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What is the best set of budget clad cookware? Tramontina? Better Homes & Gardens? Kenmore? Other?

I am looking for a good set of budget clad cookware. I have tracked down the following sets so far:

1. ($149.99) Better Homes and Gardens 10-Piece Tri-Ply Clad 18/10
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Better-Home...

2. ($149.99) Tramontina 8-Piece 18/10 Stainless Steel TriPly-Clad
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tramontina-...

3. ($199.99) Kenmore 10-Piece Tri-Ply
http://www.kenmore.com/shc/s/p_10154_...

Does anyone have an opinion on which set/brand is the best quality for the buck?

Does anyone have other brand/set recommendations in the budget price range?

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  1. Earlier in my cooking career, I bought sets. These days I think in terms of individual pieces. I know that everyone is not like me, but the looks (in this case matching) of my cookware is less important to me than performance. I love my All-Clad for sauteeing but don't think I need cladding up the sides for boiling water for pasta. So rather than buying a set, I would suggest you consider paying a bit more for less compromise on a few critical pieces (like saute pans) and getting some nice, low-cost, but sturdy pieces from a restaurant supply place for less demanding tasks, such as pots and pans heating liquids on a stovetop.

    4 Replies
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      I was going to go that direction, but with the low prices of these sets, I can still add a nice piece here and there without breaking the bank.

      Also, the BH&G set just went on sale for $99--- wow. I hear it's made by Tramontina--- anyone know if the thickness of these two sets are the same?

      1. re: spenceuiuc

        Not to be a wet blanket - and I certainly enjoy finding bargains - but at such a low price one has to be careful about quality. There are issues that go beyond thickness that are important to consider. One (to me, at least) is the handles. Some handles get hot, others stay relatively cool. Some are comfortable to hold and make it easy to maneuver the pot or pan, others can be awful. Are the handles riveted to the cookware or are they spot-welded? (Yes I once had a spot-welded handle fall off.) So rather than quickly jumping onto the 'net to buy anything, it's a good idea to visit a brick-and-mortar store first (if you can) to actually see and heft and hold the cookware you are thinking of buying. It is also an opportunity to compare it side-by-side with premium cookware, to see what the differences are.

        For what it's worth, I have been very positively impressed by some pieces I bought at IKEA, after my horrible old electric stove finally died (good riddance!) and I was using an induction hotplate while waiting for my new wonderful gas stove. I experimented with the really cheap stuff and their highest quality stuff. Both were good values, but I would recommend you take a look at the high-end IKEA cookware before making your final buying decision. It was VERY nice for the price - nice performance, good build quality, and likely within your budget. (This is from someone with more All-Clad than you can shake a stick at!)

        1. re: PinchOfSalt

          Thanks for the thoughtful reply--- your point is well taken. Unfortunately, none of the brick and mortar stores near me sell any of these options--- I was hoping to be able to gain enough input from other owners to make my decision and purchase online...

          1. re: PinchOfSalt

            One point I just have to make -- I have had rivets fail and loosen to the point of a wobbly handle, but I have never had a spot weld fail. I don't think it is a fair statement to say that the OP should stay away from welded handles. On high quality pots with spot welds versus high quality pots with rivets, you are probably looking at equal alternatives in terms of longevity. I would put my Demeyere Atlantis, all with spot welds, up against any pots you can name, and in fact, I own some of most other brands. Some of my pots are welded, some are riveted. You can't make blanket statements like that because each design can fail. If you are looking at very inexpensive sets, it's probably a crap shoot.

      2. I don't think any one know which is the best, but Tramontina Triply has a great reputation. Just like the link you provided, Tramontina was selected as rated "Best Buy" in Cook's Illustrated.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          I am new to this site & for some reason can't find how to start a thread. So this seems to be the closest to my comment & question. I purchased a Tramontina steamer set from Walmart, on clearance, and the 2 pot sizes are great as well as the steamer size. However my biggest complaint is the horrible discoloration which occurred in the pots - has anyone else had this happen? Secondly, I wish they made the top with a release hole to prevent spilling over & thirdly, for me two pots with one top is useless. But my daughter loves the steamer for veggies so now I'm in search of a better quality one for her birthday, if anyone has any ideas. Thank you so much in advance! :)

          1. re: kindajazzy

            You have to be on a specific board to start a thread.

