Cookware needs depend on your: lifestyle, cooking ability, and budget. Take those three factors and apply them to which pots and pans fits your life. Too many people watch competitive cooking shows and think, "If the pros use 'em, I must also use them!" WRONG. Your cookware should be different than your friends, family members, and professionals.
Below are 5 people/couples with different lifestyles, cooking ability, and budget: All of these scenrios are examples of people I have helped!
A brand new college student needs a few pots and pans for his/her dorm room. S/he needs pans with multiple use that are not too pricey.
-Some young teens grow up cooking, but most do not. And, if they do, it is basic food: pasta, protein, rice, and potatoes. Thus, they are just learning how to cook.
-Basic cooks do great with a strong, dishwasher-safe non-stick cookware.
-It is rare that you need an entire set of cookware right now.
Go for: What you need is a two non-stick skillets: one medium (10 inch) and large (12 inch) to do basic sauting and stir frying. Also, a medium non-stick size pot (about 5-7 quarts) to do any boiling or simmering. Make sure it is all dishwasher safe since most college student don't want to spend their free time scrubbing and polishing cookware.
A young couple is about to get married! The couple is choosing cookware for their registery. They are having a tough time deciding since most of it is "mix and match" from college days and both want something different: She wants a good non-stick set and he wants a clad-contruction stainless steel set. But, they do want their cookware to be budget-friendly for their guest.
-Remember, non-stick cookware is great for ALL cooking abilities: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
-Stainless steel is "different" to cook on especially if you have never EVER cooked on it. It also requires more time scrubbing and polishing, unlike non-stick cookware.
-In reality, most people have both types of cookware. (Like me!)
Go for: Non-stick set AND individual stainless steel pans. Too many times I have seen couples do the opposite: Stainless steel set with a couple non-stick skillets. Why do I like the "the other way around?" Non-stick is very user-friendly and easier to clean/maintain than stainless steel. Remember, this couple is young and still leads a busy social and professional lifestyle. Plus if they are planning on having children, they will have less time for maintaining their cookware.
A young single professional loves to cook and entertain for his/her friends and family. Often, s/he likes menu planning social dinners and Thanksgiving. Also, s/he is an avid viewer of all the cooking shows on TV!
-A young professional will demand a higher quality cookware than in scenrio #1 and #2. This person comes in with consumer reviews in hand and ready to ask questions about the differences in cookware.
-Since this person is single and probably living on his/her own, they do not mind spending extra money on nicer pans.
Go for: A clad construction stainless steel set with two non-stick skillets for everyday use. Why? They have extra time and money for it. Also, experienced cooks "know" how to correctly cook on stainless steel and often do not mind spending extra elbow grease cleaning it.
A full family of 5 needs basic, every day cookware. With young kids and teens, the parents need something quick and thrifty to use, cook on, and clean. The parents wants a "reasonable" price without losing quality of the pans.
-If both parents are working, some of the young kids may be helping out in the kitchen, too!
-The parents want healthy dishes for everyone in the family.
-Dishwasher safe is a plus!
Go for: Non-stick, dishwasher safe, set. The true benefits of non-stick cookware, versus stainless steel, is: little or zero fat when cooking, easier to clean, and great for all cooking levels.
An old retired couple needs some new pans. They have some beat up ones from the past when they were raising a family. Now, they are cooking just for two instead of five.
-They are experienced cooks from cooking for their family all those years!
-They do have extra time on their hands versus in the past.
Go for: If they like healthy dishes, go for some non-stick staples (like in scenrio #1). If they do not mind spending extra time cleaning, let them choose some great stainless steel pans.
I constantly inform people, not every cookware fits everyone. There is a style and price-range for everyone. Half the battle is finding the right cookware type for you, and next is maintaing it.
Simple tips for choosing cookware for your lifestyle:
-Non-stick is great for beginner cooks, healthy dishes, and people who do not want to spend extra time polishing their cookware. People constantly say, it is more convient cooking on non-stick when you lead a busy life.
-Stainless steel is great for advanced and experienced cooks. It does take more oil/fat when cooking and extra time scrubbing. Yet, like cast iron, it truly last forever.
-In reality, most people have a combination of both. They like cooking one dish in one type of pan, and another recipe in the other. That is fine, in fact, I encourage people cooking on different styles of cookware. It is a lesson all its own!
-Always: set a budget, read consumer report reviews, and check reviews online.