Making Simple and Sound Cookware Choices

If you are just starting out, starting over or jump starting your cookware, consider limiting yourself to just three pieces. This concept may be very hard to imagine if you are like most people who have accumulated a dozen or so pots and pans and skillets. Even as newlyweds, you may have been given an assortment of cooking pieces, in many sizes and shapes. So, why change? Here are three answers-style, safety, and simplicity.

Regardless of your budget or storage capacity, owning just three, well made, coordinating pieces of cookware that are in good condition will take you almost anywhere you want to go in the land of cooking. Cookware is made in several materials including stainless steel, aluminum, copper, cast iron, anodized aluminum, enamel, and coated with stick free finishes. All of these have benefits, but choosing anodized aluminum (or stainless steel) and cast iron will give you many years of good cooking. These materials are safe, healthy, even-heating and will look good after much use.

A cast iron skillet, 12 inches or wider, with a slightly domed lid can be used all day long for endless recipes. From frying eggs, to grilling cheese sandwiches, to sautéing chicken, this will become your go-to piece of cookware. After some simple seasoning, this skillet will heat evenly; stay put on the stove burner and even become stick free with use. Choosing one with a loop handle opposite a long handle will make the skillet easier to move. A clear lid allows you to see what’s going on in the pan. Avoid plastic knobs and handles, as you may want to put everything in the oven for the final cooking step.

A heavy, thick saucepan (or pot), holding 2- or 3-quarts, in a thick material and with a good fitting lid is next. A black one in anodized aluminum will compliment your skillet. Here is the pot for boiling potatoes, cooking all sorts of vegetables, and making small or large batches of soup or gravy. And do not forget boiling eggs or water for Jell-O!

A stock pot that will hold 8-12 quarts is the third piece of cookware. A stock pot always is taller than it is wide and is for making stocks out of whole chickens or roasted beef bones. It is also a good pot for boiling pasta, and many come with a pasta insert to withdraw after the pasta’s done so you don’t have to carry a vat of hot water over to the sink to the colander. Again, anodized aluminum is great (or sturdy stainless steel). Invest in good quality to last a lifetime. Avoid plain aluminum, as it can react with some foods and leach metal into the food.

As you dig out your current pots or take the pans off the pot rack, carefully examine them. Are they scratched, chipped and tarnished? Are there some you never use? Are you missing something? Do you dislike them? If you answered ‘yes’, then be brave and try buying, or reducing to, these three pieces of cookware. Buy or keep pieces in heavy duty cast iron, anodized aluminum or stainless steel. Throw away any that are scratched and chipped. Give away unwanted and extra pots and pans.

Perhaps Henry David Thoreau said it the best, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

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