There is an expression in Hebrew that says; “A dancer who doesn’t know how to dance, says the floor is crooked.” It means that some people would rather blame exterior factors instead of admitting that they lack the skills. When it comes to tools I don’t find this expression relevant. Even the best chef needs the right tools to create good food; just as a painter needs good colors, brushes, and paper to create good paintings, and a skilled fashion designer needs good fabrics to make good clothing.
My experience with cooking taught me that it is better to invest in good cookware and bakeware if I want my food to turn out successfully. My cheap cooking pots ended up in the garbage with the burnt meal in them. When I first bought my cheap cookware, I considered it to be a great bargain, but the unfortunate results just emphasized what my father always used to tell me: the cheap is eventually expensive.
As I became a savvy cook and a savvy shopper I did try different cooking and baking products. By now I have a list of my favorite dishes for different methods of cooking and baking. Different materials yield different texture and flavor even when using the same food ingredients, which is why I like to have in my kitchen a nice collection of cookware made of different materials. I make sure that all my cookware is oven safe, so I can use them for different purposes. Below is a list of my favorite brands and products:
Though expensive, I find Le Creuset’s coated cast iron pots to be a great investment that lasts for years. The enamel coating doesn’t scratch or peel easily and the company does guarantee the products. I love cooking soups and stews in these pots.
I had a chance to try different stainless steel pots and pans. I still find All Clad to be superior to the rest. The thick-layered bottom distributes heat evenly and controlling the cooking process is a breeze. The cookwares are so easy to clean and they look new even after many years of use.
Staub is my favorite pot to steam vegetables. It makes them deliciously crispy. Like Le Creuset it is also made of cast Iron but the inside coating is made of black matte enamel, which I consider to be a cooking special effect. The lid is designed to evenly return juices back onto food. This product proves that the simplest food and the simplest cooking method can turn into a delight using the right tool.
A small Italian family business has been making this incredible terracotta pots for over 100 years. The pots are made of volcanic clay, hence the name Vulcania. Vulcania’s pots can be used on stovetop or in the oven. I absolutely love the rustic taste it gives the food. I use it for a specific dish I make that has to be cooked, then baked overnight. The pot has to be soaked in water over night before using it for the first time, or if it wasn’t used for a long time.
Cast Iron is my favorite material to cook in. Lodge makes incredible and inexpensive cookware. I have their skillets in different sizes and I use them almost daily. They are perfect for making an omelet or frittata that need to be finished by cooking in the oven. They are also great for sautéing vegetables. To prevent uncoated cast iron from rusting, coat the dish with oil after cleaning. I put some oil in my skillets and smear it around with a paper towel.
I love pyrex baking pans. I have them in different sizes and shapes. They are inexpensive buy very reliable for years of use. I’m the second generation in the family of happy Pyrex bakers.
Revol & Pillivuyt
Shopping at Sur la Table I was told that Revol is the Cadillac of dishes. The price is high but these porcelain dishes are well worth it; they don’t scratch and look new even after years of use. I love the covered Cocottes, and I wish they made them bigger.
My friend Ronit introduced me to another porcelain dishes company called Pillivuyt, they are comparable to Revol in quality and price and you can find them on Amazon. Unfortunately I didn’t find any baking dish with a lid among their products.
Since I don’t use aluminum foil in baking, I love using baking pans with a lid; they are great for slow baking or roasting. I was very happy a few years ago when I found that Le Creuset makes what they call Covered Casseroles. To my disappointment, after three years of use the dish cracked in the oven while cooking with no apparent reason. When I took it back to the store, where I bought it from, I was told that it is a known problem with these products. There was no refund or replacement; it just went to the garbage.
Emil Henry makes decent baking pans, though the surface does scratch easily. They have a nice product line, yet my favorite is the baking stone. When I looked for a pizza stone I learned that the cheapest stones are the ones that are not sealed; they do the job, but they are hard to clean and they do stain in time. Emil Henry’s baking stone is sealed, so it’s easy to clean, and it is multi tasking; I use it for baking pizza, warming up pastries, roasting vegetables, and baking fish and poultry. I store it in the oven, even when I use it for other purposes.