Keep my stainless or go for enamel cast iron. Help.
I received a very nice set of Calphalon stainless steel cookware for Christmas. I was wanting to replace some old non-stick and not very nice cookware (some I've had since college). If I had been picking for myself I would have purchased a few pieces of Le Crueset instead. It seems though that people love their stainless so I'm conflicted about whether I should return this Calphalon set or learn to love it. My husband and I are vegetarian so how well cookware handles meat is irrelevant. We primarily eat veggies, beans, grains, tofu, tempeh etc.
I would also mention this set is very large and duplicates pieces I already have and am happy with. So what's your advice? Keep this super nice stainless set or return it and pick out the few pieces that I need? If I do return it is there something that you'd recommend more than enamel cast iron?
Thanks for the advice.
Well, it depends if you already have a set of stainless steel cookware. Enameled cast iron coowkare is a much more specific cookware than stainless steel triply cookware (Calphalon Comtemporary Stainless Steel and Calphalon Triply Stainless Steel are triply cookware with an aluminum core.) These triply stainles steel cookware (intended) work like aluminum cookware.
Most people who like enameled cast iron, like it for a Dutch Oven. I would argue that enameled cast iron is not very suitable for other jobs. It is not the ideal material for stir fry, saute, pan fry, sear, boiling water... etc.
If you just want a skillet for searing vegetables, I would think a bare cast iron skillet or a carbon steel frying pan is better -- assuming you know how to season these cookware.
I have 2 bare cast iron skillets and a dutch oven now that are my go-to pieces. I have a large enamel aluminum stock pot. I have a non-enamel le crueset shallow casserole. I have one omelet size stainless skillet. Then an assortment of other pieces: non-stick sauce pans, skillets, etc.
I see. You have already a good set of cookware. A typical stainless steel triply cookware set has the "two frying pans, two sauce pans, a stock pot and maybe a saute pan... etc". So the question becomes if these cookware will give you much. I suppose you will get two nice frying pans and two sauce pans and a stock. Do you see much use in upgrading your frying pans, sauce pans and stock pot in your daily routine? If not, I guess you can return the set. On the other hand, what do you want from the Le Cresuet enameled cast iron? Do you want a Le Creset Dutch Oven. I don't know if I believe an enameled cast iron Dutch Oven is better than a bare cast iron Dutch Oven like the one you have. There are some people who like enameled and some don't like it.
P.S.: Are you sure that it is a non-enameled Le Cresuset cookware you have? Most Le Cresuet cookware are enameled. This is too:
My opinion is that an enameled cast iron Dutch Oven is a great piece, however, I think it's qualities are best appreciated when braising meat. It out performs SS when making a pot roast or chicken Vasuvio for example. That's where it shines and where there is the biggest gap in performance. With that said, there are many who prepare other dishes in their enameled cast iron Dutch Ovens, so it can definately be used for multiple purposes, it's just that you would likely be able to get similar performance in your cooking environment from some other less expensive and more versitle vessel.
With regards to set or individual pieces, most here would advise purchasing individual pieces to obtain the best performance for each cooking task. I only buy part way into that, by nature I'm not so much a mix and match person, so I would buy saute pans and sauce pots that match, as they have similar cooking requirements (mainly quick even heat), skillets are a different issue and boiling pots are an entirely different issue, so these are probably best bought as individual pieces looking for the best performance.
I guess what you're both making me consider is what needs aren't being served by my current cookware.
I definitely need saucepans. What I have now are in sorry shape. Both of my cast iron skillets are 8 inch. These serve for most things I do, but I could also use a bigger skillet or saute pan. I don't have a good pot for boiling water for pasta or using a steamer...
PS. You're right! My Le Crueset is enamel. But there's something about it that's different. It was a gift several years ago from a "professional" line that they did. I've never seen anything like it since.
If you do want to get a larger skillet/frying pan, you should consider the possibility of a carbon steel frying pan. Carbon steel pans can be seasoned like cast iron, but they are usually lighter, so it is easier to handle and move around. I can toss vegetables in my carbon steel pan which would be a problem with a cast iron skillet. Still heavy though.
As for saucepans, stainless steel triply is not a bad way to go. If you want it fancier and nicer, you can go copper.