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Tramontina cookware sets: All stainless steel clad or some SS/some cast iron?

I've read some good threads on here about stainless steel vs. cast iron cookware generally, but none have really answered my dilemma. I'm trying to decide between two Tramontina cookware sets:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tramontina-...

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produc...

Obviously one set comes with "more" pieces, but non-stick pans don't last a really long time. I like cooking but haven't ever owned any quality cookware and haven't ever cooked with SS or cast iron.

From what I read, it seems like with the all-SS set, I'd still like to add a cast iron skillet. With the set that has cast iron, I might want to add a larger 6- or 8- quart SS pot/Dutch oven to boil potatoes, pasta, etc. I could do this in the cast iron Dutch oven, but it seems like water would heat and boil more quickly in one that is SS clad. I'm not sure yet if the cast iron Dutch oven and/or 12-qt SS stock pots would see a lot of use because my husband really likes making stew, chili, soup, roasts, etc. in the crock pot. Does one contain a pot/pan that would be better suited to making Thai curry (this is one thing I have liked to make in the past but have always made it in our large non-stick skillet).

How do we decide between these sets? I change my mind daily about which one would be best for one reason or another. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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  1. The second set is most interesting. I've never thought I would see Tramontina launches a set of mix materials: stainless steel, cast iron, enameled cast iron.

    If I am you, I may go for the second set. Really, you do have a stainless steel stock pot in the second set, just not two. A mix of enameled cast iron and stainless steel for the large pots is not bad. Same for saute/frying pans. If anything, most people criticize cookware set have too many redundant pieces. In the second set, you have a mix of a cast iron skillet, a stainless steel cladded frying pan, a nonstick frying pan instead of two stainless steel cladded cookware. Unless you are a huge fan of stainless steel cladded cookware, the second set will give you greater flexibility and versatlie.

    In fact, I am interested to know other respondents responses.

    P.S.: I actually don't know much about this particular Tramontina enameled cookware, but I know Tramontina has another enameled Dutch Oven which is respected:

    http://mikeshowalter.com/the-tramonti...
    vs
    http://www.amazon.com/Tramontina-8013...

    1. The 11 piece set is really interesting. It has one more piece and a wide variety of materials for the same price. You can try 4 different material types for a great price and use all of them to decide if you like them and want more. The anodized nonstick fry pan *should* cook a little more evenly than a triply frying pan, although I don't know if the difference would be noticeable or substantial. A nonstick fry pan is useful for things like eggs and fish, even if you don't use it a lot. It should last if used carefully, but note that most anodized is not dishwasher safe.

      You could always pick up a SS DO or larger saucepan later if you feel you need one. The 5 qt DO is available for $60 if you decide you want it later.

      I am sure I saw Giada cook pasta in an enameled dutch oven, so how bad can it be? (wink)

      Both the sets have good sized pieces, whereas some other sets come with saucepans so small as to not be very useful. I have not used Tramontina so can't comment on the quality but lots of good reviews.

      My final comment is compare the size and shape of the sets to your existing cookware to judge their usefulness.

      2 Replies
      1. re: BruceMcK

        Thanks for your helpful replies!

        1. re: BruceMcK

          One other thought is how much frying you do. The mixed set has 3 good sized skillets (sauté pan in Walmart lingo) which is a lot if you don't like to fry or sauté.

        2. nugentc: Re Set #2... $229 for a set like this is a low, low price. Maybe too low for the quality you want?

          I like the idea of a "mixed media" set like this, but I can't find specs on the thicknesses of the clad saucepans and large skillet. You should check to verify that the inner core of Al or Cu isn't just a thin piece of foil. I suggest you price out the CI pieces (about $75 retail) and the hard anodized (maybe $60?). The balance, less than $100, for the other 4 pots and 3 lids--is that reasonable or indicative of quality?

          I would pass on set #1 because of the longevity (and health) issues with non-stick.

          9 Replies
          1. re: kaleokahu

            kaleo,

            "I would pass on set #1 because of the longevity (and health) issues with non-stick."

            Set#1 only has stainless steel cladded cookware. It is Set#2 which is composed of mixed materials, including a pan with a nonstick surface on hard anodized aluminum.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Chem: Thanks for the correction; my reading retention tonight is suspect.

