Q: Hi all ... I am new to this newsgroup and hoping some experienced cooks and/or chefs will have a minute to respond. I love to cook and am slowly getting "into it", though by no means consider myself a good cook, I am still reading the recipes. But, I will get there. I need recommendations for stainless cookware. I have heard all the rumors about using some cookware and getting Alzheimer's disease from the lining flaking off some skillets, etc., etc. I basically am looking for recommendations for both pots and skillets. As I am sure you know, some of the cookware you see on cooking shows is shown at the local discount mart, but I doubt the two are the same. I supposed there is some gauged steel rating, teflon might be safe now, who knows?
A: One word: Calphalon (http://www.calphalon.com/viewallCookware.asp). Either the Professional Hard-Anodized (older style) or the Commercial Hard-Anodized (newer style). Don't even bother with the non-stick stuff. The Hard-Anodized heats great, cleans pretty easily, doesn't pose an Altzhiemers risk, and is almost indistructible. I'm pretty much a stainless steel kinda gal....with a few non-stick pieces which I like for certain foods, such as eggs, pancakes, anything like that. Sometimes, you need a little "sticking", like if you are making a chicken dish or a steak, and you want a pan gravy. Because I am a "maximumist" (as opposed to a "minimalist") I like buying those boxed sets of pans. I don't care if I only use one or two of the pans in the set once or twice a year...because if I am ever in a situation when I really NEED that 1 quart saucepan, it's there. And besides, usually those sets cost a whole lot less than what you'd pay for each pan separately. It's like you're paying for the pans you use a lot, and getting the other 3-4 for free. But that's me. Most people here advise against buying sets because you get pans you inevitably don't use frequently. I just have a different attitude about that sort of thing. I say "I've got the space for them... Eh, I might need that someday, besides, they are kinda free". Do what's best for you. I like sets because you get a good deal for the money, not because I care if my pans all MATCH! Let me tell you....I have a LOT of pans. Some "classic" Farberware... stainless steel,which I use almost every day. Especially the skillet. It's not non-stick. It's a classic, and for good reason: they work. These I received as a boxed set...5 pans, 5 lids...1 qt, 2 qt, 4 qt, 10 qt and a 10 inch skillet. About $80 or so today. I use all these pans at one time or another. If you buy nothing else, this set will serve you well for most of your needs. I have quite a few Farberware Millennium Stainless non-stick.Some of the pieces are the "original" non-stick, which used Excalibur coating, and some are the 'newer' non-stick, which is a Silverstone product. They have their place...eggs in the skillets, anything that might be a pain to clean up...I use all of these pieces regularly, too. I have a cast iron skillet. For steaks, meatballs, etc. It's a workhorse. Use it all the time. I have 2 Le Creuset casseroles, a 2 qt and a 3 qt. I want a 5 qt. Someday, I'll get one. These are used not only for braising meat dishes, but because my gas stove is old and doesn't do a good job on low, I have been using it lately for mundane tasks like simmering brown rice. In fact, tonight, I boiled some potatoes ahead of time for mashed. I used the smaller Le Creuset casserole and the potatoes kept beautifully, covered, in this heavy iron pot...still warm 20 minutes after turning off the heat. The more I use these pans, the more I love them, and the more reasons I find to use them! I also have an 8inch Le Creuset skillet. Again, small steaks, chicken breasts, eggs, and it makes WONDERFUL home fries! I have a lot of pans...and I use them all, at one time or another, for different reasons. I don't care for the anodized pans, like Calphalon. For me, I don't like how they look, and I find them hard to clean, but lots of people like them. To each their own. I am not a fan of All-clad. Not because I don't like their performance. I do. But I find their handles extremely uncomfortable. They dig into my hand, they are very heavy pans and I just flat out don't like them. Again, lotsa people swear by them. To each their own. I picked up one of the Triple Clad K-mart pans, and I like it a lot! It heats very evenly and I am impressed by this $40 skillet! I don't make tomato sauce in it, though (It's more of a saute pan. I prefer a deeper pan for tomato sauce--usually use one of my non-sticks for tomato sauce), and I only hand wash it (with brillo, so it always shines!), so I haven't experienced any of the troubles with this pan that others have with theirs. If I ever needed new pans (which seems unlikely, since there are Farberware pans out there older than I am, still going strong!), I would consider getting more of these....damn good performance for a very small investment. If I had to advise anyone on what pans to get for a "Starter set", I'd say pick up a Farberware classic or other Stainless steel with aluminum cores (at least at the bottom) boxed set, with a large "pasta pot" type of thing, a large, straight-sided, not non-stick skillet, a few sauce pans in difference sizes. Then add to it: a good 10 inch cast iron skillet. A pair of non-stick skillets, 10 inch and 7 or 8 inch--these can be inexpensive, because they wear out, anyway. If you do any stews or braising, get a 5 quart dutch oven, either cast iron, heavy cast aluminum, or enamelled cast iron, like Le Creuset. You can make a lot of spaghetti sauce, as well as stews, pot roasts, all sorts of things, in one of these. Expensive is not necessarily better. You should look for heavy bottoms, and if it's stainless, look for a core of either copper or aluminum. And make sure you like how the handles feel in your hand!!!! Don't worry so much about them getting hot, that's what pot holders are for. But look for handles that are comfortable for you.
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