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.
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.