Before you can equip your kitchen with this essential, there are a few key things to consider, including your usual cooking routine and level of expertise. Many of the top cookware styles are nonstick, stainless steel, and hard-anodized aluminum, though you’ll also find ceramic and cast iron options, which are ideal for cooking low and slow.
On the other hand, if you consider yourself a pro home chef, you may be ready to invest in something of higher quality that will not only take your cooking game even further, but also be with you for the long haul. Most cookware collections are available to shop online from familiar retailers like Amazon, SUR La Table, and Williams Sonoma.
We browsed thousands of online reviews from real shoppers and found the 10 best cookware sets to add to your kitchen this year. The all-in-one cookware set is also designed with hard-anodized aluminum which creates a hard, smooth surface and essentially makes each piece nonstick.
“This is a very sturdy and well-made set of pots and pans given the low price,” said one reviewer, adding that they’ve “been using them for a while and no scratches or wear is showing up.” It’s important to note, however, that these budget-friendly pieces are not dishwasher safe, so hand washing is a must. With 18 pieces included, this large cookware set has everything the average home cook could possibly need to whip up a good meal, from saucepans to a stockpot to slotted spoons.
Shoppers love these pots and pans for their durability, even heat distribution, and super easy cleanup (they’re all dishwasher-safe!). More than 4,200 Amazon shoppers left a positive rating for this set, with one calling it “the best cookware purchase” they’ve ever made.
This 14-piece set from Total is designed to make cooking easier for beginners: the brand’s signature Thermostat feature indicates when the surface is at the right temperature, which helps create consistent dishes each and every time. Anyone with limited storage space understands the struggle of attempting to strategically place bulky pots and pans into a kitchen cabinet and hoping they don’t come tumbling down next time you open the door.
“In boxed sets, manufacturers count a lid as a piece,” explains Marion Wilson-Spencer, CR's market analyst for cookware. We buy and test cookware sets ranging from less than $100 to $600 or more, from well-known brands such as All-Clad, Anglo, Clifton, Cuisinart, and Willing J.A.
Heckles, as well as sets sold under the names of celebrity cooks like Ayesha Curry, Rachel Ray, and the Pioneer Woman. We cook pancakes, fry eggs, boil water, and simmer tomato sauce.
We were able to easily maintain sauce at a low simmer, and the 6-quart Dutch oven quickly brings water to a near-boil. With Excellent ratings on both our cooking evenness and speed of heating tests, the Greenspan stands up to the competition.
The coating appears pebbly, but that doesn’t affect its nonstick properties, and we effortlessly cooked pancakes and eggs. Cooking evenness is superb, and this 8-piece set aces our speed of heating test by quickly bringing 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 5-quart stockpot.
The surface stands up to our durability test, in which we rub steel wool over the coating 2,000 times, earning a Very Good rating. Simmering a sauce produces impressive results, and this set earns a Very Good rating for cooking evenness.
Heckles Motion Grey is made of anodized aluminum and works with any type of range. Simmering in the saucepan, however, is only so-so, and the eggs needed nudging out of the pan in our food release test.
Clifton designed this set so that it stacks and nests, which frees up precious cabinet space. The Clifton Premier Space Saving 8-piece stainless set earns a Very Good rating in our evenness tests, like our other top performers in this category.
The stainless handles are long and sturdy, and you can use these dishwasher-safe pots and pans on any type of range, including induction. It earns an Excellent rating on our cooking evenness test, and when we brought 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 6-quart stockpot, speed of heating was also impressive.
Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. First, a set can be much less expensive than buying each piece individually, so you’ll save money.
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. But so too is its appearance and design, especially if you have a small kitchen and the pots and pans will be on display.
This 7-piece cookware set from direct-to-consumer brand Caraway is the perfect blend of both so you don't have to choose between performance and design. 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).
The aluminum core provides fast, even heating, while the stainless steel exterior makes these pots and pans suitable for induction cook tops. Everyone knows that nonstick frying pans are great for cooking eggs, but this set goes way beyond breakfast.
Our tester noted, “The thick bottoms and sides of these pans distribute the heat evenly, preventing any hot or cold spots as you cook.” 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.
This set includes four essential pieces that will get used regularly, with no odd pans that will spend their lives hiding in storage. With a 10.25-inch skillet, a 10.5-inch griddle, and a 10.25-inch grill pan, this set is functional for everyday cooking.
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.
