Week 6: Why I love dirty, tarnished pans.

The Beauty of Copper.
This weeks $25 find on the local classified ad site.

I love dirty, tarnished pans. Not my pans, other peoples dirty, tarnished pans. Especially vintage copper. Why? Because people sell them to me for a tiny fraction of their value. I love collecting and using fine cookware but I don’t like paying full price for it so when I can pickup good pans for pennies on the dollar just because they need a few minutes of work to make them look great again, I do it. I am not a brand snob or even a “type” snob when it comes to pans. I have copper, stainless steel, carbon steel, cast iron, aluminum and others. If it works, it works, and the more affordable the better. I like my pans but like my cash more.

I will and have paid full price for top end pans but if I can pick them up cheap, why not. Knives and a few other items are another story. This is where I tend to drop serious money to get what I want. For you it might be pans. If you have the money and desire, there is nothing wrong with buying top tier pans new. On a side note, I will not buy a used pan if I think it has been used for anything sketchy. I have no problem buying a pan from someone with a nice kitchen and who has obviously just replaced it or upgraded their pans. But I will pass if I have any concerns about a pans history.

I love All-Clad but they are usually very expensive. Are they worth the price? That is up to you. I find them fractionally better than pans that are half the price. I own several All-clad pans but I have never bought one at full price. Some were used and the others were promotions and one was at a discount store that sells misdirected shipments or lost items from the railroad. That pan got separated from a larger shipment. I also own several”second tier” brands of “Tri-Ply” type pans. Most of them were purchased used. Most of the used pans I bought were heavily tarnished or coated with a dull mineral buildup that attacks stainless steel that has only been run through a dishwasher. All were full functional.

Two of these pans were purchased new. Most of the others were purchased at 20% or less of the retail price mostly because they had hard water stains.
Well worth a few minutes of hand scrubbing.

My solution? Bar Keepers Friend brand scouring powder. Invented in 1882, it is still a fantastic addition to your kitchen. Most scouring powders or cleansers use abrasives or bleach as the cleaning agent. Bar Keepers Friend is rather acidic when mixed with water. This acidic property blasts through minerals and oxidation by means of a chemical reaction instead of just abrasion or bleaching. The result? I get shiny, sparking clean pans for a fraction of their cost new with only a few minutes of scrubbing. Bar Keepers is hard on your hands so you might want to use household dishwashing gloves when using it, but it is worth the effort.

Lemon and Salt (left) Vs. Barkeepers Friend (right)

Many people talk about using lemons or vinegar and salt to clean copper. This works and is very gentle to highly polished surfaces but not as effective on badly tarnished or corroded copper. The left side of this pan was scrubbed for two minutes with lemon juice and coarse sea salt. The right side was scrubbed with Barkeepers Friend and water for thirty seconds. I am not associated with or sponsored by Barkeepers. I just like the product and it is keeping me (and my kids) supplied with quality cookware because people only wash pans in the dishwasher instead of occasional hand scrubbing and sell them when they look dull.

Before and after one minute of cleaning.

It is so nice to cook on good pans instead of thin aluminum pans that are supposedly non-stick. Most cheap pans like that do not heat evenly and the non-stick coating wears away very fast. But many people buy them because they are just so much less expensive when compared to quality stainless steel or other top pans. It is impossible to convince a broke student or struggling young family they need to shell out $300 for a top shelf frying pan. Just not going happen. But with persistence you can find good deals on great pans that may have been little neglected and just need some TLC. You and your cooking deserve great tools so join me in saving these poor abused pans from being relegated to the back some pantry.

As for the rest of the week, eating in and shopping two to three times a week has become very easy. It is now just the norm for us. Sort of like when we were newlywed kids. Broke and walking distance to a grocery store and a dedicated butcher shop. I got very good at butchering whole chickens in those days because it was the cheapest meat we could get. It is like going back to a simpler time in my life. It’s fun and very romantic.

You might think that cooking and the associated cleaning is more time consuming and complicated that eating out but the opposite is true now that I’m back into the rhythm of it. It takes less time for me to cook a meal than going out and the cost savings is really starting show. I have read several blogs where people ate in for a month to six weeks with impressive results but all went back to eating out after six weeks.

I get it. Eating out is great but if they had to, most people could do this for an extended period of time. It takes effort and organization but I think the greatest challenge is the skill to keep it from becoming boring. More on that next week.

This weeks menu. Spiral cut veggies with marinara sauce and ricotta cheese, Cheese bread (home made) with leftovers, Soup (canned) with cheese and crackers, Soup (canned) with panini sandwiches, Tuscan chicken with penne pasta (at a Williams Sonoma Cooking class), Frozen pizza and finally Chicken fajitas.

I also wanted to give a big thank you to Camille at the Salt lake City, Williams Sonoma for a wonderful evening during her class. I will be talking more about cooking classes and culinary schools next week.

See you then. John

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