Pots and pans for the home chef

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Pots and pans for the home chef
Simple question:  what should a regular guy who likes to cook, and cooks a lot, look for in terms of equipment, on a reasonable budget?  What sizes, types and the like.  Is there a specific brand that you all like?  Best bang for the buck?  Over-rated?

Sure, given an infinite amount of money, a sweet set of All-Clad and La Creuset would be great, but...and I do have a few pieces I've picked up as gifts over the years, but I'm looking at replacing some of my older stuff and wanted to know what would be a solid set of general purpose cookware to have on hand.

Are there places you guys like to find things, on-line or other?  Is there a difference between the things you'd use in a restaurant (other than size) and what you use at home?

I have a pretty good set of cast-iron that I bought and inheritied over the years, so I'm pretty set there.  I also have a 7 quart La Creuset dutch oven that works great for a variety of braising and cooking techinques....

Thanks in advance.  I'd love to hear from many of you on this.  As a scientist I'm pretty data driven!  This is a fantastic site and forum.  So glad I did a search on chicken thigh recipes!

Alan

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Hi Alan,

I'm sure that there are lots of different opinions,l but here is mine.  Like you I am an avid home cook.  Only once did I buy a "set" but it didn't work out that well.  It was stainless and thin, and I burned everything because it was not level and didn't heat evenly.  I still have one pot from that set -- the "spaghetti pot" -- to remind me of that experience.  After that I started buying separate pieces that meet my needs.  I also have about 1000 lbs of old and well-seasoned cast iron that has been handed down from various family members who grew too old to hold their weight.

But here is what I use on a day-to-day basis for toop-of-the-stove cooking.  None of them were cheap but they

All-Clad: 1, 2 and 3 Qt pots.  I have 2 of the 2 Qt size. Bought at a kitchen supply store, mine are the original Master Chef line that has a plain aluminum outer surface.  Each was quite expensive but will outlast me.  Wonderful pans!
deBuyer steel fry pans: 9 and 14 inch.  Bought at a NYC mailorder kitchen supply store.  Wonderful pans - easy to season, flat, heats fast and evenly, holds heat well!
Circulon: 6 inch saute (not my favorite pan but it was a wedding present and has good memories).
... and a couple of assorted pieces of Calphalon (which are alright but not my favorite either).

The All-Clad and the deBuyer are the ones I'd consider my most used and most useful.  All were well worth the price.

Oh... I do have a cheap aluminum non-stick fry pan from the local kitchen supply store that gets a lot of use.

All that said... if you want to buy a set and not have to hunt down individual pieces, I recently saw a set of cookware at Costco that looked and felt like All-Clad.  It had some obscure name on it but was described as clad and was heavy.  I seem to recall the entire set being quite affordable also.
Nina
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  Over the years, I have purchased most of my All Clad from TJ Maxx at about half of what it would cost in stores.
  Another great resource is resturant supply stores.  Great prices for products meant to take a beating.
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PamperedNonChef
Thanks for the comments!

I've got a pretty good set of things as it stands, but there are some of the cheaper pots/pans that I've had for years that I'm looking forward to tossing...I've had it with scorched food on the bottom of some of those pots...

I love All-Clad, and have a couple of smaller pieces, but I'm looking at getting a few of the bigger fry/saute pans.  I've got no problem paying for quality, and I'd prefer to buy things one piece at a time as I decide on which are the most used ones...

With regards to restaurant supply places, I've looked around the internet and found one that seems to have some solid prices on things.  Some are just retailers of the expensive stuff at the same expensive prices

http://www.bowerykitchens.com/mastercookware.html

These aren't quite as thick as the All Clad (18/10 vs 18/8 ss).  I might just buy one and see if I like them.  Anyone have any of these?

Thanks again!

Alan
PamperedNonChef
Jacob had mentioned in the comments for the How to Pan Roast Fish video that he uses Update pans at Stella.  I looked around and found a couple of different vendors.  Bought 3 sauce pans, 3 saute pans and three frying pans, all SS with heavy bottom for around the price of one All Clad saute pan. 

Will report back when they come in and start getting used!
Nina
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Cool!

Lance.W
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I'd probably get drawn and quartered for this in professional circles, but I love non stick.  Honestly, I think this is partly due to my lack of knowledge and experience with using cookware that's not non stick, and I really love how much easier they are to clean.  My favorite cookware is my Caphlon non stick, but I have several pieces that are not non stick which I use too (just not as frequently).

