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Help with a la cart cookware set

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Hi all, looking for some help with a cookware set. I have been doing research on this great site for a few months, found some similar threads, but nothing exact.

I tend to cook lots of pastas, asian foods, mexican food, "american" food, fried food, and steaks/chicken and fish. I cook for no more than 6 people. I had a calphalon nonstick set for a few years, and it was great...but its 5 years old now, a little warped, and damaged (it was my "learning" set). It also gave me some pots and pans I rarely used due to their awkward size.

I am looking to upgrade and change up my set, but keep it to just the essentials. I don't want excess pans/pots, but I also want the right tools for the job. The thing is, I am not sure if I am overlapping too much. I do tend to get gear happy which is why I want to buy it all at once and not piece by piece over time.

Let me know if there is anything I am missing out on here..Ive never owned any of these types of pans, just nonstick and cheap-o ones.

1.carbon steel 8 inch (debuyer)
2. carbon steel 11 inch (debuyer)
3. Cast iron 10 inch
4. 2 quart saucepan (mauviel stainless)
5. 3 quart saucier (mauviel SS)
6. 4.5-5 quart saucier (mauviel SS)
7. Stock pot
8. crock pot

(or as close to those sizes as possible)

Eventually
le creuscet and a wok

My thinking was the carbon steels are good for everyday use, the cast iron for steaks and fish, the sauciers for pastas, rice dishes, beans etc, the 2 qt for soup and small meals. I am not sure if the saucier and the saucepans are both needed. The crockpot is for chili and soup, the le creuscet for braising and when I want to make good chili ;-). And of course, everyone needs a stock pot. Is my thinking sound? Am I getting too much stuff or too little? Could I get less or combine pans? Is it a waste to have a crock and a creuscet?

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  1. This is great. It sounds like the Calphalon set has lead you to learn a lot about what you need and what you don't need.

    <1.carbon steel 8 inch (debuyer)
    2. carbon steel 11 inch (debuyer)
    3. Cast iron 10 inch>

    You may able to get by two of the three in case you want to cut down.

    <4. 2 quart saucepan (mauviel stainless)
    5. 3 quart saucier (mauviel SS)
    6. 4.5-5 quart saucier (mauviel SS)>

    Mauivel cookware are excellent. There are many different line M'heritage is copper exterior with stainless steel interior. M'Cook line is 5-ply stainless steel and aluminum layer cookware. M'Basic is disc bottom cookware. What are you looking at. Again, you may able to cut one of the three out.

    <7. Stock pot>

    Good choice. You may consider a pressure cooker since it can double as a stock pot.

    <8. crock pot>

    I personally do not use a crock pot, but everyone has a different cooking routine.

    <Eventually
    le creuscet and a wok>

    A Le Cresuset what? Pot or pan or...?

    As for a wok, it is very important if you want to stir fry.

    <carbon steels are good for everyday use>

    Carbon steel is very good, unless if you like to do a lot of deglazing. In that case, I highly recommend you to switch out of one of your carbon steel/cast iron pan into a stainless steel cladded pan.

    <Am I getting too much stuff or too little? Could I get less or combine pans? >

    It entirely depends on your budgets and your kitchen size. You can definitely get by with fewer or more. It is up to you.

    1. If it were me, I'd make that 10" cast iron skillet a 12". I would also have an 8" or 10" pan for frying eggs and omelets.

      1. Hi, red: "I do tend to get gear happy which is why I want to buy it all at once and not piece by piece over time."

        I urge you to get past this non sequitur. There's nothing necessarily wrong or unwise with your wishlist or your analysis, but where you're coming from (a nonstick clad set) tells me you're unfamiliar with carbon steel, bare cast iron, better clad, and enameled cast iron. I think you might ultimately be happier--and richer--if you tried ONE piece of higher-maintenance stuff like bare cast iron or CS to see if its maintenance or grunge/seasoning factors bother you. Why buy THREE without knowing? The same principle applies to the Mauviel clad you're considering--buy ONE until you're sure the SS cooking surface is to your liking.

        Now, let's get into your list. Overall, I think it's fine. These choices are personal, but I would suggest (1) subbing a larger saute for your largest frypan; (2) omitting the crockpot (unless you're wedded to the cook-while-at-work idea); and (3) finding an French or Dutch oven in the 5-7Q range.

