Cookware Advice, please

michele07October 2, 2006

I am engaged, and in the process of registering....i am looking into cookware at this point...i am VERY confused!!! All-clad, Calphalon, Analon, Cuisinart....what would you recommend for a person starting out in the kitchen? I like that All-Clad can go into the oven...i believe Cuisinart can as well....i am no rachel ray here, but i would like a set of high quality....also, what about Bellgique [sp?] from Tools of the Trade?


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My advice is that you go into a store and actually handle the merchandise, to see how it fits. If the cookware isn't comfortable, you won't be happy with it.

With the high-end brands you've named, it becomes strictly a matter of personal choice. For instance, I think the humpback handles on Henckles is great. But I know others who think it terrible.

You should research both warranties and customer service levels. What good is a product if the company doesn't stand behind it? I'll never buy another All-Clad piece, for instance, because their customer service is non-existent in my experience.

I would also examine any sets carefully. Most of the time, the pieces in those kits won't all fit your cookery style. So they'll languish. You might be better to select open-stock designs, and list exactly the ones you want. Doing this also gives you flexibility to mix and match brands, if it turns out that's your preference.

Another decision point for you is whether to go stainless; anodized; or non-stick coated (or go in another direction altogether and choose cast iron---either enamaled or not). Everybody has their own opinion on these, and often cherish those opinions.

I won't have a piece of non-stick in the house, for instance, for several reasons. Anodized can be nice, but requires all new utensils, which I don't feel like bothering with. But you're starting from scratch, so anodized might make sense.

Finally, consider going to a store that handles a spectrum of brands, and talk to the sales help. With no vested interest in any of them, they'll be able to walk you through the pros and cons of each type.

In return, it's only right that you register in that store.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 1:13PM
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Michele - I am looking forward to responses. I recently purchased the Wolfgang Puck SS set from BJs and am not happy. The handles and lid handles get VERY HOT and the lids do not stay on tight enough when I cook rice. Everything just bubbles up and "spits" out. So, I am back looking for pots and now am worried about making another mistake. I think I will try one piece next time and make sure I really like it.

I would love to hear recommendations for:
- Good quality for average cook (no gourmet here)
- Good pots/pans for gas cooktop
- Not too heavy (carpel tunnel problems at times)
- Handles stay cool
- Lid stays on tight enough

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 10:05PM
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I'll take a shot at it, Greenmtn.

1. Good quality for average cook. I don't understand this. No matter what your cooking style, you want good cookware. But it doesn't have to be expensive. With one exception, for instance, Wearever pots and pans fit your requirements. And they're positively cheap compared to most of the brands discussed on this forum.

2. Good for gas cooktop. Never a problem. All cookware works with gas. It's some of the other heat sources that can cause problems. Using stainless can be a learning experince, though, because you work at lower heat than with some other materials. With stainless there is almost never a need to work over more than medium heat.

3. Not too heavy. Weight is mostly a function of size and balance. Larger pieces, obviously, weigh more. With big pieces, you might look for those with double handles, which makes lifting and moving easier. On smaller pieces, check out the Henckles, and see if the hump-backed handles make it easier for you. Also, consider anodized instead of stainless, as it weighs less, piece for piece.

4. Handles stay cool. This is the drawback to Wearever. They have rolled-sheet handles, the old "stay-cool" type. But they do heat up, compared to most others. I have other pieces made by Henckles, Calphalon, and All-Clad, and none of their handles heat up particularly.

5. Lids stay tight. I have not run into this problem with any of the stainless I own. Even the Wearever lids stay in place. Do the Puck lids recess into the pots? Or merely sit over them, edge-to-edge? If just edge-to-edge, that might be your problem, and you need a lid (or a new pot with lid) that recesses into the pot. I also suspect that the pot you are using for rice is too small for the quantity you are making, because even with an edge-to-edge lid rice shouldn't be boiling up enough to spit over the top.

With your carpel tunnel situation, I think the advice I gave Michele to actually handle the pots and pans is even more important. Keep in mind, as you play with the stuff, that they will weigh more once there is food in them. So you want pieces that fit your hand(s) and which balance well. Handle the pots and pans in the store the way you would in your kitchen. Don't just gingerly lift them straight up and down. Instead, twist from side-to-side, rotate them, shake them, etc.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 7:04AM
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gardenlad - Thanks so much for the advice! I'm off today to handle some of the pots I've been reading about. I'll be much more aware of things now that I've read many of the posts here.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 8:12AM
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I think it's wise to include at least a couple nonstick pieces in your collection: a skillet for eggs and perhaps a small pot for sauces that stick. But I don't think I'd register for those.

As or anodized cookware requiring all new utensils, that is not true of Calphalon One's anodized infused (not the nonstick line). You can use metal utensils. I have several pieces. Their supposed benefit is that they brown foods as well as SS but are slightly easier to clean. I guess they live up to that claim, but I prefer SS. My favorite (don't tell gardenlad) is All-Clad's copper core line, but it is outrageously expensive. Good buys on new pieces on eBay.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 11:47AM
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Personally, I'd recommend stearing clear of any non-stick that's teflon based. T is a major carcinogen--it's extremely dangerous.

