Best Cookware Sets of 2018
A good cookware set allows you to easily cook delectable dishes that your family will love. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best cookware set for your culinary needs.
Get Cooking with the Perfect Cookware Set
At first glance, pots and pans may seem like basic, no-frills cookware. But in truth, the quality of your pots and pans can make or break your experience in the kitchen—and at the dinner table.
The right cookware heats evenly. It doesn't react with the foods you prepare. It feels great in your hands, and it's easy to clean. That may not seem like much to ask for, but with so many options on today's market, you may find yourself feeling perplexed as to which cookware set is right for you.
In most cases, the material with which a cookware set is made plays the biggest role in whether it's a good fit for your kitchen. If you're unsure of the differences between stainless steel, cast iron, copper, nonstick, aluminum, and carbon steel, though, you won't be able to choose the best option to meet your needs.
At BestReviews, we pride ourselves on our honest, unbiased product reviews. To get a better feel for the best cookware sets on the market, we performed in-depth product research and consulted product owners. Because of our work, we're able to provide you with the matrix of recommended products above and the cookware shopping guide that follows.
What Pieces Do You Need in a Cookware Set?
Cookware sets vary in the number and types of pots and pans they include. The best fit for your kitchen depends on what you like to cook and how you like to cook it. However, there are some cookware pieces that most, if not all, home cooks should have.
● 8-Inch Skillet: An 8-inch skillet is ideal for making eggs, omelets, and single chicken breasts and burgers.
● 10-Inch Skillet: A 10-inch skillet works well for frying up several chicken breasts or burgers at a time, making a frittata, sautéing, and stir-frying.
● 12-Inch Skillet: Using a 12-inch skillet, you can make a one-dish meal or fry food for a larger group of people.
● 2-Quart Sauce Pan and/or 3-Quart Sauce Pan: These sauce pans work well for steaming veggies, boiling eggs, and preparing soup, rice, sauce, and pasta.
● Dutch Oven: A Dutch oven with a capacity of four to six quarts comes in handy for making stews, thick soups, and pot roasts.
● 8-Quart Stock Pot: A large stock pot like this is essential if you're making a large amount of pasta or a big batch of soup.
Which Cookware Material Is Best for You?
Cookware sets are available in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, cast iron, copper, aluminum, and carbon steel. The option that will work best in your kitchen depends on what type of cooking you do, what type of stove you have, and how much time you're willing to spend on cleanup.
Stainless-Steel Cookware Pros and Cons
● Extremely durable
● Nonreactive material so you can cook any type of food in it
● Requires little maintenance
● Usually compatible with induction stove tops
● Usually safe for the oven, broiler, and dishwasher
● Poor heat distribution
● Uncoated stainless steel isn't nonstick
● Can be difficult to clean
Are you leaning toward buying a cookware set made of stainless steel? To ensure that the cookware conducts heat well, opt for a high-quality set of stainless-steel pots and pans.
Nonstick Cookware Pros and Cons
● Easy to clean
● Allows for low-fat cooking because you don't need much oil or butter
● Often compatible with induction stove tops
● Metal may scratch nonstick surfaces
● Usually not safe for the dishwasher
● Doesn't brown food as well as other materials
● Only oven-safe up to certain temperatures, and not usually broiler-safe
● Coating may contain toxic chemicals
Cast-Iron Cookware Pros and Cons
● Extremely durable
● Naturally nonstick
● Oven-safe up to extremely high temperatures
● Compatible with induction stove tops
● Difficult to clean and not dishwasher-safe
● Takes a long time to heat
● Can cook unevenly
● Must be seasoned and maintained
● Can rust in damp conditions
Copper Cookware Pros and Cons
● Usually oven-safe
● Works for a variety of cooking tasks, including frying, sautéing, searing, and simmering
● Looks attractive on the table
● Reacts to acidic foods like tomatoes
● Can scratch and dent easily
● Not dishwasher-safe
● Not compatible with induction stove tops
Copper cookware that's lined with a nonreactive material like stainless steel is usually a more versatile option.
Aluminum Cookware Pros and Cons
● Conducts heat well
● Prone to staining
● Reactive material may discolor acidic food/impart a bitter taste
If you're considering buying a set of aluminum cookware, opt for anodized aluminum. This coated material is nonreactive, so it's a better option for cookware.
