Which budget cookware set is best?
Whether you’re building your household from scratch or looking to make a change in the kitchen, chances are good you’ll need a new cookware set. If you’ve done even a little research, you know that cookware set prices can quickly reach $1,000 and more. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a high-quality cookware set.
If you want to restock your kitchen and save a little money in the process, the best budget cookware set for you might be the Cuisinart 10 Piece Classic Tri-ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set.
What to know before you buy a budget cookware set
Most cookware sets are made of one of four materials: copper, aluminum, cast iron, and stainless steel. Copper is one of the most expensive materials but is also one of the hardest to care for. Cooks love how evenly copper pans conduct and hold heat, but the cost is prohibitive for a full set.
Aluminum cookware sets are affordable and easy to care for. They come at a variety of price points depending on the type of aluminum and the quality of the workmanship and design. Hard anodized aluminum or multi-ply aluminum pans are the best choice for heat conduction and retention. Aluminum pans are also available in non-stick versions.
Cast iron pans are durable and affordable but do require seasoning and special care to keep them looking good. These pans can be enameled, which removes the need for seasoning but also removes the non-stick properties that come with a properly seasoned pan.
Finally, stainless steel pans are great for both professional and amateur home cooks. They are easy to care for and are great both on the stovetop and in the oven. Take special care when selecting stainless steel though. Cheaply-made versions have a stainless steel core with just a thin coating of aluminum or copper. This compromises the pan and makes for a shorter life and poor performance.
Number and type of pans included
A multi-piece cookware set is no good if it does not include the pans you use most often. For fully restocking a kitchen with a budget cookware set, look for at least the following pans: 8-inch skillet, 10-inch skillet, 1 1/2-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saucepan or sauté pan with lid and a 6-quart stockpot with lid. Large families might also want a 12-inch skillet and an 8-quart stockpot with a lid, but the above pieces are a good start.
For more considerations and what to look for in cookware, check out the BestReviews buying guide to cookware sets.
What to look for in a quality budget cookware set
Handles should feel comfortable and be firmly attached to their pot or pan. You don’t want a wobbly handle to cause hot food to slop out of the pan.
As with the handles, lids need to sit comfortably on their respective pan. They don’t necessarily need to create a vacuum seal, but they should also not be perched precariously on the top of the pan.
Look for a budget cookware set that can go from the stove to the oven to the table. This means you’ll need solid construction using high-quality materials. Avoid cheap plastic handles, as they won’t be oven-safe. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines about maximum oven-safe temperatures.
Easy to clean
Budget cookware sets that are dishwasher safe offer easy, no-fuss clean-up.
How much you can expect to spend on a budget cookware set
Although it is possible to spend as little as $50 on a budget cookware set, buyer beware. Those sets simply won’t hold up to regular cooking tasks. Consider setting aside between $150-$250 for a solid budget cookware set.
Budget cookware set FAQ
How often do I need to replace my cookware?
A. This depends on the type of cookware and the amount of use. Cast iron cookware can outlast most cooks, but non-stick pans have a shelf life. So how do you know when it’s time to replace old pots and pans?
If you notice scratches or flaking in your non-stick cookware, it’s time to replace them immediately. Dents and scratches in your other pans may be cosmetic, but they might also cause the food in the pan to heat unevenly. As for cast iron, even the most neglected, rusty cast iron can be revived, but if you aren’t going to take the time to do that, pass it along and replace it with a new set.
How do I care for my cookware?
A. As always, follow the specific manufacturer’s instructions for care. However, even if your pans are dishwasher safe, you can extend their life by handwashing carefully in warm, soapy water after each use. Remember to never use scouring pans on non-stick pots and pans.
What’s the best budget cookware set to buy?
Top budget cookware set
What you need to know: This is one of the best cookware sets money can buy, at an affordable price.
What you’ll love: This set features triple-ply stainless steel for excellent heat conduction and retention. The handles are comfortable, and Cuisinart is a high-quality brand you can trust.
What you should consider: There are no complaints here. Even if money wasn’t an issue, this is still a great set to consider.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top budget cookware set for the money
What you need to know: Calphalon is a well-known brand of high-quality cookware, and this set is no exception.
What you’ll love: This set features a hard-anodized aluminum exterior with a non-stick finish and oven-safe handles up to 450 degrees. The lids are tempered glass for easy viewing, and each pan heats evenly. Calphalon provides a lifetime warranty on their products.
What you should consider: This set only comes with eight pieces.
Where to buy: Sold by Bed, Bath & Beyond
Worth checking out
What you need to know: If non-stick is more your speed, this budget cookware set is the perfect choice.
What you’ll love: The Thermospot on this pan tells you when it’s heated and ready to go, and the titanium non-stick interior is easy release every time. It’s oven-safe up to 350 degrees, and you can add a 12-quart stockpot to your set for just $5 more.
What you should consider: As with all non-stick, getting a good sear on meat is hard.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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