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best cookware set for ~$50?

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I just moved into a new studio and I'm looking to buy a cookware set. I just had a pan before that I threw out so I pretty much have nothing right now. I only cook every few days so I'm not looking for something really fancy. But I do want something that is respectable. I've been reading these boards and it seems as if the Tramontina line in Walmart would be a good buy. I looked at the 8-piece set for $35 http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produc..., but I didn't like the handles and the thinness of the materials. I like those that have soft grip handles and overall solid feel. And I think I would prefer non-stick. I am considering this $50 Tramontina set from Walmart http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produc... but I haven't seen it in store since it wasn't available.

What do you recommend? Is this $50 set good enough? What other brands/products do you recommend? I went to Broadway Pandhandler (NY), but it just seems like a set would be a better deal since I don't have anything right now. I would also appreciate your suggestions for cooking utensils or knives. Thanks!

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  1. For someone on a tight budget, I'd recommend getting a decent quality cast iron frying pan and seasoning it. You can do a lot of cooking with one good cast iron pan. Then add a few inexpensive pots for heating up soup and so forth. If you're in a studio, you probably don't have a lot of storage space for pots you'll seldom if ever use.

    1. All my cookware is Le Creuset or All-Clad, but strangely enough I did find a good set for $59.00. The Amazon Pinzon 8 piece stainless set I bought for my mom was awesome. A disk bottom, but cooks wonderfully, and cleans up better than the AC. A nice heavy weight too. Unfortunately it's no longer available.

      Most of the sets at that price point aren't really good. I wouldn't get either of those sets. They won't hold up for more than a year of so and all that nonstick might be a health issue. Get the cast iron skillet, and scour the discount stores for deals on better cookware, and add a piece at a time when you can afford it. I would only get one nonstick frypan for eggs.

      Thank of cookware as an investment and don't buy junk. Good cookware you can have all your life if you take care of it, and will work out cheaper in the long run, and give you more cooking enjoyment than cheap stuff that needs constant replacement.

      1. Looks like a pretty good deal to me. But the trouble with sets is that you'll probably take up shelf space with items you don't ose. Here's another approach (and if cooking for 1 or 2, you probably don't need the biggest saucepan):

        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/din...

        Here’s a mail-order place I’ve dealt with:

        https://www.surfasonline.com/productl...

        1. You can buy Lodge cast iron for this price. A good skillet and a Dutch oven will go a long way. That would take care of braises, stews, frying and roasting small items. Saucepans can be mixed and matched from inexpensive open stock if you go to a houseware store, and those will handle your liquid cooking. Avoid pure aluminum and non-stick saucepans and go for stainless steel. You can also add a cheap non-stick fry pan for eggs, if you so desire. Watch out for soft grip handles. I just read some reviews (via links through posts here) that those soft orange handle caught fire during some tests.

          1. You can't get a decent set of cookware for $50 -- anything in that range will be flimsy. I (and a lot of other people on this board) recommend against getting sets -- they always end up including something you never use. Why pay for something that's just going to take up space and collect dust?

            Just buy what you need. Some places to buy cheap cookware: restaurant supply stores, deep discount stores like Ross, TJMaxx, Tuesday Morning, garage sales and thrift stores, online sales (Amazon.com has good sales, and you can read the reviews).

            2 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Thanks for all your advice. I've been reading the boards and a few other guides, and it seems like it would be a better deal to get separate items especially since I don't have the space. Here is what I think I need so far:

              -10" frying pan
              -small (2 quart?) sauce pan or 8" frying pan
              -medium (4 quart?) sauce pan
              -dutch oven

              I figure if I can find a quality one for each type around $20, it would still be cheaper than paying $100 for a mediocre 8-10 pc set. I would appreciate your feedback on my list of "must-haves". For background, I usually just cook steak (on frying pan), spaghetti, bacon, and eggs. Although I would want to try some stews and basic sautes.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                this likely won't be the mostly widely read thread for this... but i purchased a set when i left for university and i use all the pieces, constantly! so i wouldn't advise against getting a set, but don't get something with too many pieces. everyone here advises against it but it's worked out great for me.

                small and medium sauces pans, 10" frying pan and a large deep pot. i use them all regularly and have even added other items to the rotation (non stick and cast iron) without much loss of use of the other items. now i can cook things more timely!

              2. "I only cook every few days so I'm not looking for something really fancy."

                So with that statement in mind, I recommend that, to start, you only need the basics of 1 pot and 1 pan. But you do need something of some degree of quality so that when you do decide to have a grilled cheese or fry a burger, it will cook and brown evenly or that when you crank up the heat, the pan won't warp.

                I've never owned ReverWare, but I've picked it up at stores and their stainless line (stainless heats more evenly than aluminum, ie - better), has some weight to it. So with that in mind, I'd suggest:

                Convenience® 3-qt Saucepan w/ Cover @ $29.99

                and

                Convenience® 10" Skillet @ $19.99

                The cover for the skillet it $10, but I'd skip that and if needed, use aluminum foil.

