Cookware inquiry

My friend who is getting into cooking (I opened the knives thread for her) bought some stainless steel T-Fal cookware. She’s not sure her skillet/frying pan is cooking evenly as she notices her bacon burning on one end. Does anyone know
of a quality skillet in the $40 price range? Is T-Fal a good brand?

What pieces are essential for an aspiring cook? What brand?

Could a mod please change the title to “Cookware Inquiry”?

Cast iron.

I have this Cuisinart pan only with a hard anodized lid as well. I prefer that to the glass lids, actually. I really like my pan. It’s been a work horse in my kitchen for five years and heats very evenly.

Stainless steel is NOT great for heating evenly, and (I believe) T-Fal is a midrange brand so they’re not going to be amazing. Part of the trick to being a good home cook on a budget is learning to work around those problems, though. Your friend’s T-Fal stainless steel will probably make decent workhouse cookware until she’s ready to spring for the pricey stuff. I assume you mean it has a stainless steel surface, not nonstick. If it’s nonstick…I might be wary about keeping it. Having one nonstick pan is handy, but a whole set is overkill and can be more hassle than it’s worth (since nonstick requires wooden/plastic tools and usually isn’t dishwasher-safe, no matter what the label says).

As for my recommendations on furnishing a kitchen:

A 10" cast iron skillet is an essential tool for anybody serious about cooking, in my book. There’s some things that just don’t work half as well without one. Lodge is okay, but the best ones are Griswolds. They’re not made anymore, but they’re easy to find at antique malls and can usually be purchased for under $30.

A cheap stock pot (I like Graniteware for the kitschy look, but it’s not recommended for ceramic ranges so I currently have a $10 Target-brand one) is a must-buy, as well. There’s a million kitchen tasks that call for one, and 99% of those tasks don’t require any real precision so cheapo jobs are just fine.

A four-quart saucepan is also crucial. I like stainless steel, since you can use metal tools and I think the shine makes it easier to see what you’re doing. Having multiple saucepans can be very handy, and either a six or three-quart will come in handy.

Diverging from what’s probably the standard culinary advice for home cooks, I also HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend your friend purchase an “Analon Advanced Ultimate Everyday Pan.” It’s a really awesome pan. Nice nonstick coating, and a shape and size that lets it perform a ton of duties. It’s a solid substitute for a skillet, a wok, or even a saucepan. We received one as a gift, and I was skeptical since it’s nonstick and nontraditional in shape and size, but I’ve quickly come to rely on it as a ludicrously handy tool.

Oh, and a last bit of advice to your friend: the secret I’ve found to PERFECT bacon is to cook it in a 400-degree oven. A toaster oven is actually best, but a regular oven will do just fine. Put the bacon on a toaster-oven-sized baking sheet with raised edges (you can buy one cheap at stores like BB&B). Cook for a few minutes, until the top is a little browned. Pour off fat, flip the strips, and put back in for about as long. It comes out perfectly.

Look for Alton Brown’s Gear For Your Kitchen in the library or at a book store. He goes over everything.

Something I learned in a thread here somewhere is Tramontina. They make several quality grades, so check carefully but the Tri-Ply clad(full Aluminum core, bottom and sides, sandwiched by stainless)line is great. They are sold at Walmart, and a 40 dollar Tramontina pan was almost as good as a $200 All-Clad pan when Cook Illustrated reviewed them.

I got some and I love them.

Agreed. I’m a very active cook, and the Tramontina pots and pans are worth every penny. I’m actually supplementing my fry pan with an All-Clad (only $100 on Amazon!), but it’s really just to have a spare.

Cast iron. That’s our every-day workhorse skillet, used for almost everything. (We have three, actually - 2 twelve-inch and one monster giant.)

We do have a small non-stick skillet for cooking eggs, because there’s nothing like Teflon for non-greasy eggs.

The hate for non-stick skillets is misplaced. Even Julia Child used them. There are tons of cheap skillets out there with non-stick surfaces, including Farberwear, Wearever, etc. I have a Wearever skillet that I’ve had for several years. I bought it because it’s a good size for bacon, and has a heavy bottom for heat distribution. Just be aware that they aren’t all created equal and need to be looked at critically.

A surprisingly versatile pan that’s quickly become a favorite in my kitchen: Non-stick cast iron.

For starters it is very difficult, if not impossible, to deglaze a non-stick pan. However, there are several cooking tasks that I always use non-stick for and those that come to mind the quickest are: scrambled eggs, omelettes, hash browns (items that sauce development are not required).

I have had a set of Farberware Millennium (non-stick) since 1994 that are still in great shape and I have used metal utensils with these pots and pans since day one. My other pots/pans are All Clad Stainless Steel.

It may depend on the pan; I have an All-Clad nonstick pan that seems to handle the task well, and noticeably better than other nonsticks that I’ve used before.

Nope, it cooks amazingly in a foreman grill. Straight, flat and crispy. Lay the bacon in the preheated grill, close the lid, go make toast and return for perfect bacon in 2 minutes or so.

I have to disagree. Unless you have some sort of flat insert for the Foreman. Otherwise you get Zebra stripes of good cooked bacon/bad cooked bacon.

I, too, have Farberware Millennium; mine are not the non-stick but the stainless steel with copper bottoms. I am very happy with them. Nicely weighted and well made.

I don’t recall ever having a need to deglaze bacon. :smiley: I use mine primarily for breakfast foods, grilled cheese sandwiches, to saute onions and the like, etc. They have their uses, for sure.

I agree with those who’ve said Tramontina is a good choice. We got a three-pack from Costco a few years ago - $40 for 8", 10", and 12" non-stick, 400 degree oven-safe restaurant style pans. They’re made from thick, stamped aluminum with a durable nonstick coating, with riveted handles and silicone sleeves (awesome for stovetop-to-oven dishes up to 400 degrees), and curved edges for easier pouring.

Nothing fancy like all clad, but also not at all cheaply built - these are the kind of pans my wife used in the restaurant industry for years.

I can’t find them on Costco’s website, but Amazon has a 2-pack for cheap -

I was under the impression that stovetop-to-oven was not an option for nonstick pans, regardless of how you’re going to get it out of the oven. Is that not the case?

I make fritattas all the time using nonstick pans. Once the eggs set, under the broiler it goes, with the handle sticking out of the oven. Don’t know about cooking things like pot roast, however. I wouldn’t think it would be ideal.

Add another vote for preseasoned cast iron, think of the preseasoning as a starting point only though, build up the seasoning with bacon, burgers, steaks and the like, once you’ve got a good solid seasoning layer on it, you can cook almost anything on it

I love my nicely seasoned 12" Lodge round griddle pan and 12" skillet, best pieces of cookware I’ve ever got

no more cheap, wears out easily, teflon cookware for me, thanks