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The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:07 am UTC
by Bakemaster
A few years ago for Christmas I was given a Circulon cookware set as a gift. These pots and pans use some method I don't fully understand to provide even heating and a non-stick surface without using a delicate coating such as teflon, and so I can use metal tools with them without scratching off or ruining anything.

This Christmas I got a Joyce Chen carbon-steel wok, and have just finished seasoning it and cooking its first meal—good old egg fried rice. I love it! Was kind of a pain to season, but fantastic to cook with once I had finished, and the rice was leftovers from last week so the dish came out very well. I love cooking with bamboo utensils, too—for most things they are so much better than metal.

I've tried silicone bakeware, and been less impressed. I have never had any desire or need to put a cake straight from the oven into the freezer, the release is not really any better than a decent-quality metal or glass pan, and it's kind of obnoxious to fill.

Anyone have stories, advice or questions about cookware? Let's hear it!

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:19 am UTC
by PictureSarah
I am not that picky, but I do have a few things I'm fond of.

Heavy-bottomed pans. I hate this one really lightweight soup pot that we have at home. It got warped, and now it moves all over the place when I'm boiling water in it. Pans with a heavy, thick bottom are much better.

My parents have an electric tea kettle that makes the water hot SO FAST. Not really cookware, but it makes me happy.

Also not cookware, but I really, really appreciate good tea cups. I mean something that is glass or nice ceramic, thick sides, and roughly the size of a small mixing bowl.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:39 am UTC
by Bakemaster
Someday I will just install a tea chute for you. It will come out of the ceiling and have a nipple nozzle on the end. And when I want to talk to you or kiss you or something I guess I will have to turn it off.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:54 am UTC
by d33p
I have an antique all-copper teapot that I find heats water faster than anything I've ever owned. And I do enjoy a good cuppa.

I've been in the market for an affordable, hefty stockpot for some time. I can't afford the Calphalons I've been eyeing (mainly because I love their knives and trust the brand). Anyone know a decent, inexpensive maker I could check out? Since it's going to be winter for a few more months around here, I want to make a bunch of stock from winter game and freeze them for the summer months. Also, I've found stockpots to be pretty all-purpose for sauces, shellfish, braising, etc.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:59 am UTC
by PatrickRsGhost
I was watching America's Test Kitchens and Country Cooking yesterday, and they gave props to the old standby: cast iron. The more it's seasoned, the more of a non-stick surface it creates, and it lasts for a long time. My parents have a few pots and pans made of the carbon-steel material, and they love them.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:46 am UTC
by asad137
I do love my well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. So very useful. True, the heat isn't very even (not surprising, given that cast iron is a lousy conductor of heat), but I love that I can throw it in the oven to finish off a steak or pound a chicken breast into submission (though I bet my neighbors are not big fans of that).

d33p, surprisingly, my Ikea stockpot, stainless-steel with a thick pad of aluminum-sandwiched-between-stainless on the bottom is surprisingly nice and IIRC it was quite cheap. It has plastic handles, though, so it can't go in the oven.

Asad

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:00 am UTC
by d33p
asad137 wrote:d33p, surprisingly, my Ikea stockpot, stainless-steel with a thick pad of aluminum-sandwiched-between-stainless on the bottom is surprisingly nice and IIRC it was quite cheap. It has plastic handles, though, so it can't go in the oven.

Yeah, I can't say I'm a big fan of plastic handles. Oven-time is essential for me, especially for finishing off braises or roasts.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:55 am UTC
by Mighty Jalapeno
Cast iron frying pans - 2

Heavy bottom (like 1/4 inch) pot set - 4

Cast iron casserole - 2 (big and BIG)

Big giant cast-iron something with lid from Ikea - 1. $100 marked down to $80 marked down to $40 and purchased on 1/2 price day for 2 bucks. Continues to make everything cooked in it taste better. It weighs about 400 lbs (maybe 25).

Anything that even vaguely sucks, we've thrown out, and except for the heavy-bottom pot set mentioned above, everything was gotten cheap, on clearance, or at thrift shops. I love the heavy-bottom big pot for cooking popcorn, since it heats evenly, and slides smoothly when I need to shake the crap out of it.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:04 am UTC
by Bakemaster
Did you have a specific price range in mind for the stockpot? "Inexpensive" is a bit vague, and Calphalon has a number of product lines of varying cost and quality.

If you have a store locally that sells cookware and isn't a big chain, you might get some good advice or find a good deal. Stockpots are not that demanding, in my experience; are you just looking for something thick and oven-safe?

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:24 am UTC
by Alpha Omicron
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:Big giant cast-iron something with lid from Ikea - 1. $100 marked down to $80 marked down to $40 and purchased on 1/2 price day for 2 bucks. Continues to make everything cooked in it taste better. It weighs about 400 lbs (maybe 25).

