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Dec 13, 2011 07:23 AM

I'd love some advice re: cookware gifts for my wife (Christmas).

My wife is a fantastic cook/baker but she's lacking just a bit in the cookware department.
This summer for her birthday I got her a Le Creuset Dutch Oven & a baking stone from a local boutique-y cookware place. She loves and uses both constantly.

I think she could use some new cutlery and pans - her only real request being "No Teflon, please".

My idea was to add to her LC collection over the years, but that can get rather pricey and I'd prefer to
get her what she "needs" first. Are there some really great non-teflon pans/pots and price-friendly-yet-efficient cutlery for me to investigate ? Some of her girlfriends have told me to check out T.J Maxx, HomeGoods, and Marshall's. She's not a brand snob but I want to get her quality stuff she can use for years to come.

I'm talking about a woman who once dreamt of a Kitchen-Aid mixer and longs for butcher block counters.

Any solid advice will be most appreciated !


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  1. " Are there some really great non-teflon pans/pots and price-friendly-yet-efficient cutlery for me to investigate ?"

    Depending what you seek for, a carbon steel frying pan can be very useful and is relatively inexpensive. DeBuyer is probably as expensive as it goes, and is under $100 and many under $50. Other brands are cheaper. She has to be comfortable with seasoning carbon steel cookware like cast iron cookware.

    As for cutlery, I suggest you to consider some Japanese kitchen knives. They work and feel differently than typical German knives. She may prefer the Japanese ones better -- just something to look into.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      thanks ! i'll look into DeBuyer, etc. she's diligent when it comes to taking care of her stuff, i just want her to have more high-quality pieces. if anyone has thoughts on a nice, cheap mandoline that'd be great too !

      1. re: clockrva

        i looked into an All-Clad set stainless-steel skillets and they're getting really mixed reviews w/ complaints of bad sticking. i'm thinking about getting her a DeBuyer Mineral 10" or 12" fry pan w/ a nice mandoline... and maybe a discounted Le Creuset pot/pan from a place like HomeGoods. any say ?

        1. re: clockrva

          "i looked into an All-Clad set stainless-steel skillets and they're getting really mixed reviews w/ complaints of bad sticking"

          I think that is just the nature of stainless steel surface cookware. I doubt All Clad stainless steel cookware is more sticky than other brand of stainless steel surface cookware. I also believe that most people who complained the All-Clad cookware being sticking were customed to Teflon nonstick cookware. As such, almost everything is more sticky in comparison -- especially stainless steel.

          So what have your wife been using up to this point? What kind of cookware she is aware of?

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I also believe that most people who complained the All-Clad cookware being sticking were customed to Teflon nonstick cookware. As such, almost everything is more sticky in comparison -- especially stainless steel.


            I agree with this statement. I know several households that switched to stainless and absolutely hated it but they also don't understand basic cooking techniques.

            Prior to switching to ss (All-Clad) my only experience was with non-stick. I have no issues with any thing sticking and really like the ability to brown and de-glaze in my saute pan.

            I have no use for cast iron so my vote would be for a nice big stainless saute pan. Mine is All-Clad and I got it (and other pieces) off the Cookware and More site. I use it every single day.

          2. re: clockrva

            Stainless sticking can be pretty much eliminated with proper technique. I had a little learning curve switching from non-stick to stainless steel, but have become a non-issue after a few months of practice.

            A few people on this board have bought stainless clad cookware made by Regalware and love it.

            I think it could be a great alternative to All-Clad, although I don't have any personal experience with it. I bought all my AC pieces from the outlet.

            I am struggling a little bit with bare cast iron / carbon steel cookware. It is very important to maintain a good layer of seasoning on these cookware, otherwise they stick every bit like any SS pan. Also be careful not to cook anything acidic in the pan, like deglazing the pan with wine after cooking a steak, because it will definitely strip the seasoning off. I marinated some chicken pieces in lime and chili and decided to sear them in my deB pan one day, part of the pan where the chicken was in contact with turned gray (back to its original brand new color).

