Hardware & Software: Pots and Pans -- The Essentials

Tools For a City Cook's Kitchen

Hardware & Software: Pots and Pans -- The Essentials

Tools For a City Cook's Kitchen

Equipping a kitchen is very personal.  Having the right tools can make all the difference in both the experience of cooking and your results. The pots and pans that are best for you depend upon what and how you cook and since city cooks don't have lots of storage space, we have to choose wisely.  But there are basics that everyone needs.

This article is about those basics tools that form the foundation of a well-equipped kitchen. These are the pieces you should buy if you're just starting out, or the ones you should add to what you have now before buying anything else.

A couple of tips about shopping.  First, when buying cookware, resist the lure of those pre-selected sets.  The price may seem compelling but I promise you that at least one piece will end up never used.  Instead, buy exactly what you want and you'll get more value.

Second, regarding non-stick cookware, this technology has improved since it was first invented and now there are new materials, including ceramic surfaces, making today's non-stick a safer option than it once was. My philosophy is to replace them often, as soon as the surface begins to look worn or scratched. And while non-stick can be very useful, remember that they shouldn't be used in a very hot oven as temperatures above 400°F can damage or destabilize the surface. 

When shopping for non-stick, I do lots of research, look for good values, and never buy fancy ones like All-Clad (which a salesman in Williams-Sonoma recently told me were made in China, the only All-Clad items not made in the U.S.).  The last time I bought a non-stick pan, about a year ago, I purchased one (on sale) by Scanpan TechnIQ, made in Denmark, and love it.

For everything else, there are several good cookware manufacturers.  My personal favorite is All-Clad for almost everything. I've bought mine gradually over several years (to spread out the expense and to add as my cooking improved and diversified) and each is as good a performer as when I first bought it. I also love Lodge for cast iron and Le Creuset and Staub for enameled cast iron, and Pillivuyt, Apilco, or Emile Henry for oven-proof porcelain. [Editor's note: I have no relationship with any of these brands. These are simply my independent opinions about their quality and value.]

Unless there's a dish you make frequently that requires a specific pan, say paella, be sure that each piece you buy gives you multiple uses.  For instance, a ceramic rectangular pan can be used to roast a small chicken, make lasagna and gratins, or bake fish with tomatoes.  A loaf pan is perfect for meat loaf but also banana bread or a vegetable paté.

The Basics

For most cooks, these are the essentials:

Tip: I use this pan more than anything else in my kitchen; it has a surface like a fry pan, it takes a cover, the straight sides help reduce sauces, it's deep enough to poach or steam in, and you can start on top of the stove and finish in the oven

Tip: A 12" fry pan can take the place of both the sauté pan and a small roasting pan -- it's extremely versatile except that it doesn't take a cover

Tip:  A square grill pan more easily accommodates foods that are grilled than a round one.

Remember:  always buy the best quality you can afford and select pieces that you love and think are beautiful. 



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