I'll Admit It....I Don't Know What I'm Doing!

Discussion in 'Cooking Equipment Reviews' started by pinkriver, Mar 24, 2011.

  1. pinkriver

    pinkriver

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    Hello good people! I'm new to this forum. I call myself an at-home cook, but I'm not sure if I'm worthy of the title. I love to cook, people like to eat my food, and I like to experiment so hopefully that is good enough! 

    I have found myself at a crossroads. I am 28 years old and ready to purchase my first set of quality cookware. That's right! I'm done with the walmart pots and pans in a box. They served their purpose, but I'm officially 2 years away from 30 and it's time to take my cooking (and my cookware) to the next level. I mean, I'll be a grandmother one day (no kids yet, but whatever) and they'll expect granny to be able to whip them up something tasty!

    So with that being said, I recently went shopping at Macy's and I was completely overwhelmed. I kinda liked the Anolon ($299) on sale, but I just don't know what to do.....Can someone provide me with a little guidance? I don't want to spend thousands of dollars. I want a nice set, but keep in mind I'm just leaving Walmart brands, so anything will probably look and feel nice to me =)  At the same time though, I want something worth my investment, that will last for several years, and that I can sort of grow into as I learn how to be an even better cook. I'm hoping you guys/gals can help!

    By the way, I thought I should add that I like easy clean up, I'll be cooking on an electric stove, and I'm used to cooking with non-stick cookware.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2011
  2. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Welcome to Cheftalk, PinkRiver.

    By and large I dislike the idea of sets---be they cookware, knives, whatever. Far too often there are items in the set that you'll never use. So they just take up space. F'instance, when my son got married they were gifted with an 11-piece cookware set. To this day---six or seven years later---they've only used five of them.

    Another part of the equation: You might prefer one design for, say, skillets, but another for a 3-quart saucier. Maybe the handles are more or less comfortable. Or you prefer the rounded shape of the saucier over the straight walls of a regular pot. By buying them individually you get exactly what you want.

    Although you've been using cheap stuff you should, by now, have a fair idea of the types of pots and pans you like. Were it me I'd make a list of them, and start searching for those types out of open stock. Although this might be a slightly more expensive way to go, long term it's actually less expensive.

    If you must have non-stick, I would go with anodized cookware rather than the kind with a coating, as it more durable.

    As to brands, any of the well-known brands should serve you well. When you start talking about that kind of price-pointing it often boils down to personal taste more than any objective criteria. Personally, I'd avoid anything made by All-Clad or its clones (i.e., Emerilware), because All-Clad doesn't stand behind it's products. And keep in mind that different lines within a particular company represent different quality levels. If X offers a 10" skillet for $30, and another similar appearing one for $55, there is a reason for it. Doesn't mean the $30 skillet isn't right for you. Just that you should understand the price differences.
     
  3. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Walmart has carried many fine pots and pans over the years. If they work, they work, More expense or a boutique store doesn't make a pan better necessarily.

    There are two broad classes of daily cookware for the home cook, disk bottom and clad pans. In testing, differences can be small if the disk base is well made. But the disk base is much less expensive.

    In pots, I have all disk bottoms from Tramontina and their rebadged brands, a number from Walmart. In sauce pans, i have a mix of disk and clad. They're pretty equal in use. In skillets, I prefer clad pans, or cast iron. In clad skillets, I have Calphalon and Tramontina, the Tramontina is again from Walmart.

    I generally don't recommend sets, but Walmart on line carries a very nice set of Tramontina clad cookware.

    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tramontin...nless-Steel-TriPly-Clad-Cookware-Set/11072505

    One last and possibly big caveat. Induction compatible. As I buy new pots and pans, they have to be induction compatible. That means the base has to hold a magnet well, whether clad or disk based.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2011
  4. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    I'm not going to recommend a Brand, I agree with Ky, I don't like sets either. I would re conned a good size Pot for boiling pasta, the pot S/B large enough to boil pasta "so the pasta swims in the water" and is not over loaded and touching. This larger pot can also be used for Pot Roasts, Stews, homemade spaghetti sauce, and so on. Egg pan, small saute pan used for over easy eggs, scrambled eggs and sauteing small amounts of food. A larger saute pan12" to 14" for all in one pan cooking like for Chicken Piccata, Fish fillets and so on, and meals for two or three people. A pot big enough for Mashed potatoes for 4 people, again this should be big enough to cook the potato's and mash in the pot having enough volume and room in the pot to whip. This size pot will come in handy for many uses. Smaller sauce pot for heating up soups and sauces. A Chicken Roasting pan large enough for a chicken and roasting potatoes and other vegetables without crowding................I use the same three pans/pots over and over again, buying a set may look good hanging in the kitchen, but you will never use 1/2  of them...................The best .............ChefBillyB
     
  5. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    One addition to Chef Billy's comments on pasta pots.

