You can get away with only owning a pot and a skillet, but for most people, you'll need a full array of cookware to get by in life. When you're searching for the best cookware to outfit your kitchen, there are some advantages to buying a complete set. First, a set can be less expensive than buying individual pieces, so you’ll save money. Second, different cookware material can behave differently on the stove, but when all your cookware is the same, you’ll be familiar with how they heat up and respond to temperature changes.
To help us determine the best, we've tested more than 50 top-rated cookware sets, some of them multiple times, to see how well they really perform. From frying eggs to simmering tomato sauce to searing steak, we assessed their design, durability, heating capabilities, versatility, and ease of cleaning.
Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad 10-Piece Stainless Steel Set
Great performance when searing and browning
Durable and well-built
Some might find pots unbalanced
Pieces don't stack together nicely
This Tramontina cookware set proves that you can get amazingly great pots and pans for an affordable price. Made from 18/10 stainless steel, each piece has an aluminum core that distributes the heat evenly, and they're all magnetic so you can use them on any induction cooktop. We've tested this line three times, and each time it performs better than the last.
We've cooked everything from delicate scallops and omelets to boiling water for pasta when testing, and every tester has noted how well heats up, browning food perfectly which included leaving a great crust on seared steak. The handles are very ergonomic, though they can get a bit warm to touch when over high heat. This cookware even survived our warp test—if you accidentally place a hot fry pan in cold water, it shouldn't be damaged at all. A few times during testing, fond got a little too burnt-on which led to a few swipes with a steel wool, but overall, the set cleaned up nicely.
A few of us did find the pots to be a little unbalanced, with the weight focused on the center of the pot. We also repeatedly noticed that the set doesn't stack easily for storage. Regardless, it's a great set to have, with an 8-piece and a 12-piece version if you need more or less pans, all coming with a lifetime warranty.
Price at time of publish: $298
Material: Stainless steel | Oven Max: 500 degrees | Induction Safe: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but hand washing is recommended | What's Included: 8-inch and 10-inch fry pans, 1.5-quart and 3-quart saucepans with lids, 3-quart braiser with lid, 6-quart sauce pot with lid
Caraway Cookware Set
Rounded interior for easy sautéing
Comes with storage
Even heat distribution
Could use an additional small fry pan
Stainless handles can get hot
Drips a little when pouring
This 7-piece cookware set from direct-to-consumer brand Caraway is the perfect blend of performance and design. The selection is thoughtfully curated, and each set is available in a variety of stylish hues with a modern silhouette that looks great on any stovetop.
Every time we've tested this, Caraway proved that it was more than just aesthetically pleasing. These pieces displayed controlled and even heat distribution, giving a subtle sear and gentle buildup of color without scorching. The nonstick surface is perfect for evenly cooking eggs without sticking, and it also made cleanup seamless each and every time. The pots and pans are generously sized and perfect for large-batch recipes, though we do wish there were one more small fry pan included for quick, small tasks.
Unlike other cookware sets on the market, this one comes with a magnetic pan rack and a canvas lid holder that can be attached to the inside of your cabinets for convenient storage. They are oven- and dishwasher-safe, although hand washing is recommended to keep them looking their best (most foods will glide off with a little soap and warm water).
Price at time of publish: $395
Material: Ceramic-coated aluminum | Oven Max: 550 degrees | Induction Safe: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but hand wash recommended | What's Included: 10.5-inch fry pan, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 4.5-quart sauté pan with lid, 6.5-quart Dutch oven with lid, modular magnetic pan rack, canvas lid holder
Calphalon Signature Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set
Quick to heat
Great temperature consistency and distribution
Easy to clean
On the pricey side
Made of hard-anodized aluminum (a process that makes it very durable), this Calphalon set has been one of our favorites for years. This 10-piece set is a bit pricey, but it has everything you need and, since it's so durable, it'll be years before the coating wears out. It's tough enough that it's safe for the rare metal utensil to be used while cooking.
