Whichever pieces you choose, go for the best. Top-quality cookware gives you top performance – and a lifetime of great meals. Think of it as an investment in good cooking that will provide an everyday payoff for years to come.
I disagree with Cook’s Illustrated's must have list………are you shocked? I like pans that are multi-taskers. My list has cookware that can easily substitute for bake ware and vice-versa.
Here is Leolady’s kitchen must have list:
Descoware, Cousances, Le Creuset, or Copco enameled cast iron 12-inch Skillet
Lincolnware 10-inch Commercial Sauté Pan
Lodge Logic 12-inch Cast-Iron Skillet [Lodge cannot hold a candle to vintage Griswold or Wagner.]
Descoware, Cousances, Le Creuset, or Copco enameled cast iron 2-quart Casserole [instead of a saucepan]
Descoware, Cousances, Le Creuset, or Copco enameled cast iron 4-quart Casserole [instead of a saucepan]
Descoware, Cousances, Le Creuset, or Copco enameled cast iron 7¼-quart Round French Oven
Vollrath commercial classic aluminum clad stainless steel 12 or 16-quart Stockpot [cheaper than All-clad and the rest but more practical].
Descoware® is an enamelware (enamel over cast iron) brand of cookware that was manufactured in Belgium beginning in the mid-1940s. The company was originally called Bruxelles Ware, but later changed its name to Descoware, coming from the US name of the company, the D.E. Sanford Company. The unique name, Descoware, is an acronym forged from the name of the company: D-E-S-CO.
The Descoware company had some steep competition during the late 1960's and 1970's. Le Creuset®, a French brand, was being aggressively marketed with new designs each year. Eventually, after losing huge amounts of money, the Belgium company was forced to go out of business and stopped manufacturing this brand of cookware in the 1970s. Le Creuset bought the Descoware patents. However, Le Creuset adapted the patents for their own line of cookware, and within a short period, "real Descoware" was no longer. Therefore, any piece of Descoware that is still in use today is older than 40 years.
Without any compensation for her endorsements, Julia sang the praises of cooking with Descoware on her show. She loved the controlled, even cooking enamelware offered to food and how it could be used in so many ways in the kitchen. While she used other brands and types of cookware on the show, she used her enamelware whenever she could. She rated Descoware ahead of Le Creuset for its functionality. As a result, housewives in the United States during the "Make Love, Not War" era were compelled to own at least one piece of the durable cookware to have a modern-equipped, chic kitchen like Julia's. Descoware became a culinary status symbol because of Julia.
Le Creuset enameled cast iron is generally regarded as the gold standard for French enameled cast iron cookware among cooks who have an enthusiasm for the type. Le Creuset is indeed the finest enameled cast iron cookware currently in production, in my opinion as well.
"The History of Le Creuset
In 1925 the company was founded by two Belgian industrialists; Octave Aubecq (an expert in the art of iron casting) and Armand Desaegher (an enameling expert). From then on, the two collaborated together to create the finest cookware in the world. They decided to combine their expertise and opened a foundry where they could exercise their art and passion in Fresnoy-Le-grand.
When they started their business, Aubecq and Desaegher were focused on creating charcoal stoves and cookware products. The two of them were very luck in Fresnoy-Le-grand because it was the hub for raw materials that are really necessary in creating cookware. Materials like iron, sand, and coke are really abundant in the place, which is why the two never had problems finding resources. Le Creuset was doing really well when it has started. However, when World War II broke out, their foundry was taken over by the Nazis for production of grenades and other weapons. But after the war, they have continued with their passion, not minding the lag that they have experienced and just continued on doing business.
During this period the company had started to do some innovations by creating cast iron cookware products. They made enamelled cast iron cookware that had a variety of different colors. This had been the first brand of its kind and their products have been an instant major hit to a lot of home owners that time. Their decision to somehow differentiate themselves from their competitors had been a really good business move for their company and somehow it also caused their tremendous growth in the following years that came."
Cousances enameled cast iron skillets, pans, gratins, and pots were produced in the town of Ville Sur-Cousances and had features which distinguished them from their competitors, Le Creuset, Descoware of Belgium, and the Scandinavian Copco.
Among those features were the base, which was left without enamel (like Copco) but sealed against rust with the final glaze (unlike Copco), and the skillet design which was a French version of the classic American skillet popularized by Griswold and WagnerWare, having two pour spouts, a cast on handle, and a lifting tab on the largest of the handled skillets. The French refinement of that skillet design included rounded sides for tossing/ sauteeing, and the lift tab being added to smaller skillets for easier pouring.
The Cousances enameled pots, roasters and dutch ovens were produced in patterns which were French refinements of the classic Griswold and WagnerWare versions, with superior enameling and subtly different handle and lid designs. Cousances skillets were a clear favorite and the high standard of quality in enameling was prized by gourmet cooks.
Those great Cousances designs are now produced by LeCreuset from the original patterns, in the original foundry/factory in Cousances, since Cousances, like Descoware, was acquired by Le Creuset. The small, round medallion style logo which once read "Cousances, Made in France" around the centimeter size, now reads "Le Creuset, Made in France".
Both Copco and Nacco pots and pans were produced by Morsø Jernstøberi (Morsø Cast Iron Foundry) in Denmark. Nacco is short for "N. A. Christensen & Co." (who founded the company in 1853), although I'm not sure what Copco is short for.
Unfortunately, Morsø phased out their production of pots and pans ca. 1993 to focus exclusively on their cast iron wood burning stoves, according to this brief history (in Danish):
The AGA (Rayburn) company of England continues to sell what appears to be the original Michael Lax designed enameled cast ironware. Copco was the first of three successful companies (the others: OXO and WOVO) founded by the famed entrepreneur Sam Farber. Farber explains how he designs and brings products to market here: http://www.cdf.org/issue_journal/entr...
VOLLRATH CLASSIC STOCKPOT
This is the classic stainless steel aluminum clad bottom commercial stockpot that Vollrath sells. It is nothing fancy, but does the job and is durable. There is no useful purpose served in having a aluminum cladding on the sides of a stockpot, so why pay the extra expense?
LINCOLNWEAR SAUTE PAN
It is just a basic very heavy and thick aluminum saute pan, but it is exactly what you need.
Again, very basic, but very useful in your kitchen. But if you can find a vintage Griswold or Wagner skillet, you will be much better off. They are much better in quality.
While homeowners buy kitchen collectibles for show, professional chefs are also buying these items. Seasoned cooks who know their way around restaurant kitchens are actually using these items. Vintage mixers, ricers, pots, pans, utensils, and gadgets are favored by many chefs who can count on their durability and reliability.
You can use this little arsenal as is until you can afford to buy quality saucepans to round our your batterie de cuisine. I recommend heavy copper lined with tin or stainless steel. Or failing that, excellent quality saucepans like All-Clad.
That’s it, a gourmet kitchen equipped with the finest equipment your money can buy and it will last your lifetime, if not beyond. If you’re ever in doubt about which piece of kitchen equipment to buy, my advice is to get the best quality item, even if it’s the only one you get for many months.