Cookware recommendations, please!
November 27, 2020 11:18 AM   Subscribe

It's the time of year when kitchen goods are going on sale and it's time to replace our cookware but there's a dizzying array of options and I'm dividing by zero trying to make a decision.

It's time to replace our cookware (yay!) and I cannot make a decision about what to get, and googling turns up tons of recommendation articles that all recommend different sets. I'm also having trouble sorting out the space between the 10-piece-set-for-$50-first apartment cookware and the $350-this-single-pan-will-change-your-life ads I keep getting on Instagram. Help?

Some details:
- I cook on an electric flattop stove
- most sets seem to have more pots than skillets, but I don't need a ton of pots (if I'm doing more than making risotto mix from a box, I'm probably figuring out how to make it in the instapot or the rice maker or the slow cooker - and even then half the time the box mix goes in the IP depending on what else I'm making) - one small pot would likely do the trick
- non-stick is nice, though I'm anti-Teflon; I got some cheap ceramic non-stick from Target when I moved out from living with my ex that got beat up pretty quickly, so I'm wary there; I'm also fine with non-non-stick, we don't have health issues that preclude cooking with fat
- at the least, we need a small skillet for omelets, crepes, etc; and a larger skillet for steak, pork chops, etc. A dutch oven or similar pan that is broiler and stovetop safe would be very very nice but is not essential.
- I want a wok but can buy that separately at our local international market
- dishwasher safe is nice, but not terribly compatible with much of the above; I'm happy to hand wash too.

I'm willing to throw up to about $200 at this problem (though if you have the more expensive "you'll never need to buy cookware again" set and it's worth it, I'd love to hear about it), I'm in the U.S., online availability or curbside pickup is a huge plus right now.

Thanks y'all.
posted by joycehealy to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Nonstick is disposable. Only spend as much on it as you won't mind spending again in a couple of years. I've found so far that it's worth getting not-the-cheapest-and-shittiest, but not worth spending a lot.

Unless you're really RILLY matchy-matchy, don't get sets. Just get what you need.

We have a couple of All-clad bits and they're real nice but not really worth the price difference over cuisinart/lagostina/tramontina of similar construction.

When paralyzed by choice or when you throw up your hands and don't care any more, just get wirecutter recommendations.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

don't buy a set. Identify the pieces you need for how YOU cook, and optimize for those.

For instance if you like eggs, and cook them often for 1-4 people, what you need is a good 10" nonstick skillet. The state of the art in nonstick has come an incredibly long way. My favorite name brand is Anolon Professional, but honestly my current most-used skillet is something of no name I got at Homegoods. Weight is a good proxy for quality, here, although not foolproof. I don't find them disposable at all; the ones I like last me 10+ years.

If you make stovetop braises or other cooked dishes for groups of 4+, get a 12" pot with sides like 5" high. I like nonstick for this too. Some people prefer enameled cast iron for this, and Black Friday is a great day to look into that if that's what you like; but for me, the larger the pot, the less cast iron is useful, because it gets too heavy for me to handle easily.

Try out handles of skillets in your hand and imagine what it would feel like to handle when you have to grasp it tight. For anything 12" or bigger make sure there's a helper handle. (I was gifted a big heavy fancy all-clad skillet that I can't ever use because the handle cuts my hand and it's too heavy for me to handle onehanded.)

TLDR don't buy a set; think about what you mostly make and buy targeted for that; try out handles for skillets. Anolon Professional is a good brand of nonstick but you can sometimes find even slicker stuff at Homegoods.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:42 AM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

How do you feel about cast iron? I do almost all my cooking on cast iron skillets (like the Lodge ones you can get quite cheaply) or in enameled cast iron pots (eg Le Creuset, Dansk Kobenstyle, or the cheaper knockoffs, I got one at Aldi that’s great!). Not great if you want to toss and flip your food or have strength issues with lifting the heavy pans, but I usually just leave my pans on the stove and use a spatula. Stuff doesn’t stick too much to seasoned cast iron if you’re not afraid of using some oil, and cleanup is easy with a chain mail scrubber. They are oven/broiler safe (some heat limits on the le Creuset lid knobs though, if you get the plastic kind). I’d just get a couple large and small cast iron skillets, one medium saucepan and one large Dutch oven, and add pieces from there if you feel anything is missing.
posted by music for skeletons at 11:45 AM on November 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

If someone told me "you must spend $200 on pots and pans or else" I would get this ergonomic cast-iron pan with a lifetime warranty from Butterpat.
posted by aniola at 11:57 AM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I can personally vouch for Cuisinart Multiclad Pro pots and pans as being nearly as good as All-Clad for a lot less money (I don't have any experience with Lagostina or Tramontina). The advantage to that type of cookware is that the aluminum sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel makes for a noticeably more even heating of ingredients. I bought a set a few years ago (which provided a modest discount over buying the pieces separately), I'm very happy with it. The pieces are sturdily built, easy to handle, and I expect them to last years and years. As GCU Sweet and Full of Grace said just buying what you need is a.-ok. Amazon generally has pretty good prices for them, and I'm sure other online places do as well.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:19 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

As far as nonstick goes I don't think it's necessary for anything but eggs. Buy one inexpensive pan, planning to replace it every once in a while. Also: never take it above medium, and only use silicone or wooden utensils on it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:23 PM on November 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Stainless steel would have been magic to anyone before 1915, and honestly I still think it is - pay for a good sandwich base, as Greg_Ace says, and a simple shape, and you have a pan for life. I cook eggs in mine.
posted by clew at 12:27 PM on November 27, 2020

Cast-iron flat-bottomed wok FTW.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 12:52 PM on November 27, 2020

I gave up on non-stick once I realized that all nonstick pans will eventually scratch, despite one's best efforts to care for them, and then are only good for the landfill.

