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Putting Together Only One Set of Cookware


Pentagarn
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I read through the Understanding Stovetop Cookware class, which was really great and filled with a lot of useful information. I need a bit of help figuring out what would work best, though.

I bought a set of Circulon non-stick cookware from Costco right out of college. I've been cooking more and more each year since then as my interest grows, and those pots and pans are now beginning to wear. The frying pans and saute pan aren't very non-stick anymore and the 2- and 3-qt saucepans have nicks and chips on the sides and bottoms. The only relatively unscathed piece is a 9-qt stock pot I mostly use to boil pasta or, well, make stocks. I also just bought a Chefmate 5-qt enameled cast iron oven that serves well for stews, chili, and other slow-cooking.

I'd like to get some nice pieces that will last a long time and work well for a variety of food styles. I'm still learning a lot about cooking, so there are a number of things I don't do a lot now - for instance, making delicate sauces like hollandaise - that I'd like to be able to do someday.

My thoughts on what to get right now are:

- 11" Falk frying pan

- 11" Falk saute pan OR 11" Falk Sauciere (Which is of these would be more useful?)

Those sizes and styles seem like the most generally useful in the kinds of cooking I do now. After that, I'm not sure. Ideally, I'd like to get at least a 2-qt or 3-qt saucepan for small batches of sauce or soup, too. It seems like the Sitram Profiserie line is pretty good for saucepans, right? Or would a smaller saucier work just as well for most applications?

Any thoughts?

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I hope your question about the frying pan and the saute pan generates some discussion.

I think a lot of people will tell you that a straight sided saute pan is more useful in the 11" size, but I think it depends on how you plan to use it most.

Personally, I do a lot sauteeing, and I like the slope-sided frying pan (poelle) in the 11 or 12 inch size. I do not use this size for tossing food (true sauteeing), but for turning larger pieces of food (chicken breasts, steaks, fish fillets, etc.) or for stirring larger amounts of small pieces than will fit in a 10" poelle.

The low sides make it easier to reach in with tongs or a spatula, and I like the curved corners for access to them with a whisk when making a pan sauce. The sides of the poelle are high enough for any sauce volume I'll be making for a sauteed dish.

They are not high enough for sauces that you make when the meat is still in the pan (like with braises, fricasees, etc.). Ironically, I prefer a saute pan for these dishes, and a poelle for true sautees.

For the 11" size, heavy copper like the Falk is a great choice. If you plan to get a 10" poelle for tossing food, I find copper to be a lousy choice. The pans are just too heavy and badly ballanced. For this size, I prefer aluminum or clad metal. clad pans like the all-clad tend to feel more balanced to me than the pans with a heavy disk on the bottom. The clad ones also tend to be thinner and more responsive to temperature change. All these pans heat evenly enough at this size. I do find stainless steel to be a better cooking surface than the alternatives (nonstick anything, bare aluminum, anodized aluminum, etc.).

I'm not sure what the sauciere is that you mention. Maybe you can describe. For me, next to the small and large poelles, my most used pan is a 1.5L sloped sided saucepan (evasee). It's also stainless lined heavy copper, and I'd be lost without it. If you're talking hollandaise, this is your pan. Mine is Mauvielle; the Falk version is probably identical for any practical purposes.

For larger saucepans that you won't be using for the most sensitive things, you can definitely look to cheaper materials. I haven't used sitram or demeyere or allclad saucepans ... maybe someone else can chime in. I've had great results from calphalon saucepans, but more and more I prefer using a stainless cooking surface.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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I use my 12-inch, 5.6-quart covered saute pan more than any other pot/pan in my kitchen. I dumped all of my non-stick pans last year, and searched for good quality, heavy pots and pans with 3-ply (inner core of aluminum surrounded by stainless steel) throughout, sides and bottom.

Most of the non-stick saute pans I came across were either too small or were 3-ply only on the bottom. In a restaurant supply store, I came across a cookware company called Cuisinox, which is Canadian-made. Their Elite line is an All-Clad look-alike at a fraction (in Canada, anyway) of the price.

