Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Cuisinart Stainless Steel Set at Amazon
“The heavy, seamless bottom is easy to clean and prevents hot spots.”
Best Non-Stick: Anolon Nonstick Cookware Set at Amazon
“They’ve been restaurant-tested to make sure they’re metal utensil safe.”
Best Budget: Cook N Home Steel Cookware Set at Amazon
“This wallet-friendly set is perfect for someone setting up their first kitchen.”
Best Luxury Splurge: All-Clad Stainless Steel Cookware Set at Amazon
“Boasts tri-ply construction for even heating and good heat retention.”
Best Cast Iron: Lodge 5-Piece Cookware Set at Amazon
“Cast iron is very durable and can be handed down through generations.”
“Made from hard anodized aluminum and the interior is ceramic.”
Best for Small Kitchens: Calphalon Premier Nonstick 6-Piece Set at Amazon
“Perfect for small kitchens or anyone short on storage space.”
Best with Steamer: Cooks Standard 10-Piece Cookware Set at Amazon
“Handy to have, whether you’re cooking vegetables or steaming hard boiled eggs.”
01 of 08
Best Overall: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set
What We Like
What We Don't Like
Set needs larger skillet
Side handles can get hot
Experienced cooks will love this high-quality set of stainless steel cookware, which includes both a 1.5- and 3-quart saucepan, 8- and 10-inch open skillets, a 3.5-quart sauté pan, an 8-quart stockpot, and a steamer insert. Everything but the open skillets and the steamer insert come with lids. Our tester thought that the pieces in this set heat up quickly, retain heat well, and look good on your stove.
Stainless steel with an aluminum core, they are induction compatible, oven safe to 550 degrees, and dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Plus, everything is durable: “Short of taking a hammer to it, or running it over with a truck, there's no reason it would fail,” our reviewer raved. The long handles stay comfortably cool during cooking and have hanging holes for storage, but our tester did caution that the side loop handles can get quite hot.
02 of 08
Best Nonstick: Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set
What We Like
Durable nonstick surface
Large loop handles
Safe for use with metal utensils
What We Don't Like
Handle rivets aren't nonstick
Must be washed by hand
Everyone knows that nonstick frying pans are great for cooking eggs, but this set goes way beyond breakfast. With 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans, an 8-quart stockpot, a 3-quart sauté pan, a 12-inch deep covered skillet with helper handle, and an 8-inch French skillet, “the sizes and shapes of pans in this set are all very useful,” according to our tester.
Made from anodized aluminum, the pans are responsive to heat changes while the thick bottoms eliminate hot spots. The lids are shatterproof glass so you can see inside while cooking, and the handles are covered with a non-slip material that stays cool. They are oven safe to 400 degrees. Our reviewer's only complaints were that they aren't dishwasher-safe or induction-compatible.
Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best nonstick cookware sets can help you find what you're looking for.
03 of 08
Best Budget: Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
What We Like
What We Don't Like
Not recommended for high heat
This wallet-friendly set includes a 1.5-quart saucepan, three casserole pans (1.5, 2, and 3 quarts), a 5.5-quart stockpot, and a 10-inch fry pan. “While serious cooks should ignore this set, it fits a niche for people whose needs are simple, or in situations where the cookware will be used short-term or only occasionally,” our tester explained.
Made from polished stainless steel with tempered glass lids, the pans heat food evenly, according to our reviewer. “I didn’t like how hot the handles got when cooking—they’re very hard to touch without an oven mitt,” our tester noted. However, they're induction-compatible and dishwasher-safe—although hand washing is recommended for longevity. Plus, they're oven safe to 350 degrees, which is less than other sets but still sufficient for most needs.
04 of 08
Best Luxury Splurge: All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Cookware Set
What We Like
Cooks food evenly
Easy to clean
What We Don't Like
This set—a 10-inch frying pan, 3-quart saucepan, and 3-quart sauté pan—is definitely a splurge. The tri-ply construction means there is an aluminum core surrounded by stainless steel, giving this set the best combination of even heating and good heat retention. Our tester—who made soup, stir-fries, pasta, meat, and fish—reported that this set was easy to clean. He said, “I always believed that Teflon cookware was needed for things to not stick, but this All-Clad set prevents food from sticking and cooks the food very well by distributing heat evenly.”
These are oven and broiler safe to 600 degrees without the lids, and they are induction compatible. Our tester did say they were heavy but acknowledged that their sturdiness likely contributed to the great quality.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Best Cast Iron: Lodge L5HS3 5-Piece Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Cookware Set
What We Like
What We Don't Like
Difficult to clean
Our tester called this cookware set a “great introductory set to cast iron," with an 8-inch skillet, a 10.25-inch skillet, a 10.5-inch griddle, a 5-quart Dutch oven, and a lid that will fit either the Dutch oven or the larger skillet. Our reviewer praised the pans for their excellent heat retention: “I cooked steak multiple times,” explained our reviewer, “and got amazing sears with the hot cast iron.” They also perform well in the oven. "It was amazing being able to take one from the stovetop straight into the oven to broil or bake dishes,” he said. While this cookware comes pre-seasoned, additional seasoning and continued cooking will make the seasoning even better.