    There are many brands of these multi-piece pots that consist of the pot, itself, an insert for making pasta, and a steamer basket. They can be very handy, and are, obviously, multi-task by definition.

    If you consider one of them, there's one thing to check: With some of them the insert does not reach far enough into the pot. As a result you have to use far too much water in order to have enough room for the pasta to swim in. Take a ruler or tape-measure with you, and assure that the bottom of the insert is, at most, no more than one inch higher than the bottom of the pot.

    Frankly, if you're going to do serious cooking, you have to have a stock pot in the 12-16 (many recommend 8-quart, but I find them too small for serious stock-making) quart range anyway. That being the case, let it do double duty as your pasta pot as well.

    I also agree with Phil: price, alone, is not a criterium. WearEver makes a line of pots and pans that will last you 2 days longer than forever. Their only negative is the handle design. But that, again, gets down to personal comfort and cooking style.

    I was reluctant to say so, but being as we're discussing materials, if you confine yourself to non-stick of any kind you are significantly limiting yourself in terms of makes & models of cookware. It's not that hard to clean and maintain other materials, and, if you use them correctly, sticking and burning should not be a problem anyway. F'rinctance, if things are sticking in stainless-clad cookware it's a good bet that you're using too high a flame.

    If you do a search here you'll find several discussions we've had about choosing cookware. One thing you'll discover is that most of us would kill anyone trying to take away our cast- and carbon-steel cookware. There are some tasks for which nothing else serves. Many chefs and home cooks recommend that you have one non-stick skillet for cooking eggs. I'm not one of them, but if that's your thing go for it. But the basic point is you don't need all (or, in my opinion, any) non-stick.

    edited to reflect the fact that stock pots are measured in quarts, not gallons.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2011
  6. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I hope you meant quart and not gallon.
     
  7. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    /img/vbsmilies/smilies/redface.gif

    Good thing one of us is awake, Phil. Thanks for catching that. I'll go back and edit it right now.
     
  8. theunknowncook

    theunknowncook Banned

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    pinkriver:

    Do you have any restaurant supply stores near you? Browse them to get some ideas. The cookware sold there is usually commercial-grade, meaning that they will last you a lifetime.

    Otherwise, you could browse these online merchants:

    Cookware

    Wasserstrom

    Central

    AceMart

    Food Service Warehouse [Education]

    Food Service Direct

    I have only bought from Cookware. I have not bought from any of the other merchants. There are others online, but I will leave it up to you to search for cookware which meets your needs.

    I usually check for cookware which are: commercial-grade, triple-riveted, anodized aluminum, stainless-steel, cast-iron, copper-clad, heavy-duty.

    Leave the expensive, status cookware for those dilettantes who wish to impress their friends. Buy quality products, and they should serve you well throughout your lifetime.

    Good luck. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/chef.gif
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2011
  9. pinkriver

    pinkriver

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    Many many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to respond. I feel a bit more informed now....but still unsure about what direction to take. TheUnknownCook....I'm in Atlanta so I'm sure there are a few restaurant supply stores around. I'm just not aware of them. I was thinking about taking a trip up 85 to the outlets because there is a cookware outlet store there. Are there any brands that you guys might recommend. I think I'm finally sold on not getting a set, but now I'm even more confused. I am one of those anal people that likes for things to match, but maybe I need to let that go. Phatch, I agree with you. Walmart does sell quality cookware. I was really referencing the sets they sell in the boxes (especially in the fall for college students). These, I know from first hand experience are crap disguised as pots and pans lol.

    BTW......KY, I am finally open to nonstick cookware as well. A friend of mine has encouraged me to take a good look at stainless steel and cast iron cookware. What are your thoughts? She said she uses cast iron for EVERYTHING and what she can't use with cast iron she pulls out her stainless steel. I continue to be confused.....
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2011
  10. pinkriver

    pinkriver

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    What is this about All-Clad being the best cookware?
     
  11. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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     Many people, me included, are quite satisfied by All-Clad and its derivitives... except for the frying pans, in which I prefer steel of cast iron.
     
  12. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    A friend of mine has encouraged me to take a good look at stainless steel and cast iron cookware. What are your thoughts?

    My first thought is that you have a good friend. Two very good materials. You might add carbon steel to that, as well. It has all the benefits of cast iron at about 2/3 the weight.

