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Nov 3, 2010 05:42 AM

Buying First "Real" Pans... Help

I have decided that time has come that I buy my first pieces of solid cookware in terms of pans and related cookware. I have always used very cheap sets of pans that I got from Costco or IKEA because as a college student, I had neither the money nor inclination to buy the good stuff (you don't want your roommates getting their hands on and destroying your LC dutch oven).

I have many questions so I figured I'd put a post up here as there are some very well informed people on this board. I know that I would like an enameled cast iron dutch oven (either staub or LC), I know I'd like a nice saucepan for making a broad range of things (tomato sauce, Persian stews, chili, curry, etc.). In addition I'll need something for making fish/eggs (something non-stick or non-stick like), and lastly something to sear with.

I have never really owned anything that I have had to season so I don't really know how to do it. I don't really know the best metals to get for each item. I am somewhat of a health food guy but I have read so many conflicting things about which pans are or are not healthy so I really am confused. Some say the various non-stick surfaces break down, some say seasoning can be unhealthy, some say various metals are reactive and get into your food, so I just don't really know what to sort through. I don't know much about the proper care for the various types so I'm afraid I'll buy something and ruin it.

I am expecting the dutch oven to cost approx. 250, and for the other 3 pans, I'd like to spend no more than 500 total. Anyone able to guide me? I'd love for the pans/pots that I buy in my 20's to last me many many years. Also, is there another pan/pot that I have left out that I really will need a high quality version?

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  1. I would buy the 5.5 qt. Le Creuset Round French Oven. I recently bought a 7.25 qt because after 30 years, I thought my 4.5 qt was too small. The 7.25 seems too large, though. So I bought a 5.5 qt. recently.

    Here it is, right at your price point (a little lower, actually).

    My favorite saucepan is a 3 qt. stainless with a loop from All-Clad. You might find a 4 qt. more suitable. Just make sure you get it with the loop across from the handle for easier pouring.

    Another thing about All Clad. Williams-Sonoma has an exclusive on All Clad's new D5 line of cookware. It costs a bit more, but it has a sandwich of five layers, hence the name, vs. the three layers A-C has used for all these years. I don't have any D5, so I can't recommend one over the other, but I thought you'd like to know.

    1. I don't think you can go wrong with either a Staub or LC dutch oven, it comes down to personal preference. I would suggest something around 5 qt. for starters unless you cook for a crowd. That will easily hold a good sized roast and has enough surface area for vegies. Don't be tempted by the Chef brand made in China stuff, it's not a good investment.

      Regarding food safety and cooking surfaces, there has been a lot of discussion on this board recently in that regard and unless you are extremely concerned about any possibility of any level of chemicals the only real issue is bare copper (with noted exceptions). With that said there are choices for most cooking tasks. For eggs, I prefer a "non-stick" surface pan, typically PTFE coated. I differ from some in that I think you can by reasonably priced quality, such as Scanpan, and be better off than buying "disposable" cookware. I use an 8" and work like a short order cook, you may want something larger. Other options here would be cast iron, preferably old cast iron, or carbon steel, both of which will need to be seasoned. Not a big deal really.

      For the remainder of your cooking tasks either a multi-clad ss or copper with either tin or ss interior surface is as good a bet as any. Good ss clad pots will last a very long time if properly cared for. You can't go wrong with All-Clad, they have both aluminum core and copper core pots and pans. You're probably better off with clading that goes up the sides as well as the bottom as opposed to the bottom disk, but again, there are exceptions to this and differing opinions. The sized you choose will be dictated by what and how much you cook.

      1. You're going to get plenty of opinions on your post. My opinion is that you can get a perfectly good enameled cast iron dutch oven for considerably less than $250.There are many out there in the $50 to $80 range that are good. If it were me I would get the Tramontina set from Walmart that comes with the 12" saute and skillets. Then I'd get a 12" nonstick skillet from a restaurant supply store (generid brand) and an 8" nonstick for omelets and frying eggs.

        9 Replies
        1. re: John E.

          Second the Tramontina recommendation from Walmart:

          The Tramontina 10-Piece 18/10 Stainless Steel TriPly-Clad Cookware Set features triple-layered construction, which allows food to evenly heat from the base up to the sides. The set has everything you need for stovetop cooking. Plus, it's the choice of many gourmet chefs.

