Monday, November 27, 2006

Buy This Cookware Set: Kirkland Signature 14-Piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set

While the most important thing you can do to improve your cooking is to buy a better knife, the second most important thing is almost certainly to buy better cookware. If you've only cooked with cheap, thin pots and pans before, you'll be amazed how much easier things are when you have a couple of sturdy pots and pans to work with. Your onions won't burn anymore and your eggs will cook evenly. Your pans won't warp until they're curvier than Scarlett Johansson. In short, good cookware makes good cooking much easier. You need some.

Two caveats before I offer my recommendation:

1. I'm assuming you currently have no adequate pieces of cookware. Maybe you're in your first apartment after college and have never bought cookware before or you own a cheap set that is now fit only for the scrap heap. If you do own some decent cookware, you're probably best off filling in the gaps in your collection with individual items rather than a whole set.

2. You plan on cooking at least some serious, multi-component recipes, or at some point you plan on having more than a few people over for dinner. If so, you'll appreciate having a lot of cookware, and a set may be right for you. If not, you're probably best off just getting a big pot, a small pot, a big pan, and a small pan.

On to my recommendation...

I love Costco. Probably not as much as I love Trader Joe's, but still quite a lot. The best purchase I've made at Costco (and maybe the best purchase I've ever made anywhere) is this cookware set: the Kirkland Signature 14-Piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set.



I agonized over this cookware decision. I knew I wanted a set, but with a limited budget most of the recommended cookware by All-Clad or Calphalon was way out of my price range. I also considered this Wolfgang Puck set, but had concerns about the durability of the disc bottom.

Thus I went for the Kirkland Signature, and I couldn't really be happier. You can follow the link for all the details on what's included, but the most important thing is that the whole set only costs $150. The direct comparison is this Calphalon set for almost $600, and that one doesn't even include as many pieces. I would honestly recommend to someone that they pay the $50 Costco membership just to buy this cookware set. It's even a Consumer Reports best buy.

Kirkland Signature is Costco's house label, which means that you're paying much less of a markup. The cookware is made of anodized aluminum, which is great because aluminum is almost as good as copper in terms of conductivity (higher conductivity means the pan heats evenly). Regular aluminum reacts with acidic food (which is why cookware is often lined with non-reactive stainless steel), but anodized aluminum has been treated with electrolysis to form a corrosion and stain resistant surface layer of aluminum oxide.

The only caveat is that the cookware is "non-stick", meaning that a non-stick coating has been bonded to the surface. Why is non-stick less desirable? For one thing, non-stick is less durable, and won't last long if you don't treat it well. I treat my cookware well, only using non-metal utensils and washing by hand with non-abrasive sponges. After over a year of hard use, my cookware set is still in great condition. I expect the set to last many years more, which is almost unheard of for non-stick cookware. And Costco has a 100% customer satisfaction return policy, so if the set breaks down too quickly you can always return or exchange it.

The other problem with non-stick is that food doesn't brown very well in the pan. Browning means flavor (see "maillard reaction"), so cooking with non-stick can mean less flavor when you make pan sauces or braising liquids by deglazing the fond (the brown bits) that has built up in the pan while cooking meats or vegetables. Saying all that, the Costco set browns better than other non-stick pieces I've used. Plus, non-stick pans are really easy to clean, which is a huge bonus when you have no dishwasher and do everything by hand, like I do.

So buy the Kirkland Signature 14-Piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set. Your friends will never guess how great a deal you got on those gorgeous pots and pans when they're gorging themselves at your dinner parties.

UPDATE (12/13/06): The set is no longer available on Costco.com. I would suggest checking your local Costco to see if it is in stock, or buying a set off of eBay.

27 comments:

tolachi said...

I personally prefer a medium-large cast iron pan as a low budget cookware pick. I know that there are a few things it is not appropriate for (eg tomato sauce) but it works gorgeously for everything else. Like the chef's knife, it receives disproportionate use and haveing a good one makes a big difference. I once owned an anadonized aluminum wok and never liked it as much as the carbon steel ones I had used. I also found the "non-stick" qualities far inferior to well seasoned cast iron.