You're sure it wasn't 1/20 price day?

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:34 am UTC
by Mighty Jalapeno
I obviously typed $20. I don't know what your problem is.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:39 am UTC
by asad137
d33p wrote:Yeah, I can't say I'm a big fan of plastic handles. Oven-time is essential for me, especially for finishing off braises or roasts.


Maybe this one, then, if you've got an Ikea nearby:
http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/00101160

Also, maybe try a restaurant supply store?

Asad

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:41 am UTC
by d33p
I swear I posted a reply, but the tubes ate it.
Anyway, I think what I really need is a Dutch oven, which looks like it'll serve all my needs. I prefer the one-piece deals, as screwed-on handles have proved problematic in the past. I'm looking for something under $50 and I don't necessarily trust my local Bed Bath & Beyond reps to give reliable advice.
Has anyone had issues with using a Dutch oven as a stockpot? Seems like it'd do the trick well enough.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:43 am UTC
by d33p
Sorry for the double post, but that's a pretty nice pot, Asad. I've bookmarked that. Don't have an Ikea nearby, but I can have it shipped.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 6:07 am UTC
by 3fj
I have this crazy industrial sized pot for making stews in. It's also amazing at making huge quantites of mash in, for when we have the monthly "Jesus christ, guyz, we should prolly have one decent meal a month"-fest.
Other than that my cookware is unremarkable (and even lacking in places). I blame this on being a student.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:26 am UTC
by AntonGarou
I don't own any real good pots or pans, mostly because I don't think on these as my "final" cookware, being a student.but I do own a very fine F.Dick chef's knife which I really like.It made my life a whole lot easier in many respects.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 1:52 pm UTC
by asad137
AntonGarou wrote:I don't own any real good pots or pans, mostly because I don't think on these as my "final" cookware, being a student.but I do own a very fine F.Dick chef's knife which I really like.It made my life a whole lot easier in many respects.


Ooh, I didn't know we could talk about our knives. My enjoyment of cooking went WAY up once I got a good chef's knife. I have a Messermeister Meridian Elite 8". I loves it.

Asad

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:04 pm UTC
by Bakemaster
Ah, knives are a whole category unto themselves, aren't they? I bought a Farberware set in college (kind of the high end of low-end knives) and haven't been able to afford better yet. I'm holding off until I can afford to buy some better cutting boards and an electric sharpener at the same time.
d33p wrote:I swear I posted a reply, but the tubes ate it.
Anyway, I think what I really need is a Dutch oven, which looks like it'll serve all my needs. I prefer the one-piece deals, as screwed-on handles have proved problematic in the past. I'm looking for something under $50 and I don't necessarily trust my local Bed Bath & Beyond reps to give reliable advice.
Has anyone had issues with using a Dutch oven as a stockpot? Seems like it'd do the trick well enough.

They'll do almost anything a cast iron stockpot will do, with the additional benefit of the lip around the lid. The only argument against using a dutch oven as a stockpot that I can see would be if your stove top doesn't have a lot of room, since they're usually relatively squat. In that case you might want a taller stockpot. The Bayou Classic 8.5 quart cast iron dutch oven is affordable, gets good reviews and comes with a matching strainer basket, which would be very handy for your purposes. It's $30 on homedepot.com, but the shipping brings it up to $45. Not sure whether they stock them in-store, but if not, you might be able to ask them to order one and pick it up from the store to avoid the shipping cost. Or shop around a bit.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:09 pm UTC
by Mighty Jalapeno
Yay knives! I have crap for knives, and a 10" Henckel International Professional Chef's Blade. It's a fucking blade. We have yet to find ANYTHING it can't cut through with zero effort.

Also, I guess I can mention our stock pot. It's pretty crappy, just a thin steel shell, really, but it's large enough to put ALL the leftovers from Thanksgiving into. Leftover vegetables, stuffing, and the entire turkey carcass, and still leave lots of room to add more stuff for stock seasoning.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:35 pm UTC
by PictureSarah
Overstock.com has some good stock pots, from not-hideously-expensive to hideously expensive. I find it's a good place to look for things for your home in general, assuming you want to buy them new. Goodwill is the best place to look for things initially. I got a bread machine there for $2!

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:44 pm UTC
by d33p
Bakemaster wrote:The Bayou Classic 8.5 quart cast iron dutch oven is affordable, gets good reviews and comes with a matching strainer basket, which would be very handy for your purposes.

NOW we're talking! That's just perfect. And I have a HomeDepot nearby, so that just made my day. Thanks, Bake! I owe ya.

