Inexpensive cookware in NYTimes

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Fillanzea
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Inexpensive cookware in NYTimes

Postby Fillanzea » Thu May 10, 2007 4:37 pm

Mark Bittman's article in the New York Times, A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks was a great reality check for me, insisting that no, you don't really need the copper cookware or anything they sell at Williams Sonoma (if there's one place I window-shop more than anywhere, it's there, though I don't actually waste that much money because everything's out of my price range.)

Thought some of you might like to check it out.

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Postby morydd » Thu May 10, 2007 5:11 pm

While much of what the article said, I'd be inclined to agree with, I think he's also wrong on some things.

Cast iron: It's worth the money, but this is one product that it's always better to buy used. Seriously, even if you have to spend an hour scrubbing with steel wool to get the rust off, you can't beat a good cast iron pan. (Also, there are some who believe that there's a connection between the decrease in use of cast iron and the increase of anemia.) We have several cast iron skillets and we use them all the time.

We have a regular blender (got it cheap) and a good immersion blender, which we use constantly. We still don't own a food processor. We get our cutting boards at Ikea for about $2 each, we get them in Red and Black (Red for meat). They go in the dishwasher, so they're sanitary, and when they get gouged deep enough to hold the bacteria in, they get tossed.

Slow-Cooker: We probably use this at least twice a month. You can make plenty of food for dinner and lunch the next day, and after a long day, it's very nice to come home to hot dinner and a great smelling house. This has more than once kept us from going out for dinner, so it's paid for itself. We also use the pressure cooker pretty regularly. This can make an hour long prep take only 20 minutes if used right, again, this can be the difference between a home-cooked meal and going out.

If your goal is to make fairly standard meals as cheaply as possible, this list will probably work for you, but if you're interested in exploring cooking, you'll probably need a bit more.
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Postby jdroth » Thu May 10, 2007 5:18 pm

Wow. This article is perfect for promotion to the front page. I'll take into account the various comments that coming over the next week or so before writing an entry. Or does anyone want to do a guest post? :)

My own must-haves are: a high-quality knife, a deep pot for making soup, a cast-iron skillet, and a cheap-ass medium-sized pot for general use. Everything else is gravy. (We have a *lot* of said gravy in our kitchen since we both cook a lot.)

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Postby Fillanzea » Thu May 10, 2007 7:17 pm

Yeah, I think it's definitely not a one-size-fits-all article.

Personally? I am buying a fuzzy logic rice cooker the minute there's room in my budget for it. Leftovers over rice is a perfect box-lunch to take to work, but I'm bad at cooking rice, and I don't want to tie up my single saucepan for three days with a batch of rice; I bought a cheapie rice cooker that broke after two weeks of use, so next time I'm buying something a little better.

I am not a great cook. I am a decent cook. I have two skillets, a saucepan, a baking sheet, and a couple of the most-needed utensils: spatula, tongs, grater, veggie peeler, a couple others. With what I've got, I can cook 90% of what I want to cook. The exceptions:

-Without a real roasting pan with a V-rack, I can do roast chicken, but it sits in its own fat as it roasts, which it shouldn't.
-Without a blender or food processor of any kind, I can't do any purees.
-I can't flambe.
-I can't make chicken stock; I don't have a pot large enough for a chicken carcass, even if I hack it up.
-I probably wouldn't try baking bread again without a stand mixer, though I've done it in the past.

I would say that it's a good idea to have one nonstick pan (for eggs and fish) and one uncoated pan (for pan sauces).

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Postby morydd » Thu May 10, 2007 7:42 pm

Fillanzea wrote:Personally? I am buying a fuzzy logic rice cooker the minute there's room in my budget for it. Leftovers over rice is a perfect box-lunch to take to work, but I'm bad at cooking rice, and I don't want to tie up my single saucepan for three days with a batch of rice; I bought a cheapie rice cooker that broke after two weeks of use, so next time I'm buying something a little better.


I second this, we bought a cheap rice cooker when we were very poor, because rice was like $2 for 10 lbs. and I like rice. We've since discovered brown rice and almost never use white rice at all. When the cheap rice cooker died, we had a credit at amazon (cashed in our spare change at a CoinStar machine) so we used that to buy a really nice one. It was a fantastic idea. It has a timer, so we can set it before we leave for work and the rice is ready when we get home. It keeps the rice in a ready to eat stage for several days, and it (apparently) can do some soups and such. We haven't tried that feature.

Right now I'm looking for a local source of brown Jasmine rice. Yum.

The kitchen has been our "splurge" area. The obvious solution to this, was that my wife got a part-time job at Sur La Table, so she gets the employee discount! We have lots of fun toys. And we use them pretty regularly. I'm at the point that if I'm more dissapointed if I don't bring lunch. Most of the restraunts aren't that good, and the ones that are, I mostly just think "We could've made this for 1/3 the cost."
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Postby RJ » Thu May 10, 2007 9:45 pm

Marshall's and TJ Maxx are very good places to get high-quality, inexpensive cookware. For example, I've bought a few Calphalon items at a fraction of the regular cost, and I've also found some amazing Le Creuset casserole dishes at cut-rate prices. For durable cooking utensils, I've found Big Lots to be among the best and least costly places. Estate sales and garage sales also can turn up some good bargains!

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Postby squished18 » Fri May 11, 2007 7:08 am

RJ wrote:Marshall's and TJ Maxx are very good places to get high-quality, inexpensive cookware. For example, I've bought a few Calphalon items at a fraction of the regular cost, and I've also found some amazing Le Creuset casserole dishes at cut-rate prices. For durable cooking utensils, I've found Big Lots to be among the best and least costly places. Estate sales and garage sales also can turn up some good bargains!