          Tramontina stainless steel cookware set:

          Tri-Ply construction for even heating
          18/10 stainless steel
          Mirror polished interior and exterior
          Cast mirror polished handles
          Induction ready
          Use on lower heat settings for best results
          Stainless steel with aluminum core
          10'' saute pan
          12" saute pan
          2-qt. covered sauce pan
          4-qt. covered sauce pan
          5-qt. covered Dutch oven
          12-qt. covered stock pot
          Tramontina stainless steel cookware set includes manufacturer's lifetime warranty
          Tramontina stainless steel cookware set model #80116/526

          This cookware gets incredible reviews ( including from me) comparable to AC and at 249 for the set, you have a lot of your budget left over for a LC 5.5qt Dutch oven and a non-stick

          1. re: knet

            That sounds like a fairly good option. I have a few questions however. First of all, is there anywhere else that offers this set besides Walmart, I have personal issues with shopping there. Secondly, what is the reason that some pans cost so much more than these? By this, I mean, is there an issue of quality with this particular set in terms of longevity as I would be more inclined to spend more now and not have to constantly replace my pots and pans. Finally, do you know if the aluminum extends outside of the base of the pan all the way through the sides?

            1. re: XerxesAB

              I don't intend to speak for knet, but here is what I know. I understand where you're coming from with the shopping at Walmart thing (Walmart did more to destory small-town mainstreet America than any recession ever did) but these Tramontina sets are only available from Walmart. If you do decide to buy the Tramontina set, make sure you get the one with the larger size pans, and that one I think is only available on-line. You buy it on-line and have it shipped to your local Walmart (no shipping charges).

              All-Clad pans cost so much more because they price them that way. I know it sounds stupid to say it that way, but people are willing to pay three times or more for them, but the Tramontina really is just about as good. Google Tramontina vs. All-Clad and read some reviews. The Tramontina is try-ply and all clad just like All Clad. I don't know how far up the side the aluminum goes, but it isn't a disc bottom. Some pieces are made in Brazil and some in China, but they're still high quality.

              1. re: John E.

                Thanks for all the info. I don't want to sound like a snooty person saying that I won't shop at Walmart. It's just one of those things that I have made an effort at doing, to influence corporate policy one wallet at a time. It sometimes makes life difficult but whatever. Maybe I can have a friend who doesn't mind patronizing Walmart to get me this as a gift, haha.

                I totally understand what you mean about people just willing to pay more. It happens all the time with many different items, but since I don't know much about pans I didn't want to assume it happens here.

                Only other thing I was looking at was cooper/tin pan with a SS interior cooking surface. It seems they are VERY expensive, and I assume that is a mix of the cost of copper and the fact that people are willing to pay more for it. My question would be, will I notice a difference between copper and aluminum? Is that difference worth the cost?

                This Tramontina line looks promising, I'll have to figure out if there is a way to buy it online off a different vendor. Maybe I can find a work-around.

                1. re: XerxesAB

                  Snooty? Sane would be mor like it. There are two ways to supply your kitchen, and I'm certian to ofend some people with this scenario, but this is the way I feel and based on your feelings for Walmart, you may have similar feelings. One is to buy your utensels at Walmart or similar, where everything possible is made in China, where it's really a crap shoot if the quality, consistancy, and safety (your safety) is being followed and met. Or you can buy from reputable suppliers of items manufactured in the US and EU, where quality, consistancy, and safety (your safety) are considered a top priority.

                  I have no personal experience with Tramontina cookware and I couldn't really care less how Cooks Illistrated ranked the product. If it's made in China, it's a crap shoot and one I won't take. I'm really not as old as this may sound, but there was a time when people purchased high quality items and fewer of them, and those items lasted most of a lifetime or more. I'm using the Griswold cast iron skillet my grandmother bought, I'll bet it wasn't cheap at the time and it wasn't made in China. Many people today think everything is disposable and purchase based on that assumption. Buy more, buy cheap, toss it in a couple of years and start over. I wonder how long the planet is going to last if we all had that mind set? Sure you can save a bundle on the initial purchase by buying a dutch oven made in China, but I have it from a reliable source it's going to chip easily and then what, in the dumpster and start over? Or buy one of the high quality French ovens either Staub or LC and have it for a life time. The same with metal cookware, whether it be coated non-stick or regular ss clad. People pay more for a brand for a reason, real or percieved, does it really cost 3 or 4 times as much to make an All-Clad pot as it does some other brand, I doubt it. But they have built a reputation of quality, which allows them to charge a premimum. If their quality drops and their reputation lost, their sales and or prices will drop as well.

