I will try to keep this post as short as possible so you do not have to read a wall of text. (I often type too much.) Also, I lack cooking vocabulary, so I might use the wrong word at times. Also, after re-reading my post a bit, it makes me sound like a jerk because it is so “to the point.” Apologies. Actual questions are at the bottom, but I have provided additional information should it help.
Edit: This still ended up being very long, sorry. Might help to skip to the questions, then read the other parts if it helps to know what kind of stuff I would be cooking, etc.
I am looking to outfit my kitchen with some new cookware. My entire set of cheapo non-stick pots pans and woks are dying one by one (only a small pan left). I am looking into cast iron. Upkeep/seasoning is not a problem (I have used cast iron cookware when cooking for large groups of people, 40 plus.) Overall, I am starting my kitchen from scratch, cooking for 2, but do not mind getting bigger items in order to make things in big batches. (especially since family is likely to grow. I want these things to last for a while.) I do not want anything that is coated with paint/chemicals that can chip and/or poison.
Basically I will tell you how I cook/eat, and you can give me some recommendations based on your experience/knowledge. If cast iron ends up being the way to go, please recommend a good size/shape. Ex. Are rounded edges better, should I get something with higher walls, etc.
During the time when one generally learns how to cook (out of necessity), I was living in Japan, but have a lot of Texas and Cajun cooking influence. My wife’s cooking style is a mix of Thai and Korean.
So combined, we do a lot of “soft/fall apart” slow meat cooking using marinades, grilling of marinated meat/veggies/noodles, and soups. We use a lot of spicy/salty/sweet marinades/seasonings, such as sugar, soy sauce, that Korean red sauce you find in most Korean dishes, BBQ, and crazy spicy things. (I mention this because, I hear that citrus is bad for cast iron. Not sure if any of the above applies, or if it is a huge issue.)
When cooking, we prefer eating meats that are soft or shredded and are heavily marinated in juices. (Often marinated with soy sauce, sugar, and spicy sauces.) For example, we buy chicken legs or boneless breasts, put them in a glass bowl(?) with a lot of water/marinade, throw it in the oven, and let it boil/cook. Produces incredibly soft flavorful chicken. Rips up easily, and has almost *too much* flavor. (Which I love, but it will have health consequences later I am sure.) We do not like tough dry flavorless meat. I do not know how to describe this, but when chicken rips into strings, that is what we do not like. We spent a lot of time *trying* to like this kind of chicken, going to nice restaurants, etc., But no dice. Might be considered “grilled” chicken? Either way, seasoned on the outside, bland on the inside does not work for us.
Additionally, we like to cook eggs, but we make thick pancake-like eggs, with mayo milk and soysauce mixed in, then slowly cook in pan. (Along with scrambled eggs, bacon, etc.)
We also cook thick soups with meat and veggies in them (hayashi rice, that white soup from olive garden, etc.), biscuits, and make bread.
We eat on a portable electronic indoor grill a *lot.* It is on our dining table a good 50% of the time. Throw on pre-marinated meats, vegetables, and noodles. Sometimes we eat out of the very pots/pans that we cook in.
We also eat frozen pizza’s and make cookies from time to time. (Was thinking about getting a cast iron pizza sheet for the aforementioned items, fish sticks, something to cook homemade bread on, etc.)
So aside from sandwiches, that is it. We do not make specialized pastries, or care if a thanksgiving turkey is whole or disassembled, and we view uneven cooking as a part of life. We prefer to replace “specialty items” (such as an apple corer) with effort. So we are a no cakes, pies can be replaced by cobbler, “I will throw in some balsamic vinegar and see what happens” mentality. We need cookware than can handle that kind of kitchen atmosphere, and be jabbed with a knife and a fork.
Basically, I am looking to get one or two (Or more) good all-around pans/pots/whatever. I prefer having an *extremely* minimalist kitchen. If a cast iron wok can do all of the things I listed, then that will work, even if it goes against the conventional “must cook on something flat” mentality. (In the past, I have used a flat bottom wok to great effect when cooking meat, as the marinade/seasoning always runs to the center, where the meat/vegetables are.)
1. Is there a cast iron pot/pan that is all around good for everything? For example: If I got a 12 inch pan that is flat on the bottom and has rounded tall (2-3 inch) sides that has a lid, then I could theoretically cook eggs, make soup, and slow cook meat. (Which would accomplish everything really.) Does this exist, and if so, would you recommend this approach? (Ex. I imagine that this would be overkill for an egg, but since this pot/pan would be sitting on the stove 24/7, and all it takes is a flick of the spatula to put it on to a plate, it should work.) Thoughts on this? Based on the cooking lifestyle described, can you recommend a good pot/pan shape?
2. I was thinking about getting a good all-around skillet and a dutch oven. Dutch oven would be used for soup/meat both on the stovetop and in the oven. I am hoping to be able to use it instead of getting a slow cooker. <---- Is this realistic? (We have an electric coil stove by the way)
3. We currently use an indoor electric grill on our table top, but would prefer a less-teflon-y solution. Any thoughts? Needs to use electricity. I was hoping for a cast iron solution, as even our non-stick grill has a nice seasoning on it due to the way we clean it. (Much like Cast iron) But I cannot seem to find any solutions for this, other than getting an electric coil/induction unit and placing a slab of metal on it.
4. Not a question, but here is my theoretical setup, just to show that I have researched this a bit before asking for experienced opinions:
- 1 cast iron flat bottom rounded 1-3 inch walls skillet with lid. Why? The wide flat surface can be used for pancakes, the high walls can be used for small soups or meats that need deep juice marinade. The rounded wall would allow juices to “center” while also allowing for a *slight* additional cooking width, and would be easier to clean as opposed to a cornered wall. (Nitpicking.)
- 1 cast iron dutch oven/pot. Make a soup on the stove, or fill full of meat and use as a slow cooker in the oven. (Or maybe even on the stove if that works. Not sure.)
- 1 cast iron pizza sheet. For pizza’s, homemade bread, biscuits, fish sticks, cookies, etc.
5. It just occurred to me that I need something to boil water in for ramen, etc. Will the cast iron dutch oven on the stove accomplish this? (Doesn’t have to be crazy fast, but if it takes an hour, then maybe a copper bottom pot will do.)
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.