Buying Guide: The Best Cookware Sets For You

The authors of The New Cooks' Catalogue certainly know what to look for when choosing cooking equipment. These leading culinary experts have been evaluating cooking equipment for over 25 years. The following information is what they consider important when selecting a cookware set.

All Cookware Sets »

All Cookware »

What to Look For

  • The best cookware sets offer basic shapes and sizes so you can get the most use from the least equipment.
  • Matching pots and pans are attractive but you should supplement a set with miscellaneous, non-matching pieces made for specific purposes.
  • Stainless steel is the most versatile material for cookware; anodized aluminum and non-stick pots and pans are also suitable.
  • Be sure the set is made of sturdy materials that resist denting and warping. Handles should be comfortable and securely attached.
  • A set can save lots of money. But buy the highest quality affordable. Cheap, flimsy cookware isn’t efficient and falls apart quickly.

More information

Introduction

Cookware sets are worth considering because they offer unbelievable savings. But to be sure the set really is a bargain, make sure the pieces provide a variety of functions and don’t duplicate each other. The most basic is a set with a saucepan with lid and a frying pan. A soup pot is usually worthwhile, as is a straight-sided sauté pan or a chef’s pan for sautéing, braising and stewing.
Be wary of sets with several sizes of the same kind of pan -- few of us need three omelet pans, and the like. Avoid sets with odd pieces that aren't useful. Consider what is being offered rather than merely counting the number of pieces at a particular price.

Additions to Sets

Matching pots and pans are attractive and they also tend to be less distracting than miscellaneous pieces. But no single kind of cookware does the best job at every kind of cooking, so consider supplementing a set with individual pieces of different materials such as a stirfry pan (for quickly-cooked vegetables), enameled saucepan (for tomato sauce) or cast-iron skillet (for fried chicken).

Material

Cookware sets are intended for all-purpose use. That’s why it is important to buy one made of materials you can subject to a variety of cooking methods. Stainless steel is the most versatile -- it doesn’t pit or corrode and doesn’t react with acidic or alkaline ingredients. But stainless steel doesn’t conduct heat too well, so be sure the set you buy comes with good heat-conducting features – an aluminum core or a thick, aluminum or copper disk at the bottom of the pan.

Anodized aluminum is another good choice for a set, although it can be difficult to see inside the dark pans and they aren’t dishwasher safe. High-quality non-stick cookware made of good heat conducting, thick gauge aluminum is suitable too, but remember that non-stick usually doesn’t heat as well as regular cookware.

Design

Whatever the type or brand of cookware you choose, it must be well designed and safe to use. Look for well-balanced pots and pans that are heavy enough to prevent denting or warping. Be sure the handles are comfortable to hold and strong enough to support and maneuver the pan easily. Check to make sure the handles are attached securely, either with rivets or sturdy screws. Check the lids too -- be sure they fit snugly and have knobs or handles that are large and easy to grip.

These hallmarks of good quality come at a price. But it pays to buy the best cookware you can afford. Cheaply made pots and pans don’t perform well and deteriorate easily. In the long run you pay more for them. Buying good cookware in sense-making sets can prove to be very valuable.

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