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Buying a new set of cookware... what are your favs?

My random collection of pots and pans I've collected since college is on its way out so I'm doing some spring cleaning and opting to buy a brand-new set. I like non-stick just for ease of cleaning, but I'm not sure if I should go for stainless steel for endurance. I'm looking to get an 8-10 piece set for around $400-500, so what do you guys suggest?

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  1. I personally really like the Cuisinart Multiclad line. The price for a 12 piece set ranges from $199 to $299 on Amazon. (You can frequently find the lower price on weekends.) The cookware is well-constructed, cooks wonderfully and cleans up easily. I haven't had any problems with food sticking on it, as long as I pre-heat the pan properly. I also own a set on non-stick cookware which I don't use as often. They are Anolon Titanium and perform extremely well. I went with sets in both cases because I found them for excellent prices. If you don't need all the sizes, I'd suggest picking up individual pieces as necessary.

    1. look out for the tramontina made tri-ply set at costco.

      its branded as Kirkland and on the box it will say made in brazil

      1. For a set with both uncoated and non-stick (fry pans), Consumer Reports top-rated Calphalonm Simply Calphalon.

        For all uncoated, the pick was KitchenAid Gourmet Essentials Brushed Stainless.

        1. i'd suggest not getting a set. different cookware does different things better. You'd want a few cast iron pieces including at least one enameled cast iron. you'll also need some stainless with either a disk or sandwiched aluminum or copper from the likes of sitram, pedrano or all clad. These will stick. If you season the cast iron, though, it's almost non stick, but you can always pick up a cheapie non stick fying pan cheap. You don't need non stick sauce pans. Copper is out of your budget, though it's the best conducter. Cast iron takes longer to heat up but stays hot and cooks evenly. Get a good size saute pan, at least 3 quarts, with a sandwiched sluminum bottom from Sitram or all clad and a cast iron 10 inch frying pan and maybe a smaller one too (i'd recommend getting a lodge cast iron for about $25 and seasoning it) you'll also need a couple sauce pans, including one with a steamer insert, a braiser that can go from stovetop intio the oven (enameled cast iron like le creuset or staub are great for this). if you like making soup, you should also budget for a stock pot, at least 12 gallons.

          11 Replies
          1. re: chuckl

            > you should also budget for a stock pot, at least 12 gallons.

            More like 12 quarts... a 12 gallon stock pot is 48 quarts, which is huge.

            Cast iron is always a good value, and teaches patience ;-)

            1. re: ttriche

              What you can't lug around 100+ pounds of pot and stock? Lol. I am with the Cuisinart Multiclad rec earlier and the price leaves you with cash to buy a couple cast iron pieces and a dutch oven if you shop well. I got 12 or 14 pieces and use every one of them. They look good and keep nicely.

                1. re: ttriche

                  My father has a 25 gallon iron cauldron which I expect to inherit. We use it to cook Brunswick stew in once a year, but there isn't anything you could really substitute. Yes, it is heavy, we typically use 2 men to move it.

                2. re: chuckl

                  I'm starting to agree with you, Chuck. I can't seem to find a set that fits what I need, so I'm going to try and pick and choose some pieces. A nice cast iron skillet, a non-stick restaurant pan, a good deep stainless steel stockpot. I'd love to get a nice 5 qt le creuset pot, but theyre so expensive. Any suggestions on a more frugal replacement?

                  1. re: reubensandperrier

                    > Any suggestions on a more frugal replacement?

                    Lodge Colors enameled cast iron. Very difficult for most people to tell one apart from a Le Creuset of the same color; it's the same shape, weight, and finish, and thus far my 6qt has held up very well. It was $50 at Amazon. Highly recommended for value.

                    1. re: reubensandperrier

                      The Tramontina dutch oven from Walmart is supposed to be nice - at least according to Cooks Illustrated. I'm still waiting for mine.

                      1. re: reubensandperrier

                        a 5 qt is a good idea, maybe essential. It's a versatile size. Make sure you get one that can go from stovetop to oven. I like to use mine (i have and LC) for braising mostly.

                        1. re: reubensandperrier

                          I am madly in love with my 6-quart Mario Batali enameled Dutch oven. Very similar to Le Creuset but much cheaper (I have a lot of creuset and copco enameled iron pots as well). Plenty of room for a lamb shank or a few pounds of short ribs, very heavy and easy to clean.

                          1. re: Freida

                            I actually ended up buying the Batali 6qt dutch oven after reading some great reviews on it in the boards. I am so happy I did it! It rocks! Great heat distribution, nice and heavy and just overall fantastic.

