Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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HOW WE TESTED

After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-piece set to be sure that it’s worthy of our recommendation. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.

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Buying guide for Best cookware sets

A quality set of pots and pans can improve the quality of your cooking and give you an easier time in the kitchen.

Often, purchasing a cookware set is cheaper than buying the pieces individually. But there are several factors to take into account when looking for the best cookware set for your kitchen.

Common cookware set materials include copper, aluminum, cast iron, and stainless steel. Each material offers different advantages and impacts the price of the set.

When you shop, you should have an idea of which pieces you will need, as there is no default when it comes to cookware sets.

If you purchase a well-constructed set and treat your tools well, a cookware set should last you for several years, so it’s important to find one that meets your cooking needs.

cookware sets
When selecting a cookware set, remember that manufacturers count each piece separately, including the lids. Therefore, an eight-piece set might consist of five pots and pans plus three lids.

Which metal is best?

Four common metals are used to make cookware: copper, aluminum, cast iron, and stainless steel.

Each type of metal has its pros and cons.

Copper cookware

Copper provides excellent heat conductivity for quick, even heating. It’s sensitive to changes in the flame temperature, too. This makes it the preferred cooking material of many professional chefs. Copper also cools quickly when you're done cooking.

Copper is also beautiful. It looks attractive in the kitchen. The downside of copper cookware is its high price, need for polishing, and tendency to react to acidic foods.

Furthermore, copper also is prone to scratching and discoloration. For best results, hand washing may be required.

Expert Tip
Consider the weight of the cookware when you buy. If you’re getting something for Granny, her wrists may not accommodate heavier pots like cast iron and stainless steel. Aluminum and copper tend to be lighter.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Aluminum cookware

Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat. That said, it’s soft and easily scratches or dents.

Aluminum also reacts with acidic foods, potentially leaching into your food. To prevent these problems, aluminum cookware is usually anodized. This creates a scratch-resistant surface that resists leaching.

Commonly, aluminum cookware has a nonstick coating, making cleanup a breeze. Some pieces have aluminum cores for even heat distribution.

Anodized aluminum pots and pans are easy to find at bargain prices. Generally, however, a super-low price corresponds with low quality.

Expert Tip
Over time, anodized aluminum can get a chalky appearance if washed in a dishwasher with powdered soap. Use liquid soap instead, or better yet, wash it by hand.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Cast iron cookware

Although cast iron is a poor conductor of heat, once it does heat up, it stays hot for a long time due to its mass. It is very durable, can withstand extremely high heat, and is relatively inexpensive.

However, cast iron is heavy. It rust or pit, and it reacts with acidic foods. Periodically applying a thin coating of oil (called seasoning) to cast iron helps prevent those problems and creates a somewhat nonstick surface on the cookware.

You’ll sometimes find cast iron cookware with an enameled surface. This eliminates the need for seasoning with oil. Nevertheless, these are still very heavy pots and pans. The good news is that the best cast iron cookware sets can last a lifetime and beyond.

Stainless steel cookware

Some of the top cookware sets are made of thick stainless steel, which looks beautiful and is a staple of many restaurant kitchens.

Advantages of stainless steel include resistance to scratching, denting, and discoloration. And stainless steel pots and pans are dishwasher safe.

Furthermore, stainless steel does not react with foods. However, it is a poor conductor of heat. This necessitates a core of aluminum or copper in the cookware, though aluminum only has 60% of copper's conductive power.

High-quality stainless steel pans and pots have a core extending over the entire pan. Low-quality stainless cookware just has an aluminum or copper bottom.

The best stainless steel cookware sets generally cost more than anodized aluminum pots and pans, but they are very versatile and suitable for just about any type of cooking the average home chef wants to try.

What pieces do you need?

Once you have determined which metal you want, it’s time to determine how large a set of cookware you need.

While you could buy pots and pans separately, it usually makes more sense to buy a set. It’s also easier and faster to select an entire set.

But don’t hurry into your decision, and don’t make the mistake of assuming that a bigger set is always better. Most people don’t relish the idea of filling their cupboards with cookware they never use.

If you’re an infrequent or casual cook, a set containing just the basics would probably cover your needs. If you enjoy cooking and spend lots of time in the kitchen, however, a larger set with a few specialty items would likely serve you well. And if there are specific pieces of cookware you need beyond that, you could purchase those pieces individually.

Basic cookware sets

A basic cookware set that covers most cooking needs includes the following.

