This is a guest post from Daniel Koontz, who teaches readers to “cook more, think more and spend less” at Casual Kitchen. I really enjoy his posts a lot and hope that you will as well!
At my blog Casual Kitchen, I spend a lot of time showing readers that healthy and delicious home-cooked food doesn’t have to be expensive. Unfortunately, there’s one way you can make cooking at home devastatingly expensive–and potentially suck the fun out of cooking for years.
How? By overpaying for high-end cookware.
Don’t get me wrong: some high-quality kitchen items are worth it. But it’s usually a good idea to defer all expensive cookware purchases until you’ve determined what kind of cooking you like to do–and more critically, how much cooking you’d like to do. Don’t run the risk of buying an expensive item you think you need when the real risk is that you simply won’t use a high-end item enough to make it worthwhile.
And having an unused $300 Signature Le Creuset Dutch Oven collecting dust in your cupboard, right next to that $150 egg-poaching set you’ll never use… well, I don’t know about you, but just thinking about wasted purchases like these makes me want to cook even less. Not to mention you could cook all 25 of Casual Kitchen’s Best Laughably Cheap Recipes four times over for the cost of those two items.
Another way to think about the “is high-end cookware really worth it?” question 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: you don’t really know yet how serious a player you intend to be, and a $400 racquet in the hands of a tennis newbie is a laughable waste of money and equipment. Instead, learn proper form and technique first. Get some practice and see how much you enjoy playing.
See how good you get–or how good you don’t get. Hey, you never know, you might even smash your racquet in frustration at some point–better that it be a cheap one!
Most importantly, starting with a less expensive racquet now doesn’t mean you’re condemned to a lifetime of cheap racquets. You can always decide later whether a more expensive racquet will help your game. Likewise with cooking: choosing some lower-end or mid-range cookware now doesn’t doom you to a lifetime of cheap kitchenware, and much less does it imply you’ll cook lousy-tasting food. But down the road, you’ll be in a far better position to know exactly which high-end equipment will provide good value to you–and which won’t.
The thing is, department stores and cookware retailers want us to believe that paying double, triple or more for cookware will somehow make our cooking taste better. However, the only thing you can really count on with high-priced, aspirational cookware products is that it’ll cost you lots of money.
There’s one more thing you can count on: high-priced aspirational products and brands are extremely profitable. Which might explain why retailers so badly want to sell them to you.
So, with cooking, find the best values. Start small and modest with your cookware acquisitions. See if you can borrow, share, or even “inherit” cookware and kitchen 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 set of Revere pots and pans is still going strong after more than 20 years). See what recipes you prefer to cook, and let that help you determine how broad your cookware needs really are. If a recipe you’d really like to make requires some unusual cookware item, see if you can borrow it from a friend or neighbor for your first try.
One final thought. There’s nothing more pathetic than that guy at the tennis club who brags about his new $400 tennis racquet when he can’t even hit the ball. Don’t be that person with thousands of dollars of kitchen equipment… who can’t really cook.
Readers, what’s your opinion? What do you think about high-priced cookware and kitchen equipment?