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Editor's Pick: Calphalon One Anodized Cookware Set
Editor's Pick: Calphalon One Anodized 10-piece Cookware Set

How to Buy Cookware

By Tanja KernSHOP.COM SHOP.COM Home Editor

Cooking might make you a slave to your kitchen, but it shouldnt make you slave to your cookware. Choosing the right tools can make or break your kitchen experience. With so many materials and types of pots and pans available, how does a home cook decide whether to splurge or save on new cookware? At first glance, your cookware should offer easy heat control, durability and maneuverability. Here are other key ingredients to help your decision.

The Basics

Step 1Materials: Cookware is made of a variety of materials, but the quality and style is what really affects price. A base or core made of copper or aluminum offer the best in heat conduction.
Step 2Handles: Choose cookware with stay-cook handles to avoid burning yourself when moving hot pots and pans off the burner.
Step 3Dishwasher safe: Not all cookware is dishwasher safe, so check before you buy to avoid rusting and warping.
Step 4High temperatures: If your recipes call for searing on the range and finishing in the oven, be sure your cookware can withstand high oven temperatures.
Step 5Sets: Its important to note that if a cookware set comes with 14 pieces, the lids are included in that count. Most cooks do well with a nonstick set that includes basic skillets, saucepans and a large stockpot for boiling pastas or making soups. Add a uncoated pan to brown meats.

The Lingo

Copper: This material is the pros choice because it conducts heat quickly and evenly. It does scratch and stain easily.
Aluminum: Performs almost as well as copper cookware and is less expensive. Thicker gauge aluminum cookware indicates a higher quality.
Stainless steel: Stainless steel is a poor heat conductor, but if its paired with copper or aluminum, it can become a chefs best friend. The metal is easy to clean and can be placed in the dishwasher.
Cast iron cookware: This heavy metal takes a long time to heat, but once it does, it will retain heat for a long time. Cast iron can last a lifetime with proper care and seasoning. Avoid soaking in water and dry thoroughly to avoid rust.
Enameled cast iron: Unlike uncoated cast iron, these pots are ready to go from the start and dont require seasoning. They are excellent at heat retention and are useful for cooking dishes that move from the range, to the oven, or to the table.
Nonstick aluminum: These pots have a dark interior that is a dream to keep clean, but metal utensils can scratch the surface, which shortens the lifespan of the nonstick surface.
Hard-anodized aluminum pans: Dont fret metal spoons and spatualas in this pan. Anodizing transforms aluminum into a scratch-free and stick-free surface, but these pots cannot go in the dishwasher.
CLAD: If a pans base is stamped CLAD, it means the pan is made of a layer of copper or aluminum sandwiched between sheets of steel.

The Experts

All-Clad Stainless is the best high-end cookware, according to reviews. . Although All-Clad excels in comparison reviews, many owners aren't sure the high price is justified. All-Clad's heavy aluminum core, which extends up the& sides of the pan, is sandwiched between a stainless steel cooking surface and an exterior layer of magnetic stainless steel. That makes it a good choice for use with gas ranges, where flames can lick the sides of cookware. This is the most popular cookware with experts, who note that it is heavier than cheaper pots and pans. It's oven-safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Cusinart 10-piece Chef's Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Set is definitely one we would recommend particularly for first time cooks and those who just want a durable stainless steel set that is good value for money.

The Brands

All-Clad Created in 1971 by an accomplishsed metallurgist, All-Clad has become a favorite among cooking professionals, thanks to its durability and meticulous hand-finishing.
Calphalon Calphalon brought professional-grade cookware to the home chef and continuously works to introduce new high-tech finishes.
Cuisinart This brand produces cookware meant for people who love to cook. The company emphasizes cooking techniques and culinary education.
Le Creuset The company began producing its popular enameled cast iron cookware after World War II. Sturdy construction and trendy colors have cooks salivating to add to their collections.
T-Fal This company was the first to make a non-stick pan

The Price

$: Budget-priced cookware is great for a beginner cook who hasnt yet mastered the finer techniques of haute cuisine. Pieces will be less durable and less refined than upper end models. Try ths T-Fal 2-piece Saute Pan Set
$$: Mid-range cookware can be a great value, thanks to higher quality materials used in manufacturing. These pieces will last for years with proper care and handling. Try Kitchen Essentials from Calphalon Hard-Anodized Cookware 8-piece Set
$$$: High-end cookware offers the best in conductivity, durability and elegant finishes. Copper cookware can cost 50 percent more than stainless steel versions. Try All-clad Stainless Steel 27-piece Set