Throughout our testing, we've been very impressed by how quickly this set heats up, and how evenly it distributes and retains that heat. The heavy-duty pans have a good thickness and weight to them, with one tester stating, "this feels like professional cookware." We did notice some food getting caught around the interior rivets, but overall, the nonstick coating performs outstandingly and the cleanup was short and sweet. The extra-long stainless-steel handles can get hot to the touch, so be sure to use a mitt when cooking.
Price at time of publish: $393
Material: Hard-anodized aluminum nonstick interior | Oven Max: 500 degrees | Induction Safe: No | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | What's Included: 10-inch and 12-inch fry pan, 2-quart and 3-quart saucepan with lids, 3-quart sauté pan with lid, 8-quart stock pan with lid
Best Heavy Duty
All-Clad D5 Stainless Brushed 5-Ply Bonded Cookware Set
5-ply construction gives incredible heat distribution
Very durable and high-quality construction
Oven safe to 600 degrees
Hefty price tag
Handles make them challenging to store
When it comes to high-quality cookware, All-Clad has built a reputation of trust among amateur and professional cooks alike. The d5 series is made of five alternating layers of stainless steel and aluminum for durability and optimum heat distribution, and is built to last.
Our testing proved that these pans are excellent for high-heat cooking, like searing meats and sautéing vegetables. The thick construction does mean that it takes a few moments to heat up than thinner pots, the heat does eventually spread to the edges of the pan and provides steady, even heating during cooking. We did notice a bit of scorching while simmering tomato sauce and browning mirepoix, but gently stirring every so often should help avoid any hot spots as the pan heats up.
The unique handles stay cool, though some might find the groove slightly uncomfortable. You should also be aware that the 5-ply construction translates to heavier cookware. While this set is definitely not cheap, you get what you pay for with All-Clad—it's a set of cookware you won't have to replace for years, if ever.
Price at time of publish: $900
Material: Stainless steel and aluminum | Oven Max: 600 degrees | Induction Safe: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No | What's Included: 8-inch and 10-inch fry pan, 1.5-quart and 3-quart saucepans with lids, 3-quart sauté pan with lid, 5.5-quart Dutch oven with lid
Best Mixed Materials
Sardel Full Cookware Set
Quality 5-ply construction
Even, controlled heating
Offers stainless and nonstick in one set
Handles get hot
Sardel joins the ranks of new cookware startups that are grabbing people's attention with their well-constructed pots and pans. The seven pieces in this classically designed set are all made in Italy and have two layers of stainless steel surrounding a 3-layer aluminum core, giving you even heat distribution and quality that should last a lifetime.
Our test results have been mixed. The first time we tested these, the 5-ply construction demonstrated exceptional heat distribution, creating beautifully seared chicken and allowing for excellent fried eggs. But during our second round of testing, we observed some hot spots, and the skillet became discolored after 5 minutes over high heat. All the testers love the design though—the slightly flared lips on the pots and pans minimize dripping to aid in keeping your kitchen neat while cooking.
Cleaning this set was incredibly easy—our testers were able to clean the nonstick pieces in 20 seconds by hand, and the stainless steel pieces can go right into the dishwasher. If for any reason you don't love this set, you can return it for free within 30 days or take advantage of the limited lifetime warranty.
Price at time of publish: $725
Material: Stainless steel, aluminum core | Oven Max: 480 degrees | Induction Safe: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No | What's Included: 10-inch stainless steel and 10-inch nonstick skillet with lid, 12-inch stainless steel and 12-inch nonstick skillet with lid, 2-quart and 4-quart saucepan with lids, 8-quart stockpot
Farberware 15-Piece Dishwasher-Safe Nonstick Cookware Set
Full set with utensils
Great nonstick performance and even heating
Food can get caught at the handle rivets
Might not be as durable
This lightweight, nonstick 15-piece set offers great performance and includes all the necessary pieces while staying within a budget. When we tested it, we found that rice pilaf and sauce turned out beautifully with nothing left behind in the pan. When using the 10-inch frying pan to make an omelet, it rolled smoothly out of the pan, though some did get stuck in the rivets for the handle.
