Tony and I have been married for four years (seriously? Only four?) In that time, we have bought three sets of nonstick cookware. Is it normal for cookware to last under two years? I don’t know. But as any cook will tell you, cheap cookware isn’t worth the cost of its excessive packaging, so replacing the good stuff every year and a half isn’t cheap.
Now before you send me all kinds of tips for how to extend the life of nonstick cookware, let me stop you right there. I cared for this stuff meticulously. Maybe not the first set so much, but the second two? Hand washed with mild detergent, metal utensils never touched it, nonstick safe sponges only, and I carefully stored each piece with a dishcloth in the bottom to keep them from scratching each other. Still, about a year and a half later, each pan started to chip, and I had to throw them away.
I’m not usually super paranoid about chemicals, but using chipped nonstick cookware is one area where I won’t negotiate. I don’t want to eat that stuff, and I certainly don’t want my baby eating it.
About a year ago, after our second set of cookware bit the dust, Tony and I started talking about how we could avoid replacing our cookware in another year. I looked up all kinds of tips for extending its life, and it turned out we were following all of them. We weren’t buying cheap cookware, so that wasn’t the problem. We came to a conclusion: we just don’t like nonstick cookware. It seems like no matter what we do, it doesn’t last long.
We decided it was time to invest in a set of stainless steel cookware. I was nervous. I envisioned stuck on messes that would take hours to scrub away and dinners scraped from the bottom of the pan, burned to bits.
My husband assured me that, as the primary cook in our house, he wasn’t intimidated by stainless steel. In fact, most of the chefs he admires recommend it over nonstick for most uses. Despite my nervousness, we ordered a set.
It’s been almost a year now, and we love our stainless cookware. Not only is it free of the crazy chemicals found in nonstick pans, but it’s surprisingly easier to clean — which I didn’t expect. I find myself scrubbing harder and longer on the nonstick pan we use occasionally, because I can only use those wimpy, nonstick safe sponges. If I’m scrubbing a stainless pan, I can use a steel scouring pad, and any gunk comes off much faster.
It’s also crazy durable. I love that we don’t have to worry about what kind of utensils we use with it, how we store it, how we clean it. A good set of stainless cookware can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.
If you’re going to take the leap, just make sure that you consider it an investment. It’s not necessary to get the top of the line, but you’ll get more mileage out of a good trustworthy brand like KitchenAid* or Calphalon* than you will from an off-brand. We went with the KitchenAid, because it’s very reasonably priced, and we’ve been happy with it.
As far as cooking goes, as long as you’re diligent about watching your stove as you cook (you should be anyway), refrain from turning up the heat too high, and use a nice oil when cooking things that stick (we like extra virgin olive oil), you’ll be fine. If you do burn something to the bottom of the pan? Just whip out your handy scouring pad, and with a little elbow grease, your pan will be good as new.
There are only a few things we cook that we don’t use the stainless. We have a nice nonstick pan that we use exclusively for scrambling or frying eggs. (My husband swears by keeping a special egg pan. He says it’s one of his secrets for perfect eggs, and I can’t argue with him, because the man can make a mean omelet.)
The other essential pan for your kitchen: a good cast iron skillet. We bought ours almost five years ago (for under $20, I believe), and it’s gotten better and better each year we use it. I’m told I’ll probably be able to pass that thing down to my grandchildren.
If you’re sick of replacing your nonstick cookware or wary of cooking with chemicals, give stainless a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
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