                And that's your $50 spent on some quality cookware that you'll be happy with for quite a while. You can always add and/or upgrade as you go along.

                http://www.revereware.com/index.asp?p...

                ------ Sorry, I just saw that you also cook spaghetti, so you'll obviously need a larger pot, which now poses a budget buster to your $50. Would it be possible to put that item off until you have the $$ to get something of good quality? You'd probably want a minimum of a 6 qt dutch oven/soup pot. Just keep in mind that, particularly for stews/spaghetties, you want even heating so that the natural sugars from the tomatoes/meats don't burn. Good luck and enjoy cooking!

                1. I would check out Macy's this time of year. I got a six piece faberware cookset there a few years ago at their Labor Day Sale and I use all of the pieces all the time.

                  1. -10" frying pan
                    -small (2 quart?) sauce pan or 8" frying pan
                    -medium (4 quart?) sauce pan
                    -dutch oven

                    I think you are on the right track. The Frying pan could be either stainless steel or cast iron both would work well for your current life style and would still be good if it changes. The two sauce pans and the dutch over give you enough flexibility for most things. The comment about spaghetti above needs some consideration. You could get a larger pot with a lid (stock pot style) as a substitute for the larger sauce pan which would give you a bit more flexibility but still be serviceable for your needs.

                    My advice is always buy the best you can afford. Cheap cookware is so for a reason. Good stuff will last and has guarantees if something goes wrong.

                    As for the Macy's suggestion. I say shop. There are some great buys online. I know because I have some. But go where your feel you will get good service and a good product.

                    yogiwan
                    Your Smart Kitchen

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: yogiwan

                      Ok, I've narrowed it down further so I can afford better quality cookware. My list is now:

                      -10" frying pan - can double as saute pan. Will probably get nonstick since it seems like a lot of work to maintain cast iron. and will need to cook eggs at some point.
                      -2 quart sauce pan - to make gravy for my steak or maybe spaghetti sauce. (stainless or nonstick?)
                      -6 quart pot - to cook pasta and for stews. (stainless or nonstick?)
                      -1 lid for pot and frying pan (hopefully same size)?

                      I'm also willing to spend a bit more than $50 (maybe up to ~$80) for everything. Have tons of Amex rewards points I can use but the only gift cards that would work for cookware are Linens and Things, Home Depot, Williams Sonoma,and Crate and Barrel. Unfortunately, all these stores seem to have expensive stuff.

                      Going against the norm, I'm leaning towards nonstick for everything right now because I'm not really a good cook and I'm afraid everything will stick to the bottom. (I tend to get bored and walk away while my food is cooking).

                      1. re: krystle920

                        good luck with your nonstick, you'll need it

                        1. re: chuckl

                          The problem with nonstick, is that you'll eventually have to replace it. Depending on the quality, that could be in just a year or two. I understand that the really expensive, high quality nonstick lasts longer, but chances are, you won't get something that will last decades. Not to mention the toxic chemicals that get into your food, from nonstick. Did you know that they're starting to put labels on nonstick, warning you not to keep your pet birds too close to your stove, b/c the fumes that come off a nonstick pan can kill your bird. And people want to cook with that?

                          I can understand not wanting to use cast iron, but it's really no more maintenance than a nonstick pan. Yeah, you're not supposed to use soap on it, and you have to dry it immediately so that it doesn't rust. But the more you use it, the more nonstick it gets. Some foods won't require more cleaning than just a wipe with a paper towel. You can use metal utensils on it, and it's not toxic.

                          I guess if you're really against cast iron, then i'd suggest stainless steel. I bought farberware set, before I got my cast iron. It's the Millenium series. The set is out of your price range, but I don't know if you can buy the pieces individually or not. I'll tell you that I liked the stainless steel better than any nonstick pan that I used, and I grew up on nonstick. My mom didn't use anything else. And yes, we must have gone through at least 8 skillets while I was growing up at home. No more has stuck to my stainless steel, than has to the nonstick. And, the great thing is that when something does stick, you can use steel wool on it. When something sticks to nonstick, you have to let it soak for awhile.

                          1. re: amselby81

                            well said, amselby81, I agree with everything you say. One technique that I picked up on here regarding cooking with stainless steel is, hot pan, cold oil. get the pan hot first (as you know, with sandwiched aluminum or even and aluminum disk on the bottom, it doesn't take long) and once the pan is hot, pour in a thin layer of oil, then whatever you're cooking pretty quickly. It doesn't stick as much or hardly at all. And anyway, with most cooking, except for maybe eggs, you want some of that tasty frond sticking to the pan for you to deglaze with some stock or wine to make your sauce, which is something you can never do with non stick

                        2. re: krystle920

                          Your list is OK. I'd go to target or Wal-Mart and get unmatched stainless steel. Go ahead and get a non-stick frying pan - but maybe bigger than 10". You can get stuff well suited to your needs for around $50. You can get a lid or two at a thrift store (unless you cook rice, in which case your 2 quart pan will actually need a fitted lid).