So maybe someone can educate me on this topic.  Why is non stick looked down upon in a professional / commercial environment?  Is my preference to non stick going to hold me back as I continue to develop my skills?
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Jacob Burton
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There's nothing wrong with non stick when used for the proper application. Teflon is a poor heat conductor and can actually give off toxic fumes when it gets really hot. So for high heat cooking like sauteing and searing, I will use a stainless steel or cast iron pan, but for things I cook over moderate heat, I'll use non stick, especially for eggs.

Teflon is much more forgiving, especially in the cleaning process. Once you get use to using a heavy bottom stainless steel pan though it won't really make a difference and you'll find yourself choosing your pans based upon application, not for ease of cleaning.
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Lance.W
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Thanks, that makes perfect sense. 
labradors
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Welcome to the forum!

Actually, it's amazing how non-stick the inexpensive, cast-iron pans can be, once they've been "seasoned" properly.

For the same reason, don't bother to spend oodles of $$ for a non-stick wok. Get a cheap one (my 16" wok only cost me $9.95 at a restaurant-supply store) and season it well and it'll work beautifully.
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Lance.W
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@labradors - Thanks for the input, that's a great idea.  I've been needing something I can easily use in both stove top and oven and that will fit the bill perfectly.  I'll have to check the restaurant supply next time I'm there.
labradors
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Oops! Forgot to mention: carbon steel for the wok. Also, it helps if you have a gas stove and not electric, to be able to heat it up better.  The rings that they sell for use on standard electric stoves are okay, but induction or flat-glass stovetops would likely be problematic.

BTW, how does one pronounce "kc0kdh"? wink
Wisconsin Limey

Labs, it's a ham radio call sign, simply spell it out letter by number.
The amateur ham radio callsign KC0KDH belongs to Lance Wantland of MissionKS

Wisconsin Limey
I know several ham radio operaters, they are important people to know in the event of a catastrophe.  I bring them good food!
Wisconsin Limey
 KC0KDH,  what do you recommend for BBQ in the KC area?
Lance.W
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Labrador, Thanks for the tip on Carbon Steel.  I have a VERY STRONG preference to gas and so far have been lucky in that respect.

Limey, you're exactly right, although I'm no longer in Mission, I'm in Chewelah WA now.  If you're looking for world class BBQ in the KC area I'd recommend different places for different dishes.  As a gourmand of KC BBQ here's my take on it:

Fiorella's Jack Stack - If you only have the chance to have BBQ at one place in KC I'd recommend Jack Stack in Martin City.  Best for ribs and burnt ends and the best overall menu and quality.  For the ultimate BBQ experience, their signature "Crown Prime Ribs" is the clear winner anywhere in the metro (and probably the Nation). These are bone in prime cut ribs smoked for hours on the Hickory pit.  And their BBQ pit beans are second to none and legendary to the locals.
http://www.jackstackbbq.com/

Oklahoma Joes - If your looking for the best BBQ sandwich it has to be Okie Joe's.  Their ribs are very good too, but don't measure up to Jack Stack.
http://www.oklahomajoesbbq.com/

RJ's Bob-Be-Que - This place is 2 blocks from my old house and we were regulars there.  Hit RJ's for incredible Lam Ribs, and, believe it or not, hands down the best country breakfast in the metro.
http://rjsbbq.com/


Sheesh, now I'm craving some good BBQ, thanks Limey!  LOL ;-)
Wisconsin Limey
Thanks Lance, I will def try Jack Stack's when I'm next in Kansas.

Now that the weather has turned cold, I can now run my oven in self clean mode without melting everyone in the house.  I used this occaission to strip my lodge cast iron skillet.

4 hrs at 900 degrees got it as clean as a brand new un-seasoned pan, it looked fantastic.  I am now on the second application of organic flaxseed oil.  4 or 5 more and it should be good to go.  I will post a picture of the finished product when done.

For those who missed this thread earlier:  How to season cast iron.
labradors
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Just a joke, WL.

73, W3RB.
Wisconsin Limey
Gotcha!  73, Rob.
PamperedNonChef
The Update gear came yesterday and I couldn't be happier with the equipment, although I did under-estimate how big a 7 quart saute pan would be.  It won't fit in my oven!  May have to send it back...

2, 3, 6 qt sauce pans (with lids)
8, 9, 11" fry pans
3, 5, 7 qt saute pans (with lids)

All stainless steel, heavy bottom.  Used the smaller sauce pans last night and heated very nice and even.