John V said...

I definitely agree with the cast iron recommendation, particularly if you're just looking for one piece of cheap cookware. A large cast iron pan is in fact a crucial addition to such a set as I'm recommending, b/c steaks, hamburgers, etc. will be much much better on the cast iron. So for $150 for the Costco the set plus $30 (or $5 at a garage sale) for a big piece of cast iron, you'd pretty much be all set. Unless of course you were such a die-hard saucier that you needed the eponymous piece of cookware to hone your craft.

Dan said...

John,

Do you have an opinion on the Costco Kirkland Signature Roasting Pan? (Sorry, the link is too long,; a quick google brings it up from the costco website)

I have been vacillating on buying this or saving my money for an All-Clad or Calphalon roaster. It seems to be pretty solidly constructed and most Kirkland stuff I've seen has been of good quality. I've had too many cheap roasters that warp in the oven, much less on the stovetop.

John V said...

I've looked at the roasting pan while at Costco before, and it seems very solid and unlikely to warp. It is made of solid stainless steel and includes a v-shaped rack, so it definitely should do well for a turkey in the oven. It's very similar to Cook's Illustrated "Best Buy" roasting pan, the Kitchen Aid Gourmet Distinction Roasting Pan, which costs about $50 as well. One caveat is that it does not have an aluminum core sandwiched between the stainless steel. This isn't a problem for oven roasting, but solid stainless steel isn't great on the stovetop. So if your number 1 priority is making a gravy from the drippings directly in the roasting pan, you might want to go with one that has an aluminum core, such as the Cook's Illustrated recommended Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Roasting Pan for about $100. But if that's not your priority, the Costco/Kirkland pan should be good in the oven and okay for use on the stovetop, and certainly much better than the really thin pans for either use. Let me know how it works out!

BxCapricorn said...

I splurged and bought All-Clad, and a dutch oven for $240, or at least that's what my wife said, and I just rolled my eyes and poured another JW. But you know what, that is the go-to piece of cookware, and I use it all the time. I cleans easy, cooks evenly, and it's changed my perceptive on cookware. Will look for the Costco brand "Kirkware" for our work kitchen. Those guys don't deserve All-Clad, but hey, live and let live, and cook, well.

Anonymous said...

I checked costo.com and the kirkland signature cookware set if not available. Do you know where I may still get a set?

Thanks,

Chuck

John V said...

Hi Chuck,
First, I'd go to your local Costco and see if they have the set in stock. They may have slightly modified the set judging from what I saw in-store last time, but it's basically the same thing.

Second, if you can't find it in-store, eBay is probably you're only option. Try searching for "kirkland anodized cookware".

Most of the sets on eBay are going for $175+$20 shipping, so you'd be paying a $45 premium. Probably still worth it, particularly if you're not a Costco member and would only be joining to buy the cookware.

Katie said...

If this cookware is so fabulous, then why doesn't Costco still carry it?

ann said...

The Set is back on the costco website it is now $175.

Deborah said...

Hello, I recently received this (nonstick) Kirkland set as an anniversary gift (after much research- thank you for your clear postings! I also found consumersearch.com to be helpful.)
I love how sturdy the pieces are, and it continues to fascinate me how much less time it takes to boil a pot of water than my previous set(okay, it was 11 year old T-fal!) I'm finding that the handles do get very hot, though, even when cooking an omelet on medium/low heat. Today I couldn't comfortably hold the handle far down enough to flip because of that heat. Are you experiencing the same thing, or do you think I might have a faulty set?

Thank you!

Acadia said...

It's really nice cookware set for any kitchen...

Anonymous said...

Hello! I just purchased this set, based on a research process that sounds similar to yours. But the Calphalon One set is oven-safe, and I couldn't find any confirmation in the Costco brochure that came with the cookware that I can move these pots from the stovetop to the oven. Any thoughts on this? Thanks so much for your blog!

John V said...

There are two factors in oven-safe: the handles and the cookware surface.