Throughout the testing, we noticed the balanced feel of the pots and pans, though they do feel a little on the lower quality side compared to the higher-end sets. But the overall value of having a full set of cookware plus utensils trumps that. They were very easy to clean and are dishwasher safe, though washing by hand is recommended.
Price at time of publish: $80
Material: Silicone polyester-coated aluminum, tempered glass lid | Oven Max: 350 degrees | Induction Safe: No | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | What's Included: 8-Inch fry pan, 10-Inch frying pan with lid, 1-quart and 2-quart saucepans with lids, 5-quart Dutch oven with lid, 9 x 13-inch cookie sheet, 5 nylon kitchen utensils
Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper 10-Piece Cookware Set
Beautiful tablescape appeal
Greater responsiveness to heat
Unique handle feels ergonomic
Pricier than traditional cookware
More upkeep required to maintain finish
Not induction compatible
The hammered copper exterior of this classic French-style cookware set from Lagostina is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but it also serves a greater purpose: Copper heats five times better than cast iron and up to twenty times better than stainless steel. This exceptional heat conduction spreads heat faster and more evenly than other types of material, giving you better responsiveness when trying to control the temperature of your pan.
During our testing, we found that this set excels in heat distribution. For instance, tomato sauce developed an even simmer throughout after a few minutes. Due to the copper, our infrared thermometer detected consistent temperature through the bottom and center of the pan while the walls stayed a bit cooler. Though the frying pans require oil to make a fried egg without sticking, the resulting egg was delightfully even and beautifully cooked.
Sturdy, riveted stainless steel handles give you secure handling, and the entire pot is ovenproof up to 500 degrees. Hand washing is required for these gorgeous pieces, and some additional upkeep is necessary if you prefer a shiny look versus the patina finish that will develop over time.
Price at time of publish: $426
Material: Layered copper and stainless steel | Oven Max: 500 degrees | Induction Safe: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No | What's Included: 8-inch and 10-inch skillet, 2-quart and 3-quart saucepans with lids, 3-quart deep sauté pan with lid, 6-quart stockpot with lid
Bialetti Ceramic Pro 10-Piece Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Cookware Set
Bolted handles feel secure
Oven safe to 400 degrees
Excellent nonstick performance
Not recommended with metal utensils
Not induction compatible
Hand wash only
Made from hard-anodized aluminum, the cookware is responsive to heat changes while the stainless steel handles stay cool during cooking. The included lids are glass, so you can check on the food without releasing the heat, and the handles are generously sized, so they’re easy to grab and hold.
We found this set to have excellent nonstick performance with its ceramic coating including when a fried egg slid off the pan easily. The pans efficiently conducted heat, but they also tended to run hot, which could potentially be a problem for foods that require slower, even heating, like long braises or stews. On the plus side, these pans are fairly lightweight and easy to maneuver, and would work well for someone who wants an affordable, well-curated set made with ceramic nonstick. You'll just have to be careful with sharp utensils, as they could damage the slick coating,
It is recommended that you wash these pieces by hand, keeping in mind the care required to maintain the nonstick surface. While the coating held up for our reviewer during her home testing period, she did notice that it was less effective over time, as is typical with most nonstick cookware.
Price at time of publish: $173
Material: Hard-anodized aluminum with ceramic coating | Oven Max: 400 degrees | Induction Safe: No | Dishwasher Safe: No | What's Included: 8-inch and 10-inch sauté pans, 1.5-quart and 3-quart saucepans with lids, 3-quart deep sauté pan with lid, 6-quart Dutch oven with lid
The Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad 10-Piece Stainless Steel Set is our top choice for overall design, performance, and versatility. Looking for a more stylish option? We also love the Caraway Cookware Set.
