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Cookware for the Extremely Broke?

I'm looking to outfit my kitchen with new cookware...but I'm on a very small budget. I know everyone recommends LC, All Clad, etc but I just can't afford it at this stage in my life (single mom in a bad economy). I know you get what you pay for, but I can't afford to invest in really lovely cookware (though I can window-shop and drool!). With that in mind, here's my criteria:

- Entire outfit for $100 or under
- Prefer non-stick
- need not be a set, so long as all the pieces together are at or below $100
- Do a fair amount of cooking, experienced cook, usually cooking for 3-5 people
- It need not be pretty and need not be brand (but I need to know where to get it!)
- Stuff that can be ordered online is ideal, as I don't have a car

I had the Jamie Oliver T-Fal set when I was married, and loved the heft and the way it felt in my hands. I've had Ikea's SS set (incredibly hard to clean) and T-Fal's non-stick set (very very easy to clean, but the pans seem to warp/dent easily, and look like they've been used every day on the line at a busy restaurant after three years). I need something that will look like new after a year or two, so that I can slowly replace it with better pieces as my budget allows.

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  1. Costco's Kirkland sets get good reviews.

    With Bed, Bath, & Beyond 20% discount coupons coming in the mail a couple fo times a month, you could buy several decent quality pieces at decent prices if you acquire them over several months. My workhorse pan is a lidded 4qt nonstick chef's pan, which works as a soup/braise pot and as a skillet. Mine happens to be Circulon, which I do not recommend, since food gets stuck between the grooves. I paid $40 with a coupon. Eventually I'll replace it with a better surface, but would still want the convenient shape fo a chef's pan (a.k.a. saucier)

    3 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      Just a reminder on the 20% discount coupons from Bed, Bath@ beyond. Even though they have a use by date, by law they do not expire. You can save them up and use them at your convenience.

      1. re: chipman

        I've been a big customer of Bed Bath and Beyond in the past. But I started comparing prices on small electrics and discovered that the 20% off coupon brings the item down only a few dollars. I haven't compared the cookware prices though. I would definately keep this in mind when comparing prices, though.

      2. re: greygarious

        After reading the other's responses (thrift store finds) and the OP's request that it sb new, I'll second the Costco idea. I have a huge wok shaped non-stick pan that I've had for . .pushing 20 years now and it's still in fine shape. It never goes in the dishwasher, it's always hand washed.

      3. This isn't really a tip to get your kitchen equipped now... But whenever you have the chance, I encourage you to check out local secondhand stores for cookware. I've scored some spectacular finds (like three pieces of Le Creuset for $5 total). Look for small, independent thrift stores (as opposed to Goodwill/Salvation Army). They often get their merchandise from estate sales & storage auctions, and just tend to have a different selection from your well-known stores.

        I've used secondhand items to supplement my first set of pans -- it was the stainless steel Cuisinart set from the Spiegel catalog, which is regularly priced at $159 but occasionally goes on sale for around $100. They are heavy, durable, and still beautiful after 10 years of frequent use, though I have lost most of my lids. Spiegel also offers a 10-piece nonstick Cuisinart set for $149, and there are coupon codes all over the internet for 25% off. I've never used the Cuisinart nonstick so I can't comment on their quality, but I'm very happy with the stainless steel and have always been happy with Cuisinart's quality.


        3 Replies
        1. re: pixilated1

          Thank you for the suggestion (Ted also), but I should've specified that it needs to be new, unused pieces only, due to the laws of keeping kosher (unless Goodwill has a kosher aisle! :) ).

          1. re: KosherHound

            Can you not kasher second hand pots? I'm not Jewish, but I have friends who are.

            1. re: Paulustrious

              It depends on what the pot is made of and what it's been used for. While it's possible for some pots and pans (all stainless steel being the easiest), the laws are complex and then there is the concern that people I invite into my home may be uncomfortable eating food prepared in it regardless. Buying new is much easier, even if it's less fun or practical than picking out vintage earthenware.

