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Buying new pots and pans can seem like a straightforward process, but that's often only true for people who haven't been to a local kitchen supply store since they bought their previous set. Modern cookware offered by kitchen supply and department stores varies widely in terms of materials, styles, durability and storability. Before investing a significant amount of money in a set of new pots and pans, it pays to do some comparative shopping at different types of outlets.
One major consideration when buying new pots and pans is the materials used in their manufacture. High-end cookware often uses a noticeably thicker form of anodized aluminum or stainless steel than less expensive sets available at discount stores. You may not need to invest in the heaviest gauge aluminum for average cooking needs, but you'll want to avoid the thinnest options. If it can be dented easily, it can also be penetrated. Thicker cookware, especially bottom-heavy pots and pans, can resist the occasional kitchen accident much better than their thin metal equivalents.
Sometimes size does matter when it comes to selecting new pots and pans. If you are looking to invest in quality cookware, you may need to buy one or two pieces at a time. If you need a new non-stick frying pan, for example, consider your personal cooking habits and invest in the pan size that matches them best. You may be happier with a 10-inch (25.4-cm) skillet for general cooking than an 8- or 12-inch (20.32- or 30.48-cm) alternative, for instance.
Sauce pans may also be judged according to size and personal need. While every cook may need a large pot for cooking pasta or steaming vegetables, not everyone needs a 2 quart (1.89 liter) sauce pan when cooking a limited amount of spaghetti sauce. Some cookware is sold in complete sets, which means you might be paying for extra pots that you don't really need but you still must store and clean.
Look for special features when shopping for new pots and pans. Some sets are engineered for maximum stackability, which is good for kitchens with limited storage space. Some lids lock into place during cooking, which can provide additional safety. If finding the right lid for the right pot is a problem, look for sets that use interchangeable lids for each of their components.
Storing pots and pans is almost always an issue, so you may want to invest in an overhead storage system compatible with your new purchase. The cookware should have handles that allow them to be hung on hooks or pegs over a kitchen island or above the stove itself. High-end cookware also has decorative value for a well-stocked kitchen, so you may want to display it prominently.
Can anyone tell me how many pieces and what sizes I should consider buying when getting my first set of pots and pans?
I don't cook a lot, maybe a few times a week, but find a lot of the premade sets available in store have a lot of pieces. There are even things in the sets that I can't identify.
For someone with my cooking habits, do you think it is better to stick with a premade set just in case, or to purchase pieces individually?
I don't want to spend a fortune and would like to know what the less expensive option is.
If you are on a tight budget when you start to consider buying new pots and pans I would head over to your local consignment shop or a large thrift store.
Pots and pans can be very expensive, with a good, basic set running into the hundreds of dollars. If you take a look at your bargain stores, you can often fine high quality older pieces at low prices.
I recommend picking up some cast iron cookware when you go. These pieces are very durable and top chefs recommend them.
We still have my great-grandmothers cast iron pans and they are still good as new. This is after being in the family for almost one hundred years!