Pros: Non-stick; safe for metal utensils; oven-safe up to 500 F; heavy; versatile; stovetop-safe
Rating: 5 out of 5
First published 2/15/2005
One of the disadvantages of some of the Cook’s Essentials line of cookware is that if you want to put it in the oven, it isn’t safe past 350 degrees F. This particular set, however, is safe up to 500 degrees. It includes two-and-a-half-quart and four-quart casserole pans, each with its own lid and magnetic trivet. Both pans have heavy aluminum bases to distribute the heat and are coated with beautiful stainless steel on the outside and a very durable metal-utensil-safe non-stick surface (it’s treated with DuPont ScratchGuard) on the inside.
The handles are strongly riveted to the casserole pans and we’ve never had problems with them coming loose. The knobs on the lids are large and easy to grasp. They are metal, however, so they won’t stay cool when these pans are used on the stovetop. Oh, yes, these pans are safe for stovetop use, which makes them very versatile. I sometimes use the four-quart for dishes that are a little too high-volume for a skillet yet need a wide base. I also love these pans for those dishes that start out on the stovetop and then go into the oven. The sides are relatively high, which makes them more versatile than many casserole dishes, yet they retain a relatively squat shape, thus ensuring that they’re still perfect for casseroles as well.
One of my favorite features of the Cook’s Essentials line is the superior non-stick finish. It’s extremely effective, minimizing cleanup (my husband is perfectly happy to wash CE pots by hand since they require so little scrubbing, yet they’re also dishwasher-safe) and sticky or burned-on messes. This plus that aforementioned heavy aluminum bottom makes these pans perfect for high-temperature cooking where you have to worry about food burning onto the pot.
I like the size and shape of these two particular pots. I find the two-and-a-half-quart pot most useful; the four-quart is best for large amounts of food (big family, anyone?) or recipes that require a wide surface area. For example, it worked wonderfully for a pears in caramel port wine sauce dish that needed to go from stovetop to oven and required space for the pear halves to lie flat. The smaller casserole doubles as a saucepan or saucier, with rounded bottom corner that makes whisk use a snap and reduces burned-on messes in yet another way.
I have to admit that the idea of magnetic trivets is very clever. I don’t often use trivets, but when I do it’s nice to have ones that magnetically stick to the bottom of a pan so that when you move it from place to place on the counter the trivet goes with it.
Just be aware that for all the benefits of heavy cookware, there are always drawbacks. I definitely need both hands to maneuver these in and out of the oven and it pays to be a little careful with them.
Cook’s Essentials is available through QVC, and is less expensive than many other lines of cookware. Because of this I always worry that there’ll be some unexpected problem, yet the cookware so far has performed flawlessly for us. Of all the brands we’ve tried so far, CE is the one we use most frequently.