Our favorite cookware sets for 2021

Laveta Brigham

If you’re looking to treat yourself or a loved one to the ultimate kitchen necessity, throngs of great cookware sets are waiting for your attention. Purchasing a full cookware set instead of shopping piece by piece definitely has its advantages: Not only will you have all the essentials to make a delicious meal in […]

If you’re looking to treat yourself or a loved one to the ultimate kitchen necessity, throngs of great cookware sets are waiting for your attention. Purchasing a full cookware set instead of shopping piece by piece definitely has its advantages: Not only will you have all the essentials to make a delicious meal in one fell swoop, but your collection of pots and pans will look wonderfully cohesive as an aesthetic bonus.

Sounds easy, right? Well, with so many cookware sets to choose from and prices ranging anywhere from under $100 to over $1,000, choosing the best cookware set can be a somewhat laborious process. The decision becomes further complicated when you’re not familiar with common cookware brands or surface materials such as stainless steel, ceramic, nonstick cookware and enameled cast iron. And what if you need a special piece of cookware, like a saucepan, roasting pan, frying pan, grill pan, cast-iron skillet or stockpot? To help make your decision a little easier, here are some of our absolute favorite cookware sets by various categories. I made sure that all of these high-quality options have necessities like even heat distribution and a great cooking surface. So, what are you waiting for? Get cooking.

What to look for when buying a cookware set

When shopping for the best cookware set for your needs, you’ll want to consider a number of factors. First of all, there’s deciding what cookware material is best for you and your needs. Cookware is commonly made from aluminum, cast iron, stainless steel, copper or a combination of several materials, and each type of metal has its pros and cons for cooking.

Aluminum pieces are typically less expensive, for example, but they’re also less durable. Stainless steel pots can withstand heavier use, but stainless steel costs more and isn’t as great at conducting heat while cooking (which is why stainless steel pans often have an aluminum core). To make it even more confusing, aluminum pots may have a stainless steel handle. Then you have to consider the cookware coating. Do you want prefer enameled cast iron to regular cast iron? Of course, nonstick pans make cleanup much easier, though you may prefer cookware with a smooth surface that doesn’t have a nonstick surface (like a cast-iron skillet).


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You’ll also want to think about what pieces you need — if you already have a stockpot you love, for example, you might want to look for a smaller set without one to save money. Further, make sure to carefully look at what’s included in each cookware set, as some brands try to “inflate” the number of pieces by including small utensils like spoons and spatulas that you might already own.

Other important considerations include the type of stove you have — for instance, not all cookware works on an induction cooktop — as well as how you plan to use the pieces. Some cookware is dishwasher-safe, oven-safe or both while other sets need to be cared for by hand or can’t withstand certain types of oven heat.

We’ve taken all these factors into account as we selected the following cookware sets for our buyer’s guide. After hours of research, reading product reviews, comparing brands and taking a deep dive into their reviews, we’ve landed on these eight great cookware sets for any type of home cook.

Amazon

If you want the absolute best cookware set, no matter the price, arguably the best option is this 10-piece steel set from All-Clad. While it’s not cheap, this set of stainless steel cookware could very well last for the rest of your life if taken care of properly, making it a worthwhile investment for serious home chefs.

This All-Clad D3 stainless steel cookware set consists of both an 8- and a 10-inch frying pan, 2- and 3-quart saucepans with lids, a 3-quart saute pan with lid and an 8-quart stockpot with lid. All the pieces are made from three-ply stainless steel with a thick-gauge aluminum core for better conduction and more even heat distribution, and they feature riveted stainless steel handles. The pots and pans are warp-resistant, induction-compatible, dishwasher-safe and oven-safe up to 600 degrees (without their lids).

These products are made in the US and come with a limited lifetime warranty. Reviewers say they heat evenly and look beautiful — most agree that they’re 100% worth the investment!

Amazon

Cuisinart offers quality midprice wares, and many people have good things to say about the 12-piece stainless steel cookware set. The cookware pots and pans have an elegant, minimalist look and have a variety of features that will make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable.

This sturdy stainless steel set gives you 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans with lids, 8- and 10-inch open skillets, a 3.5-quart saute pan and lid, an 8-quart stockpot and lid and a steamer insert with matching lid. The pans are made with a pure aluminum core, triple-ply stainless steel walls and a beautiful brushed finish. The rims are tapered for drip-free pouring, and the company says its Heat Surround technology allows even surface heat distribution along the sides and walls — so say goodbye to hot spots!

The cookware is all dishwasher- and oven-safe up to 550 degrees, and it can be used over induction stove heat. According to reviewers, these pots and pans will last for years if you take care of them properly, and many say they perform as well as other high-end stainless steel pans.

Amazon

No one loves scrubbing burnt food off the bottom of a favorite skillet, which is why nonstick cookware is so popular. This nonstick cookware is made from hard-anodized aluminum to ensure even heat distribution and eliminate hot spots, and the aluminum cookware is oven-safe to 400 degrees. Important note though: Nonstick coatings don’t hold up against metal utensils, so use wood or silicone utensils when you’re cooking with this set. 

The pots and pans in this 12-piece cookware set from Cuisinart are easy to care for, as pretty much all food will slide right off the scratch-resistant, ceramic-based nonstick coating. It’s important to remember that all nonstick cookware will scratch to some extent, but some nonstick materials are more sensitive than others. 

