Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Green Kitchen Advice

A quick question from the Conscious Shopper

Ever since we got back from Christmas vacation, my husband has been working insanely long hours to the point that I haven't really seen him in two weeks. Tonight, he decided to take a break from all the work and spend some time with his two favorites: me and the telly. So I hope you'll understand when I keep this post short and sweet. My man is waiting for me.

I just have a question for y'all. My hubby and I have been married nigh on ten years, and for the most part, our kitchen is still stocked with the gifts we received at our wedding reception. The towels are threadbare, the dishes are chipped, and the nonstick pans have run out of nonstick. I try not to think about how much teflon we've consumed over the years.

I'd like to completely restock my kitchen. This month, I decided to start with my bread pans because the old ones were actually starting to rust, and that's not a flavor I want in my bread. But then came the debate: stainless steel? cast iron? stoneware?

I went with the stainless steel (right choice? wrong choice?), but I still have the rest of the kitchen to go - pots, pans, bakeware, towels, dishes, etc. I'm willing to pay a pretty penny since I plan to do this upgrade gradually over the next year or two. Mostly, I want things that will last longer than ten years. Like, the rest of my marriage would be nice.

What do you greenies have in your kitchens that you love?

Making Christmas ornaments requires a lot of flour.


Eco Yogini said...

cast iron would be my pick if A) I had a lot of money and B) could handle that much cast iron to care for (we have a pan and it is our special treat).

I actually LOVE LOVE our green pans- coated with ceramic they are smooth, non-stick, uber easy to care for and cook like a DREAM. they are also not as expensive as cast iron.

All our new pots and pans and stuffs are coming slowly but surely from Green Pan :)

Anonymous said...

As for bakeware, I'm wondering why you didn't mention Pyrex. So far as I know, glass is inert and less resource intensive than mining metal. I can personally attest to the fact that it lasts because we're using a bunch of my husband's grandmother's!

Wendy said...

I second Eco Yogini in a vote for cast iron for skillets. I have a couple of skillets, a waffle iron, and a dutch oven, and they're amazing to use.

Some other things I like about castiron is that they can be used just about anywhere from my stove top to my woodstove to outside in the fire pit. If I had the money to replace all of my pots and pans, my first choice would be cast iron.

Rosa said...

Cast iron can be very very cheap - I have two frypans that came rusty from garage sales, my roomate scoured off the rust and resurfaced them with fat and heat. I actually would not get more than the one frypan, if I were doing it over; we use the large one every single day but the dutch oven, small frypan, and griddle get used rarely, partly just because they are heavy and I don't like getting them in and out of the cupboard.

I like pyrex too; pyrex baking pans and a few pyrex casseroles (for quiches and roasted veggies - I use my lidded casseroles all the time, sometimes all 3 at once, because they can go in the microwave, oven, and fridge just as they are). We have one pyrex measuring cup that measures up to 1 1/2 cups, and my partner's been yearning for another, larger one.

The big purchases I've made that really made a difference were our pressure cooker & the pressure cooker cookbook by Lorna Sass - we use the pressure cooker at least 3 or 4 times a week, it's like magic - and a good blender that can stand up to heavy use.

ehmeelu said...

CAST IRON!! I have one big frying pan that I bought for $10 second hand. When properly cared for, it's non-stick, and it cooks food so well (holds the heat evenly). It's incredibly durable (my mom has one that her grandmother used when traveling by covered wagon across the prairies!)

I hardly use anything else on the stove except a couple of large stainless steel pots with lids.

Green Bean said...

I'm going to buck the trend a bit. I have an induction stovetop which means I'm very limited in the types of pans I can use. I have mostly cast iron and some stainless steel. My cast iron ones are the coated kind. I do love them but MAN they are heavy. One of those, maybe a dutch oven, and that is enough. For the rest, I might opt for stainless steel.

For cookie sheets, I love our stoneware one. I've had it for eons and it does get rusted and nasty like the metal ones I've had in the past.

I prefer glass for other baking pans and for towels, I bought some bamboo ones a couple years ago when I was in your situation. I'm pretty happy with them. They are very soft, dry very well. I bought red and green. The red ones have faded significantly but the green ones look as good as the day I bought them.

ruchi said...

I am excited for the advice as we are registering for kitchen goodies and I want to know what to register for!

