Tramontina makes several lines of cookware; this review is for Tramontina Tri-Ply clad stainless cookware.
You can find Tramontina at other retailers as well, but Amazon and Wal-Mart tend to have the best pricing.
Skip to the "At a Glance" section for basic info about the Tramontina tri-ply cookware sets. Skip to the Tramontina Cookware Set Recommendations section for our recommendations.
Tramontina Clad Stainless Tri-Ply Cookware Set Options at a Glance
Interestingly, the Chinese-made Tramontina is cheaper at Wal-Mart than it is on Amazon, while the Brazilian-made Tramontina is cheaper on Amazon (considerably cheaper) than at Wal-Mart. We list the best price for each set (so you don't have to remember).
Note: Table may not be visible in mobile view.
Tramontina Gourmet 18/10 Stainless Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set
80116/247DS (8 pc)
80116/248DS (10 pc)
(Made in Brazil)
2 skillets: 8"-10",
2 sauce pans: 2qt-3qt w/lids,
5qt Dutch oven.
2 skillets: 8"-10",
2 sauce pans: 1.5qt-3qt w/lids,
6qt stock pot w/lid,
3qt braiser w/lid.
2 skillets: 8"-10",
3 sauce pans: 1.5qt - 2qt - 3qt w/lids,
5qt deep sauté pan, 8-qt stock pot.
Price: app. $150. Skillets are too small. Not recommended.
Price: app. $260. Skillets too small, but otherwise a nice mix.
Price: app. $375. Skillets too small--and do you really need 3 small sauce pans? Not recommended.
8 pc. Tramontina Gourmet 18/10 Stainless Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set
3qt sauté pan (no lid),
1.5/3 qt sauce pans w/lids,
5qt Dutch oven w/lid.
Price: app. $150 on Amazon. Pan sizes are too small, no lid with sauté pan(!). Not recommended.
Member's Mark 12 pc Tramontina Stainless Tri-Ply Clad
(Made in Brazil)
2qt/3qt sauce pans w/lids,
5qt sauté pan w/lid.
5qt Dutch oven w/lid,
8qt stock pot w/lid.
Price: app. $360 on Amazon.
8 pc. Tramontina 80116/544DS Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set,
(Made in China)
2 skillets: 8"/10",
2 sauce pans: 2qt/3qt w/lids,
5 qt Dutch oven w/lid.
Price: app. $130. Pan sizes are too small.
10 pc. Tramontina 80116/566DS Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set,
2 skillets: 8"/10",
2 sauce pans: 1.5qt/3qt with lids,
8qt stock pot w/lid,
3 qt saute pan w/lid
Price: app. $180. Nice saute pan and stock pot, skillets and sauce pans too small.
12 pc. Tramontina 80116/567DS Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set,
(Made in China)
2 skillets: 10"/12",
2 sauce pans: 1.5/3qt w/lids,
5qt saute pan w/lid, 5qt Dutch oven w/lid, 12 qt stock pot w/lid.
Price: app. $300. Good pan sizes. Recommended: This is the set to get.
14 pc. Tramontina 80116/568DS Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set
(Made in China)
3 skillets: 8"/10"/12",
2 sauce pans: 2qt/3qt w/lids,
5 qt saute pan w/lid,
5qt Dutch oven,
8qt stock pot w/lid and pasta insert.
Price: app. $320. Good pan sizes, but do you need 3 skillets? Do you need the pasta insert?
Recommended if you want the pasta insert and smaller stock pot.
If you can't see the table, our recommendation is the 12 piece set from WalMart. It has the best pieces, including a 10" and 12" skillet, a 5 qt. sauté pan, and a 12 qt. stock pot, and 1.5 qt. and 3 qt. sauce pans. The 14 piece set is also good if you also want a pasta insert for just a little more. The smaller sets don't have 8" and 10" skillets and smaller sauté pans and stock pots, but if you want smaller pieces these are also excellent deals. We recommend buying from WalMart because the prices are better than on Amazon (unless you find a good sale going on--so always check both stores.)
About Tramontina (the Company)
Tramontina is a Brazilian company that makes cookware, utensils, mixing bowls, induction burners, and other kitchen items. They are best known in the US for their knives and their cookware.
Tramontina has several lines of cookware, including nonstick aluminum cookware, ceramic nonstick, enameled cast iron (note: different colors are separate Amazon listings), bottom-only clad stainless, and fully clad stainless. This review is for the Tramontina fully clad stainless cookware only (see the table above for details).
Tramontina was founded in 1911. It is privately owned with around 7,000 employees. They have several factories around the world. Their cookware is manufactured in China, Brazil, and the US. Most of the Tramontina tri-ply stainless cookware sold in the US is made in China. The quality level of their Chinese and Brazilian cookware is about the same, so there is no advantage to buying the Brazilian-made cookware unless you like the pieces offered in the set.
How does Tramontina clad stainless tri-ply cookware compare to All-Clad? The short answer is, probably more favorably than you'd think, given its much lower price. Tramontina has a reputation for economically priced, yet decent quality cookware. It's an excellent option for people with a limited budget who want clad stainless cookware.
Keep reading to find out more.
Clad Cookware: What It Is and Why It's Great
What Is Clad Cookware (And Why Is It Better)?
Cladding is the process that bonds different types of metals together, usually stainless steel and aluminum. The process was patented by John Ulam, who went on to found All-Clad--the original clad cookware--around 1970. If you want to read more about cladding, see the Wikipedia entry for All-Clad.