How We Tested
We've done multiple rounds of cookware testing in our Lab's dedicated test kitchen, putting each set through its paces. We used them in various applications, from searing meats and delicate scallops, to cooking tomato sauce, and frying eggs, observing how even the pans heated, how they handled high heat, and how easy they were to maneuver. We specifically rated them on design, durability, versatility, heating ability, and ease of cleaning. Further insights were gathered from our experienced at-home cooks.
When We're Testing Next
In first half of 2023, we'll be testing more cookware sets, both tried-and-true ones and newer models, to help you find the very best. Each set will be tested for its heating and searing capabilities including how evenly it heats, how comfortable it is while cooking, its durability, and how the separate pieces affect its overall value.
Other Options We Tested
- T-Fal Professional Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set: While we've included this affordable set on our recommended list in the past, it fell short in testing. It doesn't retain heat well, yet seems much more susceptible to burning food—it was one of the only pans that started to smoke when making chicken in our Lab test. While T-Fal claims the pans are safe in the oven, it started to smell strongly of plastic when we tried. The biggest deal breaker was that the bottom of the frying pan wasn't level, causing eggs to run towards the outer edges instead of sitting in the middle for even cooking.
- Anolon SmartStack 10-Piece Cookware Set: This set has a pretty uneven distribution of heat, which is a non-starter when it comes to cookware we stand behind. The thick and sturdy material of these pans heats quickly, it doesn't retain it, meaning you'll spend a lot more energy trying to keep your pans at temperature. We also noticed a significant loss of heat as we waited for the ideal golden brown sear.
- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 10-Piece Cookware Set: We can't emphasize enough how much we love Le Creuset's cookware for even heat distribution and retention, but there are a few reasons why we omitted this set from our list. These pieces are super heavy and lend themselves best to certain tasks: high-heat searing and slow braising. For any other application—sautéing, boiling, making eggs—they're cumbersome, and there are other pieces of cookware that would work better. Since there are no lips on the pots and pans, they tend to get messy when pouring, as well, and they can be a bit stubborn to clean.
- Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set: While this is a super affordable pick, it doesn't include a frying pan, which is disappointing. Our tests found that these pieces were very light and made with less-substantial material, which might make them more susceptible to damage and wear. On the plus side, they heated fairly evenly and could work for someone who is looking for an inexpensive set that they don't mind replacing eventually or someone who doesn't cook very often, but wants a full set on hand for when they do.
What To Look for in a Cookware Set
Material is the first thing to consider when buying cookware since it affects both the price and the performance. Most cookware is made from some type of metal, with stainless steel, aluminum, and copper being the most common. And it's not unusual to find cookware made from two or more materials.
The type of material the cookware is made from will dictate the way it's maintained. Some materials are more finicky than others, and when it comes to cookware performance, different metals react differently when heated. From copper, which is super responsive, to cast iron that retains heat extremely well, each metal has its own special heating property.
Responsive metals gain and lose heat rapidly as you adjust the stove temperature. That responsiveness is desirable when cooking foods that can overcook quickly, like homemade crepes. It’s also useful for making jam or candy when it’s important to stop the cooking process at a specific temperature. Cast iron retains heat well, which means that it stays hot for a long time, even after the stove is turned off, and it also heats evenly, so you won’t get hot spots above the burners. Stainless steel and aluminum fall between copper and cast iron in terms of heat retention and responsiveness.
Nonstick interior coatings prevent your eggs from sticking and make cleaning easier, while uncoated cookware tends to be better for searing meats and for handling high heat on the stove and in the oven. While anodizing isn’t technically a coating, it creates a hard outer surface on aluminum cookware that looks attractive and resists stains and corrosion. Cast-iron cookware can have an enameled coating so it doesn’t need seasoning the way that uncoated cast iron does. Coated cast iron is resistant to corrosion and can handle acidic foods with ease. The downside to any coating is that it can be damaged, which can render the pan useless.
