A key category in your gift registry that deserves your undivided attention is cookware. The perfect collection will give you many years of great meal prep. There are several things you should know when registering for your cookware, so let's get started. Even if you already have a few existing pieces, your registry is a great way to upgrade as well as add to your collection. Before you even begin your selection, the first thing to consider is what type of cooktop you will be using.
The gas cooktop is the oldest method, generally preferred by chefs because it is easy to use, allowing instant change of cooking temperatures, and is high-performing. Pretty much all types of pots work here.
The electric cooktop (coil top) is easy to use, inexpensive and sturdy but be aware of some compromises when it comes to performance. The heating and cooling delay is rather long, but this cooktop is good for most types of cookware, as long as they have flat bottoms.
The induction cooktop is technologically more advanced and offers substantial speed and precision when heating. Only magnetic pots are usable on the induction cooktop. That would include cast iron, magnetic or stainless steel. The rule is, if a magnet sticks to the bottom, it is OK to use.
The PyroCeram cooktop looks like glass, but it is actually transparent ceramic. It resembles an induction cooktop, but the heating system differs. It cooks via a radiant heat source and halogens. For this type of cooktop it is important to choose cookware that is metal with a smooth bottom that will not scratch the surface. Pots made of glass, ceramic or copper are not recommended.
Note: If a non-flat-bottom pan is used on any cooktop, it may require up to 30 percent additional cooking time because the heat is not evenly distributed.
What to Register For
When selecting pots and pans for your registry, there are many options. Let's break it down your choices:
The most popular cookware for the home is stainless steel due to its availability and wide range of prices. Relatively nonreactive to foods, stainless doesn't corrode, is easy to clean and doesn't scratch or dent easily.
Stainless steel requires little special care. There are some things though that you will need to do to keep your stainless in good shape. It is dishwasher-safe, but if you wash by hand, be sure to promptly dry to prevent water spots .When it comes to stainless steel cookware, I recommend All-Clad, available at Macy's. At home I cook with All-Clad.
Inexpensive, fairly durable and a good heat conductor, aluminum cookware can be used on the stove and in the oven. On the downside, the surface is sensitive to certain acidic foods, which can affect food taste and pit the pots. I would recommend looking at anodized aluminum, which has a hard, nonstick (not Teflon) surface..
The popular anodized aluminum cookware provides a super-hard surface and is nonstick. Foods cook quickly and evenly in these pots and pans. You will not need to use high heat -- medium will be sufficient. Unfortunately, this cookware can't go in the dishwasher, so it must be washed by hand. The anodization process creates very durable cookware that will last for many years. In this category, I recommend Calphalon, available at Bloomingdale's.
Copper cookware can be found in a classic chef's kitchen. Although it's beautiful, it tends to be extremely expensive. Copper will darken with use and exposure to air. If you like shiny copper, you can clean and polish it easily with a commercial cleaner.
Copper cookware is lined with another metal, usually tin or steel, to prevent harmful reactions with food. Use only wood, nylon or nonstick-coated spoons for stirring to prevent scratches. Besides the beauty of copper cookware, it is a great heat conductor, so you only have to use low to moderate heat. In fact, copper has about 10 times the heat conductivity of stainless cookware. When it comes to copper, I love Mauviel cookware, available at Williams-Sonoma.
Another option is cast iron. You might want to have a large frying pan and maybe a Dutch oven in uncoated cast iron. Cast iron cookware is great for frying and can take high heat. The best way to clean cast iron is to just wipe it with a dry cloth, leaving some oil on the pan to keep it "seasoned."
However, Le Creuset enameled cast iron cookware gives you the same even heat retention AND a fabulous selection of colors, so it can go from oven to stove to table beautifully. Furthermore, it can go in the dishwasher! Find Le Creuset at Bed Bath & Beyond.
Let's Talk Handles and Lids
Handles on your cookware are typically made from tubular stainless steel, cast stainless steel, heat-resistant plastic, or wood. Metal handles will get hot, but will allow you to take your pan from stovetop to oven to finish a recipe. Hot handles means you need potholders. The best selection of potholders I have seen is at Target. Since wood and plastic handles don't hold heat, they are easier to grab, but the downside is that they can't go in the oven or the dishwasher.
Did you know that manufacturers count lids as a "piece" in a set of cookware? So a four-piece set of pots is really two pots with two lids.
To Sum Up
You now have a basic knowledge of cooktops and cookware. Maximize the opportunity to use your gift registry to collect everything you need to equip your kitchen with what's important.
Most pots and pans are available both in sets and as open stock (individual pieces). Once you decide which brand and type you want to register for, pick a good base set and whatever else you want that may not be included in that set. I recommend these basics:
• 1 each 10" and 12" skillets, with lids
• 1 small omelet pan, with lid (nonstick would be a good choice)
• 3 saucepans, 1-, 2- and 3-quart sizes, with lids
• 1 Dutch oven (a large pot with a tight-fitting domed cover used for stews, etc.) It holds heat and cooks evenly. Register for one that can fit a pot roast or a whole chicken.)
• 1 stockpot, with lid. It's taller than the Dutch oven, and great for soups and pasta.
In addition to the basics, consider some of these extras. I couldn't live without them:
• 1 griddle pan. In addition to making the perfect pancakes, I always use mine on "soft-taco night."
• 1 stir-fry pan (probably the healthiest cookware in my kitchen, not used enough)
• 1 double boiler, perfect for melting chocolate
• Don't forget to register for all your BAKEWARE!
• Research online, but GO INTO THE STORE to see and feel the cookware when registering. Consider the feel and the weight.
• When selecting your pots and pans, remember that a celebrity endorsement is not a guarantee of superior performance.
• When it comes to your kitchenware, looks play a big role. Your kitchen reflects your sense of style and personality. Pick a set that best reflects you.
• Manufacturers are competing for your registry. Most offer perks and incentive gifts for you when you register for their products. Check them all out before making your decisions.
• Always follow the manufacturer's care and usage instructions.
• For best selection in this category, check out Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Williams-Sonoma .They stand behind the products they sell.