Kat is a writer, editor, SEO specialist, author, and mother based in the UK. Starting out in 2000 as a reporter for the local paper, Kat has written for many publications, and, as an advocate for female empowerment, loves to write about women's issues and help fellow mothers feel supported and less alone. Kat first started writing for Meredith in 2019 and has contributed to InStyle, Real Simple, Southern Living, Shape, Better Homes & Gardens, Parents, and Parenting. She has written for many other magazines and media outlets including Bust, Mother & Baby, Expert Reviews, Women's World, First For Women, and Yours. Highlights: * Founder of Little Words Limited, a company dedicated to providing all the latest SEO and digital training for women writers * Commerce Editor-at-Large at Thomas-Xometry * Author of YA novel and signed to literary agent * Work has appeared in InStyle, Real Simple, Southern Living, Shape, Better Homes & Gardens, Parents, and Parenting
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Whether you’re a whizz in the kitchen or only boil pasta and reheat leftovers, every kitchen needs a cookware set. With the plethora of options available, it can be a challenge to select a set suited to your culinary needs, so we compared a variety of cookware sets for their materials, included pieces, and care. We also spoke with professionals about what we should look for when shopping.
“Factors to consider when choosing a cookware set include your cooking preferences, culinary techniques, and the types of dishes you prepare most often,” says Hector Ruiz, the President and Founder of BBQ Grill Academy. “The equipment you most often use to cook on should also be considered.”
Alison Cayne, cooking expert and founder of Manhattan cooking school Haven’s Kitchen, believes that when it comes to how many items your cookware set should have, less is more. “I'm a big believer in having fewer, better things,” she says. “All you really need is a skillet, a stock pot, a saucepan, and ideally a Dutch oven. You can, of course, streamline from there according to your needs.”
Our top pick is the 12-piece Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Triple Ply Cookware Set, which includes four saucepans, a sauté pan, a stockpot, a steamer insert, tight-fitting lids, and two different-sized skillets—all with an appealing stainless steel finish.
Read on for more of the best cookware sets.
Who it’s for: People who want a durable, attractive, and affordable cookware set with all the necessary bits.
Who it isn’t for: People looking for nonstick cookware.
The Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Triple Ply 12-Piece set is our top pick for its durability, range of items, and universal design that looks good in every kitchen. The set comes with four saucepans, a sauté pan with a helper handle, a stockpot, and a steamer insert—all with lids. You’ll also get an eight-inch and a 10-inch skillet. The tight-fitting covers are great at keeping in heat and juices, and everything is dishwasher-safe.
The cookware is all oven-safe up to 500 degrees, and the material along the bottom and sides offers even heat distribution. Even though the handles are stainless steel aluminum, they feature cool-touch technology when on the hobs (be careful when taking anything out of the oven and broiler, though).
Price at time of publish: $225
Who it’s for: People who want a failsafe, affordable cookware set that’s easy to use and clean.
Who it isn’t for: People who want something a little more professional.
The T-fal Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set is perfect for those who want to stock up on all the essentials or anyone who wants a simple, affordable, nonstick cookware set. The items in this set feature a unique red Thermo Spot; a helpful indicator that turns bright red when the cookware is preheated and ready for ingredients.
The set is oven safe for temperatures up to 400 degrees (apart from the plastic lids) and is suitable for induction stovetops. These cookware items also have a scratch-resistant and durable titanium coating that the manufacturer backs with a lifetime limited warranty. The two pans feature riveted silicone handles that are grippy and comfortable to hold, and a nesting design so you can store the set compactly and save precious cabinet space.
Price at time of publish: $140
Who it’s for: People who want a professional-grade cookware set.
Who it isn’t for: People who don’t cook a lot.
As the ultimate set for anyone who wants to upgrade their kitchen, the Made In Sous Chef Cookware Set has six spectacularly durable and professional-grade items with four lids that will bring out your inner Gordon Ramsay. Professional chefs curated and selected each item in this set, including two frying pans, two saucepans, a sauté pan, and a stock pot.
All items, apart from the 10-inch nonstick frying pan, are made from stainless clad; a fabrication method that sandwiches an aluminum material in between stainless steel and bonds the metals together for a strong, durable surface. These products are used in professional kitchens and, though quite pricey, are worth it if you take cooking seriously. They’re oven-safe up to 800 degrees, and all items are dishwasher-safe and come with a lifetime warranty (bar the nonstick frying pan, which only has a one-year warranty and should be washed by hand).
