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How the heck do I choose new pots and pans??

Thank you, everyone who's replied to this thread, despite my lack of time to reply promptly and regularly!

I had a hectic stretch of work between when I last posted and now. I finally have a bit of a break to start shopping. I recently came across a sale on Amazon.ca for the Paderno brand of cookware. These two sets seem to suit my needs:

http://www.amazon.ca/Paderno-3000-09-01-Fusion5-8-Piece-Set/dp/B001AQNJ38/ref=sr_1_3?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1312000932&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.ca/Paderno-1000-12-...

The Fusion5 set sounds like it's the "latest" technology and seems slightly better quality than the Confederation set. I also like the pieces in the Fusion5 set - nothing in it that I don't need. I don't need the saucepan or the steamer in the Confederation set but it is a far better deal.

Any opinions? Reviews on the Paderno brand?

Jul 29, 2011
LavenderPeony in Cookware

How the heck do I choose new pots and pans??

Oh my goodness I am always so grateful for how generous Chowhounders are with sharing advice and experience. I apologize, olympia: I sheepishly admit that I didn't search very hard to find existing threads on the topic. I've got 3 young children and work full time so must admit that I try to take shortcuts when I must do research online! I appreciate everyone's patience and willingness to share with me despite my laziness!

As I always do when I post on Chowhound, I have taken copious notes to study before my next shopping trip!

Kaleokahu: That's very kind of you! Here's my rankings but with notes rather than percentages... I tried to do some numbers but it just didn't come out evenly!:

1. Performance
- I am tired of having hot spots at the bottom of my pots, causing sauces and soups to burn
- I really value features that make the piece easier to use (e.g. quality glass lids, rolled lip, comfortable handle)
- Versatility's important - really want pots that will go from stove to oven
- I don't think I'll ever get an induction stove because I love my wok too much.

2. Price
- The budget that I feel comfortable with is $300 tops for a complete "set", meaning a nice varied group of pots of different sizes and purposes

3. Standing up to abuse
- Yes, very important! When I burn food on the bottom, I appreciate if I can take a metal scouring pad to get the job done quicker!

4. Non-culinary features, e.g., aesthetics and/or brand name
- Not very important if the above needs are met. But, would like to know that the brand I buy has a good track record.

5. Ease of cleaning, e.g., the dishwasher
- Never put any of mypots into the d/w... always handwashed

6. Weight
- Nice to have lighter weight but definitely not a dealbreaker if on the heavier side. (But, of course, don't want them to be cast-iron-pan-heavy!)

May 11, 2011
LavenderPeony in Cookware

How the heck do I choose new pots and pans??

Just had more thoughts:

The pots of mine that bug me the most are the ones with the glass lids. When liquids come to a boil (even a low, slow boil), the condensation runs down then sputters out from under the lid, making a huge mess.

I also find it such a pain how the handles on these glass lids constantly wiggle loose, and the rubber gasket between the screw and glass get yellow and funky. YUCK!

I love how I can see through the glass, however, to monitor what's cooking.

Do all glass lids do this, or it just my cheap set?

May 09, 2011
LavenderPeony in Cookware

How the heck do I choose new pots and pans??

I am thoroughly convinced that I would love to cook with LC but it's just waaaay out of my price range right now! Being a greenie, you can't beat being able to get decades of use out of a product... so, I will just have to covet LC from afar until I can afford one of my own!

May 09, 2011
LavenderPeony in Cookware

How the heck do I choose new pots and pans??

When I shopped for my stock pot, I did like the supply stores' prices too! Ultimately I went with a $30 one at Costco.

I think I'll start browsing the supply stores again for this set I'd like to buy... thanks for reminding me!

May 09, 2011
LavenderPeony in Cookware

How the heck do I choose new pots and pans??

So the brands mentioned so far are Tramontina, All Clad, Chantal, Calphalon and Cuisinart. Any other good brands?

May 09, 2011
LavenderPeony in Cookware

How the heck do I choose new pots and pans??

Politeness: Thanks for the detailed, very informative advice! Wow... I have heard about cladding, conductivity, etc. but it looks like I've got a lot to learn! I really like the suggestion to go for induction-compatible cookware. This set that I am getting, I plan to be able to keep them for many, many years so I'd really like them to last. I also really appreciate items that are very versatile so I'll narrow my choices yet again to pieces that can be popped into the oven. My dishwashers never clean pots and pans well so that's not something I need to look for.
You've given me lots of great info to take into the stores with me now. Thanks so very much!

May 09, 2011
LavenderPeony in Cookware

How the heck do I choose new pots and pans??