When it comes to cookware sets, size always makes a big difference. A small frying pan is great for cooking one or two eggs, while a large stockpot is exactly what you need for cooking large batches of soup stock. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the perfect combination of cookware sizes. It just depends on how many people you're trying to cook for, and what you'll need for regular cooking. At the very least, a fry pan or skillet, a saucepan, and a stockpot or Dutch oven will all be handy in the kitchen
Ease of Storage
Storage space is a problem in many kitchens, and cookware can eat up a lot of that valuable space. Sets that can nest will save cabinet or pantry space, but you’ll need to grab the whole set to pick the one item you want. And while large stockpots, woks, and oversized frying pans can be useful, those pieces might not fit in a cabinet.
Types of Cookware
Stainless steel cookware is one of the most common types you’ll find, and for good reason. It won’t rust or stain, and it’s not reactive when cooking acidic foods. It can also handle high heat and can be used on induction cooktops. While stainless steel tends to be on the pricier side, pots can be made less expensive by making the sides of the pots thinner, while high-end pots tend to have thicker sides and are heavier overall.
Some high-end stainless steel is actually a clad material, with layers of other metals sandwiched inside the stainless steel to provide the cooking benefits of those metals with the ease of stainless steel. Some stainless steel cookware has a disk attached to the bottom of the pot that provides some of the same benefits of clad cookware at a lower price point. While stainless steel is typically dishwasher safe, you should refer to the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions to be sure.
While uncoated aluminum is not a desirable material for cookware, coated aluminum is ideal because nonstick materials bond easily to the metal, protecting the aluminum and making the coating more durable. Besides having nonstick interior coatings, some aluminum cookware has an anodized exterior, which hardens the metal, creates a colored surface, and protects the exterior from stains and corrosion. Anodized cookware usually has either a nonstick-coated interior or a thin layer of stainless steel on the interior, so none of the aluminum is exposed. Aluminum can’t be used on induction cooktops unless the cookware has a stainless steel disk on the bottom to allow the induction cooktop to recognize it. While some nonstick aluminum cookware is dishwasher safe, you should check with the manufacturer to be sure.
Cast iron retains heat well, making it ideal for searing, frying, baking, and braising, and it will keep food warm after cooking is done. It’s also very heavy, so it’s not as easy to move on the stove or to get in and out of storage. Cast iron cookware can be either coated or uncoated, but both are induction-cooktop friendly.
Uncoated cast iron cookware needs some special care and cleaning, but it often arrives pre-seasoned, so it can be used right away. Further cooking and seasoning will make it even more nonstick over time. Uncoated cast iron typically shouldn’t be used with acidic foods like tomatoes, but thoroughly seasoned pans can tolerate some acidic foods for short times. Uncoated cast iron cookware is nearly indestructible, and can usually be used on a stovetop, in the oven, on a grill, and perhaps even over a campfire, but it should be washed by hand and may need occasional reseasoning.
Coated cast iron cookware, usually coated with layers of an enameled material, never needs seasoning, and it’s safe for use with acidic foods. Some cast-iron cookware has a shiny colored enameled exterior with a rough matte interior that resembles uncoated cast iron but is impervious to acidic foods. Some coated cast iron cookware is dishwasher safe, but you should check with the manufacturer to be sure since dishwasher detergent could harm the coating
Copper is a highly heat-responsive metal, so it heats and cools quickly. Unfortunately, it’s also reactive to acidic foods and will discolor with use and time, so it requires maintenance to keep it looking shiny. Some copper cookware has only a thin layer of copper on the outside of the pan that is purely for looks, but high-quality copper cookware is made entirely from copper, often with a thin coating of tin or stainless steel on the interior so it can be used with any type of food. True copper cookware is not compatible with induction cooktops, but stainless cookware with a decorative copper coating should be induction compatible.