That said, I second everyone who mentioned pyrex. I went ahead and bought the pyrex that comes with the lids (little more expensive and the lids are plastic but I find that I use the pyrex as much if not more as storage and I'd rather just have some plastic lids than a whole set of plastic tupperware or some such.)

I also LOVE our bamboo towels. We've only had them a year, but so soft!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Anonymous - I don't know why I didn't mention Pyrex since I did consider glass for my bread pans. The main reason I went with stainless steel is because my mom told me to, and she's usually pretty smart. :) But I have a couple Pyrex casserole dishes that I won't be replacing. They're great.

Anonymous said...

I have 1 cast iron that I use a lot, but I like that Stainless steel can go into the dishwasher! I find that I use 3 sizes the most. A small sauce pan, a large sautee pan, and a crock pot. Make sure you have very heavy bottoms on the stainless steel and a copper core will give good heat conductivity.

I prefer glass for baking. And any sheet pan will do with a Silpat over it. I cut a silicon mat to fit the bottom of my bread/cake pans. This way I can always get these out without issues.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Those of you who prefer glass for baking - what do you like about it? Except for casserole dishes, I've only ever used aluminum for baking (except my new bread pans), but I was leaning toward stoneware, mainly because of the nonstick quality it develops, similar to cast iron. So what's so great about glass? Just the price?

jerusalem said...

At the risk of being redundant;
I have a few cast iron pots and pans, and they are well worth the money. That said, I must confess I buy them at a reasonable price in a country general store in the area (the benefits of living in the backwoods) or at yard sales. We have one regular sized pan, one square pan (also good for baking, especially cornbread) two large pots and one giant, 12" frying pan that we break out on special occasions. And really, how much more do you need?

The easiest way to restock a kitchen is to keep an eye out over time, and hit up thrift shops, pawn shops, antique stores and places like goodwill. You can usually find wonderful iron there, as well as nice ceramic and glass bakeware, like Pyrex, which is really the way to go.

I've also heard copper is a good way to go if you're willing to pay out, but I haven't tried any myself.

Mitty said...

I am a Pampered Chef consultant, and I have the stainless cookware, which has a lifetime guarantee (I hate replacing things). It is less heavy than cast iron, but is still heavy enough to be used on a wood cookstove (which I hope to have as a backup in my retirement home). For dish towels, I love linen towels, which are lint-free and last for years. (I Really hate replacing things!) I also love my stoneware bread pans and my round stone for homemade pizza.

Alison said...

Glass casseroles, pie and cake pans. I've bought some of these second hand (Consumerist tested pyrex and the old stuff is actually stronger!).

One cast large cast iron skillet for stir fries, eggs, and cooking just about anything (it has pretty high edges). A cast iron griddle (doubled sided -- one flat for pancakes/flat breads & one for grilling).

I'd love to have a dutch oven (cast iron, Le crucet).

The rest is stainless -- Cuisinart brand bc it had the best price at the time and it has held up wonderfully.

Cookie sheets -- I have a mix, but don't have a favorite. I can say that I got a Pampered Chef stoneware baking sheet off of Freecycle bc someone had burned the cr*p out of it and I soaked it, scrubbed it cleaned it up nice and it works great (and says made in the USA).

Green Bean said...

Re the glassware, I like that it doesn't rust or scratch like metal bakeware does.

Jessica said...

I was just given my in-laws' Revereware pots and pans. My father-in-law gave me his that he received for his first marriage (1979) and my mother-in-law gave me the ones that are around 50 years old, that her parents used and then gave to her.

Rosa said...

Erin - glass is easy to wash, anything that's baked on scrubs off with a scrubbie (and if it's really bad, you can put water & soap in it and nuke it, then just wipe off whatever was baked on.) It goes in the dishwasher for most things. And if it chips, I can file down the chip with a diamond file - got that tip from a green website a few years ago and it's been awesome, I picked up a glass casserole with a chip for free and "fixed" it. I never have managed to break a pyrex pan.

And they're light, a lot lighter than cast iron at least.

I've never had a ceramic baking pan, only dumpstered metal ones and my mom's old steel ones and the pyrex. But I'd be afraid to subject ceramic to the abuse my tempered glass takes (I have broken tempered glass canning jars, by heating or thawing them too abruptly. Never pyrex.)

Lisa Sharp said...

I use Pyrex and American Kitchen stainless steel for baking. I love both.

I also use stainless steel for cooking. I would like some good cast iron but for now I have stainless.

