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Aug 31, 2013 02:40 PM

New kitchen cookware set- cast iron, non stick, copper, stainless steel?

If you were to start your kitchen cookware from scratch and get quality pieces of cookware. What material would you get for basics (sautee pan, fry pan, sauce, wok, etc).

Hoping to better understand what material is best for each type of pan. Also looking for suggestions on best brands for each type of cookware piece.

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  1. Sauce pan, sauté, rondeau, fait tout/Windsor or evasee....tin lined heavy copper.
    Skillet for high heat abuse...heavy carbon steel
    Cocotte or Dutch oven...enameled cast iron
    Stock pot ...tin lined heavy copper. Stock pot in my world, SS clad with a thick bottom
    Bain Marie ... Pyrex or ceramic insert
    Roasting pan...SS lined heavy copper
    Dedicated omelet pan...carbon steel or cast aluminum
    Wok...carbon steel
    Sugar pan...unlined heavy copper

    3 Replies
    1. re: tim irvine

      Thanks! Any favorite brands for each piece of cookware?

      1. re: jbm9837

        Most of my copper is probably Mauviel, but as long as you are talking 2.5-3mm with a tin lining I don't think it matters. Most of my steel is DeBuyer, but again, specs are more important than brand. My enameled CI is Le Creuset, and I like it a lot, but most posters who are really into it seem to prefer Staub. As for my stockpot, it is a no name multipot WS offered years ago. I hate the glass lid that came with it, but it is a standard or common size, so I use a different lid. I own one piece of All Clad, a saucier. It is versatile but mediocre at most everything. I got it for its versatility while dealing with a tinning issue...never send two pans out for tinning at the same time and pick your tinning person with care. Lest this freak you out and scare you about tin, I have pans that have gone nearly 40 years in regular use and are fine.

      2. I think my brother's Cuisinart cookware is every bit as good as my All Clad and a hell of a lot more affordable. (I can't afford copper.)

        For what it is worth, my big Le Creuset Dutch oven is one piece I never look for an improvement on when I'm in cookware stores.

        I also find myself gravitate toward my Cast Iron (basic Lodge stuff), my Calphalon wide stock pot (great for chili and the such) and my basic Wearever 10" aluminum pan. (But somebody here the other day was waxing poetic about De Buyer iron pans. Next chance I get, I'm gonna pick up one of them.)

        2 Replies
        1. re: hambone

          I agree on the Cuisinart. It seems quite nice. Clad cookware certainly has a lot going for it. It looks nice, it borders on indestructible, and a lot of it is pretty responsive. I also agree on Wearever. Before you say you can't afford copper, check on eBay. There are some deals out there and for certain uses it really is incomparable. BTW, as soon as this thread gets moved to Cookware you will get some people weighing in who are seriously knowledgeable, not that hambone and I aren't.


          1. re: tim irvine

            True dat. There is a poster over there with a Polynesian handle. (I think from Hawaii.)

            That poster must be the buyer for Sur la Table or something.

        2. Hmm.
          Sautee pan: stainless steel cladded
          Fry pan: carbon steel or cast iron
          Sauce pan: stainless steel cladded for sure
          Wok: carbon steel for sure
          Dutch Oven: cast iron
          Pressure cooker: stainless steel disc bottom

          <Hoping to better understand what material is best for each type of pan>

          This partially depends on the cooking task, but also depends on your personal priority. For example, if you must use automatic dishwasher (high priority) then you absolutely cannot use carbon steel and cast iron and probably not copper and aluminum cookware neither. Alternatively, if you prefer to use very high heat or like to use metal utensils, then nonstick Teflon won't work for you.

          So part of this is knowing what material can do what, and part of this is knowing yourself (your lifestyle, your prefer techniques...etc)

          1. Medium skillet: 2mm copper lined with stainless. In my kind of cooking, this is just about the most-used pan, so the weight and balance and comfort of handle are as important as the material. Other good choices: well-seasoned carbon steel, aluminum lined with stainless, tri-ply stainless-aluminum-stainless.

            Small or medium saucepan: 2.5mm copper-stainless saucier.

