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Mar 9, 2010 06:05 AM

Cookware for beginners...

Hi! I am currently registering for my wedding and am in way over my head when it comes to cookware (and knives). My fiance and I both like the idea of cooking... but currently live in a manhattan apartment with a kitchen the size of a non-walk in closet, so we don't get much practice. Shortly after the wedding, we (hope) to be moving somewhere with more kitchen space and finally get cookin!

I think our main concerns are: we want pieces that will heat quickly, that are easy to clean, and easy on the eyes. I was lured into putting a copper core set on the registry while at BB&B, but when I got home and thought about it, the price just seemed crazy for cooking newbies like us. I love the look of the Lagostina Williams Sonoma line (which you cannot buy online, which is an issue), but I am wondering whether those (or the All Clad d5 Brushed Stainless Steel line, which you can get online) are slow heating? We will also get a non-stick fry pan no matter what.)

Any thoughts on a good line for beginner cooks?

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  1. Snaps: "...registering for my wedding ... Shortly after the wedding, we (hope) to be moving somewhere with more kitchen space ..."

    While you are just starting and are still young, any quality cookware you purchase now will last "forever"; while you may choose to replace a piece or two in the future, you never will need to do so, and so you will have the luxury of replacing piece-by-piece onyour own schedule. With that in mnd, take into account the probability that eventually your cooking equipment will be induction; for that eventuality, it makes sense now, when your heat source probably is not induction, to select pieces that you will be able to use on your eventual induction cooktop/range.

    Selecting only cookware that will work on induction imposes no limitations: for every piece of cookware that will not work on induction, you can find a similar piece that will work on induction (woks possibly excluded). All cast iron cookware works on induction. Most stainless cookware works on induction (there are easy tests to determine if it will or won't). Even some copper cookware (not pure copper-only) will work on induction. Some cast aluminum lines have been engineered to allow use on induction. You need only specify in your wedding registry specific lines of cookware that are known to be induction compatible.

    If we were starting anew and making a wedding registry, we probably would feature Chantal Copper Fusion in the registry.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Politeness

      Totally agree with politeness on induction. By buying a good quality induction cookware and taking good care of it, it would last forever as Politeness mentioned. In a long run, it is a better investment than buying a cheaper non-induction cookware which needs to be replaced. If I would start from scratch today, I would go with All-Clad d5 as my main pieces. I own many All-Clad SS tri-ply, whose notorious handles do not hurt me much as my hands are small, but not having a flared rim is not optimal to me. I would buy a set of d5 and try to sell a couple of items I don't need from the set on ebay or else as there are many people who want to test out d5 so they would buy them if the price is right:). With that money I would make, I would add other items, LC DO maybe 5.5 round or 7.5 round, and a cast iron fry-pan in my collection.

    2. Snaps,

      You said it. All Clad Copper Core and All Clad d5 are great cookware. That being said, there are many budget prices option. I don't think you need these cookware to make great food. There are slightly cheaper options from cuisinart and Calphalon.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        I have seen the less expensive 13 piece contemporary stainless steel set from calphalon, and I guess my question is whether it is worth it to go for the all-clad d5? Besides price (saw the 13 piece set for 500), what are the advantages and disadvantages to going for the contemporary stainless steel set over the AC d5? I think I am now rulling out copper core...

        1. re: Snaps

          Hi Snaps

          $500 is a nice price. Although I really don't know if you need 13 pieces cookware of the same material , but that is another topic. Here are the advantages for d5. The biggest marketing selling point is that d5 heat more evenly (slightly). In my opinion, the biggest advantages of d5 are (1) the more comfortable handles and (2) the curved/flared rim.

          Have you tried to hold a large cookware with the standard All Clad handles? They are painful to use for some people, like me. However, many people are perfectly fine with them. You should try to hold the standard All Clad stainless steel cookware. If they are painful to use, then that's that. You have already made the decision there. If they are comfortable for you, then the d5 handle is not an advantage to you. It really comes down to you and your fiance.

          Same for flared rim. Some people really like it, and some do not mind one way or the other.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Is the d5 easy to clean? I have read conflicting reviews... also wondering if it heats up more quickly than other stainless steel cookware?

      2. Everybody has lists; one good and sensible resource is Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen, which you can get out of the library.

        At this point, you can go for quality and do your research here and at Cook's Illustrated (online subscription something like $24 annually) for specific items. Later on, you can augment as you like--some places have good sales; I've done really well with Pyrex stuff from the thrift store, too.

        One of Alton's points that you will appreciate with a small kitchen and then later in life as you invariably accumulate clutter is that with rare exceptions you do not want a "single task" item in your kitchen (e.g. I use my rice cooker to steam fish and to make steel cut oatmeal, as well as rice). Also as tempting as it may be, pre-packaged "sets" of things are rarely the best choice. An example: You want a good chef's knife, a couple of paring knives, one maybe with a serrated blade, a bread knife. The best of each category likely will not come from the same manufacturer. Same with pans: You want a cast iron skillet, a good nonstick pan, a good stainless steel w/aluminum core skillet or saucier, not 4 different sizes/shapes of Circulon or All-Clad or whatever...

