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Best stainless steel pots & pans set for $200-$250?

I'm looking to upgrade to a really nice set of all stainless steel pots & pans that will last me many many years. My budget is $200-$250 (or cheaper if there is a great closeout deal)

I went around to my local stores, Kohls, who sell Cuisinart, Bobby Flay & a couple of others, Target has two different Giada De Laurentiis stainless steel set & they seem pretty nice. Price is $200 for regular set & $250 I think for the Tri-something or other kind.

Any help on what to get? Is the Giada set worth it or is there a better quality option? I've heard mixed reviews on Cuisinart & Chaphalon sets so I'm really confused.

I'm not opposed to ordering online to get a better deal/higher quality for my budget or less. In fact I would rather do something like that to get the best bang for my buck. I'm in no rush so I can wait for the shipping.

Is anyone have a closeout sale or a really good coupon right now?

I want an all stainless set with no coating on the handles so they can all easily go in the oven. I guess I want metal lids over glass? I don't know if I have a preference for that really.

Thank you!

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  1. If you can spend $100. more, I'd suggest All Clad (made in USA) 5 piece set for $350. look at the http://www.surlatable.com catalog. sur la table also has made in France sets. or look at Amazon. I am partial to Le Creuset, heavy but great on stove top or oven.
    I also love plain old cast iron, Lodge is made in USA, inexpensive, can go in oven, lasts forever.
    Do you have any outlet stores nearby? TJ Maxx or Marshalls sometimes has good cookware if any stores are near you.

    1. It depends the size of the set you are looking for as well. At your price your range, the Calphalon Triply (8-pieces) set is a good one. It is slightly more than your price range, but not too much more.

      http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Tri-P...

      The Cuisinart MultClad set (12 pieces) is also good:

      http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-MCP-1...

      Finally, the Tramontina Triply 10-piece set from Walmart is a highly praised set.

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

      The Calphalone Triply, Cuisinart MultiClad and Tramontina Triply sets are fully triply cookware set.

      This also begs the question that do you want a fully triply cookware set or a disc bottom cladded cookware set?

      For example the Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are disc bottom. Disc bottom cookware are usually less expensive due to ease of construction. They are not inherently worse. Demeyere makes some of its best cookware in disc bottom format. However, neither Bobbly Flay nor Giada De Laurentiss stainless steel cookware looks particularly good and seem overpriced.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        I appreciate everyone's input.

        I will have to say even though the price is high, I'm almost sold on the idea of buying a set of All-Clad pan by pan because they are American made. I know the quality of stainless they use is probably the best.

        So the "norm" is full Tri-Ply, but what about their D5 lineup? I assume this is a much more expensive set than their Tri-ply? Is the 5 layers really needed? What is the benefit, just quicker heating?

        Also I see they offer a copper Clad Tri-Ply - would this be a better option than the aluminum core?

        I will have to say the Cuisinart set is really nice & the Tramontina price point is a really BIG attraction to the quality for the price of $200.

        I'd say the 10 piece Tramontina has everythign I would need.

        I assume Tramontina & Cusinart both are made in China? I just don't know if I trust chinese metals to not be "pot metal" & actually a high grade SS.

        I almost want to go american made. All-Clad offers a lifetime warranty correct?

        Does Tramontina & Cuisnart also offer the same? This may help sway my vote in one direction or another.

        1. re: johnnyscience

          Hi, Johnny: "[W]hat about their D5 lineup? I assume this is a much more expensive set than their Tri-ply? Is the 5 layers really needed? What is the benefit, just quicker heating?"

          A-C is clever in their ad copy, and not very forthcoming with facts and figures regarding D5. Basically, all that distinguishes it from Tri-Ply is that they've split the Tri-Ply aluminum core in half and put a third layer of steel between them.