Carbon-Steel Cookware Pros and Cons
● Extremely durable
● Easy to clean
● Compatible with induction cooktops
● Must be seasoned to prevent rusting
● Not dishwasher-safe
● Pans often designed for a single purpose
Which Features Matter Most When Selecting a Cookware Set?
In addition to the material with which cookware is made, there are a few other features to consider when choosing a cookware set. Each of the features below plays a key role in your cooking success as well as your safety in the kitchen.
Weight and Balance
The weight of your cookware determines how easy it is to handle and move around your stove top. Pots and pans must be heavy enough to retain heat and prevent denting, but they should feel comfortable in your hand and be easy to maneuver while cooking.
The weight of your cookware should be balanced so each piece sits flat on the burner and doesn't pull to one side, which could lead to uneven cooking. Remember, too, that pots and pans weigh more when filled with food.
The handles on cookware should offer a comfortable grip. They should feel sturdy and ideally stay cool when in use on the stove top.
Silicone or rubber handles usually offer the most comfortable grip, but they aren't oven-safe. If you want to use the cookware in the oven, opt for a set with steel handles—and use oven mitts to protect your hands.
A cookware set usually includes lids for all its pots and pans. Glass lids are convenient because they allow you to see what's going on inside without removing the lid and letting steam escape. However, glass lids are often heavy and can break easily. If you have small children, you may prefer lids made of the same material as the pots and pans.
A Note About Oven Safety
If you enjoy preparing foods that begin on the stove top and finish in the oven, it's important to choose a cookware set that's oven-safe. While many cookware sets can be used in the oven, they're usually only safe for use up to a certain temperature. Read the manufacturer's instructions carefully to determine how hot the cookware can get, particularly if you want to use a pot or pan under the broiler.
How Much Should You Pay for a Cookware Set?
Cookware sets vary in price based on how many pieces are included and what material is used. In general, you can expect to pay between $40 and $700 for a cookware set.
● For a professional-grade cookware set that includes 10 to 12 pieces, expect to pay between $225 and $700.
● For a midrange cookware set that includes 10 to 12 pieces, expect to pay between $100 and $200.
● For a budget-friendly cookware set with up to 15 pieces, you could pay anywhere between $40 and $100.
● Use boiling water and vinegar to remove burnt-on debris from stainless-steel cookware. First, fill the pan with water and bring it to a boil for several minutes. Pour out the water and try scrubbing the stain away. If the debris hasn't loosened, add more water and some white vinegar to the pan. Bring it to a boil again, empty the water, and scrub the stain away.
● When cooking with nonstick pots and pans, use low or medium heat. High heat is bad for the nonstick coating and can break it down over time. High temperatures may also cause the coating to release potentially toxic fumes.
● Protect your hands when using cast-iron cookware. The handles on cast-iron cookware can grow extremely hot during cooking. Wrap them in a kitchen towel or pot holder to avoid burning your skin. You can also find handle covers for cast-iron cookware.
● Season your carbon-steel cookware before you use it. To do this, rub the cooking surface with a neutral oil, place it upside down on a baking sheet, and bake the cookware in the oven at 350°F for an hour.
Q. What's the advantage of buying a cookware set rather than individual cookware pieces?
A. In most cases, you'll get a better value if you buy your cookware in a set rather than piece by piece. When you buy a set, you usually end up paying less per pot or pan.
However, if you already have some pots and pans at home, a set may not be the best option, as you could end up with multiples that you don't need. It may come in handy to have cookware in different materials, though, because some materials are better-suited for specific cooking tasks than others.
Q. How do I know if a piece of cookware is compatible with my stove top?
A. If you have a smooth, electric stove top, it's best to choose flat-bottom pans. For an induction stove top, you need cookware made of a magnetic material, such as cast iron or stainless steel. Test the bottom of the cookware with a magnet if you're not sure. Other stove tops will usually work with any type of cookware, but you should read your stove's manufacturer pamphlet to be certain.
Q. Is it safe to wash cookware in the dishwasher?
A. Always consult the manufacturer's instructions for your cookware to determine if it's dishwasher-safe. Some materials, such as nonstick, shouldn't be washed in the dishwasher because the coating will deteriorate. However, even if your cookware is deemed dishwasher-safe, it will usually last longer if you wash it by hand.