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Help me build a great cookware set!

Hi all,

It's wedding registry time, and my fiance and I are super excited to be (hopefully) replacing our mish-mash collection of cookware, especially since i cook all the time now and my skills have greatly improved, but I'm using the wrong tools for most things.

Good pieces in hand that we plan to build from:
- 12" nonstick lidded calphalon fry pan
- 10" lodge cast iron skillet
- huge (8qt?) nonstick calphalon stock pot

The rest has got to go. This is what is currently on my wishlist (below). Do you see duplicates, things that i am not realizing could be serving double duty? We don't have a ton of storage space, but we also don't need to make one pot do everything.

Registered for:
- le creuset 5.5 and 7 qt dutch ovens
- all-clad d5 fry pan, 10" and 12" (do i only need one?)
- all clad d5 saucepan, 2 qt
- all clad d5 saucepan, 4 qt
- all clad d5 essential pan, 4 qt http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

- all clad d5 saute/simmer pan, 4qt http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

Is the saute/simmer pan necessary or would a fry pan or sauce pan do the same trick? Is the essential pan basically the same as the s/s pan?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide, as well as any "this is what that pan is ideally suited for" lessons :

)

p-chow

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  1. I love my All-Clad; I have older pans, so not the d5 line. However, I'd probably forego the 4-qt. Saucepan in favor of the 4-qt essential as more versatile. Similarly, I'd pass on the 10" skillet in favor of the sauté pan (nearly same diameter, and again more versatile) and definitely get the 12" skillet. Look at one of the sauciers while you're at it. No corners for sauces to get stuck in, easier to whisk in as well. I have both the 1-qt. & 3-qt sauciers and would not part with them. I *might* get a saucepan, but so far haven't felt the need of one. The only drawback is that with the 1-qt, there is no lid to fit it. That said, I use the sauciers constantly.

    6 Replies
    1. re: mcsheridan

      thanks mcsheridan!

      i hadn't considered a saucier because it's pretty rare i make a sauce by itself (usually just a pan sauce). that being said, saucepans are super annoying for that task. i do occasionally make caramel or lemon curd or something like that - i suppose that would be easier in a saucier as well?

      ok, so SUPER dumb question then - what type of a pan should i be cooking meat in/making pan sauces/browning/frying on a stovetop? a saute pan instead of a frying pan? i've never had anything other than a skillet so i'm not sure how the straight sides will change things.

      1. re: poochiechow

        The sauciers are good for a lot more than sauces. You can do nearly anything in them you'd do in a saucepan, plus they are perfect for making custards, pastry cream, risotto, polenta. Basically, anything that needs a lot of whisking or stirring to come out right or that can scorch in corners. So yes, your lemon curd will do well in a saucier. Searing and browning and the resulting pan sauces can be done in the skillets, sauté pans, or essential pans.

        Caramel is a whole 'nother matter. I don't make it, but I do know that the high, straight sides of a saucepan might be better for when the cream gets added. Things tend to climb at that point. I'll leave it to others to chime in on that. I could be wrong.

        1. re: poochiechow

          Hi poochiechow,

          Conga Rats on your impending nuptials!

          I do a lot of sautés and pan sauces. I also like to roast chickens and small cuts of beef.

          I generally go for one of two pans. One is a Zwilling ceramic-lined 3 quart sauté pan that I use for anything not needing fond. I also shallow fry in it, anything from fish and breaded chicken to frozen snacks like taquitos. The sauté pan you linked would do the job, but so will your existing Calphalon nonstick frypan. One noticeable advantage to the sauté pan is that it's better than a frypan at containing grease spatters. The increased depth is nice, too, because I can sauté a bunch of aromatics in it, then make a big batch of sauce. I can also roast in it. I made skillet lasagna in it last week, and I'll never go back to a lasagna pan and all those layers again.

