Best skillets and cookware sets

Best skillets and cookware sets

It’s your go-to pan for just about everything, so you want a skillet to conduct heat evenly, clean up easily, and have a comfy handle that stays cool to the touch. Those are some of the qualities we looked for when we put dozens of pans to the test, cooking up pancakes and fried eggs—tricky foods because pancakes can cook unevenly and eggs can easily stick.

We also put pans through a tough scrubbing test to see how well their nonstick coating held up. Though some cooks swear by cast iron, the Lodge pan we tested didn’t cook as evenly as our experts’ nonstick picks below. Another surprise: Two store-brand pans were champs. (Models appear in alphabetical order. Click on each name for more details.)

All-Clad Stainless Steel

 

Price: $ 135
Why we like it: Food cooked evenly and easily slid off the durable nonstick coating. It’s oven-safe up to 500° F and has a lifetime warranty.
Bummer:
Its handle wasn’t that comfy.
Where to get it: Amazon, Crate & Barrel

Calphalon Simply Nonstick

 

Price: $ 40
Why we like it: This 10-inch aluminum pan aced our evenness and durability tests. It’s oven-safe, is easy to clean, and comes with a 10-year warranty.
Bummer: The handle wasn’t comfortable.
Where to get it: Macy’s, Zappos.com

Mainstays Nonstick Sauté Pan

 

Price: $ 13
Why we like it: You can’t beat the price, and it cooked evenly, is easy to clean, and is dishwasher-safe.
Bummer: Our tough durability test wore out its nonstick coating, though it might last longer if you use TLC.
Where to get it: Walmart

Scanpan Classic

 

Price: $ 90
Why we like it: This nonstick aluminum pan was great at evenly heating food, the coating withstood our tough durability test, and its 10¼-inch size was a tad roomier than most of the skillets we tested in the 10-inch category. The sturdy handle stayed cool to the touch. It’s easy to clean, is dishwasher-safe, and has a lifetime warranty.
Bummer: The handle wasn’t as comfy as others we tested.
Where to get it: Amazon, Chef’s Catalog

In addition to looking nice, matched sets make sense if you can use all of the pieces. And buying sets generally saves money over buying pots piecemeal. In fact, some of these sets cost less than a single pan from other companies. (Models appear in alphabetical order. Click on each name for more details.)

Calphalon Simply Easy System

 

Price: $ 300
Why we like them: Food cooked evenly in these pots and pans, which are oven-safe up to 450° F. The easy-clean nonstick coating is durable, and the glass lids, built-in pour spots, and measuring lines are handy.
Bummer: They’re not dishwasher-safe.
Where to get them: Amazon, Dillard’s, Macy’s

Mainstays Nonstick

 

Price: $ 40
Why we like them: This store-brand set cooked food as evenly and quickly as name-brand pots and pans that cost hundreds more. They’re easy to clean and dishwasher-safe.
Bummers: They’re not oven-safe, and construction isn’t  impressive; the lids didn’t fit as tightly as those on pricier sets.
Where to get them: Walmart

T-Fal Performance

 

Price: $ 100
Why we like them: These copper-bottomed stainless pots and pans cooked food more evenly than other uncoated sets, and the handles stayed cool to the touch. They can be used with induction and are dishwasher-safe and oven-safe up to 500° F.
Bummer: As with all uncoated cookware, they’re hard to clean.
Where to get them: Target

Nice extras

When buying pots and pans, keep an eye out for these features:

Spouts built into the cookware for easier, neater pouring.

Measuring lines inside pots so that you can add the right amount without using a measuring cup.

Glass lids let you check cooking progress without removing them and letting moisture out.

Silicone rims on metal lids help keep more moisture in. The silicone rims on Calphalon’s set also have small holes that can be lined up with pour spouts on the pots, so you don’t need a colander. The set also has measuring lines.

This article appeared in the November 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine.

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