Stainless alone has terrible heating properties, but is durable and non-reactive. Aluminum by itself has excellent heating properties but is soft, scratches easily, and can leech into food.
Cladding capitalizes on the properties of both metals to produce what most people consider the best all-around cookware on the market: durable and non-reactive exterior with excellent heating inside.
The most common configuration of cladding has three layers and is known as tri-ply or 3-ply: stainless-aluminum-stainless, as shown in this Tramontina diagram for their Tri-Ply Clad line:
About Multiple Plies
When All-Clad's patent on tri-ply clad cookware expired in the early 2000s, two things happened. One was that hundreds of competitors began making tri-ply clad cookware (including Tramontina). The other one is that All-Clad introduced new, multiple-clad products to the market in an effort to stay ahead of the competition.
Today you can find clad cookware with 4-, 5-, and even 7 plies, with alternating layers of stainless and aluminum (or, less often, copper, such as All-Clad Copper Core). All-Clad and competitors have come out with 5-ply and 7-ply products.
Multiple plies have become very popular. Many people assume that more plies equals better performance. However, extra plies do not automatically improve the heating properties of cookware. In fact, extra layers of stainless actually impede the movement of heat through the pan rather than enhance it (remember, stainless steel has terrible heating properties). All-Clad's claim for their D5 5-ply cookware with a stainless steel center is that this extra layer slows down lateral heat transfer (that is, upwards from the burner to the cooking surface and food), causing the pan to heat more evenly. There is probably some truth to this, but good tri-ply heats very evenly without the extra stainless, so all the internal stainless does is slow down the heating process (it definitely does that).
We're not sure that's desirable.
Thus, more important than the number of plies is the thickness of the plies. That is to say, the thicker the total amount of aluminum (and/or copper), the better the heating properties are going to be. So rather than asking, "How many plies?", it's smarter to ask, "What's the total amount of aluminum and/or copper in this pan?".
3-ply clad stainless provides more than adequate heating properties and durability, as long as it contains enough aluminum (and/or copper) to provide fast, even heat transfer to food. Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad certainly fits the bill here.
There are exceptions to the "more plies are not better" rule. One is Demeyere cookware, which has added layers of heat-conductive metals rather than stainless, with its true virtue being the THICKNESS of those layers. Another is All-Clad Copper Core--its stainless-aluminum-copper-aluminum-stainless configuration outperforms most tri-ply, although not by a lot.
And you probably won't be surprised that the better performance of these options is reflected in their price (and if you're on a budget, probably not worth the higher cost).
About Full Cladding Vs. Bottom Cladding
Some clad cookware has cladding only on the bottom: a cladded disc is bonded to stainless steel sides, so only the bottom has the excellent heat spreading properties. This type of cookware is called "bottom-clad," "disc-bottom," or "impact-bonded." You can tell a bottom-clad pot by the obvious seam, or break, where the bottom is welded to the pot, as shown here:
Bottom-clad cookware is typically less expensive because it's cheaper to make. In most cases it doesn't perform as well as fully clad cookware. The abrupt break where the disc meets the sides of the pan causes heat to simply stop transferring very well.
This is not what you want in a skillet, which uses the sloped sides to help cook food. However, in the case of sauce pans, stock pots, and Dutch ovens, bottom cladding isn't actually a huge drawback--these pots are typically used for liquids, which create their own convective currents and are less reliable on the pan itself to spread heat evenly.
What about sauté pans, which many people use as a skillet? It really depends on your cooking style and how you'll use the pan. If you use a sauté pan like a skillet (and many people do), you'll want one that's fully clad. If you use it more for poaching and braising, you can get away with a bottom clad one.
The upshot? If you don't care about a matching set, you can save a few bucks by buying disc-bottomed sauce pans, stock pots, and possibly sauté pans as well, and put that money toward a high-end skillet.
If you think you've come across a stupendous deal on clad cookware, make sure it's not bottom-clad. Bottom-clad cookware is cheaper than fully clad cookware, and the difference isn't always apparent until you read the fine print.
Bottom-clad sauce pans, stock pots, and Dutch ovens are actually fine because they're primarily used for liquids, which spread heat evenly through natural convection. But don't skimp on your skillet. You should buy the best skillet you can afford, always with full cladding. (Same goes for a saucier, a less common pan with curved sides for whisking/reducing sauces.)
While there are excellent brands of disc-clad cookware, you probably aren't going to find fabulous deals on them. They tend to be expensive (e.g., Demeyere, Fissler, and Sitram).
NOTE: Tramontina makes several lines of bottom-clad ("impact bonded") stainless cookware, so be careful you're buying what you want. All of the Tramontina cookware we recommend in this review is fully clad.
How Does Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad Compare to All-Clad D3?
All-Clad introduced clad cookware to the world, and it is still the brand against which all other brands are measured. A few brands are better (e.g., Demeyere), most are worse, and a few are very, very close--so close that you almost can't tell the difference. Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad is one that's very close to All-Clad D3 (i.e., tri-ply) in construction and heating properties.
In comparing Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad to All-Clad D3, these are the factors we looked at:
- Heating properties
- Reactivity and Durability
- Design (pan shape, handle shape, rims, overall aesthetics)
- Ease of Cleaning
- Country of Origin.
We'll compare Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad cookware to All-Clad D3 cookware ("D3") in each category.
When trying to choose which Tramontina set to buy, be more concerned about the individual pieces than about the country of origin. The Brazilian and the Chinese sets are nearly identical in quality, but we think the Chinese sets offer the better mix of pieces, particularly the 12-piece set, with its 2 large skillets and 12 quart stock pot.