I've since bought the 5.6-quart covered saute pan, assorted frypans, and a large saucepan with optional steamer insert. I'm delighted with these pots and pans - heat is distributed extremely evenly, and clean-up is a breeze.

A word of advice for someone who's used to non-stick pans (I assume you plan to purchase conventional pots and pans): make sure to heat your pots and pans before adding any fats or ingredients, to ensure greater non-stick capability.

Check out Cuisinox at http://www.cuisinox.com/products.php?lang=en&product_id=27

Edited by FlavoursGal (log)
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I have the Falk 11" fry pan and the 11" sauciere and I find myself using the sauciere way more often. The height of the fry pan is pretty low but still can be used to make sauces. It's good for browning meats and finishing in the oven while you make your sauce.

The sauciere just opens up more options though. I made a chicken dish the other night where I browned a whole chicken (in pieces), sauteed some onion, put in stock and other stuff, put the chicken back in a simmered for an hour until done. The frying pan could not have handled it due to it's height as the food/liquid came up 2/3 of the way. I also use it when I'm sauteeing mushrooms as the height easily handles the bulkiness of the shrooms which would spill over in a fry pan. Spaghetti sauces, curry dishes, deep frying, braising, etc. are things you can do that can't be done with a fry pan. Sure, you can say the fry pan does a better job of frying as the steam from the meat is released better but in my opinion, it does a fine job of frying. Just don't crowd the pan.

A 2qt saucepan is pretty small to begin with so I wouldn't suggest going smaller. The Sitram is good and would work fine. The ebay seller you reference looks good to me. Great price on the 11" sauciere. They are located in Belgium so it will probably take a while to get it and the shipping will not be cheap...I think I saw around $45 or $50. Still cheaper than elsewhere.

Hope this helps a little.

Edited by Octaveman (log)

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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A 2qt saucepan is pretty small to begin with so I wouldn't suggest going smaller.

You think so? what quantities of sauces are you usually making? I have a 1.8 qt saucepan and a 3qt, and the smaller one gets used most often. I sometimes think it would be nice to have a much smaller one ... around 1 qt or so, for sauce quantites under 2 cups that I want to simmer for a while without a lot of reduction.

Notes from the underbelly

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Well, I was thinking more along the lines of the soup he/she said he/she wanted to make. When I make soup I wish I had something close to a 4 quart pan so that gives you an idea of why I said a 2 quart is pretty small for that. Since most of my sauces are made in the pan I cook the meat in I don't have a lot of uses for a saucepan for sauces per se. I do have a Falk flared saucepan (called Chef's pan by Falk) that I use to reduce the liquid from a braise but it doesn't get a lot of use in general.

Edited to fix the problem of my brain moving faster than my fingers.

Edited by Octaveman (log)

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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Ahh, gotcha.

For that kind of thing I love a 5qt or so pan with 5" high or so sides ... the shape the french call rondeaux and that americans call casseroles. Infinitely useful. Can be used for soups, sauteeing, braising, fricasees, small amounts of pasta, huge amounts of pasta sauce, risotto, etc. etc..

I have a beat up old calphalon pan in that size. It cooks wonderfully, but if it vanished I'd replace it with something that has a stainless interior. Clad aluminum, or if I was feeling weighted down with excess currency, heavy copper.

Notes from the underbelly

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Thanks for all the responses!

I think a lot of people will tell you that a straight sided saute pan is more useful in the 11" size, but I think it depends on how you plan to use it most.

Personally, I do a lot sauteeing, and I like the slope-sided frying pan (poelle) in the 11 or 12 inch size. I do not use this size for tossing food (true sauteeing), but for turning larger pieces of food (chicken breasts, steaks, fish fillets, etc.) or for stirring larger amounts of small pieces than will fit in a 10" poelle.

The low sides make it easier to reach in with tongs or a spatula, and I like the curved corners for access to them with a whisk when making a pan sauce. The sides of the poelle are high enough for any sauce volume I'll be making for a sauteed dish.

