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.
Cookware is the cornerstone of your kitchen, so finding a set that’s durable and can heat evenly is paramount if you want to become a better cook. The pots and pans in the Tramontina Gourmet 12-Piece Triply Clad Cookware Set heat evenly and have a comfortable weight, so they aren’t cumbersome to lift.
If you’d rather start with a few basics, you’ll be able to cook a lot with just a 2-quart saucepan, a 12-inch skillet, and an 8-quart stock pot. In our tests, the All-Clad pans heated evenly, were comfortable to hold, and tackled every cooking job without any hiccups.
Though the largest skillet measures only 10 inches instead of 12, this set will outfit your kitchen with all the other pots and pans you’re ever likely to need. And if you’re partial to keeping your cookware bright and shiny, note that in our tests this set was one of the few that looked like new after cleaning.
Collapse all Additionally, I’ve read reviews in Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), and I also looked at cookware sets in person at stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, JCPenney, Macy’s, SUR la Table, Target, Walmart, and Williams-Sonoma. All told, I’ve spent more than 100 hours researching and testing cookware sets for this guide.
As a staff writer at Wire cutter, I have written reviews for all kinds of kitchen equipment and gadgets, including skillets, knife sets, and cutting boards. And prior to joining Wire cutter, I spent over 10 years working in various facets of the food and restaurant industry.
(We make a thorough case for switching from nonstick to stainless steel cookware in our blog post How to Keep Food From Sticking to a (Not-Nonstick) Pan.”) Buying a set of cookware is a convenient and affordable alternative to tracking down pots and pans one piece at a time.
Stainless steel is more versatile than nonstick cookware because you can cook over higher heat without damaging the pan, which is critical for getting a good sear on meats. Stainless steel allows you to cook over higher heat without damaging the pan, which is critical for getting a good sear on meats.
Photo: Michael HessionOne thing this guide doesn’t include is a cheap, basic cookware set that you might use to outfit a rental or vacation home, or to send with kids to college. Hugh Rushing, former executive vice president of CMA, told us, “You get about what you pay for when it comes to cookware.
If you want to spend less or don’t intend to cook often, we’d recommend getting only the essential pieces of cookware for your kitchen: a skillet, a saucepan, and a stockpot. Most cookware sets include smaller pot and pan sizes, so they aren’t the best option for the experienced home cook who wants to prepare large meals.
Though cookware costs more when sold separately, purchasing it this way allows you to acquire specific pieces that suit your exact cooking needs (see our guides to the best skillet, cast iron skillet, nonstick pan, saucepan, roasting pan, and Dutch oven). Photo: Michael HessionBecause cookware is the cornerstone of any kitchen, we wanted to find sets that included the most useful pot and pan sizes.
Most manufacturers cut corners by including smaller pot and pan sizes in a set to reduce the overall price. It might be a little more expensive this way, but space is a commodity in my tiny kitchen, so I choose what I need wisely.” Janet Crandall, a Los Angeles private chef and cooking instructor, agreed, saying, “I prefer to buy individual pans.
We found that most skillets in sets are only 8 to 10 inches, but we prefer 10- and 12-inch versions because they offer a larger surface area for cooking more at once. You can always purchase other essential pieces, such as a Dutch oven, a cast iron skillet, and a nonstick pan, in addition to your main set.
However, most of our testers preferred skillets that weighed between 2 and 3½ pounds, which were still light enough for tossing ingredients in a pan without placing too much torque on their wrists. We took the advice of our pros and looked at many cookware sets in person before testing, to get a feel for the weight and the actual size of the pots and pans.
Some skillets, such as this Viking Contemporary Frying Pan, have sharply angled sides that make tossing vegetables while sautéing difficult. Unlike aluminum, stainless steel is nonreactive to acidic ingredients like tomatoes or vinegar, so it won’t leave behind a metallic taste.
