For me, the name Rachael Ray conjures up images of colorful cookware—brilliant blue mugs, cranberry-colored stock pots, and, of course, flamboyant EVOO bottles.
Rachael Ray’s wildly successful television cooking show has come to a close with its 11th and final season in 2023, but her legacy lives on in her commercially available cookware lines.
Rachael Ray’s cookware lines are bright, beautiful, and designed to appeal to the target audience of her show. Rachael popularized the concept of 30-minute meals; her cookware is simple to use, quick to clean, and ideal for a rookie cook or a college student short on both cash and time to clean up.
However, most Rachael Ray collections don’t have the build quality to hold up to hard day-in and day-out use for a larger family.
Rachael Ray Brights Cookware Review
It wasn’t long after the flashy colors of the Rachael Ray porcelain-enameled cookware caught my attention that I got my hands on one of the beautiful marine blue pans. I’m always looking for affordable but high-quality wedding gifts, and so I wanted to test one of these out.
Rachael Ray Brights – The Basics
|Overall Rating:||3.7 / 5.0 ⭐|
|Top features:||Trendy colors, affordable, quick and even heating, balanced size and weight, fair nonstick.|
|Drawbacks:||Potentially hazardous PTFE coating, burns easily, exterior enamel paint fades quickly, 12 – 24 month expected longevity.|
|Materials:||aluminum core, PTFE coating, rubberized aluminum handle.|
|Oven Safe:||Up to 350°F (Lower than higher-end nonstick pans)|
|Induction Compatible:||No (See the Rachael Ray Create Delicious line for induction-compatible cookware.)|
|Compatible Cooktops:||electric, glass, gas, with caveats. The enamel paint on the pan may stain glass cooktops. Coil electric or gas cooktops may discolor the enamel paint.|
|Top Alternatives:||Rachael Ray Classic Brights hard anodized collection or GreenPan ceramic nonstick cookware.|
What’s Included in the Rachael Ray Brights Cookware Set?
The full set of Rachael Ray Brights cookware on Amazon (not to be confused with the “classic brights” collection) is a 14-piece set that includes:
The set is available in a handful of attractive colors, including gradient orange and marine blue.
Testing a Rachael Ray Brights Fry Pan
I tested the Rachael Ray Brights 12.5” nonstick fry pan, available as an add-on to the full Brights cookware set. After putting the pan through its paces, I don’t think it’s going to be on my list of top cookware recommendations for families. You’ll see why as we go through this review.
Warnings on the Label
Upon opening the box, the lengthy warranty, warnings, and care instructions printed on the inside of the label caught my attention. Reading that label was a bit of a bummer because I learned some things about my new pan that weren’t clearly represented on the Amazon page where I placed my order.
Hazards to Pets
The first warning listed was to keep children away from open flames. No surprise there! Second, however, was a “pet warning.” The label warned that fumes from burning oil can be harmful to small pets. (This is true, no matter the cookware you’re heating oil in.) But it went on to say that overheating the handle of this pan or the PTFE coating can “contaminate the air” and “emit fumes harmful to birds.” It warned to “never cook with birds or small pets in the kitchen.”
This risk, unfortunately, is not unique to Rachael Ray pans, and there have been documented cases of overheated PTFE (aka Teflon) cookware killing pet birds. The key is of course “overheated” cookware. Teflon is supposed by many sources to be relatively safe unless heated to 536°F or more. However, other sources warn that it becomes unsafe at much lower temperatures. And, honestly, the smell this pan produced when heating was enough to make me hesitate to use it. (In contrast to my GreenPan ceramic nonstick, which doesn’t smell at all.)
High Heat Voids the Warranty
The other warning on the label worth mentioning is that cooking on high heat could melt the enamel paint and stain your cooktop. The label recommended cooking only on medium or low heat.
In fact, the label said that cooking on high heat with this Rachael Ray fry pan would void the warranty! Even the nonstick cookie sheet in the Brights collection is only oven-safe up to 450 degrees. (In other words, don’t try to broil your roast veggies for a crispy finish on this pan!)
If you do high-intensity cooking – stir-frying, searing, or other techniques needing high heat – then the Rachael Ray Brights collection (or any Teflon nonstick) isn’t the right choice for you. (Try carbon steel instead!)
However, I quickly learned while testing this pan that its aluminum core heats so responsively and evenly that you only need low heat for most applications.
Design and Aesthetics
|Design Rating:||5.0 / 5.0 ⭐|
Despite the label, my first impression of the pan was positive. It is just as pretty in person as it is in the pictures. (After reading reviews, however, I was skeptical as to whether or not the pan would retain its shiny exterior, especially after using it on my gas stovetop – and you’ll see whether it did in the tests described below.)