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Ok sounds good, I think I might go for stainless steel for the pot and sauce pan. A few questions though. When they say food sticks to stainless steel, how bad is it? For instance, if I boil pasta in a pot with just water in it, will the noodles stick to the pot? If I make gravy or spaghetti sauce in the sauce pan, will they automatically stick to the pan if I don't stir it all the time? Will I also need to stir stews constantly so they don't stick to the pot?

                            1. re: krystle920

                              I find that nothing really sticks to my stainless--and I practice what I preach: my pots and pans are a mix of good stainless cheapies from Target and some very old German stainless. And I do have a non-stick frying pan for eggs.

                              1. re: krystle920

                                Stainless steel pots (as opposed to frying pans) only stick if they're really cheap. Any decent (i.e., has an aluminum disk or aluminum core) pot should be fine. Get your nonstick frying pan (at least 10 inches) and some decent quality stainless steel pots and you'll be fine.

                            2. re: krystle920

                              Sounds like you're on the right track. I'd suggest getting the items you listed in stainless, and adding a smaller nonstick skillet for eggs and such. You'll find that things like steak, chicken, and pork chops brown up better in a steel or iron pan, and leave behind the beginnings of a great pan sauce. And the high temperatures desireable for searing a steak may release nasty gases from a nonstick pan.

                              Those who claim that toxins from teflon get into your food are long on fearmongering and short on scientific fact. There is no dispute that many teflon pans use adhesives that will release toxic gases if heated past 650F, killing hundreds of pet birds a year. The simple solution to that is not to overheat the pan. But just to be safe, don't sear on nonstick. Delicate things like eggs and fish will be fine.

                              As far as where to get things, I like restaurant supply houses. Stuff tends to be fairly high quality and relatively inexpensive for what you get.

                              1. re: krystle920

                                You wander away while you're frying eggs? And steak? Non stick will not save you.

                                Additionally, judging from the stories that have come out lately, non-stick is the last stuff you want to just leave on the burner while you go shopping or whatever.

                            3. You know what krystle? If you feel more comfortable with non-stick, then buy non-stick! It's true that it won't last a life-time, but..... what are your expectations?

                              Given that you've already said that you don't cook but a few times a week, I'm going to go out on a limb here and venture a guess that you keep a pretty busy agenda without much time for meal planning, prep, cooking and cleanup. When you do cook, it's probably either for 1 or 2 people, it's something fairly straightforward with not much prep time, you're likely eating within 30 - 45 and clean-up must take less than 15 - 20 min - or less? You have some interest in cooking, but you haven't developed any true skills or proficiencies yet; nor do you have the time or interest at this stage of your life.

                              If any of this is true, why buy some type of cookware that could cause you grief by 1) creating a "burned food" situation quickly, 2) requiring countless hours of "seasoning" before you ever cook with the pot, and/or 3) requiring special cleaning requirements. Get something that's easy for you and ENJOY cooking first! You have plenty of years to decide what specialized cookware, if any, is right for you.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: CocoaNut

                                I have some expensive cookware and some that was cheap. My nonstick skillets are inexpensive and when/if they wear out, I can get rid of. Almost 10 years ago (a long story) I bought a very big, probably 14" diameter and 3-4" deep nonstick skillet with a glass lid at WalMart. I use it a few times a month and it still looks perfect. I agree with the above. Start with a very few basics and don't make it work for yourself. If and when your skills and interest gets better, you'll know by then the specific tools you want. We all do.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  I found that if I use enough oil, not much sticks to the stainless steel. LIke I said in my previous post, it's no less sticky then a nonstick pan, at least the nonstick pans that I've used. And I've always needed to use oil with my nonstick pans, too, so there's not a big difference at all, except that you can be a little rougher with your stainless, when it comes to cleaning.

                              2. Thanks for all your responses. After careful consideration, I decided not to get a high-end stainless steel or hard anodized cookware set. I was seriously considering it, but last minute, I realized that the larger-sized high quality pots and pans were very heavy and I could not lift them with one hand. I also realized that given the weight, I was uncomfortable with their non-rubberized handles. This is after several trips to cookware shops and reading reviews online!

                                I eventually ended up getting the 10-pc Cuisinart® Kitchen Pro™ Red Aluminum Non-Stick Cookware Set from Bed Bath & Beyond. http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/produ...
                                It was $70 - 20% off = $56 so it seemed like a decent price. Hope it works well! =)

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: krystle920

                                  This sounds great! I think you made a good decision. This will do everthing you want at this point and, if you want additional items, you can add to it. It's great when the original poster gives US feedback. You go, girl/boy :)

                                  1. re: krystle920

                                    Good. You must have gotten the last set--which no longer shows on the link. Have fun and good food cooking.