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Pots & Pans - best bang for the buck

Hi everyone,

I'm in the market for some new pots and pans as well as a set of knives. I just want something reliable, but kitchen stuff is expensive. I noticed Costco has several 13-14 piece sets of pots/pans ranging from $90 (Bialetti) to $150 (Circulon?). They also have an decent-looking knife set by J.A. Henckels. Anyone know anything about these? If not, what should I get?


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  1. My vote is for All-Clad...solid, durable, but pricey. Pays for itself in the long run, though as a short-term expenditure it's expensive. See link below for a good way to order.

    Good knives are also worthwhile, I think, and Henckels is good. Sets tend to be ripoffs, I think, since you're buying knives that you may not need, but if the price is right, it's fine.


    1. I think you can find some on-line reviews of the Costco sets. Generally, I think they got great reviews and are considered a good value. They have the Kirkland brand of cookware which is supposedly made by All-Clad (I'm not sure of that).

      I love my Wustof's Classic knives. They are not cheap.

      My best advice is to research cookware and cutlery reviews on the internet (e.g., feedback on Amazon.com) and then go touch/feel stuff in a convenient store to see what feels right to you.

      I feel differently about sets than most other people do. I think, in general, each piece in a set costs less than if you bought it individually to the point of, well, what the h.... Might as well get them all. I like having different kinds of stuff available for me to choose what I want when I want to. I got a whole set of knives for the price of two because I bought a set on sale.

      Also, TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, and who-knows-where-else has cookware and knives at unbeatable prices, especially when it is reduced for clearance. Now is a good time to buy it, because they are clearing out a lot of their stuff to make way for spring merchandise. They are usually not in sets, but that way you can get the things you will use most often for the best possible price.

        1. re: mangiatore

          Just as an idea of price difference, I bought a "special" set of All-Clad stainless steel (a 7" fry pan and 1qt sauce pan, no lids) for $13.55 for the set !! at Bed-Bath-and-Beyond. The set was a special deal for $39.99 during X-mas (I think the 7" pan alone is about $70), then reduced to $19.99, and now 30% off that. I also got a 14" All-Clad non-stick fry pan the same way, reduced from $149.99 to $55.

          And TJ Maxx "fugetaboutit" (smile). I've gotten a bunch of clearance Calphalon pots and pans for $15 - $20. And a set of Wurstof steak knives for $18. Look 'em over and make sure they are in good condition (be wary of scratches and dents), and if you can live with what they are, you got yourself an "expensive" pan for cheap. My mantra: never pay as much as you possibly can for anything. (another smile)

        2. Another possibility is factory seconds. Cookwarenmore.com has All-Clad at about a 30 percent discount off retail. I bought a saute pan that had a hardly noticeable scratch on the outside. Good deal.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mpalmer6c

            This website used to have an outlet right in my town. (Closed last year - major bummer.) They have sales about 3-4 times a year where everything is roughly 40% off, including wusthof and henckel. I think you can get onto a mailing list that notifies you when the sales are taking place.

          2. from the research i did costco's kirkland brand of pots and pans are highly regarded. I bought the Sam's Club "Member's Mark" brand and I absolutelyLOVE them! 21 piece set for 179.00. I don't mind the idea of a set of pots and pans. Around the holidays I need all the pots I can get my hands on. I've got a global santoku and 8 inch chef's knife and I don't find that I need any other knife. (although I do have a paring knife on my wish list) :)

            1. Consumers Report also recommends the Costco and Sam's Club brand over the higher priced brands - they found similar thermal/cooking performance for a fraction of the cost - I go t the Costco Annodized Aluminum set and love it - have no regrets - bad news is I do not think Costco carries it anymore -

              6 Replies
              1. re: weinstein5

                Have you really heard they're not carrying them anymore? I think I saw them a few weeks ago.... I've been considering buying them and putting it off but if this is the case I'll run out today and get them. :-)

                1. re: wendy8869

                  I had looked on the web site for a friend of mine and did not see them - so I could be wrong

                    1. re: wendy8869

                      Yes those are them - I do not know why I could find them - They are great

                      1. re: weinstein5

                        I bought this Costco set last year and LOVE them.

