The Frugal Girl’s Cookware Recommendations

Hey guys! I originally started to answer this question in yesterday’s Q&A post, but my answer got so long, I thought it should have its own post. If you’re like me and you tend to put kitchen stuff on your Christmas list, maybe this will give you some ideas.

I know that you often times give reviews about products that you use in the kitchen, so I was wondering what kind of cookware you use?? I know that you believe strongly in buying heirloom quality products and try to live a more green lifestyle. Our family has been moving over to these practices as well and cookware is an item I am struggling with. I would like to switch over to a stainless steel set, but am nervous because non-stick is what I have been using. I can see where it will save me money in the long run, not having to buy new plastic cooking utensils often or replacing the cookware itself because it always seems to get scratched with young kids helping to cook.

-Kim

Yep, I do prefer to avoid nonstick cookware whenever possible. I’ve read enough to make me nervous about cooking on high heat with nonstick pans, and I also hate the way that nonstick cookware doesn’t last. I know some companies will replace the cookware, so that solves the money-wasting issue, but even if I get a free replacement, that worn-out pot is no good to anyone and will end up in the trash.

(I do have a Calphalon Nonstick 2-1/2-Quart Saucepanthat I use when I’m going to be cooking something REALLY sticky, but most times I get by just fine with my other cookware. It’s worth mentioning that with gentle use and careful washing, my Calphalon pot is hanging in there pretty well. I don’t use it every day or anything, but I’ve had it for several years now and the finish is still looking good.)

Mainly, I cook with cast-iron and stainless steel.

Cast-Iron

I’ve got a really small cast-iron skillet (Lodge brand) that I use for things like frying a single egg or sauteeing a few onions, and I think I bought it from Walmart years ago before I started to sour on the whole Walmart scene.

I’ve also got a large 12-inch cast-iron skillet that I got from Aldi (which I love so much more than Walmart!)

By now it’s pretty well-seasoned and is non-stick enough for making crepes, which is quite impressive. I was worried about sticking issues when I moved away from non-stick cookware, so I’m really pleased to have discovered how well cast-iron pans work in that department.

I know I’ve seen the cast-iron pans in Aldi’s special-buy section recently, so if you’re in the market, take a peek at your Aldi store to see if they still have any. When they’re gone, they’re gone until next year, so don’t miss the opportunity!

My last piece of cast-iron is a Tramontina Dutch oven. It’s got an enameled finish on the inside, which has worn some over the years, but not terribly.

IMG_4338

It’s my first enameled piece, so I’m not sure what to make of this. (Readers, is this normal, even if you use expensive Le Creuset pots?)

Oh! I should add that I have a flat-top glass stove, and for the longest time, I thought I couldn’t use cast-iron on it. But I’m pleased to have found out that as long as I’m careful (I lift the pans instead of sliding them, and I set them down gently), cast-iron works just fine on my stove.

Stainless Steel

I own three RevereWare pots-a large stockpot, a medium pot, and a smallish pot. I wouldn’t say I’m over the moon about the Revereware items, mostly because they’re not made as well as they used to be (my mom’s Revereware is SO much heavier) and so the bottoms of the pots have warped over time. If I’d known better back when I got married, I’d have registered for pots that would last a lifetime.

One day, I may upgrade to pots with non-warped bottoms, and of course, I’ll check Cook’s Illustrated for recommendations. Thus far, they’ve consistently been recommending All Clad Saucepans, though they usually have a less expensive runner-up suggestion as well. I’m probably just going to save my money and spring for the All-Clad pots, though, because I feel more confident that they will resist warping.

I do have a lovely All-Clad 12-inch stainless steel lidded skillet, which I got for Christmas a few years ago. It came highly recommended by Cook’s Illustrated, and I do love it. It’s not as heavy as my cast-iron skillet and it has a lid, which I frequently use (though you can save some money by skipping the lid). It’s not nearly as non-stick as my cast-iron skillet, though, so I use the All-Clad skillet for things that don’t tend to cling to the pan.

I think my All-Clad pan and my cast-iron pans will indeed last me for the rest of my life. So, yes, in the long run, they’ll be the more frugal choice.

Hmm. I feel like that was kind of rambly. Here it is in bullet points:

  • Buy some cast-iron so that you have some non-stick surface options (seasoned cast-iron works remarkably well!) Cast-iron is not expensive, and you can even buy it Aldi or at big box stores.
  • Invest in quality stainless steel cookware. All-Clad is expensive but has consistently ranked well in Cook’s Illustrated’s reviews.

If you do Swagbucks, you could save up your Amazon gift cards to help bring the cost of the All-Clad down. And maybe someone could bring you some All-Clad for Christmas. ;)

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Joshua’s 365 post: Moon

Comments

  1. WilliamB says

    My Le Creuset coating wear but it has chipped. Each time the company, which is full of very nice people, replaced the pot easily, but I’m a bit disappointed because I’d hoped that wouldn’t happen at all.

