Time for a new cookware set

I have not had a decent set of pots and pans for a while now my last set went with my ex. At the moment I’m down to an assortment of hand me downs none in good condition. I want to just replace them all and move forward.

Growing up my mother had a set of copper bottom stainless steel cookware I really liked and would love to match. Nostalgia is probably the only driving force there however. After I moved out the first set I bought was a stainless set and I hated them they felt cheap and thin.

I have no idea what defines good cookware and the prices on sets seem to vary wildly. On overstock.com sets go for $50-$250 at bedbathandbeyond.com they hit prices of 2,000. While I’d love to only spend a few hundred dollars I don’t want to regret my choice.

Plenty of options out there what are your experiences and recommendations?

Stainless? Teflon? Something else?

I generally am only cooking for myself but occasionally host and cook for small parties.

I despise washing dishes and do not currently have a dishwasher.

Any other information about my lifestyle relevant to selecting these things?

I guess another factor is I use a gas stove and will always opt for gas.

Don’t get a set - get the pieces you need! In my and Cook’s Illustrated’s opinion:

10 inch skillet, clad aluminum (All Clad, etc - not the crappy thin stuff!)
10 inch nonstick skillet, cheap
3 quart saucepan, clad aluminum
cast iron skillet
enameled iron dutch oven

That’s it. You can add a nonstick saucepan, a lidded straight sided skillet (forget what they call these), a tiny little saucepan for a single serving of something, etc., but those will cover all your basic cooking needs and you can get much nicer ones because you aren’t buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need.

ETA - I also have several nice big stockpots, but then I need them. You know if you need them or not.

This isn’t top-of-the-line by any means, but I’ve had good luck with every Anolon brand piece I’ve bought. They’ve held up amazingly well over years of use.

But like Zsofia said, I wouldn’t get a set. There’s a lot of pieces there you’ll never use. Ditto with knives–never get a knife block, get individual knives. Amazon.com’s kitchen outlet generally has good deals on individual pieces. That’s where I got the aforementioned Anolon pieces, and damn if they weren’t fantastic deals, in retrospect.

Cast iron. Everything else is optional.

Start with a good 10" skillet. Add a griddle if needed. Then maybe a chicken fryer. Eventually you will need a saucepan or two. Clad aluminum is good. You can find perfectly reasonable aluminum stuff at any restaurant supply store cheap.

If you have to have a non-stick pan, get something cheap. Cooks Illustrated says that even the uber-expensive ones eventually scratch and flake, so don’t waste your money. Get a cheap one and replace it every year. You’ll save money in the long run and the short run.

I also recomend a cheap Teflon skillet for eggs. Even expensive Teflon that has been babied scratches and looses it’s nonstick. An inexpensive skillet will do just fine and can easily be replaced.

ETA: see above.

The prices for buying a set vs buying individual pieces tend to put me in favor of sets.

IMHO I need:
10 Frying pan
8 frying pan
3qt saucepan
1 slightly larger saucepan or dutch oven
1 largish stockpot

The two most used are the 3qt saucepan and 10 ten inch frying pan

Parts of sets I would rarely use are the smaller saucepans and the other frying pan options like saute pans and griddles. Based on what I want and what comes in sets it seems that I could easily find a set I would use all the pcs except the smaller saucepan.

The concepts of sets that I like are they match and the lids are interchangeable.

I do not like cast iron and will not consider it.

Look into Tramontina. I learned about them on here and they are sold at walmart. They have several lines of quality, but their Gourmet tri-ply clad line is full aluminum core(not just base), and rates near as good as all-clad for one third the price.

I would also get a 12 inch rather than a ten inch. Those extra 2 inches make a much bigger difference than you would expect when cooking for a couple friends too.


Then get used to inferior equipment.

I have this stainless steel Calphalon set.

People may say what they will about sets, but I use every one of the pans in my set except for the steamer and this pan that’s not part of the set but was a bonus. The pots get the most use.

Of course, the pan that gets the most use is one of my 10-1/4" cast iron skillets. :smiley:

Let’s see… I use my 12" cast iron skillet a lot, my 12" all-clad classic saute pan a lot, and my 10" all clad classic fry pan a lot.

Beyond that, the enameled cast iron dutch ovens get fair use as well (one le creuset, one Rachael Ray- don’t bother with Le Creuset; the RR is just as good)

Cast Iron skillet. the more you use it the better it gets. No other cooking utensil does that.

Build from there.

Except he won’t consider it. I love mine, but they do require some attention to get them working right and to maintain them. Once you do that, they’re great to cook with.

Stainless steel is also nice, though not as versatile as cast iron. They require some care as well, but I love how easy they are to clean.

I use a non-stick Calphalon 1-qt pot for my steel-cut oatmeal. (I also use the overnight method, but I’m finding I sleep too long for it to work perfectly.) That gets used on weekends. Great to wash!

I have a couple of very cheap non-stick omelette pans. (They’re smoother than expensive ones.) I’d never cook anything else in them, since they’re so light. But they’re perfect for omelettes. And if non-stick is good enough for Julia Child and Alton Brown, they’re good enough for me. Still, I’m going to use my SS omelette pans until they’re seasoned right!

I’d still go for a set, no matter what it’s made of, and buy other pieces as needed. As I said, I use the set. Just get a good one.

