Copper cookware heats the most evenly and is the most responsive (meaning, take your pan of hollandaise off the burner and it stops cooking immediately so there’s no danger it will curdle). But copper is super pricey and requires a lot of upkeep if you want to maintain its bright, shiny finish.
The vast majority of aluminum cookware has some kind of finish, either enamel or nonstick, to prevent this from happening and also make it easier to clean. Some aluminum pans are hard-anodized, which means they’ve undergone an electrochemical process that strengthens and darkens the metal, protecting if from denting and stopping it from interacting with whatever you’re cooking.
That might not bother you if you bought an inexpensive omelet pan but can be upsetting if you’ve invested in an expensive set. Keep in mind that some items are lids and sometimes the manufacturer throws in a few plastic utensils and adds them to the piece count.
We give points to sets that include a 12-incher as it’s such a versatile pan for frying, stir-frying and one-pot dishes like paella or chicken with dumplings. Every set will also include one or two saucepans and again, larger ones are more useful as you can warm a cup of soup in a 3-quart pot but might not be able to make enough rice for the whole family in a 1-quart.
To select our best cookware sets, we relied on our years of rustling pots and pan both in our test kitchens and on our own home stoves. Before becoming a cooking tools expert, she spent seven years working as a professional chef in New York City restaurants.
In her free time, she's busy baking sourdough bread and rustling pots and pans on her own stove. If the bottom of a pan is warped (which can create hot spots that burn food), or if handles are loose or broken, it’s time to shop.
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.
CR’s take: The 12-piece Cuisinart Green Gourmet nonstick set aces all our key cooking tests. 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. Its performance in our food release test, however, was subpar, so if you like to fry eggs, you may want to stick to a nonstick skillet.
Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials “H.J.” Every home cook needs to invest in a good stainless steel cookware set at least once in their life.
And that's what's so great about stainless steel cookware, one quality set will last through a lifetime of use. After a series of rigorous testing by experienced All recipes Product Tester Rachel Johnson, we've determined the 6 best stainless steel cookware sets for every type of home cook.
When it comes to stainless steel, the heavier the pot or pan, the better (to a degree, you want to be able to handle it easily, of course). Contrary to popular belief, stainless steel is actually a poor conductor of heat.
Cladding (also known as ply) means there has been a complete layer of metal added along the base and sides. While it's important to invest in a quality set, the good thing about stainless steel is you don’t have to break the bank to get one.
Keep reading for Rachel's thoughts on the top stainless steel cookware sets on the market. Overall, this pan performed brilliantly for all of Rachel's tests, and the stylish design, durable build, and easy-to-clean surface put this set a step above the rest.
Buy It: Clifton Premier Stainless Steel 11-Piece Set, $525; Amazon If you're looking to level-up your cookware without purchasing a 20-piece set, this 5-piece set from All-Clad provides all the cookware essentials you need without cluttering your cabinets with excess: a fry pan, a covered saucepan, and a covered sauté pan.
They have a thick, aluminum core, with a seamless stainless steel coated exterior. Although this set is dishwasher safe, All-Clad recommends using a “fine powder cleanser” to best preserve the material.
The only cons to this set that Rachel found were the long handles were somewhat cumbersome, and did become warm to the touch when working with high heat. While this set is definitely the most expensive per-piece, it will impress guests and demonstrate that you are a serious cook that values quality,” says Rachel.
Not only does it include a covered Dutch oven, two covered saucepans, a frying pan, and a sauté pan, but it also features a slotted spoon, a slotted turner, and measuring spoons. This makes a great set for a beginner cook or someone looking to replace their entire cookware collection.
However, this set felt much lighter than the others tested, causing Rachel to doubt the long-term durability of these pots and pans. The frying pan was left with a noticeable mark after being scorched with oil, that Rachel found nearly impossible to scrub.
Buy It: Total Perform 14pc Stainless Steel Cookware Set, $80; Target These mirror-polished stainless steel pots and pans with bonded aluminum bases prove that, once again, Cuisinart lives up to its reputation.
Although the pieces were somewhat light, Rachel still found that they felt well-made and thoughtfully designed. During testing, the cookware came to temperature very fast, and produced a nice even sear across the meat.
Although the saucepan did gain some patina after searing meat, it mostly rubbed off with a little elbow grease on Rachel's part. “Overall, this collection features a multitude of pots and pans leaving the customer without a desire to add more standard pieces to their kitchen,” says Rachel.
During testing, the stainless steel frying pan created a nice, even crust on the steak. “For a relative newcomer, Made In impressed with quality materials and thoughtful design,” says Rachel.
“While this set may not be appropriate for the beginner cook in terms of limited number of pieces and high price point, it would be a great 'level up' to those looking to gain more skill in the kitchen.” We've already established that copper is an excellent conductor, and it doesn't hurt that it provides a stylish touch to any kitchen.
Save on a wide selection of All-Clad deals at the early Black Friday sale, featuring all the top nonstick cookware set, pasta pot & insert, dishwasher safe pan & more deals Here’s a review of all the top early All-Clad deals for Black Friday, including the latest offers on saucepans, stainless steel frying pan sets, brushed D5 stainless cookware sets, bakeware, waffle makers, slow cookers & many more.