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For any home cook who values consistency and reliability in their kitchen, a high-quality cookware set is a worthy investment. Buying a comprehensive collection of pots, pans, lids, and other kitchen accessories all in one go doesn’t just save time; it also helps you discover the items and brands that best suit your needs. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing, including what material the set is made from, how many pieces you need, and what kinds of pots and pans are in the set. Remember that you can always add more pots and pans to your kitchen arsenal if needed.
We researched the market to identify the cookware sets that boast expert craftsmanship, optimal heat distribution, and impressive longevity. Our top pick is the Tramontina 12-Piece Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Cookware Set.
Spanning a wide budget range, here are all of the best cookware sets to seek out.
Best Overall: Tramontina 12-Piece Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Cookware Set
What We Love: Beautiful and heavy-duty stainless steel construction, heats quickly and evenly on low and medium heat, cleans up easily
What We Don't Love: Food sticks on high heat, prone to discoloration
There’s a reason why stainless steel cookware features heavily in professional kitchens. It’s extremely durable, easy to clean, and well suited to a plethora of cooking tasks. However, some (usually less expensive) stainless steel sets aren’t properly reinforced, resulting in uneven cooking temperatures.
This Tramontina set avoids that concern by using tri-ply technology consisting of a stainless steel layer, an aluminum core, and a second layer of magnetic stainless steel. This construction strategy produces cookware with the reliability and ease of use expected of stainless steel but with far more flexibility to accomplish even the most ambitious kitchen experiments. It also means that this set is compatible with all cooktops, including induction.
To add to the benefits, Tramontina rings up at a reasonable price for its quality, making it an investment that will remain valuable over the long haul.
Material: Stainless steel, aluminum | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Pieces Included: 8-inch skillet, 10-inch skillet, 5-quart saute pan with lid, 1.5-quart saucepan with lid, 2-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 8-quart stockpot with lid
Best Budget: Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 11-Piece Set
What We Love: Heats and cooks evenly, tapered rim make pouring easy, sturdy construction, comfortable to hold
What We Don't Love: Food sticks and cookware stains when cooking at high heat
Cuisinart stands out as a consistently dependable brand for kitchen equipment, and its 11-piece stainless steel cookware set fully lives up to that reputation.
This set contains seven pots and pans with lids specially designed to seal when cooking, and the aluminum base of each instrument allows it to cook equally well over gas, electric, or halogen burners. Each of the pieces has a tapered rim to make pouring and transferring easier, which heavily contributes to this cookware set’s cleaning simplicity. There's also a steamer insert to round out your new kitchen inventory.
Material: Stainless steel, aluminum | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Pieces Included: 8-inch skillet, 10-inch skillet, 1.5-quart saucepan with lid, 2.5-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saute pan with lid, 8-quart stockpot with lid, steamer insert
Best Stainless Steel: All-Clad D3 Stainless 3-ply Bonded Cookware Set
What We Love: Very sturdy, easy to clean, food doesn't stick, heats up quickly, cooks evenly
What We Don't Love: Some users say the handles could be more comfortable
For a cookware set that truly performs on the level expected by Michelin-starred chefs, you’ll need to invest in a professional-grade assortment. These sets tend to cost more than an entry-level collection, but the elite construction involved in All-Clad’s Professional Grade Stainless Steel 10-Piece set warrants the extra bucks.
All-Clad’s pieces contain three alternating layers of stainless steel and aluminum, which provide even distribution of heat and a sturdiness beyond compare. Every pot and pan in the set is dishwasher-safe, and All-Clad offers shoppers a lifetime warranty, ensuring that these instruments will become permanent fixtures in your kitchen.
While there is a five-ply version of this stainless steel set, at about $100 more, we think you'll get more value for your dollar with the D3 set. The D3 is more lightweight and quicker to heat, while we found the D5 version—which we tested in our dedicated testing lab—to be quite heavy. Plus, one of the biggest draws of a five-layer stainless steel set is for superior heat distribution, which we found a bit lacking in the D5 set, with the heat concentrating much more in the center of the pieces. Our advice: Go for the cheaper, lighter D3 set.
"I invested in a few All-Clad saucepans in my 20s and they were worth every penny. They heat and cook evenly, can take a beating, and will certainly last my lifetime and likely beyond!" — Emma Christensen, Editor-in-Chief
Material: Stainless steel, aluminum | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Pieces Included: 8-inch skillet, 10-inch skillet, 2-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saute pan with lid, 8-quart stockpot with lid
Best Nonstick: T-fal Excellence Non-stick 12-Piece Cookware Set
What We Love: Great heat distribution, very easy to clean, handles don't get hot and are comfortable to hold
What We Don't Love: Cookware may warp and discolor if not used or cleaned according to manufacturer instructions
Nonstick cookware often suffers from an image problem, largely due to the use of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a coating that prevents sticking and is commonly referred to by the brand name Teflon. Many shoppers assume that nonstick pots and pans can’t be counted on for long-term use, since their PTFE coatings will wear down over time.
