Can't have it all? One possible place to save is on nonstick cookware. While quality and heat conduction still matter here, the fact is the pan is probably not going to last you 30 years. Even expensive pans with nonstick coating tend to scratch eventually (though high-end warranties usually do cover that). If you're looking for a place to save some cash, consider buying a lower-price nonstick pan for your set.
There's also the aluminum option. Aluminum is the cheap choice, and you can certainly go this route on a pan you seldom use or one you plan to replace regularly -- but do spend a bit more on anodized aluminum. It'll cook your food better and last longer, and it's still a lot less expensive than the really good stuff.
Buying a lower-quality product isn't the only way to save, though. You'll find "irregulars" or "defective" pots and pans, from the highest-quality lines, that you can get for significantly below sticker price. Often, the issues that make them seconds are so small as to be barely perceivable, like a tiny dent or scratch, or a slight variation in shape or color. If you don't mind an imperfection that won't even affect your cooking, check out the high-end seconds found in discount stores and through online outlets. You can also buy them direct from the manufacturer, typically during periodic "seconds sales."
Even with all the factors involved in determining the real value of a cookware piece, the moral to come away with here is pretty straightforward: If you can afford the best of everything, buy it. You won't be sorry. Otherwise, mix and match. Spend on the pieces you'll use every day, and save on the ones you'll only use twice a year. Nothing bad is going to happen if all your cookware doesn't match.
For more information on cookware, including reviews and buying guides, look over the links below.
- "Explaining Reactive and Non-Reactive Cookware. Food Science." The Kitchn. (April 19, 2011)http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/food-science/food-science-explaining-reactive-and-nonreactive-cookware-073723
- "Kitchen cookware guide." Consumer Reports. (April 19, 2011)http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/kitchen/kitchen-cookware/kitchen-cookware-buying-advice/kitchen-cookware-types/kitchen-cookware-types.htm
- Knowlton, Andrew. "Ask the Foodist: Is expensive cookware worth it?" Bon Appetit. April 14, 2011. (April 19, 2011)http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/bafoodist/2011/04/buy-good-pots-and-pans.html
- Szalavitz, Maia. "Are Nonstick Pans Dangerous?" Psychology Today. July 1, 2006. (April 19, 2011)http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200607/are-nonstick-pans-dangerous
- "Why Are All-Clad Pots and Pans So Expensive?" Good Question. The Kitchn. (April 19, 2011)http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/cookware-tools/good-question-why-are-allclad-pots-and-pans-so-expensive-037228
- Vogel, Mark R. "Buying Cookware for Home." The Reluctant Gourmet. (April 19, 2011)http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/choosing_cookware.htm