I thought about posting this one over on the other blog, Adventures in our Kitchen, but I wanted more answers so I'm bringing it here to all of you. So here's some basic info on a few of the types of cookware I'm familiar with:
1. Enameled cast iron-these two pieces are by Le Creuset and I love them, especially the dutch oven. It is cast iron coated in a glass enamel so you don't have to deal with seasoning the cast iron or the few cooking restrictions of unenameled cast iron (can't cook acidic foods, can't store food in them, etc). They heat evenly, and you can store food in them after it's cooked. They can go from stove to oven to table. I use the dutch oven for roasts and soups mostly, and to be honest I don't really use the skillet all that often because it's heavy and I just don't think to reach for it.
2. Nonstick- this is Teflon coated nonstick by Pampered Chef that my mother-in-law gave us soon after we got married. While I absolutely love how fast it heats up, that it's a snap to clean, and really is completely nonstick even if you burn food in it, I do have some health concerns over the use of nonstick at high heat. It can cause the coating to break down and release harmful fumes, even though you can't smell them. Also you can't use metal instruments or diswash them, but that's no big deal because they wipe clean so easily you don't need the dishwasher. Unbeatable for cooking eggs because they stick in everything else I try to cook them. Not the best choice for slow-cooking or browning meat.
3. Stainless Steel- this is Calphalon stainless from a set I got at Bed Bath and Beyond shortly before I got the Pampered Chef nonstick. I struggled with it from the beginning. You can't use high heat on stainless or your food will stick and the pan will scorch, and it was hard for me to get used to keeping it at medium or lower on the stovetop. I had a hard time cleaning it. I could get the big stuff off but there always seems to be spots or residue in the bottom no matter how much I scrub. I recently learned a trick about using Barkeepers friend (a cleaner) and scrubbing with a ball of aluminum foil and that has worked wonderfully. Stainless is pretty versatile, do-anything cookwear that can go in the dishwasher. If you're willing to do your homework about the best way to use it and clean it, it's a great choice.
4. Cast Iron- this is a skillet given to me by my grandmother and there's no telling how old it is. Older than me for sure if I had to guess. Cast iron is iron that over time and use acquires it's shiny black color. It takes some work to initially season it and get it cleaned up if it's gunky or rusty from neglect, but once you get it in good shape it should last a lifetime if cared for properly. Cast iron is great for frying bacon, baking cornbread, and searing meat. It retains heat well and therefore isn't great for anything delicate that you might need to adjust the heat on. It can go on the grill, in the oven, on a campfire, or on the stove. I have not done much cooking with cast iron but just dug my 3 skillets out and am in the process of trying to get them sanded and seasoned. This one in the pic is in good shape and is ready to go without any prep work.
What do you guys use? A mix of several different kinds? Whatever is leftover from college? Is there any particular kind you love or hate or could you really care less? Do you have any certain pieces that you reach for over and over? Have you splurged on a nice set? Happy eating!