Luckily, when used for low- or medium-heat stovetop cooking, nonstick cookware doesn’t need to have an early expiration date. That’s especially true when you’re dealing with a brand that specializes in nonstick cookware like T-fal. The T-fal Excellence Non-Stick 12-Piece Cookware Set uses aluminum (a capable heat conductor) as its base and also features Thermo-Spot heat indicators, which allow you to effectively heat these pots and pans without risking overly high temperatures. Vented glass lids let you monitor your cooking and not worry about a pot boiling over.
Material: Aluminum | Maximum Temperature: 350 degrees | Pieces Included: 8-inch skillet, 9-inch skillet, 1-quart saucepan with lid, 2-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saute pan with lid, 5-quart Dutch oven with lid, slotted spoon, spatula
Related: The Best Nonstick Cookware Sets
Best Copper: Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper 10-Piece Cookware Set
What We Love: Gorgeous set, very sturdily constructed, distributes heat evenly, handles don't get hot and are well-secured
What We Don't Love: Requires careful cleaning after each use
It’s hard to argue with the stage presence of a copper cookware set. These gleaming pots and pans seem built specifically for Instagram. Fortunately, an up-market copper set like Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper 10-Piece delivers far more than aesthetic value.
With copper exteriors and stainless steel interiors, these pieces perform beautifully when exposed to high temperatures and long cook times, which makes them braising and broiling champions. By gently cleaning the exteriors with a water and vinegar solution, you can prevent your Lagostina instruments from tarnishing, allowing them to maintain their luminous shine for years at a stretch.
Material: Copper, stainless steel | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Pieces Included: 8-inch skillet, 10-inch skillet, 2-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saute pan with lid, 6-quart stockpot with lid
Best Cast Iron: Le Creuset 8-Piece Cast Iron Set
What We Love: Beautiful design, heats evenly, will last a long time
What We Don't Love: Very heavy, big learning curve to using it properly (included instructions aren't very detailed)
The remarkable longevity of Le Creuset cookware is the stuff of legends, and rightfully so. These French cast-iron instruments with a proprietary ceramic coating can be passed down from generation to generation without losing their effectiveness. Therefore, while this set certainly leans in a splurgy direction in regards to price, it’s best considered a legacy purchase to keep your family’s kitchen properly equipped for the foreseeable future.
This eight-piece set includes two sizes of Le Creuset’s most famous item: its Dutch oven. These pots boast incredible versatility, but they truly excel at stovetop-to-oven cooking projects, especially those that involve long, slow braising. If your cooking style aligns with these specialties, then you’ll find this set well worth every penny.
Material: Cast iron | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Pieces Included: 12-inch skillet, grill pan, 3.5-quart braising pan with lid, 4.5-quart Dutch oven with lid, 6.75-quart Dutch oven with lid
Related: The Best Cast Iron Skillets
Best Ceramic: Caraway Cookware Set
What We Love: Gorgeous design and colors, sturdy build, great nonstick quality, comes with a magnetic storage unit and lid holder
What We Don't Love: Quite heavy, could use a small skillet, no way to opt out of receiving the storage units
A major hit in the direct-to-consumer cookware scene, Caraway’s pots and pans feature a nonstick ceramic interior coating. They're so successful at reducing food stickiness that cooks can use less oil or butter in their recipes. With such wellness-related perks and Caraway’s vibrant ceramic exteriors, these sets appeal to trend-savvy shoppers who also refuse to cut corners on cookware quality.
Caraway’s ceramic cookware is safe for any kind of cooktop, including induction. The layers of ceramic surround an aluminum core, and all seven pieces are oven safe to 550 degrees. The set also comes with a magnetic pan rack and a canvas lid holder, ideal for cooks who are short on storage.
Material: Ceramic, aluminum | Maximum Temperature: 550 degrees | Pieces Included: 10.5-inch skillet, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 4.5-quart saute pan with lid, 6.5-quart Dutch oven with lid, magnetic pan rack, canvas lid holder
Best Eco-Friendly: Kana 5-Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set
What We Love: Beautiful, versatile, cleanup is a breeze, more affordable than comparable brands
What We Don't Love: Heavy, not meant for cooking for large groups, some users say it chips easily
Since enameled cast iron is nonstick by nature, sets made from this material don’t require much chemical intervention, which reduces any negative impact on the environment. Kana, a California-based sustainability-focused cookware brand, takes care to ensure that its Milo collection of enameled cast iron cookware makes use of TOMATEC enamel, which is free of perfluorooctanoic acids (PFOAs) and polytetrafluoroethylenes (PTFEs).
Kana also utilizes high percentages of recycled cast iron to create its Dutch ovens. There are two in its Milo five-piece set: a 3.3-quart and a 5.5-quart. The set also includes a 10-inch skillet and two lids. All of the pieces are ready to use out of the box and are covered by a lifetime warranty.