Price at time of publish: $804
Who it’s for: People who want the heat-enduring and retaining properties a stainless steel cookware set has to offer.
Who it isn’t for: People who want to wash their cookware in the dishwasher.
The stainless steel All-Clad D5 Stainless Polished 5-Ply Bonded 10-Piece Cookware Set is also commonly used in professional kitchens and favored by many a top chef. These high-quality items are durable, and after personally putting them to the test, we found them to be one of the best cookware sets you can buy. They’re compatible with gas, electric, and induction cooktops.
The five-layer clad construction heats up quickly and retains heat—plus the lids are fitted for even better heat retention. This set is oven safe up to 600 degrees (less than the Made In The Sous Chef Cookware Set above, but still impressive), and the handles are heat-resistant. The brushed finish looks and feels high-end and is easy to keep clean too, and the flared rims allow for easy pouring without making a mess.
Price at time of publish: $900
Who it’s for: People who value utility over style.
Who it isn’t for: People who prefer ceramic when it comes to nonstick cookware.
If you’re no stranger to scratched-up cookware, you need a durable cookware set that won’t become charred with food remnants and can handle its fair share of metal utensils. The Ninja Foodi NeverStick set promises to never stick, flake, or chip, all at a relatively affordable price point.
For the nonstick technology, Ninja uses its own exclusive food-safe PTFE based-coating that is PFOA and PFA-free. This set features hard-anodized exteriors that are super durable, scratch-proof, and safe for the oven and dishwasher. Most of the items have covers, apart from the 8-quart stock pot, the 10.25-inch frying pan, and the 3-quart sauté pan, which share one interchangeable lid between them. The set is available in gray, black, or slate gray, and comes in an array of sizes.
Price at time of publish: $270
Who it’s for: People who want cookware that retains heat extraordinarily well and lasts for a long time.
Who it isn’t for: People who don’t want a colorful cookware set.
What’s not to love about Le Creuset’s Cast Iron Cookware Set? It has an instantly recognizable rustic aesthetic, five unique colorways, and hard-wearing enamel that is resistant to chips and cracks. As is typical of cast iron products, the heat distribution and retention are unparalleled and are safe for use in the oven, broiler, and dishwasher.
This set comes with a few Le Creuset favorites, including the 4.25-quart round Dutch oven and signature square skillet. The skillet features pour spouts on either side, a helper handle, and enameled interior that doesn’t need to be seasoned, while the versatile Dutch oven offers superior heat distribution for delicious dishes. The saucepan and Dutch oven come with tight-fitting lids that feature stabilizers so they never slip off. If you love cooking with cast iron but hate the maintenance that typically comes with this cookware, this is the set for you.
Price at time of publish: $1,150
Who it’s for: People who want colorful cookware with a PTFE alternative nonstick coating.
Who it isn’t for: People who want dishwasher-safe cookware.
This ceramic cookware has convenient nonstick properties without any PTFE, PFOA, PTFE, lead, cadmium, or nickel. The Caraway Cookware Set is a more affordable alternative to stainless steel and comes in six colors, including fun options like rose quartz, marigold, and sage green. Though some ceramic cookware items aren’t oven safe, the pots and pans in this Caraway set are, and they can handle up to 550 degrees.
This set is lightweight, easy to clean (although you can’t put it in the dishwasher), non-reactive to acidic foods, and has a high heat tolerance. The lids are vented to release steam but also can be locked to retain moisture and heat if needed. With proper care, the nonstick properties should last for a while, although they may not be as long-lasting as options with a Teflon coating.
Price at time of publish: $395
Who it’s for: People who want professional-level cookware with aesthetic appeal.
Who it isn’t for: People who have induction cookers.
Copper cookware is an elegant, unique option often used in high-end French restaurants. Copper is an excellent heat conductor which heats quickly and evenly, but also cools down quickly. This set is the crème de la crème for cooking seafood and preparing sauces, which is why many chocolatiers also use them.