"You mentioend having a cast-iron wok. I am not sure how much I would use one." Being Chinese, I just grew up learning to cook pretty much anything in a wok. In fact, I especially love to use it to brown my meats for braises... it contains the grease splatters quite nicely! It'sbeen nicely seasoned so it's a really great non-stick surface for cooking on. Also handles larger batches of food better than my other pots and pans.

Mine looks very similar to the 2nd one Chemical Kinetics showed.

May 09, 2011
LavenderPeony in Cookware

How the heck do I choose new pots and pans??

I've been learning to cook for about 5 years now. I've been using a mish mash of hand me down pots and pans. They suited my needs very well as a beginning cook but now that my skills have grown, this set is no longer suitable. I also have a bit more money now to invest in a proper, good quality new set.

I've been looking at flyers and browsing the selection at various stores (e.g. IKEA, HomeSense, Home Outfitters, and department stores like The Bay) but I'm finding it so overwhelming! There are TOO many choices! I have no clue how to narrow down my choices.

Here's some additional info:

- I already have several good pieces that I don't need to purchase: a dutch oven, a cast iron frying pan, a cast iron wok, and a large stock pot. What I'm looking to replace are the little "workhorse" pots and pans for blanching vegetables, cooking dry noodles, making sauces, etc.

- I'm eco-conscious (environmental and health reasons) so I do not own or want to purchase anything with a non-stick coating.

- I need a good variety of sizes of pots and pans.

- I'm ready to move up from my "university student" quality pots and pans but cannot afford Le Creuset-kind of quality.

Any advice??

May 08, 2011
LavenderPeony in Cookware

Braising with a slow cooker

SUCCESS! The pork shoulder turned out absolutely perfect! It was not falling-off-the-bone tender but still soft, moist and flavorful with a nice, slightly bouncy texture to it. I made use of a lot of the tips you all shared in this thread... and it looks like it did the trick! : ) Thanks everyone!

Aug 28, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

Braising with a slow cooker

Thanks Jen76! It's been added to my Bookmarks. : )

Aug 28, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

Braising with a slow cooker

Mistral: I haven't had enough experience using my SC to give much of a review. But, nonetheless, the handful of times I've used it so far, I was happy with its capabilities for making soup and beef stew. I got my Hamilton Beech SC using wedding gift cards. I originally bought it hoping it would be a life saver for my husband and I during those times when we both had to work long hours at work. Reality is that I'll need to put in more time learning its characteristics before I feel comfortable leaving it unattended at home all day! Anyway, I picked this Hamilton Beech model because it has a really handy feature of 3 different pot sizes - 2, 4 and 6 quart. I also like that the base has large, easy to carry handles.

I agree with chowser that having one with a timer is helpful. Mine doesn't. But to solve that problem, I just plug mine into a separate electronic timer (the ones you get to turn lamps on/off when you're on vacation) and set it to turn off when I need it to. Doesn't help you turn it to warm but the timer has multiple settings so it can turn off and on several times... kinda helps to keep the food warm when unattended!

Aug 28, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

Braising with a slow cooker

I've currently got a 2 lb pork shoulder braising in the slow cooker. Crossing my fingers it'll go well tonight! Used the ingredients from Molly Stevens' "Pork Loin Braised in Milk" recipe. So far, I've been very careful with the temperature and will monitor it much more closely every 30 minutes or so.

Also did that clever idea that you recommended, chowser! I filled the pot to 1/2 full then set it on low. Took 3 hours to reach 194 degrees then it just stayed there. I've got the pork shoulder on low now since it did a good job of maintaining the water close to 200 degrees at its max heat.

Aug 28, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

Braising with a slow cooker

Hank Hanover, I especially appreciated this post! Thanks so much! As a newbie to cooking, this is exactly the kind of encouragement I need. It reminds me to keep trying no matter how many times I fail. I do have a personal motto, too, that mistakes are learning opportunities. : ) Thanks for the smile... sounds like you and your wife have a great sense of humour!

Aug 27, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

Braising with a slow cooker

Thanks for sharing your experiences and offering such great advice! I'll take it all and give it my best on several more slow cooker braises. If I still can't get some good, savoury meat, it's time to get a DO! Hoping for the best...

Aug 27, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

Braising with a slow cooker

Thanks everyone... lots of really helpful tips and information! Got a few questions for you based on your replies:

1. I'm happy to let the liquid collect and then boil it longer to reduce it to a sauce. But, doesn't this increased liquid turn it into a stew versus a braise? (I make sure the liquid only comes up to 1/3 of the meat).

