You can gather the finest quality ingredients and be diligent in your preparation, but if you are cooking in subpar pots and pans, then you run the risk of ruining a delicious meal and all your hard work has been a waste of time and effort.
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A quality cookware set is more than just a random collection of saucepans, sauté pans, and frying pans that were hand-me-downs or acquired one by one from different stores and different brands. If you want to elevate your cooking, then maybe it’s time to elevate your cooking tools.
What to look for
Pots and pans are more than just a means to an end. Everything from the materials to their shape or design can affect how food is cooked.
Consumer Reports suggests shoppers consider the following factors before dishing out a lot of money on a cookware set.
• What you cook
Do you boil, steam, simmer, sauté, fry? Are you a casual cook who’s in the kitchen only a few times a week or a serious foodie who loves to experiment by adding your personal touch to recipes? If you’re a fry fan, then you’ll want nonstick pans. If your pots and pans get a daily workout, look for durable materials such as an aluminum core encased in stainless steel. The aluminum distributes heat evenly while the stainless steel withstands wear and tear.
• Cook top design
Do you have a gas or electric stovetop? If it’s electric, is it a flat top or traditional burners? Maybe you have an induction cook top. Each one requires a different type of pan, although there’s a lot of crossover. Flat tops need flat-bottom cookware. Induction stoves must have pans with a magnetic bottom in order to work properly. And don’t take the manufacturer’s word for it. Bring a magnet shopping with you to conduct your own test.
Most people don’t really think about how much a pot weighs until it’s full of a yummy pasta meat sauce or satisfying soup and you have to transfer it to a serving bowl. Suddenly you realize how heavy they can get. While online shopping is convenient, you don’t get to touch before you buy. So take the time to do some physical weight-lifting tests with different brands of cookware. Be sure to check the handles for comfort while you’re at it.
• Number of pieces
This is where it pays to read the fine print. Check out what the manufacturer counts as a “piece.” Sometimes a single lid is 1 piece or a utensil is 1 piece. The method of counting could leave you a little short on actual pots and pans.
Best Cookware Sets
Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 13-piece Cookware Set
This set offers 7 pans, 1 stockpot, and 5 covers. Omelette pans range in size from 8 inches to 12 inches. A 3-quart chef’s pan is a utilitarian tool that functions as a skillet, saucepan or impromptu wok. The 3-quart sauté pan allows plenty of room for frequent stirring while high edges prevent spills. The tri-ply system is multi-functional: rust proof from stainless steel; precision cooking of aluminum; and magnetic bottoms for induction cook tops. The cookware is safe for oven, broiler, and dishwasher.
Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad Stainless Steel 10-piece Cookware Set
Five types of pans, four covers and one steamer make up this set. The multi-ply feature means an aluminum layer is positioned between two layers of stainless steel for better heat conduction. Handles are designed with air-flow technology to keep cool. Also each vessel can withstand up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven. The steamer snugly fits inside the 8-quart covered stockpot.
Rachel Ray Hard Enamel Nonstick 10-piece Cookware Set, orange gradient
Are you a fan of the Food Network star? Then you’re probably familiar with her signature cookware, too. This set consists of two covered saucepans, covered stockpot, covered sauté pan, and two different sized skillets. The interiors are nonstick, while the exteriors are enamel, and between them sits an aluminum layer to prevent hot spots. Cushioned handles make for comfortable maneuvering.
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