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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  
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Buying guide for best stainless steel cookware sets

You don’t need to get fancy when cooking or frying. When push comes to shove – or when someone gets hungry enough – it’s fairly easy to make a grilled cheese sandwich on a radiator. Or using an iron. But how appetizing is that? While a skilled cook can probably make a mouthwatering omelette in a garage sale frying pan, nothing takes the place of top-notch, high-quality, long-lasting cookware.

Late night infomercials and home shopping channels offer a dizzying array of cookware. A key selling point for each 10, 12, or 14 piece set is its ability to spread heat evenly throughout the cooking surface. And then they show how these copper, ceramic, or stainless steel gems clean up with just a quick wipe from a damp cloth. In reality, many of these come-on claims are only vaguely true and are repeated only to close the sale.

Many cooks, from beginners to accomplished chefs, point to stainless steel cookware as their go-to pots, pans, and skillets – especially when stainless steel is combined with copper to add advanced heat conductivity.

At BestReviews, when we  consider products such as stainless steel cookware, we do so by  conducting our own research as well as listening to consumer opinions and experiences. To remain impartial, we never accept manufacturer samples or freebies. If you’re ready to dive in and buy a set of stainless steel cookware, please consult the product list above to learn more about our five top selections. If you’d like to understand more about stainless steel cookware, please read on.

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High-end stainless steel cookware is made of surgical quality material and can cook without any added liquid.

Understanding stainless steel cookware

Stainless steel actually has no steel in its construction. For cookware, stainless steel is a metallic alloy composed mostly of chromium with nickel and other metals added. It is a popular metal for cookware, being that it is non corrosive, non reactive, and resists dents and scratches. On its own, stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat.

Because of that, stainless steel cookware has stainless steel across the sides of its pots and pans with copper or aluminum, far better heat conductors, on the bottom surface. Common to most stainless steel cookware is the term “tri-ply” which means three layers of metal, with copper or aluminum sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. For stainless steel cookware that uses aluminum, the bottom must also have a layer of magnetic material to allow cooks to use induction cooktops.

Going by price, copper-core stainless steel pots are more expensive, but they offer the cook greater control over the cooking process. Extremely versatile, stainless steel cookware is oven, broiler, and stovetop safe – making them ideal for baking, searing, sauteing, and a variety of other cooking methods.

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Did you know?
As with their cast iron counterparts, many cooks like to season their stainless steel cookware before using it.

Stainless steel cookware considerations

Don’t wander into your local discount store or specialty cooking supply retailer and grab whatever cookware set is on sale. It’s wise to be armed with the facts on what to look for in your ideal set of pots and pans.


Buying the right set of pots and pans (not to mention lids) is an investment. Going cheap will only result in the need to replace them in a few years (at best). Decide how much you want to spend and remember that you get what you pay for.


Stainless steel has many upsides, including ranking high on the quality-for-price scale. But keep in mind there are other options, including cast iron, enameled cast iron, carbon steel, and copper.

"Never use metal utensils such as spatulas or tongs on any cookware with a nonstick coating."

What you cook

Stainless steel is ideal for someone who regularly sears meat and generally deglazes the pan after roasting. For those who frequently like to stir fry, cast iron or steel are good choices. If you make soup every day, look for a good stock pot that has some copper in its core for even cooking.


Can the handle for the pot or pan be held when the cookware is hot? Some pots and pans have “cool to the touch” handles (which still should be held with a potholder) to avoid kitchen injuries. Also, how is the handle attached to the cookware? Is it tightly riveted or attached in a less secure way? Is there a secondary handle to help transfer hot food from the pan to a serving dish?

Your stove

If you have a gas stove, most any cookware will be fine. Issues related to uneven heat can arise on electric stovetops, in which case the pots and pans must have a smooth, flat bottom. For induction cooktops, the material comprising the pots and pans must be magnetic, so ceramics and non-magnetic stainless steel are out.

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Expert Tip
Living green? Stainless steel cookware is recyclable as long as it is in reasonably good shape.