        As to my last suggestion, the benefit-to-price ratio of Le Creuset isn't patrticularly favorable. At least until you get more experience with ECI (see my first point above), I think you'd be better served with a less expensive/status brand. I would splurge elsewhere, e.g., on the finest saute you can afford.

        Aloha,
        Kaleo

        PS: None of the stuff on your list is in danger of disappearing from the market, so why not deliberate based on your own--the best kind of--feedback?

        1 Reply
        1. re: kaleokahu

          Geez, I wish I'd written that! The only slight disagreement I can come up with is the ECI, I'm a fan of buy it once, buy it right the first time. The French (Le Creuset and Staub) cocottes/French ovnes/Dutch ovens have a status because of the quality of construction, not the quality of food they produce versus the low cost made in the Pacific Rim products.

          I really like the idea of adding or subbing a large sauté, mine gets used a great deal and I appreciate the extra realestate on the bottom that you sacrifice with a frying pan. The enameled cast iron (mine are Staub) have become a staple in our kitchen, we may or may not own a crockpot, I really don't know.

          It's a rare day when Kaleo stears you down the wrong path, so I'd give those suggestions serious thought.

        2. I think it's great that you're getting away from the cookware sets that everyone is trying to sell.

          Here are some of the things that came to my mind when I saw your post:

          1. Amazon delivers most of this stuff in 2 days, and if your in a real pinch, you can buy most of it locally for decent prices. So start off small, and if you want to make a recipe that would really be helped by a new addition, go out and buy the piece in that moment.

          2.The difference between cast iron and carbon steel is essentially the thickness, the cast iron ones retain a lot of heat and let you get that high heat sear on a lot more food than you would otherwise be able to. The trade off is that they weigh a freaking ton. With that in mind, I'd go from a 10 inch to a 12 inch on the cast iron, that way even a meal for 6 can be comfortably done in one pan.

          3. There is not very much difference between carbon steel pans other than the thickness (which matters) and the handle designe (which matters a lot less). So skip the 80 dollar debuyer and get the 25 dollar lodge version. Or go for a bit thinner and probably not as long lived 5 dollar offering (http://www.webstaurantstore.com/frenc...

          )

          4. You should cook your pasta in a 10 - 13 qt stock pot not a saucier. Get one with a steamer insert.

          5. You should get a second even bigger pot for stocks, if your going through all the trouble of making a stock it may as well be a big one. I usually save up stock materials (chicken and beef usually) in my freezer until I fill a 5 gallon pail and then I make one big stock in my 35 qt stock pot and freeze the stocks in 1qt portions in ziplock bags. Ofcourse if you don't have a ton of freezer space this won't be an option for you

          6. Why a crock pot? Just use the oven.

          7. If you get a wok, get the lodge heavy cast iron version.

          If i think of anything else, ill add to this. Best of luck.

          1. I bought a very similar Calphalon nonstick set to complete my wedding registry 9 years ago. My cooking style has evolved since then, but I would echo @Kaleo and caution with jumping into new cooking mediums. They just act different than the "set" and before investing on a lifetime "set" I would rather learn if I like something or don't.

            Me personally, I don't have the patience/desire/ability it seems to maintain a good seasoning on bare cast iron. Everyone who spouts the non-stick properties of a good seasoned cast iron pan, more power too them. I just bought a new 10 inch Calphalon non-stick skillet. It's the devil in the details, and while your list seems very well researched, I would suggest some home trials of carbon steel, cast iron, and stainless to see what works for your cooking and life style.

            And I while I don't do the all day cook in slow cooker, it's a great tool to have around, especially for holding hot foods for parities.

            1. Hi red22,

              I would do as Chem suggested, and eliminate one of your frypans, or at least exchange one for stainless steel. You can make acidic pan sauces in the stainless. BTW - the deBuyer Carbone line is essentially the same pan as the Mineral line for less money.

