New pots and pans - moderate budget
I need a new set of pots and pans. To be honest, we were fond of the set we have - but they're worn out. Don't laugh, but it's a pampered chef set that we got a good deal on for hosting one of those parties. They've served us well and lasted 8 years through heavy use.
We're looking for non-stick set that has the basics, and could buy some suplimentary pieces if necessary. But, we can't really afford a $600 box of cookware. At the same time, we can manage to purchase something nicer than a $79 box set of farberware from Walmart.
We've been eyeing up the cookware at Ikea as we've had good luck with their knives recently. We do have some decent restaurant supply stores in our area, so can get decent deals on the usual brands availible at slightly higher department stores.
We're also looking into Kitchen-Aid, Calphalon, and Cuisinart sets.
Any advice or opinions?
I'll say here that in the new Cook's Illustrated they did a Rating on Dutch Ovens. The Chef Mate Enamel coated Cast Iron came out with very high rankings. It was up there with Le Creuset. It only costs about $40 compared to the $200 range equivalent from Le Creuset. Not sure if thats what you're looking for but it might help and it certainly is cheap..
re: Produce Addict
Target sells the Chefmate products-- and possibly produces them as well. I can't find the dutch oven online though.
I've bought some miscellaneous products from the line (measuring spoons, a colander), but that is pretty high praise for their dutch oven. I'll have to keep an eye out.
We got nonstick Anolon Titanium from Macys, in a set if I recall - here are some items reviewed at Cooking.com:
Love these pans as they're durable and *relatively lightweight* - I nixed the idea of Calphalon after lifting those heavy suckers and then thinking how heavy they'd be full.
My favorite piece is the wok - definitely get that - it's so versatile.
Macy's has some bonus offer on this set and other individual items:
I have several different manufacturers lines. I really like Cuisinart Chef's Classic line as well as the Multiclad line. You can pick up individual pieces pretty cheap on Amazon.com or at TJ Maxx/HomeGoods.
Calphalon is great stuff. I have both commercial and professional lines. Again, you can get some of that pretty cheap on Amazon.
Lodge cast iron products are great! You can pick up most of the pieces really cheap (again, Amazon is a great source) and perform really well. They are heavy, especially the 12" pan.
Of course, if you can afford it, treat yourself to some LeCrueset pots. A good 5 qt or 7 qt pot will serve you well over many years. I got a 7 qt oval at HomeGoods for the rock bottom price of $60. You really have to watch for those bargains.
Tramontia makes a decent pan too. Good weight and balance. Even heating (I have a 1qt sauce pan) with a tight sealing lid.
Also, don't overlook your restaurant supply stores. I have a couple smaller non-stick saute pans (forget the manufacturer; Vollrath is most commonly seen) that are holding up well after 8 years.
I am not sure if this is your kind of thing, but I have bought a lot of my kitchenware second hand. Much of my cast iron comes from flea markets, Salvation Army stores or general junk shops. I recently picked up a 1960's Danish enamel cast iron pan for $3.00 in a local Goodwill store, the same model retails in NYC antique stores for $30.00 an up.
If you don't have the time, or inclination even, to trawl through antique/junk stores then ebay is a great place to pick up cast iron at a reasonable price. Just make sure you don't get stung on the shipping.
Re non stick: There's been recent research pointing out the toxicity of the material bonding the non stick surface to the metal. I haven't got a link handy, but I believe it was written up in the Globe and Mail (http://www.globeandmail.com). I don't want to scare anybody - I try and run a kitchen that's as free from chemicals as possible but that's only my personal schtick.
I'm very happy with my Cuisinart Cookware. Stylewise its very similar to all clad, the difference being that All Clad is, well, clad all over, whereas the Cuisinart models are furnished with a disk bottom that is epoxied onto the body of the /pan. The cuisinart is oven safe to 550 F, and I haven't had any problems.
I got a great set on sale at Macy's about a year ago-ended up with 10 pieces for about $150, after a rebate. It was a seven piece set, with bonus with purchase and two mail in bonuses.
8 qt stockpot/lid (lid also fits frypan)
5 qt saute/lid
10 inch frypan
8 inch frypan
3 qt saucepot/lid
3.5 qt saucier
7qt dutch oven
santoku style knife with 7 inch blade
You can probably get better results by really thinking about which pieces you actually use regularly in your current set, and just replace those. Most box sets I've seen include a couple pieces I never use, you can get nicer stuff if you focus on the cookware you use every day.