Hand washing is recommended for these beautiful pieces, and some additional upkeep will be required if you prefer a shiny look versus the patina finish that will develop over time. Final Verdict Donna Carrie is a cookbook author who reviews products and writes roundups for The Spruce Eats.
The Spruce Eats commerce editors Kate Gravity and Katherine Louie both own Caraway cookware sets in their small New York apartments. They find the size of the pans perfect for larger recipes, like a week's worth of pasta sauce or a pot of chili to feed a crowd.
Be careful when it comes to stainless steel as it can be made with a variety of materials that may block the magnetic field. 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.
While the effects of FOA 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.
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. 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 sauce pot. Stockpots are used for even larger quantities of food, as well as for making soup stock.
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.
The Spruce / Donna Carrie 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.
The Spruce / Donna Carrie 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 crêpes.
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. Coated cast iron is resistant to corrosion and can handle acidic foods with ease.
The Spruce / Donna Carrie When it comes to cookware, size always makes a big difference. In general, wide, shallow pans are best for cooking foods where evaporation is desired.
Tall, narrow pots are best when the goal is to limit the evaporation of liquid, like when you’re cooking pasta. And while large stockpots, woks, and oversized frying pans can be useful, those pieces might not fit in a cabinet.
The Spruce / Donna Carrie 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.
While stainless steel is typically dishwasher safe, you should refer to the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions to be sure. The Spruce / Donna Carrie Cast iron retains heat well, making it ideal for searing, frying, baking, and braising, and it will keep food warm after cooking is done.
Uncoated cast iron cookware needs some special care and cleaning, but it often arrives pre-season, so it can be used right away. Uncoated cast iron cookware is nearly indestructible, and can usually be used on a stove top, in the oven, on a grill, and perhaps even over a campfire, but it should be washed by hand and may need occasional reseasoning.
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. Unfortunately, it’s also reactive to acidic foods and will discolor with use and time, so it requires maintenance to keep it looking shiny.
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. 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.
Their aluminum core allows for quick, even heat distribution, while their nonstick exterior also resists scratches and is compatible with all kinds of stove tops (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.
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.
Among their products, you’ll find nonstick cookware that is metal-utensil safe, so you can keep using your favorite tools. The Spruce / Donna Carrie The Freeware 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 raisers, 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 Crest 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. Like other companies, Lodge has expanded their product lines, and they now also sell enameled cast iron cookware.
While a lifetime warranty sounds like a great deal, most have caveats, like excluding commercial use or cookware abuse. 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.
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.
This has caused me to be reluctant in spending a higher amount on better quality cookware sets. They are abused, exposed to high heat and direct flame, and washed with harsh cleaning chemicals.
Quick Navigation For your home use, standing up to this type of abuse is not nearly as important. For instance, I never buy a frying pan or pot that cannot be moved from stove top to oven because that is an important feature to have that many advanced dishes call for such as duck or reverse searing a steak.
On the other hand, over the top expensive models can lose their versatility because of perceived fragility. My time as a professional cook has given me the opportunity to use both commercial and consumer sets.
As with most things, it is best to find the right price point for the best value and that is our goal with this comprehensive cookware set guide. Be mindful when making your purchasing decision that you do not opt for a cheaper set that will cause grief down the line.
Rarely do we have the opportunity to make a purchase that is expected to last 5, 10, 20 years. So take my experience as a 20-year chef in both high end and mom-and-pop shops on which sets to choose.
Cuisinart MCP-12 N Multi clad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set Companies that have products in both commercial and consumer are always given more preference over those who don’t.
This is not a rule of course, as some companies can omit these high-quality features for a lower cost. Its triple-ply design offers good heat conduction and uniform cooking.
Triple-Ply Design Aluminum Core 12-Piece Set Quality Consumer Brand It is always the dream of the chef to have these types of high-quality products in the kitchen but due to price, it is usually left for consumer buyers.
It is layered alternately with aluminum and stainless steel, providing an unmatched conductive and even heating product. All-American Made 5-ply Alternating Stainless Steel/Aluminum construction Lifetime Warranty 10- or 14-piece set Warp-Free 500’F Max Temp.
It is very hard to find quality cookware set at entry-level pricing that I can be confident in recommending. This means a thin cookware set will require careful management of temperature.
Caraway makes an elegant and high-quality ceramic cookware set that is functional, practical, and beautiful Not only is this one of the top non-sticks I have used in a long time, but it also provides a unique experience.