Because there is NO OTHER PAN that is as good as cast iron? :dubious:

I have a couple cast irons, and I use them on occasion, but I don’t particularly like them because they’re so heavy. I’m female; I can’t easily pick up a cast iron and flip the ingredients, or even easily jostle them to move them around. As Johnny L.A. said, they’re more work than other pans that can be thrown in the dishwasher. Plus, if you have friends/relatives like mine, about once a year someone decides to “help” by washing my cast iron in plenty of hot, soapy water.

If someone doesn’t want to use cast iron, I can completely understand; there are plenty of alternatives that may not provide the exact same cooking experience - but you know what? My cast iron doesn’t provide the exact same cooking experience as my other pans, either. Every type of quality pan has its strengths and weaknesses.

That said, I agree with everyone else who said go for a few choice pans, not a set. I use my nonstick 10" skillet and nonstick 12" skillet a lot, and they are both some sort of medium-cheap brand from Target (Maybe KitchenAid?). I’ve had pricier nonsticks, and they’re not worth it, so nowadays I just buy one for $40-$50 and plan on replacing it when it wears out.

Other than that, a 6 or 8 quart dutch oven is essential, as is at least one non-nonstick (is that a word?) 10 or 12" skillet for things you need a good brown on (steaks, chicken, stir-fries).

Since there’s no dishwasher, we don’t have to worry about cookware that can’t go into a dishwasher.

If the OP has one of Bed Bath & Beyond’s coupons, they can pick up a two-pack of Calphalon non-stick sautee/fry pans for $40. One’s 10" and the other’s 12". The heavy aluminum makes for no hot spots and the non-stick makes for well, stuff not sticking. That comes out to $20 per pan, and they will last a heck of a lot longer than the cheapies from the grocery store. Ours get daily use and as still good as new. Think I got them three years ago. The two main “tricks” to keeping non-stick pans happy is hand-washing and not using any metal utensils in them.

A heavy-bottomed 8-quart stainless steel stockpot is another essential. Don’t recall what it cost, but I’ve got a couple of the “Invitations” brand from BB&B. This dude also gets used a lot in my kitchen - you’ll never want to cook spaghetti in anything smaller. It’s also a good size for making chicken soup, chili, etc.

You definitely need the heavy bottom - we’ve got a 16-quart pot with a thin bottom, and all it’s good for is boiling water for huge amounts of pasta. Its hot spots are so bad that it’ll scorch water.

I have a variety of pots and pans that I’ve gathered over the years, but these are the ones I use the most:
1 1/2 quart saucepan - used mostly for vegetables or sauces
13" non-stick - I use this a lot for cooking family meals, such as ground beef recipes or fried chicken
12" all-clad - for other family meals where I don’t want a non-stick surface, for browning, such as Hungarian Goulash
4 quart pot - cooking smaller amounts of pasta, spaghetti sauce, chili, etc.
8 quart pot - larger amounts of pasta, soups
8 quart enameled pot - for large stove-top and/or oven recipes, such as coq au vin or jambalaya or pot roast.

I’m not sure how people do most of their cooking in a 10" skillet, that seems too small to me. I use my 10" mostly when I’m only cooking for one.

As for materials, I also do not like cast iron. IMO, it’s too heavy, difficult to take care of, and ugly. I think All-clad stainless is the best, but non-stick definitely has it’s place. The set I’m using now is a heavy, non-stick set I won at a Pampered Chef event. It works just fine, but I know that eventually the non-stick surfaces will wear and I’m going to have to replace them. I also have some good All-clad stainless pieces that I use for proper browning and they will last a lifetime, but they can be harder to clean.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting a set, but I don’t think a set will ever give you everything you need. I guess I would start with something like this, then add a non-stick saute pan, a smaller sauce pot, and a big enameled cast iron pot.

That’s why you need a dutch oven - the only thing I make in my stockpots is boiled water or stock, so they’re total cheapies from Wal-Mart. My dutch oven is Le Creuset and it’s my most heavily used pot.

ETA - that was in response to the claim that you should get a heavy bottomed stock pot - I don’t think so.

Well, that’s fantastic if you can afford Le Creuset.

Le C is breathtakingly expensive, but there are cheaper alternates from Asia on the market now - all of a sudden, it seems like every TV chef has their name on a 4 or 5 quart cast iron dutch oven. However, I don’t know if the OP would accept enameled cast iron, having already said no to cast iron.

Actually, cleaning cast iron is really easy. But you do have to make sure they’re dry, and you should give it a coat of oil. It’s getting to the stage where they’re ‘non-stick’ that’s the ‘hard’ part.

Your mom probably had the copper-bottomed Revereware. My mom got some for her wedding in 1951 and she still has most of the same original pieces.

I also have some Revereware, most of which I got cheap from the home ec lab of a school I worked for in the mid-1980s - they decided to phase out home ec, and the staff was offered first dibs on the contents of the lab.

I also purchased a large frying pan, a double boiler and a chicken cooker about 15 years ago.

They all look as good as new and I am quite happy with their performance.

The only other cookware I’ve got are a few Kitchenaid hard anodized non-stick saute pans, which I like and use a lot, but the large 12" one is hella heavy. These can also go in the oven at higher temperatures than the Revereware, which is one reason why I bought them.