When people talk about cookware made in the USA, they’re often talking about All-Clad. For my money, 360 cookware is the better choice. Instead of offering boring multi-ply pots and pans, 360 Cookware has added an innovative twist (literally) to their product lines. Their lids feature a rotating lock that allows you to literally seal in the moisture that comes naturally in your food.
This uncommon feature lets you cook food with no oil or even any added water, as the normal vapor content of your meats and veggies produces plenty of steam. The result is a set of versatile tools that can be used as both normal cookware (with the lid on loosely) or as pseudo-pressure cookers (with the lid on tightly), giving you many more options than a conventional brand like All-Clad.
But is 360 Cookware worth it?
Let’s take a look at some of the brand’s more popular offerings in order to determine how 360 Cookware’s high-quality stainless steel pots and pans will fit into your kitchen.
A Gourmet Crock Pot Alternative From 360 Cookware
This 360 slow cooker package is a tri-ply four quart stockpot with 360’s signature twist-to-lock lid. It’s a high-quality tool that can be used on your normal range (gas, electric, or induction), in the oven, or on the provided hot plate. The high build quality, extreme versatility, and limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects make it a stellar choice for any kitchen where the high purchase price isn’t a problem.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room first: the price.
This is not a cheap cooker by any means. A traditional enameled slow cooker can be purchased for well under half the price of this 360 crockpot, while dedicated pressure cookers are available for less than half of that. This makes It somewhat harder to justify the purchase of this American-made hot-plate-and-stockpot combo, since you can essentially buy a trio of tools that can do everything it does while saving a bit of money.
That said, if you compare this item directly to other waterless stockpots, you’ll find it’s somewhat reasonably priced. If you don’t want the hot plate, you can save a bit of money by getting a bigger 360 stock pot for a few dollars less.
Otherwise, however, this is quite reasonably priced when compared to other waterless cooking implements in the same general size range.
So is a waterless cooker going to be better than a pressure cooker or a traditional slow cooker? The answer is “it depends.” This 360 Cookware package has a number of large, distinct advantages over both of these tools, and it can perform the functionality of both at the same time. This means there’s one less dish for you to clean and it prevents you from having to transfer hot food from one pot to another.
The other advantages are even bigger.
While slow cookers and pressure cookers might be cheaper, they’re not always oven safe. You can’t always put them on a range, either, especially not an induction range. One of the things that I like most about this 360 cookware package is the fact that I can start a dish uncovered on the range over fairly high heat and brown meat or sear vegetables. Once I’m done with that, I can transfer it to the hot plate for a long bout of slow cooking to take advantage of the vapor seal incorporated into this stockpot’s lid.
In other words, the 360 slow cooker package is best if you plan to take advantage of the fact that you can use it on your existing range or in your oven. It shines especially brightly when it’s paired with an induction range. Induction heating is brilliant for bringing your food up to a high temperature quickly, but induction ranges can struggle to apply consistent low heat over a long period of time. By utilizing the provided electric hot plate, you can ensure your food stays warm enough for the vapor seal to work after you use your induction range to get it hot in a matter of minutes.
The vapor seal is by far the best part about this slow cooker.
It’s a brilliant invention that uses the heat generated inside of your pot to form a tight seal with the lid, thereby trapping in water vapor and applying heat to your food much, much more quickly. In other words, it’s like a pressure cooker, only without the additional complexity.
Waterless cookware has a sort of built-in valve that naturally lets out steam and hot air when the internal pressure gets too high. This means you don’t have to worry about your cookware exploding or otherwise damaging itself – it’s totally safe (or at least as safe as cooking normally is; the pot still gets hot).
As far as actual usage goes, it’s pretty simple. Get your food hot, reduce heat to low, and spin the lid. If you do it right (and you’ll easily be able to tell if you do), you’ll form a “vapor seal” that will keep hot air and steam trapped inside the pot along with your food. Those of you who have used a pressure cooker will know that this works miracles when it comes to cooking times.
Since the air and steam literally press inwards on your food, it will cook much faster, meaning you can prepare meals in a fraction of the time it would normally take. A conventional slow cooker can’t offer this impressive time saving feature. The trapped moisture also helps when it comes to preparing juicy, succulent dishes. It’s hard to prepare a dry piece of chicken using waterless cooking technology.
The build quality of this solid metal cookpot is excellent. It’s made from alternating layers of durable stainless and aluminum, giving it excellent heat retention, heat distribution, and virtually unrivaled durability. The stock pot in this package can easily last you for many decades with proper care. More importantly, it’s got enough magnetic metal in the base to allow it to be used on induction cooktops quite easily. This can be a problem when you’re searching for waterless cookware, as many older sets aren’t compatible with this newer style of range.
To me, the build quality is a pretty big plus.
Many of the crock pots and pressure cookers that are significantly cheaper than this stock pot and hot plate combo are simply cheap, for lack of a better word. They’re not built to last. This means you might find yourself replacing them after five years, or three years, or even one year.