What comes in a stainless steel cookware set?

Deciding on the right combination of pots and pans is directly related to what you plan to cook. If you rarely pan fry, maybe your best bet is to look for some open cookware sets where you can pick and choose the right tools for your trade. Because most cooks perform a variety of kitchen tasks, an array of pots and pans that provide the freedom to experiment is a good option.

A standard 10-piece set will usually include an eight-inch and ten-inch frying pan (with lids) that are versatile enough to make everything from omelettes to crepes suzette. The set will have  two- and three-quart sauce pans (also with lids) that can handle a wide range of meat, poultry, and fish dishes. A large eight-quart stockpot (with lid) rounds out the set. The stockpot can be used not only for soups and soup stocks, but also for boiling potatoes or cooking pasta.

A 12-piece set will usually include a steamer insert with a lid. This allows a cook to steam vegetables as well as reheat leftovers.

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Did you know?
The numbers 18/0, 18/8 and 18/10 indicates the amount of chromium versus nickel in stainless steel cookware.

Caring for your stainless steel cookware

For the most part, cleaning your stainless steel pots and pans is an easy task. A sink full of soapy water and a gentle brush or cloth will handle most grease and grime. Many stainless steel pans are now dishwasher safe.

To avoid food sticking to your uncoated stainless steel pots and pans, add a little oil before cooking. This will eliminate most stuck on gunk that could be hard to clean up.

If you live an an area with hard water, your pots and pans might see some white buildup which are calcium spots. To get rid of those deposits, boil one part vinegar to three parts water, let cool, and then clean your cookware with that solution.

If, after normal cleaning, there are dried on bits of food stuck to your stainless steel cookware, add water and dishwasher detergent and boil. After cooling, use a silicone spatula to get rid of those stubborn bits of food.

When your cookware develops water spots, one way to eliminate them is to put some baking soda on a damp cloth or sponge and gently scrub.

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For your safety
Stainless steel cookware imported from outside the U.S. may be made under different manufacturing guidelines, so it’s smart to check on those local safety regulations.


Under $50

Ideal for those getting started, there are a number of cookware choices in this bargain-priced category. Most are ten pieces and are three-ply, in that it has an aluminum core between two pieces of stainless steel. As opposed to more expensive sets, the three-ply coating won’t cover the entire surface of the pots and pans, and – in many cases – the handles are not securely  riveted into the body of the pot or pan.

$50 to $100

As we go up in price, the quality also rises. Here you will find brand names and the quality found in more expensive sets, the difference being the number of pots and pans you get for the money. Rather than ten or twelve pieces, in this price range you will likely will get five or seven pieces.

"Any cookware coating that contains perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) is deemed unsafe by the American Cancer society."

$100 to $250

There are choices galore in this upper elechon price bracket. Nearly every set is ready for induction cooking (magnetic material), and some will include a number of inserts like a double boiler, bringing the total up to 17 pieces.

More than $250

For serious cooks with unlimited budgets, these are sets that are often found in commercial kitchens. Not only are these sets made of high-end stainless steel, they are dishwasher safe and safe to use under a broiler. Many of these sets will have measuring scales on the side of the pot or pan to assist cooks with complex recipes.

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Dispelling a common myth, the National Institutes of Health has said that aluminum cookware is not a cause of Alzheimer’s.


Q. Is Teflon coating safe?

A. There are few health risks in Teflon coated pans; however, repeatedly inhaling the fumes from Teflon can cause mild flu-like symptoms. The issue arises when there is a scratch in the Teflon, and high heat releases the toxins from the scratch. Teflon pans need to be checked to make sure they are free of scratches.

Q. What is the difference between coating and cladding?

A. Coating is the layer of material that sits on the bottom of your pot or pan, while cladding is the bonding of the materials along the sides of your cookware.

Q. What cookware handles are cool to the touch?

A. Handles made of silicone or wood are generally able to be held while the pot or pan is on the stove. Some of the different sets have a “cool to the touch” handle, meaning it is constructed in a way not to transfer heat from the pan to the handle.

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