Heating properties are what make or break cookware. No heat source provides even heating, so there are always going to be hotter and cooler areas going into a pan. The pan's job is to even out the heat and spread it throughout the pan.
Cheap pans do a poor job of this. If you've ever used a pan where your food burns in some spots while it barely cooks in others, or your sauces bubble around the edges (where the heat is) while the interior just sits there, then you know how frustrating bad cookware can be.
Good clad cookware solves this problem to a large degree. Unfortunately, not all clad cookware is created equally.
How well a clad pan spreads heat is related to the amount of aluminum and/or copper comprising the interior layer(s) of the pan. Some manufacturers skimp by using thinner layers of aluminum. If this is the case, the pan won't have enough heft to spread heat evenly and rapidly.
It's surprisingly easy to tell how well a pan will spread heat simply its weight: cheap pans are lightweight and feel flimsy--like they might warp easily--while better quality pans are going to be heavy and have a solid feel.
So, what are we looking for, exactly, as far as weight and pan thickness? We look to All-Clad D3 (tri-ply) for the industry standard: All-Clad D3 has a total wall thickness of about 2.6mm and an internal aluminum layer of 1.7mm. An All-Clad 12-inch D3 skillet weighs about 3.7 lbs. This provides enough aluminum for fast, even heating, enough stainless for a durable exterior, and yet not so much of either that the pan is unwieldy and hard to use.
A Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad 12" comes in at an 2.5mm total pan thickness and weighs about 3.5 lbs. Testing shows that Tramontina pans heat slightly less evenly than All-Clad, but our testing shows that the performance is very, very close. All-Clad distributes heat a little more evenly, while Tramontina retains heat a little better. This indicates that All-Clad has slightly more aluminum and Tramontina has slightly more stainless steel. But the differences are so small that they are practically indistinguishable.
With All-Clad D3 costing more than twice as much, that's saying a lot, isn't it?
So while we don't have exact specs on how much aluminum the Tramontina tri-ply contains--because we haven't cut open a pan and measured it--we can tell by its weight and its performance that it compares very favorably to All-Clad.
The All-Clad tri-ply 12" skillet weighs 3.7 lbs and has a wall thickness of 2.6mm. The Tramontina tri-ply 12" skillet weighs 3.45 lbs and has a wall thickness of 2.5mm. These near-identical measurements result in near-identical performance, with Tramontina performing very close to, but slightly worse overall than All-Clad--but costing less than half as much.
Reactivity and Durability
Reactivity refers to how cookware reacts with food and other substances (e.g., air, water, cleaning solutions, etc). For example, aluminum is soft and can leech into food, and cast iron will react with acidic foods, tainting the flavor and leeching iron into the food (it's not toxic, but it affects the flavor).
Most clad cookware is made with 18/10 stainless cooking surfaces, including Tramontina. This is one of the least reactive and most corrosion resistant grades of stainless steel.
Durability refers to cookware's ability to withstand heavy use and abuse and still perform well. Again, stainless is one of the most durable materials used to make cookware.
However, not all stainless cookware is created equally. Chinese-made cookware in particular can sometimes be made with inferior grades of stainless steel which means they'll be more prone to rusting and corrosion (that is, less durable). And if the layers are very thin, they will also be prone to warping.
If you want to read more about this--why Chinese stainless steel can be inferior--check out this thread on Reddit. If you've ever wondered why some Chinese cookware is priced so low that it seems too good to be true, this will help explain it.
The moral here is not to avoid Chinese products completely, but to buy wisely. Tramontina uses high grade, 18/10 stainless on their cooking surfaces and high grade 18/0 stainless on the exterior for induction compatibility. And as we already said, they use thick enough layers to ensure their products will last, perform well, and resist warping.
If you've ever wondered why some tri-ply stainless is so much less expensive than other brands, it's often in the quality and the amounts of the steel and aluminum used. Chinese-made tri-ply in particular can be made with inferior stainless because there are fewer quality controls in some Chinese factories.
Not all Chinese-made cookware is poor quality, and in fact some of it is very good. Tramontina uses 18/10 stainless on the interior and 18/0 stainless on the exterior that seems to be of the same quality as All-Clad.
Design: Overall Aesthetics, Handles, Lids, Rims, Pan Shape, and Ease of Cleaning
Many elements of design are subjective--basically meaning that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But there are some design elements that make cookware better and easier to use than its competitors. Some of the design elements we think are important are the overall aesthetics, lids, rims, and ease of cleaning.
Is the cookware well made? Does it have a nice heft? Is it pretty? Is it easy to handle and store?
"Pretty" may not seem like a good description for something as utilitarian as cookware, but it is. If you don't find it aesthetically pleasing, it won't be a pleasure to use, which could mean the difference between enjoying your time in the kitchen--or dreading it.
The good news is that the prettiest cookware is often the best made, too. People have an intuitive eye for quality, so what you like is often going to be high quality.
The Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad is beautiful cookware--every bit as beautiful as All-Clad. It's also as durable, and scores very well in head-to-head performance comparisons against All-Clad.
Handles are a big deal in cookware. They can make the difference between a pan being easy to handle or awkward--and even dangerous--to handle.
A lot of people despise the handles on All-Clad tri-ply; they say the U-shaped groove cuts into their hands and is uncomfortable to use. It looks like this:
We don't mind the All-Clad handles and like that you can put your thumb in the groove and get an amazing amount of stability. But it's a fair criticism from people who don't use the handles this way.