            I also find that cast iron pans are more readily to rust than carbon steel for some reason.

            Get both stainless and cast iron. You don't know what she'll end up liking better until she has tried both. Maybe a stainless saute pan and a deB skillet. In fact, there are some pans that look exactly like a saute pan but with two loop handles instead of one loop + one long handle. Consider getting one of those instead to double as a small roasting pan.

            Hold off with the mandoline if you're going to get a good knife. What does she envision using the mandoline for anyway? I spent $100 on a de Buyer mandoline some years ago and I didn't like it as much as my Shun knife. No, I actually hate it. Other than veggie ribbons and wavy chips, I can't think of anything that I can't do better and more efficient with my knife.

      2. They have LC is a link..helps with price point.
        What a wonderful spouse you are!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Beach Chick

          I'm with Beach Chick: the Le Creuset outlet stores are the best. And if there's not one near you, you can order over the phone and get free shipping if you spend over $100.

        2. Cuisinart has a new line of tri-ply cookware in stainless steel made in France. I have not used it but it may be a good performer at a good price. Someone on this site may have some experience with it and may comment. Certainly worth looking into. And it is available direct from Cuisinart.

          11 Replies
          1. re: dcrb

            If there is a Bed Bath and Beyond near you that would be a great place to view and compare quality cookware. They also usually offer a 20% off coupon in the Sunday paper this time of year.

            1. re: CynAmyn

              Great stuff everyone! I'm checking everything out online1 between clients! As to what my wife is using: she has a Circulon skillet and flat pan(that she probably scored from Tj Maxx). We make breakfast on those almost every day. Then there's the LC dutch oven, baking stone, and a heavy black cast iron skillet that works really well. She grew up in a big Italian extended family so she loves to make breads, soups, lasagnas but also makes killer Thai food and traditional dishes like roast chicken &the veggies (in the dutch oven). She hates her knives, would like new pans, and has a special spot in her heart for Le Creuset. We have a 1yr old daughter and my wife is super safe (paranoid) about teflon/chemicals/non-organic stuff. I think she'd be good with the upkeep of pans that need seasoning/etc.
              I'm thinking maybe 1 or 2 really good knives, a 12" skillet and who knows what else. Aside from that I might get her a pair of shoes she likes (not to cook with).

              1. re: clockrva

                And yeah, the mandoline was prob kind of a goofy idea- at least for right now!

                1. re: clockrva


                  Since your wife has already had a cast iron skillet, then she will have little trouble taking care of a carbon steel pan -- very similar care taking. Le Cresuset is great for many things, especially for slow cooking, but I would try a different material for skillet and fry pan. An All Clad stainless steel fry pan is good. A Debuyer carbon steel pan is also good. They both have their own disadvantages and advantages.

                  In term of knives, I think one good Chef knife will really help. You certainly do not need a knife set. It is much better to get one good Chef's knife, than ten medicore knives in a knife block. Japanese style or Japanese influenced knives are really great. Now, some people don't care for them, but many love them. So your wife has to decide if she like the thinner and shaper Japanese knives. If she does not know, then she can stop by Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table...etc and try out the Shun knives and Global knives. There are many other Japanese knives too, but those two are easist to try.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    She's got one little Henckels knife she likes a lot - I have pretty much been banned from using it. Its only like 4a or 5" I think. ..

                    1. re: clockrva

                      I have a little set of Henckels paring knives I got at Target for ~$20. There are 4 of them with different colored handles, blade shapes, etc. One is serrated. I've had them at least 5 years and use one or two of them every day. That little set and a decent chef's knife will go a long way!

                      1. re: clockrva

                        I see some "Grand Chef" skillets/pans - they're made in Italy by ROCH GUSS-kind of metallic mustard green and PFOA free/"eco- friendly"- anyone know anything about this stuff? Junk?

