Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner and so is the start of grilling season! See our list for economical meats and ways to prepare.
Cookware Features (continued)
Cookware Sets.What pieces of cookware do you use most often? If the answer is a couple of small to medium-sized skillets and saucepans, and a stockpot or Dutch oven, then a cheap cookware set is probably a good deal. In reading through scores of user reviews of cookware sets, however, we noticed both surprise and disappointment at the limited capacity of the pots and pans even though the specs for each are clearly stated.
All the cheap cookware sets that we researched feature at least the basic eight or ten pieces, including lids. (Most cheap cookware sets come with lids for the saucepans and stockpot/ Dutch oven but not for the skillets, an omission that draws lots of flack in consumer reviews.) Some sets of cheap pots and pans also offer a bonus or two. In addition to two saute pans, a Dutch oven with lid, and two covered saucepans, for example, the T-fal Basic Nonstick Easy Care set includes a griddle and a steamer. The 12-piece stainless steel cookware set from JC Penney includes a covered saute pan, two covered saucepans, Dutch oven with lid, a small fry pan, and three stainless utensils (spatula, spoon, and spaghetti spoon). Chef's Du Jour Kitchen Combo (starting at $25, Amazon) contains a whopping 32 pieces but only four small cooking vessels (the Dutch oven is the largest, with a 3¼-quart capacity; the single skillet is less than nine inches across); the set is filled out with seven knives, 12 pieces of flatware, and six cooking utensils.
Best Cookware Lids and Handles.The best cheap cookware sets come with lids made of tempered glass, which is much harder than regular glass and shatters into small rounded pieces rather than breaking into sharp shards if it falls. Tempered glass is also heat resistant. The Cuisinart Advantage 10-piece Nonstick set, JC Penney 12-piece stainless set, and Chef Du Jour Kitchen Combo set all boast tempered glass lids. Specs for the other cookware sets we researched, including the Bialetti Fusion 9-piece (starting at $59, Amazon), don't elaborate on the lids.
Many cheap cookware sets also have handles that are easy to grip and stay relatively cool to the touch during cooking. But cooks beware: Even "stay cool" handles don't completely eliminate the need for a potholder, so always proceed with caution when picking up a pot or pan that's been on the heat for a while. Among the cheap pots and pans that we researched, specs for the T-fal Basic Easy Care, Chef's Du Jour Kitchen Combo, and Bialetti Fusion sets boast "stay cool" handles. The Farberware Classic stainless set has phenolic handles, a type of hardened resin that keeps its cool through most stove-top cooking sessions; ditto for the silicone handles on the Cuisinart Advantage cookware. The stainless steel cookware set by JC Penney sticks with hollow metal handles that might stay cool, although some users insist that potholders are mandatory.
Most of these cheap cookware sets can tolerate oven heat only up to 350 degrees (read the instructions to be sure). So it's OK to keep something warm, but don't plan any heavy-duty baking with low-priced pots and pans. If you want to start a recipe on the stove and continue baking, roasting, or broiling, you'll have to step up to more expensive pots and pans; Emerilware (starting at $200, Amazon), for example, can be placed in an oven heated up to 450 degrees.
Don't Bother Cheap Cookware Sets
Bialetti Fusion 9-piece
Nine of the usual pieces in this set, including three skillets, but disaffected consumers complain about loose handles, peeling nonstick coating, and glass lids that crack when overheated.
Chef's Du Jour Kitchen Combo Review
JC Penney 12-piece Stainless Steel Review
Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 10-piece Review
T-fal Basic Nonstick Easy Care Review
Cuisinart Advantage 10-piece Nonstick Review
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