                    2. re: weinstein5

                      Quadruple the two thumbs way up on the Costco Kirkland set!

                2. A word of caution about All-Clad and why I feel that the expense isn't all that necessary. All clad has very awkward handles which become cumbersome especially when trying to saute using a larger saute pan (you might even need to use 2 hands). Also, All-Clad is "clad" from top to bottom which is useful on saute pans and sauciers, but doesn't add anything when using a larger sauce pot (extra weight without any benefit b/c there is no need to get the heat transferred all the way up the pot).

                  As an alternative (not much cheaper but, IMHO, a better product) is Analon. Their advanced clad series is a better product that is much easier to handle -- they come with heat resistant rubber handles. So, they can go from stove-top to oven without any problem.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Bhutani

                    Strongly second what you say about the All-Clad handles. I have a couple of All Clad pots, and I do find them difficult to lift if they're full of water or food. Very uncomfortable.

                    I don't believe in buying whole sets, just because it seems like there's always at least one item I wouldn't have chosen to buy if it weren't in the set. I'm slowly replacing the pans I'm not thrilled with, when I have money and I find ones that I really like.

                    1. re: Bhutani

                      In testing cookware, I have found All-Clad to be the most ergonomic when it comes to saute pans and sauciers. Kitchen Aid was one of the worst - hard on the wrists. I believe it is a matter of person preference based on height, style of cooking and experience. I like All-Clad because the all metal construction means I can pan sear and pop the pan into the oven to finish. The handles rarely get hot on the burner, and if they do, I pop on a silicon handle.

                      1. re: SanseiDesigns

                        You realize that all good pans have metal handles, yes?

                        Sitram, Calphalon, and other manufacturers make similar pots and pans (identical construction to All-Clad) at a much lower price (Sitram's copper-core pans are often 50% cheaper than the identical aluminum-cored All-Clad model in a given shape and size).

                        All-Clad is a marketing cult. Brilliant business model, but a poor value proposition.

                    2. Vollrath makes nice pans (in the US, if you care about such things).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: HPLsauce


                        HPLsauce- Vollrath IMHO makes good inserts, spoons, and trivial tool items, but lousy cookware.

                        More bang for the buck (budget) NSF listed, SS cookware, is Royal Industries IMHO.



                      2. All clad ,Lodge, Calphalon , Le Cruset, Wear Ever, Staub, Alalon, Falk ,Wagner, even some stainless steel pans made by Kirkland. Look to see what on sale at rst supply stores , Stl , WS , BBB, Macy's . I once picked up a $ 250 12" saute pan at Macy's for 75 dollars . Build you pan set slowly.
                        Same goes for knives. As a culinary school grad. I was told a good cook only needs a few knives. 10 " Chef , paring, bread knife, filet and a good steel. They will serve you well. That's what 9 /10 pro's are using. Buy German made high carbon stainless steel they will last you forever. Do forget to shop around and see what on sale. It doesn't hurt to be frugal. It has taken me years to build my home collection.
                        I need a polenta pot does anyone have a good source.....

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: FAL

                          I agree with FAL. In my case, I have to stretch those dollars pretty far but I also want quality cookware, etc. It has also taken me years to assemble a really well-stocked kitchen, but for me, the hunt is half the fun. I have found amazing things over the years at Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Home Goods, etc, plus outlets in our area (like the now closed All-Clad outlet), the Le Creuset outlet, etc. And, alos places like Amazon, eBay, half.com rtc. I get a big sense of satisifaction out of knowing that I was able to get pretty much everything i wanted for great prices - just with a little patience and dedicated hunting.

                          1. re: flourgirl

                            It has taken me years to build a good pots and pans collection.

                        2. Thanks for all your suggestions! I'm definitely going to have to shop around because it sounds like there are some pretty good deals out there on quality equipment.

                          1. I hate All-Clads handles and you'd have to pay me to use them. I am currently in the process of sending all of my Calphalon to the Good Will, after 15-20 years of hard use they are warping and the anodization is wearing off. I am buying Cuisinart piece by piece at TJ Maxx.

