Monday, November 1, 2010

A Chicken in Every Pot...And a Pot in Every Kitchen

One of your major purchases for the kitchen will be your pots and pans. Just as a good knife contributes to safety, good cookware contributes to a well-cooked meal. But unlike the cost of various knives, the price spread for cookware is more pronounced. A set of pots and pans can run from $19.95 for flimsy stainless steel to several thousands of dollars for handcrafted copper.

My friend Lee Ann has a very nice set of All-Clad cookware. You may have seen them offered in serious gourmet cook stores or glossy high-end chef's catalogs. They are rated very highly by numerous chefs and testing labs, and therefore find themselves ensconced at the top of the home cookware heap. They are very good. But they are not cheap. Lee Ann sometimes lets me come over to look at them as long as I wipe the drool off her countertop before I leave. I also have another friend who inherited a set of French copper cookware. They perform flawlessly and the polished copper looks glorious hanging from the hooks in her kitchen. But since she charges me three bucks just to look at it, I rarely ever do.

Because cookware will be one of your most important investments you should purchase the very best that you can afford. And as with cutlery, cookware should be selected for its effectiveness and durability. And remember, it pays to shop around. In addition to both on line and brick and mortar cook stores, be sure to check out the sales at department stores as well as stores like Marshalls, Homegoods, Ross, or TJ Maxx.

Now...a word about "Celebrity Cookware".

You've seen them. Knives, pots and pans, kitchen gadgets, counter top machines, blah, blah, blah. All stamped with the name of the celebrity chef of the hour. I generally steer clear of these items and stick to the cookware that most of these celebrities actually use in their own kitchens. But don't take my word for it. Objective reviews of celebrity cookware may be found in consumer publications as well as on-line. If you already have them, use them til they wear out. But I digress...

The Table for Two kitchen will initially require a half-dozen or so carefully chosen pieces of cookware. Here are my recommendations:

8-inch non-stick omelet pan
10-inch or 12-inch stainless steel skillet*
10-inch or 12-inch pre-seasoned cast iron skillet
1-quart or 1-1/2-quart stainless steel saucepan*
2-quart stainless steel saucepan*
3-quart stainless steel or enameled cast iron dutch oven*
8-quart covered stockpot with steamer basket

*Look for tri-ply stainless steel cookware where an aluminum core runs up the whole side of the pan and is sandwiched between two sheets of stainless steel for effective and even heating.

Of course, you will eventually add to your collection as you see fit, but these items will make a nice start. You may even find some of these items in cost-saving sets. For a complete rundown on specific pots and pans as well as brand recommendations, sign up for my newsletter on the right side of my blog. It's not too late to be in the running for my 8-piece cookware giveaway. I'll be drawing names this weekend.

Bon Appetit!



  1. I think you're really smart for posting this. A lot of people out there don't know there is a difference in cookware...only that some is more expensive than others. The material used is highly important and can make a big difference in the outcome of your food! Great idea!

  2. Thanks, Abbey. I had to go thru a few sets (and some weren't exactly cheap!) before I began to figure things out. Hopefully, my learning experience will be someone else's gain! :-)

  3. Terrific suggestions. I've purchase a couple of less expensive pans (shame on me!) and I'm always sorry.

  4. HI Warren, I'm all about the cooking gadgets too - that's my livelihood! You are right about durability and things like ply matter so much. It's tricky with discounter stores - you may think you are getting a great deal on a "name" but in actuality (unfortunately) many brands dumb down the line and you get less bang for your buck than you think. Even a brand like All Clad has a line that is made overseas and is much thinner than the All Clad sold in gourmet stores. Ditto for knives.

  5. I think Emeril-ware is made by All-Clad, compare it with the real and like gourmet gal says, there is a difference, still it is a pretty good set for the price - you pay for what you get ... oh, and I love the Random Act of Culture video...

  6. Great list Warren! I find it much better to buy individual pieces for both knives and pots/pans. I find I don't use everything in a set and my apartment is too small (and I have waaaay too many cooking and baking paraphernalia already). I have splurged on all-clad for a few key pieces though.

    Hazel @

  7. @ Drick: Yes, you have to be circumspect when you even by the 'name' brands. Glad you liked the Random Acts of Culture link, too.

    @Hazle: Thanks, Hazel. I'm big on the individual pieces as well, and to buy the best you can afford. I wish I had a similar list when I was starting out. Woulda saved me some grief (and $$)!

  8. Hi Warren, You know I always wondered what makes quality cookware! Now I know. Unfortunately my mom just bought me a set of pans just because they are purple to match my accessory decor! Well at least they can serve that purpose when opening up the cabinets. Christine Michaels

  9. I own 2 sets of W. Puck's cookware, and they work miracles in the kitchen. This tax time I am planning for some cast iron purchasing.