The bright blue resin on the handle matches the pan’s painted porcelain enamel. This collection definitely has curb appeal.
Materials and Construction
|Material Quality Rating:||3.5 / 5.0 ⭐|
The Rachael Ray Brights collection – like most of the rest of the Rachael Ray cookware – has an aluminum substrate. The Brights collection is not hard anodized, so it is more prone to dents and warping than the Rachael Ray Create Delicious line, which is hard anodized. It also is more prone to scratches in the nonstick finish.
The nonstick coating is made of pretty basic PTFE (the generic name for Teflon), without special mineral-infused coatings that are becoming popular in higher ticket brands.
The handle of this pan is made of aluminum with a phenolic (rubbery resin) coating. It’s dual riveted and feels very sturdy. I would not expect the handle to come loose with normal use.
The lids, however, do not fit snugly onto the pans. It definitely feels like there’s a lack of precision in the manufacturing of these lower-end Rachael Ray lines.
Comfort and Ease of Use
|Ease of Use Rating:||5.0 / 5.0 ⭐|
The Rachael Ray Brights 12.5-inch nonstick skillet weighed 32 ounces when I got it out of the packaging – or exactly two pounds.
I like the weight. It’s light enough to handle easily but doesn’t feel flimsy at all. I can wash it easily without having to give myself a pep talk first like I have to do when washing my beast of a cast iron skillet.
The rubberized handle is sleek and comfortable, and it stayed cool even when I simmered water for 20 minutes on a gas stovetop.
|Versatility Rating:||4.0 / 5.0 ⭐|
I do love the variety of pots and pans available in most of the Rachael Ray cookware lines, especially those sold as “open-stock” – where you can buy pieces you need one by one rather than as a set. The Rachael Ray brand features Dutch ovens, woks, and bakeware of several different sizes beyond the standard pots and fry pans.
The Rachael Ray Brights 12.5” skillet is the perfect size and shape for my needs. I always cook large batches of food, even if I’m just cooking for myself (yay, freezer meals!), so I appreciated the width and deep sides of this pan.
The outer rim of the pan is just shy of 12.5” across, but the bottom of the pan – the flat cooking surface—is only 9” wide. The tall 3” high sides of this pan make up for the smaller diameter of its cooking surface, giving the pan a total of 3 quarts of volume.
So it’s perfect for making sauces or one-pot meals— you could even boil pasta in this pan! But if you’re looking for a wide, flat surface for grilling or making crepes, you might be disappointed with the 12.5” fry pan.
Testing the Performance of Rachael Ray Brights Cookware
I like to put my pans through four different tests to get a feel for how they perform. Here’s how the Rachael Ray Brights pan held up.
The Egg Test
The first thing any proud owner of a virgin nonstick pan should do is cook an egg in it, bare, with no oil, to get the pleasure of watching the fried egg – that most notorious of sticky proteins – appear to defy physics and glide swanlike around the pan’s interior. Am I right?
So I tried it. I washed the pan with warm soapy water first, like the lovely label told me to. Then I dried it and heated it carefully on medium-low just until the droplets of water danced in the pan.
In went the egg.
The result: The egg stuck—just a bit. The pan gripped the surface of the egg and toasted it before (mostly) releasing it, but it left a few bits of egg behind. The debris was easy to wipe out with a paper towel, but it wasn’t quite the glorious nonstick experience I was hoping for.
I tried the egg again with a drop of oil, and the pan performed perfectly.
Takeaway: Rachael Ray pans need a bit of oil to be totally nonstick.
The Pancake Test
Next, I tried my trusty pancake batter in this Rachael Ray nonstick pan. Again, although the heat was on quite low, the surface of the pan toasted the bottom surface of the pancake surprisingly quickly. It released nicely, though, leaving minimal crumbs behind. This pan passed the pancake test.
Takeaway: Rachael Ray pans heat up quickly; use less heat than you think you’ll need.
The Water Boil Test
After cooling, washing, and drying the pan again, I placed it on the burner on medium-low heat and boiled three cups of water for 20 minutes. As you can see from the photo below, the water in the pan began to bubble evenly across, mostly all at the same time. This indicates that the aluminum core distributes the heat well, without “hot spots” that could burn your food in one area while undercooking it in others.
However, after a few minutes on medium-low heat to bring the water to a boil, and then 20 minutes on a low-heat simmer, the brightly coated enamel on the bottom of the pan was already showing discoloration.
This is consistent with reviews for this pan on Amazon, many of which share that the vibrant paint dulls, discolors, bubbles, or burns after just a few uses.
Takeaway: The pan distributed heat evenly, without hot spots. However, the enamel paint can’t hold up to even medium heat.
