Frustrated in choosing the right stainless steel. Need good handles that won't get hot, good tight lids, from stove to oven occasionally. Looking for great pans without a loan from the bank! :]
I recommend All-Clad. Yes, it's on the expensive side but, it's a great investment. My stock pot cleans up like a dream and looks brand new after years of use. I would also recommend buying pieces that you need rather than a whole set.
I will second Trena here. All Clad is very reliable. Some pieces have copper cores which distribute heat evenly. I also agree that you should never buy a "set" of anything. Choose the pieces that you will use one by one. This goes for knives too. Finally, NEVER buy any product endorsed by Rachael Ray no matter cool the handles look.
I've had my Macy's Tools of the Trade cookware for over 20 years. Most of them are still kicking. The handle came off of the large pot, but aside from that they are great. Stay cool handles, good lids, stove top to oven. Yes, nicer sets would be awesome, but these work great.
My 12 year old AllClad set is as trusty as an old Chevy in-line 6. I've added a couple pieces along the way and, other than the crappy "non-stick" stuff (my impression only) it is all just great.
Yeah, it is not the cheapest cookware out there, but there is no doubt about the quality. Hand wash it and when necessary, use a little Barkeepers Friend.
Unfortunately, I am one of the folks who did not have a happy All Clad moment. I had a couple of pots from All Clad LTD2 series - the series was very flawed (and eventually discontinued). All Clad refused to honor the warranty. All Clad service rep was rude and disrespectful, and came up with at least three different scenarios on how I might have abused the pots. There are many similar customer stories on the web. The other lines are probably very good, but after this experience, I lost appetite for anything All Clad.
It could have been worse. You could have gone with "Emerilware". I think they sell that stuff by the pound now..."Because I designed it myself." You didn't know that Emeril was also metalurgist did you?
"Reasonably priced" is in the wallet of the beholder, of course. I've had a few All-Clad pieces for many years and been happy with them, but but there are options that offer comparable performance for much less money.
Regalware had a line of US-made tri-ply stainless cookware first called "Marcus" and then "American Kitchen." It's now discontinued (Regalware got out of the retail business altogether), but pieces show up on ebay and other places. It's a real bargain, about half the cost of All-Clad and comparable performance. I've had two saucepans and a skillet for a couple years and been very pleased with their quality and durability; I much prefer their handles to those of my All-Clad pans.
The Tramontina stuff is also worth a look. I wanted to hate it (it used to be available only at Walmart, but now other retail chains carry it), but it's good-quality cookware at a remarkably low price. Serious Eats did a cookoff between an All-Clad and Tramontina skillet, and the results may surprise you:
One way to go about balancing quality and budget is to splurge on the pans you'll use the most and save on those you'll use the least. For a skillet you'll use every day, spend $100 on All-Clad; for a stock pot you might drag out once a week, pick the $80 no-name piece from a restaurant supply store over the $300 All-Clad.
Excellent point, SFMiller. Restaurant supply is always a good option. Carbon steel pans are the work horses of most restaurant kitchens. Comparatively inexpensive, they look cool but with missuse they will warp.
For a large (maybe 14 "?) high sided skillet, I found a really great deal on a scanpan (no lining) at Sur La Table a couple of years ago. I also ended up with some Le Creuset 2 and 3 quart pots on a huge sale two years ago, maybe when they were introducing them, and they are doing well. For a large stockpot I was given a huge huge one from Macy's Martha Stewart line and it's been great. I also use my Le Creuset enameled pots much of the time and don't even use the stainless that often.