Material: Cast iron | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Pieces Included: 10-inch skillet, 3.3-quart Dutch oven with lid, 5.5-quart Dutch oven with lid
You can't go wrong with the tri-ply construction and durability of stainless steel found with the Tramontina 12-Piece Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Cookware Set (view at Amazon). With comparable durability points, but at a more affordable price, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 11-Piece Set (view at Amazon) is also a good bet for cookware.
What To Look for in a Cookware Set
Different cookware materials claim different strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the decision about which material suits you best will depend on your cooking style, your cleaning needs, and your budget.
Stainless steel produces real workhorse pieces of cookware, thanks to its durability, its versatile nature, and the ease with which it can be cleaned. If you want the reliable heat distribution of stainless steel but also yearn for a stunning Mediterranean-inspired aesthetic (and don’t mind a bit of extra work in the cleaning department), then copper may be the right choice for you. For shoppers who would like to save a bit of money and prioritize easy-to-clean kitchen instruments, nonstick cookware fits the bill. A cast-iron pot or pan is the gold standard for slow cooking, whether you opt for an enameled version or a raw version. Ceramic works well for home cooks who want presentable cookware that heats evenly and doesn’t cause tough-to-scrub food stickiness. Evaluate your priorities, and you’ll be able to ascertain the right cookware material for you.
As with cookware materials, cookware sizes will depend on your kitchen goals. If you’re cooking just for yourself or for you and a partner, then smaller pots and skillets might do the trick. If you want the flexibility to make meals for an entire family or to make larger quantities of your favorites to freeze for later, then a 6-quart Dutch oven or an 8-quart stockpot could prove to be worthy purchases.
Most chefs advise home cooks to avoid overcrowding their pans since that can cause uneven cooking. For that reason, it helps to select a cookware set with multiple pan sizes, allowing you to survey your ingredient quantities and pick a cooking instrument that provides plenty of room for quality sauteing or browning.
You’ll notice that cookware sets count pot and pan lids as separate pieces. That’s because lids play a crucial role in many cooking pursuits. When shopping for a cookware set, make sure to choose a version with precision-fitted lids. Lids that are slightly too big or too small for a pan won’t effectively seal in the heat, resulting in uneven cooking.
Types of Cookware
Each pan or pot in a cookware set serves its own unique purpose, so you’ll need to be clear about your needs and wishes before embarking on a shopping adventure for these items. If you don’t make a lot of soups or stocks, then you may not require a stockpot. If long-term oven braising sounds like a lot of work for little reward, then don’t prioritize a Dutch oven.
For a quick overview of which pan accomplishes which task, read the following list:
- A skillet or frying pan is best for frying, searing, and browning proteins and produce.
- A saute pan can generally accomplish the same things as a skillet, but it has a larger surface area, providing the ingredients more space.
- A saucepan is used for making sauces, reducing liquids, and any cooking methods that require boiling water (like blanching and poaching).
- A grill pan replicates the cooking style of an outdoor grill, and you can use it for proteins, vegetables, or fruits.
- A braising pan has the surface area to properly sear and brown ingredients before slow cooking, but it can also go easily into the oven for long braising.
- A stockpot is a high-volume pot commonly used for stocks and soups.
- A Dutch oven is a pot that transfers seamlessly from the stovetop to the oven for braising and slow cooking.
Do induction cooktops need different cookware?
"Induction electric ranges require specific types of cookware," says Ken Riemann, cooking buyer at P.C. Richard & Son. "Cast iron, enameled cast iron, and many types—but not all—of stainless steel cookware are induction compatible." Induction cooktops require ferromagnetic material for heat to transmit, so definitely check the specifications before you buy. Most induction-capable cookware will list that feature as a highlight. In general, though, expect to be unable to use glass, aluminum, or copper unless it’s been treated to include a magnetic layer.
Is hard-anodized the same as tri-ply?
The short answer is no. Anodized cookware means the metal—typically aluminum—is treated with an electrochemical process to imbue strength and hardness to the material. This results in the distinctive dark-colored metal. Often, it is then treated with a nonstick coating that will last for at least three years, depending on quality, care, and usage.
The tri-ply designation, on the other hand, typically means that the material used in creating the cookware is aluminum or copper bonded on both sides with steel, fully sealed like a hand pie. The tri represents the three layers of metal, and ply count can go up to seven. However, it’s not the quantity but rather the quality of how they’re merged together that matters. Fully clad cookware—which indicates a seamless merge throughout the material—performs better than impact-bonded. With the latter, a heavy-gauge layer of the better heat conducting metal (e.g., aluminum or copper) is present only at the base.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
This article was written by Taylor Tobin, a freelance journalist who specializes in recipe testing and deep dives into popular dishes and ingredients. She regularly uses a wide range of cookware to try out new recipes and execute old favorites, and her Le Creuset Dutch oven counts among her most cherished possessions.
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Radulovic L, Wojcinski Z. PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene; Teflon®). Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Third Edition). 2014; 1133-1136. doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-386454-3.00970-2
Radulovic L, Wojcinski Z. PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene; Teflon®). Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Third Edition). 2014; 1133-1136. doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-386454-3.00970-2