For Christmas, my husband and I got a new set of pots and pans. The miscellaneous pots and pans we had accrued or inherited over the years had seen their day - and even on their very best days - none of them were half way decent.
We didn't spend a lot of money (relatively speaking!) for a new set. We spent about $100 at Costco for this 10 piece Bialetti "Commercial Cookware" set. I can't believe the difference it has made in my cooking in such a short time. Other than having even heat on the entire pans surface. That is something you may think you are getting - but if you pay close attention the next time you cook with one of your old pots or pans you may notice 'hot spots' or warping (does your pot/pan ever wobble?) The thing I have been most impressed with is the non-stick factor. I was constantly scrubbing stuff, bits, gunk off of my pots and pans - no more my friends, my new (perfectly cared after) pots and pans practically clean themselves!
I think most cookware sets are non-stick these days - BUT taking care of your cookware makes all the difference when it comes to keeping them non-stick (contrary to popular belief - non-stick pans do lose their coatings) and in tip top shape.
A few basic principals to keep in mind:
1. Only use wooden or plastic utencils with your cookware. Metal utencils (even your serving spoon) scratch the non-stick coating and ruin the integrity of the pan. There are so many great options out there. My recent fav purchase is a plastic coated whisk. Great investment - very little cost.
2. NEVER have your dishwasher clean your cookware for you. I mean never. Use a plastic cleaning brush and dish soap to clean.
3. On that note, use water tempered to the temperature of your pan. If your pan is still warm when you are ready to wash it - use warm water to clean it - that will prevent warping.
4. Don't leave your pan full of soapy water. If your pan is aluminum, it will get discolored.
That's basically it. Start with a decent set of pots and pans and take care of them - they will serve you well, make your life so much easier and will actually make you smile instead of grimace when you are considering what to make for dinner. Instead of thinking "ugh! I have to use so many different pots and pans to make that recipe!" you'll think "my family will love this recipe - I can't wait to try it!"