Come on…tell us the secret!

October 6, 2009

Lots of folks sidle up to me (either in person or over the phone, in a dropped-voice confidential tone), and ask conspiratorially,  “Come on, tell me really what the best cookware is?”

Supposedly, since I have spent the past 30-plus years in the one end or the other of the cookware business, I have some superior yet secret knowledge that one, and only one type/brand of cookware is truly the “one”.

But I am telling the truth when I say,  “that depends.” What’s best for you isn’t what is best for someone else.  What I find to be the best, might not be the best for you either.

A hodge-podge of kitchen pans

A hodge-podge of kitchen pans

Don’t mind scrubbing pots, or enamored of making “fonds”, then stainless steel cookware may work best.  Are you old fashioned and like country-cooked meals, then cast iron may be your choice. Or, if you are time-stressed and don’t want to scrub cookware and are used to cooking  30-minute quick meals, then nonstick coated aluminum might be best.  Into pots of stews bubbling on the back burner for half a day?  Then an porcelain enamel cast iron pot could be the best.  Whipping up lots of egg whites and cream, then a copper pan might suit.  The best cookware depends on the cook and recipe.  As I often joke:  A really good cook could take a coat hanger and a license plate and produce a pretty good meal.  I know cooks who would burn water in a $500 piece of copper cookware handmade in France.

I suggest trying a pan or two first rather than buying whole sets of cookware. That way you can determine what fits your lifestyle.  For many cooks a variety of pans suits better than having everything visually match. That might mean a nonstick fry pan for eggs, and sautéing, a large heavy Dutch oven for slow cooking of stews and soups, and a variety of sauce pans for vegetables and other foods.

If you could peer into my kitchen cabinets you might laugh.  There’s cast iron in there that dates from the 1920s.  My grandmothers multi-ply stainless she purchased in the late 1950s (still works great), and pieces that are less than six months old.  And yes, I use them all.  It depends on what is on the menu.

Back from the San Francisco Gourmet Show

August 19, 2009

A three-day visit to the Gourmet Show is always instructive.  In addition to seeing some great cookware and bakeware (Lodge Manufacturing, Nordicware and BonJour all had large well-stocked booths), there’s always serendipity–those things you run across that you probably wouldn’t if you stayed home and didn’t make the effort to walk the show.

My favorite was a unique take on that most pedestrian kitchen item…the lowly bowl.

A stack of calibowls

A stack of calibowls

Leave it to four California 30-somethings to rejigger the design of a bowl to make it more practical.  So practical that men-den occupants are alleged to have washed their own to they could reuse it.  It’s hard to explain, but essential the bowls lip is counter-waved so that spillage its practically impossible and so when you pour from it, water emerges like its coming out of a spout instead of dribbling over the edge and down the exterior. Sounds like nothing special doesn’t it.  I’d recommend Calibowl’s website for some instructive video.  A SFO friend of ours with a one-year old watched the video and order some for young Mr. R immediately.   Calibowl’s website explains all:

In the Why didn’t I think of that department, there’s FireWire, a grilling product from Inno-Labs in Kansas.  So simple:  a flexible skewer using stainless steel braid wire.  Makes it easy to get onto and off of the grill, no more flaming bamboo (one of my pet peeves), and totally reusable.   FireWire’s URL is

8-19-2009 1-00-05 PMThere was also a lot of buzz about the Skrapr, a new product out of Canada that can be used on glass cooktops, nonstick pans and about anything else.  In short, it scraps up crud without marking or destroying the surface. (Admit it you’ve use a knife before on something you shouldn’t have.)  It is designed for all smooth surfaces, has a lifetime warranty (what’s to break) and is made in Canada of a proprietary plastic resin.

Additionally, there was the G-spout, a silicone pouring device which fits over the edge of a bowl or piece of cookware enabling easy pouring.  And also Marie’s Chef Soap for those tired of having to fill up the squirt bottle next to the sink.  It is perfume-free all-natural plant based kitchen soap. No sex, no scent, just the good stuff. Anyone who has ever drunk coffee from a mug with a little eau de Palmolive will welcome it.  A huge bar promises to last a year.

Lodge was showing their signature series of cast iron which mates the traditional black iron pieces with classy cast/polished stainless steel handles, bring the world of ergonomics to the traditional favorite of many cooks. Also showing were glass lids to fit same.8-19-2009 1-10-36 PMNordicware welcomed all to their corner stand which was showing their latest popover pans, and pans designed to make mini-burgers, waffles and pancakes.

BonJour‘s booth featured a couple of huge commercial ranges and an array of high-polished product. You almost needed sunglasses to look at some of this beautiful cookware.  Combining copper and stainless in high end sets, the line looks poised to make a run at the high-end part of the cookware business.8-19-2009 1-24-26 PM

All in all, a fascinating show. Reports were about 2,100 vendors attended at the peak day (Saturday) and there were under 200 vendors, several notables canceling in the final days prior to the show.   But for those who made the trip (Thanks BART for extending your lines to the SFO airport), there was plenty to see and do.