Pots and Pans: Spend $ on Good Quality

Christina asked me to talk about what kind of cookware to buy. At home and where I teach we used cast iron, enameled cast iron, stainless steel (a heavy, layered material), glass and carbon steel pans almost exclusively. These are natural materials that can handle most kitchen jobs. We do not use Teflon or non-stick coated cookware. The jury seems to be in and out on the long-term health effects of these products.

A good group of starter cookware would include a cast iron skillet, a soup pot, a pressure cooker, a 2-quart saucepan. Cast iron skillets run about $20. If you get high-quality brands of the remaining 3 items, they will be around $100-150 each. My favorite brands are All Clad and Le Crueset. These are tried and true brand names that produce cookware that will last a lifetime. Kuhn-Rikon makes sturdy work-horse pressure cookers. Check out our pressure cooker video.

Hey tell me what your favorite pans are and why they work for you.

12 thoughts on “Pots and Pans: Spend $ on Good Quality

  1. Well, five years ago my gas range broke. However, when my range was working I used the Circulon Commercial P&P’s whose inside bottoms look like an LP vinyl record. I never felt I was getting the grooves really clean.

    Then one day my family and I went to the Puyallup Fair and sat through the electric skillet presentation so that we could get the free knife at the end of the two hour presentation…can you believe my son and I sat through that two hour thing? Anyway, we purchased the large Liquid Core electric skillet. That’s what I use.

    Only one electric skillet to clean, no more pots and pans to clean, no food soiled stove top. I am a very patient housewife and love my husband very much eventho he does not want to replace my stovetop. I hope to win the lottery and remodel the whole kitchen.

  2. I love my cast iron pans. I got them all at a thrift store for $2 each. I did have to scrub them with steel wool and reseason them, but it was so worth it. I do have a few things that just work better in a non-stick, though, so I was wondering if you could suggest a good substitution? What do you use if you have very acidic ingredients that would not do well in cast iron?

  3. Sarah,
    Recently I got some carbon steel skillets for the Bastyr kitchen. I seasoned them with lard (local AND organic – oh my). They seem to be working in a fairly nice non-stick kind of way. They were also relatively inexpensive. I used enameled cast iron for dishes with acidic ingredients. My Le Cruset pot was expensive but worth it.

  4. Thanks for answering my question! I love Le Cruset. I have used one of the Target dutch ovens, but I worry about the enamel. I know that lc states their standards on their website. I wonder about the safety of the brands that come out of China with the lead scares of late. Maybe I’m just a nervous nelly.

    I haven’t yet bought a regular cast iron skillet. We have a glass top stove, and I have been apprehensive thinking that I could damage it, but maybe it is an unreasonable worry since I handle my pots and pans very carefully anyway.

  5. Cynthia, what are your thoughts on cooking in aluminum? I have a hand-crank popcorn popper and now a pressure cooker made of aluminum. I often hear not-good-things about aluminum, and then the next week I’ll hear that all the caution is a bunch of hooey. I’d love to get your thougthts on this issue. Thank you!

  6. Brooke,
    I have heard that aluminum does leak into food when using aluminum cookware, especially if the food is acidic (like tomatoes). Whether the amounts leached into the food will cause health problems is unknown. For a fairly balanced article about it see http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/05/ask_treehugger_16.php.
    I don’t like using aluminum because the cookware is usually thin, cheaply made and conducts heat too quickly making it easy to burn food. Because aluminum conducts heat well it is sometimes used as a middle layer in good cookware, sandwiched between stainless steel. The layering method uses aluminum for its best attribute but surrounds food with a material that is safe for food and that will hold the heat in. This is important when you want to keep you food cooking at a consistent temperature.

  7. there’s nothing in this world as good as cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet…………oh my oh my!! I left my cast iron behind in a move about 10 years ago. When I was looking to replace the pans/pots a few weeks ago, the skillets felt lighter and less thick. Am I dreaming this? And why are there so many enamel clad cast iron skillets? Kind of defeats the goodness of the cast iron no?

  8. I hear you Maggie. No iron transfer on the enameled ones. We buy cast iron skillets for the Nutrition Kitchen at Bastyr and they are just as heavy as the one I have at home that I got from my husband’s grandmother. You must be stronger!
    Cynthia

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  10. Yeah, Allclad is fab, but out of my price range, for sure. I’ve found that Cuisinart has a higher quality line of multi-clad which is similar, but at a much lower price for saucepans.

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