    Testing by CI or Consumer Reports (I forget which) indicates that the real problem is heating an empty nonstick on high; it’s OK/not so bad if the pan is mostly full. I’m not a fan of nonstick anyway – it doesn’t brown foods properly – so I use mine only for eggs. They’re great for eggs and eggs are a good frugal food.

    WilliamB’s thoughts on pans:
    – Copper is awesome but not a good value for the dollar.
    – Cast iron is an excellent value for the dollar.
    – Pots and pans should have a copper disk on the bottom (explanation available upon request).
    – The best sort of copper disk goes a bit up the sides, to avoid hot spots on the edges and sides of the pan.
    – The pot or pan needs to have some thickness to avoid warping.
    – A good pot treated with a bit of care will last decades. It’s worth saving up to buy a decent one. Both CI and Consumer Reports rate pots and pans, and indicate both the best quality and good buys.

    Other good features:
    – Handles that are not too long or too short.
    – Lids for every pan and pot.
    – Pans, handles, and lids that are oven-safe, at least to 450F but higher is better so you can use the broiler.

      • EngineerMom says

        Copper transmits heat quickly and readily, so the bottom of the pot heats evenly, even if your burners don’t. It also means the pot will respond more quickly to changes in the heat put into it (in other words, it will cool off more quickly if you reduce the heat than if there was no copper in the bottom).

        That’s the one issue with cast iron – it has a high heat capacity, which means it doesn’t heat up quickly or cool quickly (and if you try to cool it too quickly, it will crack), so if you’re cooking a dish that requires quick changes in temperature, cast iron is not the best choice.

  2. Karen. says

    I have several older pieces of RevereWare (mostly hand-me-downs) as well as some lighter, newer stuff that was a gift when I first lived on my own. I have been keeping my eyes open at the nearby estate resale shop for more of the heavy, old RevereWare. It’s remarkably difficult to come by, but if you don’t mind haunting a cluttery secondhand shop that’s only open on Saturdays, persistence pays. :)

  3. says

    My mother in law bought 2 le creuset Dutch ovens at a resale shop and gave me one. I LOVE it!! The outside has a few chips but none yet in the outside. I’ve come to love it so much that even if I had to pay the $400 for it I still think it would be worth it. I see myself having it till the day I die. And then passing it on. Lol.

  4. Mary Ann says

    I have a large cast iron skillet that I bought almost 30 years ago and two smaller ones that are even older, as they were my Grandmother’s. Except for the larger one being heavy, cast iron is great if you don’t use soap on it. I’ve often seen cast iron at yard sales.

  5. says

    We bought a new set of pots and pans about a year ago, as our non-stick wedding present set was falling apart. We were planning on getting All-Clad, but after reading reviews, we went with Cuisinart instead. They were half the price and got better reviews. Time will tell if they are as durable, but they seem indestructible so far… even when used as a toddler drum set.

    • Lilypad says

      I have a stainless Cuisinart set that’s 2.5 years old, used pretty much daily, and everything’s still going strong and no issues whatsoever! I used to have to replace my nonstick pans at least once a year, which always made me furious for both a frugal and “green” reasons!

  6. says

    I would really love to get some cast-iron cookware, but it doesn’t seem to be as popular in Australia. I haven’t seen it anywhere anyway. At the moment we have four stainless steel saucepans of different sizes and two frying pans – one larger with non-stick coating (which was a present from my parents last Christmas) and one smaller with the new “eco” coating, which I think is ceramic.

    I would love a large cast-iron roasting pan, as at the moment I roast my veggies in cake tins on top of a pizza stone. Who knows, maybe Santa will bring me one :)

    • Amy says

      I bought a cast iron pan from Ikea in Australia and it’s great. Also was given a larger pan that’s generations old and going strong.

  7. Jonathan says

    It is normal to get that wear in the enamel pans. They are just very fine scratches. I never worry about it, but I bet a bit of bleach would make it look good again if that is a worry. Just know it will get “dirty” looking again relatively quickly.

      • Tracy says

        Also…Le Creuset has a great warranty policy. Just get a hold of them and they will replace the pan with as close to the same color as possible for free. My MIL had an old one passed down and the inside was terribly worn. I told her to call them and they would replace it. They did. I also had a non stick one they sold for a short while. The non stick actually bubbled up and came off. They replaced it too. Free shipping both ways.

      • Karen says

        Is it actually scratches, or just grey marks on the surface? I had some not so great enamel pans that got grey marks from metal utensils. Eventually I used baking soda on a damp dishcloth and almost all of it cleaned up right away. I use the same treatment on the inside of some of my mugs that get the same marks.

