Is The Caraway Cookware Set Worth $400?
I put these attractive ceramic non-stick pans to the test.
I put these attractive ceramic non-stick pans to the test.
Imagine a world in which all pots and pans are non-stick. Your morning eggs would probably benefit from this, and you would, undoubtedly, spend less time cleaning. But would you lie awake at night and wonder, “At what cost?”
That’s the central question with Caraway, a relatively new company that specializes in a limited range of ceramic-coated non-stick cookware. And the literal cost is about $400 for a full set of four pans. A significant expense for sure, although perfectly in line with other mid-to-high-end pots and pans - and, when considering price, it’s important to keep in mind that Caraway products come with the added benefit of being photoshoot-ready at all times. Lighting? Doesn’t matter. Angle? Every side is their best side.
Unless you’re prop hunting, however, that’s not why you should buy something. The real reason you go Caraway is for their non-stick properties, which are, arguably, miraculous. Just ask the tahdig I made, which casually slithered out of my Caraway dutch oven as if it were rolling out of bed to send a few emails. That said, there are plenty of other less-expensive non-stick options out there, and it might feel odd to forsake stainless steel and go all-in on the non-stick lifestyle - so let me walk you through my home cook’s Caraway cookware set review and take a look at the pluses and minuses. (It’s mostly pluses.)
Great question. As I mentioned, Caraway is exclusively-non-stick, and their non-stick coating of choice is ceramic - as opposed to the traditional matte-black polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) that’s almost definitely covering a few of the skillets in the cabinet beneath your sink. In recent times, there’s been some skepticism toward that coating (which is no longer manufactured in the US using the hazardous compound PFOA), and that’s part of the reason why companies like Caraway, Great Jones, and Our Place are going the ceramic route.
Frankly, I’m on board. The downsides are that you aren’t supposed to use ceramic on high heat (you can still achieve crisp browning on low-to-medium), and the coating will eventually wear away. But any other non-stick coating will do the same, and if you actually manage to wear off all the ceramic on your Caraway pans, you should probably just take that as a sign that you sure do cook a lot, repeatedly, for years.
As for the actual bones of the Caraway pots and pans, they’re made from aluminum with stainless steel as the base. They’re noticeably heavy (which you can attribute to the stainless steel), and they retain heat quite well. A batch of silky congee felt like a natural fit in my sauce pan. And I ate it throughout the day. (Despite the congealing, cleanup took a matter of seconds.)
Technically, no. But “need” is such a funny and specific word. Whether you should go for a full Caraway set will ultimately depend on your own unique situation. If you want to save time washing, these pots and pans will grant that wish. (Some poorly executed dumplings stuck to one pan, but, even when I tried, scrambled eggs refused to leave a mess.) And if you’re looking to use less oil when cooking and aren’t constantly charring steaks to oblivion (high heat can damage the coating), Caraway could very well be the answer. Then again, any other less-expensive ceramic cookware set could also be the answer. But what you get with this brand is construction quality, heat retention, and, yes, that ineffable, throw-it-in-a-magazine-spread visual appeal. The cream color is lovely.
High heat and rapid heat changes are the enemy of ceramic. With that in mind, you should keep these pots and pans over low-to-medium heat, and, when cleaning, you should allow your Caraway products to cool down for a few minutes befor immersing them in water. If that sounds intense and high-maintenance, know that these are general guidelines. I heavily seared both steak and pork chops in my fry pan, and absolutely no cataclysm occurred.
Unlike the ceramic-coated Always Pan, Caraway cookware is also oven-safe - and I know this for a fact, because I roasted a whole chicken in my dutch oven. A shallower cast-iron pan would have made for crispier skin (because air circulation), but this bird was delicious and well-browned nonetheless. I ate it by myself.
Caraway recommends you hand-wash their products (as opposed to throwing them in a dishwasher), and, since very little stick to these pans, that’s really nothing to complain about. Use a soft sponge, and avoid any abrasive implements that could wear down the ceramic. (Metal is a big no no.)
Well, let’s add it all up. Caraway’s ceramic non-stick coating reliably prevents most unwanted sticking, and it turns the cleanup process into a brief, effortless parody of itself. You also won’t have to worry about noxious fumes the way you might with traditional PTFE coatings. Plus - at the risk of objectifying these high-quality objects - I’d like to point out once again that these pans are both sturdy and stunning.
And now we come to the costs and tradeoffs. The $400 price tag will be a hurdle for many, but it’s by no means offensive or out of line with what you’d pay for comparable products. In terms of day-to-day use, the only real “cost” of going all-non-stick will be the minor inconvenience related to heat issues. But if the vast majority of your cooking doesn’t revolve around crisping meat or fish, you probably won’t mind this. In the end, Caraway pots and pans are well-made, convenient, and suitable for most purposes. And if you have trouble justifying the price, consider the fact that they do indeed look like $400.
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