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$250 to spend to update cookware--what would you do?

Apologies that I lack the kitchen vocabulary to do this post justice. Love to cook, but don't *study* cooking. You know?

I have hand-me-down pots--non-stick Anolons that I've had for YEARS (maybe close to 20 years?). Time to do some updating. I have a stockpot, a 10-inch and 12-inch pans, a couple of saucepans/lids.

I have some cheapy Costco non-stick plans that have sloped sides (vs. the 90-degree-angle sides my Anolons have) (again, apologies... I know there are skillets and saute pans, and just don't know the right lingo). They are worn.

I have a 5.5-qt. Le Creuset oval oven, and two All-Clad tri-ply stainless skillets (10 and 12-inch, I believe) without lids that I splurged on in the last year.

There are some random things in there... a Calpalon big 14-inch saute pan with lid, some cast iron.

So as I am a grown-up now, with kids to feed and a true enjoyment of cooking, it is time to update my everyday Anolons (well-worn, ill-fitting lids, plastic-y handles that prohibit oven use). I clearly have a hodge-podge of stuff, and it would be nice to streamline a bit, ensure I have decent quality work-horses, and maybe a few pieces to aspire to. I have a newer electric stove (alas, no gas line where I live).

So if you had $250 (give or take) to spend, how would you spend it? Do you have go-to, can't-live-without pieces that you use regularly? I know cookware sets often have lame sizes, so it could be that I pick and choose the right pieces.

I have a husband and two boys that will soon enough be three hungry men, so while bigger isn't always better, it is a consideration. I work full-time and know some pans will make their way into the dishwasher, despite any effort to keep them "handwash only."

Do you like stainless? Non-stick? Is one flat-out more versatile?

I would love your opinions, as I assume you are all far more seasoned in this arena than I am. :)

Really, really appreciate your consideration and thoughts.

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  1. Do you have sauce pans? I like stainless because it is easy to take care of and can take a beating. I'm not a big fan of nonstick because of the chemicals that get released from scraping and high heat.

    If you haven't needed new equipment yet, then save the money.

    Since you work full time, maybe get a good crockpot so you don't have to spend too much time cooking.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gotsmack

      Agreed on the crockpot - I don't work, but live with chronic illness, and several times, the crock pot has saved me when I just can't do a full meal over the stove. I used it a ton when I worked full time as well.

      Similarly, something that you may want to consider is oven-proof soup bowls. Obviously, you can then make delicious French onion soup, but I also use mine a lot for making individual shepherd's pies, mac and cheese, and other individual sized casseroles - then I can cater to different tastes if I want to (my DH LOVES onions and would be fine if a casserole was pretty much half onion, my step daughter likes them, but not to that extent), plus if your kids/DH get home at different times due to activities, work, etc, you can bake one at a time so everyone gets a hot and fresh meal.

    2. <So if you had $250 (give or take) to spend, how would you spend it? Do you have go-to, can't-live-without pieces that you use regularly?>

      That depends from person to person. Some people spend more time with dry heating cookware like fry pans and saute pans. Other people utilize slow wet cooking vessels like saucepans and stock pots. So the answer lies largely on your own cooking style.

      <Do you like stainless? Non-stick? Is one flat-out more versatile?>

      Stainless steel surface cookware is much more versatile than nostick cookware, but nonstick cookware can be very useful for certain applications. Now, personally, I like cast iron and carbon steel, but they simply cannot be washed in a dishwasher.

      1. You have good tri-ply stainless 10-, 12-, and 14-inch skillets, those should last more than a lifetime before they need replacement. Likewise with the cast iron and a 5.5-qt ECI dutch dutch oven.

        If this were my kitchen, I'd spend the dollars on getting lids for the skillets that have none, a good heavy stockpot or a good sauce pan (wider than a stockpot ) with a heavy base that can do double duty (cook a pot of boiling water for pasta, make soup/beans/lentils,etc.). I would need two or three saucepans in varied sizes: one, two and three quart. And I would need one or two non-stick skillets for omelets, eggs and other things that may not be best cooked in stainless.

        I have stainless, cast aluminum, anodized aluminum, and non-stick over cast aluminum. I use the non-stick and cast aluminum skillets most of the time, but one is not more versatile than the other, the cooking task dictates which cookware I choose. Thick cast aluminum is my favorite material for cookware - it heats quickly and evenly, responds quickly to changes in temp on the cooktop, and it's easy to clean. But I can't do poached eggs for example in the aluminum skillet or the non-stick, for these I use the stainless skillet. Stainless is more appropriate for acidic foods than aluminum, but I make tomato sauce in the anodized aluminum with no problem.

        Cookware sets tend to include pieces that go unused. Aluminum and non-stick pans should not go in the dishwasher. The only material not harmed by cleaning in a dishwasher is stainless steel.

        There's no reason to have a battery of cookware all of the same brand or material. It isn't necessary to spend All-clad dollars to obtain high performance cookware. You can blow your budget on just one All-clad pan. It depends on what's important to you and what and how you cook.

        1. It seems like you have a couple good pieces, so it would probably be a waste for you to buy a set of pans. I think I am in a similar position, as I have my starter cookware and I have been upgrading as I find the cash or the need.

          I would not spend a lot on non-stick cookware. I have been trying to get away from it for health reasons and I also have never found that the non-stick surface stays where it is supposed to even in the more expensive brands no matter what the guarantee,

          I have been spending my money lately on stainless pans and I find them to be worth the money. I haven't bought All-Clad, but there are a number of other nice options out there.

          One pan that I love, I bought about 15 years ago. I have seen it called a braiser, a sauteuse and Calphalon calls it their everyday pan. There is just something about the size and the shape, I use it all the time. You can use it on top of the stove and it also slides easily into the oven as it is not very heavy and it has handles on both sides instead of a long handle with a helper on the other side. I have attached a link for the everyday pan so you can see what I am talking about.

          http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-D1382...

          1 Reply
          1. re: NE_Elaine

            That's a good pan - excellent reviews too.
            I have something similar to that, but mine has a handle. It's great for cooking large meals, sauteing, etc.

          2. What you need to cook in depends so very much on what you cook that it's all but impossible to make an overall suggestion for a particular type of cookware. However, I can suggest you purchase good quality as you have done with the All-Clad fry pans. Having quality pots and pans makes cooking more enjoyable. Nothing is worse, in my opinion, than fighting a tool.