              I also agree with Kaleo that a sauté pan is an excellent item. Mine (3 quart) is seeing a lot more action than my large frypans, because it's more versatile. A braiser, "everyday", weeknight", or "essential" pan is a nice alternative to a sauté. The smaller floor makes it more like a frypan, but it's curved walls and lid make it excellent for skillet meals, pasta tosses and the like. You'll probably want 4-5 quarts for a sauté or braiser. They're also great for shallow frying things like rolled tacos and (with more oil) tortilla chips.

              I don't think you need a huge pot for cooking pasta. Cooking for a max of six people, an 8-10 quart stock pot is all you need, IMO. If you buy a multi-pot or one with a pasta insert it will be a more versatile pot. I mostly cook for two now and use a 2-3 quart saucier or saucepan all the time. They work just fine.

              If you like crockpot cooking, there's no need to buy an enameled cast iron dutch oven now. If you buy a slightly squatty stockpot (no taller than it is wide), it will really be more of a dutch oven and along with your crockpot should cover you for soups, chili, large pots of pasta, beans, chili, making stock/broth and braising. The crockpot is outstanding at keeping things warm for large gatherings. I use mine for make-ahead mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving and it's great in summer when you want to avoid heating up your kitchen. It will do a bang-up job on beans, chili, soup and stocks.

              Last, I'll repeat others yet again and urge you to avoid buying everything too quickly. I fell in love with my first carbon steel pan and quickly bought 3 others. I only routinely use 2 of the 4. As I wrote above, my 10" and 12" stainless frypans are seldom used anymore because I prefer my braiser and sauté pans. Exercise patience and your payoff will be cookware that you really use and love.

              Duffy

              1. Having been cooking for amost 50 years I Iinvested in LeCreuset only 7 years ago. Wish I had done it much earlier as they are wonderful. How about a Leceuset Saucier...it would be your cast iron fry pan, your saucier, and a everyday saucepan. They clean easily and will last forever. It will make a great heirloom for your kids. Ater you get one you'll want more. A great investment.

                1. Wow thanks for the advice everyone! This has been very helpful! To respond to some of the questions that came up, the le creuscet was going to be a coccote (since thats all I see around). I dont need one but the girlfriend likes them, and heck, they do look nice. I also appreciate the advice of not getting in over my head on maintenance, but I already have one cast iron pan (12 inch) and I dont mind maintaining it at all. I always hand wash and dry my pots, pans and knives, so I don’t think the maintenance should be too much of an issue apart from an occasional deep clean/season…and I have free time now to do it. I like maintaining things around the house but I got rid of a lot of stuff and now I need something else to spend time on...so now the kitchen gets more time. Im hoping by cutting down the amount of pots and pans I have too it won't be too bad. That being said I'll go slow...not sure if I have the cash to buy it all now anyways.

                  Regarding specific pans and such, I am trying to just get the sizes and materials set, then Im going to look at specific pans…thats a few weekends of research ;-). I just put Mauviel and Debuyer since those ones always come up. Im not married to any brand.

                  So now I am looking at:

                  1. 10 inch carbon steel pan
                  2. 12 inch cast iron pan
                  3. ~4 quart SS saute pan
                  4. ~2 quart SS sauce pan
                  5. 3 quart enamled cast iron saucier
                  6. 10-13 qt stock pot
                  7. crock pot (for parties, I can get one for free)

                  I like this a lot better, its less pots and pans and I can cook almost any dish I can think of.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: red22

                    Since you have had experience with cast iron cookware, then you are well prepared. I suppose whatever you need to deglaze, you can use your saute pan instead. I do think your 3-qt saucier may be a bit small. I mean you have a 2 qt sauce pan, and then your next one is a 10-13 quart stock pot. You probably need something in the range of 4-6 quart. Say you want to make stew for your girlfriend and you.

                    1. re: red22

                      I can follow the logic of your list with the exception of the 3 qt. enameled cast iron saucier. I'd been looking for a saucier for quite some time and people had mentioned ECI for that item, however, if one is actually using a saucier for it's intended purpose, ECI is the wrong material of construction. The typical reasoning behind a saucier or reduction sauce pan or Windsor, is to be able to reduce a sauce without burning it, it must have good even heat distribution so that sauces don't burn while being reduced. Even heat distribution on a stove top is not a strong point for enameled cast iron. You would be much better off with copper and better off with a multi-ply SS aluminum like your sauce pans. Save the ECI for the cocotte, where it's properties and cooking methods are a better match.