Tramontina handles are very different. They're hollow stainless, which keeps them cool, and they're a squared-off roundish shape that's really easy for most people to grip. In fact, Tramontina handles tend to get higher marks from most users and reviewers than All-Clad handles.
The handles are also forked where they attach to the pan. This means air flows through the handle, keeping it cooler:
The short handles--such as those on stock pots--and lid handles aren't quite as critical, but Tramontina has made them large enough for easy grasping, as shown here:
Like All-Clad, Tramontina handles are riveted to the pans. Thus, all the pans (and lids) have rivets that can be food-traps, gathering crud and being hard to clean around. This is one drawback of both Tramontina and All-Clad, as well as most other brands of cookware.
Lids (Stainless Is Best)
Many lower-cost tri-ply sets have glass lids instead of stainless lids. We do not recommend glass lids. They're heavier, they break more easily, and they're only good up to 300F in the oven (stainless lids are good up to at least 500F). And since glass lids are a way manufacturers cut corners, they're also a good indication that the pans themselves might not be very high quality.
Tramontina, though an economy brand, doesn't cut corners the way some other comparable brands do. All Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad cookware has stainless lids. This is a big plus, especially considering the fantastic price point.
Some cookware has curved lips for easy pouring. This is a nice feature because it reduces drips, and for some people, it's a necessity.
Only the Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad skillet has a lip for pouring; the rest of the pieces have straight sides. This isn't a dealbreaker by any means; straight sides don't necessarily mean pouring will cause a mess. (All-Clad tri-ply has the same design, and is one of the most popular lines of cookware ever made.)
Here you can see that the skillet has a lip, while the sauce pan does not:
Pan shape is an important consideration, particularly for skillets.
Some skillets have long sides and a small flat cooking surface. Some skillets have steep sides and a larger flat cooking surface. Compare the All-Clad skillet, left, to the Tramontina skillet, right:
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In general, you want your skillets to have as much flat cooking surface as possible. You can see that the Tramontina skillet has slightly longer sides and a slightly smaller flat cooking surface than the All-Clad skillet. The difference is even bigger than it probably looks: the All-Clad 12-inch skillet has a 9.75-inch diameter of flat cooking surface, while the Tramontina 12-inch skillet has an 8.25-inch diameter of flat cooking surface.
It's not a deal breaker to have a smaller cooking surface. In fact, a lot of high end skillets have this design. But you will see a considerable difference in usability between a 10-inch skillet and a 12-inch skillet.
We recommend the 12-inch over the 10-inch no matter which brand you buy, but if you're going with the Tramontina skillet, we strongly recommend the 12-inch. It's just a better all-around pan for most people.
You also want the rest of your pans to have straight sides. It's okay if they slope a little as long as there are no curves, and if opening is not narrower than the base. That design may be pretty, but it is not functional. Fancy shapes are harder to clean, harder to pour from, and harder to scrape food out of.
Imagine roasting a chicken in the pot on the left vs. the one on the right:
Which one looks easier to use (and wash)?
All the Tramontina tri-ply pieces have great, functional pan shapes (although the skillets could have a little more cooking surface, as we said).
Ease of Cleaning
Compared to nonstick cookware, no stainless is going to get high marks for being easy to clean. Stainless steel is sticky (say that three times fast!) and there's no getting around it. Even so, it's so durable and performs so well, most people prefer to live with the stickiness rather than use nonstick, which is notoriously fragile and short-lived.
Tramontina cookware is as highly polished and finished as All-Clad and other premium brands. This polished, mirror finish is great not only for beauty, but it makes the stainless surface about as easy to clean as it gets. You can see the high polish surface in this photo:
So while it's not nonstick, Tramontina tri-ply is comparable to other stainless brands. including All-Clad, for ease of cleaning.
One drawback of the mirror finish is that it shows scratches and water spots more easily than a lesser-finished surface. But a lot of people prefer it anyway because it's prettier.
How to Keep Stainless as Easy to Clean as Possible
- Heat pan, add oil, and don't add food until the oil is hot. The hot oil creates a barrier that helps food to stick less.
- Deglaze the pan with water, stock, or wine after removing the meat. This not only removes cooked on bits of food, but also makes a delicious sauce to serve with your meal.
Some people also swear by seasoning stainless cookware, much like you can make cast iron practically nonstick by seasoning. This article on Epicurious explains how.
Country of Origin (Quality Issues to Avoid)
We already discussed this above, but let's revisit quality and durability from the country-of-origin stanpoint.
Country of origin is more of an issue when you're buying an unknown or unproven brand, particularly if it's an inexpensive one: the less you pay, the greater the chance that the cookware is going to have some fatal flaw (too thin so it warps, poor quality stainless that will rust, etc.).
Most cookware is made in China these days, including most Tramontina cookware. This is only a bad thing if you don't know anything about the brand. There's less quality control overseas, so it's possible that cookware can look as good on paper as another brand, yet not be as good.
Here are some of the ways manufacturers cut costs:
- Using Inferior stainless steel that will rust, pit, and corrode
- Using poor cladding techniques that will cause pans to bubble and separate
- Using too-thin layers of stainless which can result in warping
- Using too-thin layers of aluminum so the pan is a poor heat conductor
- Not polishing the surface as well, causing the cookware to be "stickier" and harder to clean
- Glass lids and plastic/silicone handles (these may sound good, but the durability just isn't there).