  8. Kathleen says

    I am a big fan of Lodge cast iron cookware. I have a 12 inch frying pan and a 6 qt. enameled Dutch Oven. They are both great pieces, reasonably priced and I believe that Lodge is made in the good old USA !

    • Virginia Dare says

      Lodge is the only cast iron still made in the U.S. Then you have Le Creuset made in France, and I believe most of the rest is made in China. Not a value statement–I realize we live in a global economy–it’s just what I read last time I looked into it. From the green perspective, most things not imported have smaller environmental footprint.

      • Stef says

        I love Lodge too! They replaced my huge pot since it had a bubble type thing pop on the bottom (interior) of the pot! Hey things happen, I guess in the factory and since I worked with pottery myself, accidents happen! BUT on the good note, they replaced it AND they actually send me a bigger size and yes I am very VERY careful on my glass top! And love baking my suffed cabbage rolls in them!

      • WilliamB says

        It’s a complicated issue.

        If environmental costs are a concern, then one also needs to consider weight. Cast iron trucked from Tennassee, US might have higher environmental transport costs than aluminum boated from China.

        But then one needs to consider other environmental costs, such as mfg’ing costs, materiel (it happens that aluminum is very energy-intensive to mine and mfg new, although recycled is far more energy-efficient) and how clean the process is compared to how clean it might be.

        All-Clad’s website says the pans are made in the US, other sources (online, not always from sources I can verify) says some mfg is outsources.

        • Kristen says

          And then there’s the issue that factories in the U.S. are often held to higher safety standards than the factories overseas, so the human impact is something to consider as well.

          Regardless of where something is made, though, obtaining an item that will last for decades is the most virtuous choice on pretty much all fronts. It seems like that’s the single most important factor in human and environmental impact, yk?

  9. Meeghan says

    We registered for the stainless steel Calphalon everyday collection at Target for our wedding in 2007. I have two All Clad pots, and was planning on slowly replacing the Calphalon’s with All Clads. However, they have performed so well that I nixed that idea. I have gotten rid of the non-stick pans that were part of that set, for reasons Kristen mentioned. However, I heartily endorse the Calphalon everyday collection, which I believe is till available.

  10. Whitney says

    Oh, good conversation! This is something I’ve spent a lot of time looking into. I had a very cheap set that I got when we were married and it wasn’t worth the money. The non-stick came off and everything warped.

    I did a bunch of research and ended up buying Cuisinart’s MultiClad Pro set and I have to say, I LOVE it.
    http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-MCP-12-MultiClad-Stainless-12-Piece/dp/B0007KQZWU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354027383&sr=8-2&keywords=cuisinart+stainless+steel

    The weight feels good in my hand and you can tell it’s quality. As for other cooking, I use a combination of Aldi’s cast iron (works great so far) and a cheapo one I got at Target (Lodge, I think).

    Another thing that has been awesome is that I recently replaced my non-stick cookie sheets with ones from a restaurant supply store. It has been incredible how much better they are! The 1/4 pans are the perfect size for the three of us.

    So yeah, thinking outside the normal box has its rewards. :)

  11. Molly F. C. says

    I love my All Clad pans. I get a ton of use out of my 3 quart pot which is perfect for smaller amounts of soup, pasta, etc…Twice a year the All Clad factory in PA has a sale. The 2012 winter sale is this Friday November 30th, and Saturday December 1st. Think that you can find info at:

    WashingtonFair.org

    Have a Lodge cast iron pot too which is great. I bake bread in it. Paid a reasonable price for it on Amazon.

  12. says

    I second whoever recommended Cuisanart for a stainless steel option. I use their skillet and pots all the time for about 8 years and have absolutely no issues with warping or uneven heating. I love them and see them lasting my whole life. I also have the Lodge enameled lined dutch oven and love it as well. It is discolored but not scratched by any means. I have asked for a larger cast iron skillet for Christmas so I’m pretty excited to use that. The one disappointment I did have was with a cast iron grill/griddle (it was double sided). No matter how hard I worked to season it, it sticks something awful. I have tried every recommendation I could find and nothing works.

    • WB says

      I love this Lodge Pro-logic cast iron sloped sided skillet (http://www.lodgemfg.com/seasoned-cast-iron/pro-logic-skillet-P10S3) and their round griddle for pancakes and crepes (http://www.lodgemfg.com/seasoned-cast-iron/grill-pans-and-griddles/round-griddle-L9OG3). There are lots of tips on sites like Chowhound about keeping cast iron well seasoned. My favorite method is to make a pan full of cornbread in bacon grease, and just wipe it out afterwards. You get delicious cornbread and a perfectly seasoned pan.