The Sear Test
I decided not to perform my usual sear test on this pan, since the PTFE coating and enamel paint aren’t designed for high temperatures.
Care and Maintenance
|Ease of Care Rating:||4.0 / 5.0 ⭐|
Overall, this set was comfortable to use and quick to clean. The egg residue left on the pan when cooking one without oil washed off quickly with warm water and a soft cloth. This pan would be even easier to clean if it was dishwasher safe, though.
Running Rachael Ray Brights collection pans through the dishwasher will damage the exterior finish, shorten the life of the nonstick coat, and void the warranty.
Unlike cast iron, this pan doesn’t need seasoning to keep in shape. However, it must be stored carefully. Stacking the nonstick pans will scratch the coating unless you use towels in between the pans for protection.
Longevity and Warranty
|Durability Rating:||3.0 / 5.0 ⭐|
The Rachael Ray Brights collection pans work as well as you’d expect from an entry-grade nonstick aluminum pan. But since they are not hard anodized, they’re prone to dents and scratches.
And, judging by the Amazon reviews and my experience with similar nonstick pans, I don’t expect this one to last more than 12 – 24 months, even with light use. It only takes one accident to overheat the pan on the stove or dishwasher, which can warp the pan and drastically reduce the effectiveness of the nonstick coating.
The pan didn’t scratch in my tests, but I was using a gentle nylon spatula. The lids, however, are so loosely fitting that many users found the rattling lids to scratch the coating around the edges of the pan.
Most Rachael Ray products are covered against manufacturing defects by a “limited lifetime warranty.” The warranty, however, is quite limited. Quoting from my product label, “The warranty does not cover accident…normal wear and tear … scratches, stains, discoloration, or damage from overheating.”
In other words, unless your pan is scratched or warped right out of the box, don’t expect the company to replace it.
Health and Environmental Concerns
The Rachael Ray website claims that “All of our products sold in the U.S. meet all federal and state requirements, including those of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and California’s Proposition 65.” Source (accessed 8/23). The brand claims that their pans, despite the bright colors, don’t contain cadmium (once commonly used as a pigment for cookware).
Do Rachael Ray fry pans contain Teflon?
Rachael Ray pans technically don’t contain Teflon – the branded polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) product made by the Chemours Company (formerly by DuPont). But the nonstick coatings on Rachael Ray pans are made of unbranded PTFE, which is a highly controversial product among health-conscious consumers.
While some websites state that Rachael Ray cookware is “PFOA free,” this doesn’t actually translate to “totally safe.” Fact is, PTFE manufacturing must use chemical polymers to get the hydrophobic effect that makes it so useful as a cooking surface.
Regulations in the United States have been phasing out use of “forever chemicals” like PFOA and PFAS, but more research is needed on the newer chemicals (like “Gen X”) being used instead.
I did not find the Rachael Ray brand website to be helpful, detailed, or transparent on the subject of safety or the components used in their pans.
Is Rachael Ray Cookware Worth It?
If you’re looking for attractive, affordable, nonstick cookware for light to moderate use, some collections of Rachael Ray cookware are definitely worth considering.
In my option, Create Delicious hard anodized collection is the best Rachael Ray cookware set. It’s induction compatible, can handle a bit higher heat than other collections, and is more durable than regular aluminum nonstick pans.
I don’t, however, recommend the Brights collection. It’s only a little bit cheaper than Create Delicious or Classic Brights but seems to be significantly lower quality.
The Best Alternatives to Rachael Ray Nonstick Fry Pans
Rachael Ray is a dependable budget brand with a high-end appearance. But if you’re willing to pay a smidge more for something that will perform better and last longer, here are some options I’d recommend.
Blue Diamond Infused Ceramic Cookware 14 Piece Set
For me, the biggest drawback to Rachael Ray cookware is the potentially harmful PTFE coating. If you want to steer away from PTFE cookware but still want a nonstick surface, I’d suggest checking out Blue Diamond’s real diamond-infused ceramic set.
This cookware is drop-dead gorgeous with its sparkly jewel tones. And the sol-gel coating is, according to the manufacturer, 10 times harder than traditional nonstick coatings. It’s oven safe up to 600°F. (In contrast to the 350°F or 400°F of Rachael Ray pans.)
And at less than $200, the 14-piece Blue Diamond set is not much more expensive than Rachael Ray cookware!
I got my dad the Blue Diamond fry pan for Father’s Day, and now I offer to cook when I go to his place just so I can have a chance to use it!
Cuisinart 12-Piece MultiClad Pro Triple-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set
The Rachael Ray brand has a stainless steel collection, that’s aesthetically fun and great for beginners (it has measurement markers etched into the steel!) But it’s not as durable as a fully-clad stainless steel cookware set, like the Cuisinart Triple Ply stainless steel cookware.
