Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am looking for a new set of cookware.

  1. Being a graduate student, I don't earn much money, so I'd like to know if there are some suggestions about what are available on the market with reasonable quality and price, according to your experience. Mine current set is Cullineary Edge 7PC s/s Cookware Set - Bakelite Handle

    alt text

    It cost me around $20~30. However after three and four years, the bakelite knobs and handles started to become shaky, more or less, and I have to tighten their screws every now and then, until it became impossible recently. But still I can bear its quality, with its relatively low price. I found some on the internet, such as

    It kind of confuses me, because they all look similar to my current set but with different levels of customer reviews

  2. As I searched on the internet, I prefer those health-friendly, and the only thing I know is to choose stainless steel without non-stick Teflon and aluminium. For example, Cook N Home 7 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

    alt text

    Its features are:

    • Mirror polished stainless steel body
    • Aluminium capsuled bottom
    • Stay cool bakelite handle and knobs
    • Tempered glass lid
    • Dishwasher safe

    I am concerned about the usage of aluminium. According to what it says, is aluminium just used on the outside of the cookwares and in no contact with food inside? What is the purpose of "Aluminium capsuled bottom"?

Thanks and regards!

share|improve this question
2  
I can't seem to find one, but it seems there should already be a question and answers out there about what to look for in pots/pans. If so, this question would be best answered there. If nobody knows of one, I might take a crack at writing one. Seems like a better use of time than trying to evaluate the ones here for you. –  bikeboy389 Jan 6 '11 at 23:18
3  
Just wanted to note that the pictures above look very, very similar to a cookware set IKEA has offered in the past for a ridiculously low price - like under $20. Yes, for the set. I haven't been to IKEA lately, so I don't know if they still carry it, but we own a couple of sets, and they work pretty well. –  Marti Jan 7 '11 at 14:49
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You don't need to buy your cookware in a complete set like this. I would start collecting a few pieces at a time, of reasonable quality, though you will pay a bit more per piece. You're really not saving money if you have to replace all your cheap cookware every few years.

You could probably handle 90% of what you want to cook with only a skillet and a 2 or 4 quart sauce pan. Buy whatever pieces fit your cooking style.

Steel, non-stick, and cast-iron all have advantages and disadvantages. This information is probably duplicated elsewhere on this site:

  1. Steel - non-reactive and durable. More difficult to make delicate foods like fish and eggs, due to the food sticking.
  2. non-stick - Well, it's non-stick. Food doesn't stick to it. However, even a high-quality non-stick pan will wear out over several years. Also, it's difficult to sear meats.
  3. cast-iron - Properly cared for, can sear meat AND be non-stick, and will last a lifetime. However, it's heavy, and requires knowledge of how to properly care for it (see questions on this site)

Steel cookware can have a few upgrades:

  1. A "disk" of aluminum or copper, welded to the bottom - greatly improves heat distribution from plain stainless steel. Thermal shock can make the disk fall off, though.
  2. "Clad" steel, where a layer of aluminum is sandwiched between layers of stainless steel - even better heat distribution, more durable, but more expensive

If I could only buy 2 pieces, on a budget, I would buy a cast-iron skillet and a disk-bottomed sauce pot.

share|improve this answer
7  
I lived for YEARS on a cheap stainless steel sauce pan and a cheap cast iron skillet. Huge +1 for me for your last sentence! Even now, I basically cook 90% of my stuff in either an All-Clad stainless steel pan (though you could go much cheaper, my wife prefers to use my $20 stainless steel pan), or a 12" Lodge cast iron skillet. And of course a stainless steel sauce pan or stock pot when necessary. –  stephennmcdonald Jan 7 '11 at 16:07
add comment

In sets like this, the aluminum is, indeed, kept away from the food. The body of the pot/pan is made from stainless steel, then a layer of aluminum is added to the bottom, then another layer of SS encapsulating the aluminum (or something like that--that's the functional result, even if it's not the process). The purpose is even heating--aluminum conducts heat more rapidly than SS, so the heat spreads around better.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I agree that buying a set is NOT a good move. Better to build your collection in a personalized fashion, according to your needs and cooking aspirations. If I could recommend just 3, they would be:

1- 12 inch, non-stick SKILLET. this one should be the very best one you can afford, as it will likely be your "workhorse" pan. Not only will it get a lot of wear, but also some of the work you will need it to do (like cooking meats) requires good heat conductivity. This is where all the various metals become important. A little internet research goes a long way before buying..but as it can get confusing, just keep in mind that heavy is usually good -- especially when it comes to the bottom of the pan. Consider shopping according to name brand for this one; then see if there are any outlets near you. Of course online digging around can always uncover some hidden gems.

2- 2-quart SAUCEPAN. (3 quart if you plan to cook for large groups) This one also should be high quality, especially if you ever make sauces (they can be persnickity).

3- 6-quart STOCK POT. (8 or even 12 quart for larger-scale work. NOTE: Bigger is usually the safer route to go with pans -- but you don't want to get so big you can't store it, lift it, or otherwise get up the motivation to ever wash it.) Of the three, this one can be least expensive because you usually will use it for tasks that don't require intense, technically accurate heat (take, for example, boiling water for pasta or corn on the cob). Just be sure it has a sturdy handle and doesn't feel lightweight. If pans are too breezy, you can be sure they will have hotspots.

Last but not least are two splurges -- perfect for the Christmas Wish List for that rich uncle:

  • Indoor Grill. They don't actually do much more than your skillet for cooking meats, but they make an amazing hot sandwich in a hurry. And, if you're like me...you'll be a sucker for those awesome grill marks. (oh, and sometimes it's nice to have some of the action happening away from the stove. somehow, when i'm attempting several cooking tasks at once, i get less confused when it's not all facing me at the stovetop). An ideal, reasonable (for that uncle) pick is the Krubs Indoor Grill and Panini Maker, $79.99 online.

  • Roasting Pan. Well, okay I guess that one's only fun if you plan to host Thanksgiving at your place before you graduate.

Good luck! Have fun! A good pot can be a friend for life.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.