              1. re: kaleokahu

                So, which one would you recommend now? :) Set#1 with all stainless steel surface? Or Set#2 with various cooking surface, but also including the nonstick. Tough choice? Just curious.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Chem: Yeah, it's a close call. You know all my secret prejudices, and can point out the inconsistencies... ;)

                  #2 includes 1 more pan (an extra skillet). The presence of a bare CI skillet is a big plus over #1, and the 5Q CI DO over the clad a minor one. Excluding my uber-cynicism over the PTFE, if the OP cooks a lot of egg dishes and isn't squicked by the non-stick, that's an advantage (Aside: I tried cooking eggs on the thick 'ole Revereware skillet Lucy wanted, and I loathe SS even more now for eggs). Frankly, if the PTFE skillet in #2 were hard-anodized instead of..., the choice wouldn't even be close.

                  As BrucemcK has observed, the draw of #2 is that Wallyworld has assembled a set of disparate materials that has a rough correspondence with a short batterie du (de?) cuisine--nothing's too out of place within the price range. 98% of the world should be *thrilled* if they had these pieces to cook on/in. With #1, maybe the number goes down to 90%.

                  If the thickness of the saucepan layers is indeed the same as AC, I personally would throw the PTFE pan away and still prefer #2.

                  OK, now make fun of me!

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Like you said.

                    If I believe PTFE (Teflon) is something to be worried about, I would probably still vote for Set#2. Even if I gave/tossed that nonstick pan away, I would still have 10 pieces vs 10 pieces, and Set#2 would give me a bit more versatile. In Set#2, there are a stainless cladded steel stock pot and an enameled cast iron casserole (which looks like a Dutch Oven to me), and there are a stainless steel triply frying pan and a bare cast iron skillet.

                    The thickness of the saucepan layers is not even a consideration factor between the two sets, because both sets have the similar pieces and will benefit/suffer the same.

            2. re: kaleokahu

              Thanks, kaleokahu. Set #1 isn't non-stick, though. It's all stainless steel clad.

              By all reports the Tramontina clad cookware in both sets is virtually indistinguishable from All-Clad. Even Cooks Illustrated test kitchens had a hard time finding any meaningful differences between them. I read a thread on here that reported exact thickness measurements of the layers, and I don't think the Al was foil thin. I feel pretty comfortable with the quality of the SS clad, but I don't know how their enameled cast iron Dutch oven and cast iron skillets do in reviews. I'm also not sure how much I'd use those two particular pieces. Some people live and die by their cast iron skillet. Are we really missing out on something special by not owning an enameled cast iron Dutch oven (instead of crock pot) and cast iron skillet?

              1. re: nugentc

                nugentc:

                Thank you and Chem for the correction.

                Well, that's good if you know the conductive metal layer is equivalent. I've learned in my time collecting copper that a good measure of A-B comparison is to weigh the pieces. If the size handle material/construction are comparable, weight can be a rough guide as to quality.

                Re: "Are we really missing out..." Yeah, on balance, I'd say you are missing out on *something* As others here know, I have a love/hate relationship with CI (OK, mostly hate, but nothing like my loathing for SS). But for one thing, i.e., searing, a CI skillet is very hard to beat, especially considering cost, durability, and relative ease of maintenance.

                The DO is a little more complicated vessel. In its bare (and Far-East enameled) CI form, it is every bit as inexpensive and almost as durable, yet somewhat more versatile. A CI DO is a workhorse, maybe not winning any races or beauty contests, but getting the job done. While I think large ones on the stovetop can be a semi-joke for many preparations, they can go from top to oven (if you can lift them) without a beat, and so are nice for 1-pot dishes that require both. A 5.5Q ECI DO can do a lot of things well--sort of like a utility infielder in baseball. Your crockpot is not likely to be able to simmer lentils AND roast a chicken at 475F.

                I spar here with folks who diss the Far-East CI. I own a lot of Le Creuset, and so far no Far-East. But what I have *handled* in the kitchen and import stores seems not inferior to what I own. In many cases, the F-E stuff is thicker and heavier, which I view as a performance *improvement* over LC and Staub. The jury's still out on the enamel and colors. But suffice it to say, I see no reason (other than geo-eco-politics) not to try a $70 ECI DO over a $270 one.

                Hope this helps.

