So what’s cooking? You, perhaps?
Learning how to cook is always great strategy to help you save money and watch your calories at the same time. What’s more, lately you’ve probably had little choice in the matter. Widespread stay-at-home orders and restaurant closures due to the coronavirus pandemic have given many people no option but to handle their own cooking in the kitchen.
Whether you are just learning how to cook or want to take your grilled chicken game up a notch, it’s crucial to have good pots and pans. Poorly made pots and cookware can break easily or get scratched up when you clean them, so it’s important to choose wisely. Odds are, you’ll cook more if you feel like you have the best pots and pans to work with too.
Before the coronavirus crisis caused restaurants to close all over the country, we talked to some professional chefs about which pots and pans they recommend as good values for at-home cooks. Here are their top choices.
Best Kitchen Utensils
You need to get a grip before you can cook right, and Chef Jonathan Benno, of Benno and Leonelli, inside Manhattan’s Evelyn Hotel, praises OXO kitchen utensils. “The OXO brand is one of the best, not only for the professional chef but also the home chef. The tongs, whisk and the small rubber spatula works well for us at Leonelli Taberna and Benno Restaurant because it is all about the grip and the durability,” Benno says. “Not only are they all so accessible to the general public, these tools never break.”
Benno adds that “another reason why I love and support OXO is because they support a charity that gives back to a disease that affects us all, cancer. My Mom died of cancer just before I got married, and now that I have two kids and knowing OXO fully support pediatric cancer research, Cookies for Kids Cancer, to me it is a no brainer to support every product that they have.”
Best Frying Pans and Skillets
While you can spend a lot of money to cook like the pros, you don’t have to, and there are plenty of bargain pans that get the job done. Detroit-based Heirloom Hospitality’s Culinary Director Ryan Prentiss says Winco has “the absolute best non-stick pans. All you need is a 6-inch one for cooking eggs and a 10-inch for cooking omelets or searing delicate fish.” He says, “Non-stick pans don’t last forever no matter how well you care for them, so spending extra money on them just isn’t worth it. Restaurant grade ones are simple, easy-to-clean and slightly thicker than ones designed for home use so they last a little longer and have better heat transfer.”
Pat LaFrieda is the CEO of New York’s Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, a family-run company that supplies high-quality, humanely raised beef to restaurants and retailers across the country. This is a guy who knows burgers, and knows how frustrating is when a sticky pan won’t you let you flip a patty properly. That’s why GreenPan is his favorite brand. “They coat it in Thermolon, a non-toxic ceramic coating to ensure it’s non-stick, but without the toxic chemicals of other non-stick pans,” he says. “Plus, they can be used on all types of stoves — such as induction, gas, and electric. I have an induction stove in my home kitchen because it’s safer for my kids and heats the pan more evenly than any other burners.”
Heating conduction is very important when choosing a pan, because poorly designed gear will distribute heat unevenly throughout the surface, leading to an unevenly cooked meal. And no one wants that. Alexa Frazier Blay is a New York- and Ontario-based cook and photographer who runs Key To My Lime, which she calls “a website dedicated to delicious budget-friendly recipes for all dietary preferences.” She likes the T-fal frying pan because “it’s the perfect size for cooking just about everything, and the nonstick coating is very durable and effective. Plus, it has a really thick bottom, so it doesn’t warp and it conducts heat very well,” she says. “It’s hard to find a nonstick fry pan with great heat conduction at a good price point, and I love how affordable this option is.”
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, 10.25″: $14.88
Cast iron skillets can make a great steak, but moving them around can be difficult, as skillets are often heavy and bulky. That’s not the case with the sleek and portable Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet. “I love the ease of being able to take my skillet from the stove to the oven, or vice versa. It’s especially perfect for someone working in a small kitchen who doesn’t have room for a skillet, a Dutch oven, and a casserole dish,” Blay says. “While the modern cast iron is a good starting point,” she says, Lodge’s improves on the concept. “It has gone under an additional step in the production process where all the little bumps are smoothed away. This makes it so much easier to season and get a truly nonstick surface on your cast iron. And don’t forget to buy the accompanying cast iron lid. Mine comes in handy all the time.”