So a poelle is basically a frying pan with higher, sloped sides? But lower sides than a saute pan? I'm trying to picture it. I don't do a lot of tossing with my pans right now - even when I'm doing something like stir-fry, I usually flip/mix with a spoon or spatula. Could be my technique needs work, though, so that might be useful.

I'm not sure what the sauciere is that you mention. Maybe you can describe.

Falk saucieres look like what the Cookware class calls a curved sauteuse evasee.

I ordered from that eBay vendor and had no problems. Delivery took a few weeks, though. If you decide to buy Falk pots, you should be fine ordering from that source.

Great, I'm glad someone can recommend it. I might be able to afford more than just 1 or 2 pieces at those prices.

I use my 12-inch, 5.6-quart covered saute pan more than any other pot/pan in my kitchen.  I dumped all of my non-stick pans last year, and searched for good quality, heavy pots and pans with 3-ply (inner core of aluminum surrounded by stainless steel) throughout, sides and bottom.

Do you think the fully-clad sides are important in a straight-sided saute pan for evenness of heat? Or is it just the weight and balance you prefer over the disk-bottom variety? Seems like a pretty big price difference between them, so I'm curious how much it matters.

I have the Falk 11" fry pan and the 11" sauciere and I find myself using the sauciere way more often.  The height of the fry pan is pretty low but still can be used to make sauces.  It's good for browning meats and finishing in the oven while you make your sauce.

...

Sure, you can say the fry pan does a better job of frying as the steam from the meat is released better but in my opinion, it does a fine job of frying.  Just don't crowd the pan.

If I just want to brown meats and throw them in the oven, would a cast-iron pan be better? Are there any foods for which a copper-lined frying pan is best and a sauciere / saute pan wouldn't be almost as good?

I usually use my saute pan when I'm cooking meat or vegetables and plan to make the sauce in the same pan, and it seems like either a sauciere or saute pan would work for that. I just don't know which is better in general.

I have that 5-qt enameled cast-iron dutch oven for making larger batches of soup or stews, so I figured a 2-qt would work for smaller portions. 3-qt might be fine, too. What exactly are the advantages / disadvantages of the straight-sided sauce pan shape vs. the curved sauciere (sauteuse evasee) in the same capacity?

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Ideally, I'd like to get at least a 2-qt or 3-qt saucepan for small batches of sauce or soup, too. It seems like the Sitram Profiserie line is pretty good for saucepans, right?

I have the Sitram Profiserie line (got the boxed set at Costco a few years ago) and am in the process of weeding it out of my collection. I just don't like the disk bottoms. I get burned marks sometimes around the inside of the pan where the disk ends (even when keeping the flame low) and, when pouring hot liquid out of the saucepans, it oftens spatters when it hits the sides of the pan.

I'd much rather use my small Creuset pot for making soup (2 3/4 qt). I also just picked up a Staub 2 qt. cocotte at Amazon for 1/2 off ($49.99) which I'll also use for small batches of soup.

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Does anyone have one of Falk's "stewpan" pieces? They're the same dimensions as the sauciers, but with two small loop handles instead of one large one. It seems like they'd be easier to move around, which is a good thing if the 11" one weighs upwards of 8 lbs.

Also, where might I be able to get compatible lids for the Falk pans, if I go that route? I don't see the advantage of their copper lids; it seems like a stainless steel one would suffice.

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Does anyone have one of Falk's "stewpan" pieces?  They're the same dimensions as the sauciers, but with two small loop handles instead of one large one.  It seems like they'd be easier to move around, which is a good thing if the 11" one weighs upwards of 8 lbs.

Also, where might I be able to get compatible lids for the Falk pans, if I go that route?  I don't see the advantage of their copper lids; it seems like a stainless steel one would suffice.

www.bridgekitchenware.com sells SS lids seperately in various sizes.

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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I believe i have just about every piece that Falk sells in the USA. Be aware they are heavy.

Large saute without lid 8# 11.6 oz, w/lid 10# 3oz

Large fry 5# 10.2 oz

Large two handled shallow 6# 6.5 oz

It would be a mistake to use cheap lids rather than the Falk copper ones. The lids are SS on the bottom and clean very easily as do all the Falk line.

