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The Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set was selected as the overall winner. Our tester loved its durable tri-ply stainless steel construction, even heating, heat retention, and compatibility with all cooktops. If you're looking for a budget pick, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic 7-Piece Set is an affordable option that works really well.
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.
If you're intrigued by a complete set, we've put together the best stainless steel cookware sets to help you choose.
Best Overall: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set
Oven-safe 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. In our Lab, our tests found that the pans performed as promised, delivering nice golden-brown crusts on seared scallops without scorching. Our product tester can also attest to the pans' ability to maintain their heat, 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 500 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.
Construction: Tri-ply stainless steel with aluminum core | Oven Safe: 500 degrees | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Induction Ready: Yes
"This pan set is a beast. It's really solid and testers felt like it would last a long time."
Best for Even Heating: Anolon 75818 Nouvelle Stainless Steel Cookware
Even heat distribution and control
Great assortment of sizes
Oven safe to 500 degrees
Small saucepan is unsteady on large grates
Capacity may be too small for larger families
This set ticks all of the important boxes—it includes cookware in sizes you’re likely to use, it’s made from stainless steel that won’t rust or stain or react with acidic foods like tomato sauce. It also has a multi-metal base that offers the best heat distribution, retention, and control.
The set includes a 1.25-quart saucepan with lid, a 2.5-quart saucepan with lid, a 6.5-quart stockpot with lid, an 8-inch French skillet, a 10.5-inch French skillet, and a 3-quart sauté pan with lid.
The base has a layer of copper enclosed in aluminum and covered with stainless steel that makes it suitable for any cooktop, including induction. Our Lab testing determined that while this cookware's five-layer design makes the pieces heavy and takes a bit of time to heat up, it also allows them to hold heat well and distribute it evenly, with only a five degree difference between the edges and the center, where it was just a touch hotter, since it sits directly over the burner. The pans gave a nice sear to our scallops without any major sticking—a major plus, but the leftover fond stuck to the bottom of the pot reminded us that these pans aren't "nonstick". Cooking omelettes in this set will be a little trickier, but still doable.
The tulip shape looks elegant and the polished exterior adds to the class while the brushed interior hides the inevitable scratches that come from use. The handles are made from cast stainless steel, attached with two rivets for durability, and the domed lids have high loop handles that are easy to grab, even if you’re wearing mitts.
The set is oven-safe to 500 degrees and can be used under the broiler. For easy cleaning, all pieces are dishwasher safe; however, our reviewer warned that harsh dishwasher detergents could discolor or leave a film on the stainless steel. Since the lids are stainless steel rather than glass, you can’t watch what you’re cooking, but it means the lids are also oven-safe and unbreakable.
Construction: Stainless steel and aluminum with copper core | Oven Safe: 500 degrees | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Induction Ready: Yes
“This heated evenly from the get-go and throughout the cooking process for the scallops. The butter melted beautifully and pooled in a perfect circle.”
Best Design: Calphalon Classic 10-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
Securely riveted handles
Fill lines in pan are helpful
Dishwasher and oven safe
Straining holes may cause quicker evaporation
Could use a larger skillet
Walls feel thin
The impact-bonded base of this set by Calphalon 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 so you can securely transport your pans to and from the stove. 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.
In our Lab, these pans heated quickly and maintained their heat well enough to provide a nice sear, and also performed well when making an omelette without sticking at all. Handles stayed cool, except for the smaller saucepan, whose handle is a little shorter and therefore sits closer to your stove's heat source—be sure to have a dish towel or potholder nearby to grab it if the handle gets too hot.
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.
Construction: Stainless steel with impact-bonded aluminum base | Oven Safe: 450 degrees | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Induction Ready: Yes
“This set stuck in testers' minds as one of the best for its price. It’s lovely, cooks evenly, has glass lids, is extremely easy to clean, and feels really comfortable and balanced.”
Best For Durability: 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
Doesn't heat as evenly as others tested
Made In has become a customer favorite thanks to the durability of its products, and this set is no exception. While the set centers on stainless steel, it also includes a nonstick pan and a carbon steel pan, all essential pans for anyone who loves to cook.
In our Lab, our testers noted that the pans offered fairly even heating and browning for seared scallops, and though they didn't find any hot spots, there was some discernible variance in temperature across the pan. The stainless steel pan did not perform as well for cooking eggs—there was quite a bit of sticking—so you're better off tapping the included nonstick skillet for this type of task. On the plus side, these pans felt great to use and are extremely balanced, you'll just have to play around with them to see which pans work best for each application.
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.
