Find the Best Cookware Set

kitchen cookware
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Do you get fired up watching Top Chef? Maybe you feel like you could be the next Rachel Ray or Paula Dean, at least until you take a look at what’s in your cabinet.

If you’re trying to decipher what the best cookware set is, well that depends on you and your personal preference.

You may think you want a Le Creuset cookware set, but what you really need might be a Calphalon stainless steel cookware set.

Before you go out and pick one that you want, we’re here to help you make an informed decision, so you don’t end up regretting your purchase down the line.

Finding the Best Cookware Set: Understanding Value vs. Cost

You walked into the local Williams Sonoma, and you’re practically drooling over an All-Clad 11-piece cookware set, at least until you notice the $2k price tag. At the same time, you’re convinced that you need a complete cookware set, but the reality is that you might not need a full set.

Yes, the expensive sets are beautiful and durable, but they might end up being more than you need. So, there are a few things to think about before deciding on what you’re going to get.

  • Consider what you already own and replace only what needs to be replaced, or add something that you often find yourself missing. If you wish you had a 1.5-quart saucepan, then focus on getting that instead.
  • Do you use a particular pan style more often than others? Will you actually use that steamer set that comes with the cookware or is that just something else that will take up space in your cabinet?
  • What kind of food do you cook most often? If you happen to be the type that enjoys pan-searing a slab of meat or cooking up some seasoned chicken, then stainless steel is going to be your best friend because of how easy it releases.
  • If you’re a seasoned cook, you may prefer stainless steel to a nonstick coating. Alternatively, if you’re relatively new to cooking, nonstick coatings may feel like a safety blanket that you just don’t want to let go. Either one is okay, as long as you know that about yourself ahead of time.
  • Think about your cooktop’s surface, too. If you have a flat, glass cooktop, then you’re going to be better off with pans that have a defined flat bottom. If you have what’s known as an induction cooktop, then your pan needs to be magnetic. In other words, grab a magnet and take it with you to see if it will stick to the bottom of the pan to know whether or not it would be a good choice.

If you go out and just purchase a cookware set without getting a good understanding of what you’re looking for, you might end up paying more for pans that you don’t need or want.

You’ll need to find the pans that are more valuable to you, and that doesn’t necessarily mean being the most expensive on the market to find good quality.

Get to Know the Parts of a Pan

If you get to know the different parts of a pan, you’ll also be able to identify good quality pans without wondering if you’re getting a good deal on good cookware or a reasonable price for a pan that isn’t worth the hassle.

Handles on a pan will make a difference in how you handle it as you move it around. A coated handle may be easier on your hands, but you’ll need to check and see if it’s oven-safe if that's what you’re looking for.

Cookware cores vary from set to set. As an example, stainless steel cookware tends to be made of multiple layers of metal. The most commonly used metal cores tend to be either copper or aluminum as they are both excellent heat conductors.

Also, pay attention to the sides of the pan. Flat sides that are vertical are great when it comes to needing a pan where you can toss ingredients. If the side flares out a bit towards a curled rim, then these are better for reducing liquids like sauces or compotes.

Knowing the parts of a pan help, but it would be good for you to also become familiar with the various cookware types on the market.

Cookware Types

We’ve mentioned stainless steel and nonstick, but those aren’t the only types of cookware out there. There is also what is called enameled cast iron.

Stainless steel is a great all-around choice when selecting a cookware set. It works well with meats and seems to be able to handle even the most delicate sauces. Some of these sets transfer from stovetop to your oven, and others don’t, so you’ll need to verify that.

Nonstick coatings are a fantastic choice when looking at easily releasing foods that tend to stick more often, like pancakes. How many times have you gone to make pancakes and you end up getting them stuck on the bottom of the pan, causing you to end up with a tasty pile of pancake pieces?

Enameled cast iron is classic in its design and can often go from your stovetop to your oven and then straight to your table. You can’t necessarily say that about stainless steel or nonstick pans, although some of them can. You would just need to check on that.

