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paralysis by analysis...what type of pans to get?!

Let me preface by thanking you profusely for reading this long winded post....

OK, i have read the plethora of posts regarding SS, CS, CI, NonStick, ECI, etc. I feel like I'm still in the same boat, except to say that I definitely don't want any of the chemical nonstick stuff....and I'm possibly a bit turned off by the heavier CI stuff (with the exception of allowing one piece: a 10 or 12 inch skillet for searing meat if there's no better/lighter alternative).

Since I agree that there's no one type of pot/pan that's good for everything, let me quickly explain what I usually cook:
1. Steaks, chicken, pork chops on the stove top...on occasion I would try to do a pan sauce with some of these but considering i was using non stick, no wonder it tasted like crap (i realize that now after reading thru this site). If I decided to finish something off in the oven, I usually transferred it to a glass pyrex
2. Eggs...with bacon once in a blue moon
3. Pancakes on a center griddle rack that needs to be tossed (from GE).
4. Frozen skillet side dishes (trader joe's asparagus risotto and veggie fried rice, etc)
5. Spaghetti sauce/Pasta
6. Ribs (in a slow cooker or the oven)
7. Stewed meat in the slow cooker (I have decided I either suck at it or the slow cooker isn't the best use for that type of meal)
And most of the above stuff I cook in old teflon type crap or an old set of Anolon anodized non stick that have not been non stick for some time now....which has led me here because I want to replace that junk.
So that is pretty much 90% of what I cook...and I'm looking to take some cooking classes so hopefully that list will expand greatly.

Also to note, my husband has an old 18 piece stainless steel Wolfang Puck Cafe Collection set he got years ago that are in very good shape and I do use the pots more often than the pans because...well, because I don't know how to use the pans without making stuff stick. I realize from reading here that the trick is preheating pan/oil and then being patient with the food before trying to turn things...patience grasshopper, patience.

So, I can use those stainless pots/pans but realize adding other types of pans can be helpful/better options for certain foods.
1. I'm thinking some sort of enameled aluminum (cuz CI is so stinking heavy) pan would be great for browning/deglazing and can also be used for starchy stuff or some of those frozen sides I like?
2. Also, one CI skillet for searing when I'm not deglazing?
3. Something truly non stick for eggs or dishes I dont want to have to add significant oil...or can I use the enameled aluminum pan?

Is there something I should be adding/removing from this list...or considering I already have SS, can I get away with just adding one more type of pan that can do the non stick stuff....seems like enameled aluminum is a good "main-go-to" option?
I really don't want to have to buy a bunch of stuff that will get relatively little use...I don't mind dropping some $ if it's trully worth it but I'm definitely not into the name brand for the sake of the name brand.

There's something to be said about communism....no choices! Lol

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  1. Hi 71ailmar:

    OK, I'm just going to focus on what you say you cook...

    It sounds like to me you might be one who could use 3 skillets (or two skillet and a saute). I'd say get 1 nonstick for eggs, 1 SS-clad for searing with pan sauces (and acidic preps), and 1 bare cast iron for searing and oven-roasting.

    I'm actually a big fan of thick aluminum, so you might just consider one CI skillet and one thick saute from a resto supply store. If you have a choice in equal thickness, pick an anodized aluminum pan.

    IMO, you will also need a saucepan or two, a medium-sized Dutch oven, and perhaps a stockpot. The saucepans should be made of conductive metal; the oven and stockpot are less important from a construction standpoint.

    I Hope This Helps,
    Aloha,
    Kaleo

    2 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      Thanks Kaleo for your input.

      I do have a stockpot as well as sauce pans and skillets that are part of that stainless steel set my husband has (the Wolf Gang Puck set - they seem very sturdy and thick)...are those ok or does the skillet for searing with pan sauces and the sauce pans need to be of a different type of SS? You mentioned the anodized aluminum pan....you prefer that to the SS-clad?

      Is there a specific brand or certain construction type you recommend for the dutch oven? I've seen ones that are cheaper versions of the expensive LC brand...not sure if they're "good enough" or if I'll end up having to buy a new one every few years.

