What accounts for the dramatic difference in cookware pricing?

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If you've shopped for cookware lately, you've probably noticed the shocking price range for pots and pans. There are complete sets available for as little as $30, and then there are sets that run about $2,000.

What could possibly account for such a dramatic difference? Is it cosmetic, functional or simply a matter of status? Does the average cook, just making dinner for the fam four or five nights a week, gain anything from spending more?

The answer is fairly simple, although putting it into practice can be a bit complicated. There are so many different types of pots and pans, and each has different uses, strengths and weaknesses. Some of these apply whether you're looking at the cheapest or the most expensive lines.

So why would you want to go expensive? We'll start with the simple part.