How to Buy Cookware

Many novice chefs wonder how to buy cookware that can fit their needs. You are as good as the tools you have to work with, so understanding the different types of pots, pans, and utensils available, not to mention the materials they are made from, will be essential in determining what is necessary for your kitchen.


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    Determine what types of pieces you will need in your inventory. The saucepan is the "general use" cookware for many (western) chefs (see Professional Cooking, W. Gisslen p. 57), and the frying pan (a shallow or slope-sided sauté pan) is perhaps the most oft-used cookware for the novice. Most standard kitchens contain pots, pans, and skillets, as well as a set of stainless steel kitchen knives. Consider what types of cooking you will be doing as well as what kind of food you will be preparing most often. Research what utensils can fulfill your needs. Look online, or ask the salespeople at your local cooking supply store for advice.
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    Choose what size of each pot and pan you need. Knowing how much food you need to regularly prepare, or how many people you need to feed, will help. Narrow down the list by researching how much each piece holds and how it compares to your needs.
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    Decide what pot and pan material suits your particular needs. Stainless steel is the most popular choice among many chefs due to its price and durability, but there many other options available that you can consider purchasing.
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    Determine what types of knives you will need. Stainless steel is also the most popular material for its price and durability, but there are many options available. Do some research to determine what will work best for you.
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    Set a budget based on how much you can afford to spend. If your funds are limited, consider purchasing only a few essential pieces of better quality and adding more pieces as you can afford.


  • Avoid frivolous or impulse buying. Do not purchase items based solely on color or trimmings, as these components will not matter when actually cooking food.
  • It is completely acceptable to purchase cookware made from different manufactures and different types of materials. Mix and match whatever you need to create a collection that matches your cooking style. Above all else, the cookware's construction should be the biggest factor.
  • Consider getting metal-handled cookware that can go in the oven.
  • Cookware with sides as tall as the base of the pot are for slow cooking. Vertical sides help trap the moisture and improve the steam cooking (slowing cooking time), while shallow sides let the food lose more water and achieve more caramelization. (and burning!) Slope sides like on a wok or karahi are for pushing food away from the central hot spot, allowing individual attention to multiple items cooking at the same time.
  • Of all the pieces to splurge on the saucepan, and the sauté pan or frying pan are best because you will use them most frequently.
  • Gas ovens are considered "instant temperature" devices and a thin, cheap, medium/small carbon steel pan can go a long way on them. In general, outside of woks that need uneven heat, and small pieces, thick-bottomed, clad/multi-ply cookware is best.
  • If a budget is a determining factor, watch online sites or local stores closely for a sale. This is ideal for items you deem desirable but not essential, such as a sauté pan or a double boiler. At many times throughout the year, you can pick up bargains on these types of pieces if you are willing to wait.
  • Avoid purchasing cookware sets, unless you are positive you will use each of the pieces frequently. Many prepackaged sets include pieces that aren't very functional, which results in wasted money and cabinet space. If it makes financial sense, purchase these cooking pieces 1 at a time to collect only what you really need.

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Categories: Care and Use of Cooking Equipment