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Good "beginner" cookware set and knives?

So my brother, who apparently thinks I'm a cookware expert, even though I use mismatched pans from Ikea and Home Goods, asked me what a good cookware set would be to buy for under $100. He's not a fancy cook but is getting into it, and just moved into a new house where he will have a veggie garden, so I think he's interested in learning more. I suggested Ikea or piecing stuff together like I did at Home Goods, but he seems to want a set.

I suggested maybe the Tramontina stuff from Wal-Mart as I heard it's good, or if he gets a Costco Membership, something from there.

He also asked me what a good brand of knives was. I told him for that it's better to go to a store like Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma to hold them and test them out to see which one he likes best, and slowly build his collection with higher quality stuff, than to buy a crappy block set. I personally have Globals since I have midget hands but I think most men would prefer something heavier.

Does anybody else have any other suggestions I could give him for both knives and cookware?

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  1. Most sets will have you paying for a few items you'll never or almost never use, and you can usually do better by buying open stock. I haven't used it, but quite a few folks speak very highly of the Tramontina. Definitely right about knife buying and trying on the feel, then reading reviews. I use a large chef's knife for almost everything.

    You're giving him good advice, except for the Ikea piece; not durable stuff, typically. Piecing together is the way to go.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mcf

      Yeah I know ikea isn't the greatest quality stuff, but I have a 13" non-stick skillet from there that I really like. It's part of their 365 line and wasn't super cheap and it didn't feel as cheapo as some of their other stuff. I use it like 5 times a week and it still looks brand new.

      I should just go out and visit him and take him shopping. I think stores like Home Goods intimidate him haha

      1. re: juliejulez

        You can get some great bargains at Home Goods, particularly on small or med Dutch ovens. If he wants to get into cooking, one 5 qt one can do so many things well. And they have some mid range pieces as well, and a lot of handy stuff, like cooking tongs, etc.

    2. Hopefully someone (Chem?) with more knife smarts than me will be able to chime in on this. The brand is a good one but is stamped rather than forged, but for someone just starting out, it might be just the ticket.

      For cookware, sets or individual pieces, the site in the link, as well as Chefs catalog are good starting points.


      1. The Tramitonia "TRIPLY-clad" from Wal-mart is really great for the money. The large $219 set is a real bargain though, apparently out of your price range. If at all possible, this is the set to get.


        1. Hi, julie:

          $100 for a set is not very realistic, if he wants more than 2-3 pans, and wants new ones. On the other hand, if he will accept vintage pans and invest the time learning and scrounging them, $100 can easily fund several perfectly good choices.

          Both WallyWorld and Costco are decent recs for sources, since they do devote some time to assure they don't offer any complete junk, and they squeeze their suppliers down to the last penny in exchange for volume orders.

          As for decent inexpensive knives, I like Victorinox/Forschner. You/he might want to read http://www.onlyknives.com/the-best-ki...


          1. <a good cookware set would be to buy for under $100>

            Well, the closet for a full set is the Tramontina as you have mentioned.


            Alternatively, just get one pan and one pot. That is the ultimate small set.

            <He also asked me what a good brand of knives was. I told him for that it's better to go to a store like Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma to hold them and test them out to see which one he likes best, >

            For knives, just focus the main knife, and not other knives. No need to get a set. Just get a good Western Chef knife or a good Santoku or a good Chinese cleaver -- you just need one good main knife for now.

            For inexpensive and cost effective knife, I will keep to either a Victorinox or a Dexter-Russell for now.



            These are just examples, I am not suggesting the specific knives or specific vendors. Look around.

            1. Thanks all. I'm definitely not a fan of sets which explains my own pot and pan "collection" but I think he wanted an "all in one" type thing since he hates shopping. I'm going to suggest to him again that he go to Home Goods or TJ Maxx or whatever to build what he needs that way. I know I personally use my 13" non stick skillet, a 5 quart lidded pot, and my cast iron skillet most often. I have other pots and pans and a large amount of bakeware but only use those occasionally. Same for knives, I pretty much only use my Global chef's knife, and I have a Global paring knife I use occasionally. So, I will try to impart my values on him as well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: juliejulez

                Since you are already familiar with the Ikea 365 line I suggest this set:


                I bought the 3 quart and 5 quart open stock and use them all the time. (Plus the 5 quart kettle also is the best poocorn popper we have ever had). I would also suggest a 12" Tramontina try-ply skillet and a 12" cast iron skillet. The Forschner knives are good as well. Or, find a restaurant supply store and buy Dexters. (Chef's knife, paring knife, and utility knife, don't buy a ten-piece set).

              2. An 8 inch forschner chefs knife would be a good start. Dont go to sur or ws, as they will push more expensive knives that are not better. You can find one on amazon for less than $30. Imo, holding a knife is overrated if its a good knife.

                3 Replies
                1. re: chuckl

                  A knife that doesn't fit your hand still cuts. A knife that DOES fit your hand is much easier to use safely.

                  Balance and sharp edges (not the cutting edge ;-) are really only apparent when you hold the knife. Case in point, I split my thumb on a brand new Henckes forged cleaver spine. They really should have broken the spine edge with a buffer, file or, stone.

                  1. re: chuckl

                    A knife should work like an extension of your hand. Holding the dog gone thing is in no way, shape, or form "over rated". One can't judge fit, feel, or comfort without holding the bloody knife.

                    Victorinox/ Forchner make great knives. I use a 10 inch Victorinox scimitar at work. Every butcher i have worked with has either a Victorinox or Forschner in his scabbard.

                    1. re: Brandon Nelson

                      What is your opinion of theT-fal D913SC64 Signature Hard Anodized Oven Safe set?

                  2. MANY years ago bought myself a set of Calphalon... omelet pan, skillet, saute, 2 sauce pans and a smallish stock pot. All non-stick. It was a splurge for me, but sure it wasn't more than $150!?! At least 12-15 years ago, bout a set of 2 C skillets at BB&B for something like $49... again non-stick.

                    The reason I'd recommend Calphalon is their excellent return/replace policy. Had heard it was good and took them up on it when the 2 skillets just weren't super non-stick anymore. They had no be abused with metal tools, no major scrapes or scratches... just not slippery any more. Went to the C website, filled in a little info and printed out a shipping label... NO receipts required, just approximate time they were bought. Packed the 2 skillets and favorite sauce pan from original set (possibly 20 years old) and sent them off... did have to pay the shipping myself. A little more than a week later, came home to boxes with BRAND NEW replacements.

                    1. Chicago cutlery knives are a great value. Incredibly cheap, but surprisingly good. They are a good choice for beginners, rentals, etc. I have more expensive knives, but I love the way these feel.


                      1. I decided to purchase the Wolfgang Puck 14-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set for $99 at BJ's. The price meets by budget, it is stainless steel, non-stick and they can be used in an oven. I also like the variety of items that they offer. One other plus - lifetime warranty.

                        Thanks to everyone for their help.