      For what it’s worth, most ‘reasonably’ priced enameled cast iron comes from China – that may not be a problem, but it made me to decide to invest in a Le Creuset pan instead. I started out with the deep saute because it’s a versatile piece (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/le-creuset-signature-deep-saute-pan/?pkey=ccookware-le-creuset&) and also because I mostly cook for two and didn’t need a giant pot.

      I’m not sure you always get what you pay for with stainless, though. I paid an arm and a leg for two pans from the Mauviel M’cook Stainless Steel line and while they cook well, the handles are just horrible. I can not find a way to hold them that doesn’t hurt my hand. I much prefer the cheaper Paderno Stainless Steel pan I bought (it’s not their more expensive line so mid-size saute was about $50 without a lid).

      On the cheap side, I bought my daughter a Cuisinart Chef’s Classic set for a little over $100 – it seems fine for the price. And, I just love my twnety year old Wearever Pour N Strain pot. It’s got a nice heavy base and glass lid.

      One tip that may seem obvious — if you’re shopping and the packaging includes a glass lid, make sure you open it to make sure that ALL the weight isn’t in the lid. I’ve had to return more than one pan, thinking it had a nice heavy core when in fact the pan was light as a feather. (They cheated and put a line around the bottom of the pan to make it look like it had a core in the base.)

  13. says

    I have had my All Clad stainless set for over 20 years and it still looks beautiful and of course works beautifully as well. I love that it can go into the dishwasher and come out looking great, something that you can’t do with non-stick cookware, Calphalon, cast iron, and shouldn’t do with Le Crueset even though it’s enameled. (I also have a Chantal roasting pan which I love, but it only gets used a couple of times a year.) Even when I’ve burned something in one of the pans, they still clean up perfectly and look good as new. I also have a 12″ All-Clad non-stick fry pan, but rarely use it – I prefer the plain stainless. I used to sell cookware and chose the All-Clad after weighing all the pros and cons of different brands, and have never regretted my choice (I won the Chantal roasting pan as a sales incentive :-) ).

    Besides cookware, I am looking for new bakeware (cookie sheets, jelly-roll pan, cake pans, etc.) What do you recommend?

  14. Laura says

    I’ve been slowly replacing my pans with LeCrueset & love them. I have two of the enamaled cast iron & one of the stainless steel pans. They are certainly not cheap as I have almost $500 invested in my three pans & that’s having bought them on sale at a LeCrueset outlet store. However, they cook wonderfully (I swear the cast iron cooks things faster than other pans), last multiple lifetimes with reasonable care & with LeCrueset’s incredible lifetime no receipt needed very very little voids it warranty I think the pans are definitely worth the investment. I really love the fact that I can start a dish on the stove & finish cooking it in the oven without having to transfer the food to another pan. Add to that it’s attractive enough to go from the kitchen to the dining table when friends come for dinner & it’s definitely worth the investment.

    • Jennifer says

      I have to second this reply. I recently got married, and I did a bunch of research before I registered for pots and pans I needed. I already had a Mario Batali enameled dutch oven (a great inexpensive alternative to LeCrueset), one non-stick pan, and a saucepot from Kroger.

      The All-Clad stainless steel pans are so great because they have a copper core on the bottom AND the sides of the pots/pans. Most 3 ply pans only have the copper core on the bottom, but not the sides, so it leads to uneven temperatures. Also the bottoms are slightly curved instead of a 90 deg angle, so that your whisk can get in there. A less-expensive option with all the same features was the LeCrueset Tri-ply set, so that’s what I went with. I also got a LeCruset enameled skillet.

      I just have to be careful to make sure the stainless steel pan is hot and has enough fat before I add the food, otherwise there is some stick-age. The first time I cooked eggs, it was a nightmare because I added them with very little oil (like I would in a non-stick pan) and before the pan was not hot enough. Same thing happened to the skillet the first time I used it (didn’t learn the first time). The skillet is pretty easy to clean and pretty non-stick. Although, it says you don’t have to season it, I find the cast iron been much better when I give it a quick spritz of cooking oil and rub it in with a paper towel.

      The enamel on the handles of the Mario Batali pot is chipping, but the pot works great. The inside has even developed some patina (http://readyprepgo.com/cast-iron-pans). If and when I get a new pot, it’ll be bigger, but may or may not be a LeCruset. Overall, LeCrusets and All Clad pots and pans are totally worth spending money on and should be the last set of pots and pans you spend money on.

  15. Mary says

    This is not so much a comment but a question: What’s the best way to care for cast-iron? I have a lodge frying pan that I don’t really use as I am not exactly sure how to best care for it and I do not want to ruin it.

    • says

      I have good luck if I clean cast iron right away (don’t let the food dry on and stick.) I just use hot (very hot) water, and a dish brush (or steel wool if there’s anything stuck.) Don’t use soap or detergent as this will destroy the seasoning.

