Thursday, November 29, 2007

Does Cookware Matter?

As I stood there in BB&B drooling over a big anodized stirfry pan with a domed lid, my eye caught the price tag of $234 and I said to myself, “Are you crazy? You don’t need really need another pan, especially at this price.”

Then I looked across the aisle at the knock-offs and saw what looked like the same pan at a fraction of the cost. Hmmm... I wonder if it really matters or not.

I don’t think of myself as a gourmet cook, although I love to cook good food. When we remodeled our house, I made an attempt at modernizing my cookware by adding a few random Calphalon pieces, but not being able to part with many of the early-attic pieces that had served me well over the years.

I remember reading a comparison in Cooks Illustrated before laying out the bucks for the Calphalon. At that point I must have been convinced.

Looking in the first drawer we have hodge-podge #1: several Calphalon saucepans and frypans, a tiny All-Clad (Cadillac) frypan which was supposed to lure me to buy the rest, and a Revereware double-boiler that my husband brought into our marriage.

The bottom drawer is about the same eclectic mess: two Calphalon covered skillets, an Club aluminum skillet, and two pieces of the Magnalite I used before we were married.

The pantry holds more possibilities if I can’t find what I need in drawer #1 or drawer #2, including the ancient Le Creuset pot you see at the top of this post. I am happy to say that pot is still being sold today at $200, so perhaps it has actually appreciated with age. Well no, the enamel interior surface bears the marks of incorrect stirring implements used over the years.

But the question still remains – Is there a “best” pot/pan for every dish? Or is this all just a big ploy to make us spend money? What do you think? Do you have a favorite pot or pan?


Blogger Richard said...

I think cookware matters, but I am too cheap to buy them.

It needs to be good and heavy. I bought a thin aluminum stock pot (it is huge) to cook a turkey in it. Even filled with water, stuff manages to burn on the bottom. So a thick bottom is necessary.

Clay baking dishes (heck, just a clay flower pot) makes for really nice bread.

I've been warned off silicone backware. I had mused about it for baking muffins / cupcakes in the microwave. Currently I use a small metal tin.

It is really hard to do Asian still stir fries in anything other than a Wok.

If the pot is too small, cooking is messy. If the pot is too big, things burn or dry out.

I definitely have some pots I prefer to use. I also have knives I prefer to use.

10:27 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

I think that in some cases good cookware DOES matter.
I absolutely adore my Le Creuset. The dutch oven has seen me through many fabulous stews and braises.
I just invested in a le creuset griddle pan (on sale for a mere 60.00- a bargain)
Most of the rest of my cookware is calphalon. Totally indestructible and withstands being used stovetop as well as in the oven. What would I ever do without my HUGE calphalon skillet. I can saute (at one time) enough chicken breast to feed 10. And, it's great for the heaping quantities needed for paella.

In some cases the cookware doesn't matter- I would never spend the money for a Calphalon roasting pan. That technology is not needed to roast a chicken. Or, on a double boiler- I use a stainless steel saucepan for the water with a glass mixing bowl on top, works perfectly for that task.

All that said- I am lusting after some all-clad. Oh Santa......

12:14 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I've only got four pots and two pans, I think. I cook a lot but I'm not picky. I will probably invest in a nicer stockpot sometime soon. A better saucepan. Overall, though, I don't need more. My pieces have served me well, even if they date to the 60s.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I think I would enjoy cooking with you!

Gewels -- Good luck with Santa on the All-Clad. If I had unlimited means, I would do a major yard sale and just have All-Clad. But I can't think about things like this while I am piano shopping...

Kristin -- I have always been good at making do with whatever I had in the way of cookware, adding a piece here and there, but not getting too hung up about the "proper" pot/pan for anything. I guess that demonstrates that I never studied at the CIA.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

I have three favorites - my Memere's cast iron dutch oven, my cast iron fry pan, and a spatterware crepe pan. I also own a clay cooker that, when I remember to haul it out of the closet, produces the best roasted chicken ever.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

barbara: I think I would enjoy cooking with you!

That depends how often we step on each others toes :P

6:28 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- I also own a clay cooker, called a Schlemmertopf, which you can see in the bottom center pic of my pantry. I agree it makes the absolutely best roast chicken there is. I like your list of favorites!

Richard -- My kitchen is designed to avoid the toes of someone cooking with me. We still might disagree about how to do things, but I am open to new ideas!

6:51 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Le Crueset rules. It's the best for everything. Yes it's expensive, but you'll never ever have to replace it.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- I'm glad I got my one piece of Le Creuset while I could still afford it!

10:46 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Jesus, Mary, Joseph-Barbara!
Does size matter?
How many boxes of tackle does a fella need to catch a fish?

$234 Pan? Don't fall in for that...I don't wn a single pan thats worth more than what food i can get in it at one time and you know what?
I still can't cook!

2:30 PM  
Blogger steve said...

I guess what I'm sayin is that a top of the line piece of cookware won't save you if you don't know what to do with it, and if you know what to do with it, you don't need it.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- Thanks for all those expletives! I couldn't agree more. That's why I didn't buy the $234 pan. I didn't even buy the knock-off, but instead settled for a bag of $4.99 votive candles and handed them my 20% coupon. Wasn't I good? (I wasn't this good today, but that's another post.)

5:41 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I'd be happy with your drawers! I still have to get on the floor, look way back and try and reach what it is I want! I hope to get drawers like yours out in when the reno hits the kitchen stage!

I've never used a Dutch oven but I know many rave about them. Then, there's the old cast iron pans! And the standard blue enamel with the white dots!

3:41 PM  
Blogger Daughter of the King said...

new here trying to define what is healthy and good to cook in and eat off of.
This I have found out..most of our dishes we eat off of..contain lead.....1/10th of one part per I am thinking...does lead leach into food...and what I have YES...check it out..browse back a few posts on my blog...
I am switching to CLEAR
now I understand fro Le lead...they emailed me back..
I don't want to go non stick anymore..that stuff is not good and I am undeducated so far on this...and I will in the near future not microwave in plastic...
I have fibromyalgia and I am just trying to get healthier..
any advice?

2:27 PM  

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