          But I love a braiser, too, like your linked 4 qt. sauté/simmer pan. Mine is stainless steel and it's the pan I reach for when I want fond for a pan sauce or gravy. They've generally got floor space that's similar to a frypan, but with higher walls that are nicely rounded, allowing for easy whisking. These pans are ideal for sautés followed by pan sauces. They're also great for a pasta toss. It's a very versatile pan, one I highly recommend. Again, any of your frypans will work, but higher walls equals fewer spatters and greater volume for sauces and pasta. Not to mention doubling as a roaster in the oven.

          I'm currently exploring enameled cast iron for it's semi-stick properties. I think it could be, in certain applications, the best of both worlds. Because it's not very conductive and is slow to react, it will take time to develop a sense of when to turn the heat down or off, but once the timing is mastered, I think it might be a good compromise pan, producing fond, then going basically nonstick for pasta tossing, gravies and pan sauces. Look at the Staub Perfect Pan and the Le Creuset braiser. Both appear to be wonderful pans.

          http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

          http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

          Here's a thread about the Staub - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9760...

          Bottom line? I think the Saute/Simmer pan is your best bet to supplement the pans you've already got. It could quickly become your most-used pan. I would definitely recommend it first, followed by the sauté pan. But don't overlook the cast iron pans, they could also be wonderful.

          I also find my 2.75 and 4 quart saucepans indispensable. 2qts and 4qts should do nicely. I think the 4qt Essential pan is unnecessary.

          1. re: DuffyH

            thanks so much DuffyH. this was super helpful.

            and those braisers do look very nice - might be worth adding to the list as well. can you do a pan sauce in an enameled cast iron? i'm only familiar with regular cast iron, which has as rule #1 DON'T DO ANYTHING TO MESS UP THE SEASONING! :)

            1. re: poochiechow

              Hi Poochichow,

              <... can you do a pan sauce in an enameled cast iron?>

              Yes, you can. The enamel is non-reactive, so you can cook anything in it without fear of damage.

              1. re: DuffyH

                ...except with saucing in ECI, the fat runs through the jus.

      2. is this what i really want instead of a 4qt saucepan or the essential pan or saute/simmer pan?

        just a good old 3qt saute pan (or 6qt?)

        http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

        2 Replies
        1. re: poochiechow

          I know others will be chiming in here, and I'd like to see you get a variety of opinions. Perhaps before then you could elaborate on what kind of cooking you'll be doing. What do you and your intended like to eat? Will you be doing any (or a lot of) entertaining? I notice, for example, the lack of a pasta pot or all-in-one.

          What you need depends on what you'll be doing on the kitchen.

          1. re: mcsheridan

            thanks, that's a good idea :)

            i'm pretty adventurous in the kitchen so i want to be able to do a wide variety of things. we do some entertaining - maybe dinner for 4-6 once a month and up to 12 twice a year, but for the most part it's just two of us, though i do very often cook something that serves 4 so we can have it twice.

            i usually make pasta in the saucepans now, and that's what i would continue to make it in, unless someone tells me there's a better way!

            we do a lot of grain sides with pan-seared chicken, fish, steak. some stir fries. lots of browning and then finishing in the oven. braising. sauteed veggies. and a bunch of things that will be fabulous in the dutch oven!

        2. A 12" or 14" carbon steel wok. I cook for two (or less!) most nights and the 12" wok is fine. No fancy brand names needed, you can pick one up at world market or an Asian grocery for under $15. I don't use mine all the time, but when I do, I'm happy I have it.

          We are a couple of egg heads (yuck yuck yuck!) who eat eggs for breakfast daily. I have two matching 7" uncoated anodized aluminum pans I use them only for eggs and only with the lightest coating of butter and olive oil I swirl and pour out. In three minutes I have eggs cooked perfectly that slide out of the pan without a utensil. They then get wiped out with a paper towel and returned to their hooks. Maybe not an absolute essential for your cookery, but I absolutely love mine.

           
          2 Replies
          1. re: CaliforniaJoseph

            thanks CaliforniaJoseph. we do a fair amount of stir fry, might be good to add a wok to the list!

