Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pots and Pans

We have new cookware. To say I'm excited about it is an understatement. When my husband and I got married, we both had some decent cookware, so we didn't register or buy any new stuff. It was all non-stick, and there were times we wished it were oven safe, could produce a good fond (tasty bits on the bottom of the pan before deglazing) for sauces and gravies, and didn't have to be protected from metal utensils. But, overall, it worked fine, and it got a lot of use.

Then, a couple of months ago I accidentally ruined my large sauce pot when I burned a batch of beans in it. And by burning, I mean reducing them to carbon. It was bad, and I was thankful I didn't catch the kitchen on fire - heart thumping, dodged a bullet, praise the Lord Almighty thankful. A pot is more easily replaced than a room or half a house or a whole house.

One pan disappeared. I know it sounds like I might have helped it along, but seriously, I went to get out my large deep skillet with lid one day to make something, and it was gone. Now, I may have done something with it, but for the life of me I couldn't say what. Maybe put it some place for safe-keeping?

Then, another skillet just died of natural causes. Kaput. So I was down to a couple of skillets a small sauce pan and a dutch oven.

When cleaning out my linen closet, I came across a beautiful, but massive, steamer set up that included a dutch oven-type pot, two stacking layers of steamer trays, and a lid with a hole in the middle that a great cook friend of ours gave us as a wedding gift. I had a steamer basket from another pan along with its glass lid that fit this pot nicely, so I ditched the other pot and kept this set up, as sort of a two-fer.

OK, I'll stop with the back story details. You get the idea that my pan collection at this point was hobbled together and included a Frankenstein steamer combo. And the non-stick surfaces were well-worn.

Now, David and I have both salivated over the shiny All-Clad numbers in the Williams Sonoma catalogue, which by the way is like porn for cooks, but we've hesitated to invest that amount of money in a set of pans because ours worked fine. So, when I started looking around to see what's out there, I thought I'd save up for a bit or just replace one pan at a time.

Not long ago, when I was walking through closeout retailer Tuesday Morning, a shiny stainless pot caught my eye. The price wasn't bad, but I didn't recognize the brand Tramontina and didn't know what exactly to look for in a good stainless pan. I came home and started researching. Low and behold, Cook's Illustrated, a great resource for food and equipment info, recommended the brand's 8-piece gourmet set as a best buy, and that it was available through Wal-Mart for about $150. All-Clad is about $600 for a 7-piece set.

I read user reviews on various websites. I looked all over the Internet to compare prices. I mulled it over. I discussed it with David, and he said, "Buy it". Finally, I agreed and bought it. Stainless is hard to photograph, so this is the promotional picture.

There's been a little adjusting after cooking on anodized non-stick for so long. This doesn't require as hot a burner. The manufacturer recommends no more than medium heat to prevent scorching your food. And you have to heat the pan before putting the food into it. I was a little anxious about using it the first, no, the second time. The first time I just heated Campbell's soup for Andrew. The second time, I scrambled an egg. (The boys still eat eggs too.) I was nervous that it would stick. Pfffttt. No sticking. Clean up was a snap. Pan even looked shiny like new.

The only con thus far is that the set, which varies a bit from website to store and store to store, came with 1.5- and 2-quart sauce pans. Some have 1- and 2-quart, and some have 2- and 3-quart, which would have been my preference, but I couldn't find one in-store. They're a bit small, but I've discovered that I don't need anything bigger many times. I will likely add a 3- or 4-quart pan before the next holiday cooking starts, but for now, it's all good. And shiny. I'm a happy camper.

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