                            1. Candy send them back to Calphalon or All-Cald, they will replace them. I sent a pan back that anodization was wearing off . Sent me back a new one same size with a lid. I have some calphalon for 15 years myself. When you cook alot with anything it is going to wear out. I am hard on cookware myself.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: FAL

                                Can't do anything about the All Clad handle design. Love the new Cuisinart Stainless with the Aluminum sandwich. Handles don't get hot, they are comfortable to handle and at TJM I paid $19.99 for a 2 qt. saucepan, $24.99 for a 3 qt. and $29.99 for a 3 qt. saute. I just watch and buy when i get the best deal.I'd rather take the deduction on my taxes for donating the old stuff to Good Will and buy the Cuisinart and the stainless finish does not wear off. A dab of Bar Keepers friend and it is polished and ready to go.

                                1. re: Candy

                                  I am a fan of barkeepers friend my self. I have these pot hanlde grips . Made like an oven mitt. When i reach into the oven I slide this over the handle no problem.

                                  1. re: Candy

                                    Macy's is having a sale on the Cuisinart cookware this week. I think there's a rebate by mail, too.

                                  2. re: FAL


                                    Candy & FAL- I never heard of "solid" anodized cookware being coated?

                                    I mean the ones I once had (Dad's actually) , I recall the sales material showing a sawed out section that the entire pan was anodized with the exception of the riveted handle.


                                    1. re: RShea78

                                      If you like I can post a photo of my Calphalon where the annodization has worn off of the inside. They are now aluminum colored on the insode bottoms. The process only penetrated a thin layer of the outer layers of the pans and it most definitely is worn off. I used to sell the stuff which is the reason I switched from good old Revereware to begin with, I kind of felt if I was selling it I should have experience in cooking with it. I am morer than happy with my new pieces of Cuisinart stainless.

                                      1. re: Candy

                                        Mine wore out the same way the aluminun started to show.

                                        1. re: FAL

                                          RShea78 is right -- anodized aluminum pans are not "coated" -- they're the same material all the way though. What happens, in my experience, is that some foods you cook (esp. acidic ones, like tomatoes) react with the anodized aluminum and reverse the anodization, so it looks like "regular" aluminum is coming to the surface. If you really want to test it, take one of your old unused pans and gouge it really deeply -- you should see dark aluminum underneath.

                                          That said, I hate mine and would never recommend them to anyone. A few years ago I replaced them all with stainless, and I'm much happier.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            You should never cook tomatoes or cream in aluminum period.

                                        2. re: Candy


                                          It actually wasn't me doubting the situation, but something my dad had said some 20 years ago. Calphalon and a few other brands, was negatively portrayed as this "Do Not Scrub" hardcoat cookwear. And gasp, people actually pay outrageous amounts of money for that stuff...

                                          We were in the process of getting some lifetime cookware and came across this one brand of solid anodized cookware and Saladmaster SS cookware.

                                          The one sales guy dropped off 2 of the 4qts solid anodized sauce pots with lids. Unfortunately the aluminum dude gave my dad some notice that he was returning to College, if he was wishing to make an order. (Dad was well known to procrastinate forever, something like Rip Van Winkle)

                                          Shortly thereafter, the Saladmaster rep sold my dad a $800 set of which he uses everyday.


                                          1. re: RShea78

                                            You can scrub them. Just don't use brillo. I use a 2 sided sponge made by scotch brite. The ones that you can clean teflon with and do not harm the surface. Work fine for me.

                                            1. re: FAL


                                              LOL, FAL. Actually a soapy style Brillo or SOS pad is scratch-less wimp compared to the Scotch Brite (SB) of which soap will not cling to. It is that dried soap of which has a lubricating effect with steel wool that polishes kitchen appliances like a dream.

                                              Seriously, do not try using a so called SB pad to remove bug splatter from your auto's windshield, unless you want the scratchy-scratchy halos to become etched into the glass.

                                              BTW- A local Machinist Shop gets SB by truck loads to save a fortune on steel wool and sandpaper for gross rust and carbon removal. Heck SB almost made the grill brick obsolete, although the grill brick makes a better polisher...


                                            2. re: RShea78

                                              On the original Calphalon they acrually suggested you use Comet on tough spots. I never did except on exteriors. Oddly they are fine but the insided are not.