This Cuisinart cookware set consists of an 8-inch skillet, a 10-inch frying pan with lid, 1.5- and 2.5-quart saucepans with lids, a 3-quart “everyday” pan with a lid and a 6-quart Dutch oven with a lid and a steamer insert. Because the set is part of Cuisinart’s GreenGourmet line, the products feature an eco-friendly nonstick coating and the handles are made from 70% recycled steel.

Walmart

Stainless steel pans are undeniably pretty, and they also deliver in terms of performance, as this metal is incredibly durable. If you’re partial to stainless steel, you’ll like this 12-piece cookware set from Tramontina, as it provides unbeatable heat diffusion and durability.

In this stainless steel cookware set, you’ll find both a 10- and 12-inch fry pan, 5-, 3- and 1.5-quart saucepans with lids, a 5-quart Dutch oven with lid and a 12-quart stockpot with lid. The cookware is made from triple-ply stainless steel and features riveted, ergonomic handles. All of the pieces can be put in the dishwasher and are oven-safe up to 500 degrees. Plus, their precision-fitted lids help to lock in flavor, and reviewers say you can’t beat this set for price and performance.

Caraway

This flashy cookware set gets points for being budget-friendly and stylish. The ceramic pots and pans also hold up well in tons of online buyer reviews. If you covet easy, nonstick cookware but are iffy on the chemicals often used, ceramic is probably your best bet. Ceramic coating has become the darling of the amateur kitchen cookware world since it’s nontoxic and as easy to clean as any other surface.

For less than $400, this Caraway set includes a 10.5-inch fry pan, 3-quart saucepan, 4.5-quart sautè pan and a 6.5-quart Dutch oven. It also comes with a smart magnetized storage rack and canvas lid for keeping your cookware organized. You can buy the pieces individually, but you’ll get the best bargain when you snag a set.

Amazon

For those outfitting their first home, a budget-friendly cookware set might be more practical. In this case, you can’t go wrong with this 10-piece nonstick set from T-fal. T-fal cookware is known for its affordable prices, and this nonstick pan set has everything a novice chef needs to get started in the kitchen. 

With this bundle, you get both an 8- and 9-inch frying pan, 1- and 2-quart saucepans, a 3-quart deep saute pan, a 5-quart Dutch oven, four tempered glass lids and utensils including a slotted spatula and a spoon. The cookware is made from aluminum and features the company’s Titanium Advanced nonstick finish to ensure your eggs always slide right out.

Additionally, the pans feature a “thermospot temperature indicator” that shows when the pan is preheated to the proper temperature — it’s a helpful hack for those just starting out with cooking. Plus, reviewers rave about the quality and performance of these wallet-friendly pans, writing that the cookware “really does make you a better cook.”

It’s worth noting that, even though it has logistical advantages — namely being much easier to clean and less expensive — nonstick cookware requires more careful use and, even when properly used, generally has a shorter lifespan than other materials.

Amazon

This collection of copper cookware from Calphalon will look absolutely stunning in your kitchen — and its performance is nothing to scoff at, either! The set consists of 8- and 10-inch frying pans, 1.5- and 2.5-quart saucepans with lids, a 3-quart saute pan with lid and a 6-quart stock pot with lid.

These pieces feature a lustrous brushed-copper exterior and satin stainless steel interiors and lids, and they have an inner aluminum core for superior heat conduction. The riveted handles are designed to be ergonomic and resist heat, and all the copper pans feature flared rings for easier pouring. You can put these pieces of cookware in the oven or broiler, but they don’t work with induction cooktops and shouldn’t be put in the dishwasher. People absolutely rave about the beautiful appearance of these Calphalon pans, but be warned that copper cookware requires more maintenance than your average stainless steel pan.

Amazon

Cast iron is ideal for searing, braising, roasting and anything else that takes advantage of its heat retention. It’s also super durable, which is good as this seven-piece preseasoned cast-iron bundle from Lodge will get plenty of use in your kitchen. The cast-iron set consists of a 10.5-inch griddle, 10.25-inch grill pan, 10.25-inch skillet, red silicone pot holder, handle mitt and two safe pan scrapers.

The cooking surface of each pan is preseasoned with 100% vegetable oil and the pieces need to be hand-washed and dried to maintain the integrity of the seasoning. Reviewers say that every piece in this set is high-quality, which is no surprise coming from a legacy brand like Lodge.

Amazon

A large collection of cookware can quickly take over your kitchen cabinets, and if you live in a smaller home or apartment, the Space Saving collection from Calphalon will be your best friend. These pans are specially designed to stack together neatly, taking up 30% less space.

This nine-piece set consists of 8- and 10-inch fry pans, a 2.5-quart saucepan with cover, a 3-quart saute pan with cover, a 4-quart chef’s pan and a 5-quart Dutch oven with cover. The pans are made from hard-anodized aluminum with a nonstick finish, and what’s unique is that they’re metal utensil-friendly — there are multiple layers of the nonstick finish to resist scratching when they’re stacked. The pieces have silicone grip handles, and you can pop them in the dishwasher for easy cleaning. Buyers say these pans “exceeded expectations,” performing beautifully and saving space in the cupboard.

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This article was written for Chowhound by Camryn Rabideau.

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