            1. Hi, poochiechow:

              You're sorta on the right track, IMO.

              1. You picked the best 2 pieces LC makes. I recommend you stop there. Pick a color you won't get sick of when it goes out of fashion.

              2. Your plan calls for FOUR frypans. This is too many. If you like your Calphalon, keep it for eggs and fish. Keep your Lodge for searing, roasting and cornbread-type baking. These are all you really need, but if you *must* have a SS-surface frypan for deglazing (see #3 below), just get one. Consider the Demeyere Pro-Line 5 Star.

              3. Get the best conventional (i.e., straightwall) saute you can. You can also fry in a saute, and you get a LOT more useable floorspace than in a similar-diameter frypan. Frankly, I'd get TWO of the best sautes you can find, and forego any more frypans. If your guests can afford it, shoot the moon and ask for a Falk saute.

              4. Forget the Essential and Simmer. These are trendy hybrid pans that are, IMO, only worth buying if you never plan on buying the traditional shapes they're intended to let you get along without.

              5. For saucepans, I'd go with a 1.5Q and a 3Q instead of 2 and 4. Your 5.5Q and 7Q LCs will cover the larger end of your range (think batches of chili, soups, etc.)

              6. Sauciers are fine, they give you more "span" between sizes than do straightwall saucepans. But beware--their capacity is usually 40% less for the same diameter.

              7. I would add a wok and a large (like 14-16Q) stockpot. Both of these can be uber cheap, like $20, and still work really well. Better yet, make your stockpot a canner.

              8. Get a pressure cooker. I recommend stovetop over electric, and if you pick the right size, it can also serve as a small stockpot or oven (it takes people years to realize PCs can be used just like a regular pot, too).

              9. Consider getting 2-3 oval gratins in different sizes. These are great for roasting and also make good serving pieces.

              10. When you're starting out, it's hard not to sucker for sets. But in the final analysis, no one cares whether all your pans look alike.

              11. Re: All-Clad... It's good quality, but overpriced IMO. I do not believe the theory behind d5, either--I think the regular A-C triply is every bit as good, and less expensive. The Copper Core is not worth the premium because there's very little copper in it.

              Hope this helps,
              Aloha,
              Kaleo

              24 Replies
              1. re: kaleokahu

                "7. I would add a wok and a large (like 14-16Q) stockpot. Both of these can be uber cheap, like $20, and still work really well. Better yet, make your stockpot a canner.

                8. Get a pressure cooker. I recommend stovetop over electric, and if you pick the right size, it can also serve as a small stockpot or oven (it takes people years to realize PCs can be used just like a regular pot, too)."

                Yes. This. He typed what I thought.

                36 years without a pressure cooker... After I got one I couldn't figure out how I did without. I now have a couple.

                The stockpot is also something amazing to have but I don't know if I'd put it on the registry... I just bought a new, unused 16 quart stocker on eBay - factory second with a 2" scratch - for $4.49 + $11 shipping and handling. Stainless, thick base, lid. I already had a 21.5 quart Graniteware canner I got for $8 at thrift shop & a 20 quart aluminum pressure cooker that I needed about as much as an 11th toe for $9.88... But I really wanted a stainless large capacity pot for the twice a year I will use it... So I splurged and bought a stockpot for less than a dollar per quart capacity because I am decadent like that.

                Also on the "get for yourself at thrift shops, garage sales & eBay" list: old school pyro ceramic corningware. The French White collection holds the record for being the most registered-for cookware EVER so there is a ton of it out there still (bet you a buck your relatives have some!). The new stuff does not hold a candle to the old, so go hunting for the old. It will rock your leftovers on Black Friday.

                I bake bread and cheaper roasts and chicken in clay roasters.... Also something not essential but I'm no minimalist.

                Whole birds I spatchcock and roast directly on oven rack over a cookie sheet. You could get by without poultry shears... But for $7.50/free shipping on eBay... Well it's a fun tool to have.