                  I would rather have a few really good pieces of cookware from the likes of Staub, LC, Mauviel, Demeyere, All-Clad, and Scanpan, than to have and entire kitchen full of made in China junk. It's better for me, it's better for the economy, and frankly it's better for the planet.

                  1. re: mikie

                    Mikie: "I would rather have a few really good pieces of cookware from the likes of Staub, LC, Mauviel, Demeyere, All-Clad, and Scanpan, than to have and entire kitchen full of made in China junk. It's better for me, it's better for the economy, and frankly it's better for the planet."


                  2. re: XerxesAB

                    You may want to check Ross, TJMAXX, Tuesday Morning for Tramontina, I have seen them there before. I have chafing dishes by Tramontina and have really enjoyed them.

          2. You don't need to spend $250 for one dutch oven even for Le Creuset or Staub if you have access to outlet stores of Le Creuset and/or Williams-Sonoma. If I understand your original post correcly, you don't need to jump to buy a "SET" imediately at Walmart, or ? Since you have already narrowed down the items specifically which you want to replace and add, a dutch oven, a saucepan and two skillets, just take your time and do research on materials,sizes, and brands. This board provides good resource and you can check archives, too. I am also in a camp for quality brand/products with good long-term value so I love outlet stores,, sales at bloomies and macy's. Also, TJmaxx/Homegoods/Marshalls are good for bargain hunting if you have time. I would rather buy quality taking advantage those places than buying cheap things and replacing them often. Waste of total energy as mickie says.

            2 Replies
            1. re: hobbybaker

              Hobbybaker is right. I have seen LC at TJMaxx/Homegoods several times. I have also been very surprised to see Mauviel copper pieces there at incredible prices. If you have the time and patience, check out all of your local TJMaxx/Homegoods/Tuesday Morning stores.

              Also, the LC outlets are a wonderful place. The help that I have found in the majority of them is extremely detailed and customer-service oriented. They treat every purchase as if they were purchasing the items themselves. They will also ship to you and look for specific pieces if you know what you want. You are able to call them and they will service you.

              Hope this helps and good luck!

              1. re: hobbybaker

                Just heard that Macy's had a closeout staub sale last week but things were quickly gone, I guess! My friend bought a 6.5 qt round cocotte for less than $150, not bad at all!

              2. You will get good deals on premium brand name cookware if you don't rush your purchase.

                Bloomingdales, now carry AC, Demeyere, and LC, have a Friends and Family sale twice a year that gives ~20% off. They just had one in Oct. The next one would probably be sometime next spring.

                Bed Bath and Beyond carries Mauviel, and they always have their 20% off one item coupon.

                Stuff from the outlet perform totally fine. They come with the same warranty. There you'll find discontinued items and things with slight blemish on the surface. For the past two after Thanksgiving sales I scored an 8-piece open stock (4 pots 4 lids) All Clad 3-ply Stainless Steel for <$400, and a 4qt and a 6qt Staub DO for a total of <$200.

                As far as to what to buy... I'm sure most people here can write you a book. You'd have to go through the threads and make your own decisions.

                - Copper - $$$$$, unless you don't mind using 2nd hand, it'll be out of your reach.
                - Anodized aluminum
                - Clad materials - stainless steel on the surface, aluminum and/or copper inside
                - Clay (like Emile Henry)
                - Carbon steel
                - Cast iron

                *** Coating - usually being put on cast iron / carbon steel
                - Teflon - If you're looking for longevity, this option is pretty much out.
                - Enamel
                - Seasoning

                *** Types / Compatibility
                - Pressure cooker
                - Induction ready
                - Dishwasher safe?
                - Rivets inside or not

                I might have missed out a few things. Other people can fill you in.

                People will tell you what their preferences are, but at the end I'd advice you to go to a store and feel it yourself. Some people absolutely hate All-Clad's handles. Some people love Demeyere, but I just can't lift it and it'll be forever out of my list.

                Have fun searching. :-)

                P.S. - You may be interested in LamsonSharp's kitchen tools. They're made in the USA and are available on Amazon.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cutipie721

                  Thank you for the breakdown, it will help me digest all the information out there.