      Then each time I use the pan I turn up the heat to medium high with a tiny bit of oil in the pan just until it forms a film… for eggs I cool the pan slightly before using it, for other stuff I just go straight from there. This process will re-season the pan each time you use it, and if you do it regularly you’ll build up a very nice layer of seasoning.

      Also, it’s good to avoid putting acidic stuff in cast iron like tomatoes, since the acid will eat through the seasoning. I also tend to avoid using it for anything with cheese in it because it inevitably sticks and they I end up damaging the seasoning getting it clean. I also avoid anything that’s too liquid because this tends to wash away the seasoning – I’ve seen people make stew in cast iron but I’ve never had luck with that – any suggestions?

      Anyhow, good luck with it!
      :-)
      Cat

    • Rachel says

      Cast iron is pretty easy to care for, Mary. Just don’t wash it with soap and don’t let it sit with water (eww rust). You rinse it well with water, and then “season” it. Seasoning is just a fancy term for coating it in oil (we like to use olive, but vegetable will do) and then baking it at a low temperature in the oven (300) for an hour or so. The heat sterilizes and the oil helps it stay non-stick. If your pan does rust, just scrub out the rust and re-season. Different companies will suggest different seasoning methods–here is the link to the lodge instructions: http://www.lodgemfg.com/useandcare/seasoned-cast-iron

      • Mary says

        Thanks so much for the information and the link!! I have been feeling so guilty about not using such a nice frying pan.

    • WilliamB says

      Best option:
      1) While the pan is still hot, scrub it with a long-handled scrub brush (preferably not metal so as not to scrape away the seasoned layer) and hot water – but no soap! (Soap destroys the seasoning.)
      2) Before you put the pan away, heat it very hot, add a little neutral oil (such as “veggie,” canola, or safflower) and spread it around with a paper towel. Let cool.
      3) If it needs scrubbing, use salt and a dishrag or non-metal scrubber, then oil the pan as in step 2.

      If your pan is totally dirty, or got rusted, or you bought it from a yard sale and it’s in bad shape, the only thing to do is start again. Easiest is to clean it in your oven when you clean your oven (high heat or chemical cleaner will get the job done, I prefer high heat because I think the chemical smell lingers). Then you’ll need to reseason. There are many, many different ideas of the best way to season a new cast iron so I’ll spare you that write-up at the moment.

      • Karen says

        I have several cast iron pans from thrift shops that were so bad I left them in a bag until time to do the oven treatment. They all came out beautifully, and I think averaged about a dollar apiece. Great tip.

    • WB says

      I scrub mine with an old bag from oranges or onions…sometimes using a little salt or baking soda if something is stuck. Then I usually coat it with oil before storing it although if I didn’t have to do much scrubbing I can skip that part.

      I saw on one of the Cooks Illustrated shows that they found flax seed oil to be the best for seasoning. I tried it once but I didn’t see much difference between that and bacon grease, and bacon grease smelled SO much better than the flax which was kindof stinky.

  16. Susan says

    My life is so crazy stressful right now (3 people in the family have cancer). I was so happy to see your post on cookware. Just cookware, nothing stressful. Your post made me smile.

  17. Maria says

    I purchased a very nice stainless steel sauce pot at Marshalls. I don’t know the brand but I’ve had it for more than 5 years and probably paid less than $30 for it. It has a nice solid handle and seems like it will last forever.

  18. says

    Cast iron all the way baby! Seriously, I have a whole set that I got for virtually nothing at an estate sale 20 years ago. It’s 7 pieces and I admit I don’t use all of them… so one is being gifted to my step-mom this year because she really wants one.

    I always see cast iron at the thrift shops… sometimes it’s rusted or horribly unseasoned, but all you have to do is sand off the rust and re-season by heating the pan with some oil until it forms a nice film, and you should be good to go.

    I’ve also got some nice stainless steel pots that I got at the thrift stores – they don’t match, but they work wonderfully. Plus I have a number of Pyrex casserole dishes all purchased used, which I couldn’t live without! I highly recommend quality cookware, it just makes life sooo much easier.

    • Kristen says

      I’m obviously not stuck on having matching cookware…my cabinets are full of a mish-mash of different types of pots and pans!

