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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Kitchen Equipment Brand Names

Frugal Kitchens 101

I recently wrote about brand names with respect to food.  Generally unless it is a propriety product (eg. Kraft Dinner, Alphaghetti, D'Italanio breads) there is no difference between brands of fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.  There is no difference between brands of sour cream, cream cheese and butter.  There is a difference between mass farmed eggs and free range eggs.  With this in mind, the frugal home cook will buy the least expensive per unit item where brand names don't matter and stock on those products where the brand does make a difference when they are on sale.

Cooking involves using a variety of kitchen equipment ranging from pots, pans and utensils to small kitchen appliances.  Does brand name matter when it comes to kitchen equipment?  The answer is not a simple yes or now.  Some brand names are superior or considered superior because of their high quality products. There are some qualities to look for especially in pots, pans, skillets, utensils and cutlery.  Here are a few tips on choosing, what to look for as well as a few recommended brands:

  • utensils - Look for high quality, one piece, nylon utensils that can be used in all pots, pans, baking dishes and non-stick.  Two high quality brand are Oxo and Praderno.  If buying metal utensils look for those that are NSF certified.  Avoid utensils that a constructed of two materials as the joints create crevices for bacteria to hide.  Look for the heat rating of safe for use to 500°F if buying silicone utensils.  Avoid the cheap wood cooking utensils.
  • pots/pans - Avoid Teflon coated pots and pans.  Choose stainless steel with a thick core plate bottom to avoid hot spots.  A core plate with a copper layer is better than one without.  Handles should be securely riveted and oven proof.  I recommend Lagostina stainless steel pots and pans for durability, function and price.  Wolfgang Puck has a nice line of stainless steel cookware as does Paderno.  Buying as a set may save money but there will be invariably one or two pieces of the set that will seldom get used so buying one piece at a time may be the more frugal option.  Look for restaurant quality pots and pans that will provide years of durable service.
  • non-stick cookware/bakeware - Avoid Teflon coated cookware if possible.  Look for the new ceramic skillets, pots and pans.  Paderno has a nice line of ceramic non-stick cookware and bakeware.  If buying silicone bakeware bend it then  pinch the piece.  If a white line appears when pinched the silcone contains additives that may leach into your food.  Choose a higher quality silicone that does not do this.  Look for silicone lined glass bakeware (Nami).  Use a Silpat mat or parchment paper on baking pan to avoid using Teflon.  If buying non-stick baking sheets the recommended brand is Wilton.
  • bakeware - Use glass, ceramic or enamel coated bakeware.  Le Creuset is the the recommend brand for enamel coated bakeware.  I use Anchor Hocking  glass bakeware and older Pyrex.  Beware any glass bakeware can shatter due to thermal shock however older glass bakeware made with borosilicate glass is less susceptible to thermal shock than newer glass bakeware made with soda-lime glass so take that into consideration.
  • flatware - Cutlery is a matter of personal choice with respect to design.  Choose 18/10 (18% chromium, 10% nickle) for best corrosion protection.  A solid, one piece design is better than a design made from two materials (eg. metal blade with wood handle).  Look for the NSF certification.  One sturdy, restaurant grade brand is Bakers & Chefs in the medium price range but there are many brands offering nice quality flatware in the mid to high price range (eg. Oneida, Henckels, Waterford Mont Clare, etc.).
  • small kitchen appliances - Choose a small kitchen appliance based solely on your needs and whether that appliance meets those needs.  Unless absolutely necessary always buy on sale.  I recommend stainless steel with black trim finish as being most practical with it's timeless good looks.  Always choose an appliance based on function.  Avoid trendy, gimmicky small appliances (eg. individual pie makers, cotton candy machine, and etc.).  I have had excellent luck with KitchenAid, HamiltonBeach, T-fal, Rival, Sunbeam, Keurig, Melitta, Black & Decker, and ProtorSilex.  
  • large kitchen appliances - There are several brands available but the reality is some names like Kenmore is not really a brand it is store trade name meaning the appliance is a model made specifically for that particular store to distribute.  So even if you have a kitchen full of Kenmore appliances you actually have one or more manufactures of those appliances.  I like the Whirlpool appliances, having had good luck with HE washer, gas dryer, one refrigerators, dishwasher and natural gas stove.  When it comes to dishwashers the premium brand is Bosch and having owned one in our last house I highly recommend them for energy efficiency.  Whirlpool has the reputation for having the best designed interiors for refrigerators with lots of light for finding foods.  At one time JennAir was the top home kitchen range and I do miss mine somewhat.  JennAir was taken over by Maytag and remains their high end line.  Serious home cooks will turn to Viking for a gas range.  Quite frankly microwaves are so inexpensive now and they all do about the same thing so find one that meets your needs in your desired price range.  Avoid buying all your appliances from the same manufacturer just so they match.  Instead base your choice on function.  

1 food lovers commented:

Anonymous said...

I finally got my Paderno Eco Pan last week, after your earlier comments about them. Had to wait for the local Home Hardware's re-order to make it across the country. Beatiful!! I absolutely love this pan. Love the weight and how easy it is to clean I have dropped a few hints for later this month as well. Thank you!