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new cookware set

So I have been going back and forth trying to decide on what type of cookware to get and I need some help. I do a lot of cooking and consider myself, for better or worse, kind of a foodie, so I am really looking for a good quality set that will last a while and definitely be used everyday. I have been leaning towards some try-ply stainless steel (there is a $600 Cuisinart set at amazon going for $225) or possibly the Calphalon Commercial Hard-Anodized 9-Piece Cookware Set which is going for only $160 at amazon (it is the pre-Calphalon One set I think). I have been reading some posts and seen the seemingly anti-Calphalon sentiment among many Chowhounds so if anyone has any direct usage knowledge of that particular set that would be helpful. But...I am beginning to get worried about missing the love/hate relationship with non-stick. Will I be alright without the non-stick? I make eggs and oatmeal pretty much everyday and just want to be sure I can fry up my little eggs without a whole stick of butter, and not lose half my oats to the pan. The reasons for moving away from non-stick are: I need to be able to use the pans in the oven (and not just up to 400 for 20mins), and really really really want to use metal utensils. Anyway, I can be easily convinced, so do your best.

also...I don't have unlimited funds for this either, maybe $300-350 max.

THANKS...

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  1. I'd go with a tri-ply set. Tramontina sells a nice triply set on Walmart's website at a great price (I think around $140 when I was looking. Cuisinart's triply set or Calphalon's are good as well ($225-250 range). Then buy yourself a cheap nonstick pan for eggs, etc., and you're good to go. I researched this stuff forever before buying a Surlatable (store-branded) triply set last year at around $300. Much cheaper than my single All-Clad piece and IMO it performs just as well. I've filled in with some pieces of the Walmart Tramontina and Calphalon triply and think they are also very good performers. If I had to do it again, I would have bought the way-cheap Tramontina set via the more expensive Surlatable set. Lots of others would recommend not buying a set at all, just the pots you'll use, but I found the sets to be at such a good price point that it's cost-efficient just filling in around the set.

    3 Replies
    1. re: koigirl

      Virtually everyone on this CH topic advises against buying sets. You're best off with different pans for different tasks. For eggs and crepes, non-stucj us great. For frying with the idea of making a reduction sauce (where you want those little bits and pieces for flavor), other materials are better.

      Here's an article you might find interesting:

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

      1. re: mpalmer6c

        The basic cookware set is all about handling the day-to-day stuff and is the foundation of a functioning home kitchen. Most of what you are looking to do is boil water, heat up a sauce, steam some veggies, etc. All but the cheapest cookware will handle these tasks just fine. You also want to have it fairly care-free to clean. You shouldn't have to worry about tossing it in the dishwasher -- life is too short.

        Sure you can piecemeal the whole thing, but you will end up spending a lot of money on stuff that is 1) suitable for a limited style of cooking, 2) requires more care than you are going to want to do on a day-to-day basis, and 3) you always seem to end up a pan or pot short.

        A set will get you started with multiple peices so that you can have a couple items going at once while a piece or two is still in the dishwasher. A decent quality stainless set will serve you well and really shouldn't set you back. (As I am writing, a flier for Sam's Club arrived -- they have a Wolfgang Puck set for $99. Maybe someone can chime in if they know if his stuff is decent .) Stay away from non-stick sets (though a non-stick pan is nice to have, just don't spend a lot on since they just don't last very long.) Enamelled and anodized really should not go in the dishwasher, so keep that in mind.

        Yeah, the sets are a compromise, and that will drive some people nuts. For the rest of us, I think it works just fine. Besides, owning a set doesn't mean you can't supplement with a few specialty items.

      2. re: koigirl

        For what it's worth, some sets are fine. I have noticed that they might be short some lids (anticipating sharing) and that there might be one of two items you won't use as much, but I haven't seen a set that is so awful that it couldn't form the base of your collection. The lid-share thing annoys me a bit, so that is one reason why I prefer individual pieces, but at my stage of the game, I am thirty years past the need for a complete set. Just be sure to really understand what you are getting in the set and ask yourself if it is sufficient, if the pieces are the right size, and will you have enough lids. There are often multiple sets available from each manufacturer, so shop carefully. As for Calphalon, I own three pieces. I like two of them -- a tapas pan and a 12 inch skillet, and they are great, but they can scratch. The smaller skillet I own has never had a flat enough bottom for my cooktop, and it spins. I also detest and advise against glass lids. They are an accident waiting to happen, and are not likely to hold up as long as the pan itself.

      3. Wanted to add that I have a Calphalon Commercial large saute pan and its non-stick finish has not held up as well as I'd hoped. I wouldn't want to own an entire set of this line.

        1. I make oatmeal in the microwave, so no idea how it would do with stainless, but I'd be a bit skeptical. Eggs are fine with practice, but it's easy enough to keep a cheap non-stick if you're worried.

          Metal utensils are not kind to hard-anodized surfaces. Get the tri-ply and keep one non-stick around for eggs and oatmeal. I have several pieces of Cuisinart Multiclad, and I love them.

          1. I'm not a fan of non-stick, or of anodized aluminum, and I always use a stainless saucepan for oatmeal. Sure, you end up with a little oatmeal residue in the pan. Big deal. It's easy to clean with a scrubbie, and even easier if you soak the pan first. Unless you scorch the stuff, it shouldn't be a problem. Eggs are a different story; you may want to have one nonstick skillet for those. As for cookware sets, many people recommend against them, but if you're starting from scratch they can be economical--provided you need every piece. Otherwise, better just to purchase the items you'll really use.

            1. I've been using calphalon commercial for 20+ years, with no problems and I'm pretty happy with it. That said, I purchased it as a set and find I don't use all the pieces regularly, and the skillets do stick a bit. For example I'd never do scrambled eggs in them, but if I'm sauteeing I usually get good results by keeping the heat a bit lower than for other types of cookware. Oatmeal does fine in the calphalon pan, as well as in stainless steel.

              I ended up buying some additional pieces of calphalon commerical (as well as other cookware types) to get the pans I use regularly. Because it was so long ago I don't recall the original set components, but like others I'd advise against a set. On the other hand, calphalon commerical is no longer being made and it sounds like you've got a great price, so dive in, just know that it won't meet all your cooking needs.