Long time CK readers can pretty much guess my opinion on paying for expensive, high-end cookware: Very, very few high-end kitchen items are worth a premium price.
And newer cooks, take heed: If you're new to cooking and looking to stock your first kitchen, you should always defer buying any high-end cooking gear. Wait a while.
Why? Because the real risk, especially when you're first starting to cook, is that you won't use the item enough to make it worthwhile. And having a $295 Signature Le Creuset Dutch Oven collecting dust in your cupboard, right next to that $130 Calphalon Egg-Poaching set you'll never use... well, just thinking about wasted purchases like this can suck the fun out of cooking for years.
Not to mention for the combined price of those two items you could have cooked all 25 of Casual Kitchen's Best Laughably Cheap Recipes four times over. And fed 400 people.
And yet it shouldn't be a surprise that department stores and cookware retailers want you to believe that paying double, triple or more for high-end cookware will somehow make your food taste better. Remember: high-priced aspirational products are extremely profitable. Which is why retailers so badly want to sell them to you.
Granted, some expensive kitchen items may end up being worth it. One example from our kitchen: we held off on buying expensive knives for a few years until we were confident we would use them heavily, and until we had developed sufficient knife skills to make a high-end knife purchase a truly worthwhile investment. We saved ourselves money and quite a bit of resentment by waiting until there was no risk that this expensive purchase would go unused.
My favorite way to think about high end cookware is to use tennis racquets as an analogy. If you're a beginner at tennis, you should always start with a less-expensive racquet. Be honest with yourself: you don't even really know yet how serious a player you intend to be. Learn proper form and technique. Get some practice and see how much you like playing. See how good you get--or see how good you don't get. Hey, you might even want to smash that cheaper racquet in frustration at some point!
The bottom line: you can always make a decision later on a more expensive racquet. And even then you still might decide to pass. Heck, I still play with a $45 racquet--and I almost always win against Laura.
So, with cooking, start small and start modest. See if you can borrow or even "inherit" some cookware and tools from others. Go low-end or mid-range with the pots and pans you buy at first (I'm a gigantic fan of sturdy mid-range brands like Revere--my full set of Revere pots and pans is still going strong after more than 20 years). See what recipes you tend to like to make, and how broad and wide your cookware needs really will be. If you stumble onto a recipe you really want to make that requires some unusual cookware item, see if you can borrow it on your first try. And avoid, at all costs, overpriced celebrity-endorsed cookware. Don't pay your own hard-earned cash for extra branding that provides minimal value to you as a consumer.
One final thought. There is nothing more pitiful than the guy at the tennis club who brags about his new $400 racquet when he can't even hit the ball. Don't be the person with thousands of dollars of kitchen equipment who can't really cook.
Readers, what's your take? What do you think about extremely high-priced cookware and appliances?
A variation of this post appeared on A Life Of Spice several months ago.
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Spending to Save: Frugality and Expensive Food
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