        I did ignore this rule recently; I switched to a ceramic top stove and needed some new sauce pans (my old ones no longer flat on the bottom after years of gas cooking). There was a set of Tools of the Trade Belgique pots on sale at Macy's that was too good to pass up, but once I've figured out what fills in the gaps I plan to freecycle a couple of the pans.

        2 Replies
        1. re: kleine mocha

          Hmm, I saw those Tools of the Trade Belgique cookware at Macy's too. Are they good? Any trouble?

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Well, I got them mostly for the saucepans; they seem much sturdier than my old revereware ones, but I've not had them that long. There was a nice-sized stockpot in my set, but again that doesn't get stressed too much. In another thread some people complained about discoloration but I really don't care about that. I think they are so far good value for the money compared to All Clad, which I also have. Haven't done side-by-side comparison of the pots that do overlap.

        2. For beginner cooks I'd select a set of moderately priced but well designed stainless pans. The pans should have an aluminum or copper core. The sides to the pans should be straight, and when you heft them the pans should feel balanced and the handle should be comfortable. If you handle some pans you will know what feels right. You can always ask for a spare non-stick fry pan or other specialty pan as well. These will get you started and they will give you good service. Dept. stores, QVC and Bed Bath and Beyond all have moderately priced stainless pans in sets. The reason I'd go stainless is because if you hope to have a dishwasher some day, these guys will go in and come out in good shape.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sueatmo

            I recently used a Costco-Kirkland 5-ply set and was impressed by the heat distribution, build and the sheer heft of the pans. I saw it this week at $230 CAN, $180 on the US web site. One of the 'problems' is that the posters here are (like me) a little fanatical about their cookware. All I can say is that if I had been given that set as a wedding gift I would have been very happy until the cooking-with-cookware bug bit, and that was years later.

            I have a few solid copper pieces which I hold dear. My wife loves the frying pan, but not the two pans. She says are just too heavy for her, and the iron handles get too hot over the gas. For the same reason she doesn't use my cast iron Dutch ovens. So one person may want a steaming affair while the other prefers something saucier.

          2. Unlike some of the other opinions expressed here, I would take a different approach to my first cookware acquisitions. I would talk with one or two people I know who do a lot of serious cooking, and ask them which are their five favorite, can't-live-without pieces. Better still, post that question here on CH and see what people suggest. Those are the pieces I'd put in my registry, even though they're not likely to be a "set."

            FWIW, I'll start you off... #1, top-of-the-list: A 5.5 quart oval (or round) Le Creuset French Oven. It will last forever (and I'm not exaggerating).

            6 Replies
            1. re: CindyJ


              But aren't most cookware last forever? I mean bare cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel, ... I think pretty much nonstick coating is the only reason we stopped thinking cookware as long-lasting.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Chemical -- yes, I suppose some cookware can last forever; whether someone would choose to use it forever is another issue, so maybe what I had in mind was more a piece of cookware's practical and useful life rather than it's actual durability. The three pieces of Le Creuset cookware I received as a wedding gift from my co-workers nearly 40 (YIKES!) years ago I still treasured today. OTOH, the "set" of pots and pans my mom bought me at the same time (she was well-intentioned but just didn't understand cookware) is long gone, replaced over the years by individual pieces I've selected for their particular attributes and particular uses.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Not all cookware does last forever, though. Cheap handles break, thin bottoms warp, etc. It's more than just the surface of the cookware.

                  1. re: tzakiel

                    agreed.. when I had registered (a long time ago) I had no idea about quality cookware and registered for a basic enameled non stick set.. all I can say is within a couple years.. the cookware and marriage flaked out. lol.. hmm.. predictive cookware.. who knew??

                    1. re: grnidkjun

                      grindkjun, it is so funny. I like your humor so much.

                      Another reason for people not to buy a non-stick cookware.

                      "Predictive cookware of flaking marriage"

                      I am sure no one wants to buy it:) Oh, I have no non-stick other than my small egg pan. My marriage is still going strong. That is maybe why :)

                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I like what Palustrious says. If I had gotten an entire set of good quality stainless cookware I would have been quite happy. What I got was a couple of mismatched pans and some Corningware. Of course this was years ago when marrying couples did not expect their near and dear to spend big bucks on them. I built up my set of Farberware and used it for 25 years more or less. There was so little to choose from then! My pans did show wear. The aluminum bottoms grew thinner. I can't remember if the handles got loose. But my cooking changed. My stove changed. if you get a set, you get several basic pans. You can use and abuse them and learn how you cook. You can clean them in the dishwasher. And you can add pieces individually that you know you will use, thereby building your custom set of pieces. And, even if the pans themselves do not wear out, you'll burn at least one or two of them up and lose a couple more in a move. Nothing lasts forever.