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  "I own a lot of Le Creuset"

                  That's right. Now I remember. A long time ago, you said you spent a good deal of money collecting Le Creuset and wished you had started with copper early on. That means out of your "a lot of Le Creuset" only one pot broke. That isn't too bad. If you have 10 pieces, one is bound to break.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Chem: Yes, only 1 out of my *many* LC has broken, although more than that have chipped a bit. I am *not* generally unhappy with LC for chipping, but have only reminded those who say LC doesn't chip that they do. In fairness, I could have been more careful with all my LC, but the enamel is somewhat delicate to impacts and edge pressure.

                    My discontent with LC has more to do with economics and performance. I would be a better--and more contented--cook if I had spent the $$$ on premium copperware to begin with. Had I bough Lodge CI instead of LC years ago, I wouldn't feel so foolish.

              1. re: paulj

                Wow, thanks for the very helpful discussion, everyone. I really appreciate your time!

                paulj, I approached this whole process thinking that it would be better to buy single pieces, but then I ran into these two sets and the great reviews of Tramontina clad. As Bruce McK points out, these sets contain pieces that are more useful sizes (i.e., larger) than most other sets on the market. I still thought about just buying a few single pieces from open stock, but they quickly add up to the price of the set, making the sets a real bargain. Many say they have found individual pieces from these sets at Marshall's or TJMaxx. I've looked there quite a bit because I'd rather not give my money to Walmart, but I haven't been so lucky to find any. I also looked for restaurant supply stores but am having a hard time tracking those down. Do you recommend doing something else? Budget is a concern.

                So what would you all use to make a Thai (or Indian) curry on the stovetop? This usually involves a little frying of some onions/meat and curry paste, then adding coconut milk and other ingredients to simmer for a while. We've typically done it in our very large (maybe 12 inch?) skillet, which nearly overfills most times.

                1. re: nugentc

                  How many people are you cooking for? If the sizes in the set are useful, then it may well be the most economical way of getting the ones you need. Buying piece by piece lets you match size and material to your needs.

              2. I'm going with CK here - the second set has enough to make most home cooks very happy. You can always add the Tramontina clad DO and the Tramontino jumbo cooker ( large saute) not sure why WMart chooses to call it a jumbo cooker and in my mind, the jumbo cooker/saute pan would be perfect for your Thai curry. Both can be added for little extra money and you'd be happy for years! I have several of the Tramontina pieces and I've been as happy with them as with my All Clad. It certainly is interesting that Walmart is offering this mixed set and I wouldn't hesitate to buy it if I could justify any more cookware!

                But just now I am in Paris and Dehillerins is looming on the horizon so I expect I'll find a way to justify just one more thing!!!

                3 Replies
                1. re: knet

                  knet: Be a friend and bring me back a turbotier from Dehillerin, will you?

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    well sure kaleo but aren't you in Japan??

                2. Set two is almost genius. It's as if someone at Tramontina has been reading the boards. Like others I do have issues with the nonstick pan. Swap the nonstick out with a carbon steel pan and you are all set.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: SanityRemoved

                    kaleokahu, you say way up above that the presence of a cast iron Dutch oven is a minor plus over #1. Why?

                    People seem to really prefer #2, and not because of the extra hard anodized nonstick skillet (most say they would throw/give it away). So what if #1 included a cast iron skillet also--would you then choose the enameled CI Dutch oven or the SS clad Dutch oven and why?

                    1. re: nugentc

                      Hi, nugentc:

                      Sorry, I didn't mean to damn the ECI DO or the #2 set with faint praise. I meant only to compare (a) the advantage of the bare CI skillet in #2 over the clad one in #1 (IMO huge), with (b) the advantage of the ECI DO in #2 over the clad one in #1 (smaller, yet significant). However, if you will be doing a lot of slow-n-low cooking *on your stovetop* in the DOs, this advantage might approach zero, depending on your hobs.

                      I'm not sure I fully understand your question. If you add a CI skillet to #1 (about a $20 proposition), that's a big improvement for the set, but you then make the two clad frypans semi-redundant. Subject to the slow-and-low proviso above, I'd still go for #2.

                      I think tramontina is very shrewd in pulling together a set (#2) that contains pieces that most people eventually assemble for themselves anyway based on years of mistakes and experience. If the clad composition is good--and it gets good reviews--then this set is a good place to start and quite a good bargain. But I know it can be hard to let go of the idea that your cookware should all match.