With shipping, $220 from Katom.com

The only drawback to using a restaurant supply place was the fact that the manufacturer does not honor its warranty if the equipment is not purchased by a commercial vendor.  Not a big issue, given the cost savings.  I think I can handle treating a pan with enough care not to kill it.

I still love my All Clad, but for that price I could have bought a 3qt sauce pan without the lid...

Good stuff.  Thanks to Jacob for throwing Update out there to check out.
Lance.W
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LOL too funny Lab! 73's. 

Lance.W
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Limey, Thanks for the link to link.  I'm hoping to pick up a cast iron skillet soon as I'm feeling the pinch of not having one. 
Lance.W
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Wow that's a screamin deal PamperedNonChef.  I'll have to check out that site. 
Perpetualmotion
As my base cookset, I use a Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro 12 piece set and I paid $300.00 (Canadian but it's $219 US on Amazon) flat for it. I originally saved up $600 to spend on an All-Clad set from an outlet store until I read the reviews for the Cuisinart set. I was astonished by such positive feedback. I've used All Clad and the performance with the Cuisinart is quite similar. The quality is superb and many people agree. It cooks beautifully and it looks beautiful as well. I could afford the All Clad set and I chose to opt for the Cuisinart set (which has limited lifetime warranty) and will be using the money to purchase a new utility knife. 

As a note, and I mentioned it at the beginning, this is my base set. Most people will end up expanding on it and get new pieces that suit their needs (i.e. buying a dutch oven). I also have a Lodge 12" cast iron pan for a more non-stick experience and a bigger surface. 

Anyways, check out the reviews. You'll be quite surprised:
http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-MCP-12-MultiClad-Stainless-12-Piece/prod...
Melampus
cutleryandmore .com offers great sales.
PamperedNonChef
The one thing I've found that irritates me with the big sets is that they'll call something a 10 piece set, but include the lids as part of the set.  To me the lids should be a no brainer and not be necessarily included as a 'piece'.

Just my little pet peeve, I guess, especially since I had to buy a lid for a sale All Clad saute pan I purchased for my mother for Christmas.

The Update gear I picked up has worked out nicely for me to supplement and replace older, cheaper stuff from my base set.  Great set of restaurant grade cookware for a fantastic price.  The equivalent of what would be called a 15 piece set for a little over $200.

Jacob Burton
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Glad those Updates are working out for you. We abuse the hell out of ours at the restaurant and they keep on going. Only mishap I've had is when I couldn't find my meat mallet and decided to use a 10" Update Pan instead. I ended up snapping the handle off, but the pan itself still works fine. ;-)
Lance.W
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Thanks for the update on your Update cookware. I've been eyeballing those since your earlier post.  Now that I'm getting serious I'm really wanting to get out of my Caphalon non stick and into stainless without breaking the bank, and this looks like a great way to go. 
Lance.W
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LOL too funny Jacob.  I kinda got a visual on that one. 
Lance.W
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Chef, looking at the Update International line I see their prices are very reasonable on pretty much everything like spatula's, spoons, etc.  Are all of their products solid or do you only use the cookware?
Jacob Burton
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Yeah, it's always amusing when a chef does something in front of his kitchen crew that he would probably scold them for if the roles were reversed. But since there's no one there to scold me, I can just blame it on the pan and pretend like it didn't happen. ;-)

As far as Update's other products go, all I've used are their saute pans, but I'm happy enough with those that I wouldn't be afraid to buy a few of their other products and give them a try. After all, their prices are pretty reasonable so if one of them craps out on you it's not like you're throwing away a huge investment. Since they're geared more towards professional, restaurant applications, I would say you have a pretty good chance of their other products being good quality.
Lance.W
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Ah yes, the old "do as I say and not as I do" approach. ;-)

Thanks Chef.
PamperedNonChef
Jacob,

If I'm seeing it correctly, in your videos you are using what the vendor I purchased mine calls a Fry Pan.  The saute pans have higher, straight lined walls, and have a smaller handle on the end opposite the main handle in the larger sizes.  Similar prices, though.  The saute pans do come with a lid.

I bought three sauce pans as well and they are great.  Heavy bottom, nice even heating.  Clean well.  Love them, especially for the price.  Good stuff, thanks for the heads up on those.
Lance.W
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PamperedNonChef, I've noticed that too.  There seems to be no real consistency in how vendors and suppliers refer to saute pans, skillets, and sauce pans.  I thought I know what the actual definitions are, but I'm no so sure anymore. 
Jacob Burton
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Most vendors agree that a saute pan has straight sides and that a skillet or fry pan has sloped sides. I think this is absolute BS since there's no way you can't make a proper saute movement in a straight sided pan and I would never fry something in a pan with sloped sides because its very easy for the oil to splash up over the edge.

