Diary of a First Time Cook: Buying Non-stick Cookware, Pots and Pans

I thought it would be no big deal when I invited my new beau over for dinner at my place. I can cook something worth eating, right? Or, at least a something enough wine will make better. But, I think I really like this guy. Is my own personal staple of spaghetti really enough? Not this time. Time to venture out and try something new; something I learned to make after age 10. But where to begin?

First of all, it turns out you can’t make much with one small pot and a wooden spoon stained pink with too much cherry kool-aid mix. I started by venturing out to a few local garage sales to see what I might be able to scrounge up on my measly salary.

It also turns out that there is something entirely unappealing about old, bright orange pots and pans covered in baked on stains of who knows what. They look used, which could be helpful as I try to pass myself off as a master chef. They’re a little funky, a little different, which is also cool. I just can’t get past just how much attention they attract. Do I really need this month’s Mr. Right staring at the horrible mess that might be tomorrow’s dinner? I’ll pass.

Next, it was off to the local department store. I’m determined to eventually develop some sort of skill in the kitchen. After all, food is a basic survival need. Why not make the investment in some good quality cookware? And, that newfangled non-stick coating will certainly help the fried remains of my attempt at a romantic meal wash off easily. Plus, nonstick cookware requires less butter and other fatty additives that traditionally keep food from sticking to pans as you cook, so it’s healthier.

After aimlessly wandering the store for a few minutes, picking up various pots and pans and staring blankly at the boxed cookware sets that lined the shelves, I decided to ask for help. Here’s what I learned from the unlucky associate who came to my rescue:

Nonstick cookware can be bought in sets that come with a variety of pan sizes and skillets. Or, you can choose to buy pieces seperately. Before you decide on that smart looking set, really consider if (and how often) you’ll use the pieces included. It may be less expensive to buy only the individual pieces you know you’ll use.

You don’t need to buy the most expensive pieces of cookware. Moderately priced pieces can last a while if treated well. Always use wooden or plastic tools to avoid scratching the non-stick coating and to increase the life of your cookware.

No matter what price range you shop in, look for quality. What is the handle made of? Is it stongly bolted on or does it look cheaply attached?

Thicker pots and pans conduct heat more evenly, cooking food evenly. They’re also just generally more durable and better quality.

With these tips in mind, I happliy strolled away with a shiny new skillet and a few saucepans. With less than 24 hours to date night, the next big question loomed. What to cook? And how!

Stay tuned for Volume 2, when I explore basic techniques for beginning cooks.

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