  19. Rachel says

    My husband and I use our cast iron skillet for just about everything–we love to sear meat and burgers and then throw them straight in the oven! We also have a Cuisinart stainless set we got for our wedding. It is nice–we love to use the saucepans and the stockpot for stovetop work. (We prefer our cast iron for skillet work, and use our nonstick for eggs only)

  20. Julie says

    I guess I am out of the norm here as I’ve done the opposite — I got rid of my stainless steel set and moved over to non-stick. No matter how careful I was or what I did, that stainless steel set (a very expensive set!) stuck like glue. I tried everything and still I had major sticking. So, I bought a couple of cheapo non-sticks to cook things like eggs and pancakes. Over time, I got to where I wasn’t using the stainless at all and they were taking up so much cabinet space. Not only did everything STICK, but they were HEAVY. And large! To the point where I got to where I didn’t want to cook in them anymore and dreaded cooking if I had to use them. Which, sort of defeats the purpose if you’re trying to eat healthier and cheaper. So, I got rid of them all, and have switched to all non-stick. They are from Ikea and while I know they won’t last a lifetime, I LOVE THEM. They have made life and cooking so much easier for me! I just couldn’t stand the soaking, scrubbing, and sore wrists from the old ones. I do hate that they were so expensive and rarely used. Luckily, I gave them to someone who is very interested in getting into cooking and WANTED heavy steel pans.

    And here’s my two cents on the non-stick — you would really have to be trying to cause a problem to have issues from overheating an empty pan. REALLY trying! After reading several studies and doing a ton of research, I came to the conclusion that considering I rarely cook on anything higher than medium heat, it wasn’t going to be an issue to me. I mean, I have NO reason to heat my pans to 600 degrees! My issue is durability. But how do you get those non-stick pans that don’t weigh a ton and are going to last? I don’t know if they exist! I think you have to choose for your family what will or won’t work. You know, the whole pros and cons thing. LOL I know for us, the heavy and cumbersome pans/pots were NOT working and it was a trade-off I had to settle for. Plus, I much prefer not having to coat everything in oil or butter to cook. I really don’t have to use anything now or just a light spray of oil from my Misto. And so for us, for now, it’s worth it. I keep hoping that they will figure something out that is better, and I do have hope… my SIL invested in the new ceramics that are coming out and it looks like those may be amazing. I have a ceramic knife I have had for a LONG time now (since it came out!) and I just LOVE it. If the cookware is as good, I’m excited to see how it will hold up!

    I will also say that I, too, love my cast iron. I don’t use it a ton, but I do use it and it’s a wonderful addition to my kitchen. I have a couple of the pans and then a couple of the bakeware pieces. They are all very old and were my Granny’s, but they are great! I also agree with another poster who said that she used restaurant quality bakeware which is basically straight aluminum. They last for a LONG LONG time! I had only tried one before and after that, I have decided to move over to it as well! I want to use the old non-stick sheets until they are dead, but then after that I will only replace with the aluminum.

    All in all, I think you have to find what WORKS. I know that stainless is probably more eco friendly because it rarely if ever needs to be replaced, but if it is so awkward you don’t want to use it then it’s pointless. But if you’ve found a good steel or aluminum that works then GO FOR IT! And don’t be afraid to try the restaurant quality items and see what works and what doesn’t like the baking sheets. I know we have a restaurant supply store that also sells pans and I am thinking I may try those, also! Who know? They may be fantastic and they also look to be aluminum. But for now, for us, I gotta ‘stick’ to my non-stick! lol

    • Virginia Dare says

      I have a ceramic skillet that I love, too. when my crappy nonstick ones wear out, i’m going to be replacing them with ceramic along the way. it will even fry and egg with no oil at all.

  21. Rebecca B. A. R. says

    My husband is the cook in our family, and loves Cook’s Illustrated also. He went with their number one cheaper alternative on pans, which were the Member’s Mark set at Sam’s Club. They are a stainless steel set and all have held up really well, we’ve had them for years now and he uses them a lot. I can see them lasting our lifetime, too, so if All-Clad is just to expensive for you, go with CI’s cheaper alternative recommendation.

  22. BarbaraB says

    When I replaced my 30 year old aluminum pans about 15 yrears ago, I looked into the All Clad. The problem I had with them was that, as a person with small hands, I found the handles VERY uncomfortable. I ended up with Calphalon TriPly, stainless inside and outside for ease of cleaning with an aluminum inner core (on the bottom AND up the sides!) for excellent heat conduction…and comfortable handles! I love them! And they are still in phenomenally great shape.
    I use cast iron a lot (the original nonstick!) and love it. But there’s one type of pan no one has mentioned. A few years ago I ditched all my teflon forever but purchased (at Bed Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon of course) two ceramic coated (meaning glass) skillets (Cuisinart Green Gourmet) so none of those nasty chemicals! I take great care of them, baby them actually, and I know they will not last like cast iron but at my age (68) I simply cannot lift those big Le Crueset pans all the time. A friend who spent years collecting her Le Crueset has now gotten rid of it for that very reason. The Green Gourmet pans sear really well, go in the oven and I can cook things in them that would mess up my cast iron.
    Really excellent pans are absolutely worth the investment…just know how you cook and what works for you. Like good knives, I’ve found you don’t really need as many pans as you might think!