2. Is it important for the liquid to stay exactly at 200 degrees? What's the max temp it should go up to to not overcook the meat or cook it too fast? I will do a test on my slow cooker with just water to see how well it maintains the temperature (smart idea!)

3. Are there any particular cuts of meat that work better in braises for the slow cooker? (Hank Hanover: thanks for the tip about chuck being stringy... good to know it's not completely my fault!)

4. I've asked this before but I'm having such a difficult time getting a handle on how long to cook a piece of meat! Is there a general guideline, based on the weight or type of meat??

Greygarious: I totally hear what you're saying and I'm kicking myself each time I fail! Still, I have to try the slow cooker route. A good handful of Chowhounds have said they can braise successfully with a slow cooker. If I can get this to work, it would please my eco-conscious side too: use less energy and avoid having to purchase another new item.

Right now, I'm thinking the failures are a result of my own inexperience and not the slow cooker. So, I'm going to try a few more times before I give up on this. If I make sure I do everything right with the slow cooker and it still doesn't work, then I truly can justify purchasing a DO. : )

Aug 25, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

Braising with a slow cooker

I posted a few weeks ago as a newbie to braising. I learned from many helpful Chowhounds that a dutch oven is the best equipment for braises. However, I already have a slow cooker so I've been trying my best to make do with braising in it. I know a DO would make life much easier but it'd be great if I could get the slow cooker to work until I save up for a quality DO and gain enough experience to justify buying one.

Umm... it's not going so well! I've tried 3 times since I last posted and the meat is still coming out quite dry and stringy (i.e. it breaks up into strings along the "grain" of the meat).

Here's how I've been doing my braising:

1. Brown in my cast iron wok. In the meantime, get slow cooker turned on and heating up.
2. Deglaze the wok, bring liquid to a boil in the wok.
3. Put meat and braising liquid into slow cooker, on high.
4. Once the liquid starts showing little bubbles (~1 hour later), I turn it down to low.
5. Allow to cook, checking every 30-45 minutes that it isn't bubbling too hard and to flip the meat.
6. I read in Molly Stevens' book that the temperature needs to reach around 200 degrees to turn the collagen into the lovely soft gelatin so I tried my best to maintain the liquid at around 200 by turning the temperature down and propping up the lid a crack

Oh, of course, I've been carefully choosing the right cuts of meat too: beef chuck roast, pork belly, pork shoulder. I believe it is sometime during step 5 and 6 that I'm having troubles. Here are some of the problems I'm having:

- I've cooked the meat anywhere from 2 hours to 9 hours to experiment to see if it was because I wasn't cooking it long enough or cooking it too long... still get the same results

- I realize that the slow cooker seals too well so it builds up an excess of liquid. I've been propping up the lid a crack to try to fix that but this takes away the nice drip of moisture back onto the meat, and the part not submersed in liquid gets dry and hard

- I've even tried cooking night 1, refrigerating, then serving night 2... still hard and dry

- The last one I made was a beef chuck roast. I braised for 8 hours and the part submersed in liquid was PERFECT. The unsubmersed part was hard and dry so I flipped it, braised for another hour. I ended up with the entire roast tasting overdone and dry.

Chowhounds, do you have any suggestions to help me successfully braise in a slow cooker?

Aug 25, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

I just read the first part of Molly Stevens' All About Braising (thanks so much for the recommendation!) I already knew a lot of what she discusses (thanks to all you Chowhounders) but it was still very informative to read... she explains things so clearly. Gonna look for those book reviews now and see if there are any particularly highly recommended recipes in the book!

I definitely plan to get myself a DO in the future... it is a pain to have to brown in a separate pot, deglaze it, then add on 2-3X longer for the slow cooker to cook. But, I've needed to invest in a new SS pot for a long time now so that's where my new collection will start. A Le Creuset DO is in my sights... one day...

Aug 13, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

Ahh... got it! I was a bit confused because I understood that DOs are great for braising because they seal well but I didn't realize that a slow cooker sealed "too well". Makes sense now! I certainly don't like having to clean and store more pieces... a DO is more versatile!

Aug 11, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

My... what an interesting conversation!

I like the "make do" solutions for the DO! I'm going to try my slow cooker first. I do have several dishes that would work well with your idea, Foodielicious... I'll give that a try too. If a slow cooker is pretty good at braising, why do most cooks prefer a DO?

Aug 11, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

Just printed off both of balabanian's delicious-sounding recipes! I've actually cooked a similar pork braised in milk recipe before and I like that balbanian describes it as "a little ugly"... ha ha... when I made it and saw the curds, I thought I screwed up as the recipe I went w/ didn't note that! But balbanian's right... it was so delicious!