There are a couple of ways to avoid these pitfalls. One is to buy American made All-Clad cookware at much greater expense, or European cookware, such as Demeyere, at even more expense. Another is to do your homework (like you are right now by reading this review) and only buy reputable Chinese brands, like Tramontina.
As already mentioned, Tramontina also makes clad stainless tri-ply cookware in Brazil. This cookware is a little more expensive than their Chinese cookware, but with no discernible difference in quality, we recommend the Chinese Tramontina. Not only is it cheaper, but for most people, it has a better mix of pan types and sizes, particularly in the 12 piece and 14 piece sets.
About Amazon Reviews
Just because a product is highly rated on Amazon doesn't mean it's going to be a great product. This is especially true for cookware.
People give positive reviews for many reasons: they may be inexperienced with the product, or they may have written the review before they realized the issues with the product, then forgotten to update their positive review (this happens all.the.time).
Most people are honest, but they don't always have the full picture when they write their review. (There are also some dishonest reviewers around, too, though this is less common than it used to be because Amazon has cracked down on this practice.)
Our advice: Before you decide to buy, read enough of the negative reviews to get a feel for a product's drawbacks. And read a few other review sites, too (like this one) to get a more objective viewpoint and more detailed information.
Information is key! The more you educate yourself, the more likely you'll get a product--in this case, cookware--that you will love. So while Amazon reviews are helpful, you have to read them carefully, and ideally, supplement them with other sources of info.
For more information on how to get the most out of user reviews, see our article Can You Trust Amazon Reviews?
Why Is Tramontina So Much Less Expensive than All-Clad D3?
Cost is, of course, a major factor for most people when buying cookware. We all want the best product we can afford, but we don't want to pay more than necessary.
Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad cookware is economically priced, and yet as we've already stated numerous times, its quality rivals that of All-Clad D3.
How can this be, when All-Clad D3 is 3-4 times the price of Tramontina?
The main reason is that All-Clad D3 is made in the USA, so production costs are higher. All-Clad has shipped many of their products overseas to cut costs, but their clad cookware plants remain here in the US.
It's an important part of the All-Clad prestige that it's made in the USA. People who buy All-Clad want an American-made product. Even if All-Clad is overcharging for their products (and we're not saying they are), people are willing to pay a premium price for American-made cookware.
If you don't mind buying cookware made overseas, you can get much better prices for cookware almost as good (if not as good) as American made All-Clad. Tramontina cookware certainly falls into this category.
And if you absolutely don't want Chinese-made cookware, Brazilian Tramontina is a good option--although the Brazilian Tramontina seems identical to their Chinese product (except the Chinese sets offer a better mix of pieces at a better price).
Buying Sets Vs. Buying Individual Pieces
Since this review is primarily for cookware sets, we thought a section on how to pick out sets would be helpful.
Advantages of Buying a Set
- You'll get the best price-per-piece of cookware.
- You get a lot of cookware at once--best option if you're just starting out and need a lot.
- Matching cookware.
Disadvantages of Buying a Set
- It's a bigger outlay of cash all at once.
- You probably won't get every piece you need (e.g., a roasting pan)
- Conversely, you could get pieces you won't use (e.g., an 8" frying pan).
- All the pieces will be the same quality (and you may want to have a higher quality skillet and a lower quality--and therefore less expensive--stock pot, for example).
The Goal of Buying a Cookware Set
Your goal when buying a cookware set should be to get one with as many usable pieces as possible, and no unusable pieces at all.
In other words, you should buy the largest set you can find that doesn't have pieces you won't use.
Even if a bigger set has a cheaper price per piece, so what? If you're not going to use certain pieces, they're not a bargain at any price.
Sometimes you can't always know. You might think you'll use the 8-inch skillet, for example, but then find that it's really too small for much of anything, and you should have gone for the set with the 10-inch and 12-inch skillet. Or you might think an 8-quart stock pot sounds enormous, but you find that you really like to make (and freeze) large batches of stock, and the 8-quart is a little too small for that.
You're always going to need another piece or two, because no set has everything. But better to buy pieces you need separately than to have any pieces of cookware that you don't use.
What to Look for in a Cookware Set
You know you're going to have to supplement the set with some individual pieces. For example, we've never seen a set that contains a roasting pan--and who doesn't need a roasting pan?
So if you can't get everything, then what should you get? What's the best mix?
Here's what to look for in a cookware set.
1. Pan Types
Make sure that you'll use all the pans in a set. Do you really need two skillets and a sauté pan? (You might, but make sure you'll use them all. Hint: it's best if they're all different sizes.) Will you use that pasta insert? (Hint: If you own a colander or strainer, you don't really need it.) And how many small sauce pans will you actually use? Does it make sense to get a 1.5 quart sauce pan and a 2 quart sauce pan? Wouldn't you rather have one small one and one quite a bit bigger? (Hint: You can't easily boil long pasta in anything smaller than 3 quarts.)
Make sure the set has a good mix of pan types that you will actually use.
2. Pan Sizes
Look at the pan sizes, too.
One of the biggest drawbacks with most cookware sets is that the pan sizes are too small. And this is true no matter what the price point: even expensive sets tend to have too-small skillets so that when you're ready to supplement your set, you have to buy the bigger, more expensive 12-inch skillet (for example).