And unlike nonstick cookware, you can use stainless steel pans over high heat and move them directly from the stove top to the oven. In addition to making triply cookware, most high-end manufacturers produce sets that are made from five or more layers of stainless steel, aluminum, and sometimes copper.
Fully clad triply stainless steel is the best option for both pros and home cooks because of its even heat distribution. We did our best to avoid sets that aren’t fully clad, meaning the aluminum core doesn’t extend up the sides of the cookware, because they’re prone to scorching.
In our experience, sets with encapsulated bottoms performed better than those that had just a single layer of stainless steel, but we still wouldn’t recommend them. Photo: Michael Session Aluminum is reactive to acidic foods and can give them a metallic taste.
It can also be more difficult to clean than stainless steel because it’s harder to see if you’ve scrubbed off every bit of burned-on oil. Nonstick sets aren’t ideal for high-heat cooking such as searing and have a shorter life span than regular stainless steel, because their coating wears off within a few years.
Carbon steel, like cast iron, requires more upkeep to maintain the cooking surface and can rust if not properly seasoned. Pot and pan lids should fit well but somewhat loosely, with just enough wiggle room to allow steam to escape.
We dismissed sets with plastic handles, because even those made to withstand high temperatures can deteriorate over time. Ideally, we wanted cookware that could safely withstand oven temperatures of at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which ruled out most plastic components.
Side handles are best for larger saucepans (those over 4 quarts) and stockpots, which have a bigger volume and require two hands to lift. Many sets include a pasta insert or steamer basket for stockpots, but these pieces are superfluous.
In our experience, they take up too much space or have a shallow design that doesn’t allow enough circulation for pasta when boiling. They do this primarily to avoid competition among big-box stores, such as Target and Walmart, that sell similar items.
Rushing said, “No retailer wants to have a directly comparable product to another retailer that’s their competitor.” For instance, one store may sell a set of cookware with a saucepan that has a stick handle, and another store might sell the same set with a saucepan that has two side handles. If you want to avoid the hassle of searching multiple retailers for these variations in an attempt to find the most useful set, take heart: We’ve already done that for you.
We like the Tramontina Gourmet 12-Piece Triply Clad Cookware Set for its even heat distribution, durable construction, and affordable price. The Tramontina skillets produced perfectly brown chicken pieces with nice fond development, and the saucepans and stockpot simmered liquids without scorching.
Though this cookware discolored over high heat, the effect was common among all the sets we tested in this price range. Photo: Sarah Obtain our tests, the Tramontina 3-quart saucepan made perfect caramel without burning, though some of our testers found they had to swirl the pan more to distribute the heat evenly.
To compare, this wasn’t the case with the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic stockpot, which required frequent stirring to prevent the sauce from burning. Photo: Sarah KobosOur testers also liked the weight of the pieces in the Tramontina set, which felt durable enough to withstand the rigors of daily cooking.
The handles on the stainless steel lids were big enough to grab onto, even when we used a side towel or pot holders. We’ve long-term tested an older (now discontinued) version of this set for two years, and all the pots and pans continue to distribute heat evenly.
Although we easily removed burned-on oil and food bits using a combination of baking soda and warm water, the pans retained a noticeable tint after cleaning. The pots and pans have the perfect weight, and they cooked food more evenly than our top-pick set due to their superior heat conduction.
This cookware set was one of the few ones that turned out spotlessly clean after washing, even when coated with burned-on oil. And although this set is much more expensive than our main pick, we think it’s worth the extra cost for its durability and proven longevity.
The only drawback to this set is that it doesn’t include a 12-inch skillet, but we don’t think this omission is a deal breaker, because you can always grow your collection by adding that piece down the road. Photo: Sarah KobosMost of our testers liked the angle of the stick handles in the All-Clad set, which have a rounded bottom that fits nicely in your hand even when you’re holding a dish towel or pot holder.
