Pros: Affordable, reasonably rugged, a step above throw away pots n pans.
Cons: Fit and finish as well as material heft and quality reduced over the years
Farberware is a long established name in US domestic cookware. Many of us including myself remember the ?classic? Farberware pots and pans our mothers used. The older cookware while by no means the most expensive was attractive and utilitarian.
Manufacturing requires a great many trade offs in an attempt to satisfy a given market at a price that matches what that target group is willing to spend. Rather than pound on Farberware?s manufacturing decisions that has noticeably reduced the quality from the product sold 20+ years ago, I will attempt to assess if the current Classic set I purchased is a good value. For perspective imagine three automobile brands Lexus, Chevrolet and Yugo. For consumer cookware All-Clad, Calphalon, Cuisinart and a host of others are at the Lexus level. To compare cookware that can cost far more for a single pot than an entire set of Farberware doesn?t accomplish much. At the other extreme, has the attempt to reduce the cost of manufacture sabotaged the quality and functionality to the point where despite the low cost you end up with the notorious Yugo. A car that had so many flaws even though selling for far less was still considered a bad value. The hope I had was in purchasing such an inexpensive set was that it would perform as a Chevrolet, it will get you there and last well, but perhaps without all the style and comfort.
I purchased the Farberware ?Classic? 13piece-cookware set while browsing amazon.com. Price was the main attraction its suggested list price at $320.00 and on sale for $59.00 that day and now appears to sell for $99.00 normally. This peculiar sized set happened to match several things I needed.
The set consists of?
One 8Qt Stock pot with lid.
1Qt, 1.5Qt and 2Qt sauce pans with lids.
8? and 10? nonstick aluminum riveted handle skillets.
Three nesting small bowls of 18/10 stainless with airtight plastic lids.
The stockpot and sauce pans are of 18/10 stainless with an aluminum layer sandwiched on the bottom with a stainless cap. Stainless is a nonreactive metal to the food but conducts heat poorly, to conduct the heat to the entire bottom of the pan the aluminum layer is added. This creates a hot spot around the entire perimeter of the pan that?s viewable by boiling water. Strangely as it begins to boil instead of at the heat source it?s the outside diameter away from the heat element that bubbles. Normally scorching occurs at the hot spots in the center, with these pots its necessary to watch the outside perimeter instead for scorching. Some more expensive brands wrap the aluminum farther up the sides to eliminate this hot spot. This bottom only is an improvement over a conventional pan for heat distribution but still a compromise, in all probability for cost considerations. While the gage of the sheet metal has been reduced over the years it still retains a reasonable heft.
Another oddity I find with this particular set is the size range. The saucepots are all rather small, a 3.5-4 Qt sauce pan is missing. The skillets as well are both on the small side, as I?m used to a 12? skillet for breakfast and quick stir-fries. Perhaps as Farberware sells individual pieces the intention was to leave out a few key pots, to be added at less deeply discounted price by the consumer. This might present a good opportunity as unless you demand all matching pots from a single manufacturer you can backfill in your missing workhorse pots with individual pans of a higher caliber.
In use the pots perform well and the sandwich bottom design does a good job of evenly distributing the heat. Care must be exercised at the outside edge where the pot does run notably hotter to avoid scorching. While dishwasher safe, to retain the high polish luster hand washing is recommended. The plastic handles have a comfortable shape and stay cool. They attach to the sauce pots with a screw to a spot welded lug. Time will tell how strong this is compared to the heavy-duty rivets expensive pots usually use. The stock pot has two small ear like plastic handles for lifting vertically, I find them a trifle small and you have to use mitts or pads to avoid the hot pot while moving it. The lids have a plastic top piece that?s spot-welded as well so there is no rusty screw dripping condensation back into the pot like so many inexpensive brands. The two nonstick skillets do use rivets to attach their plastic handles and the skillets are fairly heavy walled aluminum with a less shiny finish. All of the pots and skillets aside from the large 8qt stockpot have a ring for hanging the pots for storage. The non reactive stainless steel bowls with airtight lids are great for storing items in the fridge. So far the clean up has been a breeze as I have been using reasonable care to avoid scorching anything. A little bit of elbow work with a green scrub pad and comet has worked fine for any stuck bits. I do hand wash the nonstick skillets, as I don?t believe any coating lasts as long when subjected to the dishwasher, at least in my experience.
Use and care instructions emphasize using low-med heat except for boiling and reducing liquids. Further explanation discloses that discoloration can be expected and perhaps even separation of the aluminum bottom in cases of extreme abuse (i.e. hot burner and empty pan for prolonged periods). The plastic handles are oven safe to 350F and will of course be hot. A lifetime limited warranty is included for the original purchaser under non-commercial use. As it requires a $10 handling fee and the cost of shipping, unless its an expensive piece to replace such as the Stock Pot, I doubt it would be economical to replace any defective pots. The warranty excludes all misuse and normal wear and tear so unless it?s an obvious manufacturing fault you can expect it to be argued by the manufacturer.
My final verdict?
The quality and functionality is reasonable and at a heavy discount a real good value. The absurd list price of $320.00 on Amazon will I?m sure never be seen. I would not feel taken advantage of had I paid $99.00-$120.00 as it?s usually listed and feel I got a great a great buy at $59.00. Compared to grocery store brands like Mirror and Echo these pots are much better quality and with the better heat distribution, help to ease cooking stress. The surface being uncoated aside from the skillets allows the use metal utensils for those with kids or significant others who cant seem to keep a fork or other sharp device out of a coated pan. As most any pot will be destroyed or damaged with prolonged high heat I don?t see the sandwich construction as a drawback either. This set is a reasonable gift for those in need of a starter set, note these are not by any means heirloom quality but they should be functional for a number of years. The other consideration is the odd sizing of the sauce pots. If you make pasta in the stock pot, a bottle of Ragu will just about fill the 2qt sauce pot before you add anything fresh to improve it. Overall I would call it a Chevy. They won?t agitate you to use them daily and have no serious shortcomings.
Interestingly while browsing our local Costco I noticed the Kitchenaid pot and pan set had the exact same bottom sandwich construction. While the stainless sides of the Kitchenaid set where of a heavier gage, the bottom sandwich had the exact same manufactures mark including the made in Thailand. I would venture a guess and presume that these pots are made at the same manufacturing plant in Asia.