        2. Garage-sale cast iron sounds like the way to go.

          8 Replies
          1. re: ted

            Yes, cast iron is not only inexpensive, it's some of best cookware you'll ever find.

            1. re: thomas64

              Any recommendation for where to pick up (new) pieces?

              1. re: KosherHound

                What is the definition of new and used? Since many "new" cookware are made from recycled materials and many "used" cookware can be revived by burning the heck out of it.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  new just means "new in the box"; ie, nobody's cooked anything in it. While it's true that some used cookware can be kashered by various methods, oftentimes it ruins the cookware, and it's not something I'm comfortable with doing. A pity, because there is really some beautiful vintage cookware out there!

                  1. re: KosherHound

                    I bought a lot of Calphalon on eBay last year for up to 50% off, "New In Box," not used at all. All the new in box pieces were shipped to me in the original packaging. I bought individual pieces that I wanted but you may be able to get a set, or a set of another brand, for under $100. I have Calphalon One, which I believe has been discontinued. If you're interested in cast iron, eBay has plenty of that, as well, much of it new.

                    1. re: KosherHound

                      That's kind of a bummer. The best place for new, cheap cast iron is the Lodge outlet outside Chattanooga, TN. But it's cheap to start with. The Ace Hardware stores around here tend to carry some.

                      All the suggestions for restaurant supply stores, TJ Max/Marshall's, and Tuesday Morning are good ones.

                  2. re: KosherHound

                    You can find new cast iron for very little money at a hardware store. Probably one of the biggest bargains around.

                    1. re: KosherHound

                      I'm pretty sure Wal-Mart carries the Lodge Logic pre-seasoned line, but if they don't anymore I know that Bass Pro, Cabela's, et al. carry them at good prices.

                2. Ditto on the other poster's ideas. Also, I think checking out places like TJMaxx, Ross, and Tuesday Morning. I've gotten some great deals on high end cookware at those places, particularly if you don't care about them all being the same brand.

                  1. look at qvc's website -- clearance cookware -- where there is a decent price on a set of two enameled cast iron skillets. there is paula deen enameled cookware on clearance, too. rachel ray hard anodized saute pans, etc. http://www.qvc.com/cgen/render.aspx?q...

                    beall's in florida has a great cookware line called florida marketplace in stainless steel. my mom had a pot and it kept the heat so well -- i was very impressed. pretty, very high shine on the stainless, too. if i didn't have too much cookware, i'd jump at this set for $80: http://www.amazon.com/Florida-Marketp...

                    you may want to take a gander at this link, too, for other offers: http://bestcookwaresetsreviews.blogsp...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: alkapal

                      Hasn't Paula Deen's enameled cookware been recalled recently? Thanks for the links.

                      1. re: KosherHound

                        There was a recall on Paula Deen enameled cart iron items that were shattering. AFAIK, the stuff was sold via TV and online so those who purchased it could be identified. One hopes the stuff available now is an improved version.

                    2. For selected pieces, try looking at the Tramontina Tri-Ply Stainless that WalMart carries in many of their stores. They have sets (albeit more than your limit) but they also have individual pieces that you can pick up as you need them. A good cast-iron skillet (for your non-stick requirement), a small and medium sized saucepan (the Tramonitina Tri-Ply ones are excellent, pretty much on par with All-Clad), and a stockpot will get you on your way.


                      I also have to echo the posts about checking out TJMaxx and Marshalls type stores for good deals on cookware.

                      1. @KosherHound -

                        I wrote out a very long post to you, edited it, and had trouble - the info was showing up twice, so I edited again, and see that ONLY the edit now appears.....

                        So I'll paraphrase what I wrote. After many years with a mixture of stainless pieces and Cuisinart stainless/exterior and non-stick interior, I am now only looking for stainless pieces, cast iron, an a non-stick skillet.

                        Check out Amazon's 4-for-3 offer for the pieces you need (or sets in your price range, altho I do better with individual pieces).

