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Which pots/pans should I buy in cast iron, which in stainless steel, and which in copper?

Hi All!
I am brand new to this forum! I found it while researching cookware. I am looking to replace my Teflon Kirkland pots and pans with some quality cookware. I keep reading that different materials are best for different dishes but can't find which are better for what.
I'd like to know if I should get my saucier, for example, in All-Clad stainless steel, Le Creuset cast iron, or copper. What about the fry pan? I am looking to just buy a few key pieces right now and add to my collection piece by piece. I already own a Le Creuset D.O and LOVE it! I also have 3 cast iron skillets from my grandmother 12 in, 9 in, and 6 in.
I am really leaning towards the 3 or 5 qt LC braiser as one of the pans as I do a lot of this type of cooking.
So, what pieces do you all suggest I get to start off with? And in which material?
Thank you in advance!

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  1. If you're going piece by piece, tell us which piece you'll be buying next, or which piece you use most and what kinds of things you cook in it. For a saucier, I'd say copper, but if you don't cook many sauces it's not something terribly useful. My most used piece is a copper saute pan, followed by an 8 qt All-Clad stockpot. Your usage will be different than mine, so it's hard to give advice.

    1. If you already have 3 cast iron skillets, why do you need a fry pan?

      Ditto 3Gigs. What particular piece are you looking to upgrade? Between 3 skillets and a DO, it seems you have everything covered for the basics except for a small & large saucepan/saucier.

      1. Based on what you have, it appears that you have a good sense of what cast iron and enameled cast iron can do. The question is are you comfortable with the reaction time of cast iron in regards to temperature change to use it for a saucier? If you want the fastest reaction then copper would be the way to go and then stainless steel.

        The cast iron skillets have you covered for the majority of frying needs with the exception of acidic foods. Stainless steel is a good choice to supplement what you have.

        The LC braiser seems like a nice fit as you already know how it will act and like that method of cooking.

        1. It depends on how you cook. I have cast iron skillets, but I have 2 much used non-stick frypans. I use all of it. I like stainless for saucepans, and I have a large stainless vessel with copper bottoms for boiling pasts or occasionally making soup. (We are only a household of 2 right now, so I don't generally make lots of soup at a time.) I have an open saucier and a lidded Windsor pan, and use the saucier the most often. I think it is an All clad. Most of my stuff is moderately priced Cuisinart and I do just fine with it.

          I have a Berndes braiser I really like. It is cast aluminum and very versatile. But I've used an enameled cast iron braiser and it worked fine too, although too heavy for my kitchen. What you buy depends on what you feel you need, or what things you want to try. If you want to do low fat sauteeing or egg frying, perhaps a good quality non-stick is what you want. Or if you are opposed to non-stick, then I agree with another poster. Why not just use your cast iron?

          1. Thank you for your replies.
            I'm new to cooking. I was raised in a family where we were always told that the women in our family didn't know how to cook (and they really didn't lol) so I was raised on packaged food and was never taught how to cook anything else. There are no real family recipes that have been passed down. I only recently discovered that I really enjoy cooking. That being as it is, I don't yet have a real sense of "what kinds of things I cook"
            I do enjoy making my own sauces. There is almost always some type of meat in our dinners (this is probably where I have branched out the least, I was a vegetarian for many years) lasagna, enchiladas, beans, vegetables, stir-frys, soups, curries, etc. Just the basics so far but made with all fresh ingredients and spices instead of from a box.

            E_M I don't know why I thought I would need a fry pan. I think I read a post that everyone should have a SS fry pan. I figured there must a reason one would need something other than cast iron.

            SanityRemoved-reaction time of my pans is something new to me. I've been cooking with my non-stick and cast iron and have never noticed anything about different reaction times. I only read about this once I started researching. (told ya I was new to all this :-)

            So, based on your comments, I need a couple different sizes of saucepans to start. Should I get Stainless Steel, Cast Iron, Copper? One of each?
            Thank you!

            2 Replies
            1. re: MellyB

              For frying pans, stainless steel cladded with aluminum and carbon steel are good choice. The reasons people prefer stainless steel (cladded with aluminum) for frying pan as opposed to cast iron are: (1) stainless steel is nonreactive so it is better for deglazing and (2) heat response is important for pan frying and heavy cast iron is too slow.

              Technically, you don't really want pure stainless steel cookware because of the poor heat conductivity of stainless steel. Therefore when people say stainless steel cookware, they are really talking about cookware with a stainless steel exterior and an aluminum or copper interior. As for copper, it is a toxic metal, so you don't see fully exposed copper cookware. The interior surface (cooking surface) of a copper cookware is always lined with tin or stainless steel or something. Consequently, when you asked earlier about stainless steel vs copper. Keep in mind that stainless steel is always refer to the interiror surface and copper is always refer to the exterior or core layer, so these two specifications do not mutually exclude one another. For example, Mauviel Copper Cookware are stainless steel lined on copper:

              http://www.metrokitchen.com/mauviel/

              1. re: MellyB

                It's great that you are taking the plunge into cooking and enjoying it. Cast iron of any type holds heat for quite awhile. I love it but it does have a problem when you need to lower heat quickly, it just can't react/respond quickly enough. Copper, aluminum and stainless steel all respond much faster which is better for more delicate sauces that may require a faster lowering of heat.