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Whether you're putting together your first apartment kitchen or wanting to upgrade your mismatched pans to a more cohesive collection, a full set of cookware is a solid investment. It takes the guesswork out of picking out the pieces you need and is often a much better value than buying one piece at a time. Classic stainless steel is the material of choice for both amateur and professional cooks because of its durability, superior ability to brown meats, and oven-proof capabilities—you can go straight from stovetop to broiler. While stainless steel pans can require a little more elbow grease to remove stuck-on food, proper maintenance can keep them looking practically new for their entire lifespan.
Intrigued by a complete cookware set? We've put together the perfect list to guide you on your next stainless steel cookware set purchase.
Best High-End: All-Clad 10-Piece Brushed Stainless Steel 5-Ply Cookware Set
Very high-quality construction
Dishwasher and oven safe
Capacity etched onto pots and pans
On the heavy side
Handles make it bulky to store
If you’re ready to replace your inexpensive cookware with a high-end set that will make the neighbors jealous, this set will be the jewel of your kitchen. But it’s not all looks—these pieces are also workhorses that are designed for heavy-duty use in your busy kitchen.
This set includes all of the pieces you really need in your kitchen: an 8-inch frying pan, a 10-inch frying pan, a 1.5-quart saucepan with lid, a 3-quart saucepan with lid, a 3-quart sauté pan with lid, and an 8-quart stockpot with lid.
These are made with a five-ply bonded construction that has alternating layers of stainless steel and conductive aluminum for warp-free strength and even heating. "The heat conductivity is excellent; I browned ground beef and seared chicken sausages and salmon filets in record time," our reviewer raves, adding that only low-to-medium heat is needed to cook most things, resulting in energy efficiency. The cooking surface has a starburst finish for stick resistance, and the pots have flared rims that make it easy to pour liquid from them.
For those days when a recipe calls for a specific pot size and you can’t remember the details of your set, the capacity is etched on the bottom of each piece. The handles are made from stainless steel and secured with flat rivets. Lids are made from stainless steel so you can’t see what’s cooking, but they’re unbreakable and you can use them in the oven along with the pots.
These are oven- and broiler-safe to 600 degrees and can be used on any cooking surface, including induction. They are dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. Once you own this set, the one thing you might want to add is a nonstick skillet for cooking your morning eggs, but there isn’t much else that you’ll need for most of your cooking.
"The pieces are a cinch to clean, as long as you follow the care instructions." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best Budget: Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
Heats up quickly
Compatible with all cooktops
Not great for high heat
Might be too small for larger-scale cooking
Hollow handles can trap water and food particles
If you don’t have the budget for a high-end set of cookware, this collection will fit your budget while it looks good on your stove. The pans have a mirrored finish inside and out, and an encapsulated base for even heat distribution. These can be used on all cooking surfaces.
The handles are made from stainless steel and are riveted on for durability, and the lids are tempered glass, so you can see what’s cooking. The pots are oven safe to 350 degrees and the lids are safe to 270 degrees to preserve their appearance. If you’re not concerned about discoloration of the metal, you can use the pots up to 500 degrees and the lids to 350 degrees. They are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
The set includes a 1.5-quart saucepan with lid, a 1.5-quart casserole with lid, a 2-quart casserole with lid, a 3-quart casserole with lid, a 5.5-quart stockpot with lid, and a 10-inch frying pan with lid. While this set includes a variety of pots and pans that are useful, you might be tempted to add a smaller frying pan or a larger stockpot or Dutch oven to your collection.
Best Overall: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set
Triple-ply with aluminum core for even heating
Excellent assortment within the set
Oven-safe without lids to 550 degrees
Compatible with virtually all cooktops
Could use a larger skillet
Handles get hot while cooking
If you’re looking for a quality set of cookware that won’t break the bank, this set has everything you need. It has a brushed stainless exterior and a polished interior surface, cool-grip handles that are riveted on for security, and tight-fitting lids that self-baste the food as you cook.
