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I would like your advice. I am going to buy my wife new cookware and wanted to know what kind to buy. She does not like Teflon coated pans and is not a gourmet cook, but we just had our kitchen renovated and she needs new cookware.
This is a great question. It is one that any chef could talk about for hours and hours and if you put more than one in a room they might argue for days. The discussion would become increasingly complex with each additional chef added to the room.
If I were going to refit a kitchen I would choose a variety of pots and pans. (For those of you out there who would like to comment on my choices please don't hesitate, it's a great discussion.)
When asked about this I always start with the large pots since those are the ones folks often forget. A 8 or 12 quart stockpot with a pasta basket is a great choice here. It can do double duty as a soup pot, a large pasta pot and a steamer. Stainless steel is key for easy clean up and durability.
Having three aluminum skillets offers versatility in making almost any recipe, from a couple of scrambled eggs to a Sauce Bolognese: 12 inch Calphalon Anodized Aluminum pan. I have been using mine for years.
They make a smaller 8 inch and a larger 14 inch. Other good brands of aluminum cookware include All-Clad, Analon and Circulon.
I have a variety of sauce pans. Having a small 1.5 quart along with a 3 quart and a 4 quart pan makes for a complete set. I prefer stainless steel sauce pans because I can use them for small batches of pasta but also for making sauces. If the sauce is more acidic the aluminum won't interact with it.
This is the All-Clad version in various sizes but many companies make great pots. Look for 18/10 stainless steel.
For a basic kitchen, a dutch oven will round out your set. My first choice would be an enamel clad cast iron such as Le Creuset.
I will say that there are a few very high end choices. I love copper and have a few pans including a large skillet, saute pan and a copper sauce pan. Copper heats very evenly, reacts to changes in heat well and is just lovely to cook with. Most folks would prefer to not have to do the upkeep, however.
Lastly, having at least a basic, 14-inch wok is important and offers a lot of versatility.
Congratulations on your new kitchen!
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP