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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 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.
Here are the best cookware sets, spanning a wide budget range, to seek out. Each boasts expert craftsmanship intended for optimal heat distribution and for impressive longevity.
Best Overall: Tramontina Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Clad 12-Piece Cookware Set
Material: Stainless steel, aluminum | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Pieces Included: 8-inch fry pan, 10-inch fry pan, 5-quart sauté pan with lid, 1.5-quart saucepan with lid, 2-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 8-quart stockpot with lid
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 Gourmet rings up at a reasonable price for its quality, making it an investment that will remain valuable over the long haul.
Best Budget: Cuisinart 77-11G Chef's Classic Stainless Steel 11-Piece Cookware Set
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 sauté pan with lid, 8-quart stockpot with lid, steamer insert
Cuisinart stands out as a consistently dependable brand for kitchen equipment, and their 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.
Best Stainless Steel: All-Clad D3 Stainless 10-Piece Cookware Set
Material: Stainless steel, aluminum | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Pieces Included: 8-inch fry pan, 10-inch fry pan, 2-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart sauté pan with lid, 8-quart stockpot with lid
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.
Best Nonstick: T-Fal Titanium Advanced Non-Stick Cookware Set
Material: Aluminum | Maximum Temperature: 350 degrees | Pieces Included: 8-inch fry pan, 9-inch fry pan, 1-quart saucepan with lid, 2-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart sauté pan with lid, 5-quart Dutch oven with lid, slotted spoon, spatula
Nonstick cookware often suffers from an image problem, largely due to the use of PTFE (a coating that prevents sticking and is commonly referred to by the brand name of “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, the truth is, when used for low-heat 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 Titanium Advanced Non-Stick 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 allow you to monitor your cooking and not worry about a pot boiling over.
Related: The Best Nonstick Cookware Sets
Best Copper: Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper 10-Piece Cookware Set
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 sauté pan with lid, 6-quart stockpot with lid
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 pots and pans 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.
Best Cast Iron: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron 8-Piece Cookware Set
Material: Cast iron | Maximum Temperature: 500 degrees | Pieces Included: 12-inch fry pan, grill pan, 3.5-quart braising pan with lid, 4.5-quart Dutch oven with lid, 6.75-quart Dutch oven with lid
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 8-piece set includes two different 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.
Related: The Best Cast Iron Skillets
Best Ceramic: Caraway Cookware Set
Material: Ceramic, aluminum | Maximum Temperature: 550 degrees | Pieces Included: 10.5-inch fry pan, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 4.5-quart sauté pan with lid, 6.5-quart Dutch oven with lid, magnetic pan rack, canvas lid holder
A major hit in the direct-to-consumer cookware scene, Caraway’s pots and pans feature a nonstick ceramic interior coating, releases up to 60 percent less carbon dioxide than other nonstick materials, and proves so successful at reducing food stickiness that cooks can use less oil or butter in their recipes. With these 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. For those short on storage, it also comes with a magnetic pan rack and a canvas lid holder.
Best Eco-friendly: Kana 5-Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set
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
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 PFOAs and PTFEs.
Kana also utilizes high percentages of recycled cast iron to create its Dutch ovens. There are two in its Milo 5-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.
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’d like to save a bit of money and who 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 like Le Creuset or a raw version like Lodge or Smithey. 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 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 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 sautéeing 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. 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 frying pan or skillet is best for frying, searing, and browning proteins and produce.
- A sauté pan can generally accomplish the same things as a frying pan, but it has a larger surface area, providing the ingredients within more space.
- A saucepan is used for making sauces, for reducing liquids, and for 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 easily go 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.
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 to execute old favorites, and her Le Creuset Dutch oven counts among her most cherished possessions.
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