If you’re just starting out on your cooking journey, Chef Stacie Zollars of the Houston, Texas-based Sugar Face Bakes recommends the budget-friendly Original Copper Frying Pan, which she calls “an essential piece I use from stove to oven weekly. It is stick-resistant even when I accidentally burn my caramel! Everything slides right off, and it’s the perfect piece for those who are starting out learning to cook and experimenting with new foods! This pan lives on my stovetop!”
The “Original” model is sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, and similar copper fry pans are available for basically the same price at Amazon.
Hestan NanoBond Stainless-Steel Skillet: From $120
Looks aren’t everything. But to some chefs, they’re a lot. Rick Gresh is the culinary director of Chicago’s Flight Club, and he speaks and demonstrates as a culinary expert at events around the country. He loves the Hestan brand because for reasons both aesthetic and scientific. “The NanoBond line is really impressive with its technology,” he says, referring to the brand’s titanium-based alloys which prevent scratching and wear-and-tear. “It’s such a durable pan, and it conducts heat evenly and is really beautiful to look at.”
While professional chefs will spend more money than the average consumer on high-quality gear, they also often have to keep to a budget. Executive Chef John DiPierro of New York’s The Banty Rooster had to keep price in mind while getting ready to open his new Southwestern-inspired place. “The reason we chose Made-In was quality of the pan for the price,” he says. “It’s crazy expensive to outfit a kitchen with decent pans, so we shopped around and I did my homework- and made-in came back the highest rated amongst my chef friends. Plus, their customer service is all-star level.”
Best Cooking Pans and Dutch Ovens
Cuisinart 4-Quart Dutch Oven: $59.95
Some pots and pans require that you season them before you add food to prevent stickiness, but you don’t need to worry about that with Cuisinart’s cast-iron Dutch Ovens. Zollars, from Sugar Face Bakes, has become an online influencer known for her healthy dishes, and she loves Cuisinart’s dutch oven because “it’s versatile for stovetop or the oven. This is the prime material for slow roasting, braising, and that pot of soup that feeds a crowd,” she says. “It’s a piece that is durable, non-stick and needs no seasoning so you can cook with ease for the perfect meal without the hassle.”
Depending on how fancy you want to get, some recipes can call for heating a dish in a frying pan, then transferring it to a separate dish before putting it in the oven. This can have delicious results, but can also later clog up your dishwasher. So Luis Cuadra, the Executive Chef of the Los Angeles institution District, recommends the All-Clad Saute Pan. “It is versatile because I can start cooking an item in it on the stove, then easily put the pan in the oven to finish the dish,” he says. “I love to make almost everything in that pan. From braised short ribs to fish filets and pastas, its size and shape allow me to prepare a huge array of items.”
Cuadra thinks the pan is especially helpful for making braised short ribs, “which is a great ‘one-pot meal.’ After searing and braising the short ribs, I finish them in the oven, low and slow with the lid on. Once they are fork tender, I take them out and strain the braising liquid, add some nice vegetables and potatoes, and cook in the strained sauce,” he says. “Once the sauce is reduced, I add the short ribs back in. It is an elevated pot roast dish with every component in the same pan, which minimizes the mess and clean-up. Plus, it can stay in the oven warm until everyone is ready to eat!”
The Proclamation Duo: $379
As the old jokes goes, minimalism is the least you can do. If you have a smallish kitchen and storage area and are looking to take up as little space as possible, then Chef Jake Rand has the right set for you. Rand works at Sushi Koshō in Sebastopol, California, and he recommends the California brand Proclamation Goods for those looking to keep it simple.
“Beautiful and well-made, the ‘Dutch Duo’ fits my philosophy of simplicity both in design and function. It’s become my go-to in my home kitchen. I really can’t stand clutter, and these space-savers are great for everything from stir-frying to braising and roasting when using the custom-fit lid,” he says. “This cleverly designed set and a good knife just might be the two most essential kitchen tools for home cooks.”