tuesday Morning regularly has Made in China Berndes cookware on sale. It is cheap, nearly indestructible, and looks classy.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Politeness

              Sorry to be so cynical, but if it looks too good, it might get "liberated..." (old old phrase!)

              1. re: Politeness

                Your friends' experience is the same as my friend's. The high nightly rate does not filter out guests who would trash things. In fact, I suspect they feel entitled to do it BECAUSE OF the high rate.

                Doesn't stainless steel get nasty looking if stuff is burned in it, and it's either not washed properly, or it's washed in the dishwasher ?

                (Silicone and wood utensils wouldn't eliminate the metal utensils issue, since it appears some guests are using the metal cutlery as supplementary utensils.)

                1. re: dump123456789

                  Does your friend use a property manager who can monitor damage, collect deposits and "ding" the a$$holes who f$$k up his house???

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I think damaged pots and pans (up to a certain point) count as "cost of doing business", and are covered by the rental fee. Dinging people would probably drive renters away and create bad word-of-mouth, unless the damage was serious enough.

                    Having said that, he would still like to reduce this cost if at all possible.

              2. We vacation at rental homes all the time, and mostly fly there, so packing our own knives, pots and pans isn't much of an option! This might sound weird, but 'making do' can make for some fun memories. I will never forget my mother, insisting that 10 pounds of live crawfish be rinsed before cooking. No colander to be had, so she used the plastic-coated dish drainer. The sight of her screaming and laughing as we pried off the clinging claws of those little crustaceans - priceless!

                Many more great memories from this renter's side. Provide the best you're comfortable with and don't sweat it.

                3 Replies
                1. re: southern_expat

                  I travel with a chef's knife, microplane grater and a few other "necessities" in my checked luggage all the time.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    We ship a box three-four days before we leave, with all of the niceties from home that we want (good nonstick, a griddle, lobster crackers and hammers, cloth napkins, etc). It's pretty cheap (under $25 each way usually) and has always been waiting for us in the rental office when we check in. We're not the only ones to do this - there are usually a couple of other boxes waiting for just checking in renters. I put my chef's knife and good paring knife in my checked bag.

                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                      you know, we ship our fishing gear when we fly to a rental, I don't know why I never thought of shipping a knife. Everything else I can make do with, but a lack of a knife that can actually cut drives me insane. Thank you for the lightbulb moment!

                2. I think the idea of inexpensive SS is a good one. But I'd still pick up some cheap (Costco?) nonstick skillets and just know you're going to replace periodically.

                  1. I agree with the majority here.. I'd hit the discount retailers and pick up some stainless calphalon or cuisinart (tjm/marshalls/homegoods have them frequently greatly reduced) pieces.. maybe 2 fry pans and 1 saute, 1 4qt sauce and maybe a 2qt sauce pot.

                    I agree with the other poster that one or two inexpensive nonstick pans might be nice too.

                    Hit WalMart or somewhere for a nice looking stock pot with disk bottom that doesn't break the bank for large amounts of boiling.

                    I'd opt for nylon kitchen tools.. easy for a renter to throw in the dishwasher and not too expensive to replace.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: grnidkjun

                      Definitely a pot for boiling. Pasta seems so easy when on holiday.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Please add a good-sized colander and some large bowls (or as a guest wrote in the guestbook at our last rental in Mendocino, CA "this kitchen needs some large bowels"). We haven't stopped laughing since reading this one.

                    2. I rent a place with some girlfriends every year (as well as for myself whenever I can find someplace; I really like self-catering, as the Brits call it), and I'm always amazed that no one provides an inventory of what to expect in the kitchen. IF I know what is there, I can always decide to bring what is missing: my "good" knife that has its own plastic guard, my calphalon pan, whatever. A big deal-killer is no big pot (boiling pasta) or bowl (salad), or cutting board. I agree it's best to minimize the nonstick or just buy a cheap set and expect to replace relatively often. A nice clean stainless steel skillet feels a lot more hygienic, though, I agree with the others. A couple of cheap serrated knives will usually work for most things, though, lest you be discouraged from buying any knives at all!