Before you do anything else, go to the library, and go back through old issues of Consumer Reports--they rated cookware brands within the past year (I think it might have been around the holidays, last year, but could be off by a month or so). There were some good brands that had some very serious problems--some actually liquified at high temps, spilling molten metal over the range and anyone standing in front of it. And there were some very inexpensive ones that got high marks. CR always explains their testing, so you'll be able to evaluate which features are important to you, which aren't.

I had Farberware stainless for the first 30 years of my marriage, and they've held up pretty well. Still using a few of them. After a couple of decades, some of the handles have a problem with getting loose occasionally, but the pans are still going strong otherwise. Replaced them with All-Clad Stainless a couple of years back--I LOVE the All-Clad. Wonderful pans. And nothing ever really sticks to them (properly used, you really shouldn't have much of a sticking problem with stainless). I just toss them in the dishwasher and they always come out beautifully.

Couple of things you need to consider--what you cook can make a difference as to what material and styles of pans are right for you. I like having pans that can go from range top into the oven--but the downside is that the stainless handles get hot. I don't find that's a big deal--I always have potholders handy. One thing I love about the All-Clad is that the lids are interchangeable for several sizes of pots. Very handy to only have 2 basic sizes of lids for about 5-6 different pans. And, of course, price certainly plays a part. Maybe all-clad isn't in the budget now. Maybe you might want to get an inexpensive set, and pick up one or 2 pieces of good cookware as you can afford to.

Basically, you need to figure out what style and material are best for you--we all have our own needs, and own styles of cooking. Have fun shopping.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 4:38PM
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All good points, Azzalea, except one. Being as she's registering for wedding presents, other people have to worry about the costs. :>)

A note on Farberware. Most of what I see, nowadays, has synthetic inlets as part of the handles. This probably helps them stay cool. But it also means you can't put them in the oven. I'm like you, and prefer the multi-functional nature of all steel, or steel & glass.

Just something for shoppers to be aware of.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 8:16PM
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greenmtn I have been very happy with the new Farberware Millenium stainless. They do have the silicone handles which can be put in the oven up to 350. Not too heavy.

I have one Wolfgang Puck pan and for some reason the handles get hot on a gas stove but not on an electric. LNT has a silicone product that will go over the handle to make it easier to use.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 8:14AM
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Michele, I went through 4 sets of cookware before I bought my SS AllClad. It's the best stuff I've ever used. I also have several pieces of LeCruset which also cooks wonderful!
I would learn to cook on stainless and avoid nonstick. For one, teflon research shows that there are some heath risks involved. SS pots and pans are not all the same no matter how"pretty" they look. good luck.....wapiti7

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 10:03PM
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I would never buy a "set" of cookware...because different materials and different brands are best for certain tasks.
Stainless is good for boiling...things like stocks, soups, and water for pasta and corn. A stainless skillet works for bacon and for pan frying asteak or a chop if that's what you do.
I wouldn't be without at least 2 non stick fry pans, one 6 inches and one bigger for scrambled eggs for up to 4 people.
I would include a cast iron and enamel dutch oven and a small and a large roasting pan...they could be enamel over cast iron, or anodiuzed, but I would avoid stainless for them.
Add some baking sheets, muffin tins, cake pans, bread pans and you are pretty much there.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 4:58PM
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Since induction is looking more and more like the cooking method of the future, you might want to stick to induction-capable stovetop cookware.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2006 at 2:55PM
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Well gee. They said that about microwaves too. But most of us still have our conventional cooktops and stoves.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2006 at 6:00PM
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The answer depends on what you want to do with each piece of cookware. I tend to make stews and cream soups in the winter. Even after thirty years of owning them, I swear by Le Creuset Dutch ovens and soup pots for this purpose. I purchase them at the factory store, usually seconds, but I examine them VERY carefully before selecting them. I have not had any problems, except for some chipping on the exterior of a couple I bought at Costco (then Price Club) years ago. I have used All-Clad stainless and MC-2 non-stick. I just about never use the non-stick anymore. It has scratches, but is still basically non-stick. I have a half-dozen pieces of All-Clad, but I am less than thrilled with it, largely because I do a good bit of large-quantity cooking and I find the handles miserably uncomfortable, even with the helper handles. The large roaster came with my oven, so I use it frequently. However, it takes a lot of effort to clean it. Aside from that, the pans are very well made and attractive. Also, I would prefer the saucepans had pouring spouts or rolled edges. Does anyone know if the copper-core saucepans have the same straight edges as the other versions?
My all-time favorite pan is my Bourgeat (now Matfer-Bourgeat) stainless steel-lined, large, copper evasee pan. It is very heavy, but I consider this beneficial: I regard it as my exercise. If I could only own one pan, this would be it. Even heating, rapid cool down, practically non-stick, smooth stainless steel lining, and will probably last a few hundred years. Oh, and by the way, as others suggest, go lift and shake the pans at the store, preferably with something inside them so the weight is equivalent to what it would be while in actual use.
One essential 35-year-old piece of cookware is my round-bottom, carbon steel, very ugly, but beloved wok.
P.S. My cooktops are both gas: 1)commercial 32,000 BTU burners and 2)domestic simmer-range, variously sized burners, so I base all my advice exclusively on gas performance.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 1:20PM
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After 50 years of marriage I finally upgraded to Cuisinart brand frying pans lined, but not lined pots and pans. Costco carries some good ones also check the Dept stores for sales. When you register, you could list the brand you prefer. Let people know you like gift certificates.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 10:38PM
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Congratulations on the 50 years!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 10:58PM
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