            Medium and/or large saucepan: tri-ply stainless-aluminum-stainless.

            Saute pan or rondeau: 2.5mm copper, lined with either stainless or tin (or silver!), or aluminum lined with stainless (original All-Clad Master Chef, slightly thicker alum than MC2).

            Boil pot: Stainless with aluminum disk base, or tri-ply stainless-aluminum-stainless.

            Dutch oven/casserole: enameled cast iron (a bare iron base makes it more stovetop-friendly, particularly on induction). Copco, Descoware, Le Creuset

            Wok: carbon steel.

            Crepe-omelet pan: bare cast aluminum or well-seasoned carbon steel.

            I'm a big fan of used high-quality cookware, for the excellent ratio of useful life per dollar and the green/recycling aspect. This is particularly true of lines that are unavailable now or wildly expensive new: original A-C Master Chef, Copco, Descoware, Le Creuset, heavy copper.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ellabee

              One thing I have found that really works wonders for my pansis0000 steel wool. Like the grit of sand paper steel wool is measured by coarseness. The finest is grade 0000 (called "four O.") You can get it at any hardware store.

              When the Scotchbrite pads and utensils have scored up the inside of my pans, especially my aluminum Wearever type pans, I work it with some 0000 steel wool and dish detergent.

              A few minutes and the inside glistens like it was polished in a factory and food just falls out of it.

              1. re: ellabee

                Since the OP asked about specific brands, there's a piece currently at cookwarenmore, the place that sells All-Clad irregulars, that I haven't seen before and would have multiple applications: sauteing/frying surface, braising, poaching, and roasting.

                It's a 12-inch braiser/rondeau with a domed lid. The MC2 model (aluminum lined with stainless) is $143, less than half of what you'd pay on ebay for a tin-lined copper version (and about half the weight, if that's a factor in use and storage). The extra aluminum makes MC2 better for quick and even cooking than straight tri-ply, but you still get the advantage of the stainless cooking surface for fond, non-reactivity, and cleanability.

                The All-Clad saute pans have almost all been on the shallow side. This pan has slightly taller walls, making it more useful for sauces and stews and poaching. The two handles (and lack of a long handle) make it more manageable on the stovetop, in the oven, and during the transfer between them.

                1. re: ellabee

                  Link for the above MC2 pan:

                  Notable not only for reasonable price for versatile & durable pan, but this 4-qt sauteuse/rondeau form not often seen, and probably being closed out.

              2. This is a big topic, and although each of us can tell you what we would get, you may find that our choices are very broad.

                Most important question is what is your budget and how do you cook? Do you cook with gas, electric, induction? Do you like to stew, simmer and make complex sauces?

                Do you have cookware now and are looking to upgrade, or are you starting from scratch? Most of the well known brands of cookware are decent, good cookware, and you can make it work. My first set of cookware was a Farberware set that I used almost exclusively for about 20 years. Many great meals came from that cheapo set.

                When I started to upgrade, I did it gradually, piece by piece. I started with All-Clad which for me was bleh at best. I have donated it away some years ago. Living in Paris for 2 years was a cooks dream - lovely pieces from there, copper and some really cool multipurpose pots.

                I love my Demeyere Atlantis pieces - best stainless type I have ever used -fry pans, sautés, sauciers, simmering pots and stock pots. Also love the Fissler Solea stockpots and have great set of those with some Fissler Pro stockpots also.

                For high heat frying I have deBuyer carbon steel in several sizes and shapes - largest one functions as my wok.

                For oven roasting and such I have a number of different sizes of Staub.

                Multiple tin-lined copper pieces for fish, risotto, reheating and such.

                I love to cook and cook from scratch - no mixes, etc. It relaxes me. My work is very high focus and high pressure. Coming home to chop vegetables is a treat for me. Cooking for family and friends is a delight for me. I have a lot of cookware as a result. I have some friends that don't like to cook and they do just fine with a frypan, a saucepan and a pot. My cookware is probably way too much for most people, but it is just right for me and gets used regularly.