Of these, the Large saute is used the most. I hardly ever use the two handled. If weight is a concern, you may want to go with the medium sizes.

Of course they will come with rivited handles! -Dick

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It would be a mistake to use cheap lids rather than the Falk copper ones. The lids are SS on the bottom and clean very easily as do all the Falk line.

I really hate to disagree with you Dick but a Falk copper lid performs no better than a basic SS one. Other than aesthetics, spending $110 for a copper lid is unecessary and pointless when a $20 SS lid will do the same job and you won't have to worry about dinging or scratching it. The ones at Bridge are either the Sitram Catering or from Paderno. Send an email to them and ask which would fit Falk the best or maybe Sam Kinsley knows.

Paderno Lids

Sitram Catering Lids

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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agreed. for my copper pans i went to the restaurant supply store and got the generic commerical aluminum lids. they come in every imaginable size, are cheap and indestructible. half the time i don't even use the correct size; i just grab a big one and throw it over the top of the pan.

maybe for a copper pot in a dutch oven size (if you can afford it, and then if you can lift it) there would be some advantage to honkin' heavy copper lid. but for that type of pot i use enameled cast iron.

Notes from the underbelly

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I believe i have just about every piece that Falk sells in the USA. Be aware they are heavy.

Large saute without lid      8# 11.6 oz, w/lid 10# 3oz

Large fry                          5# 10.2 oz

Large two handled shallow 6# 6.5  oz

It would be a mistake to use cheap lids rather than the Falk copper ones. The lids are SS on the bottom and clean very easily as do all the Falk line.

Of these, the Large saute is used the most. I hardly ever use the two handled. If weight is a concern, you may want to go with the medium sizes.

Of course they will come with rivited handles! -Dick

Phew, those are some heavy pieces! I wasn't too worried about it (though maybe now I should be), but my girlfriend had some concerns about them, especially when they're full of food. Hopefully it'll work, because I ordered the 11" frying pan and 11" saucier.

I had already ordered an 11" lid from the Sitram Catering line from the site that Octaveman posted. I'll see if that works first - can always get another lid if it doesn't work out.

Thanks everyone for the help and advice!

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  • 2 months later...

This is a list of my cookware:

10 1/4 inch Cast iron skillet

5 quart Cast iron dutch oven

12 inch carbon steel wok

12 inch pow wok

14 inch carbon steel round bottom wok

14 inch carbon steel flat bottom wok

13 inch cast iron wok

12 inch nonstick wok (looks like a saucier)

12 quart stainless stock pot

24 quart stainless stock pot

MILLIONS of nonstick cookware (from family)

All the ones besides the nonstick cookware were ones I bought with my own money and that I'm building into my own personal collection. My goal is to have a collection of minimum amount of cookware that can do that maximum amount of jobs, that can last a lifetime, and comes at an unbeatable value. I have a feeling I am pretty far from that. If I were to accomplish my goal, I would obviously have to get rid of alot of clutter and probably dish out some more cash. The question is...what do I get rid of, and how much cash do I really need to spend?

There are just so many disadvantages and advantages to every piece of cookware out there that it's hard to resist the desire to just buy an entire store. I am really looking for some cookware that doesn't go overboard with special features. For example, I would choose a regular cast iron dutch oven over a Le creuset mainly because I feel the disadvantages in bare cast iron can be overcome with some patience and techniques and definitely not worth spending extra money for enamel coatings.

Probably the only cookware I'm willing to replace in a lifetime is non-stick. But I still feel non-stick isn't even a required piece in the kitchen.

So if you could own the ultimate cookware set, what would you include? We are looking for minimum quantity and price, and maximum quality and performance. Pure pragmatism and efficiency folks.

