What if someone came along and offered you a chef quality kitchen set, complete with all the absolute essentials, at a surprisingly affordable price?
Someone just did!
Potluck was launched in mid-2018 and they recently reached out to me to do a full review. I was immediately struck by their core value proposition:
“Quality kitchenware for all of us”.
I love how inclusive that sounds. After all, don’t all of us home cooks deserve quality cookware and kitchen tools at a price we can afford? Count me in!
NO FLUFF, JUST FUNCTIONALITY
I was also struck by the no-frills approach in their product offerings. Clearly, a lot of thought went into it. In each of their sets, every item has a utility – there is no extra pot, utensil or kitchen tool that will go to waste. Why didn’t more manufacturers think of this before? I don’t know about you, but I certainly have lot of spare pots and pans that I never use but that came with a “seemingly cost-effective” set.
According to the co-founder Minsuk Kim, that’s exactly what inspired him and his co-founder Jessica Sheft-Ason when they launched Potluck. They noticed that most kitchenware sets come with a lot of ‘filler’ pieces that bulk up the piece count but aren’t very useful to the home cook. So they did a ton of research with actual home cooks to learn which kitchenware was absolutely essential and included only those pieces in their sets.
Potluck cookware offers 4 ‘done-for-you’ sets designed to take the guesswork out of having to choose. For the purpose of this review, I will be focusing on the Cookware Set
The Cookware Set is a 7-piece set comprised of 4 pans and 3 lids. Includes:
- 5-Qt Saucepan
- 3-Qt Saucepan
- 10” Skillet
- 8-Qt Stock Pot
- Three Lids
The other sets include
- Knife Set – 3-piece set including: a chef’s knife, a bread knife, and a paring knife. Essentially the only knives you really need.
- Utensil set – 12 no-frills tools to cover all your kitchen needs.
- Essentials Bundle: which is the Cookware Set, Knife Set, and Utensil Set all bundled together at a $30 discount.
WHAT IS POTLUCK COOKWARE MADE OF?
Potluck cookware is triply cookware, made of a heavy gauge layer of aluminum sandwiched between 2 layers of Stainless Steel. The layer of aluminum runs along the base and up the sides (vs cookware which only has an aluminum disc on the bottom core). What does it mean? Think even heating and no hot spots since the food is surrounded by the inner layer of aluminum.
HOW DO THEY KEEP THE COSTS SO LOW?
Potluck cookware follows the direct to consumer model – this means you buy directly from their website and there is no retailer markup.
They also do minimal marketing to keep their costs low. Which means you’re not paying for a big advertising budget or celebrity endorsement like the big brands.
HOW DO I KNOW THIS COOKWARE IS OF GOOD QUALITY… SPECIALLY AT THOSE LOW PRICES?
I get asked this a lot – how do you gauge the quality of a cookware set? And I can understand why – the definition of quality is such an elusive concept and can be so subjective. Luckily, we have a few guidelines we can follow when it comes to Stainless Steel cookware. Let’s see how Potluck cookware stacks up:
The grade of Stainless Steel: Potluck’s pans are made with 304 stainless steel on the interior and 430 stainless steel on the exterior. In plain English, the pans are made of high quality, food grade, corrosion resistant SS on the inside and magnetic SS on the outside to allow the pans to be induction ready.
The weight of the pans: This is something that is noticeable right away. The pans feel solid and have a sturdy, ‘weighty’ feel to them – just enough to feel solid but not too heavy to be cumbersome. You can tell that the manufacturers did not skimp out on the amount of material used to make the pans. What this means in actual usage is that the pans are less likely to warp easily or to have hot spots.
Now because we’re trying to gauge quality without the use of measuring scales or calipers, I did a ‘lift-the-pot-by-hand’ test:
that I regularly use. I can honestly say the Potluck pot equaled the 5ply pot in heft and feel. i.e Potluck cookware passed the weight test with flying colors!
The inner layer or core: The inner layer is 1050 aluminum. Now if you’ve spent any time researching cookware, you would know that stainless steel on its own is a poor conductor of heat and needs a middle layer of a better conductor. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat and judging from the weight of the pans, you’re getting a thick layer of it.
Lastly, Potluck cookware deserves one extra mention when it comes to quality. These pots and pans are made in the same factories that manufacture some of the top kitchenware brands that you’d be familiar with. This means that you’re getting top brand quality at about half the price because you’re not paying for the big brand marketing or the middleman.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
With all the focus on functionality, I had been expecting a minimalist, pared down look for Potluck cookware… but I was pleasantly surprised.
With the mirror finish and sleek design, to an average home cook like me, these look like premium, high end pots – cookware I would be proud to show off!
WHAT ABOUT THE HANDLES?
The handles are solid stainless steel and are riveted securely to the pans. They have a comfortable grip and a streamlined design.
WHAT ARE THE LIDS LIKE?
Cookware lids are a bit of an obsession for me since it’s important for me that:
- Lids fit well without creating a vacuum (i.e. not too tight), and;
- There is a lid for each piece of cookware in a set.
The lids in this set are made of solid, mirror finish Stainless Steel and have a slightly curved dome shape. They fit perfectly on the pans and best part – the lid of the 8qt stock pot also fits the skillet! Which means every piece has a lid – now we’re cooking!