The triple-ply construction includes an aluminum core for heat retention and even heating. Our product tester can attest to this, saying that, with the lid on, a pot's contents stay warm while she's doing other tasks. She adds that her food ends up not only evenly browned, but also with none of it stuck to the pan once done doing so.
The rims of this cookware are tapered for easy, mess-free pouring. The set is oven-safe to 550 degrees and can be used on any cooking surface, including induction. The pans can also be used under the broiler. All pieces are dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.
The set includes a 1.5-quart saucepan with lid, a 3-quart saucepan with lid, an 8-inch skillet, a 10-inch skillet, a 3.5-quart sauté pan with lid, an 8-quart stockpot with lid, and a steamer insert with lid. The only piece you might want to add to this collection is a nonstick skillet for your morning eggs.
"The bright metal design hides fingerprints and won’t clash with any color schemes should you decide to paint a new backsplash in your kitchen." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best for Durability: Calphalon Classic 10-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
Securely riveted handles
Fill lines in pan are helpful while cooking
Dishwasher and oven safe
Straining holes may cause liquids to evaporate faster
Could use a larger skillet
This durable set will last a long time while looking good. The impact-bonded base provides fast, even heating while the long handles are designed to be ergonomic and to provide a secure grip, even when the pan is full of hot food. The handles are double-riveted for security.
There are fill lines inside the pan, so you can add a precise amount of liquid or food without pulling out measuring cups. The covers have straining holes that line up with the pour spouts, so you can drain your noodles or vegetables without hunting for a strainer.
The set includes an 8-inch frying pan, a 10-inch frying pan, a 1.5-quart saucepan with lid, a 2.5-quart saucepan with lid, a 3-quart sauté pan with lid, and a 6-quart stockpot with lid. The lids are made from tempered glass, so you can see what’s cooking.
The cookware can be used in the oven or under the broiler, and the pans and lids are dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. Customers note that as long as you follow preheating instructions and keep heat low to medium, there should be no problems with food sticking. Many of them like that this heats up quickly and holds it well.
Best for Small Kitchens: Calphalon Premier Space-Saving Stainless Steel Supper Club Set
Great for small storage spaces
Oven and dishwasher safe
Included pieces have generous capacity
Limited number of pieces
On the expensive side
Designed to save space, this cookware stacks neatly for more compact storage on a shelf or in the pantry. There’s no need to worry about the order they stack since they can stack and nest in any order you choose—so you can keep your favorite on top for easy access. Unlike some sets designed for space-saving that are most useful for single cooks, this includes family-sized cookware that has enough space for a whole meal or for prepping ahead. This cookware's nesting capability and each piece's generous capacity are two of the top reasons customers give the set high marks.
The set includes a 4-quart chef’s pan, an 8-quart stockpot with cover, and a 5-quart sauteuse with cover. Made from stainless steel with an aluminum core, this cookware heats quickly and evenly with no hot spots for professional cooking performance. It’s oven-safe to 450 degrees and is dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. This line also offers larger sets that include 10 or 15 pieces, so you can scale up if you need to.
Best with Additional Materials: Made In Cookware The Sous Chef
Can be used on any cooktop
Pans are oven-safe to higher temperatures than other brands
Excellent assortment of pieces included
Not all pieces are stainless steel
Stainless steel is a great choice for many cooking tasks, but most cooks admit that they need cookware made from other materials to round out the collection. That’s where this set shines. It focuses on stainless steel, but also includes a nonstick pan and a carbon steel pan to round out the set.
The stainless steel pieces include a 10-inch frying pan, a 2-quart saucepan with lid, a 4-quart saucepan with lid, a 3.5-quart sauté pan with lid, and an 8-quart stockpot with lid. It also includes a 10-inch nonstick frying pan that’s perfect for eggs or pancakes and a 12-inch carbon steel frying pan that has many of the same properties of cast iron but with a much lighter weight. It also includes a can of carbon steel seasoning wax.
All of the cookware is induction-compatible. The stainless steel cookware is oven-safe to 800 degrees, the nonstick pan is oven-safe to 500 degrees, and the carbon steel is oven-safe to 1200 degrees.