If you’re a somewhat experienced cook looking for a level up, opt for this Copper Triply M'3 S 7-Piece Cookware Set from Mauviel, a French cookware company established in 1830. This impressive deluxe kit has a polished copper exterior, cast iron handles that stay cool to the touch, and a non-reactive stainless steel interior that won’t affect the flavor as some traditional copper sets do. Made in France, this set is pricey but has a lifetime warranty to back it up. It also comes with a Copperbrill cleaner and a beautiful wooden crate.
Price at time of publish: $800
Who it’s for: People who just need the basics.
Who it isn’t for: People who prefer stainless steel cookware.
While there are only three items in the GreenPan Valencia Pro Cookware set, they’re the main ones you need to cook anything from complex, multi-ingredient recipes to your basic fried eggs and pasta dishes. They’re oven safe, meaning you can go from braising a steak on the hob to finishing it off in the oven, and all items, including the glass lid, are dishwasher safe. You can even use them on an induction hob.
This set features the brand’s Thermolon Minerals Pro coating, a safe, ceramic nonstick layer made without per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFSA), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), cadmium, or lead. Each piece is durable, retains heat, and is scratch resistant, so you don't need to worry about harming them with metal utensils. They are also easy to keep clean as they are nonstick and dishwasher-safe.
Price at time of publish: $100
The Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Triple Ply Cookware Set is our top choice for its hard wearing finish, durable design, and elegant stainless steel materials. It has everything you need to cook up an array of delicacies, including saucepans, a stockpot, a steamer insert, a sauté pan, and skillets.
Stainless steel, cast iron, aluminum, copper, and enameled cast iron are the most common and traditional cookware materials. Ruiz and Cayne gave us the low down on the pros and cons and the differences between these materials—plus their best uses.
The most widely used material for cookware is stainless steel because it offers a great balance between price, heat conduction, and durability. Stainless steel is also popular because it requires little maintenance other than routine cleaning.
“Unlike cast iron, stainless steel cookware does not need to be ‘seasoned,’ and it is nonreactive to acidic foods, which means the metal does not release into the food and affect its taste or color,” says Ruiz. “Good-quality stainless steel cookware is also incredibly corrosion-resistant when properly cared for.”
Ruiz adds that stainless steel cookware is particularly good at transferring heat and can handle high temperatures, though not as high as cast iron. “If you want to cook a larger variety of recipes, stainless steel cookware is a preferable choice, as it can be used for frying, boiling, and oven sautéing, among many other things,” he says.
In addition, Cayne tells us that stainless steel heats up and cools down much faster than cast iron. Stainless steel pans generally have layers of aluminum or copper to conduct heat and retain even heat, but cheaper ones could have pockets that get hotter and don't retain heat. Just like a fully cast iron item, if the handle is oven safe, you can easily transfer a well-made stainless steel pan to the oven.
“With stainless steel, however, you won't get the sear or deep caramelization that you will from cast iron,” Cayne says. “They’re great for a quick stir fry or sauté, but better for acidic foods (i.e., tomato sauce) because they’re non-porous. It’s also a great material for steaming veggies because the water won't leach any of the metal.”
Cast iron cookware has been around for many years and is one of the strongest materials used in household and commercial kitchens. Unlike stainless steel, cast iron doesn't get dented or easily scratched when using metal tools. Since cast iron is dense, it can also resist extremely high temperatures.
“Cast iron can keep and transfer heat better than stainless steel because it is denser and it can handle higher temperatures,” says Ruiz. “There are, however, a few caveats. For starters, it is reactive, and acidic foods, including lemon juice, vinegar, and tomatoes, do not play well with cast iron. Secondly, it requires maintenance. Cast iron items require ‘seasoning’ to be rust-free, and you should also avoid boiling water in them because it can lift the ‘seasoning’ and expose the metal to the water or food.” Ruiz recommends seasoning with natural cooking oils.
Another con to cast iron cookware is that it is heavy and sometimes hard to move around the kitchen. Ruiz also mentions that the porous surface is great for searing, but tends to absorb odors when cooking foods like fish. “If you want to sear and cook at high temperatures, cast iron works great because it can not only both transfer and hold heat very well, it can maintain surface temperatures while in contact with cold proteins,” he says.
In addition, cast iron cookware can last forever with the proper care, and has a rustic feel and look. “I like serving dishes directly out of a cast iron, like a whole fish cooked in the cast iron on the grill, or a Dutch baby, or Cherry Clafoutis for dessert,” she says. For a less high-maintenance cast iron cookware set, Cayne suggests opting for one coated in enamel. These versions don’t rust and don't need seasoning.
Copper cookware is amazing at transferring heat, and its thermodynamics make managing temperature easy. Copper sets, however, are usually expensive and require extensive care to keep them in tip-top condition so they last you a while.
“It is easy to damage copper using metal cooking utensils,” says Ruiz, “but if properly maintained, it can last as long as cast iron. Copper cookware can also give food a metallic taste if it is not used properly. Chefs enjoy copper cookware, but the common consumer may find it prohibitively expensive.”
Nonstick cookware sets are coated with a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) material known as Teflon, and you can find this on a range of materials. While nonstick coatings used to get a bad rap for containing toxins, Teflon is considered safe for temperatures up to 500 degrees.
“There are a few brands making nonstick pans that don't have any questionable chemicals or coatings, and they can handle spatulas and metal utensils,” says Cayne. “They're more expensive, but are great for frying things like eggs, and require less cleanup.”
Cookware sets can have anywhere from three to 20 or more included pieces. These can include pots and pans in various sizes, frying pans, Dutch ovens, sauté pans, griddles, and even woks or roasting pans.
Some cookware sets might also feature pressure cookers, French ovens, and braiser pans. Most cookware sets label the pots and their lids as separate items, so keep that in mind when shopping—an 8-piece cookware set is often just four pots and four lids.
Regardless of the material, the best way to care for your cookware is to clean it right after each use. “Higher quality brands can take a lot of use and last for decades, as long as you keep them clean,” says Cayne. “Ideally, wash them with soap and water, and no harsh scrubbing. Try and keep the metal utensils away and use wooden spoons instead.”
Stainless steel cookware requires little care. “Stainless steel is scratch-resistant, and its finish will last a long time,” Ruiz says. “Nonstick stainless steel cookware is simple to clean; however, standard stainless steel cookware can be difficult to remove burn marks and stains from.”
Cast iron cookware requires seasoning, which means a nice coat of vegetable oil after cleaning to keep it from rusting, and some copper cookware requires polishing, too. For more information on how to season and clean a cast-iron skillet, look at our in-depth guide.
The most necessary items, according to Cayne, are a skillet, a sauté pan, a stock pot, a saucepan, and preferably a Dutch oven. “To outfit your kitchen optimally for anything you may want to cook,” Cayne advises, “you'll want a pan to sauté in, a pan to make meat in, a pot for soup and pasta, and a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid for rice, steaming, reheating, etc.” Ruiz also says these are the fundamental kitchen tools and cookware for any meal.
Ruiz tells us that nonstick cookware is the easiest to clean because the coating prevents foods from clinging to its surface, making it simple to scrub and clean. “Porcelain-coated cookware is also simple to clean, although it must be done with delicacy because the porcelain coating can chip or crack if not handled carefully,” he says.
The way you cook also plays a role in how easy the cookware is to clean afterward. “The easiest pan to clean is the one that you cook in properly,” says Cayne. “Food sticks on pans when it's stirred or flipped before it's ready, or if you haven't used enough fat to properly grease the pan. In any case, a good soak overnight in warm, soapy water should fix anything.”
A hard-anodized cooking set is made of aluminum that has been anodized to form a barrier between the aluminum and the food. This inhibits the aluminum reaction with acidic foods.
“Hard anodized cookware goes through a controlled chemical oxidation process where manufacturers use chemicals and high-voltage electrical currents to create a smooth corrosion-resistant coating,” says Ruiz. “Aluminum conducts heat effectively, is less expensive than stainless steel, and is very reactive, so anodized aluminum cookware is a good affordable option.”
Cayne also adds that the additional, non-porous layer (similar to an enamel coating) on anodized cookware makes them more heat resistant and sometimes nonstick.
Mini Fry Pan This article was written by Kat de Naoum, who has over 10 years of commerce-writing experience. Kat is also the Commerce Editor-at-Large at Thomas-Xometry, the leading US online platform for supplier discovery and product sourcing. For this article, Kat reviewed and tested multiple cookware sets and researched and considered factors such as material, style, number and types of included cookware items, and how easy they are to clean. She also spoke to Hector Ruiz, the President and Founder of BBQ Grill Academy, and Alison Cayne, a cooking expert and the founder of Haven’s Kitchen, a Manhattan cooking school.