I still can't find info on if stoneware from Pampered Chef is lead free. From what I have found so far it just "meets US lead standards." Which wouldn't have to mean lead free. :(

Frances said...

I love my cuisinart 6qt stainless steel soup pot (maybe a bigger one would be better for your family). I also have an extra large tramontina stainless steel skillet that gets used a lot (for batch cooking). Cast iron is great but it can be finicky if you're like me and frequently get sidetracked while cooking *ahem*. With stainless steel, all you need is a stainless steel scrubby (dirt cheap and will last almost forever) and anything will come off without damaging the pan. You do have to cook on a lower temperature though, and use more oil to keep things from sticking.

I also love pyrex for storing leftovers, lunches, and reheating, and baking. The only time I ever broke a pyrex was when I tried to rapidly cool a pie with ice water (not so smart) but I've dropped them, rapidly heated them, and moved with them and they've held up great.

As for dishes, we are in the same boat. We bought a stoneware dish set (plates, bowls, mugs) and almost every piece is chipped. Next time I'm only buying plain white correlle (the painted designs don't last). My grandmother still has the same correlle plates she bought when she got married and someday they will still be good as new for passing down.

Helena said...

I picked Calphalon (the anodized, I believe, not the nonstick) when we were registering for wedding gifts, because my mother still has her set lo these 30-something years later and it's still in good shape (when they got married, my dad bought her one a year for Christmas until she had a set).

We also have cast iron, which my husband brought to our marriage, and some that we inherited from his grandparents. Those pans might just be used by my descendants decades from now.

I don't know anything about how green either of those things is, but they both seem to last a long, long time.

Condo Blues said...

I love love love my set of stainless steel pots and pans. After a gift of Teflon eventually flaked off I invested in stainless steel after some research. After 10 years I've never looked back. They should last me the rest of my life.

SustainaMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SustainaMom said...

What a great thread of comments! I love to get opinions from people who share the same values I hold.

I got stainless steel pots for Christmas a year ago and love them. I like my hand-me-down cast iron, though I hate to hand wash dishes and sometimes choose stainless steel over cast iron just to make cleanup easier. I need to update rusted cookie sheets as well. I'll be looking into stoneware now....

Anonymous said...

I still don't have an enameled cast iron dutch oven, but I drool over them periodically. That would be one of my first purchases.

Good pyrex glass measuring cups, in 1, 2, and 4 cup sizes. I use them for EVERYTHING, including not necessarily measuring.

My ceramic French white Corningware bakeware set is one of those things we registered for when we got married, and I use those suckers all the time--it has a bunch of different sizes from roasting pan down to little pint things, lots with lids, and they are awesome. (It occurs to me now that I bet one of those would fit in my crockpot as a double boiler kind of thing too...)

A pizza stone. Awesome for so many things, not just pizza and bread...

I haven't heard anyone mention silicone bakeware--if there's anything particularly un-green or un-safe about it, please let me know, but in terms of plain old ease of use I adore it. Especially for muffins and bundt cakes. (I did get a silicone bread pan, which is not as good an idea, because it broadens as the bread rises and you get a funny loaf shape.)

I also still use a couple of glass pyrex piepans and some probably-pyrex baking dishes (you know, the rectangular ones you make brownies in) that my mom gave me 20 years ago. They are sort of ugly, but they still work.

Most of my pots and pans at this point are still carefully-cared-for nonstick, from before I knew about the fume issue. When I need to replace them I will probably go cast-iron, but I admit I go to my nonstick skillet way more often than I do my cast iron one. It's almost 15 years old and still in fabulous shape, with no scratches or flaking, and I love it.

Good luck and congratulations!! Have fun with this!

Bunny said...

You may want to consider Anchor Hocking brand glassware - I especially love their TrueSeal lids for leftovers (awesome seal!) and they pride themselves on making all their products in the US.

Bethesda Locavore said...

We recently switched out our teflon for cast iron and I love it. We make eggs every morning and it really is pretty nonstick. And very inexpensive!

Cindy@OnePartSunshine said...

I use stainless steel skillets and pots. For soups, I use an enameled cast iron pot (which I love!). And I recently switched to stoneware for my bread pans, cookie sheets and muffin pans. I was a little skeptical about the stoneware but they are amazing! The bread pans are from Bennington Pottery and the rest are Haeger. Hope that helps.


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