                                              I am loving the Cuisinart. At the moment I am browning pork chops in my new saute pan with no sticking, even browing and just a good all 'round cooking experience with them.

                                              1. re: Candy

                                                Candy, perhaps Comet then didn't use a higher percentages of the aggressive silicas as other brands. I think several years ago even our fiberglass bathtub replacement gave Comet Cleanser an approval of which I considered that very odd.

                                      2. I recently purchased a set of Pampered Chef after having a party at 1/2 off total cost for 12 piece ws under 300.00 with a lifetime guarantee. I'm tossing my Wolfgang Puck I bought at Sams, I hate them, everything burns and handles geet very hot while cooking.

                                        1. A few years ago I bought a set made by Tramontina in Brazil and they are outstanding. Tremendous value.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Greg B

                                            I think the member's mark brand (Sam's Club) of fully clad stainless is made by Tramontina. I LOVE my set. I completely destroyed a pot of yellow rice the other night and my pot was restored to perfection with a swirl of hot soapy water and a dish cloth. NO scrubbing required.

                                          2. I recently bought a set of Cuisinart MultiClad Pro fully clad brushed stainless from amazon.com and I like it a lot. The pot and pan handles are comfortable and the lid handles are nice, too. The pans are quite responsive and heat evenly and fast over medium high heat (gas stove.) It was on sale for about $213 when I bought it last month. It's now $249, but I still think that the set is worth the money.

                                            1. I really think it's better to buy one piece at a time and not buy a whole set. Different types of cookware perform better or worse for different types of jobs. For instance, le Creuset dutch ovens are great for slow cooking, but I prefer stainless for frying and sauteeing and recently found a great all-purpose pan--Calphalon Tri-Ply stainless everyday 12" pan ($60)--that comes with a great see-through glass lid. I also like having a blue steel crepe pan but others might prefer a nonstick pan. And lots of people swear by their Lodge cast iron skillet. I just bought a no-name brand of stainless steel stock pot with a heavy aluminum sandwich bottom disk from Sur la Table--cheap, but for cooking pasta and soups it's all you'll need. BTW, while I also like hunting for bargains at various places, Sur la Table is great about helping you choose the right pans and they are great about returns. The store's philosophy is that you should be happy with what you buy and that it works for you. I think you have to figure out what kind of cooking you do and what kind of cooktop you have, for instance, for me, having a ceramic cooktop means that I have to have pans that are perfectly level on the bottom and don't warp and have very good heat transferance. If you have gas, I don't think the type of pans matter as much. So while matching pans look great in the kitchen, I think a mish-mash set of pans will work better and they should be custom-fit to the types of cooking you do.

                                              As for knives, all of mine come from different companies. My favorite Chef's knife is actually a green vegetable knife made by Komachi, paring knife by Messermeister, Henkle's tomato knife, and a Danish bread knife that looks like a saw (sorry, I don't remember the brand name and I've never seen one like this again). None of these knives cost more than $30, yet they are real workhorses in my kitchen.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: breadfanatic

                                                I agree totally! There's no reason to buy sets of cookware unless the price you pay is less than the price you'd pay individually for the pieces you really want. A lot of "starter" sets have pieces you'll never (or rarely) use, like small saucepans or saute pans, that will just clutter up your cupboards.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler


                                                  Ruth Lafler wrote: "A lot of "starter" sets have pieces you'll never (or rarely) use, like small saucepans or saute pans, that will just clutter up your cupboards."

                                                  Amen to that one! ;-)

                                                  I have a box of unused pans that range from a pint size to 2 quarts that I absolutely have no use for.


                                              2. If you buy All-Clad, get only the MasterChef or LTD lines, which have 4 mm. aluminum cores. The Stainless and Cop-R-Chef lines have 2 mm. cores and are inferior. http://cookwarenmore.com/home/index.cfm has full quality irregulars at good prices.

                                                However, All-Clad is overpriced. Instead, go to Bridge Kitchenware and get Sitram or Paderno, which is better quality and will give a lifetime of pleasure. http://www.bridgekitchenware.com/cate...

                                                Chef's Catalog is having a sale on Sitram.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: KRS

                                                  Paderno make some lovely stuff. I have a saute pan I bought just before Christmas that is a favorite -- just the right feel, look and performance. But you do have to be careful, as they have several different lines and not are of the same quality.

