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September 2009 Ratings

Cookware sets that sizzle

Last reviewed: September 2009
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Often the best after-dinner treat is a fast, simple cleanup, especially if you're the one doing the scrubbing. Nonstick pans are much easier to clean than uncoated ones because food doesn't stick (and sometimes burn as a result).

Those advantages have helped them garner about 60 percent of cookware sales in the U.S. and Canada. They also make up most of the 10 models in our Select Ratings (available to subscribers), which offered the best combination of performance and value in our tests of 32 models. Each model contains a variety of pots, pans, and lids.

Unlike conventional nonstick cookware sets, the 1 Earth Pan, 5 Starfrit, and 7 GreenPan do not contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)—a potentially harmful chemical—according to their manufacturers.

It's not clear how much PFOA affects consumers. Our previous testing of other nonstick cookware has shown very little PFOA in the air samples collected above new pans heated to recommended temperatures. And emissions from pans that we repeatedly heated and washed to simulate months of use decreased to barely measurable levels.

The 3 Emerilware nonstick cookware offers slightly better cooking performance and the nonstick 6 Berndes is dishwasher safe. The 9 Calphalon is the lowest-priced model in the Select Ratings (available to subscribers).

Both the uncoated 8 Calphalon and 10 All-Clad delivered impressive cooking performance.

The Swiss Diamond Reinforced nonstick pans were the best performers overall but we didn't include them in the Select Ratings (available to subscribers) because of their $500 price tag. They do not contain PFOA, according to the manufacturer, which says the surface is a nanoparticle composite of diamond crystals.

The most expensive pots and pans we tested, the $830 All-Clad Copper Core 6000-7SS, scored only average in sturdiness and comfort of the handle. The bottom-ranked $300 Mercola Healthy Chef is made mostly of ceramic. In our tests, it burned food and two of its handles broke.