Most of the Tramontina sets are like this. Most have two small skillets--an 8-inch and a 10-inch. If you're cooking for more than one person, the best all-around skillet size is really a 12-inch. A 12-inch skillet ensures that you've got plenty of flat cooking surface for pan frying; with a smaller skillet, it will be a constant battle for flat real estate if you're cooking more than one chicken breast, pork chop, or burger at a time. And remember: you can always use a larger skillet for a smaller amount of food, but you can't use a smaller skillet for a larger amount of food.
Sets often come with two smallish sauce pans, too. (One of the Tramontina sets comes with three small sauce pans, yikes.) What's small? 1-quart, 1.5-quart, and 2-quart are all small sauce pans. A 3-quart is at the bottom edge of medium (and we believe that a 4 quart sauce pan is a lot more usable). So, a good mix of sauce pans would be a 1.5-quart and a 3-quart, or a 2-quart and a 3-quart. A set shouldn't have a 1.5-quart and a 2-quart; they're too close in size (and both awfully small).
And if the largest sauce pan in the set is 3 quarts, you're probably going to end up buying a bigger one eventually. So no more than two sauce pans, please, unless one of them is at least 4 quarts. (None of the Tramontina sets have any sauce pans over 3 quarts. However, most have a 5 quart Dutch oven, which you can use as a large sauce pan, if necessary..)
As for the larger pieces in a set--e.g., Dutch oven and stock pot--what works for you depends a lot on your personal cooking style. You may get more use out of a 5-quart Dutch oven than an 8-quart stock pot, for example. But both of these are nice sized, usable pieces that should work for most people. However, if you're really into bone broth or making and freezing big batches of soup or stew, a 12-quart stock pot is going to serve you much better.
Once again: you won't get everything you need in one set--just be sure you get as many usable pieces as possible. For most people, this means that larger pieces are better.
3. Pan Shape
Pan shape is most important for skillets (as discussed above), but can matter for other pieces, too. If you don't like the shapes of the pans, or if they're hard to clean or get food in and out of, you won't use them. Skillets should ideally have short, narrow sides with a lot of flat surface area instead of long, sloped sides with a small flat cooking area.
Our biggest complaint about Tramontina cookware is probably the skillet shape: it's a bit too wok-like with a too-small flat cooking area. Fortunately, you can work around this by buying the set with the larger skillets, or supplementing with a 12-inch skillet for not a lot more money (at least if you go with Tramontina).
What Individual Pieces Will You Need After Buying a Set?
The answer to this question will depend on which set you choose and your cooking style.
Having said that, regardless which tri-ply stainless set you buy, you will almost certainly need:
- A roasting pan (no set we know of includes a roasting pan)
- A nonstick skillet (10-inch is probably a good size if you're using it mostly for eggs--we like these cast aluminum ones by All-Clad, and here's one by Tramontina that gets good reviews.)
- A larger sauce pan (most sets come with a 3-quart or smaller sauce pan, and a 4- or 5-quart is best for making pasta and boiling potatoes (like this one from Tramontina)
- A deep sauté pan (you may not need it, but it's an extremely versatile piece of cookware that you can use for everything from frying to braising to soups to stews to--you guessed it--sauteeing).
Most of these supplementary pieces require minimal expense, with the exception of the deep sauté pan (because it's from All-Clad and we haven't found one we like as much from any other brand). You don't need a clad roasting pan or nonstick skillet (in fact, we recommend against them), and for a sauce pan, you can get away with bottom cladding if you're trying to save some money.
With a set plus these pieces--plus a few sheet pans which are good for everything--your kitchen will be well-stocked for cookware.
Chinese Tramontina Cookware Vs. Brazilian Tramontina Cookware
Tramontina manufactures their Tri-Ply Clad cookware in China and Brazil, with both sets now widely available in the US. While you may assume that the Brazilian cookware is higher quality, the differences between Chinese and Brazilian Tramontina tri-ply Clad cookware is negligible. Quality-wise and construction-wise, they are, for all practical purposes, identical.
Up until a few years ago, the vast majority of Tramontina stainless tri-ply cookware sold in the US was made in China. This has all recently changed (we're not sure why). You can now find both Chinese and Brazilian Tramontina cookware on Amazon and at Wal-Mart, as well as at other retailers. Both Chinese and Brazilian Tramontina are induction compatible, made from 18/10 stainless, NSF certified, and come with a lifetime warranty (which Tramontina seems happy to honor by most accounts). The Brazilian cookware costs a little more, but that may have to do with production costs--it probably costs less to make cookware in China.
The Brazilian Tramontina has "precision cast riveted" handles, which are not listed as a feature on the Chinese Tramontina. However, the Chinese pieces do have riveted handles, so this probably means very little in terms of a quality difference.
The real difference in the sets is in their individual pieces. We think the Chinese-made 12-piece set offers the best mix of pieces--2 big skillets, 2 nice sauce pans, and a 12 quart stock pot vs. the 2 small skillets, 3 small sauce pans, and an 8 quart stock pot in the Brazilian 12 piece set. In fact, we don't really recommend any of the Brazilian sets at all.
If you really want the Brazilian set, pay attention to the size and type of pieces in the set. One of the Brazilian 8 piece sets, for example (the one available at Costco) has a sauté pan with no lid. This may be a difference in cultures, but in the US, sauté pans are almost universally sold with lids because sauté pans are used for wet cooking methods like poaching.
Premium Build Quality
Precision Cast Riveted Handle
Tramontina Cookware Set Recommendations
All the Tramontina tri-ply stainless cookware is comparable to All-Clad for durability, design, and ease of cleaning. It ranks slightly below All-Clad for performance, and very much above All-Clad on price (most pieces and sets being less than half what you'll pay for A/C). Overall, most home chefs should be very happy with Tramontina tri-ply cookware.