      Thanks again!

      1. re: 71ailmar

        Enameled Cast Iron -

        There is a reason why some is cheap and some is expensive. Personally, I'm more of a Staub fan but, I also won LC. The finishes on these are better (not as likely to fail, prettier, etc.) and the pots and ovens are designed better.

        Knock offs on the design are pretty good but, they can't match the durability and quality of the finishes. Whether the knock offs seal as well and preserve moisture varies from pan to pan and brand to brand.

        LC and Staub are held in high regard for good reason. The knock offs don't seem to have the same brand loyalty which also speaks volumes.

    2. I solve that problem by having one or two of everything.

      Nothing is "truly non stick" except PTFE (Teflon). If you will not have such pans, then I suppose a well-seasoned carbon steel pan used with a little butter will do for eggs. I don't cook eggs this way, but it works well for crêpes.

      1. A cast iron brasier could be really useful for the types of food you cook. Yes, they can be heavy, but not so bad, and the flavor one can create is wonderful and worth the heft.

        I too am tired of the non-stick pans, and have been happy with the carbon steel, and just today, I got my Vollrath thick cast aluminum skillet that I hope will replace my tired non stick omelette pan. Haven't tried it yet, but thick aluminum seems to be the king of omelette pans
        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003...
        Sure beats the Pot Shop prices.

        1. <1. I'm thinking some sort of enameled aluminum (cuz CI is so stinking heavy) pan would be great for browning/deglazing and can also be used for starchy stuff or some of those frozen sides I like?
          2. Also, one CI skillet for searing when I'm not deglazing?
          3. Something truly non stick for eggs or dishes I dont want to have to add significant oil...or can I use the enameled aluminum pan?>

          Enameled aluminum pan... can you be more specific about it? As for your challenge of "because I don't know how to use the pans without making stuff stick", the least nonstick pan is going to be the typical Teflon pan. However, Teflon pans usually do not extremely long and certain should not be used for high heat. This get you to carbon steel and cast iron pans. Both are more or less the same, except that carbon steel can be made thinner and therefore lighter. They are both nearly nonstick when seasoned. However, neither are great for deglazing. It can be done, but not with acidic deglazing. Now, we get back to stainless steel cladded cookware. Stainless steel cookware can handle high heat and can be used for deglazing for all conditions. However, food readily stick to stainless steel surface. So there you have it.

          You may able to get with just a carbon steel pan and a stainless steel surface pan.

          Pot selection is a bit easier in my opinion. This is because pots are mostly used for liquid cooking, and food sticking rarely occur. On top of this, thin liquid cooking do not require very good even heating surface or quick heat respond.

          1. Since your Wolfgang Puck cookware is in good shape, I'd not replace any of that or get more new stainless steel. Stainless steel does tend to be a sticking surface. Not familar with any enameled aluminum, though I have seen enameled steel. Enamel is not a good non-stick surface, especially on a thin (i.e. not cast iron) metal.

            Aluminum clad pans are a good alternative to (or a middle option) cast iron and stainless. Aluminum tends to be less prone to sticking, but often times its the cooking tecnhique that is faulty not the pan, if food sticks. I love my clad aluminum skillet (which I picked up in the restaurant supply aisle of Sam's Club) and use it way more often than I use my clad stainless skillet. Actually, come to think of it, I only use the stainless skillet for poaching eggs, because I can easily see the bottom of the pan! The aluminum skillet is what I use when I want a pan sauce.

            As for non-stick, it is essential for eggs IMO, but others will disagree I'm sure. I love my aluminum non-stick skillets from Sam's club restaurant supply aisle. They're cheap, great quality, don't warp, heat evenly, and with normal hand washing have lasted for the last 8 years so far.

            So, to summarize, it feels like you need two skillets to supplement your fine stainless set: one non-stick, for which I recommend cast aluminum with some cladding or layered construction, and one for searing, for which I recommend cast aluminum with layered or cladded construction.

            Good luck. I thank my lucky stars that I live in a place where I have so much choice and freedom, and the ability and freedom to say so. Do not take it lightly.