I have pots and pans with mismatched lids etc etc
I normally usually agree with Chem about all things relating to cookware, but this time I’ll add my opinion. I too recommend the Tramontina Try Ply from Walmart but while knife sets are usually too much knife (knives) for too much money, I think this set of Tramontina has pans which will all get used, depending on your own cooking style of course. The link below is a set that includes a 12″ and 10″ skillet instead of 10″ and 8″ skillets. We switched from mostly non-stick to stainless steel like these several years ago and wish we had done it sooner. We still use three non-stick skillets occasionally, small, medium, and large.
The 12″ Tramontina skillet is $50 alone without a lid if you buy it separately. The kettle is great for soup, pasta, etc. And the saucepans are handy as well. If you already have some pans you like, you might not need an entire set.
I too will agree w Chem on the Multi clad fm Cuisinart but later on add the 12″ fry pan AND the 6qt pot which is the one we use the most. Oh and one more thing, if you can get the Chefs Classic (Cuisinart) 1.5 qt saucepan w lid cause I have never seen a pan or tea kettle BOIL water faster.
I’m not keen on sets, either. I like to get a particular pan for a particular purpose, and I have pots and pans of several different construction types.
As for multi-ply with stainless interior, I have a few of those, but I would not call them “affordable” (although clearly some people can afford them). $200 does not go very far buying multi-ply unless you get the lowest-end stuff, which I don’t advise. I do like my multi-ply saucier, one of my favorite pans. But my other pieces are a bit of an extravagance — I could do just as well for less money.
Lately, I’ve been interested in Calphalon Commercial, which is anodized aluminum. I have one piece and may soon buy another. For comparison, they are selling their set of eight pots and pans plus five lids for $400, or an average of only $50 per pot or pan. These pans are affordable (especially the ones on special discount), and durable.
But I suggest you first approach it more systematically. Decide what things you are most interested in cooking, and in what quantities. Then decide what types of pans will have the characteristics you need. That way you can optimize the use of your limited funds.
If you do like tri-ply, though, this Tramontina set seems to fit your price range:
I have no experience with Tramontina, though. They have several lines, and this one may be made for Wal-Mart. I’m not recommending it, just correcting my statement that multi-ply tends not to be “affordable.”
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