I'm looking to invest in a good cookware set. What brands would you recommend?
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.
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.
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:
It depends on your budget and how often you cook. Generally, I would choose stainless steel one or cast iron ones myself ususally. All Clad is the top notch one but very expensive, if you like the rock solid quality with fair pricing and perhaps your grandma and mother used/use, I would recommend farberware ( http://farberware.com/ ) or Epicurious ( https://www.epicuriouskitchen.com ), those two have very long life span if you maintain them well.
This thread isn't a new one, but for anyone still shopping, I wanted to point out that in the years since this was asked Food52 added a Shop! We carry a wide variety of products—everything you need to make a meal and make your space feel like home, including cookware. Every product we carry has been reviewed by Amanda and Merrill personally before it's added to our Shop, so you can be sure that they've been thoughtfully selected and vetted. (You can find our cookware collection here: https://food52.com/shop...)
While this thread is 6+ years old and Amanda's reply is still relatively valid, there are some other considerations in 2017.
I would replace Amanda's suggested Lodge 10-inch cast iron skillet with a similarly-sized carbon steel skillet from Europe. Food52 now sells them, I happen to have a set of DeBuyer skillets that I bought elsewhere at a discount.
As for the Le Creuset items, there are competitors (including Lodge) who make high quality enameled pieces that will give Le Creuset a run for the money, especially since many of these companies have outsourced manufacturing to Asia.
I buy inexpensive non-stick skillets at a local restaurant supply store. Heck, I buy roasters and stock pots there as well. If you've ever dined out at a restaurant that makes tastier food than what you can make at home, chances are those cooks are using inexpensive commercial cookware from the local restaurant supply store. There's probably one within an hour's drive if you live in a town over 50,000 people with more than two Chinese restuarants.
As touched on by a few others, including Amanda, avoid anodized aluminum finishes since they aren't dishwasher safe. They are fine performers on a conventional cooktop, but lose some of their value in their inconvenience in a typical American kitchen.
Lastly, with the increased adoption of magnetic induction cooktops, one should consider the material composition of new cookware. If a magnet can't stick to it, it's not a good candidate for induction cooking, today or in the future.
One other thing, most American cast iron skillet manufacturers (including Lodge) have abandoned polishing the skillet's cook surface. This means there's a pebbly texture that tends to adhere to food.
Why did domestic manufacturers stop doing this? Probably to save costs. Unfortunately, it affects performance.
If you purchased an American-made cast iron skillet 20-30 years ago, you'd likely have one with a polished bottom, but no more. I have three American cast iron skillets and the middle sized one is the most recent and has that pebbly texture. I use it the least of all of my pans.