The handles on both the Costco and the Calphalon are stainless steel, so I would expect them to be okay for nearly all oven conditions. If for some reason you want to push it really hot (400 to 500+ F or so), you might consider putting some aluminum foil over the handles to keep it cooler. Should reflect some of the heat away, and prevent discoloration and the like.

As for the cooking surface, "non-stick" is oven safe up to a certain point. Not sure of the specs for the Costco set. But, I've cooked in the oven with that set from like 250F to 375F, no problems at all. For much hotter ovens, and broiling in particular, you'd be taking a much bigger chance of wrecking the non-stick. But as long as it's not for more than a few minutes, you should be okay. For example, I put my non-stick skillets under the broiler to set the top of egg dishes, or to brown the top. That's for like two minutes at most, so I'm okay with it.

The Costco is much less expensive than Calphalon, so I highly recommend it.

justen said...

I just got this set for Christmas. Nice and heavy. According to the brochure, it is oven-safe to 500F.

Patty said...

I love how the inside of this cookware cleans up with no trouble at all, but the outside is getting pretty stained. I'm afraid to use anything harsh to clean it...has anyone found a good way to keep the outside looking as nice as the inside?

Anonymous said...

I recently was given my mom's old set of Kirkland cookware for our travel trailer.They were in pretty bad shape. But someone told me about this recipe to clean them and I tried it. One cup of water , 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1/2 cup of bleach. Mix altogether and boil in the pan for 15 mins. Rinse thourghly and season with cooking oil. Do this once a year to keep your cookware clean and spotless! It worked and these pots and pans now look like the day my mom bought them ,years ago. They look so good I want to give them back to her. They are a good set and I don't think she should have bought a new set! But, Lucky me, they are mine now!

Vladimir said...

Kirkland Signature 14-Piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set is a really good dishes, I visited the site dedicated to hard anodized cookware, and decided to buy this set. I use this set for over 2 years, of course you had a bit to get used to it, but everything else was good, I recommend to all.

MagnoliaSouth said...

I personally do not buy into the *insert whatever here* is a health hazard conspiracy. Aluminum has joined the club in having its own debate on the so-called health hazard issues - even if it is Anodized - but that is not why I don't like it.

I don't like aluminum because I just don't like aluminum. I have to agree with the cast-iron fans and say that it is a much more superior surface.

However like other cons with cookware, cast iron has problems with tomatoes. However most of the time so long as the pot/pan is well seasoned and you don't let the tomatoes sit in it for long periods of time, it's all good.

Yep, love my cast iron.

Anonymous said...

I knew I wanted a set, but with a limited budget most of the recommended nonstick cookware sets by All-Clad or Calphalon was way out of my price range.

Shannon said...

Last year I upgraded from this Kirkland Cookware set to a stainless steel cookware set that costs hundreds of dollars more. While I do love my new stainless steel cookware set, I still keep my Kirkland set on-hand and still use it from time-to-time. If you can't afford a really expensive cookware set, Kirkland cookware is a really good option.

natdalton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellie Lyn said...

It is amazing how a nice new set of cookware will transform your cooking experience. I have had my Kirkland set for several years and they have been amazing. My little sister just moved away to college and was in need of pots and pans so I passed my Kirkland pots and pans down to her. Then I went out and bought the best cookware set at an amazing price.

Isaac said...

Is this [http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11624041] set the same as the one you mentioned? AS you said, the original version is no longer in stock. Kirkland pans also aren't being reviewed by consumer reports anymore, interestingly..

Kelsey said...

I received these pots and pans as a weeding gift in 2007. They were great for the first couple years, but now the outside of the pans and pots comes off on your hands. When washing them, the sponge turns black and so do my hands and there is a strong chemical and metal smell. I have never put them in the dishwasher, so that's not the problem. Did anyone else have this issue?

alastair cook said...

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Orville Honiwell said...

Kirkand pot made of 18/10 stainless steel, the tri-ply stand is invented to let even and resourceful transmit of heat. Each container and pot provides wonderful cooking Experience every time.Orville Honiwell

Calphalon Cookware Set said...

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