                      Something I just noticed about the CI skillet is that it appears to have higher than normal walls, almost bordering on chicken-fryer height. This wouldn't bother me, but some folks are very picky about getting their utensils around inside pans. FYI.

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        "But I know it can be hard to let go of the idea that your cookware should all match."

                        Yep, that red enameled Dutch Oven (or enameled casserole) is a horrible color. I will go with zesty lemon or patriot blue :P

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Chem: More like People's Liberation Army Air Force blue.

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Except the Chinese People's Liberation Army does not use blue -- not that I know of. Starting to get off-topic.

                        2. re: kaleokahu

                          I actually don't care about matching cookware or the aesthetics of it at all. I've been using mix-and-match pieces from cheapo sets, curbside finds, and clearance shelves for nearly the last 15 years. I'm not sure if that speaks more to how much I don't care about aesthetics or how much I'm a tightwad. =)

                          I guess it just seems like if I bought set #1 I would want a cast iron skillet. And if I bought set #2 I would want either the "jumbo cooker" knet has identified or a 5/6-ish quart SS pot of some kind (like the SS Dutch oven). So to me the dilemma really is: Will I ever want a cast iron Dutch oven specifically, or is the SS one just as good (it's oven safe up to a higher temp than the CI one because of the plastic-y handle on the CI DO). What are the specific advantages of an enameled cast iron DO? If there aren't any that would matter to me, then I save more money in the long run by buying set #1 and adding the CI skillet than I do by buying set #2 and adding "jumbo cooker" or something comparable. But I need to first make sure I don't "miss out" on something really great about CI vs. SS Dutch ovens. Does that help clarify my question?

                          1. re: nugentc

                            Hi, nugentc:

                            It's a little more clear. I didn't mean to suggest you were a newb or any other reason you'd want matching. That's just the way sets get sold--apparently until now.

                            I Googled "Tramontina jumbo cooker" and the pans I turned up look like a straightwalled saute with a helper. That pan is in neither #1 nor #2, correct? It looks to me like the 12" "saute" in #1 is in fact a curved-wall frypan, sans helper. It also appears that the jumbo cooker isn't available at this time from Wallyworld. Just wanted to make sure apples and oranges are the only fruit we're comparing here.

                            OK, on to the DOs. Specific advantages of the CI? Slightly more nonstick (and to that extent easier cleanup). Usually much thicker, so generally holds heat longer off the heat. Some folks say the heavier lid holds in more vapor when braising. Some also consider the ECI more presentable at table. Think that's about it for culinary factors. That's why I originally said the ECI DO in #2 holds a smaller advantage over the clad DO in #1 than does the CI skillet in #2 over the clad frypans in #1. BTW, the knob on the ECI can be easily replaced with something more oven-worthy.

                            I'm no Thai cook, but I have made 75 or so batches of Paul Prudhomme's chicken curry, virtually all in a taller pan than a saute or the "jumbo". IME, once the ________ (whatever the Thai term for mirrepoix is) and seasonings are cooked down and melded, I don't *want* the fast reduction that a wider, shallower pan would provide. For me and my hobs, the DO proportions are close to ideal for curries. If you like the "jumbo", I'd suggest that you find that shape with two helpers instead of the long handle--usually called a Rondeau. Fits in the oven and on your cooktop a lot easier.

                    2. I actually bought the SS10pc set last year from Walmart after ATK's review (they are sponsored by All-Clad and they still recommended this set). I would get the mix-set if you don't already have CI or LC dutch ovens. I have really enjoyed using these SS pots and saucepans because they are so easy to clean (BarKeeper's cleanser to keep it polished) and I needed something that was non-reactive. I usually use my CI pan for everyday use but wanted to maintain the seasoning without worry about acidic foods (lemon, tomatoes) used in many of my foods. The 10 pc set is really takes up a lot of space in my postage stamp size kitchen but if you have the space-go for it. The quality is great-each piece has a good weight and even cooking. Costco has a set from this company and it is cheaper--but it does not have the same tri-ply for the entire pan it is only on the bottom-so temperatures up the sides are not the same. I have my own problems deciding on a pizza stone or a cast iron pizza pan---of course--do we really need all this stuff? Go ahead and buy the mix bag set just for the fun of finding out what works for you--it is the least expensive set for the quality. I don't usually shop at Walmart, but this is the only place you can buy the set.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sunyfun

                        Thanks for the helpful replies, everyone! I really appreciate the time!