                        1. re: clockrva

                          Actually I think the Grand Chef nonstick pans are really good pans. I bought one about 8 months ago and like it so much I went back to TJ Maxx and Marshall's to find more. I like their old-fashioned wooden handles; btw, if they get loose just tighten the metal eye hook at the end of the handle. They are made of die-cast aluminum (which is unusual for frying pans) and have a very nice thick bottom, so they heat up very nicely even on my glasstop electric cooktop. However, because they are cast aluminum, you can't use them on induction cooktops. The nonstick surface seems as well made and as durable as more expensive brands. Take it from someone who owns All-Clad, Le Creuset, DeBuyer and cast-iron pans, when I need a nonstick frying pan, I pull out the Grand Chef that I bought for $16.99 from Marshall's.

                        2. re: clockrva

                          She could benefit with a knife upgrade to a 8 inch sized Chefs/Gyuto but a knife is a personal choice and if she's more comfortable with a smaller knife for one reason or another I wouldn't try and talk her into a larger knife (although 8 inch Chef's is more versatile than 4-5 inches)

                          Depending on the size of the Le Cresuset she may benefit with a Rondeau aka Brasier. Rondeau pots are very versatile and although you won't see many on the TV Chef shows they are in their real kitchens.


                    2. re: clockrva

                      If she hates her knives, get her a gift card to a place that sells good knives. A good knife is a real basic. Bed, Bath and Beyond sell pretty good knives. Also Williams Sonoma. I'd want a good knife before any other thing.

                    3. re: CynAmyn

                      It's a 90+ mile drive, one way.

                  2. Erm. As a wife with a great husband who's bought lots of lovely $$$ things for me over the years.... many that were well-intentioned but that I never really used.... it never hurts to actually ask that person what they might want. But every family is different.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: DuchessNukem

                      Although I'm male and therefore don't speak as a wife, I'd have to second this thought. Less romantic, but maybe you can find some way to suss out her preferences among some options, or just ask for a number of things she'd like and select from them. I know it's a rarity for someone to divine what cookware I actually wish to have.

                      There are lots of gadgets that one could recommend to almost anyone--for example, anyone lacking a microplane or a good pepper mill should really be given one. But for bigger-ticket items, there is much room for error.

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        i totally agree with you both. she's the type that says "i want it to be a surprise". i get no further clues. i KNOW she could use a decent chef knife and would like a new skillet and/or pan. she wants kitchen stuff. she loves being in the kitchen (i'm a lucky guy).

                        @ the moment i'm looking at a Global 8" Chef knife & the little 4pc. set of Henckels that "onrushpam" mentioned. then it's a toss-up pan-wise... a DeBuyer mineral 10" skillet might work nicely but I wonder if I could get 2 decent ones at that price (approx $60).
                        i figure as long as i provide a gift receipt i can't screw up too badly - she'll have a use for all of this stuff in some way or another; i guess right now i'm just trying to help her prioritize. a quality knife sounds good, but if I go for a slightly cheaper Chef knife I can also provide her with more skillets/pans. it might be a question of quality vs. quantity. like i said she adores her LC dutch much to where i was looking at a Staub round Cocotte this evening [Williams Sonoma is currently having a 25% off on all cookware]. still, that *might* be slow-cooker overkill. Her pans are terrible and probably need to be replaced more than anything.

                        HomeGoods had a bunch of (seemingly-nice) Calphalon pots/pans, but I'm not sure if they have a decent reputation or are "green".

                        I certainly appreciate all the feedback I'm getting - I've personally only been learning my way around the kitchen for about a year now.

                        1. re: clockrva

                          >> i KNOW she could use a decent chef knife and would like a new skillet and/or pan. she wants kitchen stuff. she loves being in the kitchen (i'm a lucky guy)

                          A good knife is easy enough to do but there are quite a lot of good knives out there once one is spending $75+. Most people would agree that a Japanese knife is best for quality and performance. But there are still some decisions to make. Would she prefer a western handle or a Japanese handle? Also, would she prefer a stainless or a high carbon blade? If she is the type that always hand cleans and dries her knives after use, then probably this is for her.

