Bigger often sells better when it comes to pots and pans.
Home cooks are buying up enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens big enough to roast two chickens and 10-inch chopping knives, which until recently were bought mostly by professionals, according to retailers of high-end kitchen supplies.
The U.S. is well-known for cookware and dishes big enough to handle oversize portions. But Americans now also are drawn in by the idea of hosting large parties and showcasing their cooking skills, says Jack Schwefel, chief executive of Sur La Table, a 117-location high-end kitchenware chain owned by private-equity firm Investcorp.
Leading cookware makers are highlighting cookware with a professional appearance and boosting the size of some items, Mr. Schwefel says. A large, industrial look appeals to avid cooks, growing numbers of whom are men. For some consumers, a large, beautiful pot evokes a well-organized image of themselves, cooking large batches of food on weekends to freeze or eat during the busy work week.
Earlier this year Sur La Table increased the size of its biggest Sur La Table-branded Dutch oven, to 8 quarts from 7 quarts, after another brand’s version sold well, Mr. Schwefel says.
The company recently introduced a 10-inch-wide, 2.25-inch deep ceramic pie dish, which is larger than a typical 9-inch pie pan. The big dish comes with a recipe for apple cranberry crumble pie, Mr. Schwefel says.
As more men turn to cooking, sales of 10-inch knives are booming, he says. Professional chefs had been the most common customers of these long knives, with home cooks buying 6-inch or 8-inch knives. But 10-inch knives offer men more ergonomic ease, he says.
At the Kitchen Window, a high-end kitchen goods store in Minneapolis, a large display of knives near the store’s main entrance draws in male customers. “They are the shiny objects that men follow,” store owner Doug Huemoeller says.
In its on-site cooking classes, the store encourages all students to use a 10-inch knife for better leverage and less fatigue while chopping, Mr. Huemoeller says. A larger knife is a larger lever lifting from the cutting board, so the cook gets more done with each chop, he says. Sales of smaller knives are falling, he says.
Sandee Bisson, a 38-year-old middle school English teacher who lives with her husband in San Francisco, says she makes simple, quick meals on weeknights. “On the weekends, I like to play” she says. She heads to the local farmers market and grabs “whatever is in season to make jams, stew or soup.”
There are two pieces of kitchen gear that Ms. Bisson says she “lusts after.” One is a Mauviel roasting pan with copper exterior, perfect for the 20-pound turkey she plans to cook for Thanksgiving next week. Considering its $270 price tag, “the wow factor may make up for the financial hit,” she says.
The other is a candy-apple red Professional KitchenAid stand mixer to replace her smaller, 15-year-old mixer. The red mixer is “both beautiful and badass,” she says, adding she plans to wait to buy it at a post-Christmas sale.
Citing kitchen trends at the high end of residential real estate, companies say homeowners are buying oversize pots and pans to sit on their oversize professional cooktops in oversize kitchens. Zach Elkin, director of brand marketing for Thermador kitchen appliances, a unit of BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH, based in Munich, says Thermador has seen explosive growth in large, professional-style ranges and stand-alone cooktops.
Earlier this year Thermador introduced a 48-inch-wide range with a convection oven, a smaller combination steam-convection oven and a built-in titanium cooking and griddle surface with six burners and big silver knobs, selling for about $15,000. The Thermador home page has a photo of a 30-something man leaning over the range, sniffing the steam wafting from a spoonful of sauce he is cooking.
Employees at GE Appliance who track cooking trends noticed more people trying to cook several dishes in the oven at the same time, such as side-by-side meat and meatless lasagnas, says Leanne Dugan, manager of consumer insights for the General Electric Co. unit. Consumers want to “show off” their cooking skills, she says.
To accommodate such ambitious behavior, GE made its newest line of wall ovens 15% bigger, Ms. Dugan says. The ovens fit in the standard 30-inch oven slot found in most U.S. homes but have more space inside, she says.
Sales of bigger, premium cookware run counter to the market for kitchen gear. Sales of cookware and knives overall remain at levels they fell to after the housing bubble broke, says Debra Mednick, home industry analyst for NPD Group, a consumer research firm. Most consumers are buying relatively inexpensive cookware from well-known brands at a mainstream retailer, “and it feels good enough,” she says.
At many high-end specialty retailers, sales of big cast-iron cookware are booming. At Williams-Sonoma, Michelle Foss, vice president of merchandising, says a cast-iron stovetop griddle from Le Creuset, the French maker of heavy, colorful cast-iron cookware, is selling well.
Oversize cookware often has prices to match: A single pan can cost $500 or more. Enthusiastic home cooks are buying strategically, retailers says, and justifying the expense because they hope to eat at restaurants less often.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels says strong sellers include a wider 6-inch knife, offering more ‘knuckle clearance.’Zwilling J.A. Henckels
The drive for better performance also is leading to bigger cooking tools. Zwilling J.A. Henckels now makes several 6-inch knives as wide as 8-inch knives, and 8-inch knives as wide as 10-inch knives, to help increase what it calls “knuckle clearance.”
The hand wrapped around the handle of a thin knife may hit the cutting board before the blade fully cuts through to the board, says Joanna Rosenberg vice president of U.S. marketing for Zwilling J.A. Henckels, of Germany.
Without realizing, “people often adjust,” she says, placing their hand off the edge of the board or counter to get more knuckle clearance. The German company’s other brands include Staub enameled cookware and Miyabi knives.
Le Creuset increased the handle size on its French ovens by 45% after popular bulky oven mitts left cooks struggling to get a grip on the smaller handles. “In the old days people used just towels, thin towels,” says Will Copenhaver, director of marketing communications for the company in the U.S.
U.S. sales of Le Creuset’s larger pots and pans are rising, Mr. Copenhaver says. The brand’s 5.5-quart Dutch oven is a best-seller, but sales of the 7-quart pot are rising as are sales of the 15.5-quart, 25-pound “goose pot.”
“We sold more of those in the last year than probably any other year,” he says.
Corrections & Amplifications
A new larger-size pie pan from Sur La Table is 10 inches across and 2.25 inches deep, and it comes with an apple cranberry crumble pie recipe. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the dish was 11 inches across and came with a pie recipe book.