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Need idiot-proof cookware...

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My fiancé ruined all of my non-stick pots and pans, so basically, I need pots and pans that he can't ruin :)

I would prefer something non-stick, but without toxins or the risk of peeling. I would really appreciate cookware that is easy to clean. I am not opposed to making an investment, but if at all, I would like to minimize the cost.

I was looking at the chantal copper fusion and all-clad d5.

I don't need a huge set - a small stock pot, 2 sauce pans, 2 fry pans and/or a saute pan.

Please help - thank you!

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  1. You should consider non-stick as disposable cookware. Most non stick will use PTFE in some way to make their cookware non stick. Don't be fooled by the claims that they don't contain Teflon. Teflon is a brand name so technically they don't contain Teflon but do contain the PTFE that is Teflon. Calphalon anodized aluminum works and holds up well but still will wear out over time. No such thing as idiot-proof.

    The Chantal and D5 coodware you are looking at are not non-stick but they do look like nice and expensive cookware.

    There is a place for non stick and most often it's when cooking eggs. Outside of that there is little need

    1. It might be cheaper to replace the fiance :P but if that's not in the cards you still have some options. Like scubadoo97 said there's no such thing as idiot proof, someone always builds a better idiot.
      Scanpan is great stuff for durable non-stick. Still can't heat it up past 450 if my memory serves me correct. It will however hold up to metal utensils much better than cheaper PTFE pans.
      Other than that I would suggest going with a stainless setup as it requires the least amount of care and holds up well against abuse.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cannibal

        Thank you both for your responses :)

        Scubadoo - I guess non-stick is less important than I thought. I am a very attentive cook and check everything like I have OCD, so I can't imagine I would let anything get stuck to my pots and pans. I can always buy a cheap pan for making eggs - thanks for the tip!

        Cannibal - Haha, no chance of replacing him...I definitely agree that someone always builds a better idiot! I'll look into your suggestions :) thanks!

        1. re: jennifer62186

          Scanpan is safe to 500F. I have a set of the original and my son has the new stuff. The old stuff was good but the new stuff is even better. It holds up to all sorts of "abuse". Handles metal utensils, etc etc etc. It isn't cheap though. I think it's around $300 for the starter set (large dutch oven, large fry pan, large saute pan, sauce pan, 3 lids, can't remember what else is in there). Yes, it has PTFE, but test after test after test has shown no outgassing. Scanpan does not peel. You do need to follow the care instructions - no leaving food in the pans, wipe it out while its still hot or run cold water over it and clean it right away.

          Love the stuff. Its useful for much MUCH more than just "frying eggs". I make dosai in it (like a crepe), dry fry tofu, just everything is easier in my scanpans. Needs much less oil and generally what I do use is for flavor (I found dosai don't taste right if you make them totally without oil). They heat evenly and retain heat well. They do not require "seasoning" as cast iron and carbon steel pans do. Search on seasoning and you will see how much trouble people have with "seasoning". Also cooking acidic foods in them can damage or even ruin the seasoning if you do manage to get it to take. That means tomatoes, lemon juice, and lots of other stuff is not good for cast iron or carbon steel.

          Scanpans are good heavy pans - as someone else noted, heavy enough to bonk the fiancée in the head if he continues to abuse your cookware!

          Gotta start training them right from the first, LOL!

      2. I'd suggest you check out Silit Silargan cookware from Germany. Thick steel with a fused ceramic coating. Pretty much indestructible IMO. Semi-nonstick, takes high heat. Also, heavy enough to hit your fiancé on the head with if necessary.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tanuki soup

          tanuki wrote: "Also, heavy enough to hit your fiancé on the head with if necessary."

          Ha!!!! You took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to suggest to the OP to get inexpensive non-stick for eggs, and then if fiance ruined it she could whack him over the head with her AllClad which is practically indestructible. I've really burned and ruined some things in my AllClad but I can always make it look like new again.

        2. Stainless steel "tri-ply" cookware is pretty tough, but it can be warped if you are determined to do so, and it can be pitted too (such as with salt). It can also be discolored if subjected to high enough heat. You of course can still cook on a pitted, warped, and discolored pan, but it isn't pretty, neither is it ideal.

          Raw cast iron is about as indestructable as you can get, though the handles can break if dropped. Other than breakage, I don't know of any way to really ruin one beyond repair. They can handle extremely high heat and even in the worst cases of abuse and/or neglect, they can be sandblasted (or a grinder with a wire wheel) and you can start over fresh with them. The problem with raw cast iron is that it is not really a general purpose type of cookware.

          I'd say that commercial stainless steel (either tri-ply and/or aluminum disk type) cookware such as from Vollrath would be your best bet for a high level of "idiot-proof" for the money (nothing is 100% idiot-proof).