            Here's how you do it:

            Go to the main Chowhound page: http://chowhound.chow.com/boards

            In the banner near the top of the page, you'll see the word "Chowhound" in red. When you click on that, a menu will drop down with a list of the most popular boards and the option to select "View All Boards" at the bottom. If you want to start a thread on a board that's not on showing on that short list, you'll have to select "View all boards" and then click the link to the board you want. I'm pretty sure, though, that "Cookware" is in that list of popular boards, so you can just click on that directly.

            At the top of the feed of that board, you will see a little window with the words: " Start a new discussion" in it. Start typing your thread in there and the windows for both your post and its title will come up.

            There are already several threads about Tramontina cookware quality issues, like these: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4804...
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8859...

            If they're not useful, you should definitely start a new thread. Since you posted in the middle of this one, I think even people who open it may not see your question.

            Best, ninrn

            1. re: kindajazzy

              kindajazzy,

              I purchased the 4 quart Tramontina saucepan, used it several times, and it discolored (dark rainbow blue) every time. I'd been cooking on Calphalon Tri-Ply for over 12 years at the time, and while this did happen from time to time with the Calphalon, it wasn't very often.

              This blue or amber staining can and does happen to stainless steel pans, it's unavoidable. But it certainly shouldn't happen all the time. I eventually settled on Vollrath Optio pans and am exceptionally happy with them. They do have a disk bottom (not fully clad), but it's very thick and leads to even heating and minimal scorching. It's wonderful cookware.

              I still like Calphalon Tri-Ply. Also look at the Calphalon Contemporary, which is the same construction with a different shape and different handles.

              Another very nice option is Emeril Pro-Clad by All-Clad.

              The Calphalon and Emeril are all the same fully clad cookware as the Tramontina, but at a bit higher price.

              1. re: DuffyH

                I don't quite understand why the rainbow colors sometimes show up on the inside bottom of SS cookware, but I seem to find when I use BKF in the cleanup it does not happen.

                Edit: Chem, I should have read your post below before writing this post.

                1. re: John E.

                  John E.,

                  I've recently moved away from BKF because as Chem notes, white vinegar will easily remove many stains from SS. When I need abrasive, I've been grabbing baking soda. So cheap and it works well.

                  1. re: DuffyH

                    I'll give it a try, but I don't think BKF is in the same abrasive class as Comet and Ajax.

                    I recently discovered there is a BKF spray, but you're right about how cheap baking soda is.

                    1. re: John E.

                      BKF is pretty coarse abrasive, yes, working most of it's magic chemically, with oxalic acid. There's some really interesting reading about abrasives on this thread, particularly the first post by Kaleokahu about 7 from the top: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9279...

                      K is a smart guy and usually right about such stuff. Except when I disagree with him. Then he's pretty much an idiot. ;-)

                2. re: DuffyH

                  My small Tramontina saucepan has been in service in my kitchen for several years, and it works fine. I like the handles, and it performs as well as any other saucepan I have used. IMO, you can overbuy with saucepans. You can also buy too cheap. But I'd spend the most on a chef's pan and a DO, and a PC.

                  1. re: sueatmo

                    <IMO, you can overbuy with saucepans. You can also buy too cheap. But I'd spend the most on a chef's pan and a DO, and a PC.>

                    Absolutely. For me, the Tramontina made no sense because, although the price was good, it required more upkeep than I was willing to commit. My Vollrath pans, costing about ½ as much, perform better for me, in all respects. And there's only been one that turned blue, one time.

                    Overall, I'm a big fan of Tramontina, especially their frypans. I used to buy only the Pro line of nonstick aluminum. My 10" clad SS frypan is, I suspect, a Tramontina. It's made for Sams, marked with their Daily Chef logo, but it's made in Brazil and looks just like a commercial Tramontina, only in SS.

                3. re: kindajazzy

                  Welcome. To start a new thread, you can go to section which you are interested (in this case, cookware: http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/41). There on the top of the page you will see "Start a New Discussion".

                  As for your specific question, discoloration is not unusual for stainless steel surface cookware. If it is white or gray color discoloration, then it is a matter of water minerals, like calcium. If it is bluish or rainbow like discoloration, then it is usually due to high temperature. To remove either of these, you can use acidic solutions. The most gentle would be using distilled white vinegar. For something for effective, you can use the Bar Keeper's Friend cleaner:

                  http://www.amazon.com/Bar-Keepers-Fri...

                  http://www.webstaurantstore.com/bar-k...

