Lustre Craft 1-quart pan, $2.

Lustre Craft cookware is made by West Bend and is very high quality stuff, costing a bundle to buy new. Like some other expensive cookware, you can't wander into your local supermarket and pick up a set. Lustre Craft is sold only through places like home shows and individual distributors, who give home demonstrations and take orders.

Because it's so small, this little pan may not be the best example of Lustre Craft stuff, but keep in mind that a 14-piece set may sell for $400 to $500 or more on eBay, so if you see a set, get it!

When it comes to cookware, a quick value indicator I like to use is the weight of the pot or pan, because although a heavy pot isn't always expensive, the expensive stuff is always heavy. This little critter is so heavy that I thought there was something in it when I picked it up! It's heavy because, like most of the better cookware out there, Lustre Craft is made from five layers or "plies" of metal. This layering is necessary because although stainless steel's toughness and resistance to corrosion make it great for the external surfaces of cookware, it's such a lousy conductor of heat that it can cook unevenly, leaving hot and cold spots and burned food.

Conventional (non-stainless) steel and aluminum, on the other hand, conduct heat much better than stainless steel, but steel rusts and aluminum leeches into food and is very soft. The solution is to sandwich these heat-conducting metals between layers of stainless steel, providing the best of both worlds, and that's just what the better cookware folks do.

Lustre Craft cookware is known as 'waterless' cookware, and features a heavy lid that creates a sort of seal, preventing the escape of water. And there's a feature in the lid called a 'Vapor Valve Cover Whistle Knob' that whistles like a teapot when the food's hot so that you can turn down the heat.

This little pan sold on eBay for $28.
 

Photo of Lustre Craft stainless 1 quart saucepan