Read more reviews of the best cast iron pans available to purchase online.
06 of 08
Best Ceramic: Calphalon 11 Piece Classic Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set
What We Like
Easy to clean
Convenient measuring marks
Cooks food quickly and evenly
What We Don't Like
Handles get very hot
Perfect for people who like the idea of nonstick cookware but don’t want anything that might include Teflon, this attractive set is made from hard-anodized aluminum and has a white ceramic interior that’s super easy to clean because food slides right off. The set includes 8-inch and 10-inch frying pans, a 12-inch round griddle, 1.5- and 2.5-quart saucepans, a 3-quart sauté pan, and a 5-quart Dutch oven.
Measuring marks inside the cookware, pouring spouts, and strainer lids are all convenient touches that reviewers really like. This cookware is also oven safe to 450 degrees. To prevent scratching, you should use soft utensils like silicone, nylon, or wood with this cookware, but a few users warn that even if you do, these pans are easily prone to scratches and chipping.
Take a peek at some of the other best ceramic cookware you can buy.
07 of 08
Best for Small Kitchens: Calphalon Premier Space Saving Nonstick 6 Piece Set
What We Like
Easy to store
What We Don't Like
Perfect for anyone who is short on storage space, these pots are built to stack and nest. The set—which includes an 8-inch frying pan, a 10-inch frying pan, a 3.5-quart saucepan with lid, and a 3-quart sauté pan with lid—can be arranged in any order, so your least-used pots can stay at the bottom while your favorites can rest where they’re easy to grab first, and the lids are flat.
They're made from hard-anodized aluminum with a nonstick interior that’s safe for use with metal utensils. The long handles stay cool during cooking and have hanging holes if you want to hang a few pieces on the pot rack. This set is oven safe to 450 degrees but is not induction compatible. For easy cleaning, it's dishwasher safe.
Reviewers note that it's not a cheap set but most say it's worth it for the long-term value. They do, however, warn that quality construction means the pieces are quite heavy.
08 of 08
Best with Steamer: Cooks Standard 10 Piece Multi-Ply Clad Cookware Set
What We Like
Flexible steamer insert fits well
What We Don't Like
Difficult to clean
A steamer can be very handy, whether you’re cooking vegetables, steaming hard-boiled eggs, or gently steaming seafood. While you can always hunt down a steamer to go with your current cookware, it can be hard to find one that’s the perfect fit. This set includes a .5-quart saucepan with lid, a 3-quart saucepan with lid, an 8-quart stockpot with lid, a 4-quart sauté pan with lid, and the steamer insert with lid, which is designed to fit both saucepans, making it super versatile.
These have an aluminum core covered with stainless steel for even heating, good responsiveness, and no hot spots. The cookware is oven safe to 500 degrees, it can be used on induction cooktops, and it is dishwasher safe. However, reviewers note that there can be some discoloration and spots, so they recommend using Bar Keepers Friend to keep everything looking new.
Interested in reading more reviews? Check out our round-up of the best food steamers.
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.
Is nonstick cookware safe?
If you buy new nonstick cookware, you can be assured that it is safe and has no perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)—also known as C-8—which was sometimes used to bond the nonstick coating to the pan prior to 2015. While the effects of PFOA at low doses in humans are disputed, there are links to some health concerns. However, if used properly (including not overheating, not using metal utensils, and not using abrasive cleaners), there shouldn’t be any concern about your old nonstick pans.
The Ultimate Cookware Buying Guide
Whether you're just getting your own place and your cooking will be limited to boiling water for ramen or you plan on cooking more gourmet meals for entertaining, cookware is a necessity. You may only require specific inexpensive pieces or a whole new set. Or if you're a seasoned cook, you might be looking for higher-quality cookware to replace older pieces that have seen better days, or to upsize pots and pans to fit a growing family. Even when a full set is purchased, it’s not unusual to add a few new pieces that weren’t included in the set, like a nonstick frying pan, a cast-iron Dutch oven, a grill pan, or a roasting pan.
The most common pieces of cookware are frying or sauté pans for foods like burgers, steaks, and eggs, and saucepans for cooking pasta, steaming vegetables, making mac and cheese, and cooking soups and sauces. Dutch ovens are great for making chili or cooking large quantities of foods that won’t fit in the saucepot. Stockpots are used for even larger quantities of food, as well as for making soup stock. They can also be used for water bath canning.