This cookware costs almost twice as much as some Rachael Ray collections, but rather than tossing it in a few years, you’ll likely be passing it on to your grandchildren. The set’s sleek designs crafted of high-nickel 18/10 stainless steel will stay bright through the years, unlike the enamel paint on Rachael Ray pans.
The learning curve is higher with stainless steel, but the good news is that it’s totally dishwasher-safe. And if, like me, you absent-mindedly overheat a stainless steel pan, the results won’t be as disastrous or toxic as overheating PFTE.
Cookware Comparison Chart
|Rachael Ray Classic Brights Hard Anodized Aluminum Set||Blue Diamond Cookware Diamond Infused Ceramic Set||Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Triple Ply Stainless Steel Set|
|Core Material||Hard anodized aluminum||Aluminum (Blue Diamond also has a stainless steel set)||Aluminum fully clad in stainless steel|
|Cooking Surface Material||PTFE nonstick||Diamond-infused ceramic||Stainless steel|
|Oven Safe||Up to 350°F||Up to 600°F||Up to 500°F|
|Dishwasher Safe||No||Not recommended||Yes|
|Induction Compatible||No||No (but this set is)||Yes|
|Estimated Lifespan||2 – 5 years||4 – 10 years||Lifetime with care|
|Price Range||$140 – $250||$150 – $200||$250 – $300|
All the Rachael Ray Collections Compared
There are quite a few collections of Rachael Ray cookware! The priority for this brand is making pots and pans flashy enough to be on TV, so the primary differences between the collections are aesthetic, and most of them come in a variety of colors. However, there are also significant differences in materials and construction quality between some of the collections.
Brights is Rachael Ray’s porcelain enamel nonstick collection and the collection I primarily tested in this review. While it’s lovely at first sight, many users complain that the brightly colored enamel doesn’t last past a few uses.
Classic Brights is the original Rachael Ray cookware collection, with the widest selection of colors and styles available. It’s also very affordable, but not as durable as some of the newer and improved versions. If you get Classic Brights cookware, opt for the hard anodized products.
Create Delicious is one of the more durable Rachael Ray collections. Its hard anodized line is induction-compatible, and there is also a set of stainless steel Create Delicious cookware. The enamel-coated hard anodized pans come in agave blue, sea salt gray, and cranberry red exterior sides, but the bottoms are a stainless induction plate that holds up much better than the porcelain bottoms of the Brights collection.
Cucina is one of the most popular lines of Rachael Ray cookware. It’s described as “rustic” in appearance – but “farmhouse chic” may be a better descriptor. It’s available in nonstick aluminum and hard anodized nonstick aluminum. It’s a good middle ground; not as durable as Create Delicious but more durable than the Classic Brights.
Get Cooking! Is Rachael Ray’s stackable cookware line. It’s only available in small sets, designed for dorm or small apartment life.
Cityscapes is the Rachael Ray set that doesn’t have a chic colorful flare, opting for a sleek gray instead. It’s only sold as a 12pc set, with a few extra fry pans, not totally open stock.
Cook + Create
Cook + Create pans have nonstick interiors and a quality comparable to the Brights collection, but more of a matte exterior finish.
Rachael Ray Nitro
New for 2023, Nitro is Rachael Ray’s new cast iron collection. The collection currently includes a Dutch oven, a roasting pan, and a couple of fry pans.
The Professional Collection
The Professional Collection includes a combination of stainless steel and hard anodized pieces designed for higher-intensity cooking.
All Rachael Ray cookware is produced by Meyer Manufacturing, the same company that makes cookware sold under labels Paula Deen, Ruffoni, Prestige, BonJour, Farberware, Sur La Table, Circulon, Anolon, and several others.
Although some higher-end brands of Meyer cookware are made in Italy or the US, all of the Rachael Ray cookware collections are, at the time of this writing, made in China or Thailand.
Rachael Ray brand cookware is, beneath the beautiful exterior, basic cookware. They’re a grade above your cheapest pans at the dollar store, but you shouldn’t expect them to become heirlooms, especially the nonstick-coated pans. None of the Rachael Ray sets can tolerate high-heat cooking, so they are best for simple applications on electric or glass stovetops.
On the positive side, the aluminum cores of these pans are well constructed and heat quickly and evenly. The nonstick coating releases food reasonably well, especially if you use a spoonful of oil. Some sets, such as the Rachael Ray Create Delicious and Nitro cast iron collections, have better versatility and longevity than the Brights basic sets.
Have you used Rachael Ray cookware? Did it meet your expectations? Let us know how we can make this review better by sharing your story in the comments!
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