  23. Jen says

    I love my cast iron skillets and dutch oven, but I also use Chantal cookware I received as a wedding gift 20 years ago. It’s enamel over steel and still going strong. I particularly like the design of their handles which are open so always cool enough to pick up, and their well-balanced glass lids.
    I do want to go to the restaurant supply and get some big sheet pans for roasting vegetables. The ones made for home use are just too flimsy and warp too easily.

  24. says

    my le crueset is still perfect after many years. I love all clad and I splurged for a set. However, I only buy the all clad that is made in the USA. I just saw a two skillet set at Bed, Bath and Beyond, great price, but it was made in China. No Bueno.

    • Kristen says

      I don’t, except when I borrow my mom’s enormous pressure canner! I know some people swear by them, but I’ve just never owned one. My mom mostly used hers to quickly cook whole chickens when I was a kid, so I’ve probably just not been exposed to all the wonderful uses for a pressure cooker.

      My current kitchen is fairly small, so unless we someday move somewhere with a larger kitchen, a pressure cooker probably isn’t in the cards for me. As it is, I have to store some of my kitchen equipment in the linen closet and down in my laundry room!

    • WilliamB says

      I have one, use it, like it, and still struggle getting cooking times for beans right. I’m a “poke at it and see” type cook and pressure cookers just don’t allow for that. But I love the beans in 12 min (or so!) and the 10 min risotto.

  25. says

    Kristen, the picture of your All-Clad pan is beautiful, and it cracks me up as well with the reflection of your cabinets. Thanks to all for your informative remarks.

  26. says

    I don’t stress about my pots and pans right now since they’re all in good condition, but I will probably come back to this post when I have to replace some of mine! We got 2 large, nice skillets for our wedding, and even though they’re non-stick I love them!
    We also inherited a cast iron skillet and 2 dutch ovens (they have feet but still work OK in the oven!) from my husband’s family and I love them too. We usually use the cast iron unless we’re making something bigger because it’s a smaller skillet.
    Also, I know it’s not a pot or pan or skillet, but we have a griddle that I love. It makes cooking pancakes and bacon a quick job!

  27. Elaine in Ark says

    It’s funny, but I was just thinking about getting some stainless steel cookware. Cast iron is too heavy for me to handle, and I’m REALLY tired of non-stick coatings peeling off.

    I want to buy some pans that will last me the rest of my life (I can’t see myself cooking longer than 10-12 more years). I’ll probably get one at a time, as I can afford them.

    Thanks for the recommendations, Kristen!

  28. says

    I have a red cast-iron pan with enameled finish that belonged to my late grandmother, who probably used it in the 60s. and it`s in perfect shape! Have no idea what brand, but it must have been a really good one, since its been in my family for such a long time. I love using it, because it makes me think of her! I love the fact that I`m making food in the same pan as she did.

  29. EngineerMom says

    We have:

    One 10″ cast iron pan (also useful for cakes, cornbread, and other baked goods)
    One 12″ cast iron pan
    A whole set of All Clad (10″ skillet, 12″ straight-sided skillet, what I call my “short stock pot” – taller than a skillet, shorter than a true stock pot, and with two handles; a medium pot, and one small pot)
    One 10″ and one 12″ nonstick skillets from Calphalon
    One annodized dutch oven-type pot

    Most of these, except the cast iron, were wedding registry gifts given over several years. I use the 10″ cast iron and the 10″ nonstick the most. We haven’t found anything that works as well as the nonstick for cooking eggs, and we make eggs every morning for breakfast. I’m careful heating it up, and we cook them on a fairly low heat (3 on our electric stove that goes to 10). Even the cast iron doesn’t work as well – either they stick or I have to use so much butter that it’s just not worth it.

    If I had to only take 3 pots, it would be the dutch oven and the two 10″ mentioned above. I think I could make anything in those three pans.

  30. Valarie S. says

    I have always owned a variety of pans, just because some pans do better for some jobs than others. I have always had non-stick, and have never used them in high heat, so they have lasted a loooooong time. BUT, I also never do anything but hand-wash all my pots and pans. I now have some Le Creuset, ceramic non-stick(my new love!), and stainless steel, as well as the pressure cooker I received as a wedding present. I love it most for making mashed potatoes! Nothing really matches, except each pan to the job it performs best.

  31. says

    Has anybody out there tried those “Orgreenic” pans that I keep seeing advertised on tv? They’re marketed as having a non-stick ceramic coating – and I’m not sure what that means. Just wondered if anybody had tried them.

