Top cookware sets; Styling for less

December 9, 2010

And with celebrity chefs such as Emeril and Rachael Ray promoting theirs, should you get one of theirs or go with Calphalon or All-Clad? Consumer Reports tested 16 sets costing from $80 all the way up to $800 to find top-performing pots and pans.

Consumer Reports tested uncoated pots and pan sets, which are good for browning, searing, and caramelizing. Some of the pans heat evenly, but the $550 Culinary Institute pans did only so-so. And the $450 Le Creuset set couldn't handle the heat, either.

Some of the sets come with a nonstick fry pan, so testers looked at those, too. A machine scrubs pans up to 2,000 times to see how the surface holds up. Testers then fry eggs on the worn surface to see whether food sticks and how hard it is to clean.

Testers top-rated this BonJour 10-piece stainless-steel set for $540. While the set is pricey, none of the less-expensive sets did as well in all of Consumer Reports' tests. The BonJour cooked food evenly; had comfortable, durable handles; and was pretty easy to clean. Plus it's oven-safe up to 500° F.

If you're looking for a nonstick cookware set, Consumer Reports recommends the $190 Earth Pan with Sand Flow. It cooked food evenly and performed better than nonstick cookware that costs twice as much. Plus, it's dishwasher safe.

Styling For Less

From the first corsets dating back to the Middle Ages to present-day shapewear, women have been squeezing themselves into all sorts of contraptions to trim and firm. They're officially called shapewear, but they're more often referred to as Spanx-the name of a hugely popular brand. A Bloomingdale's salesperson says the right ones can make or break an outfit. She also says Spanx are a great staple for any woman's wardrobe. It smoothes out the bumps and lumps.

To see whether shapewear can deliver, Consumer Reports ShopSmart called on four staffers to wear a dress they felt could look better on them. They let it all hang out for the "before" pictures, then the staffers tried on four different shape-wear garments. Consumer Reports had a fit professional come in and evaluate them.

The tests included two bodyshapers from Spanx: the $68 Hide & Sleek Hi-Rise Body Smoother and the $38 In-Power Line Super Higher Power. Also the $20 Assets by Sarah Blakely Womens Sensational Shaper from Target and an infomercial product, the Kymaro New Body Shaper.

The infomercial says, "With Kymaro's New Body Shaper, you will have a new and improved figure instantly." But staffers said it was just too confining and it felt like a torture device.

Turns out the $38 Spanx worked the best for three of the four women. One staffer said it made her feel extremely confident. But the fourth panelist says she felt great in the $20 Assets shaper from Target. It just goes to show that you don't have to spend top dollar to look fabulous.

And just in case you men are feeling a little left out, there is Spanx for Men. It's like a T-shirt that acts as a girdle. One brave Consumer Reports male employee gave it a try. It took an inch-and-a-half off his waist, but it was hard to put on and take off and was not very comfortable, either.

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