When you walk around the store or flip through the Amazon results, it’s a good thing to know the brands you’re looking at. Different companies have different strengths and weaknesses, and you can make better, more informed choices if you know them. Some of these companies have a product line for every job under the sun, but there’s usually a core business that you should focus on. Here’s a look at ten brands you should know when you’re looking at bakeware.
Calphalon started out in 1963 as a company making aluminum cookware for the food service industry. Over time they expanded out into the home market, then later added product lines of all styles, to the point where you could outfit your entire kitchen with Calphalon, from the stove to the forks.
Calphalon is generally a quality manufacturer with prices to match, but the signature line to focus on is their nonstick anodized aluminum cookware. Anodizing makes aluminum hard and corrosion resistant enough to use in cookware, and that combined with Calphalon’s nonstick coating makes great pans that match up with anything else in their price range.
Check out their 8-inch omelette pan – it’s first class.
Pyrex is the brand name for Corning’s borosilicate glass, and is the classic brand for high-quality glassware. Borosilicate glass is clear and strong, and holds up well to the kitchen environment. Even better, Pyrex is cheap, and lasts a long time. While it is glass, and you shouldn’t go throwing it around the kitchen, it will usually survive the ordinary drops and bangs that befall bakeware.
Common items include pie plates, casserole dishes, and liquid measuring cups. Pick up a Pyrex 1-cup liquid measuring cup if you don’t have one already.
Nordic Ware is a classic company based out of Minneapolis. When you see their name in the store, it’s usually attached to baking pans, often in fanciful shapes. Like most companies that stick around for a significant amount of time, they’ve diversified into a variety of lines, but the thing that makes Nordic Ware special is their early 1950s invention: the Bundt cake pan. The Bundt pan is built around a center hole that increases the surface area-to-volume ratio, much like a doughnut.
Pick up a classic Bundt pan and make the signature Tunnel of Fudge cake that cemented the Bundt pan’s place in American baking.
One of the oldest companies on this list, Farberware is another company that’s expanded into making most everything. Usually mid-priced and solid in quality, Farberware is a brand you can trust when you’re dipping your toes into a new project or cooking style.
I especially like Farberware for stainless steel pots and pans that don’t require a second mortgage. Grab the 6-quart stockpot:
Want a piece of enameled cast iron that your great-grandchildren will still be using and loving decades down the road? Le Creuset is the absolute best when it comes to Dutch ovens and similar styles of pot. They’re amazing at evenly distributing heat, but not unbearably heavy. They build up great fond, but clean up like a dream. My Le Creuset Dutch oven is the best piece of cookware I own, and it’s not even close.
You should be sitting down before you look at the price tag, but you will love the 7¼-quart Dutch oven.
When you’re looking for a ceramic dish that can go straight from the refrigerator to the oven to the table, you want something from CorningWare. Their signature material is resistant to thermal shock, a phenomenon where rapid changes in temperature (like going straight from the fridge to the oven) can cause a dish to crack. It’s also pretty strong, and might survive getting dropped on the floor.
CorningWare’s classic pattern is the cornflower blue. Here’s a two-pack of lidded casseroles:
You know you grandma’s cast-iron skillet? It’s probably a Lodge. There’s no substitute for cast iron cookware, and Lodge’s is great and cheap. They’ve got some other stuff too, including a pretty nice enameled Dutch oven that costs five times less than Le Creuset’s, but the signature line is plain cast iron skillets, griddles, Dutch ovens, and more.
Every kitchen should have a 12-inch Lodge cast-iron skillet. Make a pineapple upside-down cake in it – there’s no substitute.
OXO got started in 1990, and gradually took over the world of kitchen utensils. Their Good Grips line had the brilliant idea of putting comfortable handles on common tools – an idea that feels like wheels on luggage; obvious but the tech and design had to get there. They’ve expanded out like most of these companies do, and while I like some of their storage stuff, it’s the hand tools that are always good choices for a reasonable price.
How can I pick one thing? Get a set of peelers for all occasions.
Though they didn’t invent the food processor, Cuisinart brought it into the American home. Founded in 1971, Cuisinart rode the wave of French cooking and became synonymous with the food processor. In the early 90s, they expanded into other styles of cookware, and are a solid choice for any kind of small appliance. Their pots and pans are solid choices too, and don’t cost an arm and a leg. Cuisinart products are usually well-designed and especially accessible to people with limited mobility.
A food processor will transform the way you bake. Get the big one – it’s worth it.
Ateco is one of the top brands to look for when you’re making cakes and cookies. They make all shapes of cutters, pans, molds, rolling pins, and mats that you’ll use to make the cookies; then you can buy the pastry bags, tips, spatulas, and dipping tools to fill and decorate them. Indulge your sweet tooth and take a spin through their catalog.
For something straightforward with a lot of uses, pick up this set of round cutters and make some biscuits.