While steel pans are not as common as other materials for home cookware, carbon steel, and blue steel is sometimes used for woks and other specialty pans. The cookware needs to be seasoned before use and oiled after cooking to keep it from rusting in storage. Enameled steel cookware is not as common today as it was in years past, but speckled enamelware can still be found occasionally, particularly in large pots used for water bath canning. The enameled coating protects the steel from rusting, but if the coating chips or cracks, rusting can occur. Steel cookware should be induction compatible, but if the material is extremely thin, the induction might not recognize it properly.
Ceramic cookware typically includes one of two types of cookware: those that are completely made of ceramic, and those that have an aluminum body bonded with a magnetic, silicon-based nonstick coating (this coating is called "ceramic" because the coating is made of sand).
Because ceramic is non-conductive, meaning it reacts slowly to heat and retains it well, it's ideal for slow, steady cooking. Thus, fully ceramic cookware typically comprises roasting pans and casserole dishes that are intended only for oven use. Completely ceramic cookware are made of either porcelain, earthenware, or stoneware, and they're typically dishwasher-safe.
Ceramic nonstick pots and pans, on the other hand, are designed to be used on the stovetop. Their aluminum core allows for quick, even heat distribution, while their nonstick exterior also resists scratches and is compatible with all kinds of stovetops (including induction). Ceramic nonstick pots and pans are generally safe in the dishwasher, but for them to last longer, hand washing is recommended, as well as only using wooden or silicone utensils when cooking with them.
Accessories and Warranties
When selecting the perfect set, it’s important to consider what you cook and in what quantities. A small frying pan may be perfect for a single person, but much less useful for a family. If a set is almost perfect, but is missing a piece, most manufacturers sell open stock cookware, so you can get that huge stock pot or grill pan you’ve been coveting.
Some sets do include valuable extras, like steamers, pasta inserts, double boilers, or frying inserts that fit specific cookware pieces in the set. When you’re buying a set, it’s wise to count the pans rather than the lids and extra pieces. Also, you can find plenty of accessories online, including universal lids, silicone handle covers for cast iron pans, roasting racks, and a multitude of options for steaming, frying, and draining.
Cookware warranties vary widely, from short-term warranties on single nonstick frying pans to lifetime warranties on higher-end cookware. While a lifetime warranty sounds like a great deal, most have caveats, like excluding commercial use or cookware abuse. Since cookware has no moving parts, defects and breakage are not common, with the worst fault being defects in nonstick coatings.
What type of cookware is induction compatible?
Cookware only works on induction cooktops (or portable induction burners) if it contains ferromagnetic materials, meaning either it has iron or a layer with magnetic properties. Cast iron and magnetic stainless steel sets are induction compatible, but aluminum, all-copper, and glass sets are not—unless they have an added layer on the bottom with magnetic properties. Be careful when it comes to stainless steel as it can be made with a variety of materials that may block the magnetic field. Most manufacturers will specify on the packaging or pans themselves if they are induction compatible.
What is anodized cookware?
An anodized exterior, which is sometimes found on aluminum cookware, hardens the metal, creates a colored surface, and protects the pans from stains and corrosion. You should be able to use any type of utensils with anodized cookware and not have to worry about scratches. However, you should note that all anodized cookware isn’t necessarily nonstick.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author who reviews products and writes roundups for The Spruce Eats. Her passion for quality cookware started when she toured a cookware manufacturer and saw how pots and pans were made. She’s personally reviewed two of the featured cookware sets for The Spruce Eats and has used individual pieces from many of the other featured sets.
This piece was updated by Bernadette Machard de Gramont, an L.A.-based writer who specializes in global food and wine content. After a two-year stint at Williams-Sonoma Headquarters in San Francisco, she now researches and tests a variety of cookware, bakeware, and wine tools, and interviews field experts for their insight.