                          Even good stainless knives shouldn't be put in the dishwasher.. Most of us knife fans prefer high carbon, though some high carbon blades are also clad in stainless. Perhaps she would like a knife with damascus cladding - they are very attractive. And one can actually get these for about $110+.

                          I wouldn't skimp on the knife to get "one more pan". There are lots of good pans that are reasonable. Having a single truly good go-to knife for a chef/cook is absolute heaven.

                          Global makes a very good knife. BUT - some people don't like the way their handles feel - they are somewhat unique.

                          I would suggest that you take a look at some of the offerings at Their prices are quite good and Mark is happy to answer questions, etc. Perhaps he'd be willing to let you buy one and return it if it's not used, if her preference is for a different style than you pick?

                          >> Her pans are terrible and probably need to be replaced more than anything.

                          The more I cook, the fewer pots and pans that I truly use. The vast majority of the big decent set that I got years ago gets little or no use. Over time I have bought a few key pots/pans that I use constantly. The real essentials, from my standpoint are:

                          DAILY USE:
                          - a 10" cast iron skillet with lid. These are heavy but amazing. If you wife wouldn't like a heavy pan then don't get her this. Mine is used pretty much every single day. They are also inexpensive and will last several lifetimes.

                          - a 10" really good non-stick skillet, with low lip. For eggs, crepes, etc. I also have 2 exceptional crepe pans but those are specialty items. My favorite non-stick is the Calphalon commercial nonstick. Calphalon makes some stuff that is VERY good and other stuff that is just ok.

                          REGULAR USE but very helpful.
                          - a 12" stainless deep fry pan (or 10" if that's too big), with cover and heavy bottom. Get one where the handle is connected by solid rivets through the side. I would let her pick the one that she wants here ... we cooks can be really picky about our pans. I currently use a 12" cast iron in place of one of these. It is darn heavy but I'm also 6'6". For your wife a stainless fry pan is probably the better pick.

                          - Dutch Oven. Since she already has one, I'd forget the upgrade. These last forever. Having one truly amazing knife and 1-2 great pans will make her one very happy cook.

                          - One big stockpot. Something like 16 or 20 quarts. If she doesn't really need these then don't worry about it. It doesn't take anything special to boil water. There are always good deals on 2 or 3 piece sets.

                          Best of luck! I hope that this helps!


                          1. re: clockrva

                            I have a couple of pieces of the Simply Calphalon stainless cookware and quite like them. BB&B usually has one piece of it as a "loss leader" at Christmas and my daughter has bought them for me. I don't know which piece they are featuring this year.

                            1. re: clockrva

                              I think if she likes her cast iron pan then she will love the De Buyer Mineral and the seasoning is all done on the stove top.

                        2. It sounds like her pans really aren't that bad, but the knife situation is, so I would suggest focusing on a good knife. As others have pointed out, knives are very personal, so you do run some risk here that she won't love what you pick. I would buy the knife from a store with a good return policy. While Global certainly makes some nice knives, they have an unusual handle that many people do not find comfortable (personally, I like it fine, but many do not). I think a Japanese knife is a good idea, but you may want to consider Shun or another manufacturer whose handles are more "normal". Whatever you choose, make sure you can exchange it if she doesn't like the feel of it.

                          If you do decide to get a knife, you have to consider what kind of cutting board she uses, and also where she will store the knife. A good knife should not be banging around in a drawer. There are lots of options out there: drawer inserts, knife blocks, magnetic bars that mount on the wall. Point is, don't buy a knife unless she has a way to store it. A good knife should also be used on a good cutting board. So if she doesn't already have one, consider putting a nice end-grain board under the tree.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: MelMM

                            great advice guys. i don't think i ever realized how much chefs (of all types) rely on their knives - or how fed up my wife was with her Wolfgang Puck knives (was a wedding gift 4years ago).

                            i really guess i need a wall magnet or sheath & a nicer wood cutting board. i'll check out SurlaTable & Williams-Sonoma's websites as they are the closest to me.

                            it's true that she mainly relies on the iron skillet, dutch oven, and 1 or 2 pans on a weekly basis.