                                                2. Bridge is great. If you are in or near NYC you can go to the restaurant supply stores in the Bowery. I find Chef's catlago and Williams-Sonoma can be overpriced. I do not have a lot of cookware but what I have is really good:

                                                  *Henckel knives (invest in good knives and they will last a lifetime, you will NOT be sorry), be sure you "hold them" before you buy them
                                                  *Le Creuset dutch oven (purchased a B,B & B with a discount coupon, also find them on eBay)
                                                  *Le Creuset gratin dish (holds 4 servings)
                                                  *Sitram saucepan and large skillet (purchased at Bridge)
                                                  *Small & large non-stick pans (purchased in NYC restaurant district - great restaurant quality & cheap)
                                                  *Large All Clad roasting pan (purchased on sale)
                                                  *A few aluminum cooking sheets (in NYC restaurant district)
                                                  *Stainless steel paella pan (www.tienda.com)

                                                  1. I have several brands including revereware and calphalon but nothing i s like my ALL CLAD
                                                    I care for it with Barkeepers Friend. you can buy it at bed bath and beyond where they price match and accept coupons.

                                                    Also, knives have to balance in your hand. I only use Wusthoff classic because they fit my hand. lay the knife accross your hand as if cutting but do not close your hand. If it stays steady it is good for you!

                                                    1. I have several Viking pots which I really like - hold heat well, great handle but yes expensive. I love my Le Creset dutch oven and use it often. I find buying individuals pans meets my needs better than buying a set. The set frequently doesn't have the size of type of pan I use. My advise is always buy quality even if you can't purchase everything at once. Good pots and knives can last forever.

                                                      1. When it comes to knives I always go to Homegoods.Buy them individually as per your specific needs. Sets always include knives you'll never use.
                                                        As for cookware, shop around... once again you can find some great bargains at Homegoods, TJMaxx and others on individual pieces. I find my wok to be one of the things I use the most.( 1 pot, lots of veggies,little meat it does the trick for me)

                                                        1. I'm in the camp who buys a piece at a time. There isn't one line that offers all the pieces I want, offering the weight and finish I need for the job(s).

                                                          1. I picked up this set at Christmas and it's fantastic.


                                                            It is a bit on the heavy side which means nothing to me but for a woman may be a bit of a challenge. My wife has no problem though.


                                                            1. Knives

                                                              I've owned a set of Farberware Pro knives for 4 years. They're inexpensive (a basic set is less than $50, and occassionaly be found for $30). Yes, a good chef knife alone can cost more than that. But this really is a pretty decent set of knives. They have forged blades with a full tang, and they feel solid and balanced. They're do the job well until you decide you want to upgrade to nicer German or Japanese knives. You can use the money saved to buy a good knife sharpener, unless you're skilled with stones. Regarding the set, you'll want a longer serrated knife if you cut bread often. For $80, you get a larger set with steak knives.


                                                              1. Love my All Clad copper core. Love my Le Creuset. They'll last forever. I bought them individually. I've had a set of JA Henckels Four Star for a long time, they've served well. Just bought three Global knives, so far, so good, ask again in 5 years.

                                                                1. Though I am a devoted user of All Clad Stainless and Le Crueset dutch ovens, I have to say that when my wife was moving to San Francisco a year before me and we had to lay in some additional pots, we picked up the 8 piece set of Target exclusive Calphalon stainless pots/pans. 8 inch and 10 inch non stick interior, stainless exterior skillets, a 1.5 quart pot with a glass lid, 2.5 quart pot with a glass lid and a 6 quart tall stock type pot also with a glass lid. All of the pots/pans have disc bottoms, but they hold their heat very well, aren't very heavy and serve their purpose admirably. They're dishwasher safe, which is very nice and the 6 quart pot is incredibly useful. Just the right size for pasta, potatoes, small amounts of stock, large amounts of soup/stew and not too heavy in any of those capacities. All of that was about $150.

                                                                  I completely agree that you should build a piece at a time, but as often as I reach for these pots/pans, I think its a good base from which to begin and then pick and choose other specialty items. Good luck!