    In theory, cast iron is not good when using high-acid ingredients (i.e., tomato products, vinegar, etc.). But I do it all the time, with no noticeble effrects. You don't want to let acidic foods sit in the iron for any length of time, but, otherwise, they're fine in a well-cured pot or skillet. The key words there being "well cured."

    With cast iron I would start with a 10" or 12" skillet, and a fair-sized kettle (which they market as "Dutch ovens" and "French ovens). Or go with carbon steel for the skillets.

    Cautionary note: Cooking with cast iron can be habit forming, and once you start you'll be building a collection. Try flea markets, garage sales, and antique malls rather than buying new.

    People say "stainless," when they mean "stainless-clad." Straight stainless is the next best thing to useless for cooking. But within the clad group there are half a dozen or more brands that are high quality and which cost less than All-Clad. Just a short, non-inclusive list: Calphalon, Cuisinart, Henkels, Tramontina, etc. At that level, design becomes a major consideration, because it has to be something you are comfortable using. Almost always that boils down to handle design more than anything else, particularly with skillets.

    The core of cladware is a conductive metal, in one or more layers. Usually this is aluminum. Copper is popular, but, in practical terms, adds more to the look than the usefullness. And ups the prices. Look at the differences, too, between disk-bottomed and fully clad. It sometimes makes a difference in how the piece is used.

    Isn't there a Cook's Warehouse nearby? In Marietta, I believe? You might find everything you need right there, and be able to compare and contrast various brands and designs. That ability, alone, would be worth the drive for me.

    What is this about All-Clad being the best cookware?

    For many years, when it came to stainless-cladware, All-Clad was the only game in town. And it's American made (at least under that name). So it became the cookware choice among many professionals, and developed a rep as being best. Now, as mentioned above, there are many competitors, usually at lower prices, with the same or better quality. So you have ample choices and don't have to be locked in to just one company.

    In my experience, All-Clad does not stand behind its products, which makes them worthless. If you get one with a problem, and they don't honor their warranty, what good is the warranty in the first place? Personally, I wouldn't spend a dime with a company that has such poor customer service.

    The interesting thing is that you never heard anything negative about All-Clad. When I had my problems with them, starting about three years ago,  I started posting about the bad experience, and, of a sudden, people were coming out of the woodwork reporting similar problems. So much for reputations!
     
  13. theunknowncook

    theunknowncook Banned

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    pinkriver:

    There is an outlet mall in Calhoun, Ga., if my memory serves me correctly, and there is a Kitchen Collection store. They do not seem to sell any commercial-grade cookware. My advice is to avoid any cookware with plastic handles. I personally do not like Teflon-coated pans either. I prefer un-coated stainless-steel, hard-anodized aluminum, or cast iron cookware. I posted on this thread about cast-iron cookware. All-Clad is fine, albeit expensive.

    Lodge has an outlet store in Commerce.

    Are there any restaurant supply stores listed in your local telephone directory? Visit and browse them for ideas. I prefer to see and hold cookware in my hands than to buy simply based on others' opinions online. Forget the status brands, and buy the commercial brands: Vollrath, Johnson-Rose, Admiral Craft, Winco, etc. Those are some of the brands you might see in a restaurant supply store.

    You could search online to see which merchants have the lowest prices.

    Good luck. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/chef.gif
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2011
  14. capsaicin

    capsaicin

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    I still think AllClad makes good things in America.  But they do have at least one line that comes out of China.  If you decide on AllClad BE SURE TO CHECK WHERE IT WAS MADE.  I know that their disc stockpot/multicooker is made in China.  Again, you can't pay me to touch my food to the stuff.
     
  15. pinkriver

    pinkriver

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    KY you are the best! I'm wondering if the KY stands for Kentucky. If so, I'm a fellow Kentuckian (from Louisville) myself. I moved to GA in 2005. Anywho, I've found that GA has several Cook's Warehouse locations. I'll plan to take a trip there and try out a few things this weekend. I believe I've decided that I'll purchase the following pieces to start with and then add as needed: one small fry pan (nonstick) for eggs and stuff, one large frying pan SS, one large SS saute pan, one large SS pot for boiling. I think this might hold me over until I can afford more pieces since it looks like I'll be spending a bit more than I originally thought. I'm still kinda sad about not having a set, but I guess I'll get over it.

    You're right! I literally haven't heard anything bad about All-Clad. So much so, that I can honestly say I'm a bit hesitant to try anything else. I'll definitely take a look at those brands that you mentioned though. You've definitely shown that you know what you're talking about.

    But here's my next question.....knowing that I am most familiar with cooking on a nonstick surface, what advice would you give me for transitioning to SS. I've heard that it can be a real mess (food sticking), clean up (have to use a certain type of pad to get the "brown" off). I also read that when you're cooking with stainless its best to heat the pan first, take it off the heat to cool a bit, then put in room temp oil, before returning it to the heat. What else should I do or be aware of.....