The cast iron pans that most are familiar with are the uncoated cast iron pans that many often associate with camp cooking or the cooking that grandma used to do. Cast iron pans do tend to last for a very long time, although they do require more maintenance in the long run.

You may or may not be aware of carbon steel or blue steel cookware, but they are often preferred by professionals. Not only are they extremely durable, but they are also designed for high performance. They also clean easily with some paper towels. If you need to wash them, don’t put them in a dishwasher – these pans don’t like dishwashers.

Copper pans look beautiful and make for an elegant presentation on your dinner table, but they’re not necessarily the best choice depending on what you’re looking for. They’re great for sautéing and frying, but you’d have to make sure you chose a heavy set if you want to be able to put it in your oven. They’re also pretty pricey and tend to dent easily since copper is a soft metal.

The pans that most of us will recognize from our college days if we did any cooking at all, are usually the aluminum pans. They’re cheap and work well in heating evenly and cooking quickly. The downside is that a cheaply made aluminum pan may leave your food tasting just a little bitter, so make sure the pan you pick specifically says it is made of anodized aluminum.

The Meat and Potatoes of Cookware Sets

When you’re on the search for the best cookware set possible, here are some brands to keep in mind along with where you can find them, so you can compare them for yourself.

Calphalon Stainless Steel Cookware

Calphalon can be found in stores across the country from Target to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and even in more upscale locations like Williams Sonoma.

Over time, the company has developed a fantastic reputation, especially with their stainless-steel cookware. You can find plenty of positive reviews over on Amazon or on Williams Sonoma regarding the quality of the cookware.

One customer states, “I bought the 12-inch fry pan first to try out to see if I liked it! I highly recommend doing! I love them! Bought this set next and have used them on a daily basis. Two things, they are heavy so check out the description, but that it not an issue for me and a small nik pik (sic) compared to what I got in this set. And of course, keep some Bar Keepers Friend handy or the like to keep them sparkling clean.”

The reviewer goes on to state that the Calphalon Premier Space-Saving Stainless Steel cookware was the best she had ever owned given the reasonable price tag associated with the set.

All-Clad Stainless-Steel Tri-Ply Cookware Set

BestReviews.com covered this set from All-Clad and determined that it is the best of the best cookware sets. People all over Amazon agree.

This set is definitely among the pricier sets on the market, but the quality is tough to beat. You can find them in complete sets for under a thousand dollars.

It is a 10-piece cookware set made of 3-ply bonded stainless steel with an aluminum core. This set is also safe up to a full 600 degrees Fahrenheit without the lids.

People love this set just like JWB, “I bought this set as a wedding gift for my niece because I have this set and I love it. I found cooking to be frustrating, burning food, some portions cooked, other areas insufficiently cooked; and then I got this set. I became a good cook, no longer frustrated, food cooked evenly and it didn’t require turning the burner on blast. I’ve had my set since 2000, clean it with Bar Keepers Friend and it looks almost brand new.”

Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

This cookware set from Cook N Home is excellent for the budget minded as you can purchase this set for around $50. It’s made of stainless steel with an aluminum bottom that is designed to provide even heating and cooking.

The only downside to this is that it is not dishwasher safe according to the description, so you will have to handwash them when you’re done. People have said they do put them in the dishwasher without problems, but even still, the manufacturer doesn’t recommend it.

There are many different reviews that are extremely positive about this cookware set. “These are great on a budget, I own 10-ply also, but these cook quicker but can burn food fast so it’s a grade off. If you like quick cooking these are great, I use butter when cooking, nonstick spray stick to these pots pans, but again cheap to replace…”

The reviewer goes on to say that they cook like more expensive pans and perform well even though they are not meant to handle oven use.

Finding the Best Cookware Set

As you go about finding the best cookware set for you, you need to figure how to work in what you want with what you need.

Consider costs, materials, the way you cook, and you’ll be able to make a well-informed decision of what you’re going to need – it might just be a few essential pieces instead of an entire set.

Be honest with yourself, and your cooking needs will tell you what your kitchen needs to have. Happy cooking!

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