                        there are a number of EXCELLENT prices on great Cuisinart stainless pieces, reduced and part of the 4-3 offer; as well as on the sets.

                        Can you be more specific about what pieces you need, or what you'll be cooking?

                        How big a stock pot? What were your favorite pans/pots?

                        The idea of picking up random pieces at Tuesday Morning, TJ Maxx, Marshall's is great, but I suspect these arenot convenient for you without a car..... and I'm not sure that you have access to the suburban warehouse stores such as Costco, BJ's or Sam's.

                        I second the idea of reading Bittman's article in the NY Times, and that you take a trip down to The Bowery Restaurant Supply..... or Amazon with free shipping etc.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mtpaper

                          Just for future reference mtpaper, that's the way the edit function works so you can see it before and after the edit. It's really only there once. Sorry you lost your message. I have gotten into the habit before I press save of going Ctrl-A (select All) followed by Ctrl-C (Copy). Then if the post fails - and they do quite frequently - you can have another stab. For a really long post I copy it into wordpad first.

                        2. Article from Mark Bittman "A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks "
                          He says go to a restaurant supply house and pick up the basics that real chefs use in restaurants.


                          5 Replies
                          1. re: monku

                            I already had most of my pans when I encountered this article. But if I were outfitting my kitchen now, I would try to buy from a restaurant supply house.

                            I have bought most of my stainless steel cookware at Home Goods, but I have done this over a period of time, as I found the pans I needed. I am still finding useful things. They get pans from Europe which I don't normally see other places, for one thing.

                            I don't recommend buying a set of pans, because you might get some you don't really use. I'd prefer to buy pan by pan.

                            But if you really need a number of pans right now, then I'd investigate Costco. I've also seen a pan purchased from Ikea, but was not impressed with how it was balanced. Another cheaper source for decent pans is Target. They have a less expensive line of Caphalon? All-Clad? I can't remember.

                            1. re: monku

                              I got some of my equipment from restaurant supply. There not always super cheap, I think if you hit the ones on Bowery in NYC then yes you can find sometimes prices like Bittman mentions. Otherwise, while it's quality it may not be as cheap that you can get a full set of pans for below 100.

                              That said, for budget I like Ikea. My 1st set of pots was and I didn't find anything wrong with it plus one can buy additional pieces over time.

                              1. re: jk1002

                                You know if Ikea pans work for you, then great. You might not like my old Cuisinart pans or my vintage iron skillets. I really believe that you have to find out for yourself what works for you in the kitchen.

                              2. re: monku

                                Especially noteworthy is the "list of things you don't need". Restaurant supply houses are great, esp if you live in a large city. If you live somewhere like, say, Milwaukee, there is Fein Bros. or a two-hour drive to Chicago. Not the end of the world, but you could save gas money and go to Marshall's/Home Goods/TJ Maxx. Definitely make sure you have utensils and gadgets BEFORE pots and pans. Lots of work arounds if you have the wrong size/type of pot. Life gets ugly fast if you forgot to get a can opener.

                                1. re: MikeB3542

                                  Yes but with the caveat that you might not find the exact things you need. But in my experience, you can find an awfully lot. Don't forget, they often carry a few electrics too. I need to visit soon--I can feel the urge! My last "find" was a darling little stainless soup pot with a glass lid. I've used it frequently since I brought it home. Brand was Rohe--made in Germany.

                              3. Another vote for the Walmart Tramontina open stock. You should be able to outfit yourself in all-clad style for your budget: I have all-clad and tramontina and I can't say there is any difference in construction, beauty or performance. Over time you might add the tramontina dutch oven from walmart, which Cook's Illustrated also ranked well. I still love my all-clad but I doubt I'll buy more as long as Tramontina is available at these prices.

                                1. I would check out restaurant supply stores and select only the pieces you really want and need, and not waste money on the odd piece or two that most sets give you. $100 is not a lot of money, so you need to be prudent in what you select, and a set is probably not the way to go.