    • Jenessa says

      I have a ceramic coated non-stick skillet. I have no idea what brand it is, but I have been very impressed with it. The coating is a lot like the enamel coating on my Le Creuset dutch oven. The skillet is very light weight and easy to clean. I usually use a little bit of cooking spray and nothing sticks to it. I have had it for at least a year and it looks brand new. I love my cast iron pans, but would also like to get a couple more of the ceramic coated ones so that I have a few lighter pans.

      • Lilypad says

        I have used the “Orgreenic” pans—the first one lasted about 6 months, then I saw some small spots where the coating seemed to have scraped off. (It doesn’t look flakey like a Teflon pan but you could still see some of the coating was gone.) I was bummed because I liked the pan so much. I suspected that a family member had used a metal utensil on it and that may have been the problem, so I went ahead and bought a 2nd one. We’re being more careful this time and the 2nd one is still going strong. They are very good for making scrambled eggs and clean up easily. That said, I still wonder if it’s really “green” or if it’s just a gimmick. I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to marketing claims like this!

    • BarbaraB says

      Have not tried the Ogreenic but I have Green Gourmet ceramic skillets purchased from Bed Bath and Beyond a couple of years ago and love them. Ceramic means essentially a high-heat fired coating basically like glass, such as what they use for space shuttle heat tiles! The good news is they have no chemicals like PFOAs like teflon coatings so they are safe to use. They take some care to keep them nice but I love them.

  32. says

    I’m very happy with my Better Home & Garden’s 10 pc stainless I got for under $150. It is heavy, has a thick bottom, nice lids. I like the idea mentioned already of looking for cast iron at a thrift store. I didn’t know you could clean those up. Thanks.

    • Battra92 says

      If that’s the BH&G set at Walmart, word on the internet is you have a rebranded set of Tramontina (which is not a bad thing at all!)

  33. Jan says

    It’s all Calphalon stainless now with the exception of 1 new non-stick fry pan (the ones with the new ceramic coating) clean up on the stainless is not as hard as you think…any residual spots can be removed easily with alum/stain less cleaner you can get at the grocery store…very tired of throwing away “lifetime guaranteed” non stick pans…but I agree…the new Revere is nothing like the old at all…doesn’t come close…love All Clad don’t have All Clad bucks!

  34. CathyG says

    Regarding warping: I have a glass cooktop, too, and I find that the pan has to be absolutely flat to cook properly. When I buy new pots or frying pans, I get the ones that have an extra layer on the bottom, like these Kitchenaid ones (look at the second picture): http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-Distinctions-Stainless-10-Piece-Cookware/dp/B000IH0WXK/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1354297240&sr=1-1&keywords=kitchenaid+stainless+steel

    I’ve had a set of those Kitchenaid stainless steel pots for 8-10 years now with no problems, but I’m still using non-stick for frying pans and they need to be replaced more often because of the lining.

    My kids think it’s funny that I go to the store and run my finger down the outside of all the pans – if it goes around easily, that’s not my pan. I’m looking for the ones that have a definite ridge and an extra thick layer stuck onto the bottom. I find it hard to buy online because nobody puts up pictures of the outside bottom edge of the pots, and I can’t figure out what to call that extra layer of metal.

    • Kristen says

      Yep, glass tops are very NOT forgiving of warped pans. I mean, a warped pan is never great, but coil burners (and I imagine gas burners too) aren’t perfectly flat, so you don’t notice it as much when the pan isn’t perfectly flat.

    • BarbaraB says

      CathyG, stainless steel by itself is a terrible heat conductor and you need good heat conduction for proper cooking. The best heat conductors for cookware are copper (which it appears your Kitchenaid pans have on the bottom) and aluminum. But even better than having the heat conductor on the bottom is having it on the bottom AND up the sides! So, even though you will not see a ridge on the bottom, pans that have a copper or aluminum inner core, with stainless on the inside and outside for ease of cleaning, are really really good (like All Clad or Calphalon TriPly).

  35. larissa says

    I bought a kitchenaid cookware set about a year ago. It regularly sells for about 800 cdn but I got it at a holiday sale for under 200. I decided I was tired of buying new pot sets every 2 years at 70 bucks a pop and dealing with the non stick coating too. With care, these pots work as well as non stick and look great even with daily family use. Always handwash and care for them well…I think these are my forever pots.

  36. MNM says

    My calphalon almost 30 yrs old. Hard anodized, very heavy. Tried to utilize warranty to replace some of really large pieces such as 12 qt stockpot and 5 qt saute. These items would never fit in a dishwasher. Info included back then simply said no dishwasher. I complied. I discovered they will not follow through on warranty if I have ever used baking soda to clean as it will “de-anodize” (their words) the product. They consider it a caustic chemical.
    Ice-like polite and condescending, but immovable. Beware, they will change the rules for the warranty and tough luck. they know you won’t spend the money to sue for the price of cookware. Thoroughly disgusted at the way I was treated.

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