Lately I've been getting a number of emails asking me about cookware. I'm no expert, but I'm happy to tell you what I like and why.
I received a cast iron pan as a "cast off" from someone who didn't want it any longer. I can't imagine why not! Cast iron holds the heat wonderfully and moves easily from stovetop to oven. It's particularly great for frying and searing, but you can also bake in it and if you cook certain acidic foods like tomatoes in it you'll get the added benefit of iron that leaches out in small amounts. It does take a long time to heat up and needs to be cleaned with care. Don't use soap on it! Scrub it with salt if you have to and rinse it with hot water but don't remove the "seasoning", it's what give it an almost non-stick finish. You can buy a new pre-seasoned skillet but there is no way it's going to perform like mine.
I love my Le Creuset! I am fortunate to have acquired just about all the pieces I need and then some. It's great for long simmered stews and soups and for serving. But it is heavy and you have to gently care for it or the surface can chip and crack. In particular I love my Le Creuset tagine. Having cooked tagine style dishes in a dutch oven for years, I couldn't believe the difference when I used an actual tagine instead. The shape means you use less liquid and the result is very rich, concentrated flavors and tender meat and vegetables.
I am a big fan of pressure cookers, mine happens to be a Fagor. The key is knowing how to use them properly. After being disappointed with several cookbooks, I have settled on one as my bible. It answers every question I have about how to cook beans, stocks, soups, grains and sauces and also has delicious recipes, it's called Pressure Cooking for Everyone. A pressure cooker is the best time saver in the kitchen and I truly believe everyone who loves long-simmered flavors should have one. Juicy artichokes in 15 minutes? Osso Bucco in 25 minutes? You betcha.
I still use non-stick pans for eggs and crepes, but I try not to use it for anything else. I know the jury may be out on the safety of these pans, but I just don't like ingesting bits of teflon that flake off and I prefer cookware that can really take the heat.
Come back on Monday when I'll share my pick for everyday saucepans and saute pans.