Flexibility in stacking
Large stockpot and sauté pan
Interlocking handles reduce scratching
Smooth, nonstick handle rivets
Works on all cooktops
Anolon SmartStack Cookware Set
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Space-saving cookware lets cooks with small kitchens use a complete set of pots and pans. The challenge is freeing up cupboard space and still having large enough pans to feed a crowd or pack the freezer with ready-to-eat meals.
The Anolon SmartStack Cookware Set was designed to fill both space needs: large pans for small cupboards. The full-size cookware can be stored in two sturdy stacks that Anolon says leaves you with 62 percent more storage space than standard sets. It seemed likely I’d enjoy cooking with these pots and pans, given the company’s reputation for designing high-quality, long-lasting cookware. It’s also one of the more expensive space-saving sets on the market, so the real question was whether the set would be worth the price.
I spent a few weeks testing Anolon’s SmartStack cookware in my tiny kitchen to see how it fit into my cupboard and cooked up my favorite meals, from simple basted eggs to dosas and risotto. Here’s what I found.
Design: Thoughtful and flexible
When I started testing Anolon’s stacking cookware, the set included 2- and 4-quart lidded saucepans, a 5-quart lidded sauté pan, an 8-quart lidded stockpot, and 8.5- and 10-inch skillets, plus a steamer basket and silicone trivet. The 5-quart pan is one of my favorite sizes, ideal for frying a large batch of potato hash or cooking a full recipe of risotto. Anolon has since reconfigured the set, replacing the 5-quart sauté pan with a 12-inch skillet and selling the large sauté pan separately.
The glass lids curve enough that condensation slides to the rim, so you can see what’s bubbling inside.
Anolon designed the set to rest in two stacks, a 5-inch stack of skillets with large lids and a 13-inch tower of pots with smaller lids nestled inside. The lids’ top knobs interlock to stack separately, and I like this flexibility. Lids are sized to fit the skillets, too. The pans’ long handles lock together, letting each float above the pan below it to reduce scratching. Each lid’s metal rim is smooth and unlikely to scratch, but I used the silicone trivet that came with my set as extra protection.
Material: Strong, durable, and truly nonstick
With a hard-anodized aluminum exterior and reinforced nonstick interior, these pans withstood heavy daily testing. Anodizing aluminum makes it stronger than stainless steel, so these pans should last. Anolon says its nonstick coating is more durable than typical ceramic cookware and is free of PFOA. It was exciting to see food slide right off its surface and hear my husband announce, “I can flip eggs again!” As a bonus, the company added a stainless steel base so that the pans work on induction and all other cooktops.
Unlike many space-saving cookware sets, the SmartStack glass lids curve enough that condensation slides to rim, so you can see what’s bubbling inside the pot. The stainless steel handles have silicone sleeves that stay quite cool to the touch, even during long cooking times for fried and glazed tofu and vegetable risotto.
Heating Capacity: Speedy and efficient
The thick bottom on these pans heated so quickly that I immediately turned down the burner’s dial. This was a wise move all around: Anolon recommends using low to medium heat to protect the nonstick surface. Given the pans’ efficiency, lower-than-normal temperatures were ideal for browning potatoes without scorching them and keeping boiling pasta water in the pot.
The lids’ top knobs interlock to stack separately, and I like this flexibility.
Pans used on a medium to low burner held their heat. I tested them with pan-fried tofu cubes, which turned evenly golden without gluing to the pan, and then tossed them in a glaze that reduced consistently across the pan’s surface. The real tests were savory zucchini pancakes and Indian dosas, both of which usually require an oil rubdown between batches. In the SmartStack pans, I cooked pancake after pancake, turning them out whole and uniformly colored without adding any oil.
Cleaning: Quick and easy
These pans could not be easier to clean. No matter what I cooked, there was minimal residue inside. Even the handle rivets are nonstick and flush with the interior of the pan so that they don’t collect food particles. The outer surface sloughs off any dribbles from a stirring spoon and can be wiped clean. A little soap and a soft dishcloth took care of any remaining grease or juices.
Anolon lists these pans as dishwasher safe, but best practices for nonstick cookware include washing them by hand. The company also says you can safely use metal utensils with this set, but points out that damage from sharp-edged tools won’t be covered by the lifetime warranty. To get full use of the pans and keep them easy to clean, I plan to stick with softer utensils.
Price: High quality with a price to match
The Anolon SmartStack Cookware Set is one of the priciest space-saving sets on the market, ranging from $420 to $450 depending on the pieces included. Anolon has been making hard-anodized nonstick pots and pans since the mid-1980s. The cost for the SmartStack set is on par with many of its more traditional cookware collections that are known for their high quality and long lifespan. Although many other stackable cookware sets cost less, they tend to include smaller and/or fewer pots and lids.
Competition: Less expensive, but smaller
Anolon’s SmartStack carries a hefty price tag, so it’s worth considering if you’re ready to invest in high-quality nonstick cookware. If you want to save space and dollars, there are some other great options out there.
Tramontina Nesting Cookware Set: Tramontina’s space-saving set got high remarks from our tester, and it includes just as many pieces, but tops out at a 4.75-quart pot capacity. Its lower price and innovative nesting style that puts all the pieces in one stack make it worth considering if you don’t need to feed a lot of people.
Abizoe Compact Cookware Set: For an even smaller travel set, Abizoe’s compact cookware deserves a look. Its largest pans are 2 quarts and 10.25 inches, but it will feed one or two for basic meals if you can’t afford to store or buy a larger set. With its removable handle, it takes up less space than a stack of dinner plates. Of note: Within weeks of testing, the removable handle broke, although it’s hard to say if this was a one-off manufacturing flaw. Replacement handles are being sold separately by some online retailers, but our tester was unable to reach Abizoe directly.
This collection is worth the price if you love to cook.
The Anolon SmartStack Cookware Set has full-size, nonstick pots and pans designed specifically to stack without scratching. Its high quality comes with a high price tag, but it’s one of the best space-saving sets available for small kitchens.
- Product Name SmartStack Cookware Set
- Product Brand Anolon
- Weight 16.5 lbs.
- Color Black
- Capacity 8.5 inches, 10 inches, 2 quarts, 4 quarts, 5 quarts, 8 quarts
- Material Aluminum, stainless steel, silicone, non-stick interior
- Warranty Lifetime
- What's Included 2- and 4-quart saucepans, 5-quart sauté pan, and 8-quart stockpot with lids; 8.5- and 10-inch fry pans; steamer basket