Pot Shots: Advice on Pots and Pans

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If you like to cook, and quite honestly, if you’re a fan of buying anything of value, an investment in quality pots and pans for your kitchen is a must.

I definitely have my opinions, not all of which are in step with what you might THINK I’d be here to tell you.

Here are just a half-dozen thoughts right from the top:

1. All that glitters is not gold (or copper).

Copper is a fantastic conductor of heat, but unless you have servants to clean and polish your copper cookware, you’d be crazy to purchase exterior-clad copper pots and pans as your everyday-use stuff. It even tarnishes if you DON’T use it. I have to admit that it does look great on the wall, however.

2. You can cook light, but your pans shouldn’t be lightweight. Weight matters.

In pots and pans, weight matters, particularly when that weight is created through multi-layered walls of copper and/or pure aluminum sandwiched between an interior and exterior clad of stainless steel. In my opinion, it’s THE best situation going and available in a number of brands, including All-Clad, which is what I have in my home.

3. Just because you can cook great food doesn’t mean you can create great cookware.

I can live with the Food Network, even though it created a monster. The “Monster,” as I’ll call it, was the inevitable “branding” of celebrity cookware. Their stuff is generally “ok” (if you don’t mind staring at their signature morning, noon and night). But keep in mind that unlike their food, their branded cookware isn’t made in their restaurants or in their kitchens. It’s made by the same folks that make other popular cookware. It’s a money grab, and at the end of the day, it ends up on the discount rack at cookware stores. Sorry Emeril, Tyler, Rachel, and Mario. My recommendation? If you love their shows, their restaurants, their talk shows, buy their cookbooks not their cookware.

4. Stop listening to infomercials. Start listening to people who cook–A LOT.

Infomercials…sigh, what can I say here? DON’T DO IT!!!! “Magic” this, “wonder” that–how did we EVER live without this other thing? Plastic, plastic, plastic, BUT wait! If you order now, we’ll give you TWO of something you don’t even need ONE of! Come to think of it, NOTHING you need in your kitchen is EVER advertised on TV.

5. One size does NOT fit all.

Unless you’re buying a wedding gift, you’re better off paying just a bit more for the pieces (or multiple pieces of the same size) of the pots and pans you’ll truly use every day rather than buying a large, slightly discounted, 20-piece box of cookware. I guarantee you that half of the pieces will collect dust in the back of your cupboard, and you won’t see them again until you move.

6. Non-stick has its place but not everyplace.

Non-stick cookware is THE age-old dilemma. What to buy? Ready? Here’s my best tip yet. If you cook a lot, DON’T spend your hard-earned money buying a non-stick surface on an expensive pan. A $125 non-stick pan is only as good as the life of the non-stick surface. Trust me, it will get scratched, and it will wear. My solution is to buy my non-stick cookware at a local restaurant supply store. A GREAT 10” to 12” pan with an industrial-quality non-stick finish can be had for about $15 to $20 bucks and lasts me for a couple years of pretty intense use. When it does get scratched, I don’t lose any sleep. I toss it and buy another one.

I have my own preferences based on experience, trial and error. And for the record, I’m not “brand” loyal, except that I can definitively say that certain brands (for me) are better than others. You can be sure I’ve put my cookware to the test. These are some of my recommendations for your kitchen arsenal (based on what I own):

  • General Cookware All-Clad
  • Non-Stick Pans Restaurant Supply Store
  • Wok NON electric! Buy all-steel, hand-hammered one (more later)
  • Casseroles Le Creuset (& Loaf)
  • Roasting 4” high wall, anything with a cradle rack
  • Sheet Pans
    • 1 Non-stick with no lip
    • 2 or 3 Aluminum half-sheet pans (Restaurant Supply Store)

What is your favorite brand of pots and pans? Share with me in the comments below!