                My "saucier" is a very thick Calphalon anodized aluminum 10" wok I picked up on eBay new without package for $15 free shipping. It is lightweight, a breeze to clean and looks cool hanging from my pot rack. I never actually use it as a wok.

                 
                 
                 
                1. re: kaleokahu

                  this definitely helps, Kaleo. very much appreciated. good to hear i'm on the right track, and great advice.

                  my instincts were the same as far as #4 - but i wasn't sure what i would exactly want instead. i think what i want is a saute pan - i just wasn't sure since i haven't had one before!

                  i definitely plan to add a wok - but i'll pick one up myself for cheap at an Asian market as CaliforniaJoseph mentioned. and i'll look into the pressure cooker - it never crossed my mind.

                  1. re: poochiechow

                    Hi poochichow,

                    <my instincts were the same as far as #4 - but i wasn't sure what i would exactly want instead. i think what i want is a saute pan - i just wasn't sure since i haven't had one before!>

                    Get thee to Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table. Check out Saute pans (straight walls) and braisers (curved walls). Note the floor space, the wall height and the curve of the walls. Also, grab some utensils and play at cooking with them. See what you like.

                    And pay no attention to what the pan is called. As noted above, names are all over the place. Shape is the key. The All-Clad Saute & Simmer pan you linked is a braiser. In fact, IMO it's a better braiser than the All-Clad braisers, which I think are a little too shallow. The Essential pan is most like a saucier.

                    But definitely get out to both those stores, if you can. Unless your Williams-Sonoma is a really big one, Sur La Table is likely to have a wider in-stock variety of quality brands, materials and shapes for you to choose from. Have fun!

                    1. re: DuffyH

                      thanks again! i've looked at both, at both stores - i guess i'm not sure what the difference is when you actually have a finished product. i mean, couldn't you technically braise something in a saute pan? or saute something in a braising pan? what would the difference truly be if i were pan-searing chicken thighs on the stovetop? i'm guessing not much, but again i have no experience with this. (and building on that, couldn't i stir-fry something in either pan, or cook rice, or whatever?)

                      and on top of that, would a braiser be overkill if i have a dutch oven? or are there things a dutch oven is too unwieldy for?

                      i'm trying to think of something that would do well in one pan but not the other - since you have more experience with both, can you think of something?

                      maybe i should go back and play around with them and just see which i like the feel of better, like you suggested.

                      1. re: poochiechow

                        Let me tell you, what you need for cooking depends soooooo mcuh on what you cook. I have an ECI braiser from Staub, there was a time when I cooked half of what I made in it. Great cooking vessel, but I haven't used it in months, mainly because I'm cooking different things right now. I don't like to cook the same things over and over, so the pans I use change with the season. My point is that if there are certian types of foods you don't cook, then you don't need certian types of cooking vessels.

                        I think the list Kaleo had would cover most bases, start there and build as your cooking needs require. Good luck.

                        1. re: mikie

                          thanks mikie - very good points here. i'm a seasonal cook also (and it's rare i make the same thing twice!) so i'm trying to find a range of cookware to cover all my bases. i think Kaleo's list is a good one, too.

                        2. re: poochiechow

                          Hi poochichow,

                          In reality, braisers and sauté pans are fairly interchangeable in terms of what can be cooked in them. As you pointed out, that can be extrapolated out to include many other pots and pans. I've made popcorn in a tall saucepan and in a wok. Neither is ideal, but both produce good popcorn. BTW, the Presto PopLite #04820 makes the best popcorn. Accept no substitutes. ;-)

                          As for true differences between braisers and sautés, they're few. Mostly a matter of some things being slightly easier in one or the other. I find it easier to toss pasta and whisk pan sauces in a braiser. The straight walls of the sauté make it a less obvious choice for these tasks. But I've made wonderful pan sauces in my sauté pan, I just have to use a different whisk, and dig into the corners a bit more. The finished sauce is just fine, but it takes a little more effort to make sure it's perfectly smooth.