As for knives... I traded in my Henckels for the Calphalon VG-1 Katana series. I've never held a better knife. I have the santoku and utility knife so far. What I really need is one of those offset bread/utility knives, you know the Z-shaped serrated ones? I hear a lot of chefs swear by them for slicing and overally usefulness.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 6:01 pm UTC
by Alpha Omicron
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:Yay knives! I have crap for knives, and a 10" Henckel International Professional Chef's Blade. It's a fucking blade. We have yet to find ANYTHING it can't cut through with zero effort.

Clearly, you aren't rich enough to eat diamond carrots.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 6:08 pm UTC
by Mighty Jalapeno
Is this a "twelve carrot diamond" rabbit joke?

Because I don't eat rabbits.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 6:32 pm UTC
by Alpha Omicron
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:Is this a "twelve carrot diamond" rabbit joke?

Because I don't eat rabbits.

No. It was a joke on the knife being able to cut anything.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 6:33 pm UTC
by Mighty Jalapeno
*makes a whooshing noise that seems to come from directly above your head*

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 7:52 pm UTC
by justaman
Oooh, I have a Mundial 10" chef's knife and it is fantastic, holds an edge beautifully and makes cutting many many things very easy. Victorinox produces some great paring knives for very cheap, thin bladed and very sharp. I must get some more of those, our ones are wearing out after about 10 years of use.

I also have an enameled cast iron casserole with lid and integrated lid handle, that is wonderful. It only cost $50, while all the much more expensive brands (e.g Le Creuset, $300+) had plastic handles held on with screws which I do not like.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 11:40 pm UTC
by asad137
justaman wrote:I also have an enameled cast iron casserole with lid and integrated lid handle, that is wonderful. It only cost $50, while all the much more expensive brands (e.g Le Creuset, $300+) had plastic handles held on with screws which I do not like.


Are you sure about that? The Le Creuset ones I looked at had black handles that looked plastic but when tapped were definitely metal (probably aluminum).

Where did you get your casserole? I've been wanting to get a Le Creuset dutch oven for a while but could never justify the cost.

Asad

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 11:51 pm UTC
by Alpha Omicron
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:*makes a whooshing noise that seems to come from directly above your head*

I got it. I was just answering your question straight.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:36 pm UTC
by 22/7
Fresh out of college and slowly adding to/replacing my fairly crappy cookware. This year for Christmas I got a nice big stock pot, a 10", very deep sauce pan and a nice wok. I have to admit I'm not well versed enough with cookware to give you much more than dimensions and materials.

On the topic of knives, I bought a block-o-knives about 4 months ago when I moved and it included a santoku knife rather than a chef's knife. I love the thing, but I'm curious if there's anything I really need a chef's knife for over a santoku?

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:12 pm UTC
by Bakemaster
I would say there definitely is. Santokus are nice but usually not curved, or only slightly curved, in such a way that you can't cut with a rocking motion as you can with a chef's knife. In addition, their edges are somewhat different, and I think a genuine santoku requires somewhat different tools or methods for sharpening. What you have is probably not a very high quality santoku, but an inferior American version (probably scalloped, as mine is), and while it should be fine as long as it is sharp, it won't hold up in the long term.

The benefit of buying a block without a chef's knife, though, is that now you have an excuse to go out and get a decent quality chef's knife to complement your block. The chef's knife is the most important in terms of needing to be high quality, because it will see the most use, whereas bread and utility knives are serrated (so quality is somewhat less crucial), while boners and carving knives are less frequently used and for a smaller range of tasks. After the chef's knife I would say the most important is a good paring knife.

