Quality matters when it comes to cookware. But how do you know when you need to buy quality and when the cheap option will do? Or how do you know when the price reflects the actual quality of the item you’re buying?
I’m a big fan of Alton Brown and his series Good Eats. One of his major tenets is to avoid unitaskers as much as possible. So when my wife and I were registering for our wedding (and later buying the rest of the cookware we needed), we consulted Alton’s book Gear For Your Kitchen. We wanted to make the right decisions about which items we should have to avoid a cluttered kitchen. There’s no use in spending money or space on something you’ll hardly or never use.
But the other reason we consulted his book was to learn where quality counts and how to choose the right tool for the job. This doesn’t mean always buying the “best” tool. It just means buying (or making) the tool that will get the job done well at a reasonable price for the level of quality needed. So we pored over the book and made a list of what we felt were the items we should have in our kitchen (that I didn’t already have before we got married).
We found that expensive kitchen tools aren’t always the right tools. For some pots and pans, it’s important to have high quality materials (which do cost more). But for others, the cheap option is just fine.
Choosing the right tools matters because cooking can be much easier and much more fun if you’re using the right tools. If you hate cooking, it could be because you lack the right tools. Or it could be because you have too many tools and no space to cook!
Having quality cookware in just the right amount is key to good, enjoyable cooking. You’ll be able to prepare your food easier and possibly even tastier (as you continue to improve your own skills). It’s also the key to having a frugal kitchen. Having tools that you don’t use or don’t need (because another tool can do that job) is simply wasteful. So I’m touching on two ideas here – the value of quality cookware and the value of having just the right tools (and not every possible tool).
If you want to learn about having just the right tools, you really ought to buy Brown’s Gear For Your Kitchen or check it out from your local library. One of the most useful aspects of his book is helping you know how to decide if you really need a tool or not and which features you need and don’t need. He also discusses the quality aspect and let’s you know when it’s best to go more expensive on an item.
The Problem with Quality Cookware
The problem with quality cookware is that it is often expensive. It’s hard to buy inexpensive quality cookware. And that’s what keeps many people from buying the good stuff. I’m not saying you need to equip your kitchen with copper everything. But being frugal is not about being cheap. It’s about getting a good value for your money and making sure you get the best price you can at the same time.
It’s obvious that frustrating yourself with cheap, useless, or too much cookware will make for some miserable cooking. You know that quality cookware matters. The only part left is for you to figure out what you need and then how you’ll get it. (Again, I can’t recommend Gear For Your Kitchen enough for helping you figure out what you need.)
If you can’t afford quality cookware all at once, you’re better off picking a couple of the most useful items and building up your set of tools from there. In our kitchen, the 3-quart saucepan and the 5-quart Dutch oven get the most use by far. If I had to recommend just one pan and one pot to use, those would fit the bill. They can cover most of your cooking needs.
I love Alton Brown and Good Eats. The book you recommended is wonderful. I have a weak spot for kitchen gadgets, and like you mentioned it is best to avoid those that are only good for one task.
I am also a huge fan of Alton Brown. I recently started at Season 1 and am taking copious notes. He’s great!
I’m already a subscriber. Please enter me in the CSN cookware giveaway.
I’m a fan of Alton Brown. I love his new healthy look. I’m trying to do the same with shows like his.
amazing!! This would be enough to get the carry-on item and the pair of shoes that i want…gotta love the free shipping they have on certain products
Oh and i just signed up with e-mail…i am going to go confirm it now
@Katie (#11): If you’re in Canada, the free shipping doesn’t apply. Just wanted to let you know because your email address had the .ca extension.
Thanks everyone for your entries and comments so far! I hope you’ll enjoy the free updates and the free cash (if you win).
Just signed up. I really enjoy your articles.
I’m really thinking I need to go through my cabinets and drawers now. Thanks for the great article.
I subscribed! Thanks 😉
I am already subscribed with you. I have some good pots and pans but really need a new mixer and some utensils!
Good luck, Donna! If you need a new stand mixer, $100 won’t go too far toward a nice Kitchen Aid model but it will help quite a bit.
I just signed up for your e-mails! THANKS for the contest.
There are lots of pots and pans and various cooking items I want!
I’m subscribed in Google Reader. I’d like to order some baking pans and serving dishes for the dessert table I’m doing for my daughters wedding in Feb 2011. Thanks!