Since then I've used cast iron and stainless steel. Cast iron in particular is super cheap (especially if you can find it used), lasts forever, and develops a non-stickness over time. With just a little care (don't get it soapy or leave it in the sink) it is a pleasure to use. Stainless steel is great too, esp if you get the kind with a thick clad base. It's dishwasher safe unlike cast iron, and lighter. Again, it's super cheap if you can find it used and don't get hung up on a particular brand - and like cast iron it also lasts forever.

Echoing the suggestions to not buy a "set" and to just buy one of each pan you actually need. "Sets" are a waste of money, time, space, and planetary resources.
posted by splitpeasoup at 1:30 PM on November 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Not always; I use every piece of my set. Some more than others, but nothing gets left gathering dust. I've even bought a couple more pieces I needed that didn't come in the set. But then I view cooking as a hobby, so not everybody's experience would match mine, and I agree that buying just what you need is a good way to go.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:56 PM on November 27, 2020

Some years ago, all our cookware got stolen, and I bought a stainless steel set of pots on sale, and some non-stick pans from the same company. This is the brand. I can't see from here if they have good offers in the US.
I am really happy with them and I use every one, but as many have stated above, non-stick has a limited life-span, regardless of the care you give them. I will probably buy the same brand again as my non-stick pans need replacing, but I am trying to use them less: only for fish and eggs.
For other purposes, I have cast-iron and carbon steel, mostly le Creuset and Mauviel, but also vintage and local Swedish stuff. My wok is from a Chinese hardware store on Bowery in New York and I have an aluminium karahi I bought online. Ideally, I like to have stuff that matches, but at the end of the day, function wins over form in my kitchen.
Carbon steel is cheaper and in many ways as good or even better than cast-iron, but it can be a little more difficult to handle on an electric hob.
IKEA has adorable enameled cookware and very nice cast iron Dutch ovens. Since I have more than enough, I haven't bought or tried it, but if I were starting from scratch, I'd go for it.
posted by mumimor at 2:54 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I recently needed to purchase some new cookware, and I got the stainless clad frying pans from Made In. I got the 8" and I think the 12". They are both solidly made and easy to care for. I also got 2 of their saucepans as well, and all of them have held up very nicely.
posted by Lycaste at 6:53 PM on November 27, 2020

I’ve had shockingly good luck with the Cooks Standard line of stainless cookware, bought piece by piece. They’re also good for induction, if you end up going that way in future, and frankly now that I’ve had these for a few years I don’t think I’m going to bother with anything fancier.
posted by aramaic at 8:03 PM on November 27, 2020

Don't bother spending the money on Le Creuset if you're like me and don't nurse the pan while it is on the stove. I ruined the enamel on more than one that way, it's easy to do. I like Calphalon pans for things like pancakes and omelets, although you have to mind the nonstick surface and they do have a limited lifespan. My most durable cookware is stainless steel and cast iron, non-enamelled. The best pans I ever used in my life were from Switzerland and belonged to a friend. They were stainless steel but made in such a way that nothing burned on them, ever. If anyone here knows the possible manufacturer of such pans, please speak up, because I have always wondered and wanted pans like that for myself, and certainly recommend them here.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 9:16 PM on November 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Can't personally recommend it, but I've been eyeing this particular single-pan-will-change-your-life which is on (apparently rare) sale for $50 off, down to "only" $95. It's one of those pieces of equipment with a rabid online following, in part I'm sure because it's quite attractive, but also seems to perform pretty well and be more versatile than your typical skillet. I thought of it when I read your question because it's ceramic nonstick and dishwasher safe and can probably do double duty as an eggs-and-crepes pan and as a pot for your risotto mix. But I'm also looking to save space after years of doing just fine with a larger collection of more reasonably-priced cookware, so I can't say something like this is worth it if space isn't an issue.
posted by exutima at 6:46 AM on November 28, 2020

For nonstick specifically, and based on 'it won't last forever', I go and buy what my local Marshals has. It usually has a smattering of random Calphalon, which has a decent enough coating to last a good while (although it goes ugly on the outside if you dishwash it) and they obviously don't charge list price. I've also found Le Creuset stock there before (in the UK version), though that's been mainly pottery.

If you have that or a TJ/TK Maxx or similar nearby, check there before getting too wrapped up in Consumer Spending Day.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 8:38 AM on November 28, 2020

I've been using a Scanpan Professional steel set from circa 2005 almost daily. I love these pans. They are thick bottomed, heat slowly, and cleaning up is a breeze. I've burned stuff in there and all I do is soak with hot water and always comes off. They still look brand new; I don't do anything special. I wash them in the dishwasher. :)

I don't use the whole set equally, though, so if I'd recommend getting saucepans only. I don't need the big pot as I already have a Staub dutch oven. I have one, utterly perfect for me, cast iron pan: Field #8 skillet.
posted by lemon_icing at 7:36 PM on November 29, 2020

« Older Advice needed for DIY project--how much of this...   |   how to do a personal time audit Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments