Before you order anything online especially with cookware & cutlery locate a....
Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, Kohl's near you. Even a TARGET will have a decent assortment of pans that you can play around with.
In the evening an hour or two before closing pay a visit to the stores & have WHOEVER is doing the majority of the cooking physically pick up the pans.
(You don't want an employee to distract while you're trying to form your OWN opinion.)
Typically they're less likely to bother you in the evening because they just want to go home.
Analon & Caphalon
- Determine if the weight is appropriate. (2lbs-4lbs is my preference)
- Does the cookware FEEL? Solid? Flimsy? Well manufactured?
- How is the handle? What is it made out of? Is it welded or attached with RIVETS?
- Do you like the lid? Does it fit PROPERLY?
- Oven safe to what temperature?
are the two brands I would recommend if you're looking to UPGRADE but they EACH produce so MANY different lines of cookware. (Advanced, Chef Clad, Nouvelle, Ultra Clad, You'll have to figure out which one suits your needs/looks.
- Not a fan of the Cuisinart, KitchenAid, WMF, Circulon, Farberware WearEver, T-Fal, Paul Revere, etc.....
- Most of the lower end brands that I've encountered have very THIN edges or ROLLED edges. Prefer a pan with a THICKER 1/4" edge like an All-Clad, but with a better designed handle.
- All-Clads heat well & evenly, but again I cannot TOLERATE the handles. I find AC pans extremely uncomfortable to hold/pick up which makes them even more dangerous when the pan is FULL of food or hot oil.
- Seasoning cast iron can be tedious & time consuming depending which method you choose. Also can be a great way to TEST out your ventilation/kitchen exhaust system.
**For Seasoning.... I use rendered chicken fat, instead of lard or bacon fat. You can use Crisco/shortening too.
- For SOLID cast iron pans you can place them in the OVEN at 450-500 degrees for 45mins - 1 hour. (Make sure you have ventilation & fire extinguisher handy) season OUTSIDE if that's an option.
- For woks with WOOD handles you have to season on a stove top. Use thin layers of chicken oil, smoking will begin around 375 degrees, allow it burn off, wipe down the pan & reapply oil. Repeat.
- 6-10 times should be sufficient for an initial surface..
- Rinse the pan & wipe clean (use a towel you're about about to dispose). Leave in the oven to cool. Once cooled down, put away in storage.
IF you didn't know....
- Those 8lb-12lb cast iron skillets are only about $10-$20 new or $2-$5 used.
Most get tossed or left in the basement/garage & forgotten when they get rusty. Those scrap guys that collect metal in trucks must see a TON of them.
- Seriously though.... the only way you can RUIN a cast iron pan is to get MOTOR oil on it. I wouldn't bother cleaning it after it's been contaminated with that.
Thoughts on the HIGHER end stainless Multiclad cookware.....
- All-Clad (Never liked the handles)
- Viking (gorgeous, bit heavy - 7 layers - need a high end commercial range, looks out of place in a residential)
- Scanpan CSX (very solidly built, quite heavy, like the handles, contemporary design)
- Le Creuset (solidly built, quite heavy, overpriced - don't like the handles, NEW to the SS cookware)
- Demeyere (ultimate pan, but EXTREMELY heavy, not practical to use everyday unless you're strong like an raging bull)
The thing is there's SO many new brands of cookware out there, why stick with the traditional brands?
Choose whatever works for you.