All that's left, then, is getting a set with the pieces you want in the size you want. Here are our recommendations for Tramontina tri-ply sets.
TRK Favorite: Tramontina Tri-Ply Stainless Chinese 12-Piece Set (80116/567DS)
Our favorite set from Tramontina is the Chinese 12-piece. It's hard to find a cookware set that doesn't have at least one or two "filler" pieces--that is, pieces that you're not going to use (small skillets, small sauce pans, etc.). But every piece in this set is usable.
If you're starting out or starting over, this is the set to get. It has everything you need and nothing you don't.
This set includes:
1-1.5 qt. sauce pan with lid
1-3 qt. sauce pan with lid
1-5 qt. sauté pan with lid
1-5-qt. Dutch oven with lid
1-12 qt. stock pot with lid.
The two large skillets alone are more than a third of the price of this set (about $110), and these are the right sizes to get.
This is the only Tramontina set with a 12-quart stock pot. The others come with 8-quart stock pots. The only issue with the larger one is storage space, but if you have that, a 12-quart stock pot is the way to go. You can save so much money using your chicken carcasses for homemade stock and freezing it. You'll never buy canned chicken stock again.
The 5-quart sauté pan is also a really nice piece. You can use it like an extra skillet, or use it for poaching, braising, or other "wet" cooking methods. The lid will also fit the 12-inch skillet, so that saves you from having to buy an additional lid. (The Dutch oven lid will fit the 10-inch skillet, as well.)
Overall, this is a great set. You're going to be hard-pressed to find this many great pieces in any set. No other manufacturer that we know of offers such a fabulous mix of pieces.
Tramontina offers: NSF certification, a lifetime warranty, induction compatibility, a mirror-finish, and performance very close to All-Clad. It's also oven and dishwasher safe.
Compare to Tramontina's other 12-piece sets:
12 Piece Brazilian Set: (see it on Amazon for the best price) This set has smaller skillets and a smaller stock pot (8 quart) for almost $100 more--the Chinese set is a no brainer.
12 Piece Sam's Club Set: (see it on Amazon) This set has the same pieces as the Chinese 12-piece except for the stock pot, which is an 8-quart. However, if you are a Sam's Club member, you can probably find this set for under $200--an amazing deal for a set with those 2 large skillets!
Buy the Tramontina Chinese 12 piece set (80116/567DS) on amazon now:
buy the Tramontina Chinese 12 piece set at wal-mart now
Note: We listed the best price options here. For more buying options, see the table at the top of this review.
Runner Up: Tramontina Tri-Ply Stainless Chinese 14-Piece Set (80116/568DS)
For about $20 more than the 12 piece set, you can get essentially the same set with an extra skillet and a pasta insert. The main difference is that the stock pot is smaller--8 quarts instead of 12. But otherwise this is a very nice set.
This set includes:
1-1.5 qt. sauce pan with lid
1-3 qt. sauce pan with lid
1-5 qt. sauté pan with lid
1-5-qt. Dutch oven with lid
1-8 qt. stock pot with lid and pasta insert.
Once again, this set really has no filler pieces, except maybe the 8-inch skillet. We prefer the 12 piece set for its larger stock pot, but if you don't mind the smaller stock pot and really want the pasta insert, go with this set. It's like getting an extra skillet and a pasta insert for $20 (hard to beat).
If you buy the pasta insert separately, you will pay about $50--considerably more than the cost here. So if you have a need for all the other pieces, it's a great set at a fabulous price.
As with the 12 piece set, Tramontina offers: NSF certification, a lifetime warranty, induction compatibility, a mirror-finish, and performance very close to All-Clad. It's also oven and dishwasher safe.
Buy the Tramontina Chinese 14 piece set (80116/568DS) on amazon now:
Buy the Tramontina Chinese 14 piece set at wal-mart (best price!!) now:
Best Smaller Set: Tramontina Tri-Ply Stainless 8-Piece Set (80116/544DS)
Approximate Price: $130-$150
See the Chinese 8-pc set at Wal-Mart (best price!)
See the Brazilian 8-pc set on Amazon (best price!)
If you're looking for a smaller set, the 8 piece set is a decent option. The Brazilian and Chinese sets have identical pieces in them, with the Brazilian set costing about $20 more.
This set includes:
1-2 quart sauce pan with lid
1-3 quart sauce pan with lid
1-5 quart Dutch oven, with lid.
Supplementary pieces: You will most likely need to supplement with a 12-inch skillet. You may also want a larger sauce pan and a nonstick skillet.
But the rest of the pieces are all really nice starter pieces that you will use for many years.
Remember that Tramontina offers: NSF certification, a lifetime warranty, induction compatibility, a mirror-finish, and performance very close to All-Clad. It's also oven and dishwasher safe.
Buy the Tramontina Chinese 8 piece set at wal-mart now:
Buy the Tramontina Brazilian 8 piece set On amazon now:
Note: Tramontina also sells a different 8-piece Brazilian set with one 8" skillet and a 3-quart saute pan with no lid. We do not recommend that set, but you can see it in the table at the top of this review.
10 Piece Tramontina Clad Tri-Ply Cookware Set
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the Brazilian and the Chinese 10 Piece set (which we do not recommend, but included for comparison).