                  I agree with Duffy. I have Calphalon Triply. It is less expensive than All Clad, but more expensive than Tramontina. You can usually find Calpahlon Triply cookware in Bed Bath and Beyond, Macy's...etc. Sometime you can find them in Home Goods, and TJ Maxx for a good price.

              2. I have several pieces of the Tramontina Tri-Ply and they are all outstanding. Also Sur La Table has carries a Tri-Ply line and it's terrific.

                1. I don't have a set, but I have a Tramontina sauce pan, which I like very, very much.

                  Just yesterday, I was able to pick up what I call a little "try me" set of the BHG triply- a 10 inch skillet and a lidded 2 quart sauce pan on clearance at Walmart for $23. The packaging was woefully limited in information but it did state that it's oven safe to 350 - it's my sincere hope that is referring to the glass lid and not actual cooking pieces, but it's an important factor if you go from stove top to oven with the pan.

                  I know clearance at Walmart can be hit or miss, but in addition to the BHG pieces I mentioned, the store I went to also had Tramontina 12 inch tri ply pan on clearance for $30. Perhaps it would be worth your while if you have a local Walmart to visit and see for yourself the difference between the two lines and which you think would best fit your needs?

                  My overall impression is the Tramontina has more of a solid feel to it.

                  I have no experience with Kenmore, so I'm unable to comment.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Molly James

                    So you did notice a significant difference between Tramontina and BH&G? Was the Tramontina pan material actually thicker than the BH&G?

                    1. re: spenceuiuc

                      No, not a significant difference. My apologies if my statement was misleading.

                      For thickness, I'm going by visual and feel on the saucepans (different sizes), but it appears the Tramontina is ever so slightly thicker- maybe .1 mm?. Additionally, it just feels more balanced/solid in my hand. Subjective observations, I know.

                      Your post got me wondering, so I called the 800# on the BHG package and although the person on the phone couldn't answer my questions on thickness and construction, she did offer to have someone in their technical support department call me with the answers within 3 business days. I'll also see if the tech person will confirm BHG is made by Tramontina. .

                      1. re: Molly James

                        I just baught a Trimontina tri ply stockpot from Walmart. They do not carry it in the store, so I had to order it. I have only used it once, but it is wonderful. I don't have anything more expensive to compare too, but I can't imagine a better one for home use. The only thing I would change is the mirror finish. LOL I need a satin finish for I will never be able to keep it so polished. It is indeed just like a mirror right out of the box.

                        1. re: Molly James

                          Update to my post above:

                          I just picked up a message from the rep from Walmart. The BHG cookware is 2.6 mm thick (.5mm interior stainless steel, 1.6 mm aluminum core, .5 mm exterior stainless steel).

                          I just checked the Tramontina website and the listed thickness is 2.6 mm.

                          The gentleman that called did not leave a return phone number, so I wasn't able to confirm the manufacturer.

                    2. I was wondering the same about the kenmore pieces. I saw them at the story and they appeared to be very well made for a cheaper line of cookware. Love to hear if anyone has actually used them.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: AdamD

                        I like the handles on the images of the Kenmore.

                        Doesn't Kenmore have an agreement with KitchenAid or one owns the other now?
                        Seems like I remember reading something about a Kenmore mixer being similar to the kitchenaid one somewhere.

                        Reason I ask, is that KitchenAid used to make a ply full clad line of cookware and I have a few pieces and like them quite well. If they use the same manufacturer out of Thailand, then I could say the KA line I have are quite nice.

                        1. re: grnidkjun

                          It is fairly common for brands to OEM stuff from a third-party manufacturer. The deals they make are not necessarily all-inclusive. So it is believable that Sears (Kenmore) is selling Kitchenaid-designed mixers with a Kenmore brand. No doubt Sears gets its cookware from some cookware manufacturer, but it is not necessarily the same one as manufactures its mixers, though.

                          It is useful to keep in mind that the brand (the name on the product), its designer (the company that designs the product), and the manufacturer (the company that actually builds the product) can be three separate entities. Cookware brands might be their own designers, but store brands can expected to OEM from elsewhere.

                            1. re: PinchOfSalt

                              i bought my kenmore cookware at a garage sale in 1975 and those pots still look nice and work good with the heat cooking evenly never had problems... and they were even made in the USA i still use them lucky me