Learn your way around your kitchen. Learn your way around your life.
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Pan and Knife Sets May Not Be The Best Deal
Credit: Luis Echeverri Urrea / Getty Images

Have you ever gotten married? Have you ever moved into a new house or apartment? Have you ever gone away to college? If any or all of these are the case, then you have probably been given a knife set or a pan set. The question I am putting to you: Are there knives and pans from those sets that you have never even unwrapped, much less used? I’m betting yes. Why? Why in the world would companies try to sell you things you have no use for? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Filler and money, of course.

There are certain knives and pans we can agree that we all need. A paring knife, a chef’s knife, perhaps a bread knife or serrated knife. Also a sauté pan, a large covered pot for soup or pasta, and a medium saucepan. That’s pretty much it, right? But companies can’t really charge you as much as they want to charge you for three knives or three pans and the sets would look skimpy with only three things. Bring on the filler. Bring up the cost.

Companies try to convince you that buying sets is really cheaper in the long run. It’s not. You don't need all of this stuff, so why buy it? I would suggest a radical approach. Buy a few really good knives and pans, even one at a time. You will soon figure out what kind of a cook you are, and what you need, and eventually, what you want. Really good knives will last virtually forever and will make your work so much easier. It's the same with really good pans. I’m also a big fan of the less cluttered kitchen and 10 pans you never use isn't helping matters.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I have lots of pans and knives, but these have been collected over decades of cooking. I also like big project cooking so, yes, I do have specific pots and knives for specific cooking projects. But I started with one really good chef’s knife—that I still use 40 years later—and a few mismatched pots and pans that I replaced one by one over the years. (And to contradict everything I just said, I confess that when my brother-in-law divorced his first wife, I was the recipient of his ex’s Revere Ware set. But to prove what I’ve been saying, there are at least four pots in that set I have never used)

All I really want to impart to you is this: No one needs to start off their cooking life spending a fortune on sets of things that contain stuff you will probably never need or use. Learn your way around your kitchen. Learn your way around your life. Your own priorities will dictate your cooking, and then one at a time, buy or request pieces that fit in with what you’ve learned.

I think many of our lives are packed with way too much stuff (please do not consider this an endorsement of the Marie Kondo-ification of the world). And while I don't think a kitchen needs to be a sterile empty white space, I do think a messy, overcrowded kitchen makes it harder to cook, especially when you’re just starting. Make it easier on yourself. Make it cheaper on yourself or the people giving you gifts. Give yourself the space to make cooking a fun component of your life, give yourself room to grow.

Read more from David McCann at thisoldchef.com.