                I'm a big advocate of getting one piece at a time and cooking with it for a while. You can get to know what is right for you that way. My sister, who is a very good cook wants nothing to do with my copper or Staub pieces. All of her cookware must go in the dishwasher, so she has all the Lifetime stainless cookware from our parents (they don't make it any more) which is I don't know how many years old and still seriously like new. They weren't kidding about the Lifetime part. There is some cookware with that name, but it is not at all like the original.

                17 Replies
                1. re: laraffinee

                  +1. You've already been given a lot of helpful advice on options for various pans, so I'll address another thing.

                  Since you're looking for quality recs, I presume you want to buy once and cook with it for a lifetime. With that in mind, it's time to assess your life.

                  How much do you care about the appearance of your cookware? Me, I don't care what my aluminum non-stick looks like, nor my cast iron and carbon steel. My clad stainless? It needs to shine, big-time.

                  How much effort and time are you willing to invest in keeping your stuff looking the way you want it? That's going to drive part of your decision.

                  Plenty of people will disagree with me, but really, the best material for any given pan is not an absolute. Let the way YOU live and cook determine what materials you choose, otherwise you'll never be truly happy with your cookware.

                  My last car was an '01 Mercedes SLK, a cute little red roadster. It had one tiny cupholder, no taller or wider than a 12-oz can. When I asked my German friend Peter about it, he patiently explained that Germans don't eat dinner on the Autobahn. Well, I'm an American, dammit, and I need a place for my Big Gulp. I never loved that car as much as I thought I would, all because of that teeny, tiny single cupholder. It didn't quite fit.

                  Lately, after falling in lust with some very nice pieces, I've been letting my cookware control my life, spending WAY too much time cleaning and caring for it. It's time for some brutal honesty, and time perhaps to find a better home for some of the stuff that I'm just not loving the way I should.

                  That's the way to buy your cookware. It should fit into your life, you shouldn't have to change to accommodate it.

                  1. re: DuffyH

                    Gosh, Duffy, it sounds like you spend more time keeping up your SS than I do my copper!

                    Let me suggest something that may lighten your burden. Have you tried Flitz metal polish? I use a lot of it, but not all that often. It might result in a shinier finish that lasts longer for you.


                    It's actually a semi-miraculous product.


                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      Thank you, Kaleo!

                      Back when I was a child, in the Navy, I used Flitz on various hardware bits, like buttons, buckles and such. I'd completely forgotten about it and would never have thought of it. It couldn't hurt!

                      Sadly, one of the pans that's giving me fits is the Demeyere skillet. It cleans easily enough, but getting it to shine is a whole other thing. It always seems to have some streaks or spots left that drive me bats. This does not happen with my old stuff. Scuffed and scratched as it is, it just gleams.

                      The Tramontina saucepan is no day at the beach, either. In fact, I'd swear it's harder to clean than any other stainless I've owned. It has a more pronounced "spun" finish which I think may be making matters worse. And, it's got the most vivid blue rainbow stain I've ever seen. Covers the entire inside base, and it happened in the dishwasher, no less! Seriously. It's so unreal I may leave it there.

                      I never thought I'd have occasion to complain that stainless cookware is hard to clean.

                      1. re: DuffyH

                        Hi, Duffy:

                        You're welcome. Please report back if it works for you.

                        IME Flitz imparts such a microfine polish that it beads water in a way that resembles wax, but there's nothing there. I get a solid 3 months of mirror finish on most of my copper pieces (except where exposed to high heat), and that's in marine air. It's like Rain-X for metal, if you've ever used Rain-X on glass. Relatively non-toxic, too, at <1% ammonia and no acid.

                        Coincidentally, today (at our state fair) I bought another quart can.


                        1. re: kaleokahu


                          I found another tip tonight; melamine foam, aka Magic Eraser. It's reported to be excellent for cleaning and shining stainless. I will try both this week, see which works best.

                          I know just what you're talking about. We love Rain-X.

                        2. re: DuffyH

                          Which fleet? Back in the 60s the Second and the Sixth ran pretty much on Brasso. Now the only place I see it used is altar guild in Episcopal churches! I may not be as fastidious as you on keeping my SS clean, but I get good results with Bon Ami.