The all-metal stock pot in this set is highly corrosion resistant and sturdy enough to hold up to many, many years of use. As a result, it’s potentially a money saver, even when compared to a super cheap pressure cooker. Over the course of a couple of decades, you could easily replace the cheap cooker so many times that you wind up spending more money than if you had bought this durable 360 Cookware slow cooker set.
One final thing to note: you really, really want to read the directions if you want to take advantage of waterless cooking. It’s simple, sure, but being informed about the manufacturer’s suggested usage will really help you get the most out of this device. You’ll actually want to add a few drops of water when cooking fresh vegetables, for example, which runs somewhat contrary to their advertising and the term “waterless.”
Other details are less salacious but just as important. You’re free to adjust your own cooking practices to match your tastes and cooking equipment, but I’d strongly suggest using the instructions in the manual as a starting point.
Overall, I’m fairly pleased by the options offered by this 360 Cookware package. It’s not cheap, sure, but it’s American made, it’s cleverly designed, and it’s durable enough that it’s somewhat economical in some kitchens. I’d still strongly recommend price checking an All-Clad stockpot and a mid-range pressure cooker, but I think you’ll find that this set is a bit more fairly priced than it might seem.
If waterless cooking is something that appeals to you or you simply want a versatile multi-purpose cooker that you can use to prepare meals in a novel and interesting way, this 360 Cookware package might be a good fit for you.
Is the 360 Cookware Set Worth The Cost?
The benefits of waterless cookware scale up VERY well to a full set. This 9-piece collection comes with a 2.3 quart casserole, a 3 quart saucepan, a 6 quart stock pot, a 3.5 quart sauté pan, and an 11.5” sauté pan. Everything but the sauté pan comes with a waterless-style lid, enabling you to cook a multitude of healthy, fast dishes at once. Perhaps most interestingly, this 9 piece set comes with a hot plate that allows you to turn the 2.3 quart casserole into a slow cooker.
Like the slow cooker above, the price of this set appears to be a major downside at first. Again, I find it difficult to find waterless cooking vessels of the same size and quality for a lower price. The benefits of waterless cooking are certainly debatable, but if you’re sold on the idea of cooking food in a lite-pressure cooker environment, this set is fairly cost effective. It’s not that much more than a comparable high-end tri-ply set, too, so you’re not really paying that much of a premium versus Demeyere or All-Clad.
As far as value goes, the big question you’ll want to ask is “will I use more than one piece of this set?” No matter how fantastic minimum moisture cooking is, if you only use one of the pots in this cookware set, you’re making a somewhat questionable purchase. There’s nothing wrong with getting the slow cooker package above and supplementing it with a cheap Cuisinart tri-ply set. You’ll still get a stock pot you can use for vapor cooking and a full set of stainless steel cookware that you can use for searing, sautéing, stir frying, or traditionally cooking things like pasta.
When you start wanting to use two or more waterless cookware pieces, the value of this set goes up considerably. Getting two waterless pots and a small All-Clad set is much more comparable to the price of this 9-piece set. This might involve cooking two pots of vegetables at once or simply using different sized pots for different sized dishes.
Maybe you want to take advantage of the slow-cooker functionality of the small stockpot while you cook some food on the stove. No matter what combination of dishes you use, you’ll probably find that the price of this set becomes a lot more reasonable.
Of course, this set doesn’t have to be used for waterless cooking.
It’s still an American-made set of tri-ply stainless steel cookware. This means it’s incredibly durable, easy to clean, and has fantastic heating characteristics. You can expect this set to last for more than a decade with proper use, cleaning, and storage. Stainless steel is incredibly corrosion resistant and doesn’t really wear out under normal use conditions. Many modern households use stainless steel cookware that’s been passed down from generation to generation.
Before you get too excited, it’s worth noting that this is NOT a non-stick cookware set. 360 Cookware would have you believe that food doesn’t stick when you use waterless cooking techniques – and they’re right, somewhat – but when you sauté a steak or a chicken breast or a few eggs you’ll probably notice that things DEFINITELY stick to these pots and pans.
For experienced chefs, this isn’t a problem – you’ll just have to carefully monitor your temperature and use a bit of oil or fat. If you’re new to stainless steel, however, expect a bit of a learning curve while you figure out the right combination of lubrication, temperature, and time.
In my opinion, this cookware set is a solid choice. It’s pricey, sure, but it’s not that much more expensive than high-end tri-ply sets from top luxury brands. The high build quality and American construction already make it an acceptable choice without the inclusion of waterless-capable lids. When you throw in this rare design feature, this cookware set seems pretty appetizing for any house that wants to take minimum moisture cooking more seriously.
A New Spin On Pots And Pans
Vapor cooking (or minimum moisture cooking, or waterless cooking) isn’t exactly a new idea. Nevertheless, it’s a sort of niche technology that hasn’t really caught on in many circles.
360 Cookware pares this innovative idea with high-quality tri-ply cookware that’s made in America. While their offerings aren’t cheap, the longevity, quality, and usefulness of this cookware nevertheless make it a solid choice.