Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.
I wouldn't buy a set. I'd buy pieces: a Lodge 10-inch cast iron skillet, a cheap non-stick skillet, All-Clad saucepans, Le Creuset oval casserole, Le Creuset braising pan, Le Creuset Dutch oven, and Williams-Sonoma's Mauviel steel-lined copper saute pan. Those are some of my faves.
Don't know where you live, but I bought a large LeCreuset Dutch oven at a LeCreuset outlet (in NY) about 10 years ago for an amazing discount and it's been one of my favorite pieces- you might be able to get Le Creuset at TJ Maxx as well, but always check the enamel to make sure the pots are properly coated and not chipped.
What type of All-Clad saucepans do you prefer, Amanda? Stainless steel, copper core, etc. Thanks!
excellent collection amanda :) A LeCreuset anything is the best thing to invest in. I have one that I managed to get for free over 5 years ago and I use it for everything I can. And except for some bread baking incidents it's in awesome condition!
I only have copper core, and am very happy with it (although I prefer the look of the plain stainless -- do not get LTD finish unless you only want to hand-wash it, dishwasher ruins the finish).
Thank you for the advice! I hope Santa is listening/reading!
I agree with Amanda. I love my Le Creuset casserole. I have All Clad stainless saucepans and frying pans. One should replace nonstick every five or so years (they chip/get scraped), so I've learned to buy cheaper ones. I don't have any copper pans, but I'm hoping soon. I have way too many pots and pans.
Only buy cookware in sets if you plan on displaying them, not cooking in them. Do what Amanda tells you to do.
I bought a standard set of avocado green West Bend Aluminum Teflon from Sears just before I got married in 1970, along with a set of sm., med. and lg. Lodge skillets from, I think, Montgomery Ward. I loved the sizes and shapes of all the West Bend pans, and they all held up well for the kind of cooking I did way back when. And then I discovered Julia Child a couple of years later and got serious about my pots and pans and knives.
As each Teflon pot or pan needed to be tossed, I would buy a stainless or enameled-cast iron replacement from open stock cookware collections (and did the same for my sons as they set up their own households). Besides Williams-Sonoma, check out Macy's, Sears, Target and Walmart (Yes, Walmart, for the made-in-America 12" stainless tri-ply Tramontina skillet that is equally good as my All-Clad that was 3x the price.)
Do some research first, though, and don't take our word for what works for us. Just as important as brand, durability and finish are details such as handles (make sure they're oven-safe), lids (see-through is nice, especially if they're oven safe, too), and heft: Don't purchase anything unless you've held it to make sure you can safely tilt the saucepan with one hand and scrape out the caramel with the other. Do you have in induction cooktop? That's a whole 'nother consideration.
My Lodge skillets are still alive and cooking, by the way.
Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.
Re: non-stick skillets: I've blown through countless over the years, but my favorites are made by Cuisinart. I bought them at TJMaxx, they are very inexpensive, lightweight, come in fun colors if that's your thing, and they heat up easily (so you don't have to cook at too high a temperature and wonder if it's healthy or not) and clean up wonderfully.
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
I completely agree with Amanda's advice---and the same holds true for knife "sets" as well. There will always be one or two pieces that you will never use. I have a mismatched collection of Le Creuset pieces because I buy them when last season's colors are on sale. I happen to be a big fan of the Emile Henry "Flame" series because I'm an absolute, out of control devotee of earthenware.
I highly recommend hitting the local restaurant supply store for the inexpensive non-stick pans and a wok. I have been the recipient of two sets cookware over the years, and in similar fashion to knives (and stereo equipment for that matter), it is always best to build a set on your own based on your usage and budget.
I have everything amanda suggested and it's all about twenty years old and still looks good and is in good working order. Now go shopping!
here's a cool article about non-stick pans:
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