recommend some pots and pans?

soon-to-be-Mr.-TJ and I have started the process of creating our wedding registry at Bed Bath and Beyond. I know that many people are opposed to such things, but if you want me to defend myself that will have to be in a different thread. This one is meant purely for advice!
anyway, although we have a pretty good idea of how many and what size pots and pans we will need, we know very little about different kinds. non-stick? stainless steel? cast iron? what have you tried and liked, or tried and hated, or tried and been ambivalent about? Any and all thoughts on the matter are welcome. Comments about other food-related items (knives, food storage, appliances, etc.) and are also welcome.


oh, and Mods- I put this here because it’s related to cooking. if you think it belongs somewhere else, please go ahead and move it.

Invest in a really good…garbage can! One that looks good, (it takes up a lot of very visible space in your kitchen) and opens and closes easily for you. Even with dirty hands or hands full of plates. That is easy to clean. etc, etc. Such cans are expensive, and you’ll use them every day, which can’t be said for most other stuff you’ll register for.

Stainless steel is my favorite for saucepans and straight-sided frying pans. It’s much more forgiving to clean than cast iron, and you don’t have to worry about metallic tasting acidic
dishes. It’s also what we used at the one food service job I’ve had, in the dining services for my university.

For casserole dishes or stove and oven safe cookware, I like both Pyrex and Corningware. It’s really a matter of preference for transparent versus opaque.

(Sidenote: You might not know it now, but you want a good selection of custard dishes. You can start out with an actual matched set on your registry. After you start using them for individual snacks, or sides of sauce at dinner, or parts of your mise en place, you’ll love them. Look for more at garage sales. The best source of custard dishes is a garage sale in a retirement community, preferably a communal garage sale.)

There’s nothing that beats cast iron for a pancake griddle. You want one that barely has a lip at all- just enough to hold in a crepe, should you decide to make one. Treat your griddle nice.

If you are getting a wok, go for the biggest one that will fit on your burners that’s as heavy as you feel comfortable shaking the ingredients in by hand for those moments when you need to be stirring and tossing at the same time.

Non-stick isn’t as great as it’s cracked up to be. It can be helpful with eggs, but not necessary.

I like cast iron for one skillet/fry pan, preferably a smaller size because it’s heavy. I think mine’s 12" or less in diameter. I got a Lodge brand pre-seasoned one. I used it just the other night to bake cornbread in.

I have an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Again, heavy, but you’re not as likely to be moving that sort of pot around while cooking, compared to a skillet.

Consider getting one smaller fry pan in non-stick for things like eggs (even a tiny sized one, like 6-8"), but I’d go stainless for the rest.

Get one of these. Le Creuset is great and they sell it at BB&B.

I’ve also heard good things about Stab Dutch ovens.

All-Clad is expensive, but it’s worth it.

My own cookware acquisition started with a set of RevereWare (cheapo but halfway decent) when I was about 19. From there, I started collected All Clad as I could afford it.

If my house burned down, and I had to start all over, I’d start with:

  • a 10" or 12" nonstick frypan, something in the $30-$50 range. Brand doesn’t really matter, since I’ve never seen one to last past a couple years before the nonstick quits working. Buy a nice heavy one from Target.

  • an 8" chef’s knife. I use my 6" one more, but sometimes you just need the 8" so if I had to have one, I’d pick the 8". Henckel or Wustoff, probably, but there are plenty of other good brands.

  • a nice big pot for cooking pasta/soup/etc. Say a 6 quart or larger. Once again, brand doesn’t really matter. Do NOT get nonstick, it’s not needed, and if you pick a brand that’s made well, it’ll last forever.

  • a 10" All-Clad frying pan, for the times you don’t want nonstick. Or, for a cheaper option, a 10" cast iron. Not quite as versatile, but better for some things.

That’d get me started. From there, I’d add more All-Clad as I could afford them.

I have this setof Cuisinart pots and pans, and I love them! I also added a 6-qt stock pot separately. They all go in the oven, too. And lots of lids!

Good knives. I’d suggest Wustof or Henkels. Get the good ones, not that stamped shit.

Go cheap on the non-stick. No matter the cost, it will always wear off in a couple of years.

Cast iron, cast iron, cast iron.

Leiko speaks wisdom about custard dishes. Get a bunch, and a few different sized ramekins as well. You will use them more often than you think.

Ooooh I missed this the first time around. Can’t agree more; small bowls rock, and ramekins are even better because you can put them in the oven. I have a whole shelf full of bowls in size ranges from a few teaspoons up to a cup. I use them ALL the time.

