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Whether it’s time to upgrade your existing cookware, or you’re shopping to equip a new kitchen, there are a vast number of cookware sets available. While you certainly could buy pots and pans one at a time, sets are often a better bargain, and the matching pieces will look good on the stove, in your pantry, or hanging from a rack. With so many choices, how do you know which to choose without taking it on a test drive first? We’ve done some of that testing for you, taking our top pick through everyday cooking tasks in a regular home kitchen, just like yours.
01 of 08
Best Overall: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set
If you don’t want nonstick cookware, this could be the perfect set for you. The three-layered construction with an aluminum core ensures even heating and the stainless steel surface won’t stain or react with acidic foods. This is a heavy duty, attractive, classic-looking set that will fit in with any kitchen’s décor. This cookware has rims that are designed for drip-free pouring, and it’s oven-safe up to a whopping 550 degrees Fahrenheit.
The cookware and lids are dishwasher safe, but since the lids are metal, you can’t peek inside the pots without lifting the lid. The set includes 1 1/2- and 3-quart covered saucepans, 8- and 10-inch open skillets, a 3-1/2-quart covered sauté pan, an 8-quart covered stockpot, and a steamer insert with lid. If this set is a little too large, there’s a smaller set with two covered saucepans, a covered stockpot, and an open skillet.
02 of 08
Best Durability: Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set
This isn’t your mother’s nonstick cookware. The pans are made from hard-anodized aluminum and coated inside and out for even cooking without excessive weight. The nonstick coating is metal-utensil-safe, so you can use a spoon without worrying about damaging a saucepan.
If you need to finish cooking in the oven, the cookware is safe to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The glass lids let you see what’s cooking, the tall loop handles on the lids made them easy to grasp, and the pot handles are designed for a cool, sturdy grip. The set includes a 3-quart covered sauté pan, 1-1/2- and 3-quart covered saucepans, a roomy 8-quart covered stockpot, and 8-1/2-inch open skillet, and a 12-inch covered deep skillet. This cookware should be hand washed.
03 of 08
Best Budget: Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
If you’re looking for an inexpensive set of cookware for a new kitchen, a vacation home, or extra pieces to round out what you have, this 12-piece set will fit nicely into your budget. Even better, it doesn’t include extra pieces that you don’t need.
The cookware is made from polished stainless steel with a capsulated bottom for even heating and more reliable cooking. Lids are tempered glass, so you can see what’s cooking without lifting the lid and releasing heat. Handles are riveted on for secure, long-lasting use.
The set includes a 1 1/2 quart saucepan with lid, a 1 1/2 quart casserole with lid, a 2-quart casserole with lid, a 3-quart casserole with lid, a 5 1/2 quart stock pot with lid, and a 10-inch frying pan with lid. This set works on any cooktop, including convection. The pans are oven-safe to 350 degrees and the lids can be used in the oven up to 270 degrees.
While the pans won’t be functionally damaged at higher oven temperatures, they are likely to discolor with higher heat. If appearance isn’t a priority, the pans can be used in the oven at temperatures up to 500 degrees.
04 of 08
Best Nonstick: Rachael Ray Hard Enamel Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set
If you love bright color in the kitchen, this nonstick cookware set will make you happy. It comes in seven different colors and all pieces have a nonstick interior and an enameled exterior. The handles have a rubberized grip and the lids are glass so you can check the progress of your food without having to remove them.
This set includes a 1-quart saucepan with lid, a 2-quart saucepan with lid, a 6-quart stockpot with lid, a 3-quart sauté pan with lid, and 8 1/2- and 10-inch skillets. The stockpot is smaller than those in other sets, but large enough for a pot of soup or chili for a crowd. This set is oven safe to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and should be hand washed. If orange isn’t quite your style, the set is also available in blue, two shades of green, purple, and red.
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.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Best Luxury Splurge: All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Cookware Set
If you want cookware that will last a lifetime and look good while you’re using it, this set is a great starter for your upscale collection. It includes pieces you’ll use most often — a 10-inch frying pan, a 3-quart sauce pan with a lid and a 3-quart sauté pan with a lid.
This is made with a 3-ply bonded construction with stainless steel inside and out, and a layer of aluminum sandwiched in between, offering the advantages of both metals. This cookware offers quick, even heating with a nonreactive surface that won’t rust, stain or pit. The interior starburst finish helps prevent sticking and makes cleaning easier.
The handles are secured with stainless steel rivets and are contoured for a comfortable grip. The pot capacity is etched on the base, so you’ll always know you’re working with the right-sized pan.
