03 September 2018

There's always questions about what cookware to get, and how much to spend. There's a reason that more expensive doesn't always mean better. Let's consider the law of diminishing returns. Let me give you an easy example.

With wine, there will be crap wines. You're talking your Franzia, your Fetzer, and the vast majority of stuff sold as "white zinfandel". It's fine for making sangria, but you're not going to notice much except sugar, and whatever additives they've thrown in the vat to mask the shitty quality.

Then you've got your low rent ones, like Fetzer, Turning Leaf, that Kangaroo one. They're like $7 - $10 a bottle. Nothing to write home about, but it'll do to cook with, or with people who aren't huge wine drinkers, but can't really afford much better.

Then you get your /good/ wines. These vary by region and by brand, but you're looking to spend between $12 and $15 a bottle here. When served in a decent wine glass, you'll notice all kind of cool little subtle flavour profiles, and it won't be harsh on the way down.

If you've got some cash to spend, then there's those boutique wines that run you about $15 - $25. Around here, you're hitting very complex flavours and aromas. You don't want to pair it with anything that will challenge the wine, and you take care to serve it at the proper temperatures.

Once you cross this threshold however, you're looking at diminishing returns. The difference between boxed wine and the $25 wine is VAST. We're talking leaps and bounds of difference in experience, quality, and taste. But then once you've crossed about $28 - $32 a bottle, the difference between a $100 bottle and the $35 bottle isn't really that huge. Yes if you're in the top 5% of sommeliers or wine makers in the world, you'll notice subtle differences, and it's a nice intellectual exercise to figure out what those differences are, but the vast majority of us aren't really going to get that much more enjoyment or taste difference between the two. Then you start hitting the $200 and $300 bottles with pedigrees and all kind of marketing buzz, and you're like "I'll stick with the $15 bottle if it's all the same to you."

Think of your cookware the same way. The crappy TV Celebrity Chef set from the Walmart versus a standard brand is going to be massive. And the thin-bottomed dollar store pots compared to the standard brands will also be a huge huge difference. But once you hit about the $30 - $70 per pan range, you're not going to notice that much of a difference in your cooking experience to have warranted spending $300 on a freaking pan. I see you, Le Creuset.

Go into a store, and pick up as many pans as you can. If it's not comfortable in your hands, you won't use it as much. Look for something that has a good weight to it, but isn't too heavy for you to pick up. Look for something that has a nice balance to it. This has been my issue with a fair few of those restaurant cookwares: they're so bottom heavy that when I have to tip it over to get from cookware to serving dish, it's very awkward.

Get one piece at a time, not a set. Getting a set means that you'll have pots that you never use. Not good. Start with one piece (for example, an all-purpose pan).

https://www.amazon.com/Simply-Calphalon-Nonstick-Jumbo-Deep/dp/B001ASBBSG/ I reach for this thing every day. I'd consider it an all-purpose pan. I can cook pretty much anything in there. I've cooked pasta, curries, stir fries, rice dishes, delicate things that need the nonstick, potatoes, breakfast things, stews, soups, veggies, the list goes on. I've had it for a few years now, and it's been a champ. However, after having it a while, I realised I wanted a small pot for making ramen, or reheating leftovers, or small amounts of daal. That's when I sprung for a small saucepan. I got their 1-1/2 quart pot from the same line, because I liked how it felt in my hand.

Then, I saw that I wanted something in stainless, because when I make dosa, or other things, I wanted to use my Indian stainless steel utensils, and I couldn't do that on the nonstick. So I got myself a https://www.amazon.com/Tramontina-80116-007DS-Fry-Stainless/dp/B00JAP44MQ/ stainless steel pan from Tramontina. Then, I saw that I needed a stock pot, because if I'm using that 12" thingy on the stove, I don't want another large pot cluttering up the stove. I went to my restaurant supply store, and picked up the most squat 6 qt stock pot they had. I wanted metal handles, and a metal lid. Why? In case I start something on the stove, and want to finish in the oven, I want that to be seamless. I got something like this guy:
https://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-MCP44-24N-MultiClad-Stainless-Saucepot/dp/B009W28RPM/

Point is that you don't have to spend like a millionaire to have cookware that's a joy to use, and that will produce good results, and you don't have to worry about getting a full set. Build as you go.