We also found the handles on the lids easy to grab, unlike those of the Marvel M’cook set, which were tiny. Our testers liked the angle of the stick handles in the All-Clad set, which have a rounded bottom that fits nicely in your hand.
When we prepared caramel, the dissolved sugar bubbled uniformly across the bottom of the All-Clad 3-quart saucepan, which wasn’t the case with the other sets we tested. Though burned-on oil or grease can be more challenging removing with just regular dish soap or a run through the dishwasher, Bar Keepers Friend or a slurry of baking soda and warm water applied with a nonabrasive sponge (and a little elbow grease) gets the job done.
Chef Candy Argondizza, vice president of culinary and pastry arts at the International Culinary Center at the time of our interview, said, “Both professionally and personally, I use All-Clad.” Janet Crandall, a Los Angeles–based private chef and cooking instructor, told us, “They are expensive, but worth it because of their durability.” Members of our own staff have owned or worked with All-Clad cookware for years, including writer and Wire cutter test kitchen manager Lesley Stockton, who said, “My oldest All-Clad is nine years old, and it’s as good as the day I bought it. Photo: Sarah KobosAll-Clad offers a wide range of cookwares outside the main set, so you can grow your collection.
(To learn more about how All-Clad cookware is made, check out David Levitt’s blog post about his factory tour in Pittsburgh.) For difficult-to-remove items like burnt-on oil or lime deposits, Bar Keepers Friend applied with a sponge usually does the trick.
In the Wire cutter test kitchen, we often remove burnt-on oil or discoloration using a slurry of baking soda and warm water along with a sponge and a little elbow grease. Never clean your stainless steel cookware with harsh chemicals, such as oven cleaner, that could cause permanent damage.
It’s industry standard for cookware manufacturers to advise against cooking over high temperatures to avoid liability for damage caused by misuse. For information on how to prevent food from sticking to your stainless steel cookware, check out our blog post on the subject.
Also, the largest pot in this set is only 5 quarts, which isn’t big enough for boiling a large batch of pasta. We opted not to test the Five Two Essential Cookware 11-Piece Complete Set because it comes with glass lids and the stock pot is only 6 quarts.
The Cuisinart Multicar Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set was our previous runner-up pick. The Cuisinart manual says to never use the cookware over high heat, recommending instead, “a low to medium setting for most cooking.” Many cookware manufacturers have the same recommendation, but our picks haven’t warped like the Cuisinart, even after years of cooking over high heat.
The single layer of stainless steel around the perimeter of the pan is too thin to evenly distribute heat and causes food to burn. We think that if you’re on a budget, you’re better off getting fewer, higher quality pieces of cookware that will give you better results and last longer.
(Tramontina, our main pick, sells pieces from the set we recommend open stock at Walmart.) For one, after testing the Great Jones Saucy for our guide to the best small saucepan, we found the company’s loop-shaped handles uncomfortable to hold.
On top of that, the lids have tiny handles that we found difficult to grasp, and the set comes with only one skillet. In our tests, the copper-core cookware heated up so fast we had to swirl the pan more when making caramel to prevent it from burning.
Unlike the triply All-Clad set we recommend, the Copper Core skillets discolored badly over high heat. We tested the Heston 12.5 Open Skillet to see if its Nanobot Technology made it less prone to discoloration than other cookware.
The pan discolored slightly in our tests, but was easy to clean with the Heston brand stainless steel cleaner. However, because the skillet concentrated heat in the center of the pan, we opted not to try the full Heston 10-Piece Set.
Piecing together your own cookware set gives you the freedom to customize your collection and allows you to buy only what you need. Expertly braising, searing, and roasting meat takes finesse, and the right gear will set you up for success.
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.
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.
Her passion for quality cookware started when she toured a cookware manufacturer and saw how pots and pans were made. 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.
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.
A mid-priced brand that produces quality cookware, Anglo has a variety of cookware lines to fit just about every kitchen, whether you’re looking for a colored exterior or a shiny metal surface. 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.
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.