Cookware comes in a wide range of prices: Single starter pieces can sell for under $10, high-end pieces can be several hundred dollars each, and then there are luxury sets that can run in the thousands of dollars. Not everyone needs a high-end set, but it’s wise to look for the best quality you can afford since it will perform better and last longer. Cookware can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, and they can come with or without nonstick or decorative coatings. Whether you’re looking for a pan to sear steaks or a pot to cook jam, there’s a piece of cookware that’s just right for that purpose and a set that will be the perfect fit for your kitchen and your lifestyle.
Material is the first thing to consider when buying cookware since it affects both the price and the performance. While there are some cookware pieces made from clay or stovetop-safe ceramic materials, those tend to be specialty items rather than everyday cookware. Most cookware is made from some type of metal, with stainless steel, aluminum, and copper being the most common. While some cookware is made entirely from one type of metal, 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, so while you might be able to toss some pieces in the dishwasher, others will need to be hand-washed. 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 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. Some cookware has an exterior coating, which tends to be more decorative than functional. 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 often has 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, 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 size for a piece of cookware. It just depends on how many people you're trying to cook for and how much you want to make at one time. While some might prefer small cookware for individual meals, others might love large cookware, so they can cook ahead and freeze meals.
There are a huge variety of pots in different shapes, often for specific uses, like crepe pans or grill pans. In general, wide, shallow pans are best for cooking foods where evaporation is desired. For example, a shallow pot is ideal for reducing sauces. Tall, narrow pots are best when the goal is to limit the evaporation of liquid, like when you’re cooking pasta.
When you buy a cookware set, it’s common for there to be more pots than lids, since it’s likely that some lids will be interchangeable. When you’re buying cookware one piece at a time, it’s nice to get a lid, but if you have other cookware, you may already have a lid that will fit perfectly. Lids are often made from the same material as the pot, so they can withstand the same heat. Some lids are made from glass, which means you can see the food without lifting the lid, but they may not be able to handle high oven heat.
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.
All-Clad is one of the high-end cookware brands that consistently manufactures quality cookware, usually featuring clad materials where copper and/or aluminum are sandwiched between layers of stainless steel for the optimum cooking experience. While All-Clad is known for its high-end cookware, they have several product lines at different price points, so they can be affordable for serious home cooks looking for quality. Since the cookware is made to last, you won’t need to replace the pots for many, many years.
A mid-priced brand that produces quality cookware, Anolon has a variety of cookware lines to fit just about every kitchen, whether you’re looking for a colored exterior or a shiny metal surface. While they’re often known for their premium nonstick cookware, they also have uncoated stainless steel cookware as well as enameled cast iron pieces. Among their products, you’ll find nonstick cookware that is metal-utensil safe, so you can keep using your favorite tools. Anolon has branched out, and you can now find bakeware products as well.
The Farberware company has been in existence for well over 100 years, so there’s a good chance that someone in your family has owned at least a few of their pieces. Today, they’re known for their budget-friendly but high-quality cookware, including some very durable nonstick product lines that are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. They also sell stainless steel cookware as well as companion items like bakeware, knives, and cooking gadgets.
Known for its made-in-France enameled cast iron Dutch ovens in a variety of colors, the brand has expanded to other types of cookware and other products. Besides Dutch ovens, they sell braisers, grill pans, and skillets in enameled cast iron, as well as stainless steel cookware, ceramic casseroles, and specialty cookware, some of which are made in countries other than France. Le Creuset Dutch ovens are often treasured family pieces that are passed down through generations since the coatings are well made and unlikely to chip or crack with normal use.
Lodge is known for its uncoated cast iron cookware, including a wide range of frying pans, from single-egg pans to very large pans fit for feeding the neighborhood. They also make uncoated Dutch ovens for stovetop or camping use, grill pans, pizza pans, and chicken fryers. Like other companies, Lodge has expanded their product lines and they now also sell enameled cast iron cookware. While the uncoated cast iron pans are manufactured in the US, their other products may be manufactured elsewhere.
Mauviel cookware is one of the most well-known manufacturers of copper cookware. Made in France, the cookware is beautiful and expensive. While a complete set might be out of the budget, a single piece of cookware might be affordable for special use, like a crepe pan or a jam pan.
Accessories and Warranties
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. Some warranties only cover manufacturing defects, so you won’t get a pan replaced if you scraped your nonstick cookware with a knife or heated a coated pan above the safe temperature. Some companies are more generous with their replacements, often on a case-by-case basis, so if your high-end saucepan suddenly loses a handle, it’s worthwhile to contact the company to see if a replacement is possible. Since cookware has no moving parts, defects and breakage are not common, with the worst fault being defects in nonstick coatings.
Few single pieces of cookware come with accessories, aside from lids. Exceptions are stockpots that might include a steamer or pasta insert, or roasting pans that might include a rack. Some cookware sets do include extras, but their value can be negligible since they can make it seem like you’re getting more cookware but instead you’re getting inexpensive spoons and spatulas. 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.