    I didn't mention cast iron because I literally have zero experience cooking on cast iron and I think switching to SS might be enough of a jolt to the system. After I get used to stainless-clad then maybe I'll get myself a nice cast iron from a flea market and try it out.

    I hope I'm not wearing you guys out with all my questions.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2011
  16. pinkriver

    pinkriver

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    Thank you UnknownCook and Capsaicin.....I plan to do tons of looking, feeling, and touching this weekend. I'll definitely check out the brands (and placed) you mentioned.
     
  17. capsaicin

    capsaicin

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    Add Sur La Table to the list.  They make decent stainless steel stuff.And stay away from nonstick -- the stuff peels off sooner or later, and you'll have to buy a new set.  Go for stainless, cast iron, carbon steel, or enamel over cast iron. 
     
  18. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    PinkRiver, what you have to understand is that virtually all the non-stick you are used to is fundementally aluminum. So any other material you choose will involve a learning curve.

    Primarily this will mean 1. preheating the pan, and, 2. learning to cook on lower heat. With stainless, for instance, you rarely if ever should be cooking with more than a medium flame. And you'll find that even lower than that works most of the time.

    I'm not familiar with the idea of preheating and then removing the pan from the heat. If you do that it would indicate, to me, an overheated pan. But, yes, you would add room temperature oil to the heated pan. But that's a classic approach which should be used with just about any material. You'll find that by doing that the oil heats immediately, so have your ingredients ready to go.

    As to cleaning, we're back to the same point. If food is sticking and burning to the pan it's because the heat was too high. But cleaning isn't any more or less difficult than any other cookware. Hot water and soap, and a non-metallic pad work best (so you don't scratch the surface, is why). Stainless does have a tendency to develop discolored spots as a result of heating. If they disturb you, use Bar Keepers Friend, which will polish them out. My advice is that you use the powder rather than the liquid. I keep a plastic scouring pad that gets used only with the BKF.

    As you move away from non-stick you'll find that you do have to use more oil/butter then you are used to. Even then, if you use it for searing you will get brown stuff stuck on the bottom. This is called a fond, and is something you look for. Deglaze the pan with some wine or stock, and it forms the basis of a flavorsome sauce.

    But truly, much of this sounds much more complicated than it is. Just keep the lower working temperature thing in mind and you'll be just fine.

    And yes, the KY does stand for Kentucky. I'm up in Madison Cty., outside of Richmond, about 25 miles from Lexington.

    Go Cats!!!
     
  19. mbl

    mbl

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    Stick with stainless steel pots and pans.  The only reason to use nonstick is to make an omelette.  If you learn to use the steel pans correctly, clean up is relatively easy with a green scrubbie.

    To know when your pan is the right temperature, warm it up over a burner, then add your oil.  Let's say, a bit of olive oil.  A pan is ready to use/cook in when the oil begins to "haze" meaning it begins to very, very, very lightly smoke.  Barely visible, wisps.  Items mainly stick when a pan is cold.  But...

    Another factor that can affect sticking - playing with food in the pan.  No need to keep checking the underside.  Let the pan do it's job.  It will actually "release" the item after a minute or so, when the underside has browned.  Same principle applies to the grill.

    Check out brigadechef.com they can probably help with pans, tools and demos.
     
  20. pinkriver

    pinkriver

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    Hello everyone.....KY, the wild cats have done it again =) Now that we've got that out of the way, I've got a few updates and a bit of good news (I think). After reading all of your helpful hints, doing a little internet research (reviews/forums), and visiting several stores this past weekend, I've finally narrowed down my choices. I'm hoping that you all can help me make a final selection.

    First, I will probably end up with a set. Turns out that buying the set comes out cheaper or about the same price as buying individual pieces, even in smaller number. If I'm going to pay the same price, I'd rather have the set.

    Second the set will be stainless steel (or stainless clad as someone pointed out). I can not decide between the Cuisinart Multiclad or the Calapholon Tri Ply both from Macy's. Seems like the biggest difference is the tops. Cuisinart has SS lids and Calapholon has tempered glass lids. I prefer glass lids, but some people claim they're harder to clean and the glass, of course, can't stand as high heat from the oven. Most reviews seem to lean towards the Cuisinart Multiclad.......

    I

    I will also purchase two nonstick fry pans from Anolon and one cast iron skillet (maybe 10" or 12")....haven't decided on a brand, but Lodge seems to be pretty good for the price. What are your thoughts? Any other suggestions, helpful hints?