Yup, ditto the TJ Maxx comment.

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Postby squished18 » Fri May 11, 2007 7:24 am

I think there's lots of mileage left in this thread. For starters, I'd like to discuss the benefits of expensive knives versus cheap ones. The NY Times article claims that cheap ones are just as good. I would agree that if you're looking to really cut cost and cook on the slimmest budget, that a cheap knife will do. However, I get a lot of enjoyment out of cutting with a knife that is balanced well and has a laser-sharp edge. That being said, a sharp cheap knife is likely better than a dull expensive one.

What has been your experience with knives?

I spend weekends at my future in-laws' and they use really old thin "farmer's knives". I find them frustrating to use. At home, I use an old Henckels (probably fifteen years old) that came from my parents. Plastic handle. I don't even know if it has a full tang. But it does hold an edge nicely. I purchased an electric knife sharpener a few months ago, and this made a world of difference. On my wish list is a Henckels Professional "S" - 8" Chef's Knife. The brand recommendation came courtesy of Consumers Reports. I'm starting to rethink my desire for a hollow-ground Santoku. They may be a bit light for my taste.

rambling,
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Postby jdroth » Fri May 11, 2007 7:35 am

Squished, I was ambivalent about knives until February of '06. Just for fun, I took a knife skills class with a friend (and with Kris). The demo knives that the students used were a revalation. They sliced through things with ease. They were well-balanced. They felt solid. Since my birthday was approaching, I dropped a not-so-subtle hint to my wife, and she got one for me. I use it all the time, and I love it.

It's true that an inexpensive knife will do the trick. (And, as you say, a sharp cheap knife is better than a dull expensive one.) But for someone who cooks a lot, a quality knife can add a lot of pleasure to the experience, as well as make the job easier.

Mine knife is a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000Y7KFO/ref=nosim/foldedspaceor-20/">7-inch Santoku</a>.

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Postby Fillanzea » Fri May 11, 2007 11:34 am

Last month's Cooks Illustrated had a recommendation for a Victorinox chef's knife (made by the people who make Swiss Army knives), which are significantly cheaper than Henkels and Wusthof ($20-30 for an 8-inch chef's knife). I'm definitely a believer in the value of a good knife-- because the one I'm using right now is lousy-- but I'll be very pleased if I don't have to pay a lot for it.

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Postby tinyhands » Fri May 11, 2007 1:54 pm

Knives-- I've got a full set of Henkel Pro S but I use 3 knives (apart from the steak knives) almost exclusively: 8" Chef, Santoku, and a paring knife. LOVE the santoku. Handwash only.

Cookware: I have a set of Calphalon Pro Nonstick. Since I pretty much only cook for myself, I sometimes wish I had more SMALL saucepans & pots. The stovetop grill pan is nice when I don't want to go outside. Handwash only.

Miscellaneous stuff I like having...
- Silpat
- Silicone tongs & tools
- Pizza stone & peel
- Dumpling press
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Postby morydd » Sun May 13, 2007 8:13 am

I'm probably going to take the knife skills class soon. Both my wife and the instructor are pressuring me. :)

I've done a couple of classes and used the various knives, I was surpised how much I liked the Santoku style chef's knife. We have 2 good 8" chef's knifes and a 6" santoku. While I like the heft of the chef's knives there's other things I liked tha santoku better for. I didn't think I'd like the santoku style chef's knives, but I really did. My wife has had the chance to use one of the ceramic blade knives and said it's a wonder. She said cutting onions with it was like cutting through warm butter. We'll probably get one of those eventually. (I'm terrified of dropping it... or cutting off my finger. Maybe I should take the class first.)

Buying a set is silly. You'll get several knives you'll probably rarely touch. A good paring knife, and a good chef's knife will probably be all you need for most things. The santoku and the bread knife are the only other knifes that see regular use in our kitchen.

Maybe GRS should have a cooking section. Seems to be a hobby that many of us share.

My tip of the week: Make meatloaf in muffin tins. It provides portion control and faster cooking. (Also, Hoisin sauce is great on meatloaf).
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Postby squished18 » Mon May 14, 2007 7:26 am

The NY Times article suggests a thermometer. I don't have one, but that sounds like a good idea. Any suggestions? I think I'd prefer one with a digital readout.

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Postby plonkee » Mon May 14, 2007 9:29 am

I spent next to no money on my only knife (approx £5 ~$9) and its serrated so it cuts pretty much anything. Not prettily, but you can't have everything. I use a wooden chopping board, I prefer the weight of it, I don't have a dishwasher and it doesn't score as badly as a plastic one.

I couldn't live without my electric kettle. I am not waiting around for a pan of water to boil.

I like to bake so I have some good quality cake tins which I got cheaply at TK Maxx and 30 year old hand mixer which I've inherited. It works perfectly well and has a blender attachment although it is a little slow.

I have two good quality non-stick pans. They were a great investment.

I've also got a colander but I lived without one for years and a grater, although I can function without one by just chopping things up small.

Other things that I use frequently are a kitchen timer, scales, measuring jug / cups and some cheap plastic mixing bowls.
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Postby cbast82 » Mon May 14, 2007 11:24 am

we use a thermometer all the time. Almost everytime we grill the thermometer comes in handy- especially for really thick pieces of meat. Ours has a digital read out and the cover has reccomended temps for different types of meat, preperations, and 'done-ness' . I'd definitely reccomend a thermometer.


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