Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Guide to Buying Pots & Pans

Pots and pans in the early 1900's were simple, you had cast iron, steel, and baked porcelain enamel.  Aluminum cookware first appeared in the very early 1900's but it was frowned upon by most homemakers and so relegated to restaurant use next to the copper pans.  Today though we have a dazzling array of pots and pans available to us made out of every type of metal conceivable.  It can be truly daunting when trying to choose what is best for your kitchen.  I write this as a guide to steer you in the right direction.  Everyone is different in their needs which is why I don't suggest getting a set of pots and pans but buying them individually instead.  You will be able to secure better quality pots by buying individually and you will have a set that is tailored to your needs.  Remember, when choosing pots and pans for your use, go for practical, hard wearing cookware.  Too much cookware on the market today is of disposable quality or is made to be "bling bling" showy but gives horrible results when used.  The best made pots and pans will last a lifetime.

Here are 3 pots crucial to a kitchen:

10" Frying Pan, made out of enameled cast iron (preferred) or stainless steel.  This pan will do everything from omlettes, bacon & eggs in the morning, to fried potatoes and fried chicken.  Enameled cast iron holds the heat very well and so saves energy, the enamel finish does away with having to season the pan.
2Qt Saucepan, this pan will bear the brunt of making sauces, cooking spaghetti and pasta to making rice.  It's an extremely versatile pan that will see everyday use.  Get one made of stainless steel with a copper core bottom.  I found a good quality 3L pot at Marshalls for $35 so one need not spend a fortune for copper cookware. The copper coin on the bottom evenly distributes heat and copper responds to heat changes quickly allowing you to go from a hard boil to soft simmer very quickly.  With some water in the bottom and a metal bowl on top you have an impromptu double boiler for making hollandaise sauce et. al. 

6-8Qt Dutch Oven/Stockpot, Sometimes you just want to make soup and nothing is better than an enamel cast iron dutch oven.  This another extremely versatile pan that allows you do a number of things from making chicken soup to roasting a chicken, right on the stovetop, saving heat in the kitchen and money.  You can even bake cakes, pies and cobblers in a dutch oven, the ideas are endless.  Since it's enameled like the frying pan above there's no need to season the cast iron.

These 3 pots will cover 98% of your cooking needs on the stovetop.  You can tailor this to what you are comfortable with using, however I do not recommend ever getting any non-stick cookware.  This includes but is not limited to teflon and the new ceramic cookware that is just hitting the market.  There is enough evidence about the health problems with teflon but honestly I don't care about that aspect because you will ingest a microcosm of carcinogens in teflon compared to what is in the food supply.   I do not recommend it because it just doesn't last.  After maybe a year of use the teflon is peeling off and you have to buy a new pan.  The Lodge skillet above runs about $50 in the store and equivalent non-stick frying pan will cost you $20, cheaper yes but where's the savings when you have to buy a new one every year?  Cast iron lasts a lifetime.  There are other specialty pans that you can add to your collection over time and I will be covering those in a future article.


  1. Don't waste your money on these pans. they work for a few weeks, but after that you'll be using more and more oil to keep food from sticking. Eventually even the oil won't help. One of the worst kitchen utensils I ever bought. 

  2. A good assessment. I would say, however, that even enameled cast iron benefits from having the iron interior scoured with oil and salt (rub it with a oil-saturated cloth or paper towelling which has been sprinkled with salt), and then set in a warm oven for some hours for the oil to absorb. I have a newer Lodge enameled cast iron spider (in addition to several old cast iron pieces) and it serves very well with this minimal treatment. I am not sure what the previous commenter was referring to when s/he advised us not to "waste money on these pans", but if s/he's talking of any variety of cast iron, s/he's just talkin' bushwa, as my grandmother used to say.


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