Do you know what material your wok is made of? The ideal would be cast iron or carbon steel, and the worst for proper stir-frying would be anything with a non-stick coating, or stainless steel. Determining whether you have a "nice" wok can be counter-intuitive, as the cheaper woks are often far superior to the more expensive ones.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:31 pm UTC
by 22/7
Bakemaster wrote:I would say there definitely is. Santokus are nice but usually not curved, or only slightly curved, in such a way that you can't cut with a rocking motion as you can with a chef's knife. In addition, their edges are somewhat different, and I think a genuine santoku requires somewhat different tools or methods for sharpening. What you have is probably not a very high quality santoku, but an inferior American version (probably scalloped, as mine is), and while it should be fine as long as it is sharp, it won't hold up in the long term.
That's probably true. It's not a great knife set to begin with, but they are very sharp (at least, compared to the hodgepodge of knives I used before I got them) and I've been able to keep them that way so far, so they're working pretty well.
Bakemaster wrote:The benefit of buying a block without a chef's knife, though, is that now you have an excuse to go out and get a decent quality chef's knife to complement your block. The chef's knife is the most important in terms of needing to be high quality, because it will see the most use, whereas bread and utility knives are serrated (so quality is somewhat less crucial), while boners and carving knives are less frequently used and for a smaller range of tasks. After the chef's knife I would say the most important is a good paring knife.
Makes sense. Any recommendations? Also, where/how would you suggest storing such a knife, as there is no room in my knife block?
Bakemaster wrote:Do you know what material your wok is made of? The ideal would be cast iron or carbon steel, and the worst for proper stir-frying would be anything with a non-stick coating, or stainless steel. Determining whether you have a "nice" wok can be counter-intuitive, as the cheaper woks are often far superior to the more expensive ones.
Ah, I should clarify. When I say that a piece of cookware is nice, I mean that it cooks evenly, is relatively easy to clean (assuming you don't leave it there for too long after cooking) and is of sturdy enough construction that it neither feels like it is going to fall over on the stove nor like any part of it will be falling off any time soon. So no, I'm not familiar with the construction, though I can take a look when I get home later today.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:49 pm UTC
by Bakemaster
Unfortunately I've not purchased any quality knives yet, so I don't really feel qualified to give recommendations other than what either of us could Google. From what I've seen, Henckels is the standard for quality knives, but I don't know how their different lines compare to each other and they are undoubtedly not all created equal. Usually a store that has a good selection of kitchen knives also has an employee who's informed about them and can give you good tips and hints, though it's the same as going to a liquor store and asking about beer or wine—some people know what they're talking about, and others are just giving you a sales pitch.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:56 pm UTC
by d33p
Henckels and Wusthoffs are too clunky and heavy, IMHO, and a bitch to sharpen. Unless you plan to spend an hour every few days hand-sharpening on a whetstone, they're really not worth the hype.
The Japanese are making some fantastic high-grade steel knives, notably Global. Besides just looking cool, they're quickly becoming the knife of choice, as they're affordable & easily maintained.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:02 pm UTC
by justaman
asad137 wrote:Are you sure about that? The Le Creuset ones I looked at had black handles that looked plastic but when tapped were definitely metal (probably aluminum).
Where did you get your casserole? I've been wanting to get a Le Creuset dutch oven for a while but could never justify the cost.
Asad

I am not sure they were plastic, they definitely were not metal, they could be some ceramic that felt and sounded like plastic. I got my casserole (unbranded) from Farmers, which, unless you are in NZ is pretty useless. Actually, even if you are in NZ is still pretty crappy for most things cooking related.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:20 pm UTC
by Bakemaster
Those Global knives sure do look pretty.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:42 am UTC
by asad137
Bakemaster wrote:Those Global knives sure do look pretty.


One key aspect about knives is comfort -- while the Global knives have a reputation for being as sharp as...well, uh, a sharp thing, I find the handles absolutely horrible. I have slightly-larger-than-average male hands, and I just could not get comfortable with a Global knife. I also really wanted to like the Shun knives but the handles didn't quite feel right to my hands either.

The traditional-style chef's knife handle has always felt great to me -- it's what my Messermeister has, along with a slightly-harder-than-other-German-knife-but-not-so-hard-it's-impossible-to-sharpen blade. And I like that the bolster doesn't go all the way to the cutting edge of the blade, unlike the standard Wusthof and Henckels chef's knives.

If you really want to go nuts on knives, head over to the cooking knives forum at knifeforums.com . More than you ever wanted to know about knives!

Also, cookingforengineers.com has a pretty good knife comparison review.

Asad

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:48 am UTC
by d33p
Asad, I agree about the handles. While I don't have larger-than-average hands, I find the knobby bits to be bothersome. Distracting. Distractions aren't good when chiffonading at high speed. (Can I verb chiffonade like that?) This is why I went with Calphalons. The handles feel more natural to me, and I adore the Damascus steel appeal.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 5:35 am UTC
by semicharmed
My stainless steel skillet. I think it's stainless steel. Shiny and silver and nothing sticks (but no coating...), and it's big enough to make a double batch of sauce in a pinch. And if my roommates are idiots, and put in frozen beef (with no butter/oil/other fat) when the burner is turned to high, the pan can withstand some serious scrubbing. Not that I'm talking from experience...
And it was from WalMart, so it only put me out $20. And if it's anything like my the stainless my parents have, it will last for EVER.
Next thing on my list is proper knives.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:57 pm UTC
by AntonGarou
Agreed about the Global handle problem- that's one of the reasons I went with the F.Dick knife:the handle felt totally comfortable when I tried it in the store.

Re: The Joys of Good Cookware

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 5:09 pm UTC
by Bakemaster
Very good to know about the Global handles—I am still interested to try one out at a store where they'll demo the knives for you (if possible), but I do have very large hands so that might be a concern.