I've never owned any Ikea cookware, but I have hefted it a bit in the store and it feels pretty well-made for the price they're asking. Chefmate (Target's store brand) is also pretty good for the money. Cook's Illustrated's website has good articles comparing individual cookware pieces, and offers a 14-day free trial so you can read them without paying.
I second the 'buy pieces you really need' suggestion. A Dutch oven can be used to make everything from soup to risotto. My sauté pan has seen uses it was never intended for.
If I had to reduce my cookware down to three items I'd keep:
1. My stock pot. Soups, pasta, stock. With a steamer added things get even more versatile.
2. My sauté pan. Risottos, anything pan fried. With a lid, braises and even bakes.
3. A solid cast iron Dutch oven. Boil water, oven roast etc.
I also agree that the sets are not always the best way to go. I prefer to pick and choose individual components - that way you can get the right material for each use without compromising or spending too much on other pieces.
Do you need to replace everything? If not, focus on the items you use the most, and try to spend what it takes to get something that will last more than 8 years. With proper care, high quality stuff should last for generations.
FarberWare's "Millennium" line of cookware is pretty inexpensive, and much better made than their supermarket stuff. It has an aluminum disc bottom encapsulated in stainless steel, much like many other lines; Cuisinart and so on. "Cook's Illustrated" has compared the Millennium stuff favorably to All Clad in terms of performance.
Looking at the Kitchen Aid cookware I've seen, I think at least some of the KA stuff is re-branded Farberware Millennium, at slightly higher prices.
You could do worse than to check out this 10-piece non-stick set at Amazon for $100.
I bought a similar stainless set a few years ago, and have been quite pleased in terms of performance and durability of the cookware. I don't care for non-stick, so I can't tell you anything about that aspect.
When I first started researching this, I was thinking about spending something more in the $250 range, but it looks like the "mid-range" stuff is actually cheaper that I was thinking on sale.
So far I've seen comments about some good choices, and some concern that my mid-range suggestion won't actually get me very good equipment.
I'm thinking about doing as others have suggested and buying the primary pieces individually. That way I can get much better stuff and spread the cost out over time.
If you do decide to go with individual pieces, I'll follow Andreas' lead and suggest:
1. Enameled cast-iron dutch oven, 5-6 quarts
2. 11 inch (or so) stainless saute pan
3. 9 inch (or so) non-stick fry pan
4. 2-3 quart stainless sauce pan
5. Lodge Logic 6.5" and 12" cast-iron skillets ($35 for the two of them, they will outlast you)
A stockpot is nice too, but unless you're actually making stock or cooking multiple pounds of pasta, I find that the dutch oven does most jobs I used to use my stockpot for. Of course, what really matters is that whatever pieces *you* use the most should be the nicest pieces you own. This is just what I've found after (mistakenly) buying a big cookware set and not using most of it more than once or twice.
HaagenDazs is right on, all your cookware should be able to go in the oven. Some plastic handles are 'phenolic', those can handle oven temps up to 400 or so. I like having one nice non-stick pan for a few specific purposes (mainly easy eggs in the morning). Paying more for good gear may actually be *more* important when it comes to your nonstick pan(s), because the cheap ones shed the nonstick coating more readily than nicer pans, which is a health risk.
First, go with stainless steel. You can pay for a $300 set of non-stick cookware now and then pay for another $300 set in 5 or so years when the coating is completely worn off. Where does the coating go? You eat it.
Second, go with something that will last. Reason: see above. You'll always pay more buying crap than you will buying good quality. You obviously have already experienced this, why vow to repeat it?
I also highly recommend buying pieces that have metal handles so they can go straight into the oven. There's plenty of folks who wrap their plastic handled cookware with aluminum foil, but why?
I wholeheartedly agree with the oven proof comment. Almost all of my cookware is either cast iron or rolled/stainless steel. Everything can go into the oven, most pieces will still be used by my great grandchildren (should they so desire).
I bought my griddle pan from a used kitchenware store some years back, it was nearly 100 years old when I bought it and it will last for a long time to come.
I am getting more into cooking (not just eating) and like Belgique alot. I got a set at Macy's with everything I needed for two hundred bucks.
i am a complete devotee of all clad. their emeril line, all non-stick, i have bought at bargain prices at homegoods, but they are also avail here at linens n things:
allclad- best investment one can make in cookware. just tremendous.even cooking and the easiest clean up imaginable. lasts a lifetime.