                      1. re: mikie

                        "...if one is actually using a saucier for it's intended purpose, ECI is the wrong material of construction."

                        Bingo. IMO, it's basically the wrong material for anything on the stovetop that isn't perfectly matched to the hob.

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Agree...I know you and I (and others) share an affinity for copper. It seems to me that sauciers, sauté pans, and sauce pans (if actually used for making sauces, not just for heating things) really benefit from correct sizing and use of highly conductive materials like copper or aluminum. For these three stovetop applications I think a buyer cook reaps the highest reward ratio when they find a heavy copper tin lined pan, especially on sites like ebay. Even when you find new ones (harder and harder to find) they price out not that differently from high end clad. If I were filling that niche in a new batterie I would be looking for a 3mm splayed saucepan with tin lining and iron handle.

                          http://www.buycoppercookware.com/mauv...

                      2. re: red22

                        I pretty much agree with Chem, mikie and GH. I don't quite see where you're going with a cast iron saucier and I think you'll need a larger saucepan, say, 4-6 quarts. It's going to be a bitch hauling out the big stockpot when you want to cook pasta for four. A large saucepan is also good for chili and soup when you want to cook them quickly, without waiting for the slow cooker.

                        For a saucier I want lots of conductivity, which means a thick aluminum layer in a clad pan or else a copper pan.

                        All things said, though, this "set" is much more manageable, and should serve you well.

                        1. re: red22

                          I like your new list better too, except for the saucier and not a fan of carbon steel skillets, prefer cast iron and stainless. Do you cook large pot roasts or pork butts, beans, stews or chili? Your original idea of an ECI cocotte is a better choice. 5 or 6 qt. An 8 qt stock pot should serve you well unless your family is larger than 4. A larger saucepan would be handy for mashed potatoes, smaller batches of pasta, steaming bulky veg like broccoli or cauliflower, soups etc., 4 qt or so. Have fun deciding on your new tools!

                        2. I don't understand your saucepan/saucier choices. One large conventional saucepan and one small saucier is more useful, I think. My large saucepan is 3.5 qt with a steamer accessory and lid, which I use frequently. I also have a small saucepan. My saucier is only one qt, which suits me as I cook for two. One 1.5 to 2-qt saucier should suffice, I think.

                          Perhaps I just don't understand what you will do with a 5 qt saucier.

                          1. I always recommend upsizing carbon steel pans like DeBuyer. They have very small foot prints. Anything a ten inch will do a twelve inch will do, too. I'd get just a twelve and skip the ten and the CI frypans and get a good sized sauté pan or rondeau.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: tim irvine

                              Agree. I regret that I got a 10" deBuyer fry pan.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Chem, they're great when you make breakfast for only yourself or a single grilled cheese. Sorry. My most used DeBuyer is a 14"!

                                1. re: tim irvine

                                  I think. Even for making a breakfast for myself, I think a 12" deBuyer fry pan is better. The reason is that the DeBuyer fry pan has a pretty wide slope side/edge.

                                  Here is an example.

                                  My misc cast iron pan has a 10" diameter on the top with a 9" cooking surface.

                                  My DeBuyer fry pan has a 9.5" diameter on the top with a 6.5" cooking surface <-- much smaller cooking surface.

                              2. re: tim irvine

                                < I always recommend upsizing carbon steel pans like DeBuyer. >

                                This is why I like carbon steel crepe pans so much. Oodles of floor space, and no tall walls to impede egg slides.

                                Also, carbon steel pans are too heavy for me to toss with, so they're going to sit on the cooktop while in use. The only messy thing I cook in mine are hash browns, which with careful attention can be done in a crepe pan. Certainly steaks and chops can be easily cooked in a crepe pan. So can delicate fish. Saucy things go in nonstick or stainless steel.

                                For everything I cook in carbon steel, a crepe pan is the obvious choice. And that's probably why I hardly ever use my frypans, but use my crepe pans several times a week.

                                But that's just me. If they're your "everything" pan, upsizing is surely the way to go. Because you're going to need the room.