QUAERITUR: important kitchen tools

Here is a change of pace.

A reader recently asked me about necessary cooking tools.

Among the several things which more obvious, good bowls are essential. Sturdy, heat resistant and in different sizes.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Bobby Bambino says:

    Do you have any particular brand of bowls that you recommend, Father?

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Do you use plastic? I am so old-fashioned (no microwave; cook everything the long way) I am wondering how you like plastic? I use glass bowls and one crockery bowl. Also,what do you use for pots and pans? Up til now, I have been using cast iron, but with carpel tunnel, this is getting more difficult.

  3. wmeyer says:

    In these days of minimal durability plastic, one of my own favorites is TexasWare bowls. They are melamine, so cannot be microwaved, but they are incredibly durable. I have one such which is now about thirty years old. We use it almost daily, and to look at it, you would have no idea it’s more than a few months old.

  4. wmeyer says:

    On googling, I found that the Texas Ware bowls are now collectibles. The manufacture of them ceased in the mid nineties. They can be found on ebay, however.

  5. Joan M says:

    I love the bowls in the picture! Would really like a set like them. My bowls are a hodge podge of remnants of old bowl sets.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z,

    Recommend pots and pans?

  7. chironomo says:

    Concerning pots and pans, you will get into the debate over “stainless steel vs. aluminum” and all of that.

    I have a full set of All-Clad stainless… an excellent choice for the stainless crowd. That and a large can of “Barkeepers Friend”…the best kitchenware cleaner out there.

    If I had to name an essential, I think a good set of knives would be first on the list. I can personally recommend Wusthof… mine are going on 25+ years and look almost brand new. I never EVER put them in the dishwasher though…

  8. JulieC says:

    Very flashy. Wal-Mart has a set of nifty red bowls like these for $11.97.


  9. There is a great deal to be said for copper bowls, especially when working with eggs. I do not have any, alas.

    These bowls are not elegant, in the sense of being fancy, but they are really easy to store and they are sturdy. Also, you spot them right away as you are working.

  10. AnAmericanMother says:

    EVERYBODY has their own pet favorites in kitchen equipment.

    Since all I use copper for is beating egg whites, the little copper insert that’s designed to fit inside a Kitchenaid mixer bowl is perfect and it’s all I need. If you cruise the kitchen stores in the outlet malls you can pick up one on sale – most people don’t want them as they are annoying to clean. You can also pick up an extra regular bowl for the mixer and then you can just swap them out as you mix up a cake that needs multiple mixtures.

    I have the old set of Revere Ware (copper bottomed steel) saucepans that belonged to my grandmother, but I have been acquiring enameled cast iron because it heats so evenly, and the enamel wears well with reasonable care. I do have one nonstick heavy steel pan for eggs etc. and of course the cast iron Dutch ovens with little feet for outdoor cookery.

    Knives — French carbon steel, mine are Sabatiers. You can put a razor edge on them with a honing steel – I can split chicken breasts in three like cutting soft butter – but you have to wash them and dry them immediately and they will tarnish quickly to a soft puddled gray.

    Mixing bowls – whatever I inherited from various households in the family. Some stainless steel, some the heavy glazed pottery, but no plastic — I find it holds odors and is hard to clean. The rest of my house is an absolute mess, but my kitchen is spotless.

  11. GloriaDei says:

    Macy’s has the six-piece multi-colored set. Martha Stewart, naturally.


  12. Ellen says:

    My bowls are stainless steel, always. I do have a couple of plastic containers that I use to put dough in to rise.

    As a southerner, I swear by cast iron pans. They are wonderful and if tempered right will not stick. You can’t cook acid food like tomatoes in them, but that’s what the heavy steel pans are for.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    OK, Southerners, what do you suggest as a substitute for beloved cast iron pans for old hands and wrists? I have a Lodge dutch oven, and I agree that stainless steel bowls are great for cooking, but have resorted to glass and crockery over the years, for size differentials. I had, a long time ago, the Paul Revere set of cooper-bottomed pots, but as I am a compulsive cleaner, I found the keeping up with Brasso or varied types of cleaners time-consuming.

  14. wmeyer says:


    I am in the Atlanta area, though I grew up in the North, so am only a nominal Southerner.

