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.