Err... I'm feeling kinda lazy... would it be alright to not cut it up into chunks?? : )

Aug 10, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

I think I'm set to go off on my braising "adventures" now! I've got the Molly Stevens book requested from the library, got my eye on a few different DOs, and scribbled down the cuts of meat to get from the butcher next grocery run. Can't believe I'm getting this excited about braising a piece of meat!

Aug 10, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

This newbie needs help buying a good piece of cookware for braising meat!

Wish I had time to individually reply to each of you. I'm gobbling up everything you've all shared with me! You've all saved me a lot of time and headache... if I tried to research all that info on my own... YIKES.

I've let it sink in some... and I'm feeling like a less $$ cast iron enameled dutch oven is the way to go for now. I will aim for Le Creuset or Staub once I'm more experienced and can notice the difference in quality. For years now, I've always admired the prettiness of LC stuff but never fully got why they were so revered. I understand now!

I notice that Chowhound now lists other discussions relevant to the topic of the thread you're reading... there's SOO much more to read about braising, cast iron cookware, etc. etc. etc! I better get reading!

BTW... I've admired Chowhound from afar but now that I'm finally a part of the community, I must say I'm astounded by how wonderful Chowhounders are... so happy to share and offer support! Thanks!

Aug 10, 2010
LavenderPeony in Cookware

My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

Hi Sherri... thx for the great advice on my other thread re: choosing good cookware for braising!

Ha ha... typing with red cheeks... I stink of newbie-ness! I have done that recipe twice and... he he... yeah, I "adapted" it a little! Thought I would "experiment" with a beef chuck roast and see how it went! Yes, I did "wipe" off the marinade using a silicone spatula then added the marinade back in with the beef broth. I'm learning now that was probably not the best thing to do but nonetheless, both times, the flavour was excellent. But the texture of the meat was crap... hence my posting of this thread.

I definitely need a smaller pan for the 2-3 pounders I usually get. Beethoven, I did a search for all three of the brands on Amazon (because many products have their Free Shipping offer) and did find some Copco DOs "by" Mario Batali and Giadda de Laurentiis. I wanted to do the vintage route but DH nixed the idea... he can't get over thinking he doesn't know what was in the pot before we bought it. Oh well...

I've since learned that the pork loin I bought is not suitable for braising anyway so I won't be doing anymore silly experiments with that recipe!

Aug 09, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

This newbie needs help buying a good piece of cookware for braising meat!

Thx everyone! Sherri, I do agree I've received excellent advice so far. Unfortunately, though, it's given me MORE to consider and ponder over! ; )

(CindyJ: I live in Vancouver, BC so no outlets here... when I plan my next trip down to the outlets in Washington State, I'll remember to be sure I'm added to their mailing list!)

I have cooked with a cast iron frying pan and wok for many years (seasoned both myself). I steam fish in my wok on a regular basis and the seasoning holds up quite well... but then, steaming fish takes 20 minutes at most... haven't ever cooked a watery dish in either my pan or wok for hours at a time. If I properly season a bare (un-enameled) cast iron DO, would it hold up to hours of braising? Or is enameled cast-iron the best way to go for braising?

Sounds to me like a SS-clad aluminum pot is more versatile than a DO - better bang for the buck? But I'm a bit confused... I understood that one of the features that make DOs ideal for braising is that they have heavy lids that keep in the moisture. A SS pot wouldn't perform the same way, lid-wise... so does a SS pot still do braises well?

Also, someone's got to "school me" on all this stainless-clad, anodized, aluminum/SS, triply business! ; ) What?? It's like you're speaking another language! Any recommended links for learning about all this stuff? I didn't realize how much I didn't know until I found ChowHound!

Aug 09, 2010
LavenderPeony in Cookware

This newbie needs help buying a good piece of cookware for braising meat!

Thanks c_oliver... I recognize your handle from my first post. Lucky you with the new induction cooktop... I have a lowly electric coil range!

Thx for the suggestions for brands. I'm familiar with Le Creuset and I'm not quite ready for that kind of investment... but I did notice Lodge DOs on Amazon and was amazed how affordable they are. I'll do a Craigslist search and see if I can find secondhand DOs!

I do have a Hamilton Beech slow cooker. I haven't used it very much because I didn't succeed very well at making a beef stew in it. Perhaps I'll give it another go, this time with braising, and see how it does! I'm very eco-conscious so thanks for reminding me that slow cookers use less energy and perhaps save me from having to purchase another item.

