What’s the minimal set of cookware for Chinese, Japanese foods on an electric induction cook-top

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My grandparents fears food sticking to pans the most. They love, but never attended cooking school for, Chinese and Japanese cuisines.

For their current pan probably can't be seasoned or repaired, they went to the store to seek advice, but the salesperson kept promoting the 9-piece cookware set, proclaiming that they needed all 9 to sufficiently distinguish the use of different vessels for different foods, or else they'd ruin their cookware again. Now they're suffering decision paralysis.

  1. My grandparents live in a flat, and have little space. So which cookwares are essential? Let's predicate that their budget is unlimited for now. They prefer buying 2 polytropic versatile excellent cooking vessels that last the longest, rather than 5 "single-minded" cheaper vessels.

They ruled out woks that don't behoove flat electric induction cooktops.

They're befuddled and overwhelmed by the overabundance and paradox of choice e.g. sauce pan, frying pan, and/or skillet. How does Le Creuset's Stir-Fry pan differ from their Deep Fry, Sauté pans? Do non-stick pans comprise a separate category?

  1. For each cookware that you recommend, what surface coating? All-Clad Stainless Steel? Aluminum? Cast Iron again? Ceramic? Carbon steel? Forged iron? Stainless steel? PTFE? Teflon?

Best Answer

So which cookwares are essential?

A 9-inch skillet. That's it. For 90% of stovetop cooking applications, that's all you'll need. Add an 8-qt pot for making pasta, and possibly also a 2-qt or 3-qt saucepan if they like making sauces.

They're befuddled and overwhelmed by the overabundance and paradox of choice e.g. sauce pan, frying pan, and/or skillet.

They need not be. The characteristics that define cookware are shape/size and material/surface. Most of the difference is in marketing. For example, 'frying pan' and 'skillet' are the same item.

How does Le Creuset's Stir-Fry pan differ from their Deep Fry, Sauté pans?

Shape and size. Deep fry pan will be deeper than a sautee pan; stir fry pan is large, typically has a second handle, and a rounder sloped edge (it's for stirring). Etc. I want to note that to the home cook these differences are minor and can quite satisfactorily be ignored in favor of considerations such as "I like how that one looks/feels." These are all, broadly speaking, 'frying pans'.

For each cookware that you recommend, what surface coating? All-Clad Stainless Steel? Aluminum? Cast Iron again? Ceramic? Carbon steel? Forged iron? Stainless steel? PTFE? Teflon?

PTFE = Teflon (Teflon is a well-known brand of PTFE). Aluminum and carbon steel tend to sit under a PTFE ('non stick') coating. I've never heard of forged iron cookware but it looks like it's basically cast iron. So a lot of these 'options' are the same.

I'd break down cookware material options as follows:

  1. Cast iron - this is likely not a good fit for your folks:
  • It's quite heavy
  • It needs to be cared for in a certain way
  • It's not great for Asian cuisines that typically require lots of stirring/tossing
  1. Stainless steel. While it's very durable, I'd rule this out for you because:
  • While it has its proponents, for an amateur it's much more prone to sticking
  • It requires slightly more specialized care than nonstick
  1. Non stick. It doesn't matter much for our purposes what goes underneath (aluminum, carbon steel, what have you).
  • Non stick (regardless what brand name coating is used) cookware is versatile, easy to care for, and not as durable as cast iron or stainless steel. As in, properly cared-for cast iron need never be replaced, stainless steel almost never, and nonstick about, oh, every 500 uses?
  • Clean with hot soapy water.
  • Do not clean with the "scrubby side" of a sponge, or any abrasive cleaning agents. This can damage the coating over time. Almost all messes should come up with a soft sponge and hot soapy water. If something is really gunked on there, throw a cup or two of water in it and heat it up again, stirring the messy part (with a plastic spatula), then take to the sink and try cleaning again (careful; it's hot).
  • Do not scrape/stir/touch with metal utensils.

I recommend that you recommend the following:

  1. Buy a small number of non stick cookware. Two skillets, a saucepan and a pot will cover 100% of your cooking necessities.
  2. Do not metal utensils in them. You can see in the second picture of your previous question where some of the non stick coating has been scraped off; this is likely the culprit.

They can use a medium-end (less expensive than La Creuset) every night for a year without needing to replace it, as long as they clean it each time and don't wreck the coating. Don't overthink the seeming multitude of options, just pick a size/shape that looks and feels fine, and don't think you're missing out. You definitely don't need a 9-piece cookware set.