These can be used on induction cooktops, and the pots are oven safe and broiler safe (without lids) to 600 degrees. The cookware is dishwasher safe and is made in the US.
06 of 08
Best Ceramic: T-fal Initiatives 14-Piece Nonstick Ceramic Cookware Set
Ceramic is the newest type of nonstick coating for cookware, and it has its own pros and cons. Since different manufacturers use different proprietary coatings, it’s wise to read the instructions for care, cooking and cleaning. While this set is dishwasher safe, it is likely to last longer if it’s hand washed.
The coating is PTFE and PFOA free and the pans are made from heavy gauge aluminum. The set can be used on any type of stove, except induction. They are stovetop safe to 570 degrees and oven safe to 350 degrees.
This set includes a 7 1/2 inch frying pan, an 11 inch frying pan with lid, a 1 quart sauce pan with lid, a 2 quart sauce pot with lid, a 5 quart Dutch oven with lid, and a mini frying pan that is perfect for cooking one egg or melting butter. The set also includes four nylon tools: a spoon, a slotted spoon, a spatula, and a slotted spatula.
Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best ceramic cookware sets can help you find what you're looking for.
07 of 08
Best Cast Iron: Lodge L5HS3 5-Piece Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Cookware Set
Cast iron cookware is the original nonstick cookware. It’s handy to have, and less expensive to buy in a set. This set includes a 10 1/2 inch round griddle, an 8-inch skillet, a 10 1/4 inch skillet, a 5-quart Dutch oven, and a lid that fits both the Dutch oven and the large skillet.
All of the pieces are pre-seasoned, so they can be used immediately, but the nonstick qualities will improve with additional seasoning and use. Like any cast iron, these can be used on any cooktop, including induction or on your grill, but they should not be washed in the dishwasher. They are oven safe, and can even be used on a campfire. These are made in the US.
08 of 08
Best Starter Set for Small Kitchens: Farberware Cookware Set
The perfect starter set for small kitchens, or a great add-on set for people who need a few extra pieces — this includes the cookware you’ll use every day, plus utensils that everyone needs. Made from aluminum, the pots have a nonstick interior and clear glass lids so you can peek at what’s cooking without lifting the lid. They are designed for even heating on both the base and up the sides, to promote even cooking without burning. The handles are rubberized for a firm, comfortable grip, and double-riveted for strength.
This set includes a 4-quart Dutch oven, a 10" skillet, a 1 1/2-quart saucepan with lid, a 1-quart saucepan with lid, a slotted turner, a slotted spoon, a solid spoon, a pasta fork and a ladle.
This set is oven safe to 350 degrees. Hand washing is recommended. It is not compatible with induction cooktops.
How We Tested
Our reviewers spent 23 hours testing one of the most popular cookware sets on the market. They whipped up breakfasts, cooked their favorite dinners, and evaluated the pieces based on heat retention, durability, and more. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this set and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in a Cookware Set
Material Besides aesthetics, the material affects way the cookware functions. Copper is extremely responsive, so the pan reacts quickly when the heat is raised or lowered. Cast iron takes a bit of time to heat up or cool down. Stainless steel falls in between those extremes, and is very easy to keep clean. Today, you can find cookware made from multiple materials to take advantage of their special properties.
Sizes It’s great to have a variety of cookware sizes, so you’re not heating a giant stock pot when you only need enough water for a pound of pasta, but it’s important to make sure the set you choose isn’t too small or too large for your family or your cooking style.
Coatings Nonstick coatings are great for cooking eggs or other sticky foods, and they make cleaning easier when you’re washing by hand. On the other hand, nonstick coatings are usually not as durable as plain stainless steel, and may not be dishwasher safe. Besides interior coatings, some cookware may have enameled or anodized exterior coatings.
Test Results: Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Set (Best Overall)
What We Like
Heats up very quickly
Have non-heating handles
What We Don't Like
Food can stick
Need to have experience cleaning stainless steel
If you’re looking for a solid cookware set that retains heat, the Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Set should be your go-to choice. Our testers told us that these pots and pans heat up faster than you may expect — which can be good and bad. “You need understand how to utilize a stainless steel set given that this can heat fast and can also have food stick if you’re not using oil or butter,” one reviewer said. And if you do accidentally get some stuck on food (which is inevitable), one tester suggested using Bar Keepers Friend to get it off quickly. You’ll want to avoid abrasive cleaners and sponges because they’ll damage the stainless steel finish.
Our testers also loved the weight of each piece in this set and noted that the non-heating handles are long and easy to grip. “The transition from stove top to oven is always great,” one tester said.