Aug 09, 2010
LavenderPeony in Cookware

This newbie needs help buying a good piece of cookware for braising meat!

This is only the second thread I've posted on Chowhound! Just posted one yesterday asking for advice on braising and received a tremendous amount of great advice. Based on some of the tips I read, I figure that I need to get myself a new piece of cookware to properly do pot roasts/braise meat.

I've never bought pots and pans before. I've been making do with a set of cheap hand me downs for the last several years. I plan to just replace each piece one by one... I don't care if they match or not. I'm focusing on getting function and quality but at a reasonable, affordable price.

Is a Dutch oven the best cookware to use to make good braised meat? Or, is a small stockpot also suitable?

I don't really know where to look for cookware here in Vancouver. I hate paying retail so I've enjoyed browsing the pots and pans at Homesense... the products they have in stock seem like good quality cookware at good prices.

One item I noticed today was this 5.5 qt Paderno enameled cast-iron roaster: http://www.paderno.com/us/products.php?catID=5&subID=28&pID=1196.

I also really liked the Bodeux France line of pots and pans... they're beautiful looking, oven-safe, feel nice and hefty, and come with "5 Ply Copper Bonded" bottom. Can't seem to find anything about the brand online though except for two conflicting reviews on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bodeux-France-P.... Other brands I saw that had nice-feeling pots and pans: Potobelo, Palm and Lagostina.

Any tips, suggestions, or reviews on brands would be much appreciated!

Aug 09, 2010
LavenderPeony in Cookware

My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

Ohhh my goodness! ; ) I am so appreciative of all of your responses to my post. Thank you all so very much. I'm slowly re-reading each of them now and, literally, taking notes. I know I'll still have to do some trial and error but I have a MUCH better idea of what I've been doing wrong and the whole braising mystery has become much clearer now.

I also appreciate the specific references to good resources like Cook's Illustrated and Molly Stevens' book. Excellent, excellent information.

I'm making a mental reminder to try to come back and update this thread when I have a chance to properly apply all this new knowledge to a proper cut of meat! Many thanks!!

Aug 08, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

Thanks chefj and hotoynoodle. I feel more educated already! Argh... I've been going to a local butcher shop for the last few weeks just so I could get this kind of advice on different cuts but the guys there who know this stuff are always too busy cutting up the hunks of meat to give me any advice... the workers who actually take my order don't know anything... hence selling me a piece of pork loin for my pot roast. Sheesh.

chefj... thanks for giving me a totally justifiable reason for buying a new, good quality pan. Hopefully I can find one before the next pot roast!

hotoynoodle: sooo good to know I can't overcook. But, is there any kind of general guideline for how long, at what temp, depending on how many pounds? It just hurts my head to try to figure out how to cook the hunks of meat I buy, if I always have to consider the type of meat (beef/pork), the cut, the weight, etc.

Aug 08, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking

My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

Hi there!

Been browsing Chowhound posts for the last year but this is my first time joining and posting! Excited to be part of this cool community. ; ) I only started cooking at home full-time for the last year or so. So, a lot of the intricacies of cooking techniques are new to me.

Sorry... this is a bit long... I'm new to all this!

I need help with braising/pot roasting... badly! (Is there a difference between the terms, BTW? It seems that oven roast/pot roast is used interchangeably as well. All so confusing for a newbie!!) I've already done a search on Chowhound for tips to help me but felt that I really need some personalized advice... hope you all don't mind.

I've attempted either a beef or pork roast almost once a week for the last couple of months and they never turn out right. I can manage to get portions of each roast to come out well, but not the entire piece of meat.

Right now, I have a 2.5 lb chunk of pork loin sitting in the fridge. This is a recipe I've tried 3 times now with beef chuck roasts: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Pakistan.... I looove the flavour of it so thought I'd try it with my pork loin.

This is the process I usually go through, cooking it in a pot: season with salt/pepper; brown on all sides; pour in liquid of choice, covering up to half of meat; cover and bring to a boil; turn heat down to a rolling simmer; let simmer for 2-3 hours... during this time I will open the lid to rotate the meat to different sides several times. Then, I serve it right away.

I'm suspecting these are the reasons for my failures:
- the cheap, thin-bottomed pot I'm using
- the heat is too high... but I have no idea how much of a simmer it's supposed to have?
- not cooking long enough... but I'm also afraid of overcooking
- shouldn't be lifting the lid to rotate the meat

ANY advice would be much appreciated by this newbie!

Thanks!

Aug 08, 2010
LavenderPeony in Home Cooking