                                  1. was just at home fair yesterday and the happened to have a selection of the jamie oliver t-fal. individual pieces, may still be beyond your budget, but if you set a limit you can probaly pick out a decent selection there, if not one week try a week later, although some of their cheaper basics don't seem to vary as much, but they often have some real bargains mixed in

                                    1. As others have posted Costco (kirkland) and Sam's Club (Makers Choice) house cookware brands are very good and have won Conumer Reports best buy - I got the Kirkland Anodized aluminum set for my meat pans - also others have said check out TJ Maxx and Marshalls - they have odd lots and you get pans at a good price -

                                      1. Hit the estate sales. Obviously, don't buy something that's beat-up but you will be amazed at the lovely stuff in perfect condition that goes for 5 or 10 cents on the dollar, or less. I got a 20-quart Vollrath stock pot for $22, retails for $140 at overstock.com. I have four Henckel's knives that I paid $1 apiece for. Last week at an estate sale I saw about a dozen Corningware baking dishes, all sizes, for $2 each. Google "estate sales" followed by the name of your city or town. PS no car is no problem if you are in a city: public transportation works fine; just take a shopping cart with you. I do this all the time.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Querencia

                                          The OP clarified above that the pieces need to be new, not used.

                                        2. l like Home Goods/Marshalls for cheaper pots/pans. I particularly like the Tivoli 8" and 12" nonstick pans b/c the rubber handle cover is removable for oven cooking/finishing. I used to see more Le Cruset/All Clad bargains, but now they charge more-so not always a "better" deal. But the thing about that place is that you never know what you're going to find on any given day. They also sell heavy duty 1/2 sheet pans and sheet pans that are a bargain.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                            I love going there to see what's on the shelf. You are right--you never know. And for me that's a good thing.

                                          2. When I left home in high school, my Mom set me up with an entire kitchen for about $30. The way she accomplished this? Estate sales. I ended up with $2 old Le Creuset pots and various other beautiful old pieces that I'm still using nearly 20 years later (I confess, I have gotten rid of some of the crappier pots that I got, but I still ahve the Le Creusets). But it's amazing how many old grannies have great stuff in their kitchen, and the people disposing of it simply don't recognize the value of the stuff or don't care.

                                            1. As I am in a similar predicament, it is my goal to find a copper pot at an estate sale, second hand shop, whatever. And then have it relined or retinned! Voila! It's kosher!

                                              However, I do think you'll have trouble buying TWO sets of cookware for under $100.

                                              1. I would also ask my rabbi for suggestions. (Perhaps he actually has some that would gift to you, if you wouldn't mind secondhand from him.)

                                                I used to be really rigid about the separation of meat and milk, but once I found out how much things cost, really began to question my beliefs. Especially since the nuances of kasherizing a used piece vary from rabbi to rabbi. I have noticed, however, that religious people I know who are adamant about the rules are those who have the money to buy multiples.

                                                On the other hand, perhaps I am just becoming cynical.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: E_M

                                                  Are you orthodox? For practically all who are, who were raised this way and whose family is all this way, it's completely unthinkable not to have separate everything. Those include the poorest of the poor. Those people just buy much cheaper sets. In that demographic, you live at home until you're married, and after the marriage, you either have parents buying for you as a wedding gift, or you take money you received from the guests to purchase it.

                                                  I think you're just cynical. :)

                                                2. probably irrelevant, but macy's has a huge closeout on belgique (sp?) cookware right now.. belgique is quite good for the price. $99 for "12 pieces." http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/496227

                                                  1. I would check out Cooks Illustrated, too, as they rate cookware and tend to include budget-conscious pieces as well as more expensive ones. If you can find it new on line, I've been very happy with my Gourmet Standard tri-ply, which they recommended (though GS went out of business next year). I'd second the cast-iron too, as it's a good all-around solution for you and a great buy for the buck (even new). I also do a lot of glass Pyrex -- cheap but bakes well.