          IMO, no, the extra steel layer isn't needed. A-C espouses the theory that this middle layer of thermally sluggish steel somehow blunts heat from passing vertically and the (half-thick) conductive layers on each side push the heat laterally, making the heat more "even". I don't really believe them. and I don't believe they heat any quicker than the other lines.

          What I *do* believe in their ad copy is that this construction makes D5 pans less likely to warp than Tri-Ply and Copper Core. If you go to their site and read closely, you'll read how A-C falls all over itself about the "stability" of this line. they're not talking about cooking characteristics, but *dimensional* stability.

          The Copper Core has always been their top line, and deservedly so. But remember that CC isn't tri-ply. It, too has layers of aluminum on either side of the copper. Good luck finding out how much copper and how much aluminum is really in CC--proprietary. But if you can measure the total thickness, subtract 0.82mm for the outer steel cladding, and you should deduce the thickness of the Al-Cu-Al core. My short-odds bet is that there is substantially less than 2mm of copper in CC. Also, don't be fooled by the petty copper band--the way the pans are formed, those bands are *nowhere* near the actual thickness of the copper where it matters.

          Aloha,
          Kaleo

          1. re: kaleokahu

            Thanks for the info. If I decide to go with All-Clad I'll just make sure I get their basic Tri-Ply line & not worry about the copper or D5.

            I'm still up in the air about the Cuisnart or Tramontina pots over the All-Clad. Clearly price is the biggest factor here where I can get a whole set for $200 where I'll be lucky to get 2-3 pans of All-Clad.

            I assume Cuisnart & Tramontina are both made in china?

            How is the quality of Cuisnart vs Tramontina - is one better than the other?

            1. re: johnnyscience

              Hi, Johnny:

              Don't get me wrong--I think A-C is a solid brand.

              In the where-it-comes-from game, I differentiate between Far East and everywhere else. If I can't find best-quality stuff that is USA-made, I have no compunction buying European-made.

              I'd also recommend rethinking buying a whole similarly constructed "set" within your max budget. A powerful case can be made for sinking your whole budget into 2 or 3 excellent pans instead, and filling a few holes later when you have the scratch and know what will work best for you.

              Tramontina is made in Brazil.

              Aloha,
              Kaleo

          2. re: johnnyscience

            Johnny,

            <I'm almost sold on the idea of buying a set of All-Clad pan by pan because they are American made>

            Well, if you want to buy American-made, then it is certainly the top contender.

            <So the "norm" is full Tri-Ply, but what about their D5 lineup? I assume this is a much more expensive set than their Tri-ply? Is the 5 layers really needed? What is the benefit, just quicker heating? >

            The triply has been All Clad's bread and butter for a long long time. The D5 is something new. Triply was a difficult technology and not many companies can do it. I believe All Clad was the first (or close to the first) company making triply cookware. Today, every decent cookware manufacturers can make triply. D5 has been discussed many times on CHOWHOUND and I will provide a link or two for you to read.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/677714

            It is a more expensive line, but not significantly more, about 10-20% more expensive. The 5 layers are stainless steel-aluminum-stainless steel-aluminum-stainless steel.

            http://www.cookswarehouse.com/skin/fr...

            The benefit is not quicker heating. Rather, All Clad claims that this provides further even heating and reduce hot/cold spots.

            <Also I see they offer a copper Clad Tri-Ply - would this be a better option than the aluminum core?>

            The short answer is no. Not really.

            <I assume Tramontina & Cusinart both are made in China?>

            Cuisinart is made in China as far as I know. Tramontina is a bit mixed I think. Some of them are from China, but some are made from Brazil or other countries. I cannot remember. You should read up about Tramontina. It has some nice reviews.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5375...

            < All-Clad offers a lifetime warranty correct? >

            Yes, but lifetime warranty does not mean your lifetime. It means the lifetime of the cookware. It is a flexible numbers. For example, a company may claim that the lifetime of its cookware is 50 years or 20 years or 10 years. If you are interested, then you should call and ask All Clad about its Lifetime warranty.