                            say, is this a good cutting board ?

                            i'd hate to get her a great knife but a bad cutting board to match. (i really think she'd love the Global - she has small hands and likes lightweight stuff - she's a hairstylist so when she gets home sometimes her hands ache)

                            1. re: clockrva

                              Personally, I think bamboo is harder than you want for a cutting board. The harder the board, the faster your knives go dull. It also has kind of a slick surface to it, that I don't think is great for cutting on. You really want an end-grain wooden board. It can be maple, walnut, etc. It will not be cheap. Something like this:


                              Of course you don't have to get a Boos board. You can search on the web and find other makers and better prices. Keep in mind that a thicker board will be less likely to warp. You should also get some oil and wax to maintain the board.

                              1. re: clockrva

                                A cutting board can be a personal thing - I'd really let her pick one she likes, with a style and size that suits her needs. I prefer using a huge wood one, except for raw meat - I have a plastic one just for that. They are reasonable anyway. A great knife says, "I love your cooking .... uh ... I mean I love you". A cutting board ... not so much. I also agree with the other person regarding bamboo - it's a really hard wood and not as healthy for maintaining the knife. Those soft plastic boards don't look so great but they are good for your knives.

                                Please note: that your lovely wife may wish to learn to how keep that knife of hers sharp. Even excellent knives need a slight honing after every a few days or a week of regular use. Is she the type who would want to have her knife professionally sharpened? Or to learn how to hand sharpen on a stone or would she want a guided system where the angles are held exactly for her? Something to think about. I gave up on services a while ago and sharpen at home. Some services are good, some are not so good and I would only trust a few to even know what to do with a high quality Japanese knife.

                                Has she ever had those knives of her ever been sharpened? If not, I promise that they will take on a whole new life after a good sharpening. I like the dmt aligner. It's a really good little guided system and they start at about $30-40.

                                If her hands are small, she may prefer something like a 6.5" blade instead of one of the larger ones. All good Japanese knives will be pretty light, especially compared to a traditional european design. My hands are large as I'm quite tall and even still all my favorite knives are 6.5 or 7" long. For a Japanese knife that means that she might prefer a 210 mm to a 240 mm. Something to think about.

                                1. re: jkling17

                                  right now i'm trying not to exceed $150 give or take $25 for a Chef knife, storage, and cutting board. i might reconsider getting her a 8" for something a bit smaller since she'll *mainly* be chopping veggies. is this possible on a budget like this ?
                                  her other gifts are all figured out.

                                  1. re: clockrva

                                    In that case, I would suggest the Shun Classic 6" chef's knife ($90 on Amazon). I really think she will like that knife. It's good-looking, easy to handle, and a very useful size for most chopping. You can get an end-grain board from Catskill Craftsmen for 50 or 60 bucks. And a magna-bar for < $20. Another cheap option for storage would be a canvas knife roll, or just an edge guard for a single blade.

                                    1. re: clockrva

                                      Hi Clockrva. Ok - thanks for the extra info.

                                      If a sharpening system needs to wait ... so be it. Get her one in 2 months for $30-40. She's your wife and you love her ... drink ONE beer less each week and save the cash without effort.

                                      I wouldn't blow too much on a knife block. It's storage ... One can always get a really good used knife block with lots of slots for $1-5. I've got 2 wood blocks, both used and one is henckles Knives are truly special since we use and hold them. Even a new block can be only $15-20 to start. All good knives come with a protective sleeve that she can live with for a while.

                                      Cutting boards are usually best bought locally instead of online. A decent good sized one is perhaps $10-25. It depends on the size, material, etc. You probably know if she would prefer a single good-sized wood or plastic one. If she would want to leave it out all the time perhaps wood? But ... they can warp. It's important to put those non-slip things under them to get them off the counter so there is air down there.

                                      The KNIFE is where it's at. That is her actual tool that her hands are in contact with and is used to transform raw materials into cuilinary magic - this is what she will fall in love with and spend hours using and get pleasure from its use.

