The pans you choose to cook with are the backbone of your kitchen. We have made it our mission to pick the best cookware in several categories which can be either an expensive one time investment or an inexpensive sturdy alternative.
If you have never cooked with a piece of Mauviel copper, this is something to consider as you will see such a difference in your sauces, reductions and evenness in sautes. It is the best and most even conductor of heat. Aluminum is next in superior heat conduction and is more economical to purchase. It is why you see it in so many hotel and restaurant kitchens. The M'Cook series from Mauviel is some of the best designed and engineered multi-ply stainless steel cookware in the world--so much so that we feel that it has no competition in the US.
Cast iron and its cousin, carbon steel are both excellent for searing and for slow braises. Lodge cast iron is already pre seasoned but our our carbon steel cookware from DeBuyer in France and woks all need to be seasoned.
For insulated cooking, such as bean dishes, gratins, souffles and you cannot beat the Italian Piral earthenware or the Pillivuyt porcelain from France. The earthenware, if hydrated and allowed to dry can be used on top of the stove.