Pros: easy to use, stay-cool handles, dishwasher-safe, even heating
Cons: can be heavy, handles can get hot in specific situations
I have never been a big fan of Teflon and non-stick cookware. When my boyfriend and I moved in together, he brought along his ancient set of T-Fal non-stick pots and pans. I wasn't happy about using them, but buying a new set was not very high on my list of priorities... until I adopted my first large parrot.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (the chemical name of "Teflon" and similar non-stick substances) is toxic to birds and can kill them when heated to high temperatures. My boyfriend was very resistant to the idea of replacing his pots and pans for a long time. Eventually, we adopted another parrot and he realized that he really did love the birds. He bought me the Calphalon Kitchen Essentials 12 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set for Christmas and we've been Teflon-free ever since.
About This Set
Kitchen Essentials is a line by Calphalon produced exclusively for Target stores. The cookware is available in stainless steel, non-stick, and cast aluminum. They also make "metal" bakeware pieces.
The 12 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set contains: ---8", 10", and 12" omelet pans
--1, 2, and 4 quart sauce pans
--3 quart deep frying pan
--8 quart stock pot and strainer insert
--lids for the 2 and 4 quart sauce pans, deep frying pan, and stock pot.
**note: The 8" omelet pan is a bonus piece that may not be available in all sets.**
The pieces in this set have a stainless-steel encapsulated heavy-gauge aluminum bottom for even heating during cooking. The handles on these pots and pans are riveted and designed to stay cool during cooking. The four lids in this set are made of tempered glass and allow you to see the contents of the pots as you cook.
Calphalon suggests hand-washing the pieces but stops short of absolutely requiring it to clean them. The exterior of the pots and pans is brushed stainless steel that allows you to scrub vigorously without worrying about scratching a perfectly shiny surface.
This set comes with an impressive 10 year warranty. They will replace defective items with damage not caused by abuse, alteration, neglect, commercial use, etc.
Using This Cookware Set
I waited several months to review the Calphalon Kitchen Essentials 12 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set because I wanted to have lots of experience with it. It has been well-documented that I am scary in the kitchen yet, for some reason, I continue to cook dinner almost every night. I have had nothing but good experiences with these pots and pans. I grew up cooking with stainless steel so I haven't had much of an issue with food sticking to or burning on the bottom of the pans. A dab of butter, a splash of olive oil, or a spritz with the Misto prevents food from sticking to the stainless steel surfaces.
I find that I use the 2 and 4 quart sauce pans, the 3 quart deep frying pan, the 8 quart pot/insert, and the 10 and 12 inch omelet pans most often. The small sauce pan is entirely too small for cooking just about anything; I can't even hardboil 6 eggs in such a small pot and I have no idea what you cook in an 8-inch skillet. Those two pieces have been working their way to the back of the cabinet for the past several months and I will probably find them during the summer when I dust and clean my cabinet shelves.
I started out by washing all of these pots/pans/lids by hand but after a couple of weeks I stopped and went back to my usual dishwasher cleaning. I haven't noticed any damage to or compromised cooking in the Kitchen Essential pieces. After five months of being run through my ancient dishwasher, all of the pots, pans, skillets, and lids look as perfect as they did straight out of the box on Christmas Eve.
One complaint that I do have about the Calphalon Kitchen Essentials 12 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set is that the pots and pans are heavy! Lifting them up off of the cooktop often takes two hands which makes holding a strainer or colander impossible. My hands are becoming arthritic and the tendons in my arms are often tender after carrying and bathing 30 pound foster pups. I wouldn't describe picking up even the smaller pieces as "painful" but it definitely does remind me that they are heavy and I am sore.
Another point worth mentioning has to do with the "stay cool" handles. When you use the strainer insert with the 8-quart stock pot, the handles of the strainer do not stay cool. Take my word on it: use pot holders to lift the strainer up and out of the pot. We have a small, old cooktop with four burners that are very close to one another. Handles on pots tend to get extremely hot if they are near one another while cooking. If you are using just one of these pieces, the handles will stay very cool and comfortable enough to pick up with your bare hand. If you're using the strainer insert or many pieces at once, be cautious and use a pot holder.
Cost and Availability
This 12 piece set (plus bonus 12" omelet pan) is listed at $250 which is exactly what my boyfriend paid for it. The Calphalon Kitchen Essentials line, including this cookware set, is sold only in Target stores and at Target.com.
I have been very happy with my Calphalon Kitchen Essentials 12 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set. The pots and pans can be heavy at times but they are easy to cook with and produce beautiful meals. I love that they stand up to my many cooking mishaps and that I don't have to worry that a scorched pan could kill my beloved parrots like non-stick would. This is a wonderful stainless steel cookware set at a very reasonable price for those who can't quite afford the Calphalon signature lines (like me!).