Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pick The Perfect Cookware Set


Finding the best cookware set – as a gift or for your own kitchen – can be a challenging task. There are astoundingly expensive sets; there are sets that contain a daunting array of saucier pans, Dutch ovens and teakettles; some sets have nonstick coating, others don’t. Which cookware set is perfect for you?

Good news: buying a cookware set is a great investment, and is often cheaper than buying pans one at a time. Even the most basic sets fulfill many of your cooking needs, from boiling pasta to making an omelet, or frying chicken. 

We’ve compiled a short guide to help you choose the best cookware set for your or that special someone this holiday season. When selecting a cookware set, consider several factors: are you willing to spend more for longer-lasting pans? How many pans do I actually need? What will I use these pans for? 

Whichever set you choose, buy from ChefTools.com and get free shipping for the holidays. Make the chef you know happy with a set under the tree - or treat yourself and outfit your kitchen right! 

Quality on a budget
Aeternum 8-piece set
Want a seriously innovative 8-piece (including lids) pan set for next to nothing? All pans in the Aeternum series by Bialetti (the Italian maker of espresso pots and French presses) are free of chemicals found on most nonstick pans (PFOA, PTFE, cadmium). Instead, these pans have a razor-thin ceramic nonstick coating. This set includes a Dutch oven for stovetop or oven roasting, 2 size sauté pans, and 2 saucepots. Melt chocolate, sear scallops, brew some chili – thousands of cooking permutations with this set. $158.95.

Use: gas stovetops; always with a little fat in the pan; cook anything from burgers to Brussels sprouts.

Cooking With Copper
Emerilware 14-piece copper set
Copper cookware is the gold (or copper) standard among chefs. That’s because it conducts heat exceptionally well. Copper pans give you exacting control over temperature and cook time. The pots and pans in this 14-piece set by Emerilware – the line of cooking tools curated by Emeril Lagasse – all have copper bases and stainless steel bodies. This design is an advantage: stainless steel is much sturdier than copper, so these pans won’t need as much care as all-copper pans. And, since these pans are all-metal, you can use them on the stove, in the oven, with an induction range, or under the broiler. Includes every pan you need: 2 fry pans, 3 saucepans, 1 sauté pan, 1 casserole pan, and a tall stock pot (all include lids; stock pot comes with a pasta strainer).$299.95.

Use: anywhere where there’s heat with any food; always use fat to lubricate the pan; for dishes that require intense heat and a quick cool-down.

Cast Iron Forever
Le Creuset 6-piece cast iron set
 Want a cookware set that will last into the next millennium? Then get this 6-piece set by Le Creuset – the masters of cast iron cookware. Serious, Julia-Child-smashing-open-a-lobster, European-style cooking is what this set was made for. The enameled cast iron surfaces perfectly brown and caramelize vegetables, meats and baked goods. An extra benefit? They look beautiful at the dining table. This set includes a saucier pan, a Dutch oven (cook anything in it), a griddle, and roasting pan.$559.95.

Use: take care to season these pans at least yearly; the Dutch oven is excellent for slow-cook dishes like brisket, and stews; griddle is perfect for Panini.

Nonstick for a Lifetime
Calphalon hard-anodized 13-piece set
The pans in this hard-anodized set by Calphalon have a natural nonstick surface. Soaking pans in an electrolyte bath and charging them with direct current (DC) causes a layer of aluminum oxide to grow, and that’s anodizing. Essentially, it’s a nonstick layer that won’t wear down. You’ll find hard-anodized pans in many commercial kitchens. Like cast iron, these pans will last a very long time, but at a lower price point. Aluminum heats up fast, making it ideal for sautés and searing. This set includes 3 omelet pans, 2 saucepans, 1 sauté pan, 1 chef’s pan, and one 6-quart stockpot. (Also, for starters, check out this 2-piece hard-anodized omelet pan set for only $60.) $398.95.

Use: great for fish filets and omelets; avoid using metal spatulas and turners; these classic pans are great for breakfast – pancakes, hash browns and fried eggs.

Greener Nonstick
Scanpan 8-piece set
 Like Bialetti Aeternum, Scanpan (or, if you prefer, Scandinavian Pans) has found a way to make nonstick pans without questionable chemicals. The surfaces of the pans in this 8-piece set (unlike Aeternum) have a nonstick coating, but (like Aeternum) are PFOA and PFOS free. These pans are a super-strong alloy of titanium and aluminum, which means they heat up fast and distribute heat evenly. These pans are good in and out of the oven, and the nonstick surface is guaranteed to last longer than conventional nonstick pans. Set includes 2 fry pans, 2 saucepans, and 1 Dutch oven. $399.95.   

Use: to cook nonfat, simply wipe just a penny-size drop of oil on the pan and cook as usual; use the Dutch oven to make paella, chili, or beef stew
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