WE PUT IT TO THE TEST
I used the Potluck pans for a couple of weeks for all my cooking needs and I’m blown away!
The pans are quick to heat up, retain heat well and clean up easily. If this was the only cookware I had, I can’t think of any piece that was lacking for my day to day cooking needs.
Heat up: First, I boiled water for noodles in the 1.5 qt saucepan. They say a watched pot never boils… well this one did in just minutes even on medium heat! Even after adding the dried noodles, the water kept bubbling which means heat was being transferred and retained efficiently by the pan.
Next, I boiled milk in the 3 qt saucepan to make chocolate pudding. Now milk in a stainless steel pan is tricky and has to be on medium low otherwise it starts burning. But even on medium low, it quickly came to a rolling boil.
Handles: With the saucepans, the handles stayed cool to touch through all the boiling. Though I would advise using potholders for the shorter handles on the stock pot, especially if you are using a gas stove.
Simmer test: Aka the meat sauce test aka will-the-sauce-simmer-even-if-it’s-on-the-lowest-heat-setting-on-the-stove test! I think there’s no better way of gauging the thickness and quality of the aluminum layer in the pot.
To test, I seasoned and stir fried some ground beef in the 8 qt stock pot, added sauce and left it to simmer. Now I like my meat sauce to cook for a good half hour for all the flavors to meld and the meat to become extra soft.
Result? The sauce simmered away on the lowest setting, a clear indication that the pan was heating efficiently and evenly.
Washing: After cooling, I soaked the pans for a few minutes and then used a soft scrubby to clean. Food literally wiped off the pans, it was that easy. This is also an indication of quality as it means food was heated and cooked evenly so there were no hot spots where it would have burned on.
White spots: After washing and air drying, I noticed those dreaded white spots on the pans caused by calcium deposits from the water.
I’ve written in detail about stains on stainless steel if you want to know more about these spots but these were bothering me so I decided to do a quick vinegar trick to remove them. I added 1/4 cup of warm water, 1/4 cup of vinegar to the pan, swished it around and washed it off. Viola, pot was shiny again!
Special mention – the 10” skillet: I want to take a moment to talk specifically about the 10” skillet.
First, let’s clarify skillet vs fry pan: simply put, a skillet has slanted sides just like a fry pan but tends to be deeper and have a lid.
So by including a 10” skillet in their cooking set (with a lid that’s interchangeable with the 8qt stockpot), the Potluck skillet gives you the functionality of a fry pan as well as a small cooking pan. Again, I’m struck by the attention to detail and the focus on minimalist utility – why have 2 pans when one can do the job of both?
CAN YOU USE THESE IN THE OVEN? WHAT ABOUT THE BROILER?
These pans are oven safe up to 600 F. Like all stainless steel pans, they are also broiler safe. That means you can use any of them to start a dish on the stove top and finish off in the oven or broiler.
ARE THEY DISHWASHER SAFE?
Yes, Potluck cookware is dishwasher safe though as The Cookware Advisor, I always recommend washing your pots by hand. In my experience, food literally wiped off after soaking. Why subject your beautiful, brand new pans to the harshness of the dishwasher?
CAN POTLUCK COOKWARE BE USED WITH INDUCTION COOK TOPS?
Yes, Potluck cookware is triply stainless steel cookware with a magnetic steel base, making it induction ready.
WHAT ABOUT SHIPPING AND WARRANTY?
Potluck cookware offers free shipping and no-hassle 30-day returns. And get this: if you do decide to return, they cover the return shipping! Not surprisingly, their return rate is an extremely low 1%! That’s a huge indicator of customer satisfaction.
They are also in the process of introducing a lifetime warranty.
Update March 2020 – Potluck cookware now comes with a Lifetime Warranty – what does that mean? It means that if you buy Potluck, it is covered for manufacturing defects in materials and workmanship for life!
Yes – Where was Potluck cookware when I started out years ago and had to do with a cheap lightweight set to equip my frugal starter kitchen??
Jokes aside, whether you are just starting out or simply budget minded, with Potluck cookware, you can get a basic set for $160 and equip your entire kitchen for under $300. That too with chef quality kitchenware, designed to perform and live up to day to day use (and abuse, if we’re being honest!).
So I really can’t say I have any complaints. Just more of a wish: I wouldn’t mind the option of an a la carte selection so you can buy a single pan or pot if that’s all you need. But as I said, that’s just a personal preference!
They say you get what you pay for – but Potluck cookware is one of the exceptions to that rule. These pots are versatile, perform superbly, look premium and offer excellent value for money. For that reason, Potluck cookware gets the What-Are-You-Waiting-For-Buy-It-Now! verdict from The Cookware Advisor.
Seriously… what are you waiting for?
WHERE CAN I BUY IT?
In keeping with their direct to consumer model, Potluck pans are available via their own website.
Currently, Potluck ships to anywhere in the US.
Disclosure: I have to let you know that some of the links in this write up are affiliate links which means that if you buy Potluck cookware through any link here, I get paid a small referral fee which helps support this website. I also have to let you know that this did not affect my review, I truly think the products are great and deliver big time on their value proposition.