10 Best Cookware Sets | April 2017
- budget-friendly price point
- looks more expensive than it is
- only oven safe to 400 degrees
|Rating||3.5 / 5.0|
- lightweight and modern design
- attractive bright orange accents
- the rubber handles feel cheap
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
- high heat conductivity
- available as a 7 or 12-piece set
- pots tend to discolor over time
|Rating||3.8 / 5.0|
- freezer safe for food storage
- comes with cooking utensils
- lid handles can get hot
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
- high grade steel cooking surfaces
- lids produce a tight seal
- flared edges reduce dripping
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
- restaurant quality cookware
- safe for use with metal utensils
- handles feel very sturdy
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
- handles are brushed stainless steel
- easy to clean after use
- ideal for everyday cooking
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
- offers precise temperature control
- handles stay cool on the stove
- oven safe to 500 degrees
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
- compatible with induction cooktops
- tempered glass rims fit well
- great value for the price
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
- aluminum cores for rapid heating
- riveted stay-cool steel handles
- cookware is oven safe
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
How Bonded Metal Changed the Cooking World
There's some pretty cool sciency stuff going on with these 3-ply, 5-ply, heck! I've seen 9-ply pans. Lucky for you, I'm not the science-type, but I'm smart enough to research the difficult material and then regurgitate it in plain, hopefully conversational, language.
If you're reading this, and you have science smarts, please forgive me my lack of technical aptitude. Or get over yourself. Whichever is most applicable.
It all started with the Rolls Royce of cookware, All-Clad. To this day, it's still THE aspirational brand. It's pricey, sure, but if you take good care of it, it will last a lifetime. Generally considered America's finest cookware, and used by chefs around the world, it's also the first company to make cookware from bonded metals. Or, more apropos to this conversation, sandwich metals.
Its inventor, John Ulam was a brilliant metallurgist in mid century Pennsylvania, and he had a company that made sandwich metals for various applications, not cooking. He had an impressive 50 patents under his belt. The U.S. government even entrusted his company, Clad Metals, with making dimes, quarters and half dollars, and with their conversion from silver to the bonded layers of metals we see in today's coins. A real big wig in the world of metals.
Of his ultimately most commercial invention, Ulam writes in his patent: "We have discovered a method of cladding metals which overcomes the difficulties of prior art practices and makes it possible to provide close control over the physical properties of the metals in the ultimate composite clad metal and at the same time to control and provide a strong bond between the dissimilar metals forming the clad body." In other words, he discovered a way to clad stainless steel and aluminum together in such a way that it exploits the best properties of each of the metals. WHOA! Human innovation at its very best. But he didn't stop there.
In yet another stroke of genius from a man who had had many, Ulam realized the properties of sandwich metals could revolutionize cookware: Aluminum and copper react with food and can change the taste, and they conduct heat very well. Stainless steel does not react with food, and does not conduct heat so great. But sandwiching them together!... It's like breeding a mutt and getting the best traits from each dog. With aluminum or copper sandwiched between two layers of stainless you got a pan that conducts heat without a chemical reaction to the food.
So, Ulam started a new company in 1967, All-Clad, making professional quality gourmet cookware with the sandwich metals. Originally, Ulam slogged it out at trade shows, hawking his cookware to professional chefs and restaurants. Then one fateful day in 1973, a Bloomingdale's buyer was at one of these trade shows, and picked the brand up for the store's high-end housewares department. (Turns out, his invention was so awesome, despite its scientific aspect, that a news program once spent more than nine minutes of airtime interviewing Ulam about the cookware). And the rest, as they say, is history.
A Guide to the Right Pots and Pans for You
It's a tough decision when you're talking about plunking down a pile of dough on a set of pots and pans. It's personal. If you cook a lot, it's even an intimate decision - one that you probably will have to live with for a long time. Hence all the research you're doing right now. Well, dear reader, we believe knowledge is power, so here's a little light instruction on the differences between the various cookware options and how they'll affect your food.