                        2. re: chuckl

                          I 100% agree with Chuck. When I worked in Product Information for Williams-Sonoma (and in the test kitchen), we always told people that the best "set" of cookware isn't a set at all. If you walk into any famous chef's kitchen, he's got a little of everything. Each type of pan has a purpose and each type of pan MATERIAL has a purpose.

                          If you MUST have a set, I always used to recommend All-Clad because it's anodized aluminum on the exterior (which is quick-heating) and 18/10 stainless on the interior (which is even-heating and an easy clean-up over anodized aluminum).

                          That said, I have and All-Clad saucepan, a Calphalon stock pot, a small copper saucepan for sauces (i.e. hollandaise or bechamel), a non-stick skillet, a cast iron skillet, a Le Creuset enameled iron dutch oven, an aluminum roasting pan...etc. You get the drill.

                          If you are willing to invest in "lifetime" cookware, I really think it should be the best for each job and not just a complete set that looks pretty hanging over your work island, but that underperforms in a clinch.

                        3. I have a mix of All-clad and restaurant supply store stuff..

                          You can often find seconds for All-Clad at discount home store chains

                          1. I have a mixture of cast iron and stainless steel. What I look for is sturdy riveted steel handles that can go from stovetop to oven, and good fitting lids. I have never liked matched sets, I chose to buy different pieces that I liked and knew I would use.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Paul Weller

                              ^^I have the same: Griswold for cast iron and Mauviel for stainless steel.

                              1. What do you cook? I use some non-stick and some stainless depending. If you get one set look at the Calphalon infused anodized

                                1. While I shined up some much older stainless with Barkeeper's Friend when I purchased a new stove - I really wanted to try some of the newer finishes that are out there now. I looked at what filler pots/pans I needed and bought them instead of a new, full set. I purchased some Cuisinart, Calphalon, Analon - a mixture of tri-ply stainess and non-stick. I purchased several sizes of skillets, 3-5 qt. casseroles that go from stove-top to oven, and a couple extra sauce pans/pots. I looked for specials - no shipping charges, coupon deals, etc. after I decided what type of cooking I was doing. I haven't been disappointed. I wash all by hand, cook from medium to medium-low with short initial higher heat as needed. All brands have performed well. I should add, my experience is you can't brown meats well with non-stick. You probably need some of each type of finish depending on what you're trying to prepare.

                                  1. When i decided to invest in serious cookware, i bought All Clad master chef as a set. coupon from bbb. then picked up some cheaper non stick pieces and now i have le creuset and staub and only use those, so read through the posts carefully and then figure out what you need based on your cooking style. after my initial experience with a set of cookware swore off them completely.

                                    1. Used a mishmash of stuff from college too until married & went w/ mostly All Clad stainless & nonsticks. Ones I reach for the most:

                                      -Allclad 10" & 12" nonstick frypans
                                      -Allclad 8" & 10" stainless frypan
                                      -Allclad 12" saute pan w/ lid
                                      -Allclad stainless 1 & 3qt saucepans w/ lids
                                      -No name large stainless stockpot (10qt?)
                                      -Cheapie Bialetti 3qt (?) nonstick saucepan with pouring spout from Target (actually love this thing for quickie heatups)

                                      Regret buying:
                                      -Allclad Steamer insert for 3 quart sauce pan
                                      -Allclad 8" stainless saucier

                                      Wish I had:
                                      -Smaller stockpot like 5qt
                                      -A cast iron pan
                                      -Dutch oven

                                      1. If you are thinking about non-stick, I saw a piece (on PBS I think) where various chefs and home cooks tested 4 or 5 major brands. The surprising winner was Jamie Oliver's line. Everyone was quite surprised. Next time I see one of sale I will get one to try.

                                        My core set of pots is Lagostino and they have stood up for more than 20 years. But I understand, like most of the major brands, they have many different quality grades, so even a good name brand still means you might want to buy one pieces and try it.

                                        I would caution against the see-through lids. I have a few cuisinart with those lids and the screws are always coming loose.

                                        1. Had LeCreuset for years and love it, although I don't like the shape and sizes of their new saucier and "regular" pots. Still, really great stuff. Get the medium dutch oven at least - really really versatile.
                                          Anolon Titanium for non-stick, had an 8" forever and still pretty good condition.
                                          Regalware is coming out soon with a new Made In USA all clad stainless steel - have no idea where they'll be selling it or price point but you can see it on their website.