                      What I don't expect but would be really nice is a selection of about 10 of the most common spices. The last place we stayed there were literally 5 different little bottles of pepper, 3 of red pepper flakes and multiple bottles of olive oil. Even if you replaced them once a year (which I guess we should anyway, oops), it would be a nice gesture and save your renters from having to go out and replicate some part of what they already have in their own kitchen.

                      Another pet peeve is a place that "sleeps 8" with a dining table that only seats 4, etc.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: kleine mocha

                        Althought it gets away from OPs question about cookware, I agree with the spices. Because we use our places also, we're well stocked with those kinds of things. And I always let people know that I love to cook and have a very well-equipped kitchen. Some people could care less but for those who do, they're ecstatic.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Found in a Walmart sporting goods dept - some kind of plastic fishing compartments that screw onto each other making a cylindrical stack. I think they were orginally designed to hold fishing flies ......... Each little tub fits into the one below. I fill them with thyme, dill, basil, et al and take them with me on even the shortest road trips (along with my "car kitchen") because I've never been sorry to have them along. I think my total investment was about the best five dollars I've ever spent.

                          To stay w/ the OP's original question, definately recommend SS cookware with the understanding that it will be abused and ought to be replaced *before* necessary. No matter what owners post about dishwashers, as a long-time house renter, I have found knives and cookware in the dishwasher more often than not on first inspection of a new kitchen.

                          When we return to a place, I already know what additional items need to be tucked in along with the things I take regardless of what the prospectus says: 1 or 2 LC pieces, a copper saute pan, cast iron skillet, my knives, at least one Pyrex or CW baking dish, etc. If we're driving, it goes with us, otherwise we'll ship it.

                          Of course, driving offers the opportunity to take a lot more than just kitchenware, but that's another post.

                      2. I'll pass along the suggestions. Stainless steel cookware, knife sharpener, diverse spices. (He'll probably get standard grocery store dry spices.)

                        I know the place lacks a big pot. There's a pot big enough for one pound of penne or other small shapes, but not for one pound of spaghetti or other long strands.

                        There are a couple large salad bowls, collanders and cutting boards. A set of knives, including chef's, santoku, bread, paring and steak knives. It's one of those Macy's house brand sets with a block. There's Corning Ware/Pyrex, microwavable cookware. A couple sets of nonstick cookware, but those will probably need to be replaced after this summer.
                        Nylon, silicone and wood utensils.

                        After 5 months of rentals, he's already had a blender destroyed, several utensils run through the garbage disposal, and numerous dishes and glasses chipped or shattered. Also, a couple guests seem to have taken baths in the hot tub.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: dump123456789

                          Whew, that sounds like a lot of wear and tear. If he wants a blender for personal use, I would again recommend a trunk or closet that locks. I don't think renters expect a blender or anything else that's nice to have vs. need to have. Hell, I'd disable the disposal also when he's not there and just put a little note above the switch. He's going to be really grumpy when the disposal is ruined and not "just" the utensils.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            I have to disagree...I would be very disappointed to rent a beach house with no blender..no pina coladas :-(

                        2. I too vacation at rental homes as I enjoy the space and the option of making my own food. I agree that there's usually not a big pot, colander, good knife, good quality pots. I'm not asking for high end stuff either, just something that's a nice quality. My pet peeve is often, the essentials aren't clean, there's often a film on them and I have to wash everything. Once, there was a cutting board so filthy, it was absolutely brown, I couldn't bear to use it. Those places usually have the banged up kitchen essentials. I think if you maintain the standard/quality, your guests would be more careful. I truly believe the owners (property mgr) should also be responsible for ensuring the kitchen along with the rest of the unit is in good standing.

                          1. If available, I recommend IKEA. It's not great, but it's stainless steel, cheap, with a disk bottom. Also, many of the pots have measurements printed on the inside, so when someone steals the measuring cups (I know, why would anyone do that? They do.) you can approximate. A supermarket non-stick pan is fine because it will be destroyed. Utensils are difficult; I don't like the IKEA ones, but as long as you've had to walk through the store, they'll do the job. Knives? All the other posters are right. Go cheap; anybody who cares will bring their own.