Construction: Varies depending on pieces (five-ply stainless steel, carbon steel, nonstick-coated steel) | Oven Safe: 800 degrees (stainless), 500 degrees (nonstick), 1200 degrees (carbon steel) | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Induction Ready: Yes
“While there was discoloration around the rivets, there was no warping, and the handle felt very secure. I would expect this to last a long time.”
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 crown jewel of your kitchen. But it’s not all looks—these pieces are also workhorses that are designed for heavy-duty use. This set includes everything you really need: 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 home tester 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. In our Lab, our testing confirmed all of this—fairly even heating, easy to cook with, and beautiful, even crusts when searing, with very little sticking, even with eggs.
For convenience, the capacity is etched on the bottom of each piece. The ergonomic 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.
Construction: Five-ply bonded stainless steel and aluminum | Oven Safe: 600 degrees | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Induction Ready: Yes
“These pans are extremely sturdy in construction, and while there was some discoloration after searing, a little pan cleaner shined them back to their original condition.”
Best Budget: Cuisinart Chef's Classic 7-Piece Cookware Set 77-7P1
Heats up quickly
Compatible with all cooktops
Not great for high heat
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.
In the Lab, these pans showed excellent, even heating, and gave a really good sear with minimal sticking. The riveted stainless steel handles stayed cool when cooking, making it easy to grab pots and pans without having to search for a potholder. Testers liked how sturdy these pans felt, and they were also easy to clean, whether by hand or with a run through the dishwasher.
This set includes a 1.5-quart saucepan and 3-quart saucepan with lids, an 8-quart stockpot with cover, and a 10-inch skillet—all the basic pans you need in your kitchen. All you might need to add is an extra nonstick pan or a cast-iron Dutch oven to round out your collection.
Construction: Stainless steel, encapsulated aluminum base | Oven Safe: 500 degrees | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Induction Ready: Yes
"This set is comprehensive—you may only need to buy an extra nonstick to have a fully stocked kitchen.”
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 for a more budget-friendly option, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic 7-Piece Set not only looks great but works wonderfully.
How We Tested
We tested 28 different stainless steel cookware sets side-by-side in our Lab. We measured temperatures across the surfaces of each pan while heating on an induction cooktop, tested out their searing and broiler-use capabilities, and judged their non-stick properties when cooking foods that tend to stick, like eggs. To test durability, we also subjected pans to an ice-bath test, evaluating the pieces for any warping or distress.
Other Options We Tested
Rachael Ray Create Delicious Stainless Steel Cookware Set, 10-Piece: While this set was a budget-friendly favorite on previous versions of this list, when we put it through testing in the Lab, we found that though it performed well and was easy to clean, it wasn't as durable as we thought. The silicone grips also made this set feel more "cutesy" and only right for certain decors, but it could make an excellent starter set for a first apartment or new cook.
Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper 10-Piece Cookware Set: While we absolutely love the performance of these pans, we didn't include it on this list because of one main reason—discoloration. Many people who opt for stainless steel cookware want the ease of maintenance that comes with it, which means pieces are typically dishwasher safe and resistant to stains. This set, while beautiful, also requires a significant amount of upkeep to maintain its copper finish. Therefore, we've moved it over to our list of Best Copper Pans instead.
What to Look for When Buying Stainless Steel Cookware
Grade of Stainless Steel
Oftentimes, 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 and 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.
Is stainless steel cookware nonstick?
No, not unless it has an added nonstick coating on top of the stainless steel construction. You can reduce the "stick" of stainless steel by using oil while cooking, but a shiny stainless steel surface will not release as easily as a dedicated nonstick pan.
Do you need to season stainless steel cookware?
No. The beauty of stainless steel is that it's relatively low maintenance compared to carbon steel or cast iron, both of which require seasoning and special upkeep.
How do you remove burnt food from stainless steel cookware?
The best way to remove burnt food is to add water to the pan, gently heat it on the stove, and use a stiff spatula to scrape away any food particles. If that doesn't work, you can turn to more abrasive cleansers, like Bon Ami or Barkeepers Friend, in conjunction with a scrubber to aid in removing any stubborn burnt residue.
What is the difference between stainless steel and hard-anodized cookware?
While stainless steel is made from, well, steel, hard-anodized cookware is made of electrochemically treated aluminum that features an oxidized top layer that acts as a nonstick coating. While they are both very durable and available at an array of price points, the biggest difference is that stainless steel is non-reactive while hard-anodized aluminum could potentially react to acidic sauces and ingredients.
Can you use metal utensils on stainless steel cookware?
Yes, as stainless steel is fairly resistant to scratching. But if you want to prolong the life of your pants, avoid using sharp utensils whenever possible.
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.