Features April 2009 Issue

Galley Solutions: Nesting Cookware Sets Under $250

Compact cookware sets mean boat chefs don’t need to give up storage space to have high-quality pots and pans.

A good set of nesting cookware means galley chefs can have all the tools they need for gourmet cooking, without sacrificing storage space. For this comparison of nesting cookware with removable handles, Practical Sailor took a look at cookware sets designed for galley use Cuisinart, Galleyware, and Magma Products, and one nesting set designed for trail cooking by camping-gear maker GSI Outdoors. Evaluation ratings were based on what the set includes, construction materials, handle construction, function, ergonomics, storage space required, whether the pans rattle underway, performance, ease of cleaning, price, and warranty.

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Nesting Cookware
To get a feel for the pots’ real-world performance, testers prepared meals in different galleys and shore- side, using a variety of cooking fuels.

At sea or at anchor, who doesn’t prefer a fine cooked meal to a few kippers and crackers or peanut butter? A working galley needs a good sauté (frying) pan with a lid, a stockpot with a lid, and a medium-sized saucepan with a lid. (Having any more pans is a nice luxury as most galleys have only three burners, and many have just two. There is no sense in carrying more pots than burners, in our opinion.)

A good set of nesting cookware means galley chefs can have all the tools they need for gourmet cooking, without sacrificing much storage space.

The pros of a nesting set are obvious: They’re easily stored and allow more pots to be on a small galley stove at one time, since there are no handles competing for the working space. Their downside over standard cookware is that they often carry a higher price and the handles can be misplaced. (We recommend passagemakers keep a few spares on hand.) But for those in the market for a nesting set, quality products are available at an affordable price.

WHAT WE TESTED

For this comparison of nesting cookware with removable handles, Practical Sailor took a look at sets designed for galley use from Cuisinart, the Galleyware Co., and Magma Products, and one designed for trail cooking from camping-gear maker GSI Outdoors.

All the sets we tested are suitable for use on gas, electric, and alcohol stoves, and all have flat bottoms that will transfer heat from ceramic or glass electric burners. (Manufacturers suggest that no more than medium heat is used with any stainless/aluminum sandwiched cookware. Max heat or boiling dry can damage the sandwich design.)

We limited the test to nesting cookware sets under $250. Although this excluded some premium products recommended by readers, like the StacKEN set from Kenyon Appliances (www.kenyonappliances.com) and some combined pressure-cooker sets, we felt this was a reasonable limit for the average cruising boat. We will be comparing some of the premium sets in a future article. If you are interested in a new pressure cooker, the Kuhn Rikon Risotto ranked highest in our last test ("Pressured to Cook," May 15, 2000).

Nesting Cookware
Clockwise, from top left, nesting cookware from Cuisinart, Galleyware, GSI Outdoors, and Magma.

HOW WE TESTED

All of the cookware sets were evaluated and rated on what the set includes; construction materials; handle construction, function, and ergonomics; storage accessories, storage space required, and whether the sets rattled underway; performance; ease of cleaning; price; and warranty.

We rated the handles on ease of attaching and how securely they attached to the pans. All attached nicely, and the all-metal Cuisinart handles offered the advantage of heat resistance in a hot broiler or oven.

Each was tested using a variety of cooking fuels. The non-stick pans proved to be the easiest to clean and required the least water.

We also tested the cookware’s corrosion resistance by submerging the sets in seawater and allowing them to sit out for over a week, without a freshwater rinse. (We excluded the GSI from this test, since it was not designed for saltwater use.) Testers noted no corrosion in any set, even at the vulnerable spot-welds attaching the handle mounting brackets. We eat much more caustic materials than seawater, and these sets are made to prepare food at high temperatures.

Galleyware

Galleyware is a Delaware-based company that’s been selling galley tools for nearly two decades.

Nesting Cookware
Testing nesting cookware is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. The sets vary in number of pieces and pot sizes, as well as added features. The GSI camping cookset (far left), however, was the kiwi among the apples and oranges. Essentially a kitchento- go, the GSI kit includes cups, nesting bowls, and plates, in addition to the cookware and multi-purpose storage bag/portable sink. Other bonus features we found were the bungee cord that comes with the Magma set (above left) and the Cuisinart’s optional canvas storage bag (above right). Both kept the nested pots and pans from rattling and made for easier storage and transportation of the kits.

Well-known world cruiser and author of "The Care and Feeding of the Offshore Crew," Lin Pardey uses Galleyware cookware. Lin listed the product’s highlights as the double-walled construction, which evenly distributes heat and prevents scorching, and the plastic lids, which allow you to travel to potluck dinners without spills and or store leftovers without dirtying up other dishes.

Galleyware offers all-stainless, Teflon-coated, and hybrid sets. We tested the 12-piece hybrid cookware. The latest design of the Galleyware handle is more in line with that of Cuisinart and Magma. No longer does the Galleyware handle clamp on the edge of each pan. Instead, a spring-loaded tab locks the handle to the pan’s spot-welded bracket.

The Galleyware handles are a huge improvement over their predecessors—clamping handles and those lift-and-separate handles that are impossible to change when hot. The new non-metallic handles are heat resistant but cannot be used in a hot oven or broiler. Testers had some difficulty with the handles when trying to quickly move from pot to pot with slippery hands

The Galleyware hybrid lid is universal; it fits all of the included pots and pans. And Galleyware sets now ship with a flat stainless lid for the frying pan.