People like how evenly each piece distributes heat, how the handles are designed to be ergonomic, and how easily they clean up.
Best for a New Kitchen: Rachael Ray Create Delicious Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set
Great design with fun color accents
Etched measurement markings inside
Oven-safe to 400 degrees
Saucepan capacity feels small
This set includes everything a new cook will need, in a happy design with bright red handles that will perk up the kitchen. These are made from polished stainless steel with etched measurement markings inside that make it easy to see if there’s enough water for the pasta. The rims are flared for neat pouring, and the lids are glass so it’s easy to check the cooking progress without lifting the lid and losing steam and heat. The handles are riveted on for security, and the red silicone gives a secure grip.
The set includes a 1-quart saucepan, a 2-quart saucepan with lid, a 6-quart saucepan with lid, a 10.25-inch deep pan, and a 3 quart sauté pan with lid, along with a wooden spoon and slotted turner. These are induction-compatible and oven-safe to 400 degrees. Customers really like how sturdy yet lightweight these are and that, when preheated properly, they heat evenly and don't burn food.
Best Design: Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper 18/10 Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set
Beautiful, excellent quality construction
Even, consistent heating
Oven-safe to 500 degrees
Copper finish requires maintenance to keep shine
Stainless steel cookware is a favorite because it’s so sturdy and versatile, but it can look rather plain. This set solves that problem since it has a hammered copper exterior that looks beautiful. Over time, the copper finish will develop a patina that many cooks love, but it's easy to clean the pans to bring them back to their original brightness if that’s preferred.
It’s not all flash, though, since it has an aluminum core encased in stainless steel for even, consistent heating with no hotspots. The lids and handles are stainless steel, which offers an attractive color contrast. The edges of the pans are rolled for neat, easy pouring and the pots are oven safe to 500 degrees. This set includes an 8-inch skillet, a 10-inch skillet, a 2-quart saucepan with lid, a 3-quart saucepan with lid, a 3-quart deep sauté pan with lid, and a 6-quart stockpot with lid. Other highlights people point out are that the handles are both solid and comfortable to hold and keep cool while cooking, and that the cookware evenly distributes heat and retains it well.
The attractive Cuisinart Multiclad Pro 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set is our top choice because of its durable stainless steel, as well as its balance of quick heating and solid heat retention. If you're looking to upgrade to something that's more high-end, we recommend the All-Clad 10-Piece Brushed Stainless Steel 5-Ply Cookware Set. Not only is the set beautiful, but it's also functional, heats quickly and evenly, and is built to last.
The Ultimate Stainless Steel Cookware Buying Guide
Grade of Stainless Steel
Often times, the grade of stainless steel is stamped on the cookware, with 18/10 being the most commonly used grade for good quality cookware. This fraction tells you the percentage of chromium and nickel in the alloy used—18/10 contains 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel and will resist rust while also retaining its shine and polish.
While the ideal thickness of a good pan is subjective to a cook’s preference, a quality stainless steel pot will have a certain heft in your hand. A weighty pot means that it won’t move around on the stove, and its weight also means it is more likely to distribute heat evenly and less likely to have “hot spots.” Heavier pans also stand up well to the rigors of daily use and are less susceptible to dents, warping, and dings than lighter, thinner pans.
Core & Construction
Look for a fully-clad pan with an aluminum or copper core. Good stainless steel cookware will have an aluminum or copper disc sandwiched between layers of stainless steel to aid in conducting heat. The full layers of stainless steel that make up the bottom and sides of the pot are called “cladding,” and the number of layers will be described by its “ply.” The most common is tri-ply, which describes two layers of stainless steel with an aluminum or copper core, but pans can also come in 5-ply or 7-ply (commonly referred to as “multi-clad”). Another quality feature is riveted stainless steel handles—they are more secure than spot-welded handles, which are more likely to come off with heavy use.