Upon receiving the set, you are greeted with a brilliantly laid out packaging that slowly introduces you to each new piece, like unraveling layers of surprises. It comes with a very practical cloth hanger that solves the problem of finding a place to store your lids.
Another addition is the vertical storage option available to store your pots and pans upright on a counter. The long handles provide important leverage for heavier cooking.
7-Piece Set Comes with ability to hang lids on wall/fridge Storage issues are solved A must-have for those with small kitchen space. They make mid- to high-end products and tend to focus around commercial applications.
I have owned a Cap halon chef knife for around 10 years now and it holds up quite well. Their consumer products offer great value at a reasonable price.
The hammered aesthetic is beautiful and is backed by durable stainless steel to bolster strength and longevity. Others options are just too ambiguous and often are copper for show only with aluminum or pure stainless steel bottoms.
Copper, Aluminum, Stainless steel core Triple Ply Beautiful design Excellent conductivity The reason being is that the level of abuse pots and pans tend to go through can be large.
Many of the companies that we choose to have built their reputations through commercial cookware sets and products. Long term use without the need for repairs, replacement or warranty is important.
Although material plays a big role in these things, quality and durability impact a much larger scale. The design of the product is important due to how difficult it is to the manufacturer.
It can also say what compromises happened to keep a specific design, and how well it can conduct heat. Copper pan set cookware is unsurpassed when you are cooking sugar and fruit mixtures.
If you are a restaurateur who is cooking with sugars or desserts, copper cookware may be a good investment. Copper is a beautiful material that has significant weight, but unmatched heat transfer.
Because copper reacts with some foods, it typically has a tin lining which is soft and can easily be scratched. Copper is a malleable metal and requires great care.
This is done between stainless steel or aluminum on the bottom of pots and pans. Aluminum is a soft metal and it is important that it handled properly to avoid dents.
Light-colored foods such as soups or sauces could be discolored when cooked in aluminum. Aluminum is a lightweight and soft metal that can transfer heat very well.
Many essential kitchen tools guides include stainless steel pots and pans. Such cookware gives the rapid, uniform heat conductivity of copper and aluminum.
Cast Iron Cast-iron cookware distributes heat evenly and holds high temperatures very well. If using in a commercial kitchen, keep it properly conditioned and dry to prevent rust.
Tempered glass is suitable for microwave cooking, as long as it does not have any metal on it. Thorough cleaning and total shut down occurs if glass breaks in a commercial kitchen.
Quick temperature changes can cause the ceramic cookware to crack or shatter. Enamelware Do not use pans lined with enamel for commercial cooking.
The enamel can chip or crack easily, providing areas for bacteria to grow. Also, chemicals used to bond the enamel to the cookware can cause food poisoning if ingested.
Non-stick Coatings Without affecting a metal’s ability to conduct heat, a plastic known as Teflon and Silverstone may be applied to many types of cookware. It provides a slippery, nonreactive finish that prevents food from sticking and allows the use of less fat in cooking.
The cookware features Total’s Thermostat heat indicator technology, which lets you know when the pan is properly preheated to begin cooking. Another highlight is the nonstick interior, which keeps food from sticking and can be safely used for metal utensils.
Soft touch handles remain cool while you cook and are outfitted with an anti-slip silicone material. Tempered glass lids let you keep watch over your meal from start to finish.
If you’re tired of replacing your nonstick cookware as the coating inevitably wears off over time, a stainless steel set could be a good long-term investment. The smooth surface also makes stainless steel pots and pans easy to clean.
The Cuisinart Multicar Pro set has 12 pieces to cover pots and pans you might need for everyday cooking. Drip-free rims minimize messes as you pour, while the stay cool handles protect your hands even when the cookware gets hot.
Copper cookware such as this Marvel set isn’t the cheapest, but it’s especially noteworthy for its superior heat conductivity and retention. This set is made in France and includes the essentials, such as a sauté pan, saucepan, skillet and stock pot.
Cons: Handles can get hot Food may stick without enough oil Lids aren’t glass A magnetic stainless steel exterior makes the set compatible with induction cook tops.
You don't have to break the bank to buy a cookware set that can handle your cooking demands. Whether you're particularly fond of a specific brand or you just want to replace an aging collection of pots and pans, a set can be an ideal investment.
However, spending more typically gets you better overall quality and durability along with even heat distribution and features such as stay-cool handles and multi-ply construction.