          7 Replies
          1. re: MaximRecoil

            A properly seasoned cast iron skillet works well with eggs and is nearly indestructible and cheap.

            I have tortured my Sitram stainless/aluminum disc pans and they still work great. At the time my Profeserie set was ~$150 new. Today I would look at the Vollrath pans with the 7mm aluminum disc on the bottom.

            1. re: MaximRecoil

              You can ruin cast iron by either putting it in water when it is hot (it cracks) or letting it get rusty. I am the sort who would likely toss a badly rusted pan than work to save it, but that is just me.

              Check out any disk bottomed stainless steel pans out there that have metal handles. Not plastic or other materials. They are nearly impossible to warp. I have Cuisinart, Paderno, Demeyere and Sitram pieces. You can probably shop for less expensive cookware if you hit the warehouse clubs. Clad or tri-ply is more inclined to warp unless it is really heavy duty stuff, but while I have never warped one of those, and I have All Clad, (hot pan in a cold sink of water?), I can't speak for your fiance. Good luck. Hey, at least he is trying to cook.

              1. re: RGC1982

                You really have to work at destroying a cast-iron skillet. Maybe the Myth Busters have done it but I doubt you have.

                1. re: steve h.

                  It only takes a lazy housemate to get the pan rusting. I've only heard of cracking one, yes, and the care labels for all the major brands warn about cracking, but rust is easy to do. Hot pans are left to cool off on the stove in my house, so I have never experienced cracking. It was only last year that a thread about Paula Deen cookware cracking was running on these boards, and I believe there may have even been a recall, so it is not impossible.

                  As for rust, it is harder yes, once thoroughly seasoned, but all it takes is water and a thin spot on that seasoning due to overscrubbing. I had a roomate once who would leave dirty and wet dishes and pans in the sink for days, or at least until I couldn't stand it anymore. One pan did rust pretty badly over a weekend while I was away. Don't tell me it takes a Myth Buster episode to get it to rust, because I have seen it. And, as Mike B points out below, if he sticks it in the dishwasher, good luck. When the OP said idiot proof, I was thinking of the most likely mistakes.

                  1. re: RGC1982

                    Ah, nothing is foolproof. Fools are ingenious. :-)

                    1. re: RGC1982

                      I've got a nice old machined cast iron skillet that I cracked while steaming fried chinese dumplings. I still use it though, the crack is almost invisible, but oil seeps through to the outside of the pan.

                      1. re: absurdnerdbird

                        I don't want to come off as a "Nervous Nellie", but couldn't that be a fire hazard?

              2. Here's what I would suggestt:
                Stock pot: an 8 quart would do, but why not get a 12 quart? Just don't fill it up, but if you're having a party, you still have the ability to cook for a crowd or use it to chill beer. You need this to steam 2 lobsters. Just make sure you have the storage room. A decent stainless steel stock pot can be acquired cheaply as a promotional sale for as little at $10. You can put SS in the dishwasher.

                2 sauce pans: on a daily basis, you'll cook for two, so get a 1 1/2 qt and a 3 qt. My preferred pan is the Windsor. Small bottom that lets you steam without a rack. These will nest to save space. It pays to get copper core bottoms on these, but commercial aluminum from a restaurant supply store will be fine if money is an issue.
                You didn't ask but a very small Windsor with a lip for melting butter or heating sauces is a useful thing to have.
                You can also buy a double boiler insert for the larger Windsor which saves having to buy another pot.

                I keep a dedicated pan for eggs. A little OCD but it has become completely non-stick. My family knows that using it for anything other than eggs is a mortal sin. Mine is a 30+ year old Calphalon, at least twice the thickness of anything they currently offer, so you'll have to settle.
                If this isn't important, an 8" non-stick is a useful tool. Plan to throw it away every couple of years.

                Skillets/Saute pans: I think the argument over fry vs saute is overdone. It's more important to decide how much care you are willing to give to a pan.
                You need a large area skillet - 12 inches. It can be cast iron if you can keep you fiance from ruining it. You may be better off with a copper core stainless steel saute pan - the one with the sloping sides. I have an All-Clad copper that I use for everything from fish to steaks, although I much prefer to take advantage of the very high heat of my 12 inch cast iron to get the good sear on steaks and other meats. The 12 inch cast iron is my go-to. It lives on the stove-top and I use it for everything from one pork chop to several steaks or a fricasse. My father used it as a griddle to make his morning toast or pancake..
                Please note that both of these pans require maintenance and neither goes in the DW. If that is important, buy stainless steel with a copper core.

                I can cook well with this limited number of pots and pans. You might want more - now or later.
                Start small. Never spend more than necessary. You can live well with less than you might imagine.