Edited by takadi (log)
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My goal is to have a collection of minimum amount of cookware that can do that maximum amount of jobs, that can last a lifetime, and comes at an unbeatable value.
takadi: What type of cooking do you plan to do for the rest of your life? Mostly Asian? Braises? Sautees? Sauces and sauce reductions? Pasta? Fried chicken? Confections? Stovetop smoking? Roasting a turkey? If you know what type of tasks you want to do, you can choose the most efficient combination of cookware to accomplish those tasks.

Also, how many people will you be cooking for (for the rest of your life)? :wink:

Probably the only cookware I'm willing to replace in a lifetime is non-stick. But I still feel non-stick isn't even a required piece in the kitchen.

A non-stick omelet pan is nice to have if you make omelets. I would not worry about a lifetime wok, though. My first wok lasted about 25 years, but at 20 bucks a pop, I don’t mind buying a new wok every quarter century or so. :wink:

Sam Kinsey frequently makes a very good point: a $200 USD piece of cookware that will last a lifetime is a better value than a $1,500 USD computer that you will replace in five years. :smile:

Just curious-what is a Pow wok?

Jennifer: A pow wok has a straight handle and deep sides. It is designed for tossing food over a high flame. Here is an example of a pow wok at The Wok Shop (click).

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Well, I'm looking for something that lasts appoximately a life time, haha. I really got into woks because they are claimed to be able to do anything under the sun (braising, deep frying, stir frying, steaming, etc.). I guess that multpurpose factor really got me into thinking about a set of cookware that would cover all my cooking needs.

If I had enough money, I would definitely save up for some copper pans after hearing so many good things about them in this forum and other sites.

I guess I really have a bad case of OCD, but there's just something about owning something that's just perfect in every way. :biggrin:

Again, I'm seriously a BIG newbie at cooking, I am just beginning to get into these kind of things. Alot of people on this forum I assume are already very experienced and some are even professional! I'm just a regular college student who likes food. And looking around at different cookware pieces got me excited about how drastically different cooking can be by the equipment used. I remember trying to make stir fry with a non-stick wok and remember thinking why it turned out tasting so bland and just plain nasty. I'm really intrigued how all the different properties of flame, heat, and metal can translate its energy into really good food. When I first learned to cook, I thought it consisted of throwing something into a frying pan with a ton of oil, and blasting it on the highest heat.

I'm not really looking at cooking specific types of food, but I guess you can say alot of the foods I'm into are asian. Alot of people also make claims of how they swear by their certain cookware, like old fashion homecooks by cast iron or professionals by copper, and I'm interested in what makes them so good that some people will use them almost exclusively.

Yes I have alot of questions and some of them might be loony! My family thinks I'm crazy with woks flying everywhere and smoke from seasoning floating around the house. But hey, I'm thinking, down the line when I'm 60, I'll be able to give up ramen, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti packages and actually cook up something good!

Edited by takadi (log)
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Since you're just getting into cooking, I'd not worry about it too much. If you're a college student, I'd not invest huge amounts of money in fancy copper cookware. You're moving alot, have roomates, living in not the most secure apartments, etc. Things get ruined/lost/stolen in college.

I'd get a few decent stainless pots and pans and start learning. Shop at some restaurant supply stores like bigtray.com. A decent sized fry pan, a 3 qt sauce pan, a smaller sauce pan and a dutch oven is what I started with. You can make quite a bit with just those. And you'll probably discover most will last a long time. Restaurants use these and they make the food we ooo and ahh over.

After you start figuring out how you cook, you'll be able to start picking up fancier pots/pans if you need them.

I'd not worry about it so much. I think once you get into the realm of decent cookware (not super expensive stuff) there are some diminishing returns. Save some money on cookware (spend 300 rather than 700) and spend some of that money on ingredients and cookbooks!

Edited by MattJohnson (log)
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Here would be my go-to list: not that each item is an absolute necessity, but that I know I'd use each of these pieces with great regularity. BTW, I cook a pretty balanced mix of Western and Asian cuisine.

- 10" cast iron skillet: good for too many things to mention

- 14" stainless steel saute pan: for larger dishes, dishes where I'm making an acidic pan sauce, or dishes where covering the food is useful

- 12" nonstick pan: I like them cheap, because they'll scratch eventually, and I like them a little large because it makes working with eggs easier.

