You can’t go wrong with the tri-ply construction and durability of stainless steel found with the Tramontina 12-Piece Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Cookware Set (view at Amazon). With comparable durability points, but at a more affordable price, the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless 11-Piece Set (view at Amazon) is also a good bet for cookware.
What To Look for in a Cookware Set
Different cookware materials claim different strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the decision about which material suits you best will depend on your cooking style, your cleaning needs, and your budget.
Stainless steel produces real workhorse pieces of cookware, thanks to its durability, its versatile nature, and the ease with which it can be cleaned. If you want the reliable heat distribution of stainless steel but also yearn for a stunning Mediterranean-inspired aesthetic (and don’t mind a bit of extra work in the cleaning department), then copper may be the right choice for you. For shoppers who would like to save a bit of money and prioritize easy-to-clean kitchen instruments, nonstick cookware fits the bill. A cast-iron pot or pan is the gold standard for slow cooking, whether you opt for an enameled version or a raw version. Ceramic works well for home cooks who want presentable cookware that heats evenly and doesn’t cause tough-to-scrub food stickiness. Evaluate your priorities, and you’ll be able to ascertain the right cookware material for you.
As with cookware materials, cookware sizes will depend on your kitchen goals. If you’re cooking just for yourself or for you and a partner, then smaller pots and skillets might do the trick. If you want the flexibility to make meals for an entire family or to make larger quantities of your favorites to freeze for later, then a 6-quart Dutch oven or an 8-quart stockpot could prove to be worthy purchases.
Most chefs advise home cooks to avoid overcrowding their pans since that can cause uneven cooking. For that reason, it helps to select a cookware set with multiple pan sizes, allowing you to survey your ingredient quantities and pick a cooking instrument that provides plenty of room for quality sauteing or browning.
You’ll notice that cookware sets count pot and pan lids as separate pieces. That’s because lids play a crucial role in many cooking pursuits. When shopping for a cookware set, make sure to choose a version with precision-fitted lids. Lids that are slightly too big or too small for a pan won’t effectively seal in the heat, resulting in uneven cooking.
Types of Cookware
Each pan or pot in a cookware set serves its own unique purpose, so you’ll need to be clear about your needs and wishes before embarking on a shopping adventure for these items. If you don’t make a lot of soups or stocks, then you may not require a stockpot. If long-term oven braising sounds like a lot of work for little reward, then don’t prioritize a Dutch oven.
For a quick overview of which pan accomplishes which task, read the following list:
- A skillet or frying pan is best for frying, searing, and browning proteins and produce.
- A saute pan can generally accomplish the same things as a skillet, but it has a larger surface area, providing the ingredients more space.
- A saucepan is used for making sauces, reducing liquids, and any cooking methods that require boiling water (like blanching and poaching).
- A grill pan replicates the cooking style of an outdoor grill, and you can use it for proteins, vegetables, or fruits.
- A braising pan has the surface area to properly sear and brown ingredients before slow cooking, but it can also go easily into the oven for long braising.
- A stockpot is a high-volume pot commonly used for stocks and soups.
- A Dutch oven is a pot that transfers seamlessly from the stovetop to the oven for braising and slow cooking.
Do induction cooktops need different cookware?
“Induction electric ranges require specific types of cookware,” says Ken Riemann, cooking buyer at P.C. Richard & Son. “Cast iron, enameled cast iron, and many types—but not all—of stainless steel cookware are induction compatible.” Induction cooktops require ferromagnetic material for heat to transmit, so definitely check the specifications before you buy. Most induction-capable cookware will list that feature as a highlight. In general, though, expect to be unable to use glass, aluminum, or copper unless it’s been treated to include a magnetic layer.
Is hard-anodized the same as tri-ply?
The short answer is no. Anodized cookware means the metal—typically aluminum—is treated with an electrochemical process to imbue strength and hardness to the material. This results in the distinctive dark-colored metal. Often, it is then treated with a nonstick coating that will last for at least three years, depending on quality, care, and usage.
The tri-ply designation, on the other hand, typically means that the material used in creating the cookware is aluminum or copper bonded on both sides with steel, fully sealed like a hand pie. The tri represents the three layers of metal, and ply count can go up to seven. However, it’s not the quantity but rather the quality of how they’re merged together that matters. Fully clad cookware—which indicates a seamless merge throughout the material—performs better than impact-bonded. With the latter, a heavy-gauge layer of the better heat conducting metal (e.g., aluminum or copper) is present only at the base.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
This article was written by Taylor Tobin, a freelance journalist who specializes in recipe testing and deep dives into popular dishes and ingredients. She regularly uses a wide range of cookware to try out new recipes and execute old favorites, and her Le Creuset Dutch oven counts among her most cherished possessions.
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