Also in a professional kitchen, a sloped edge pan is always referred to as a saute pan, never a skillet or fry pan. Since all the manufactures agree that I'm wrong, I guess technically I am; but I still think they're wrong and I choose to be stubborn about the issue.

In fact, every now and then I'll start an argument with a cooking store clerk for the sake of shear amusement. I'll lecture them regarding the finer points of a proper saute technique until their eyes roll into the back of their head and they give up out of shear frustration or boredom (usually the latter). I highly recommend everyone try this; great way to kill a Sunday afternoon (after football season, of course). ;-)
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You're not wrong Jacob!  I'm with you 100%  The way the pans are used is how they SHOULD be named.  It's only logical.  Manufacturers, and sales people aren't people using the products, so they shouldn't have an opinion.  yes

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Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but your vendors are actually correct, sort of. The name saute is the french word for jump and applied to the pan because of the action of food in hot oil, it jumps. What you might not have know is that there are 2 saute pans in french cuisine, the sauteuse and the sautoir.

The sautoir is the straight sided pan, while the sauteuse is the slope sided pan almost a pot. In North America it has been sort of just slapdashed onto what we now call a saute pan but more from a lack of understanding than anything else. The frying pan which we would use to saute things is called a poele and doesn't have the word saute in it at all. This is probably why saute pan was applied to the straight sided pan.

This shouldn't be confused with sauter as a technique, which refers to that manner of cooking.
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Well, like I said, I'm stubborn! wink
Lance.W
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I'm with you Jacob!  Thanks for the tip on how to drive a clerk nuts.  I'll have to give that a whirl sometime. cool
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Unless the clerk is Zalbar, then it's no fun at all. I guess you could always ask where they keep their bacon stretcher. ;-)

Then again, if the clerk can explain to you the French origin and meaning of why a saute pan is called a saute pan, chances are he probably knows about the bacon stretcher gag too!
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Chef, you must be referring to the Popeil Pocket Porkey Puller.  On aisle 5. 
Lance.W
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LOL....Jacob & Nina, too funny!

Zalbar, thanks for the explanation, that's interesting.
PamperedNonChef
Didn't mean to open a can of worms....and saute them.

cheeky

I've always been confused between the three, really.  To me a skillet and fry pan seem to be basically the same thing, maybe with slight differences.  All-Clad sells a 'French Skillet' that looks pretty much like a prettier version of a fry pan.  Don't know if there's a true difference or not, or if it's just a nifty marketing trick.

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As a part time employee at one of those kitchen stores I resemble your remark. hehehe
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I love getting these types of lectures at my store. It helps me keep customers informed.  :)
Scott Solomko

Very informative post.

 

I have been researching cookware for some time now and thought I would share (in an attempt to "payback" for the wealth of knowledge that this site has provided, thank you) what I have stumbled across.

 

When I first started my searching process I went down the All-Clad road. However, as I much as I enjoy attempting to cook (I am an amateur) I just could not justify the sticker price. What I discovered is that All-Clad runs a huge sale on their cookware twice a year, once in June and once in December. These events are held in PA. All-Clad sells what they call "irregulars". This is their cookware that did not meet their QA due to some aesthetic blemish. Discounts from what I have found run between 40% - 66% off.

 

I live in WI and with the events being in PA, I don't think this trip would be cost effective unless I was to purchase a lot of cookware. So I did some more searching and I found a company that sells these irregulars via their website. The discounts are obviously not as steep but still very good, if I recall correctly it is 33%. The name of the site is Cookware & More.

 

Then I found a restaurant supply store in my area and discovered cookware made by Royal Industries. I was very impressed with the weight, construction and tight fitting lids. So I did some more searching and ran across a site that carries Royal Industries and also Update International cookware. The name of that site is Food Service Warehouse.

 

When comparing the specs of these two lines of cookware, it appears to me that Royal Industries gets a slight edge. Simply because of thickness and weight.

 

I saw a post in this thread that associated 18/10 and 18/8 as a measurement of thickness. However, that is not the case. Those numbers indicate the percent of chromium and nickel in the stainless steel respectively. In order to determine the thickness and weight of cookware you would want to know its gauge (think electrical wiring). The lower the gauge, the thicker and heavier the material.

 

So I hope some of this helps somebody. Thanks again for the wealth of knowledge that you have imparted.

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