- 5 qt enameled cast iron dutch oven: you could probably save some bucks by going ordinary cast iron, but I think the enamel really does make it much more versatile: I do a lot of wine-based braises and tomato sauces in my dutch oven.

- two stainless steel saucepans with covers: a 2 qt and a 4 qt.

- 14" cast iron wok. I bought my Lodge Logic preseasoned version for just $25- it seems the price has gone up dramatically since then

- 8 qt stockpot with a pasta insert

That's about it. I don't bake much, but a heavy baking sheet is always useful for roasting vegetables and such. I'm sure others would have a much more informed recommendation on bakeware...

---

al wang

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Hi thanks for the replies. I'm not really thinking of investing in ALL my cookware at this point, but I like to know what opinions are out there. I started out all my cooking with nonstick and stainless steel sauce pans and pots, and they did a pretty good job. But I guess I'm interested in specialty items that can perform even better.

Alwang, you seem to have a very ideal set of cookware. I guess one reason why I want to buy cookware that saves big bucks is not because I would be strapped for cash (which I could easily save up for this kind of cookware), it's just that buying something that is alot cheaper just feels better to keep around (at least for me). I know when I get a huge deal on something that is of great value and quality, I just feel proud of myself, lol. I definitely would NOT mind having a Le creuset for that matter. I mean, who wouldn't want something like that. But the raw simple nature of cooking bare cast iron is what really attracted me to regular lodge. I actually feel like the extra work and obstacles I have to overcome with bare cast iron is not overbearing to the point where it can be fun. Yes, I find seasoning cast iron cookware fun :hmmm: .

I've been really looking forward to buying a really nice indoor wok to use. I have all those extra woks, but the only real suitable one I can use on my home stove is the flat bottom carbon steel, and it still doesn't perform to the way I want it to. In my experience, the only way it can get flaming hot is if I put it on an electric stove, and even then, the electric stove is so uneven, hard to control, and restricted. Plus I find it awkward using a flat bottom wok because it's sort of an oxymoron. It seems as if I'm just using an oversized skillet, and that I might as well use a skillet anyways. I'm saving up to buy the really thick cast iron woks from lodge that are round in the inside and flat on the bottom for indoor use, but they are outrageously expensive for just a single wok.

I heard that matte black dutch ovens actually can be seasoned, so if I were to buy an enameled dutch oven, I would go for that one, after some more research of course. I like the fact that cast iron can be used for everything (because it's so durable), and you fill in the gaps with the stainless steel for acidic things and temperature sensitive things like sauces, which I was planning in my head as well. As for baking, I've actually done alot of baking in my cast iron dutch oven and skillet, I find it does a pretty good job. The dutch oven can actually double up if I put the skillet on top with the lid since they are both the same diameter, so I can bake beans while cooking cornbread at the same time. I might try apple pie in the skillet, that seems interesting

Edited by takadi (log)
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I'm just using an oversized skillet, and that I might as well use a skillet anyways. I'm saving up to buy the really thick cast iron woks from lodge that are round in the inside and flat on the bottom for indoor use, but they are outrageously expensive for just a single wok.

Yeah, I don't know why the going price jumped so high, except that I guess everyone figured out all at once that they're incredibly kickass woks. Right now it's actually listed by Amazon as "Currently Unavailable": hopefully when they get them back in stock they'll offer it at the very reasonable price I bought it at.

I heard that matte black dutch ovens actually can be seasoned, so if I were to buy an enameled dutch oven, I would go for that one, after some more research of course. 

I'm pretty sure that's *not* correct: a Le Creuset or Staub with a matte black enamel interior should not be seasoned. I have a matte black Le Creuset roasting dish, and it is one of the worst pieces of cookware I own: everything sticks to it, and it's impossible to clean. On the contrary, I have a Staub roasting dish and a Staub dutch oven, both with black enamel interiors (though smoother than the LC), and they are exceptionally easy to clean and use. However, they still should not be seasoned.

---

al wang

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