Kitchen Essentials: Cookware

Calphalon One Hard Anodized Large Saucepan

There are just some things that every kitchen needs. Not that you want…need. For me, this breaks down to spices, tools, cookware and books. We’ll continue this series with cookware.

If you’re looking for a case study on how to undermine a brand and its followers, take Calphalon. The company, owned by Rubbermaid, once made one of the bestselling high-end lines of cookware — Calphalon One. The gigantic displays of hard-anodized and non-stick pans were as ubiquitous at Macy’s as the old ladies behind the register squinting to read the keys. Then in early 2010, the One disappeared. Calphalon rolled out its Unison line of pans, intended to replace the One and Commercial series. And, by all accounts (Chow forums, reviews, Amazon reviews and sales), the Unison is a dud. There are complaints about even cooking, impossible to clean surfaces, and damage to the pans caused by using the dishwasher (one of the featured selling points). Now, Calphalon One pans have been reduced to the third-party sellers on Amazon, eBay and outlet malls.I have five Calphalon One pans and love them. Better, I bought all of them at outlets, so I didn’t drop a fortune on them. I’ll take a dinged stockpot for $29.99 over brand new at $129.99. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a pan to get good performance. Water will boil in any pan. But, as you assemble your arsenal, there are some basic necessities:

Farberware Non-Stick Saucepans in (from left) 3.5-, 1.5-, and 2.5-quart varieties.

The stockpot: I have five of them — a 20-, 16-, 12-quart and two eight-quart jobbers. I only actually bought one of them; the rest are family hand downs. The 20-quart is my grandmother’s monstrous Reverewear pan from back in the days when the company had a nearby factory. I would be hardpressed to tell you where you could buy one these now. These are handy for chili, stew, soups and when I make a supply of homemade marinara.

The saucepan: Typically, you get two of these when you buy a set of pans — a small 1.5 or 2 quart and a medium 2.5 or 3 quart. Rarely do you get the large saucepan, as the company looks for you to buy the add on. I find that I rarely use the small saucepan, instead going for my medium one. I imagine that if you are cooking for one person or small children, the small size is useful. Make sure the walls of your saucepan are thick, as you don’t want to burn whatever it is you are simmering.

The frying pan: I have a few of these, but I really only use one. My Farberware 12-inch non-stick is a reliable, versatile pan that I’ve used for omelets, pan searing and stir fries (since the wok died). I have two non-stick Calphalon One pans — a 7-inch and a 10-inch — but they are magnets for stuck-on food and I can’t tell you the last time I used them.

The saute pan: My Calphalon One saute pan was a birthday gift from The Wife about six years ago. It’s nothing short of awesome and totally oven-safe, which is a perk when I make steaks indoors — the meat goes right from high stovetop heat to a 500-degree oven. I also have a non-stick Farberware version, which I don’t use in the oven. There’s something about Teflon in an oven for long periods of time that makes me think I’m going to end up with a chemical poisoning. That said, I regularly use it over a high-heat burner with no concerns. What can I tell you…I’m nothing if not consistently inconsistent.

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