Most stainless steel cookware is also oven-safe, but its heating capacity depends on the quality of the cookware. Less expensive, lighter pans may only be oven-safe to 350 degrees, and higher-quality, heavier pans can often withstand temperatures well above 500 degrees (including use under the broiler). Be sure to always check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the maximum heating capacity of your cookware (and their lids) before use.
Stainless steel is great for all-purpose cooking—it can be used for braising and browning as well as creating sauces and soups. The non-reactive properties of stainless steel make it ideal for cooking sauces with acidic ingredients (think tomato sauce or meats stewed in wine). Many stainless steel pieces are oven-safe, allowing you to finish a dish under the broiler if needed.
Piece Count & Accessories
When purchasing a set of cookware, you’ll want to consider how many pieces you actually need, along with how much space to have to store them. A large set offers variety in sizes and styles, but if you rarely cook for a crowd, you may not need a larger-capacity saute pan or stockpot that might come in a bigger set. Also consider the accessories included with a set, which are included in a set’s piece count, and decide if they are the material and type that you need. Pay attention to the material and sizes of the included lids—bear in mind that glass lids are usually less heat-proof than metal (particularly in the oven), but do allow you to visually monitor your cooking.
Stainless steel cookware can range greatly in price, depending on the manufacturer and the materials used—for example, a single pan from All-Clad’s copper core D5 line can run $200 to $300, but a similarly sized pan with an aluminum core by Cuisinart can run about $50. Buying an entire set at once can actually be less expensive than buying them one at a time, and you’ll have the benefit of matching pieces that look good together.
Many major manufacturers offer a limited lifetime guarantee on stainless steel cookware as long as they are purchased from an authorized dealer. These guarantees protect against defects in material, construction, or workmanship but may exclude damage arising from improper use, thermal shocks, drops, or normal wear and tear. Before you buy, be sure to check on the manufacturer’s terms and warranty coverage to make sure it’s what you need.
All-Clad is a premium brand that is considered the gold standard in multi-clad cookware. While All-Clad is known for its professional-grade offerings, it also carries several product lines at different price tiers, so it can be affordable for serious home cooks looking for quality. Since the cookware is built to last, you won’t need to replace the pots for many years.
Cuisinart is known best for the introduction of the food processor to America in 1973, but the brand has since expanded its collection to include a wide array of kitchen tools, including quality cookware. The stainless steel pieces are very affordable—even the Professional Series won’t break the bank.
Founded in 1963, Calphalon is most famous for creating hard-anodized aluminum cookware that quickly became a favorite of professional chefs and at-home gourmet cooks. The brand's current portfolio now includes several lines of stainless steel cookware, with innovative features like measuring marks, pour spouts, and straining lids, nesting capabilities to save space, and more.
KitchenAid has been a leader in culinary tools since 1919, known best for the iconic stand mixer. Since then, the Ohio-based company has expanded its brand to include all kinds of appliances from dishwashers to induction cooktops. Naturally, the company has also added cookware to its offerings, with affordable stainless steel pieces and complete sets made with the same lasting quality as the KitchenAid mixers.
The Farberware company has been in existence for over a century, so there’s a good chance that someone in your family has owned at least a few pieces in their lifetime. Today, Farberware is known for its budget-friendly but high-quality cookware, including stainless steel cookware as well as companion items like bakeware, knives, and cooking gadgets.
The durability of stainless steel allows it to stand up to daily use and does not limit you to using only certain utensils while cooking. Though stainless steel is less reactive than some other types of cookware, it is not recommended that you store food (especially acidic foods) in your stainless steel pots for long periods of time. Before cleaning, always let a hot pan cool down before soaking—this will help prevent warping—then gently scrub away food particles with mild, soapy water (avoid abrasive pads like steel wool). To maintain the appearance of your stainless steel cookware, use white vinegar and water to remove stains or Bar Keepers Friend to restore shine.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The author of this piece, Donna Currie, is a food writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats. A self-professed "kitchen geek," she's written many roundups on a range of essential kitchen items, from the best holiday gadgets to the top seafood kitchen tools of the year.