                          1. re: tim irvine

                            Hi, Tim:

                            I know Boeing uses Flitz on the leading edges of its aircraft's wings, and it's good for canopy plexi. Yesterday I was shown before-and-after photos of a cockpit window on a Citation jet. The owner saved a $50,000 replacement by careful work with Flitz. Maybe Duffy is talking Naval Aviation?

                            I will say that polishing with Flitz is slow going, at least with my copper. It *will* take off heavy tarnish, but Bon Ami is faster and less messy until you reach the final polishing stage. Thankfully, I only polish all my pans a couple times a year, or one or two on special occasions.


                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              My copper gets polished often enough that a major work over is, thankfully, never needed. I do try to keep my Russell Hobbs shiny. Almost all of the other non-copper pieces are almost encouraged to darken and lose their identity. The Flitz sounds pretty neat. I assume it isn't too hard on things.

                              1. re: tim irvine

                                Hi, Tim:

                                No, it's strangely gentle on things for something that works so well. Non-toxic, non-abrasive, acid-free, non-flammable. Marked "USDA Authorized", whatever that means. It does contain <1% of ammonia, so it does have that smell...

                                If you try it, I recommend making two passes: (a) with Flitz lightly worked in with 0000 steel wool; and then (b) again with paper towel or microfiber cloth.


                              2. re: kaleokahu

                                Tim and Kaleo,

                                I was neither a fleet sailor, nor a brown shoe. I did marry a line officer whom I met when we were enlisted. I was a WAVE (it was later changed to WIN when someone decided the Emergency was over)back in the day when we were only allowed to serve on hospital ships. I learned my polishing chops serving on 2 drill teams, in boot camp and later at school.

                                It should be noted that my boot camp company won the Personnel flag so many times we got to carry a permanent version of it, to which we attached a ribbon for each additional win. That flag was awarded for best-dressed and marching ability. We may not have been the most athletic or have the neatest lockers, but we sure looked good, whether standing in formation or bopping our way across the grinder (drill field).

                                Bottom line, I knew the tricks of the trade. Give me an old tee shirt, some shoe polish, a lighter, and either Brasso or Flitz and I can make most anything shine.

                                1. re: DuffyH

                                  Great story. There is a lot of similarity between taking standard issue Navy shoes and making them look like patent leather and taking an old oxidized pan and making it look as if it were ready for a photo shoot. Maybe this explains why I now wear loafers I polish about monthly.

                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                        Not when they're worn by a Parrothead.

                              3. re: tim irvine

                                I picked up a generic magic eraser today, along with BKF. I'd been using the new Comet SS cleaner, but am overall not thrilled with it. I switched away from BKF because it doesn't have a lid and it was clumping too much. I solved that today by the simple expedient of pouring it into a big spice jar with a 3-hole shaker lid.

                                Just cleaning one pan today with BKF reminded me why I liked it; it's good, it's fast and it rinses well. The Comet didn't rinse off easily at all, nor did it make my pans shine the way Bon Ami and BKF do.

                                I like Bon Ami, too, but when I want to let the stuff work while I play, my best results have always come from a thin slurry of BKF left in/on the pan, then just rinsed off later. That's where, ime, the oxalic acid makes a difference.

                                I liked the way the eraser worked, too, with effort, removing some 4-cheese sauce that had dried to a light brown slightly burned film all over the bottom of another pan. Super easy. I'm told the drawback is a short lifespan, but this could become an "I don't care" situation if it continues to work the way it did today.

                                I know I'm a bit of a contradiction, wanting shiny pans with zero effort, but that's me. I want it all, and I want it now.

                                1. re: DuffyH

                                  Hi, Duffy:

                                  So... DW with the alternative, phosphate-y detergent, Then the BKF soak/steep? Then what, *hand washing*?

                                  The Horror!


                                  PS: Stainless is the greatest application for BKF, IMO.

                                  1. re: kaleokahu


                                    I know! It's awful! >:0

                                    Nah, it's one thing, normally. Not all.