Welcome to our review of the Circulon SteelShield Nonstick Stainless Steel C-Series 3 Piece Saucepan Set. Circulon is renowned for the overall quality and innovation of its products and this three-piece set of stainless steel pans is a prime example. The company is credited with developing the world’s first nonstick hard-anodised pan and now it’s performed a similar feat using a hybrid internal base comprising a series of raised concentric circles of stainless steel with non-stick coating in the grooves. Apparently this hybrid method provides efficient heat distribution and rapid control along with a level of durability that’s way beyond most non-stick pots and pans.
Well, I’ve popped all three on the induction hob and put them through their paces using a variety of food tests. As you can tell from the five stars, I consider this to be among the best saucepan sets. Read on for my considered thoughts on why that is so.
Circulon SteelShield Stainless Steel C-Series: price and availability
The Circulon SteelShield Stainless Steel C-Series is widely available in the UK direct from Circulon (opens in new tab) (£240), John Lewis & Partners (opens in new tab) (£240) and Lakeland (opens in new tab) (£239.99), among others. The pans are also available separately if that is your wont.
If residing Stateside, you can buy the Circulon SteelShield Stainless Steel C-Series in a number of configurations from Walmart (opens in new tab), with prices starting at $299 for an 11-piece set. Amazon US (opens in new tab) sells them too, but some configurations may not be available right now.
In Australia? Try Circulon (opens in new tab) direct where a 10-piece version of these pans – replete with included frying pan and pasta pan – is selling for A$799.95.(opens in new tab)
Circulon SteelShield Stainless Steel C-Series review: design
The very first thing to say is that, at around £240, these three pans aren’t cheap. However, they are exceedingly attractive, amazingly well built and very well designed from an aesthetics and ergonomics point of view. Although they’re quite weighty (the smallest 16cm pan weighs in at 1.1kgs), the polished stainless steel outer layer not only looks the business on any hob, whether it’s gas or induction, but it also provides superior heat control and excellent heat distribution.
The three lids’ S-shaped handles, meanwhile, remain warm to the touch rather than scolding hot like some models. They are also really easy to get a hold of and feel comfortably tactile in the hand. However, the otherwise elegant shape of these handles means that they are impossible to stack on top of one another and that could mean extra clutter in the pan cupboard. Also, while it’s great to have glass tops so you can see how the food is getting on at a glance, I’d have liked to have seen some steam holes to prevent boil overs – something that is inevitable with rice or pasta.
These pans work superbly well on induction hobs and are also suitable for use on gas and ceramic. However, if using them on gas, be sure to keep the flame well away from the side of the pan or it will discolour very quickly. This applies to all stainless steel cookware.
You get three pans in this set 16cm (1.4 litres), 18cm (1.9L) and 20cm (2.8L) so you’ll be pretty well covered for most eventualities bar, say, boiling large amounts of spaghetti.
Circulon SteelShield Stainless Steel C-Series review: features
You may well have seen the term ‘hybrid’ when reading about some models in the latest generation of cookware. Hybrid cookware is essentially a marriage between stainless steel and nonstick. You can normally see the difference between a hybrid pan and a normal stainless steel or nonstick pan by looking at the interior – and specifically the internal base – of the pan. If you see a series of concentric circles (like those on these pans) or an unusual silvery pattern on the base of the interior, chances are it’s a hybrid.
In the case of this model from Circulon, the silver looking circles you see on the interior base is pure stainless steel while the dark areas in the grooves between them and covering the entire sides is Circulon’s proprietary nonstick material.
So what’s the purpose of hybrid cookware, then? Well, we all know that stainless steel is the pro chef’s material of choice because of its excellent heating properties and ability to distribute heat quickly and evenly across the entire base of the pan. But this mostly applies to frying pans because stainless steel is especially brilliant for searing meats and fish. However, a stainless steel pan needs to be at the correct temperature or food will almost certainly stick. Professionals and competent home cooks know this and use their stainless steel gear with care and attention – and in most cases with some extra butter or oil for better lubrication.
While stainless steel is also far and away the best material to use for boiling vegetables, pasta or making a sauce (read my review of the fabulous Robert Welch Campden 3-Piece Saucepan Set for further proof), I’m not sure a mix of stainless steel and a non-stick coating is any more beneficial, especially since you rarely get any sticking when boiling veg or even making a sauce. In fact the only thing I can think of where full nonstick would be better is when making scrambled eggs which sticks like glue if you don’t agitate the ingredients on a regular basis.
So, it appears that the main idea behind these pans is that the stainless steel body and grooved steel/non-stick base provides better heat distribution while the partial non-stick coating makes it easier to clean. Moreover, with these pans you can supposedly use metal utensils to stir your food with abandon because the implement doesn’t come into contact with the nonstick surface. That said, I’d be cautious about scraping the sides of these pans with a metal utensil because they are fully coated in nonstick material.
Circulon SteelShield Stainless Steel C-Series review: performance
If aesthetics is something that has a place in cooking, then these pans are right at the top of the tree, along with Robert Welch’s stunning Camden set. They really do enhance the cooktop and give others the impression that you must surely be a discerning cook with the culinary skills of a Masterchef entrant. I don’t have that level of skill but I did find these pans really easy to control and responsive to temperature changes. However, I do wish the pretty glass-capped lids had a steam hole for added convenience and I’d have loved a pouring spout on the smallest 16cm pan.
I experimented with a number of disciplines using my Neff induction hob – all at the suggested medium heat setting of between 5 and 7 – and all three pans performed exceedingly well no matter what zone they were placed on. I had no sticking with the porridge test though there was a little sticking in the grooves during the scrambled egg trial but nothing that a quick whizz with a washing brush and some Fairy Liquid didn’t solve.
All three pans boiled water very quickly – in under 90 seconds – though I did start off with some pre par-boiled water from my InSinkErator 4n1 Touch boiling water tap. I also made a small spaghetti sauce that responded amazingly well to temperature adjustments, leaving no sticky muck in its wake.
All in all, I’d say these pans performed exceptionally well though not radically better than my normal nonstick Tefal Ingenio Expertise set, which is a lot cheaper to buy.
Circulon SteelShield Stainless Steel C-Series review: verdict
If you love cooking with stainless steel and are in the market for some of the best looking pans a sizeable chunk of readies can buy, then I have no hesitation in recommending these elegant high-end pots. They work brilliantly well on low to medium heat settings, their heat distribution is excellent and they’re among the most responsive on induction hobs.
Want to see more pots and pans? Head over to our guide to the Best Saucepan Sets you can buy today