-Avoid buying "cookware sets" as there is always the potential for unused or wasted ones. Some pots could be too big or too small, or the size doesn’t have a significant difference from others to warrant its use. Buy what you need instead (some guidelines below) and save some money.
-Avoid any coated frying pans or pots. Manufacturers give fancy names to coatings nowadays- diamond, non tefal type coating, anodised etc to avoid the stigma of ptfe’s.. Avoid them altogether. All coatings wear and will eventually come off, ending up in your system, potentially causing health issues.
-Avoid anodised pots and pans. Anodisation doesn’t work, no matter what manufacturers claim. They are delicate and not dishwasher proof. Buy uncoated stainless steel instead, and you will be rewarded with beautiful cookware which will last you a lifetime.
-Avoid any pot or pan which is made (substrate or otherwise) from aluminium, including fittings eg. rivets etc. Aluminium breaks down, corrodes and starts to pit. No truly good cookware is composed from or has any part made of aluminium. It may be a good conductor but the health risks and required care don’t warrant its use.
-Unless there are pressing reasons to use them (I can’t think of any good ones) avoid cast iron as they are too heavy to use in a practical way.
-Where practical, avoid buying frying pans or pots with handles made of plastic or wood. Its just one more component which will break and need replacement. There are enough products made of beautiful "cool to the touch" stainless steel handles to choose from.
What to look for
-Well constructed Thick gauge (18/10) Stainless steel cookware which can take the tumbles and knocks
- Look for Carbon iron/ steel cookware especially for frying pans. If they are well looked after, they will last a lifetime and give excellent service as they keep heat and get hot enough
- Look for good fittings eg. riveting on cookware which are made of at least stainless steel (hidden or otherwise).
What to buy - Starting
1. Start with a good medium sized pot/ sauce pan eg. 18cm across.
2. Start with a 28cm frying pan- go for a iron/ carbon iron fryer- kuhn rikon blackstars are the best in the business
3. Progress with a little skillet/ frying pan, just for that 1 person meal or omelette.
4, Then buy a bigger sauce pan/ pot -eg. 22 cm diameter ones.
5. Buy a good pressure cooker (whose pot can double as a large pot). They are incredibly versatile and will turn up good stews or soups.
Some recommendations based on experience
I like WMF, they make well thought out, beautiful pieces (esp handled pots and smaller skillets) which will last you a lifetime, Silit used to make beautiful pots with the industrial and professional look but they have stopped that line. Kuhn Rikon makes beautiful frying pans especially the BlackStar series. WMF pressure cookers are well made but a bit finicky. They may be too good for rough use and their handles start to fail. Avoid calphalon all together, Their “one” coating wears off, exposing bare aluminium. Their fittings are made of aluminium which "pit" under rough use. Fissler should be a consideration, as they make some beautiful pans and pots. If you can find Qlinair where you live, I also recommend them although they are a bit lightweight compared to the german made ones. Their designers however have come up with some of the most thought out technical cookware.
Looking after good cookware
1. Throw aware your scouring pad! Nothing kills good cookware faster than those darkgreen 3M pads. If you are cooking correctly there will never be a need to scrub your pot or pan. All they need is a good soaking in soapy water. Stainless steel (uncoated) is good for the dishwasher.
2. Iron and Carbon steel pans should not (never if avoidable) be washed frequently with detergents. Keep them well oiled and all they will ever need is a water rinse, a wipe, and heat dry before the next use. A natural non stick coating will form on them after time.
3. Never overheat a pot or pan while its "dry" (by accident or otherwise), This will “burnt” the cookware surface, spoiling it, causing it to continually keep burning food (until remedied). There should always be a material to buffer the heat – be it oil or food covering the cooking surface.
To joyful meals and beautiful cookware!