                          Using your example of pan-seared chicken thighs, the greater floor space of the sauté may allow fewer batches. Again, a braiser (or dutch oven or saucepan or small frypan) will do the job just fine, but if you've got a lot of them, the sauté will make it go faster.

                          Yes, go back and really handle the pans you're considering. Compare them side by side. Think about how much food you normally cook, and how much you occasionally cook. Measure the floor space of your existing pans, and use that to help guide you in choosing sizes. You know how much space you really need for your cooking.

                          If you still can't choose, register for more than one kind or size of pan. You may only get one, but if you do get more, you can cook with them and then decide. By your links, is it safe to say you'll be registering at WS? They've got a 90-day refund/exchange policy for registry items.

                          Duffy

                          EDIT - poochiechow, it occurs to me that I've no idea how high the sides on your Calphalon frypan are. If it's got decent wall height, it could double as a braiser, with the caveat that you'll get no fond when you pan-sear foods. But for a pasta toss, veggie sauté and the like? You're golden.

                          1. re: DuffyH

                            thanks again Duffy (and all the other chowhounders too - every time i post something i am amazed at the depth and breadth of knowledge here, as well as how generous people are with sharing their experiences and time!)

                            the calphalon is unfortunately not high-walled enough to serve as a good braiser. but i can see your point about how useful one might be for the way i cook. will definitely look into one.

                          2. re: poochiechow

                            The difference in the saute simmer and the Essential is basically depth. The Essential is 3/4 of an inch deeper. They will do the same thing, I have the Essential and like it, the depth is nice if you do want to braise a thicker roast, cook a larger batch of pasta covered with sauce, a big serving of popcorn, wilt a batch of greens and it can sub for a 4 qt saucepan nicely. Check out the reviews on the WS site. That can help if you see references to things you like to cook. Just starting out, you may need a pan that is versatile rather than being a purist. The difference between the Stainless and a dutch oven is stovetop temperature control. When ECI gets hot, it stays hot for some time. A tri-ply SS or similar gives you more control, eveness in simmering, less hot spots.

                            1. re: Cam14

                              thanks! that's a very helpful breakdown.

                              and that's the eternal question - several pans that are versatile and get heavy rotation, vs. a kitchen full of pans you might use rarely but are ideally suited to their task... (actually, this makes me wonder which way CHers lean. might be worth a poll, if it hasn't already been done!)

                              1. re: poochiechow

                                I'll weight in on two counts:

                                First, I have been down the road with the all-purpose style pans, especially when I had much less space. I still appreciate an economy of means when it comes to space, but the 3-4 quart essential pan or saucier is vastly inferior IMHO to having 3 sauce pans. If you are ever cooking a meal for more than two people, you will want a set of cookware that will allow you to take full advantage of your range. I have 1.1qt, and 2.3 qt saucepans, and a 4 quart casserole for these purposes, plus one straight sided sauté, and and 11 inch skillet. You can get away with just a sauté and forgo the skillet, but 2-3 sauce pans, a stockpot and a sauté are all essential for cooking for a small group. My primary cookware is Demeyere which has no rivets and therefore allows me to take full advantage of the volume of the saucepans. You may want to get slightly larger small pots if you intend on purchasing a brand with rivets. My point here, though, is that once you have the requisite number of saucepans a stockpot and one or two frypans you won't have much need for an expensive do-it-all pan. Better at this point to spend your money on true specialty items.

                                The second thing I'll share with you is in line with what some other, more respected, members around here will say. I've owned quite a few pieces of All-clad over the years (and still have a few). I have owned lots of Calphalon (and still have a few). My overall perspective on these companies has changed over the years, both based on my cooking experience and on my perception of the quality of the cookware. I can't really say a bad word about All-Clad, but I think you can do better than the stainless line for a bit less money (Sitram). And I think you can do better than the Copper Core for just a bit more money (Demeyere). I am a bit biased because I like flared rims and prefer the welded handles of quality cookware. I also think that those two brands I mentioned have better steel (though I have no empirical evidence for why this would be true, just my experience cooking on them).

