e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

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One Woman's Kitchen: New Pots

Last year, I decided to replace damaged and less-than-satisfactory old pots (ranging in age from 30-60+ years of use) with new ones, as a gift to self for my 65th birthday.   I had been considering this for several years,  talking to friends in person and online about their experiences with different brands of pots and pans.  I had bought, or been given, pots that wore out too quickly, were hard to clean, etc., and the survivors were just not doing what I needed them to do.  From a warped frying pan that wobbled on the burner to an ancient roasting pan that took 45 minutes to an hour to clean (we don't have a dishwasher)  to a stock pot that could not be put to simmer and left...it was time and more than time.   I wanted pots that suited my style of cooking, that would fit in the storage spaces I have (it's not a huge kitchen), that had good thermal properties (would hold a temperature), that were easy to clean (no dishwasher--easy on my elbow-grease.)

I make my own chicken, beef, and lamb stock; we raise and sometimes process our own meat (beef and lamb); we have a vegetable garden.  A lot of my cooking is one-pot and slow: the stock, soups, stews, chili, curries, etc. that make good use of range-fed beef.    In winter I'm making the stocks and soups and go in the freezer to be re-constituted in summer. 

I started slow, with one each of brands I'd heard good things about.  I already had a few pieces of Le Creuset enameled cast-iron and knew how good they were in the oven and how easy to clean.   All-Clad, though, was a new brand for me--I'd heard great things about it (the actual moment of choice was the friend who'd had an All-Clad pot for 35 years and said it still cooked and cleaned up like new.  In 35 years, I'd be 100.  Not needing to buy new cookware at 100, most likely.)   In the months of my 65th year, I added a piece at a time, replacing the older cookware.  Some of the old (the older RevereWare pots) were still desirable for less heavy-duty cooks...and have new homes.   As of now, I have five new All-Clad pieces and two new Le Creuset pieces.

A fry pan, a saute pan, a roaster, and an 8 quart and a 12 quart stockpot from All-Clad.   These pieces have changed my cooking habits and made life much easier.   Two round baking pots from Le Creuset, in 3.5 quart and 5.5 quart sizes (I can lift the larger one out of the oven when it's full.)

For the first time in my life, I can consistently fry eggs over medium--without breaking the yolk--and make omelets.   I still have--and we use--the cast-iron frying pans my mother used, but they're not the best egg pans in the world (!) and the All-Clad fry pan has taken over all the egg-work and some other lighter frying chores.

The saute pan--a later purchase--is now my favorite way to make French toast, and I also use it for the usual saute tasks.  I've always sauteed in the cast iron ones before, but the All-Clad heats up faster and very evenly, and nothing sticks.  It's lighter than the big cast iron, and thus easier to move the sauteed stuff into another pot if I need to.   It has a lid, but I photographed it without the lid. 

The roasting pan cleans up in very few minutes, with much less effort, than the old aluminum one--and the handles give a good, safe, non-wiggly grip on it.   It's (just barely) big enough for an 11 pound ham (not going quite that big again--a 9.5 pound ham fits on its rack nicely) and perfect for all but the biggest roasting/baking projects.  (We did a stuffed boned leg of lamb this spring--a lamb we'd processed ourselves--and it was amazing.) 

The 8 quart stockpot is now my go-to pot for boiling potatoes, making larger batches of soup (for later freezing), cooking pasta, making chili or curry, etc.  The 12 quart stockpot has made it possible to make smaller batches of stock (one-chicken stock) compared to my big old 20 quart stockpot that takes up more than half the stove and isn't worth using unless you're making a big batch of stock (3 chickens, or 10-15 pounds of beef bones and beef.)

The larger LeCreuset is perfect for making braised beef ribs--goes from stovetop for sauteeing onions, etc. and browning meat to the oven for long slow moist cooking.   I've also made chili in it.  (Which pot I use for chili or curry depends on how big the batch is.)   The smaller one is perfect for a "just us" soup (either from freezer or from scratch) and the larger one holds enough soup/stew/etc.  for a company meal.  

While it would be fun to have other pots, I don't have more storage space (had already co-opted the hall closet into a "pantry" across the hall from the kitchen) so the only replacements left would be a large All-Clad roaster to replace the old large aluminum roaster and maybe a 4-quart All-Clad soup pot.   But this is ample, along with the cast-iron I already have, and the saucepans (the RevereWare saucepans are still serviceable and their shorter handles fit into the remaining storage space.)   One or more of these pots is in use daily; all of them have been used multiple times with reasonable but not finicky care.   They've been used by family members as well as me, and cleaned by family members as well as me.   I'm enjoying cooking more, with the better thermal performance, and spending less time scrubbing pots, with the better interior surfaces.  

One lesson learned--a hindsight lesson--is that I put up with inferior pots for years longer than necessary.  Both these brands are expensive.  But if I had bought one really good pot every two-three years (something I could have saved up for) as my wedding-present pots began to go bad, I could have been cooking with these beauties much longer,  cooking better with the better thermal properties, and saved myself hours and hours of pot-scrubbing.  
Tags: all-clad, cookware, kitchen, lecreuset
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