We would prefer a storage bag or other storage accessory with the Galleyware, but we do like its lifetime warranty.

Galleyware owner Kris Nonnenmacher reported at presstime that the company would launch within weeks a new set of nesting cookware: Build Your Own. With this set, cooks will be able to mix and match products—stainless and nonstick, saute, sauce pans, etc.—to suit their needs at the same price they would pay for a pre-packaged set.

Nesting Cookware

Bottom line:

The Galleyware set is a high-quality, versatile set that comes with a great warranty at a great price. The plastic storage lids are a bonus, particularly for cruisers.

Cuisinart

Cuisinart, well-known for introducing the food processor to America, began making nesting cookware many years ago. Those original French sets were high-quality and high-priced (nearly $400 per set). Now made in China, the Cuisinart sets sell for about $100. That is quite a savings, and we found that eggs, flapjacks, fish, meatballs, and pasta can’t tell the difference.

Practical Sailor

tested the eight-piece Cuisinart Stowaway set. With its mirror-polished stainless exterior, the Stowaway pans also have aluminum-encapsulated bottoms, which Cuisinart says ensures quick and even heat distribution.

The handles don’t feel quite as sturdy as the original ones, but they have the best trigger release mechanism of any tested (reminiscent of the old-style French-made Cuisinart handles), and the all-stainless handles can go right into the broiler or oven. They were testers’ favorite of the bunch.

The finest tools always make the job more fun, and the Cuisinart’s elegant design and European dimensions make sense on a small galley stove. The set includes a large and small sauté pan, one saucepan, and one stockpot. The set ships with two stainless lids that fit the sauté pans and sauce pan.

For storing the set, Cuisinart offers a lightweight canvas bag that has dedicated pockets for the handles, but the bag does not come standard. The bag also keeps the set from rattling while underway.

Nesting Cookware

Cuisinart does not offer plastic lids or a straining cover with the set, but it does give the Stowaway a limited lifetime warranty.

Bottom line:

At $99—and with a limited lifetime warranty—the Cuisinart Stowaway is a great value, but not having nonstick may be a sticking point.

Magma

Magma Products is perhaps best known for its line of marine barbecues, but the company also sells nesting cookware. The 10-piece Magma set, made from 18/10 stainless steel, was the highest priced group in this test. It is available with or without Dupont Teflon coating. A nonstick coating really saves you water and cleanup work.

All of the Magma pots and pans come with triple-clad bottoms (stainless, aluminum, stainless). Included in the set are three saucepans, a 5-quart stock pot, a large sauté pan, and a dedicated lid that fits the sauté and stock pot.

Testers liked the workmanship of the American-made Magma handles, which operated smoothly and easily, and fit their brackets securely.

Consumers also can buy pieces of the Magma set individually from the company’s website, a bonus for those looking for replacement or extra pieces. Building your own set from the site is possible, but more expensive than choosing a pre-fab kit.

A one-year warranty accompanies the Magma sets. We’d like a longer warranty.

Rather than a storage bag, the Magma set comes with a clever bungee cord that keeps all of the parts together and successfully quiets rattling while underway.

Bottom line: The Magma is a primo set, and was the only set to earn across-the-board Excellents in our test to get PS Best Choice honors.

GSI Outdoors

Like sailors, campers and backpackers have to consider storage space and weight when choosing gear. So, we decided to add a camping cookset to our test field for nesting cookware. GSI Outdoors markets several cooksets that are worth a look, particularly for freshwater and trailered-boat sailors.

Practical Sailor

tested the GSI Gourmet Camping Cook System, which was recently updated and is being sold under a new name: the GSI Bugaboo Campers cookset.

The set comes with much more than just pots, pans, and a detachable handle. It includes plates, nesting bowls, and insulated mugs (with sip-it lids) for four people, along with a stock pot, sauce pan, frying pan, strainer lid, and a regular lid. The pans are all Dupont Teflon nonstick and aluminum for light weight and quick heat transfer.

The only difference between the set we tested and the updated version is the construction materials of the lid. The new Bugaboo lid is made of BPA-free polypropylene, rather than Lexan, and is nearly 4 ounces lighter than the original design.

Testers really liked the engineering of this set, but aluminum construction and powder-coated aluminum handles may not last in a saltwater environment. (The brackets and handle mechanism are stainless.)

If protected during storage and given the occasional freshwater rinse, this very complete set may be just the thing for freshwater cruisers and racers looking for inexpensive, lightweight, and compact galley ware.

The creative design even extends to its storage: The GSI storage bag doubles as a wash basin, which could come in very handy on a small, galley-less boat. The bag also reduces rattle while underway.

GSI warns that this set is to be used only with a camp stove, meaning not to use it on an open fire, but most galley stoves should be fine.

Bottom line: Freshwater racers and trailer sailers might like this featherweight, but we suggest taking care to protect the aluminum from corrosion. All else fails, it does have a lifetime warranty.

Conclusion

This test was a close call. All of the cookware sets are well-made and allow you to make the most of galley storage space without sacrificing your culinary freedom.

The creative design of the GSI Bugaboo caught our eyes, but aluminum will have a limited life near saltwater. The Cuisinart set is a great value, and the multi-purpose, versatile Galleyware was one of our favorites. However, the Magma’s craftsmanship and quality put it a notch above the others.

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