I got a big (8+ qt?) Calphalon stainless steel stockpot with two steamer inserts (deep for corn/lobster, shallow for smaller stuff) at Bed, Bath, and Beyond many years ago - the day after the first Thanksgiving dinner I hosted, when I realized my soup pot just wasn’t big enough to handle making stock from a turkey carcass. I was just at Bed, Bath & Beyond a couple weeks ago and they still have the item. It’s got a decently thick bottom, and if you do find the heat was too intense, any browning comes up easily. It still looks spotless. The glass lid helps to watch what’s going on inside without disturbing the lid.

Seconding the oven-safe ramekins/custard dishes. The Pyrex or Corningware casserole(s) are good ideas as well. Just remember to never never heat them on a stovetop (intentionally or accidentally), and do not subject them to rapid temperature changes in either direction (freezer/fridge to hot oven, hot oven to cold water in sink/cold stone countertop).

Just a heads-up - La Creuset and All-Clad are pricey pieces, if you weren’t familiar with them. You might possibly have difficulty in finding people who will pay that amount of money for your presents, depending on your guests, their knowledge of the worth of one of those items, and their financial situations. I recommend that you save up for these piece by piece if you don’t receive them.

Ordinarily I’d agree, but I’ve got this Calphalon pan, which is the single best pan for eggs I’ve ever had. I’ve had it for 6 or 7 years now, and I’ve never had an egg of any kind stick to it. I couldn’t find this particular pan on Bed, Bath & Beyond’s website, but I suspect that the omelette pans from the same collection would have similar properties.

If you’re going to have non-stick cookware, get some wood, nylon, or bamboo cooking utensils to use in them.

Oxo’s angled measuring cups are great; I would get one of everything on the linked page, including the set of three 2-oz. measures. While you’re at it, get one of these. It’s great for semi-liquid stuff like honey or mayonnaise, or sticky semi-solid stuff like peanut butter.

If you bake or need help with portion sizes, I’d recommend a kitchen scale. I’ve got an older version of this one, and I’ve found it very useful.

I have to stop now; I could virtually shop for kitchen gadgets all day.

That pan was a bonus when I got my Calphalon 13-piece set (which is available at BB&B, BTW). I haven’t used it yet, as it’s too large for the things I cookl; but it does look a nice pice, and I imagine it would be good for some sort of vegetable dish.

trapezoidal jellyfish: Stainless steel, cast iron, and Teflon all have their uses. Cast iron is great when you want a stable temperature or high heat; but there’s a small learning curve. Teflon is pretty forgiving, but you need to remember to keep metal utensils and high heat away from it.

Stainless steel, such as my set that I linked above, is very nice to cook with. I still have a couple of teflon pans (in addition to the one carlb linked, but my Teflon cookset is boxed up and in my car right now. I’m finally donating it to a homeless shelter. I only use stainless steel pots now. My 10-1/4" cast iron skillet gets a workout; from a fry-up of onions, potatoes, and bacon, with a couple of eggs cracked on top to ‘poach’, to pan-frying a nice rib-eye, to making gravy. And it’s perfect for cornbread. I do still use my Teflon skillet for a lot of things, but only because I’m lazy. When I’m feeling more creative I use the Calphalon Tri-Ply.

Stainless steel also has a learning curve. (e.g., heat up the pan before putting the food in, don’t mess with the food too soon and it will be less likely to stick, etc.) But it’s easy to clean. Food burnt on? Heat it up and put some water in it. Let it simmer a bit, and the stuff will come off. Sure, it’s not as easy as Teflon; but if you like cooking then it’s wonderful to cook with.

Whatever you get, make sure it’s heavy. Heavy distributes the heat better.

From a strategy point of view don’t put the weird stuff on your registry. Getting a 5 gallon stock pot and no frying pan puts you in a weird place domestically. A five gallon stockpot is kinda like owning a corvette in Alaska. You spend a lot of time looking at it. It makes you think of things you’d like to do with it. But the reality is you don’t use it very much.

Things to avoid:
Weird surfaces- Calphalon made a pan that was nonstick, with tiny raised bumps. It was bad at every cooking task you can imagine, was impossible to clean, and made every piece of meat it touched look like a geometry exam. Grill pans look cool, while being almost entirely useless for anything put putting on pretty lines. Some people like grill pans. Some people put spoilers on a Camry. Takes all kinds.

Metal utensils- Unless you only have stainless steel and cast iron metal utensils will scratch and gouge your shit. And someday your five year old will stick one in a toaster. If you care about your children don’t buy metal.

