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The Best Cookware From Consumer Reports' Tests

When buying cookware be wary of celebrity names and ad claims

Published: November 03, 2015 08:00 AM
Swiss Diamond Reinforced cookware

A cookware set is the perfect gift for newlyweds, new home owners, and college grads moving into their first apartment. Heck, a couple that’s been married for 25 years may appreciate a new set to replace the one they got at their wedding. You can spend a lot on a top-notch cookware set but you don’t have to as Consumer Reports discovered in its cookware tests. And we panned some sets with a celebrity name on the box. Here are the details.

Calphalon Simply Nonstick

Stick With Non-Stick

Our two top cookware picks are both non-stick sets. No uncoated cookware made the grade. Here are our two favorite sets.

The Swiss Diamond Reinforced 10-piece set, $600, was the highest rated of all our tested sets. It was very good at evenly heating food and, when new, it was superb at releasing food. This set was very good at withstanding our non-stick durability test in which steel wool is rubbed over a pan for up to 2,000 strokes and like most non-stick cookware, is easy to clean. The aluminum set comes with a lifetime warranty.

The Calphalon Simply Nonstick 10-piece set, $200, a CR Best Buy, combines performance and value and was very good overall. It was excellent at evenly heating food without it sticking to the pan. The handles stayed cool to the touch, but aren't as sturdy as the top-rated Swiss Diamond set. The aluminum set is durable and easy to clean and comes with a 10-year warranty.

Scan Pan Classic

Frying Pans That Sizzle

Frying pans are perhaps the most replaced pan in the kitchen. We found three to recommend including a $40 omelette pan that any cook would love.

The 10-inch Swiss Diamond Classic nonstick frying pan, $90, was very good overall. Food cooked evenly and released without sticking. The pan withstood our nonstick durability test  and cleanup was a snap. This pan is made of aluminum and comes with a lifetime warranty.

The Scanpan Classic, $90, is 10¼ inches and performed very well overall. It was superb at evenly heating food and did a very good job releasing food. It’s sturdy, easy to clean and dishwasher-safe. The aluminum pan comes with a lifetime warranty.

The Calphalon Simply Nonstick 10-inch omelette pan, $40, is such a good deal you might want to buy one for yourself. A CR Best buy, it combines impressive performance and value and was very good overall. It was excellent at evenly heating food and releasing it without sticking. The aluminum pan is sturdy and easy to clean and comes with a 10-year warranty.

Chefmate 16-piece set

Don’t Be Tempted by Claims and Names

Celebrity cooks have invaded the cookware aisle as have some as-seen-on-TV products that make claims that may be too good to be true. Keep in mind that a celebrity’s cookware set may not be a star in the kitchen. Here’s how to find a gift without the gotchas.

Count the pans not the pieces. The cookware box may tout sets with 10 or more pieces but look closer and you may discover that the count includes lids and cooking utensils as well. A 10-piece set, for example, may include six pans and four lids. One 16-piece set we tested included six cooking utensils in addition to the pans and lids.

Over-the-top claims. The manufacturer of the Pauli Never Burn Stock Pot claims, “You’ll never burn your recipe again because the Perfect Sauce and Chowder Pot eliminates the need for stirring!” But misjudge the heat setting and you’re cooked. In our tests, the Pauli pot warped even on medium heat—and what’s medium, anyway? Could be 5,000 or 10,000 Btu/hr., depending on the burner. Moreover, you might want higher heat for browning, deglazing, and other common recipe steps before simmering. One plus, the food we cooked didn’t stick to the pot.

The name game. We took stock of cookware sets from Rachel Ray and Guy Fieri and neither bubbled to the top. On the plus side, the non-stick Rachael Ray Porcelain Enamel II 10-piece set, $140, released food quickly, was easy to clean and its handles were comfortable without getting too hot. But cooking evenness and durability were only so-so. The Rachael Ray 10-inch Open Skillet, $30, got similar reviews.

The Guy Fieri Stainless Steel 10-piece set, $200, was the winner of our tests of uncoated cookware but fell far short of our top picks list. Speed of heating was very good but cooking evenness and handle comfort were so-so and it was difficult to clean.

—Mary H.J. Farrell (@mhjfarrell on Twitter)

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