                1. Unless you find a set that meets all your needs, don't be afraid to mix and match to get the best collection of pans.

                  We were fortunate enough to get pretty much the entire Le Creuset Tri-Ply stainless steel set as a gift when we got married 5 years ago. It's an excellent set of pans which conducts heat evenly. I'd definitely replace with another set of tri-ply (although maybe not Le Creuset as they've changed the design first). They're lighter than the LC cast iron saucepans but still sturdy and heavy. The only thing I would change is that I'd like a helper handle on the large (20cm) saucepan.

                  I have an Ikea non-stick milk pan that I've had since I went to college 10 years ago. I bought it with the aim of replacing it pretty quickly when the non-stick wore out but it's still going strong - the non-stick has only worn through slightly on the rim where another metal pan has sat on top. This, combined with a cheapy Tefal larger non-stick frying pan meet all my non-stick needs.

                  I also have two Lodge Logic preseasoned skillets which I picked up in the US and I thought they were very cheap. However they are excellent to cook with - ideal for roasting meat as you can sear it on the hob and just shove it in the oven. Although I wouldn't cook pancakes on them without a little fat, they are nearly as good as non-stick.

                  1. Thanks everyone ☺ I didn’t expect to get so many great recommendations. I definitely didn’t expect to have suggestions on pots that were good for hitting my fiancé with haha. He’s a sweetheart, I promise...at least he’s trying to be helpful! Maybe I’ll just buy him his own little set to cook with.

                    Tanuki – Silit Silargan cookware looks AMAZING. I am definitely looking into that! It is pricey but it sounds like a worthwhile investment. Thank you!

                    Barbara76137 – I have been looking into All-Clad, specifically the d5. Is there a specific type you would recommend? Thanks for the suggestion!

                    Maxim – I never thought to look at commercial stainless steel, that’s a great suggestion. Vollrath prices aren’t bad either. I love cast iron but it’s SO heavy for everyday use. Thanks!

                    Sid Post – I prefer the idea of using cast iron instead of non-stick for eggs. I’ll definitely get at least a piece or two of cast iron (a skillet and perhaps a dutch oven – a girl’s gotta have a little le crueset in her cookware collection.) Thanks!

                    RGC1982 – Haha, I too would throw a pot away before trying to save it ☹. I’ll keep the disc/metal handle suggestion in mind. Thank you!

                    Making Sense – Thank you for taking the time to type such a thoughtful response! MY fiancé will love you for thinking of a clever use for a stock pot (chilling beer ☺.) Everyone on here seems to agree that there should be a pan just for eggs. I think what you suggested is just what I need. I also agree that a cast iron is great for searing – a must for us. Thank you so much!

                    Serah – I think I will end up mixing and matching. It sounds like I need a little of everything! Some Ikea items are surprisingly indestructible, but that’s quite impressive. I have heard good things about Lodge – I like being able to put the pots in the oven, especially for something like chicken parm.

                    Thank you everyone!!!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jennifer62186

                      Since you like the idea of cast iron, I'll point out another advantage of a large CI skillet. I use my 12" as a roasting pan. Works well for even a pretty large roasting chicken, rib roast, good sized pork loin or meat loaf. I'd never use my SS for that as the cleanup can be tough.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        That's quite clever. Your screen name is appropriate! I'll definitely have at least a 12" cast iron skillet in my collection. Thanks again :)

                        1. re: jennifer62186

                          Call the whole thing off if he sticks it in the dishwasher!

                    2. Here's my 2¢:

                      Stainless Steel: If you're looking at AC, take a look at Demeyere too.

                      Enamel Cast Iron: If you compare LC with Staub, I think you'll prefer Staub.

                      Traditional Cast Iron: Lodge pre-seasoned or vintage Griswold. There are also some from Japan (google Iwachu Nambu Tekki) -- very sleek & modern.

                      Copper: Don't. I love copper, but I love induction too and I think it will become more common in the US. Who knows -- your next house or apartment might have it. Most new, higher-end SS cookware with a copper core works on induction. The test: if a small magnet sticks to the bottom, it will work on induction.

                      Like good kitchen knives, good cookware is best chosen in person. You'll want to make sure the handle is comfortable and the pan feels balanced.

                      Metals 101:
                      Iron + carbon = steel
                      Steel + chromium = stainless steel (Min. 10 to 12% chromium)
                      Stainless steel + nickel = still stainless steel but the optional nickel makes it a little better: a tiny bit harder, corrodes even less, shines even more, etc
                      When you see "18/10" that means 18% chromium and 10% nickel -- that seems to be the most common mix.

                      Let us know what you end up getting & how you like it.

                      1. I would look into anodized aluminum cookware and cast iron.