I’m not above an impulsive social media-fuelled purchase. I bought the “TikTok” booty leggings (and a young man shouted at me from his automobile while I was wearing them), and I purchased an exfoliating scrub (also for my butt), but I’ve never acquired a piece of cookware because I saw it on Instagram. I do, however, get many cookware ads in my feed.
If you need a pot, pan, baking sheet, or even a knife, do what the pros do and go to the restaurant supply store.
Why shop at a restaurant supply store?
We have written about our restaurant supply store essentials before — we’re huge fans of the soup containers — but my obsession has evolved beyond that original list. In addition to soup containers, I’ve recently purchased a $10 Kiwi cleaver, a huge stockpot for poaching chicken, and several large Cambro containers for sous vide-ing.
Some restaurant supply stores sell food too, and you should get some. I often buy embarrassing amounts of hash brown patties and cheese because “embarrassing amounts” are all they deal in.
Each store is different but, according to Twitter and my personal experience, the common theme between all of them is affordability, durability, and standard sizing, which may not seem like that big of deal, but nothing is more annoying than going to bake a cake, only to realise that your incredibly photogenic cake pan is an inch or two smaller than the one called for by your recipe. Also, you can get sheet pans in every conceivable size, from quarter to gargantuan, and you can never have too many sheet pans.
What to buy at a restaurant supply store
In terms of quality, things sold at restaurant supply stores are made for restaurants, which means they are expected to see far more use than what they’d experience in your home. In my time shopping at restaurant supply stores, I’ve found that the items for sale usually fall into two categories: Made to last forever, or not quite as durable but so cheap that you don’t really care if it it breaks. Basically, if something is good enough for a restaurant, it’s good enough for your home kitchen.
Need a prep table, a kegerator, or a stainless steel rolling storage cart? Restaurant supply stores usually have them. Some of them also have furniture, ash trays, and cool neon signs. Again, each store is different, and I’m sure there are some overpriced restaurant supply stores out there, but once you find a good one you will never look back.
If you want cast iron, they usually carry Lodge, a brand I have been using for years and have no complaints about. (I can’t compare it to Le Creuset, because I’ve never been able to afford anything from Le Creuset besides a ceramic roasting pan that I got at an outlet mall, but Lodge cast iron works like cast iron should.)
If you want something “cute,” restaurant supply stores usually have those cactus-shaped margarita glasses, but you could also just go to the thrift store. Some of my most adorable and unique pieces were purchased at Goodwill, usually for fewer than 10 bucks. I’ve found punch bowls, copper cookware, cocktail glasses, teak cheese domes, tons of vintage Pyrex, and a yellow enameled cast iron Dutch oven, all at second-hand shops. Not only are these pieces cute — and usually cheap — but they are far more unique than any millennial pink roasting pan you’ll find on social media. I’ve also had decent success buying pieces on Etsy, eBay, and (more recently) Facebook Marketplace, which technically is social media, but you’re buying from another user, not a company that is advertising on the platform.
How to find a restaurant supply store
If you don’t know where to find a restaurant supply store, do a quick internet search to find one in your area (there are a few online stores as well), or ask someone you know who works at a restaurant, and ask them for some pot and pan recommendations while you’re at it. Cookware is meant to be cooked in, not photographed, and who better to ask than the people who do a lot of rigorous cooking.