            "Lifetime warranty is a confusing term that means only what the manufacturer defines it as. In other words, every lifetime warranty can be different and can be specifically defined by the manufacturer of the product, seller of the warranty, or producer of a service. "

            http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-lif...

            1. re: johnnyscience

              Go to the cookware and more website for great deals on All Clad

          3. Cuisinart, Calphalon and Tramontina are all made in China. But there are 2 sets of Tramontina out there. The stuff sold at Wal-Mart is Chinese made and induction ready. Some of their non-induction fully clad cookware is made in Brazil, or rarely you'll find some made in USA. Confusing, but there it is.

            As for warranty, I've no knowledge of Tramontina's, but if you buy at Wal-Mart, you'll be getting a pretty generous return policy. I've recently had a very good experience with an 11 year old Calphalon lid that broke. It was replaced immediately, at the expense, no need to mail in the broken lid. I can't speak to Cuisinart's warranty.

            I would suggest you physically check out as many lines as possible, because the handles will be a big factor in overall comfort. BB&B should have everything you're considering, except the Tramontina.

            Lastly, if you like non-stick frypans, I'm a big fan of Tramontina's heavy aluminum Professional Restaurant line. The Teflon coating is as good as anyone's, and the skillets are a very nice, heavy weight, yet because they're aluminum, still easy to handle, especially when pan-tossing food. The silicone grips feel great and keep the handles cool. You'll know them by the polished look and the silicone sleeves. Mine are USA-made.

            http://www.amazon.com/Tramontina-Prof...

            3 Replies
            1. re: DuffyH

              "Lastly, if you like non-stick frypans, I'm a big fan of Tramontina's heavy aluminum Professional Restaurant line."
              DuffyH- do you happen to know if these are induction suitable?

              1. re: bevwinchester

                bev -

                I wish they were. I've bought them for years. They last me about 3 years using metal utensils, and the thick aluminum makes for even heat with quick response. Well, not so quick on my POS radiant, but they were terrific on gas!

                Did I mention they're cheap? Check out BB&B:
                http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store...

              2. re: DuffyH

                just to clarify - the Calphalon stainless is Chinese manufactured... The hard anodized stuff is still made in my honmetown - Toledo, OH, USA baby! And that stuff is amazing!

              3. The Cuisinart French Classic (FCT-10) set is a nice fully tri-ply ten-piece starter set made in France. Retail seems to be $499 but I picked up a set from Bloomingdales a few months ago for $249. It appears Amazon sells it, as well, currently $330. Prices and sources fluctuate, so check!

                http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-FCT-1...

                8 Replies
                1. re: Susangria

                  I was just going to mention that line. I have the skillet with helper handle and it's just as nice as my All Clad (but with a better handle.)

                  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004YV5Z3S/r...

                  1. re: breadchick

                    I really like the fact it's made in France & not china. I would def be ok with that set. It has everything I want/need other than a 1 or 1.5qt sauce pan which I see can be bought separately on amazon.

                    I'm still undecided if I want to spend the extra money for All-Clad. I like buying something like this american, but that French made Cuisinart set is really a top contender. I'm going to see if I can snipe a couple of nice pans for cheap on ebay or tjmaxx. I called tjmaxx today & they do carry All Clad from time to time, but they didn't have any right now. I'm wondering how much they are at tjmaxx.

                    I'm looking for basically enough pans to make a 10 or 12 piece pan set with everything this French Cuisinart has + the small saucepan

                    I hate making choices, it's so hard lol

                    1. re: johnnyscience

                      In looking at the box for my Cuisinart French Classic set, it is the FCT-13 with 13 pieces and not 10. Originally $499 or so, it seems to be on close-out a few places, which is sad. I'm very impressed with it so far. The handles are nicer than the All-Clad. So far I've added a 12 inch french skillet to the set. I bought a 13 inch All-Clad french skillet on sale but returned it because the lid was made in China. Apparently only the pans are made in the US.

