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best cookware set for ~$50?

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!