I got the greatest compliment from my sister-in-law the other day. Actually it wasn’t meant as a compliment but it sure puffed me up!
As she was doing my dishes she asked, “Did you just get a set of new cookware?” I was elated with her assumption!
“No,” I responded, “I’ve had most of those pieces since before I’ve been married (over five years) and the rest I’ve picked up at garage sales and thrift stores since then.”
You know why they still look so nice? They are quality pots and pans! Nothing peels off. They don’t dent easily…if at all. Handles don’t fall off. I can’t scratch them. And I can freely use a stainless steel scratchy until my heart’s content.
Or until I scrub off my fingernails.
Building a Stash of Quality Cookware
I love being in the kitchen. The one thing that makes my time there so enjoyable is quality equipment and utensils. For me, stainless steel pots and pans are non-negotiable. Building a stash of quality cookware is quite easy and makes my kitchen time a breeze.
Even before I had my own place I began collecting pieces of quality cookware at garage sales and thrift stores.
I knew the price of brand new cookware sets but couldn’t justify spending that much money! So I stuck with thrifting.
And I had the time for the hunt. I wasn’t married with a bunch of kids to cook for so I had time to look for the perfect pieces.
Everything I found I packed away in storage for the day I had my own kitchen and own family to cook for.
Why I Wanted a Stash of Quality Cookware
Growing up in a family of six there was always cooking and baking going on. The set of cookware that my mom had was the crème de la crème of its time. I don’t even want to know how much she spent on it.
But all the handles had fallen off. Yep. Every. Last. One.
Let me tell you, four kids learning to cook without handles on pans leads to many messes and steam burns!
The joke of it all was that if anything happened to this high quality set of cookware you could mail it in and the company would fix it or replace it. Then the company went out of business.
So that’s how we got stuck with a bunch of handle-less pots and pans.
Be Wary of “Non-Stick”
As appealing as “non-stick” sounds in cookware, really it is a joke. It may be non-stick for the first year or so, but any little scratches or abrasions in the coating will wreck the “non-stick” feature.
You have to be super paranoid about what utensil you use. Only plastic or wooden utensils can be used in the pan.
Also, the coatings used to make cookware non-stick is very questionable. The fumes released when heating have been linked to serious health concerns.
My Vow to Have Quality Cookware
I picked up two Martha Stewart frying pans at a garage sale for 50 cents a piece. They went into storage for a couple years.
Then I won a 10-piece set of Farberware cookware at a work Christmas party.
At a garage sale I got two Calphalon pans for $7 total.
In the returned/damaged section at a department store I got a big stock pot for under $10. It came with a steamer basket and blanching insert!
Here is my list of must-haves in my cookware.
I am a brutal cook. I make lots of messes and burn lots of things and cook on too high of heat. Being able to scrub my pots and pans with a stainless steel scratchy is a must.
No coatings, no enamel and no soft metals like aluminum. These things all cannot handle the scrubbing of a stainless steel scratchy.
Plus, the leaching of coatings and aluminum are questionable anyways.
There is some glass cookware out there but I don’t have any experience using it.
Stainless steel also allows for any kind of stirring utensil. I’m paranoid of scratching pan coatings at other people’s houses. With stainless I have the freedom of stirring with a metal spoon, stabbing with a fork or using a metal whisk with no risk of ruining the pan.
Riveted Handle(s) and Lid
No more handles falling off if they are riveted on! Make sure you see something like this center fry pan on the inside of your cookware:
Has a Lid
My first Martha Stewart fry pans that I picked up didn’t come with lids. By the time I got them out of storage to use, I had collected enough other pans with lids that fit these fry pans.
A lot of my lids cross over. Some fit my cast iron skillets even!
I used to not care about a glass lid. But now that most of my cookware has glass lids, I love them. Being able to see inside without lifting the lid is great. And the glass is super durable. I’ve dropped those lids countless times and none have broken.
Now my toddler plays with them all the time and still none have broken!
Just because cookware is stainless steel doesn’t mean it has a great bottom. I make sure that the bottom is extra thick to allow for more even cooking and less burning.
Bonus: Insulated Handle
A couple of my pans have insulated handles. This isn’t a must-have for me, but I sure do love the feature!
Building a stash of quality cookware doesn’t have to break your bank. Just keep an eye out at garage sales and thrift stores and pick up pieces as you find them.