Many lids
A ten inch lid will probably cover every ten inch pan you own. A 12 inch pan will do the same. a 14 inch silicone lid will cover pretty much everything, though without a perfect seal. Redundant lids are good for making sets look bigger(or deadly frisbees.)

Things to know:

Cast Iron - A 12 or 14 inch cast iron pan will give you giant biceps. It will cook pretty much anything you feel like cooking. It will probably be the cheapest pan you get. There is a maintenance factor. If you or (Not and, definitely or) your husband are not into the maintenance you can render the pan not useful. (It can be fixed, but if you are not into maintenance you probably won’t want to)

Stainless Steel - Good. Don’t buy a set. In general you get three things you need and seven things you will never use. You can brown anything you want in them, you can clean them easily. Not so good for eggs, unless you really like butter.

Anodized aluminum - Pretty much the same as Stainless steel, except cheaper and harder to clean. Do not use Steel wool, unless you like keeping a fossil record of every meal you’ve ever eaten in the side of your pan. Also, some people think Aluminum will give you Alzheimer’s. Not actually a factor in my purchasing decision, but Jenny McCarthy probably would not buy them.

Heat resistant silicone spatulas - Both the flippy kind and the scrape-y kind. They will not damage any pot you use, they are crazy durable, and useful for pretty much anything. Get the single body if you can.

Flat whisk - If a pan has corners you want a flat whisk.

Cookie sheets - 12X17. Ditto Jelly roll pans. The heavier the better. What they are made of probably won’t matter, because you will always be usinga SilPat.

Things you can get cheaper after the fact:

Giant stock pots and steel woks - Just about any Asian market. Usually for well under 30 bucks. They are made to have the crap beaten out of them, not to look pretty. Which may affect your decision.

Nonstick - Restaurant supply houses generally have a huge selection at about the same price you would pay at target. Unlike the ones you find at target you cannot bend these with your bare hands. You get the 6inch (eggs) 10 inch (omelet) and 14 inch (I don’t know, Ostrich eggs or something?). The big PITA with these is storage. You really don’t want to stack them. If you get a pot rack you extend their life by a couple years. Wash with paper towels and soap.

Big ass enamel dutch oven - Get thee to Walmart (or Sam’s club, for cheaper and prettier). La Cruset is awesome, but again, from a strategy point of view you have have people buy you ten things you need for 200 dollars or one thing you want.

carlb recommended a kitchen scale, and I second. Adding a kitchen scale and a metricized liquid measuring cup to your standard measuring set (at the very least I’d want a spoon set from 1/4 tsp to 1 Tbl, a dry cup set from 1/4 cup to 1 cup, a 1 or 2 cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup- Pyrex so you can warm up milk or water in the microwave, and a 4 cup liquid cup, Pyrex again preferred) allows you to cook recipes from basically all the world without doing conversions. It’s also useful for making very uniform meatballs, cookies, and rolls.

All of my custard dishes are Pyrex, so they also act as ramekins in situations like “Seriously I don’t know why this pumpkin bread mix is way too much for the pan” and “I’d better try some of the schadenfreude pie filling before I let the rest of my family have any.” But I would like some matching ramekins for the look of things and the consistency of size.

For our anniversary, my partner bought me a wonderful set of Calphalon. I added a couple of pieces, and I absolutely love them. Everything heats evenly and doesn’t stick, and the glass lids are very practical. I treat that set with kid gloves, and never allow anything to scratch them.

I’d also recommend a set of large (mixing?) bowls. You’ll use them for a lot more than baking, even if just something to put your popcorn in.

Depends on the person. Within a month of each other, someone gave me a huuuuge stock pot - it’s from a restaurant that went out of business, and I’ve made up to 20 quarts of stock in it and could easily do at least half as much again - and a freezer. Suddenly my life’s work became clear to me, and I now have a freezer full of homemade stock at all times. So sometimes that 5 gallon stockpot is exactly what you want.

Pity the unsuspecting Traveling Salesman when you are confronted by an empty freezer…

I’ve recommended Emerilware stainless steel pieces before. It’s made by All-Clad, but much more reasonable price wise. I’ve used it daily for a few years for a huge variety of things; it heats evenly and well, cleans up well and is pretty durable. They come with a glass & metal lid which is nice for seeing inside your pots and pans, but I would’ve preferred an all-metal lid personally.

Revere ware is cheaper, yet very servicable. Not as heavy duty in my opinion; the steel seems like it’s a significantly lighter gauge.

My two favorite, can’t live without cooking items are my stainless steel Cuisinart pan and my 6 quart enamel on cast iron Dutch oven. I love the that the pan doesn’t have a long handle- those just get in the way. And I love making no knead bread in my Dutch oven, as well as soups and stock.