Brazilian 10 Piece Set (80116/248DS)
Approximate Price: $260
See the Brazilian 10 piece set on Amazon (best price!)
The Brazilian 10 piece set includes:
1-1.5 quart sauce pan w/lid
1-3 quart sauce w/lid
6qt stock pot w/lid
3qt braiser w/lid.
buy brazilian 10 pc set at amazon now:
buy brazilian 10 pc set at wal-mart now:
Chinese 10 Piece Set (80116/566DS)
Approximate Price: $180
See the Chinese 10 piece set at Wal-Mart (best price!)
The Chinese 10 piece set includes:
1-1.5 quart sauce pan w/lid
1-3 quart sauce w/lid
1-8 quart stock pot w/lid
1-3 quart sauté pan w/lid.
BUY Chinese 10 PC SET AT AMAZON NOW:
BUY CHINESE 10 PC SET AT WAL-MART NOW:
Because of the small skillet sizes, we don't recommend either of these sets. The 3 quart brasier in the Brazilian set is a nice piece that you can use instead of a Dutch oven, but 3 quarts is small--about the diameter of a 10-inch skillet with deeper sides. We prefer the 5qt Dutch oven available in the 12 pc and 8 pc sets.
Same goes for the 3 quart sauté pan in the Chinese set: it's a nice piece, but on the small side. And with the long handle, you can't use it in the oven as easily as the brasier (or a Dutch oven). So this set essentially has no good pieces for use in the oven.
So while we prefer the braiser that comes in the Brazilian set, is it really worth paying $80 more for? Especially considering the small skillet sizes? Probably not.
This is the dilemma with the 10-piece sets: a poor choice of pieces and not at a good price. And this is why we recommend the 12 piece or the 8 piece Tramontina sets.
Supplementary pieces likely needed if you buy this set: a 12-inch skillet, a roasting pan, a Dutch oven, a larger sauce pan, and a nonstick skillet.
Tramontina Individual Piece Recommendations
If you want to buy pieces rather than a set, or want to supplement a set with a few more pieces, here are our recommendations.
Tramontina 12-Inch Skillet
Approximate cost: $30 (Chinese), $50 (Brazilian)
See the Tramontina 12" skillet at Wal-Mart (best price!)
This skillet is a bit wok-shaped, with a small flat cooking surface (about 8" compared to All-Clad's 9"). Even so, the price of this skillet makes it well worth your consideration. At around $30 for the Chinese version (which is where the links go), it's hard to beat: highly polished stainless, induction compatible, lifetime warranty...everything you need in a piece of cookware.
Tramontina Nonstick Skillet
Approximate price: $40
Tramontina makes several nonstick skillets, and most of them get excellent customer ratings. We like this one because it has rivetless cooking surface, a nice shape, and a high grade, PFOA-free coating. (Which means it's PTFE, so if you don't want that, check out this ceramic nonstick skillet from Tramontina, which also gets excellent reviews).
This particular skillet isn't always available at Wal-Mart, but you can check out all of their Tramontina nonstick products by clicking here.
For nonstick skillets, we think a 10-inch is large enough, unless you're routinely cooking eggs for a crowd.
For nonstick, we also recommend the inexpensive aluminum skillets rather than the clad stainless because the nonstick coating is going to wear off about 50x sooner than the clad stainless construction is going to wear out--so why pay clad stainless prices?
In fact, if you want to save a little more, you can buy this set from All-Clad, which are less (when bought together), than the Tramontina nonstick skillets. This set of two from Anolon Copper Nouvelle also provide excellent quality at a surprisingly reasonable price.
For more information, check out our article The Best Nonstick Skillet: Everything You Need to Know Before You Buy.
buy tramontina nonstick skillet now from amazon:
Tramontina Roasting Pan
Unless you're a vegetarian, you need a roasting pan, and preferably one large enough to fit a medium-sized turkey. This Tramontina roasting pan is an excellent option. It has roomy handles--very important when you're grabbing the heavy pan from a hot oven. It's deeper than most roasting pans, which is great for a lot of reasons, and it comes with this great rack that also has roomy handles for getting that rib roast or chicken out of the pan easily.
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BUY TRAMONTINA roasting pan NOW FROM Wal-Mart:
Drawbacks of Tramontina Clad Tri-Ply
While overall we really like this cookware, no cookware is perfect, and the Tramontina is no exception.
Here's what we don't like about the Tramontina cookware overall:
- Skillet shape is too wok like without enough flat cooking surface
- Except for the Chinese 12 piece and 14 piece sets, the skillets and sauce pans are too small (meaning you will have to supplement with bigger pieces)
- The heating performance isn't quite as good as All-Clad, although it's very close.
On the other hand, Tramontina cookware is durable and high quality, and costs a fraction of what All-Clad will set you back. Most home chefs consider it equal in performance and durability to All-Clad.
So if you're on a budget, these drawbacks are small in comparison to the value you get.
For the price, Tramontina tri-ply clad stainless cookware offers exceptional value. It performs almost as well as All-Clad (the industry standard) while costing less than half the price, and offers induction compatibility, a lifetime warranty, NSF certification, and even a beautiful aesthetic. We prefer the Chinese sets to the Brazilian sets--they're cheaper yet essentially identical, and generally have better pieces.
Wal-Mart usually has better prices than Amazon on the Chinese, while Amazon usually has better prices than Wal-Mart on the Brazilian.
Overall: We recommend Tramontina tri-ply clad stainelss cookware for value, looks, durability, and performance.
Thanks for reading!