                      1. re: Susangria

                        This 13 piece set is even better, gives me the 1.5qt sauce pan I want and also a really nice pasta strainer.

                        If I can find a really killer deal on the 13 piece set I will probably jump on it.

                        I am still highly considering All-Clad though.

                        1. re: johnnyscience

                          If you are not in a hurry, then you always try to shop at HomeGoods or TJ Maxx. All Clad cookware show up there from time to time at about half price.

                          1. re: johnnyscience

                            Hi, Johnny: "I am still highly considering All-Clad though."

                            You are funny (in a good, totally understandable way). You obviously want the All-Clad. Unless you hate the handles, get it. It's at least as good as the other lines being discussed here, maybe even better. If you do, you'll never regret *not* getting it. If you *don't*, I sense that you will have regrets.

                            But again, I urge you to be realistic about how many pieces you really need. If you go to cookwareandmore.com or watch the clearance outlets, Amazon and ebay, your original $250 budget isn't too far out of whack.

                            Get it, chiefly because it will make you happy.

                            Aloha,
                            Kaleo

                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              I totally agree with Kaleo's last comment; we all have our different preferences in the kitchen, and there are so many choices. Go somewhere where you can look at and feel the product (its shape, wgt.- the texture even)- if it suits you, go for it!

                        2. re: johnnyscience

                          I've picked up a 10" skillet in tri ply AC for a family member for $59.00 at TJ Maxx. They sometimes have a stack of them. It's a good starter piece to try out. One of my most used pans. I have a piece of D5 too, it's thicker, therefore a little slower to heat up. Not enough difference to be concerned about especially if you are budgeting. Be sure to grab some bar keepers friend and don't cook higher than medium heat. Watch some you tube videos on how to cook with stainless, it will save a lot of frustration.

                    2. I'd be wary of celebrity chef brands without closely checking reviews. That said, I recall a friend some ten years ago telling me that Emerilware (Emeril LaGasse) was great and basically close to and made by All-Clad.

                      If the aesthetics of a matched set are important to you, then ignore this comment, but: consider just scouting good deals on individual pieces. The problem with sets is that they tend to be (or are maybe always) the same material. But in fact, a cook wants a bare cast iron skillet here, some enameled cast iron there, a cheapo pasta pot there, a quality stainless skillet here, a non-stick pan there, a great stainless 3qt saucepan there, etc.

                      Cooks Illustrated published once a list of a la carte cookware, but it would be pricey:

                      http://www.amazon.com/Cooks-Illustrat...

                      The thing is, those things can be found cheaper at times, and near-to-as-good items can also be found with some research. Tramontina, in particular, makes stainless and enameled cast iron that will save you a bundle over, respectively, All-Clad and Le Creuset/Staub.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        Hi, BB:

                        Cooks Illustrated included *3* 12-inch skillets out of a total of 7 pans? Wow.

                        You know, if you substitute another brand for the tremendously-overpriced LC oven and got rid of the A-C skillet, the total cost of the other 5 isn't that bad.

                        Aloha,
                        Kaleo

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          I'm not sure that's the actual CI list: it just came from some Amazon lister, but seems about right. I'd just get a 3 qt saucepan rather than a 2- and a 4-quart one.

                          But of those skillets: one is cast iron, the other non-stick, and the other stainless. I myself have all those, except that my stainless one is a sautoir rather than a skillet (straight-up sides, sometimes useful, as it evaporate differently). I'd add that a ten-inch non-stick pan might be better for starters, if you were to have but one non-stick pan.

                          But all my skillets/sautoirs are worth their cost and real estate. (I have space, so I have 8-, 10- and 12-inch non-stick pans, according to what I'm up to.)

