Looking for complete cookware set from scratch

Discussion in 'Cooking Equipment Reviews' started by telso, Jun 9, 2014.

  1. telso


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    At home cook
    Hi all, first post in what looks like a lovely community.

    I've been cooking pretty regularly for a decade; I'm no expert but I can follow a recipe and mildly experiment with those recipes I know.  This whole time I've lived at home, so I never bought cookware because we had a fully-stocked kitchen.  Now I'm getting married and have moved to another country, and my fiancée doesn't cook beyond boiling water, and we're happy with this arrangement.  She's always lived with a roommate, so didn't need cookware, and I've never had any of my own, so I'm getting by with her roommate's cookware for now, but I'm looking to fill my kitchen before she eventually moves out.

    I've read a bit in the forums, and the advice seems tailored for the specific situations, but mine is a little different (though if I missed a post, link away!).  I don't have anything to start with, so I don't have to match anything, and I don't have an affinity for any brand.  Unlike most in this situation, I'm not a poor student, but have been working for a few years, and I have some nice savings, so I'm willing to shell out money right away (or have my wedding guests do it) rather than spending years to slowly accumulate things (though I can wait and go piecemeal).  But while I want quality cookware that will last for decades, I don't need to spend tons of money just for a name (or a cult).

    What I do in the kitchen: I mainly make one- or two-dish meals (mainly because I was eating for one), but I expect to make larger meals in a few years (entertaining, family).  I usually go for the stove, but I've been using the oven more recently.  I don't really stick to any specific kind of cooking method or style, just whatever's tasty.  I do very little in the baking and dessert categories, same with deep frying.

    What I think I'm looking for (tell me why I'm wrong and/or what I should be getting):

    * Dutch oven, large, enameled (one of my go-to pieces, I just got one)

    * Corningware (a bunch of smaller oven side dishes, already got them)

    * Large pot for boiling water for pasta, maybe making stock one day (8-10 L, ish?)

    * "Pots and pans" (this is where I need help): I want to be able to fry meat, getting lots of fond to make sauces; I want to be able to cook meats in liquid, simmering or boiling, covered or not (could use Dutch oven); I want to be able to sauté diced vegetables, sometimes just an onion, sometimes a whole bunch (the latter doesn't need to be a wok, but serve a similar purpose); I want to be able to steam/boil vegetables, preferably at least two pots.  I guess I want about a half a dozen pieces (not counting tops).

    I figure if I do end up doing roasting, it'll be in the Dutch oven, so I can wait for such things.

    I currently have a gas stove; I assume that at some point that will give out, and, like most of the rest of the world, I'll be moving towards an efficient induction top.  I'm used to washing things by hand, so that's fine; I'm pretty sure I don't want a non-stick collection, for various reasons.  As I said I'm willing to spend money if it's worth it, and I'd rather spend more to get something good then have to buy new stuff in a decade.  I can buy things separately or in a set, and it doesn't have to match.  There are some restaurant supply stores and some kitchen stores in town, but the selection is not great; I've gone around testing handles and things and nothing feels too weird or heavy, so I don't need to test it before buying (though it can't hurt).

    I guess that's about it, but I'm happy to answer any questions.  Thanks in advance for any advice.
  2. chefwriter


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    Professional Cook
    First, nothing substitutes for some physical research and trial and error. You'll find plenty of likes/dislikes here as well as other places. Name brands don't always mean everything and stores like Kmart and Target may supply some of what you need. 

    For a dutch oven, cast iron is great but porcelain coated cast iron may be easer to maintain. Either will do the job. 

    For skillets, a 12 inch is a great size, with a fairly substantial, thick bottom. 

    Stockpots should have a thick bottom to reduce sticking. 8-12 quart is good home size to have, larger ones if you start making larger quantities. Tramontina makes decent ones. Stainless is best overall. 

    In your situation, I'd have a notebook handy while you're cooking. When you are cooking and find yourself saying, "gee, I wish I had a …." 

    Then that's the pot or pan you should look into. 

    Porcelain coated cast iron casserole dishes are nice to have, tend to be more expensive than Corning ware. 

    A sturdy sheet pan or two comes in very handy, even if you don't bake. Placed under a casserole to catch any drips. 

    Most importantly, enjoy the process of researching and selecting your pots and pans. Lift them, handle them, check for weight, sturdiness.  Use them if possible. Buying more or less piecemeal is the only way to insure you are happy with your purchases and will want to hang on to your pots for years to come. A pot you bought with intent will do more than the best pot in the world that you don't enjoy using. 
  3. ocarolina1


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    Professional Chef
    I find that nonstick pans always need replacing, so do not spend alot of money on them.  As for stainless, I went for All Clad - and do not regret paying the price.  They clean up with Barkeeper's Friend like they were new, and I have had them now for 12 years. My husband's motto "buy the best you can afford, and cry only once." I have found that if I buy less expensive cookware, I am usually replacing it after a couple of years of use. If you buy better stuff right off the bat, you will not regret it.
  4. grande


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    Sous Chef
    I use vollrath carbon steel pans for my saute pans. I do have an all cald 8in nonstick for eggs. You'll want a really big pot, but you'll also want a medium sized saucepot. Mine' a 3qt all clad, and i comfortably make soups, stews, pastas, sauces for 2-4
  5. chicagoterry


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    Home Cook
    I have a couple of 12 inch skillets, one cast iron and one fully clad stainless steel that I use more than any other cookware except for maybe my enameled cast iron dutch oven. Make sure whatever skillet you buy has an ovenproof handle, then you can use it for roasting small roasts and chickens as well as on the stove top. It's good to have a lid that fits it, then you can do some braised dishes in it as well. A cast iron skillet goes from stove top to oven too, and is good for baking cornbread and other things you want to get crusty on the outside, searing meat, cooking steaks and things that you want to char a little. 

    There are non-stick haters who will certainly weigh in but keeping one NS skillet on hand for eggs is not a bad idea. Don't spend a lot. They don't last long.

    Sheet pans are a good idea for lots of reasons. Aside from baking cookies or catching drips, they are great for roasting vegetables--but so is a roasting pan, which might be in your future if you plan on entertaining larger groups. If it's just you and your GF, you can probably manage roasting whatever you need for just the two of you with a 12" skillet and a couple of one inch deep sheet pans for now.

    In addition to a stock pot, you'll need a couple of pots in different sizes for steaming grains and vegetables. 

    People love All Clad and Vollrath. If you can afford them, then by all means, go for it. Mostly what you should look for if you decide to go with stainless is fully clad cookware, rather than pots and pans with a disk bottom.

    I cook with gas and probably always will, so I have no idea what does or does not work with an induction cooktop.