                                Calphalon once made (and still occasionally does) great home cookware. You can still cook a fine meal in Calphalon pans, but a slight downtick in quality combined with other quality options out there puts me in the camp of people who wouldn't go out of my way to purchase them if I had do do it over again.

                                I still think that for the money, Sitram Catering is the best deal out there if you don't use induction and don't mind the industrial handles. Demeyere is tops for anything besides pure copper (though I think their conical sauce pans are not worth the money). And you can't go wrong with one or two dutch ovens from Le Creuset.

                                1. re: randallhank

                                  Hi randallhank,

                                  I'm an absolute outlier on Demeyere, in that it is not one of my favorite brands. I returned my 11" Proline skillet after 4 months because I found it more difficult to clean than my other SS pans. Maybe it's the Silvinox finish. For whatever reason, it was more effort than my others.

                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                    We have only had the Demeyere Atlantus Saucier for about a month, and sauciers don't have the same issues you have with a frying pan, but we havn't had any problems cleaning, it's never even seen BKF so far.

                                    1. re: mikie

                                      Hi mikie,

                                      I've only seen one or two others who had cleaning issues with the Proline. I'm very much not in the majority here, and figure it's just me on this one. It happens.

                                      I'd likely be fine with the saucier because of the differences in cooking technique from the skillet.

                                  2. re: randallhank

                                    Hi, randallhank: "...no rivets and therefore allows me to take full advantage of the volume of the saucepans. You may want to get slightly larger small pots if you intend on purchasing a brand with rivets."

                                    I'm sorry, I agree with much of what you wrote, but I simply must ask: How much volume do you think you'd be losing to those rivet heads?

                                    Aloha,
                                    Kaleo

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      I prefer to keep what I'm cooking below the rivets, myself ... like scrambling eggs, they get caught on the rivets.

                                      1. re: foiegras

                                        When the schmutz on the rivets becomes Just Unbearable, I get out my special rivet toothbrush (HARD!) and either 7th Gen or BKF and scrub that schmutz away. What, do you think you're going to get food poisoning if a teeny-tiny amount of scrambled egg touches a rivet?

                                        1. re: Jay F

                                          I don't get the problem with rivets. I've never had schmutz build up around my rivets. It always comes off easily with my palm brush. I give my stainless pans a quick soak before scrubbing, maybe that's the difference? It never sticks at all on nonstick, the brush takes it right off.

                                          Chainmail takes it off carbon steel in a flash.

                                          1. re: Jay F

                                            I'm always amazed at some of the comments here ...

                                            I scramble eggs regularly in a skillet where they reach the top of the rivets, and they undoubtedly make the job more difficult. I was offering a potential explanation as to why someone might think that rivets limit the usable volume of a pan.

                                            1. re: foiegras

                                              <<I scramble eggs regularly in a skillet where they reach the top of the rivets, and they undoubtedly make the job more difficult.>>

                                              Which job, cooking or cleaning?

                                        2. re: kaleokahu

                                          LOL. The rivets themselves take up very little volume. That's not what I meant. The tendency, at least for me, is in doing sauce work, making rice, or thicker soups is to choose a pan that is slightly bigger in hopes of cooking only below the rivets. On the other hand I have a 1.1 quart Demeyere that I don't hesitate to use. If I had that size in an All-Clad I would never use it because I would be working around the rivets, worried about food sticking, etc. I would probably grab the 1.5 quart in the All-Clad. Likewise I can make what seems like a ton of rice in the 2.3 quart Demeyere, whereas I would almost certainly grab a 3 quart All-Clad for the same job. The rivets are more of an annoyance than anything else.

