Cast iron skillet with baked cinnamon rolls

My Kitchen Must-Haves, Part 4 – Cookware

Hello and welcome back!

Back in July, I shared with you some ingredients I consider my must-haves. I mentioned at the end of that post that I was transitioning from non-stick pans to cookware made with more natural materials. Overtime, I got better at getting the same results with stainless steel and cast iron. But, I still use non-stick if I absolutely have to. For example, the Bread Cheese with Honey works a lot easier on the non-stick pan.

The reason for the switch is two-fold. One – the non-stick coating is toxic and eventually rubs off and ends up in our food. And two – I was genuinely excited about this challenge! It took me a few tries but I now make great sunny-side up eggs on stainless steel and they slide right off. It’s like a trick – I love it.

By the way, since this is not a recipe, I’ll let you in on the secret right away – make sure there is nothing stuck on the skillet from a previous use. They shine (literally and figuratively) when cleaned properly. Preheat the skillet, add the butter when skillet is hot, and add the eggs when butter is hot. The skillet sort of “releases” the food on its own, when it’s cooked properly.

Also (this will apply to all three brands I discuss), do look up manufacturer’s instructions for use, care, and tips. It might be boring to read but it will help maintain them.

Anyways, now that I am more comfortable using different kinds of dishes on regular basis, I decided it’s time to make a list and share it with you. Rather than selecting each individual dish, I’m going to refer you to brands I use. I have several pieces in each of these brands and they all have their benefits.

Lodge Cast Iron

My husband and I have several cast iron pieces: 10 inch skillet, 13.25 inch skillet, 13.25 inch lid, and a melting pot with brush. There is something very traditional and comforting about cooking in a large, heavy skillet.

The smaller skillet is perfect for a dinner for two or baking. I routinely use our large skillet to make sunny-side up eggs in the morning. As soon as I wash it after each use, I wipe it with paper towels. I’ve seen a restoration video of a very old, badly rusted skillet that looked almost new at the end. It’s possible, but it only takes minutes to prevent it from getting there. From time to time, my husband seasons it with a small amount of oil.

The melting pot with a brush is great to melt butter for steak and that’s exactly what we use it for. And, the 13.25 inch lid – our newest addition – is something I am very excited about! On the inside of the lid, it has tips that look like short spikes all over the surface. They are there to baste your food in the oven – it’s genius. I am yet to try it but it’s also perfect for keeping food warm. Cast iron doesn’t cool fast so it’s perfect for hosting or cooking ahead of time.

What I love most about it:

Slow and even heat distribution acts like a safeguard from overcooking or burning food.

Roasted baby potatoes in a skillet topped with sour cream and greens
Roasted Potatoes with Mushrooms

All-Clad Stainless Steel

We have a lot more pieces in stainless steel than cast iron so I won’t mention them all. My favorite, however, is a saute pan with a lid. It has relatively high, straight walls that keep splattering to a minimum. I use it for pasta, sunny-side up eggs, or sauces.

If cast iron makes me feel very homestead-y, stainless steel makes me feel like a chef in a professional kitchen. It takes time to get used to it and get the results you want, but once you do – it’ll make you feel a lot more confident in the kitchen. As I mentioned above, the key is to practice with when to start adding food to it. Another point to consider is the fat source. Butter and ghee are my favorite. I love using butter for eggs or omelettes. Ghee has a higher smoke point so I prefer to use it with meat.

What I love most about it:

The speed! Especially when compared to cast iron, stainless steel heats up a lot faster. So if I’m in a hurry, chances are – I’m reaching for stainless steel.

Two roasted chicken breasts and halved garlic bulb and basil leaves scattered around

Le Creuset Dutch Oven & Stoneware

I love my Le Creuset cookware. I have a small round (2 3.4 qt) and a large oval (9.5 qt) Dutch Ovens.

In stoneware dishes I have small gratin dish, medium oval casserole, and a large oval casserole with a lid. The beauty of Dutch ovens is that you can sear food in them and then top of with the rest of the ingredients, whether it’s a soup to be cooked on the stovetop, or a stew going in the oven. Simply put – it’s a whole different experience. It is also very presentable and looks beautiful on the table. All my Le Creuset pieces are red – that way, I can play it up for any occasion or season.

What I love most about it:

This is my favorite way of slow cooking without the slow cooker. I love starting dishes on the stovetop and then transferring them into the oven for a couple of hours. My Slow Roasted Short Ribs are perfect in the Dutch oven.

Mashed potatoes topped with short ribs and fresh thyme

Price & Tips on Buying

I realize that all three brands are very expensive. However, all three brands have also been around a very long time. It is an investment for sure and with proper care they can most definitely be passed down for generations to come.

I regularly see them in our local TJMaxx and Marshalls. It’s one of those things that will fly off the shelf, so if you see it – get it. You can also find them in thrift stores and estate sales, but it’s hard to expect a great selection. And lastly, I recommend signing up for newsletters on companies’ websites to not miss a sale. On top of that, Le Creuset has outlet stores which carry most of their products. They are not faulty, they simply have some very minor appearance flaws that most of the time are not even visible.

All-Clad Stainless Steel Cooking Tips

Lodge Cast Iron Cooking Tips

Le Creuset Dutch Oven Cooking Tips

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