Stainless Steel: If you've been reading carefully, you already know that stainless is a poor heat conductor on its own. It will not give consistent heat distribution. Of course, that's why the better option is the bonded metals, using stainless on the inside and outside, and aluminum or copper sandwiched in between. One of the 9-plies I looked at has a layer of carbon steel and several layers of various aluminum alloys. A minimum of three layers will give you the best heat distribution with no chemical reaction with food.
Copper: The true Thoroughbred of the kitchen, copper cookware is gorgeous. Classic even. Here's a picture of the actor/epicurean Vincent Price in his gourmet kitchen, his first wife Mary in the background. Note the shining copper pots hanging overhead. Yes, they used the deviled eggs out of those pots. Maybe you didn't know that the Prices put together more than one cookbook. At any rate, the appeal of copper cookware is, obviously, its great beauty. And it conducts heat wonderfully. But if you're cooking acidic foods - foods with grains, sugar, dairy - they will pick up a metallic taste. And eggs. Well, they just get ugly. Unless you're whipping them, then you want a copper bowl. And, of course, the upkeep is ongoing. To maintain that beautiful glow, you have to polish it. Period.
Aluminum (Aluminium, if you're British): Conducts heat like a champ. Lightweight. Affordable. Unfortunately, reactive. If you cook with just aluminum, you risk discolored pots and food. And perhaps a metallic taste. Plus the metal is soft, so it dings pretty easily. Anodized aluminum is harder, and preferable in cookware.
Nonstick: (Commonly "Teflon", or polytetrafluoreothylene or PTFE). Very non-reactive. And food slides right out of the pan. But the surface tends to chip and scratch over time, no matter how careful you are. And PTFE contains PFCs (perfluorocarbons), which scientists say might cause liver damage, cancer, developmental problems, and possibly early menopause. Oh, and don't you know, you need to season it before your first use. Yep.
Cast Iron: We can't ignore cast iron in the cookware materials conversation, although a whole set of the stuff would be unwieldy and ultra-heavy, at best. Nonetheless, a home chef would have one or two of these hanging around the kitchen, no matter what the "set" is made of. So. Cast iron is relatively cheap. Lasts forever. And if properly seasoned, nonstick. But, like its copper and aluminum cousins, cast iron is reactive with acidic food. Some companies get around this by using an enamel coating, as is the case with these terrines.
Hope that helps.
How to Clean Stainless Steel Pots & Pans
Let's fess up here. We all want the stainless steel. But only if it will gleam like new forever. Magically. Effortlessly. Without scrubbing and scratches. We don't want to invest without a guarantee that the pricey pots will sparkle and shine on demand. It is, clearly, a terrible misnomer to call the stuff "stainless" at all.
Bam! Here it is! Whether you like industrial strength cleaners or you go green all the way, we are going to take down your biggest barrier to buying stainless steel. Combined with the video we've already shared with you above, instructing you on how to make your stainless naturally nonstick, we have officially leveled the playing field between stainless and coated nonstick.
First, I will drop my voice to a whisper and let you in on a little secret: It's not as hard to keep stainless steel looking good as some would like you to think. You just have to be attentive.
So, the more industrial end of the cleaning spectrum uses products like Bar Keepers Friend. It uses oxalic acid as its main ingredient. (Sounds scary, but it comes from the flowering wood sorrel). Simply make a paste of the powder with a little water, rub it in the pot, let it sit. Or you can use it like a cleanser, and, using a sponge and a little elbow grease, scrub.
Natural options include: Boil water in the pot or pan for about 20 minutes, adding salt once the water starts boiling. Allow it to set for four hours. Then scrub.
Or, use baking soda and vinegar, or even lemon juice, which you can mix with water and boil if you like, and let the chemical reaction do all the work for you.
Some people say boiling tomato juice will remove particularly bad stains. But why bother, what with the other cheaper choices?