Best Williams Sonoma COOKWARE
A quality set of pots and pans can improve the quality of your cooking and give you an easier time in the kitchen.
Often, purchasing a cookware set is cheaper than buying the pieces individually. But there are several factors to take into account when looking for the best cookware set for your kitchen.
Common cookware set materials include copper, aluminum, cast iron, and stainless steel. Each material offers different advantages and impacts the price of the set.
When you shop, you should have an idea of which pieces you will need, as there is no default when it comes to cookware sets.
Cuisinart MCP-12N MultiClad Pro Triple Ply 12-Piece Cookware Set, Stainless Steel
Rachael Ray Cucina Nonstick Cookware Pots and Pans Set, 12 Piece, Agave Blue
T-fal Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick 17 Piece Cookware Set, Black
All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Dishwasher Safe Cookware Set, 14-Piece, Silver
Nutrichef Nonstick Cookware Excilon Home Kitchen Ware Pots & Pan Set with Saucepan Frying Pans, Cooking Pots, Lids, Utensil PTFE/PFOA/PFOS free, 11 Pc, Blue Diamond
WHICH METAL IS BEST?
Four common metals are used to make cookware: copper, aluminum, cast iron, and stainless steel.
Each type of metal has its pros and cons.
Copper provides excellent heat conductivity for quick, even heating. It’s sensitive to changes in the flame temperature, too. This makes it the preferred cooking material of many professional chefs. Copper also cools quickly when you’re done cooking.
Copper is also beautiful. It looks attractive in the kitchen. The downside of copper cookware is its high price, need for polishing, and tendency to react to acidic foods.
Furthermore, copper also is prone to scratching and discoloration. For best results, hand washing may be required.
Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat. That said, it’s soft and easily scratches or dents.
Aluminum also reacts with acidic foods, potentially leaching into your food. To prevent these problems, aluminum cookware is usually anodized. This creates a scratch-resistant surface that resists leaching.
Commonly, aluminum cookware has a nonstick coating, making cleanup a breeze. Some pieces have aluminum cores for even heat distribution.
Anodized aluminum pots and pans are easy to find at bargain prices. Generally, however, a super-low price corresponds with low quality.
Cast iron cookware
Although cast iron is a poor conductor of heat, once it does heat up, it stays hot for a long time due to its mass. It is very durable, can withstand extremely high heat, and is relatively inexpensive.
However, cast iron is heavy. It rust or pit, and it reacts with acidic foods. Periodically applying a thin coating of oil (called seasoning) to cast iron helps prevent those problems and creates a somewhat nonstick surface on the cookware.
You’ll sometimes find cast iron cookware with an enameled surface. This eliminates the need for seasoning with oil. Nevertheless, these are still very heavy pots and pans. The good news is that the best cast iron cookware sets can last a lifetime and beyond.
Stainless steel cookware
Some of the top cookware sets are made of thick stainless steel, which looks beautiful and is a staple of many restaurant kitchens.
Advantages of stainless steel include resistance to scratching, denting, and discoloration. And stainless steel pots and pans are dishwasher safe.
Furthermore, stainless steel does not react with foods. However, it is a poor conductor of heat. This necessitates a core of aluminum or copper in the cookware, though aluminum only has 60% of copper’s conductive power.
High-quality stainless steel pans and pots have a core extending over the entire pan. Low-quality stainless cookware just has an aluminum or copper bottom.
The best stainless steel cookware sets generally cost more than anodized aluminum pots and pans, but they are very versatile and suitable for just about any type of cooking the average home chef wants to try.
WHAT PIECES DO YOU NEED?
Once you have determined which metal you want, it’s time to determine how large a set of cookware you need.
While you could buy pots and pans separately, it usually makes more sense to buy a set. It’s also easier and faster to select an entire set.
But don’t hurry into your decision, and don’t make the mistake of assuming that a bigger set is always better. Most people don’t relish the idea of filling their cupboards with cookware they never use.
If you’re an infrequent or casual cook, a set containing just the basics would probably cover your needs. If you enjoy cooking and spend lots of time in the kitchen, however, a larger set with a few specialty items would likely serve you well. And if there are specific pieces of cookware you need beyond that, you could purchase those pieces individually.
Basic cookware sets
A basic cookware set that covers most cooking needs includes the following.
- 10-inch skillet: large enough to cook up breakfast or fry a few burgers
- 12-inch skillet: the perfect size for large-skillet meals or multiple pieces of meat
- 3-quart sauté pan with lid: useful for sautéing chicken and vegetables
- 2-quart saucepan with lid: a good size for heating up a can of soup
- 3-quart saucepan with lid: versatile for sides, soups, and sauces
- 4-quart saucepan with lid: for making sauces or heating vegetables
- 8-quart stockpot with lid: for cooking soups, stews, or pasta
Some additional pieces that are useful but not essential include the following.
- 6-quart Dutch oven: A Dutch oven is great for cooking tender, delicious chicken and roasts.
- Steamer insert with lid: This duo is suitable for preparing healthy steamed vegetables.
- 5-quart sauté pan with lid: For cooking large batches of chicken or meat with vegetables, a sauté pan is ideal.
- 8-inch skillet: This is a great frying pan for scrambling eggs or cooking a grilled cheese sandwich.
- Rimmed baking sheet: Use this pan for sheet pan meals, cookies, and other baking needs.
- Griddle: A bridle is suitable for making pancakes, burgers, bacon, waffles, vegetables, and more.
- Wok: Woks are ideal for stir frying, steaming, and even deep frying.
Q. I don’t cook every day. How many pieces should I look for in a cookware set?
A. Even if you aren’t an avid home cook, you’ll want to make sure you choose a pots and pans set that includes the components you’ll need to whip up your favorite recipes. Additionally, before you invest in a set with just a few pieces, you should take into consideration that your cooking needs may change in the near future. Typically, a 10-piece cookware set with standard pots, pans, and a few lids is a sound option.
Q. Do manufacturers of cookware still use Teflon to make nonstick coatings?
A. Yes, but don’t let this stop you from choosing a nonstick set that you suspect has Teflon cook surfaces. PFOA, the potentially toxic chemical that was once a key chemical in the manufacturing of Teflon, has not been used since 2013.
Q. What is a ceramic cookware set?
A. When a set is described as ceramic nonstick cookware, the term is referring to the coating which is applied over a base metal such as aluminum. Ceramic coatings are durable, very stick-resistant, and free of metals and harmful chemicals. The best ceramic cookware sets will hold up to years of use with little to no peeling or chipping of the coating.
Q. How can I keep my nonstick cookware set free from scratches?
A. The best nonstick cookware sets hold up well to use when cared for properly. To keep your stick-resistant coatings on pots and pans from developing scratches, do not use metal utensils when cooking. Avoid abrasive cleanses and harsh scrubbers during cleanup.