                                          1. re: randallhank

                                            Hi Randallhank,

                                            I set out to buy All Clad d5 for induction: 1 1/2, 2, and 3 qt. saucepans. When I came to actually comparing and choosing, I decided on other products for other reasons--but never the rivets. I decided that well constructed SS tri-clad could do as well as d5 with induction, so I chose a W-S Thermoclad for 1 1/2 qt., and Dansk Kobenstyle for 2 qt. I'm just now buying an AC 3 1/2 qt. SS tri-clad. My Thermoclad has rivets, my Dansk Kobenstyle has no rivets, AC has rivets. My Le Creuset 1 1/2 qt. saucepan, and my Tramontina 3 qt. saucier have no rivets--but they weigh too much. I don't think that enameled cast iron is the right answer for saucepans. I wouldn't hesitate to buy Dermeyere induction compatible saucepans--but not because they are rivet free: they are incredible high quality products.

                            2. re: kaleokahu

                              +1 on the gratins and the sauté pans. A large stocker is great for tons of stuff besides stock, such as pasta, steaming large quantities with a rack in the bottom, and using as a water bath for canning.

                            3. I have smaller LC Dutch ovens that I use a lot. I gather here that I may be somewhat unique in that respect :)

                              I'm also a huge fan of the little LC saucepan. I find it enormously useful & have 2 identical. Vegetables, rice, poaching an egg, heating a sauce ...

                              12" seems large for your only non-stick ... seems like a smaller one might be useful for eggs, but I guess this would depend on what you eat.

                              I keep things pretty minimal with my cookware, so to me it looks like you have duplication in the fry pan/skillet area. But it's nice to have a spare.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: foiegras

                                thanks foiegras. the 12" is a little bit large. could have probably done with a 10" for two people, but it was a gift a few christmases back.

                                agreed about the duplication. i'm going to narrow that down a bit.

                                1. re: foiegras

                                  Hi foiegras,

                                  How do you use your small DOs? I've never had a need for a family size DO beyond chili, so was always comfortable with an 8-qt pasta pot. Small ones might be useful to replace my small slow cookers, which don't allow the range of temperatures I want. Tell me more, please!

                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                    I use my 3.5 quart DO for oatmeal and small batch soup - probably overkill and I could get along well enough with other things I have... But that's how I use mine.

                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                      I have a 1.5? 1.75? small oval that's discontinued now. I use it for small servings of pasta, stovetop mac & cheese, like Joseph said, small batches. Soup. Risotto. Stew. A meat sauce that's not spaghetti sauce. I also have a 5.5 that, now I have it, I use for spaghetti sauce, chili, large batches of soup. To tell you the truth, though, I think that one is really too big for me--it encourages me to make more than I really should.

                                      The 3.5 I use for cooking for my dogs--oatmeal, rice.

                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                        Hi DuffyH,

                                        I am also a small Le Creuset Dutch oven user. I have both the 3.5 oval and a 3.5 shallow "wide" round one. The oval I use primarily for roasted chicken when I need to make more than one. I usually use a Nesco roaster for chicken because it roasts an entire chicken perfectly in like 35 minutes and doesn't heat up the whole house. So when I need two, I transfer the first one to the DO and put it in a warm oven. It keeps it perfectly while the second one is cooking. I suppose I could use one of my roasters and just cook the two together in the oven, but I think they come out better this way, especially if I pull the first one off at the right moment and let it coast to a finish while the second one cooks. I use both dutch ovens for small batches of soup and for rice and grains. I use the wide one as a braiser, or as a saucepan.

                                        The main thing I find these pans useful for is when I want a cooking vessel that will keep food warm when I want to clear off the range to make room for other projects. The heat retention is the main property here, and I cannot tell you how often it comes in handy when I want to do a quick sauté or a sauce and need a spare burner. That cast iron will keep my grains warm and most for at least an hour, if not two. Likewise for brisket or braised ribs, where there is no risk of overcooking. Needless to say, you have to think about the items and order of cooking a bit in advance.

                                        The small DO's are also good for table service. I have a 2.75 quart Staub that I use in the same way.