                          Starter set from my viewpoint, with budget in mind, and leaving lids out:

                          --3qt saucepan, stainless and at least with a heavy sandwich aluminum bottom. If possible, get a steamer insert for it.
                          --12" cast iron Lodge skillet
                          --Cheapo 6 qt or so thin steel (like Revere-ware) pot for boiling pasta
                          --10-12qt stock pot with sandwich aluminum bottom
                          --12" stainless skillet
                          --10" non-stick skillet (T-Fal Professional is good; don't mix up with other T-Fal lines--I had to order mine on Amazon)
                          --Enameled cast-iron, round, lidded pot of 5-8 quarts. Tramontina is okay, or whatever that brand they sell at Sam's Club might be. (Le Creuset and Staub are the good high-end ones.)

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            The list is close to dead-on, but the CI recommended 12" non-stick skillet is your favorite T-Fal Professional. The sole omission is a roasting pan.

                            1. re: DuffyH

                              Yeah, roasting pan is important. My own is the CI-recommended Calphalon Contemporary Stainless, and it's great.

                              But I did go many years before shelling out for a really good roasting pan. Two cheaper items were my mainstays:

                              (1) that old-fashioned enameled thin-metal oval roaster, such as made by Graniteware, which works great not only for turkeys but I've made big batches chicken cacciatore and the like in them. Findable even in hardware stores. And

                              (2) one or two good half-sheet pans ("jelly-roll" pans), preferably with a fitting flat rectangular rack, which is great for roasting things when you want maximum heat circulation.

                              You could buy these things for way less than half the cost of a quality stainless roasting pan.

                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                +1, you've hit it exactly right. I have the same CC roaster and it is nice. But I'm moving to induction next year and will need to replace it. It won't go on the stovetop, you see. I have no room for an item that big that won't work on the cooktop.

                                I was pleased to find (thanks to another 'Hound) that those enameled steel pans are magnetic. So my son gets the big-ass roaster, I'll pick up a pair of cheap ones, WITH lids, and everyone wins.

                                If I were equipping from scratch today, I'd go with an enameled steel roaster and the jelly roll pans with racks, as you suggest. I use my jelly roll pans/racks WAY more often than the big roaster.

                            2. re: Bada Bing

                              Hi, BB: "But of those skillets: one is cast iron, the other non-stick, and the other stainless."

                              Sure. But 3, 12-inch skillets out of a total of 7 pans? I can see listing both the Lodge and the non-stick, but not the stainless one. Or shake up the sizes a little. There's too much commonality to include these 3 pans on a short list, IMO.

                              Aloha,
                              Kaleo

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                I agree: I'd favor a non-stick in 10" or even smaller size first, depending on how many eggs I'm typically cooking, which is what I mostly value non-stick for. A 10" size though is more useful that 8" for cooking some delicate fish filets, another thing that non-stick excels at. Also, I'm glad my 12" stainless is a sautoir rather than a flared skillet. Variety is good.

                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                  Yup-yup. My most-used non-stick is always the 10", because of the fish, scrambled eggs, and more. 8" is close behind, for frying eggs and tortillas. The 12" is hardly ever used.

                          2. re: Bada Bing

                            < That said, I recall a friend some ten years ago telling me that Emerilware (Emeril LaGasse) was great and basically close to and made by All-Clad.>

                            Yes. Emerilware is made by All Clad. There are a few lines within Emerilware, but its ProClad set is similar to All Clad stainless steel. Much nicer handle design too:

                            http://www.emerilware.com/cookware_de...

                            <The problem with sets is that they tend to be (or are maybe always) the same material.>

                            I agree wholeheartedly. Generally speaking, buying a whole set is a very limited way to go. I think the only stainless steel cladded set I have recommended to buy is the Tramontina triply set. Simply because the entire set (5 pieces of cookware or 8 pieces) is only $130. The total price much cheaper than some high end single piece cookware.

                            <But in fact, a cook wants a bare cast iron skillet here, some enameled cast iron there, a cheapo pasta pot there, a quality stainless skillet here, a non-stick pan there, a great stain....>

                            I agree with the general idea.