$1,000 Question pt. 2

Last week my cousin Claude posted this on my Facebook page.

“JD! so I’m finally getting my own place, which means, I need my own kitchen stuff…any recommendations on knife brands? pots and pans as well, but I’ll probably get those for free from friends… CHOP CHOP!”

I’m not sure he was expecting what follows as my reply, but here it is.  In this post I’ll offer my suggestions for pans and bakeware. Next up is knives!

…As for pans, oh my! are there some terrible pans out there. Don’t even waste your time with those. You know the kind. They give you terrible results (usually thinner or unsatisfactory materials result in poor heat distribution, tipping or burning). If all you can get your hands on is a 10″ cast iron, get it and use only that. Then get yourself a nice big pot (hopefully with a sturdy, fitted steamer basket insert and a tight fitting lid), then a quart and two quart saucepan, then an 8 or 9 “ saucier pan (a deeper kind of frying pan with straight sides and a longish handle. I got mine, as well as a steamer pot that fits the above description, both from Calphalon – the steamer for a trade of a dozen tamales at a yard sale, and the saucier pan on sale for $35!! I had good luck, but you can too. Just keep your eyes peeled). Shopping for pans can be one of the hardest steps in outfitting your kitchen, as it may seem like a hefty investment. But with diligent shopping, price comparisons and a little bit of research (I find user reviews on Amazon an excellent resource for judging a new product…and of course, there is the convenience of being able to buy it as you’re reading…) you can find a set of pots and pans, even if it takes buying them one at a time, that will suit your needs.

If you go to the fancy kitchen stores like Williams-Sonoma, or similar shops you usually find in strip malls or tourist towns, you’re likely to face a beautiful display of Viking or All-Clad cookware. These companies, and several like them, love to wow shoppers with their gorgeous products, their “ergonomic handles” and “reinforced bottoms” and all sorts of silly features like that, but there are not many of us willing to shell out $120 for a pan to fry eggs in. If you ever win the lottery, I advise you to invest in a set of these, as they will probably last a couple lifetimes and yield excellent results every time.  But until you have a career with benefits and at least 98% of your young-person debts paid, please don’t buy into the hype. Your friends and family will love you just the same.

Baking: Anchor Hocking makes great, cheaper-than-Pyrex glass baking dishes. Look for assorted sets of these at the aforementioned “first apartment stores”. Often these multi-packs can carry a nice value, and usually have a couple re-usable lids that make them perfect storage containers for leftovers. There are different packs for all kinds of needs – mixing bowls and small oven-safe baking dishes to huge roasting and gratin pans. Chicago Metallic makes nice half sheet pans (a “cookie sheet” for the home cook) – they even come with cooling racks in a set of 2! I use them all the time. Update makes a knockoff of the Silpat (silicone baking mat) that costs half of the name brand. If you don’t get your mixing bowls from Pyrex or Anchor, you should at least try to find a nice, restaurant-quality metal mixing bowl or two. I’ve always found it handy to have more than one, in case I’m doing several mixing projects at once (very likely for a guy like me), and sometimes, when company is over, these large vessels double as serving bowls for snacks.

…and stay tuned for the last installment in our overwhelming series on advice to outfit a home kitchen, on knives!!

2 thoughts on “$1,000 Question pt. 2

  1. I loved reading these. So great to hear people geek out on their passion. I swear I’m going to start a blog just so that i can go on and on about the superiority of German power tools…

    As a person who essentially stopped learning to cook after scrambling eggs and frying scrapple were mastered, I have nothing to add to this, except: be mildly wary of Amazon reviews. Mostly I agree that they’re pretty reliable, but watch out for any product that has maybe a few too many overly-gushy reviews. I have no proof, but based on a real loser of a vacuum cleaner which came EXTREMELY HIGHLY recommended by reviewers, I suspect certain companies just pay people to write reviews and put ’em up…

  2. Great suggestions! When I finally exited my parents’ house I was gifted with a set of As Seen on Tv cookware. The kind with a strainer in the lid, for pasta. I don’t think I need to explain how terrible these were… I warped the bottom of one on my first try when I attempted something other than simply boiling water. Oy.

    I recently got a Le Crueset Dutch Oven which I am in looove with, but I do get the most mileage out of my cast iron. The rest of my kitchen arsenal is a raggle taggle bunch of random assorted pans with one or two nice ones. Next time I go through a kitchen purge I’ll keep your suggestions in mind :)

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