Cooking Like the Stars? Don't Waste Your Money

Is celebrity chef branded cookware worth the extra money? This was the subject of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

The article raised two thought-provoking questions:

1) Is it worth it to pay up for a cookware set endorsed by celebrity chefs like Rachel Ray or Emeril Lagasse?
2) What do you really get for your money when you buy chef-branded cookware?

The surprising answers to these questions were 1) no, and 2) surprisingly little.

"A star endorsement doesn't mean stellar cookware."
The anecdotes from the article are depressing. The silicone handle on Rachel Ray's frying pan catches fire during a test use. Emeril Lagasse's 8-inch frying pan bends "like an accordion." And Marcus Samuelsson's 10-piece set, while of solid quality and design, retails for $500.

Tales like these make me want to crawl into my cupboard and hug my humble Revere cookware.

Neither I nor the WSJ mean to pick on these great celebrity chefs who collectively have done so much to bring great cooking to the masses. But let's be reasonable about the relative value of the products they hawk.

If you're trying to cook on a budget, or if you're trying to build out your kitchen at a reasonable cost, don't trip yourself up with a large capital outlay for overpriced cooking gear. And, most importantly, don't pay up for suspect merchandise. If you buy poor quality cookware, or pay too much for what you do buy, it can suck all the fun out of cooking for years.

Instead, stick to a basic but high-quality set of cooking gear that doesn't include extra branding and advertising costs. In our kitchen we've been overjoyed with the quality and durability of our reasonably priced Revere and T-Fall cookware, which we've been happily using for nearly two decades.

You don't need the stamp of approval from a celebrity chef to cook exceptional meals at home.

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Anonymous said...

I'm not much of an Emeril fan, but when choosing the cookware we recently registered for, it seemed to be the best quality for the price. We read tons of reviews, and we felt comfortable with the fact that it was made by All-Clad (just without the All-Clad sticker shock!). We haven't had any problems with ours (crosses fingers). You even get used to seeing that annoying little Emeril logo on all the handles. :o)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your nice comment! I love your post~ I am moving soon, so I'm thinking of buying new cookware. Thanks for the advice. :)

Rich and Col said...

good work WSJ and DK. I'm a Scanpan fan .... can't walk past a cookshop without having a little look!

Daniel said...

Great to hear from you... how are things down undah?

I've never really looked over Scanpan cookware but it looks really good. Thanks for suggesting.


Daniel said...

Hi April, thanks for your comment.

I'm wondering how hard the tester in the article had to strain to bend that Emeril pan "like an accordion"--did you find the frypan all that flimsy?


Anonymous said...

Not at all! Like I said, we've been really happy with the quality, and haven't had any problems. Granted, before we got married, we both owned $10 Wal-Mart nonstick pans, and that was all we knew. But we've found them to be very durable.

Alanna said...

I use the Revere ware my parents got as wedding gifts in 1968!

Daniel said...

Hi Alanna, you sound like you could be my twin sister! Nothing beats sturdy hand-me-down cookware.

Thanks for stopping by.


Unknown said...

I use all Emeril Lagasse cookware and love it. it is made by All Clad and is beautiful as well as very functional. the strainer lids and pouring lips on the saucepans make both cooking a clean up a breeze. The pans themselves clean up beautifully (especially with a little rub down from the Bar Keepers Friend cleaner). Does the cookware make me a better chef? Yes-because I spend more time cooking and trying new recipes because i love the cookware.

Anonymous said...

I use a set of Farberware that I purchased about the time I was married in 1976. All I've ever had to do was tighten the handle on one pot. I have added various pieces of All Clad and Le Creuset over the years, but only because I wanted them -- not because anything in my basic set needed to be replaced.

Anonymous said...

We have a nice sturdy set of Farberwear that we were given for Christmas nearly 10 years ago. The nonstick pan to that set is long gone but I use every other piece with regularity.

Now, my Shun knives.... I wouldn't do without them and I recommend everyone who is serious about home cooking invest in good knives. It makes it so much easier and more fun to cook at home.

Emmy said...

Daniel, I bought a set of Emerilware off of craigslist about a month ago and *love* it! I didn't really need it, but after reading up on teflon and what it can do to you, my 15-year-old T-Fal just had to go. Have not had a single problem with the new cookware except the learning curve of going from nonstick to stainless. The upswing is the esteem boost it gives you in the kitchen, working with good quality coookware. I'm very pleased with it!

BTW, has anyone told you today how very awesome you are?

Daniel said...

Some more excellent insights. I get the idea of having nice knives, and we've managed to acquire a few good ones here at Casual Kitchen too. But I'd argue, as you do lyttlebyrd, that the money spent is more worth it if you are truly serious about cooking at home.

And Emmy, thank you for your positive vibes! I'm flattered and grateful.