                                      Personally, for slicing and chopping veggies I prefer a nakiri or santoku to a chef's knife or gyoto (japanese version of chef's knife). A nakiri is a very sharp light blade that has a perfectly flat edge (or nearly so) - so lots of it is in contact with the cutting surface.

                                      A very good carbon nakiri is $50: Since it's carbon it must be washed and dried right after using. For a bit more you can get a stainless one.

                                      Please see some of the videos of the knives being used on tomatos and onions, etc. If you see these videos, you'll know if it's something that your wife will love or not. This one has a japanese handle but others have a western handle. A really good knife will readily blaze through soft veggies with very little or no pressure at all.

                                      A santoku is like a cross between a chefs knife (also called gyuto) and a nakiri. The edge profile is somewhat curved but still has a lot more flat area for veggies than most chefs/gyutos. Tojiro again is a good value in a very sharp knife with good carbon steel. And for a bit more, stainless. MAC is also a good choice but stainless only.

                                      It has been often said that if one has only one knife that it should be a chef's knife. Me? I'd rather have a santoku and own 4. I also do lots of veggies and have now finally gotten a nakiri - they are awesome. I really like the long flat cutting edge.

                                      Technically, your budget COULD get her one nakiri like the Tojiro model for $50 AND one Chef's knife or Santoku for $50-80. MAC has a 6.5" santoku/chef's knife that she'll probably like for $65. Tojiro also has similar options in the same price range. You'll have to figure out if she would be happier with one "super" chefs knife / santoku / gyuto OR 2 really quite decent japanese knives like 1 gyuto/chefs and nakiri OR 1 santoku and 1 nakiri.

                                      Again, you know WHAT she cooks regularly. If she really is that heavy on veggies, I'd urge you towards a nakiri or santoku over a gyuto/chefs. A nakiri should probably be considered as "designed to the THE veggie knife' A santoku can be umore readily used on meat, veggies, for slicing, etc. It's is a more broad use tool.

                                      I hope this helps!!!!


                                      1. re: clockrva

                                        About knife size, don't assume that smaller knives (say 6") are more fitted to smaller work. It's one of those ways in which knives are so personal. My most used knife is a 10" Messermeister Meridien Elite, and it's the first knife I reach for to mince garlic, even though I have 8" and 6" knives handy.

                                        This makes me recall the many times I've seen Sara Moulton on TV cooking shows: tiny woman with a huge knife:


                                        1. re: clockrva


                                          I agree with Bada. Knife size is personal, although it is a personal preference which can be changed if needed. I used to use a small knife, but now I like a medium to large size knife. Get the knife size which your wife like, if you are not sure, then go for the same size she has right now.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Understood. Phew...this is making me think about the gift card route, but with a gift receipt she can always return the knife and still have something to inspect on Christmas day. I'd probably rather receive a gift in that fashion, b/c if I didn't like it my mind would be focusing on what I *did* want in a knife. She's a Gemini so somedays I feel like im married to one woman and the other days her weird sister.This Christmas I wanted to get her some more-personalized gifts. As she's learned to make do with a variety of so-so stuff I really think she'll be floored with a great knife. Soooo many choices. Do the "hollow blades" really help from something like a potato peel from sticking to the knife edge?

                                            1. re: clockrva

                                              "Do the "hollow blades" really help from something like a potato peel from sticking to the knife edge?"

                                              In my experience, most hollow blades do not prevent sticking, and that is also the general general consensus. The only exception is the Glestain which works with its very large dimples:


                                              Actually a nicely profiled ground knife will have less sticky without using dimples. Here is a good video. Look closely:


                                              1. re: clockrva

                                                clockrva, is your head spinning now? A lot of these choices are personal.

                                                You could always wrap up a Teddy (or a Chef's coat) with a gift certificate and be done with it :>

                                      2. re: MelMM

                                        "Whatever you choose, make sure you can exchange it if she doesn't like the feel of it."

                                        A very good suggestion indeed.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Indeed - indeed! Again, I'd check w/ Mark at CKTG and see if he will accommodate this request. He is great on service.