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Oct 23, 2013 08:59 AM

Pots and pans on a $200.00 budget.

I’m a retired chef and CIA grad so I have been asked this question many times. I’ve given it a lot of thought. Let’s say you are a beginner cook with aspirations to become a proficient cook and you have a budget of around $200.00 for pots and pans.
I would start out with a set like this:
I like the All Clad style stainless steel fully encapsulated aluminum (not just the base but up the sides too) that this set offers but remember food sticks on stainless unless a few precautions are taken, primarily you must preheat the pan and add oil liberally . Most people recommend not buying full sets because you get pieces you don't need which is true but frequently buying pans a la carte is much more expensive. I would also get a couple of aluminum nonstick pieces for eggs, low fat cooking and other items prone to sticking. Teflon coating is great but many people have health concerns about it leaching into your food. DuPont claims this only happens at higher temperatures but they've got a horse in the race. If Teflon is out there are “green” alternatives like ceramic but none I’ve found are as slippery as Teflon, especially after repeated use. Don’t spend a lot on nonstick coated pans as the coating tends to get scratched and degrade after a few years and they should be tossed. I bought a nice set of Bailetti similar to this one @ Costco a couple of years ago for under $90.00.

I like these nonstick pots for rice and for sauteeing because they transfer heat fast and they're dishwasher safe.

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  1. I saw this just yesterday. I am not in the market for such a set just now, but wondered what you think.

    7 Replies
    1. re: travelerjjm

      These look comparable to the Tramontina that I referenced. I looked at the reviews on Amazon and most people are happy with them. It's hard to buy pans without being able to see and hold them. Although I don't own any Tramontinas I've seen them@ Walmart and they have a great reputation as a less expensive alternative to All-Clad among foodies.

      1. re: zackly

        I've never tried Tramontina. I did note that their website says the Tri-Ply Clad line is not for induction. The Emeril ones are.

        I agree, though one needs to really see and hold them.

        1. re: travelerjjm

          Jim, I used to do cooking demonstrations for my job and now sometimes cook for my cigar club where there is no kitchen only two induction portable hot plates. None of my pans worked on them, I think because they are all aluminum based, so I had to get a few new ones. I shopped with a magnet.

          1. re: travelerjjm

            The Tramontina sold clad stuff sold by Walmart is fully induction ready, per Tramontina. The fully clad stuff sold elsewhere is not.

            I've cooked in Tramontina, and can say I hated it, primarily because I like my stainless to look good, and that pan, every time I used it, developed a lovely dark blue rainbow in the pan bottom. Of course, this happens to stainless from time to time, but with this pan, it was quite literally every time, even when boiling water.

            I feared it said something not good about the steel so I returned it.

        2. re: travelerjjm

          I've handled these Emeril's at BB&B. They're quite nice, with a build quality to similar to All-Clad, Cuisinart clad and Calphalon Tri-Ply. The handles are, for me, much more easy on the hand than All-Clad's.

          I don't know if they didn't sell well, but for some reason my local BB&B has switched them out for the Emeril disk-bottom stuff, also under the All-Clad label.

          1. re: travelerjjm

            Sorry Jim, I just saw this.
            Yes, a very nice set.

          2. Hi, zackly:

            6 Tramontina pans w/ covers for $140 is a great price on a good pan set. The Bialettis... I'm not sure I would put them in the DW, regardless of what they say.

            Did you post just for the good of the order, or are you curious what others think?


            1 Reply
            1. re: kaleokahu

              I posted my opinion because I sent it to my niece who asked me for recommendations and I honestly think it is very good advice especially if you are on a tight budget.There will be no need to upgrade the Tramontinas in the future unless new, better technology becomes available. Lets hope one day there will be a nonstick pan that is safe and will last forever.

            2. Aluminum non-stick? I did an amazon search and what came up was "platinum color coated" something. What's the diff? I'm familiar with Teflon and ceramic

              1 Reply
              1. re: youareabunny

                I should have said "aluminum pan with a non-stick coating, Teflon or another brand". Aluminum is a great conductor of heat. unlike stainless steel and they are cheap to produce.

              2. I've been the housewares business for many more years than I want to think about. I had a guy come in the shop with a tight budget and the pans we carried, except for Lodge, were out of his budget range. I told him to go to TJ Maxx. He came back in a few weeks later to thank me for pointing him in that direction. I knew when he had a larger budget he'd be back to buy from us.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Candy

                  Luckily, I can now afford to "spare no expense" when it comes to outfitting my kitchen but I've never felt the need to replace my All Clad Costco knockoffs with a set of real All Clads. They are beautiful works of art, especially the copper but as far as improved functionality I don't think there is an advantage. I do own several All Clad pieces that I've acquired over the years. As my Paris trained French chef (Plaza Athenee) who I apprenticed under used to tell the young cooks "there are no bad tools just bad cooks". There is a grain of truth in that statement.

                2. Assuming a broad range of cooking styles, I'd grab a clad mid-sized saucepan (my daughter got Cuisinart and it is pretty nice), a restaurant supply 10 qt. stockpot, a 10 or 12 inch Lyon style fry pan (carbon steel), and a cheap carbon steel wok. I am not a fan of nonstick, and if I were on a budget I'd avoid it because it wears out so fast. I'd also cruise eBay for select deals on heavy tin lined copper, maybe a sauté pan. Ya never know what you might find. Don't be put off the hunt by prices for steel lined copper. It is much pricier and IMHO less desirable. If you are into sauces a Pyrex double boiler is single purpose but cheap and a great tool.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tim irvine

                    <If you are into sauces a Pyrex double boiler is single purpose but cheap and a great tool.>

                    Wouldn't our budget-minded cook do as well to make a DIY double boiler with a cheap metal mixing bowl over the saucepan? My local Salvation Army always, always has 1-2 quart stainless steel mixing bowls for $1-2. And they're a dual purpose item.