    There is no real substitute for well seasoned cast iron, in my view. Stainless is fine for sauces at low heat with constant stirring, but everything sticks to stainless, at higher heats, or with insufficient stirring. The best non-stick product I have used is in the Marvelle pans, which are also good at high temps, unlike Teflon. However, I can no longer find an online source for Marvelle. Makes me sad, because they were heavy weight aluminum, which makes them very usable at lower heats, because adding ingredients doesn’t immediately affect the temperature.

    I know of no non-stick product which can compete with cast iron for longevity. Even if a cast iron pan is damaged, it can be re-seasoned.

    Revere pans are annoying to keep looking nice, and are a compromise solution, where the copper was used in an attempt to evenly spread the heat, which stainless notoriously does not do on its own.

    I have some pans I bought a decade ago, which were sold as non-stick, but in fact, everything sticks. They are stainless, with an exotic ceramic-related surface. They clean up spotlessly, but at any temp higher than a gentle saute, things stick. They also have a thick aluminum plate on the bottom, as a heat spreader. Pretty pans, and good in the oven, as they have steel handles, but too annoying to use.

    Cast iron rules!

  15. AnAmericanMother says:


    What you say: “I wasn’t born in the South, but I got here as fast as I could!”

    We’re old time Southerners (“old blood and no money”) back to the beginning. One Yankee clinging to the fambly tree – he was born in New York City in 1804 and came south and married a Georgia girl. So you see you have precedent.


    There’s no real substitute for the Lodge cast iron (we have several examples – dutch ovens for Boy Scout campouts and my wonderful old skillet that we bought when we got married). What you can do is get the enameled cast iron (Le Creuset is the benchmark brand, but there are others – cheapest place to buy is the kitchen shops in the outlet malls). It’s just as heavy, but it’s a whole lot easier to clean.

    For my cast iron, I just boil mine over the stove or the remains of the campfire, and then wipe out the interior with an oily paper towel (no soap – ever. I do use soap on the outside of the campfire stuff to get the soot off, but it never touches the insides.)

  16. Supertradmum says:

    I had Le Creuset in England, but left it there when I came back to America. Heavy to ship, etc. I love cast iron as well, it’s just getting heavy for my right hand. As to being a Southerner, my mum was born in St. Louis, Mo., which I think counts as the South and I did live in Mississippi for a short while. Loved every minute of it.

    Guess I need to pray for strength and keep using the cast iron ones, which I agree, hands down-no pun-are the best pans and pots.

    Still, we haven’t heard from the Grand Chef, Father Z, as to his choice of pots and pans.

  17. AnAmericanMother says:

    A possibility would be to put one of those heavy cast-iron diffusers on the burner . . . then at least you wouldn’t have to pick it up full of food.

    I have one for my Revereware and it seems to work pretty well. I keep it on the back left burner all the time, even though it comes with a little handle to move it around —


  18. Supertradmum says:

    What a great idea. Thanks, AnAmericanMother

  19. momravet says:

    Have anchor-hocking nesting glass bowls – they’re really useful and last forever. My new favorite toy is a griddle pan – so handy for everything.

  20. Norah says:

    I have been married for 30 years and have only used two types of cookware for the stove – Le Cruset enammeled cast iron and Emile Henry clay. As many have said, nothing beats cast iron but the Emile Henry is quite good and any food sticking is easy to remove. My cookware is black and so they always look good. My son cautions me against using non-stick ware and for the microwave I use Decor glass.

  21. catholicmidwest says:

    Can’t tell from the picture. Are those plastic or earthenware? If earthenware, get somebody to run a geiger counter over that nice yellow. Yellow pottery is sometimes “hot” as the dickens. Uranium glazes.

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    Particularly if made in certain countries.

    Also, you know that old fiesta ware you find at flea markets? Often hot, hot, hot.

  23. They’re melamine bowls, so don’t worry.

    Anyway, a little radioactivity is good for you! That’s why people have granite countertops, right? So just get a nice lead-lined drawer to keep your old yellow Fiestaware in…. :)

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’ve got the old yellow stoneware bowls with the brown stripe . . .

    But they are ancient – probably half-life is long past.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Sounds good to me. It’s fixed contamination anyway. Just don’t put your bed next to it. =)

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