  • 10-inch skillet: large enough to cook up breakfast or fry a few burgers
  • 12-inch skillet: the perfect size for large-skillet meals or multiple pieces of meat
  • 3-quart sauté pan with lid: useful for sautéing chicken and vegetables
  • 2-quart saucepan with lid: a good size for heating up a can of soup
  • 3-quart saucepan with lid: versatile for sides, soups, and sauces
  • 4-quart saucepan with lid: for making sauces or heating vegetables
  • 8-quart stockpot with lid: for cooking soups, stews, or pasta
Expert Tip
Nonstick coatings are most useful in a frying pan for use with eggs and meats. If you’re not searing and cooking proteins like these often, consider going with a metallic interior for longer-lasting pieces.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Additional pieces

Some additional pieces that are useful but not essential include the following.

  • 6-quart Dutch oven: A Dutch oven is great for cooking tender, delicious chicken and roasts.
  • Steamer insert with lid: This duo is suitable for preparing healthy steamed vegetables.
  • 5-quart sauté pan with lid: For cooking large batches of chicken or meat with vegetables, a sauté pan is ideal.
  • 8-inch skillet: This is a great frying pan for scrambling eggs or cooking a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Rimmed baking sheet: Use this pan for sheet pan meals, cookies, and other baking needs.
  • Griddle: A bridle is suitable for making pancakes, burgers, bacon, waffles, vegetables, and more.
  • Wok: Woks are ideal for stir frying, steaming, and even deep frying.
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Did you know?
Some types of metal cookware are more suited to certain types of cooking than others. For example, if you do a lot of browning or braising, you’d likely get the best results from stainless steel. Cast iron cookware is great for skillet baking.
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Prices of cookware sets

Regardless of how often you cook or your culinary skill level, there’s a cookware set to fit your needs and budget.

Inexpensive

Although you can find sets for $100 or less, durability and longevity are hit-or-miss. Spend a little more, say $130 to $300,  and you are likely to find a basic set that meets your needs.

Mid-range

Mid-level sets fall into the $300 to $600 range.

Expensive

At price points of $600 and above, comprehensive sets made of superior materials are available. Keep in mind that you’ll find different materials at all price points, but premium sets with outstanding workmanship and long warranties tend to fall in the higher price range.

Expert Tip
Wide temperature differences can cause meats to stick in a stainless pan. For example, if a cold chicken breast is placed in a searing-hot pan, it’s guaranteed to stick and likely tear during stirring or flipping (less likely if the chicken is dredged or coated with batter). Increase your odds for success by bringing meats to room temp just before cooking. 
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Experts

Tips for choosing cookware

  • Pay attention to the integrity of the handles. Handles should be riveted or welded to the cookware. If held only by a screw, the handle is likely to come loose and eventually fall off.
  • Determine whether silicone or metal handles would be better for your needs. Silicone handles are easy to grip and don’t transfer heat. However, they are not oven-safe at high temperatures. So, if you do a lot of stovetop-to-oven cooking, you’d be better off with a skillet with a metal handle.
  • Consider cookware with glass lids. Glass lids make it easy to check the progress of your food without lifting the lid and letting heat escape.
  • Make sure the lids are of high quality. Cookware lids should fit securely. They should not rattle or leave gaps.
  • Cookware knobs should be of high quality, too. For safety’s sake, cookware knobs should be heatproof and large enough to grasp easily. They should also be tightly attached to the lids.
cookware sets
Once you have your basic set of cookware, feel free to add pieces made of different metals. For example, a cast iron skillet is perfect for cooking bacon or scrambling eggs, but you might not want an entire set of cast iron cookware.

    FAQ

    Q. I don’t cook every day. How many pieces should I look for in a cookware set?

    A. Even if you aren’t an avid home cook, you’ll want to make sure you choose a pots and pans set that includes the components you’ll need to whip up your favorite recipes. Additionally, before you invest in a set with just a few pieces, you should take into consideration that your cooking needs may change in the near future. Typically, a 10-piece cookware set with standard pots, pans, and a few lids is a sound option.

    Q. Do manufacturers of cookware still use Teflon to make nonstick coatings?

    A. Yes, but don’t let this stop you from choosing a nonstick set that you suspect has Teflon cook surfaces. PFOA, the potentially toxic chemical that was once a key chemical in the manufacturing of Teflon, has not been used since 2013.

    Q. What is a ceramic cookware set?

    A. When a set is described as ceramic nonstick cookware, the term is referring to the coating which is applied over a base metal such as aluminum. Ceramic coatings are durable, very stick-resistant, and free of metals and harmful chemicals. The best ceramic cookware sets will hold up to years of use with little to no peeling or chipping of the coating.

    Q. How can I keep my nonstick cookware set free from scratches?

    A. The best nonstick cookware sets hold up well to use when cared for properly. To keep your stick-resistant coatings on pots and pans from developing scratches, do not use metal utensils when cooking. Avoid abrasive cleanses and harsh scrubbers during cleanup.

     

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