The Best List

The Best Cookware Sets, According to the Best Experts

published Sep 6, 2019
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If you’ve been reading Kitchn for a while, you probably know that we don’t usually recommend buying cookware in sets. The thinking is that so many of the sets out there come with things that you just don’t need, and you can just assemble your own set (a la carte) based on how (and what!) you like to cook. But — there’s always a but, isn’t there? — that’s not to say we don’t see the value in a good set. And there are lots of good sets out there.

Take a good look at nonstick sets, stainless steel sets, ceramic sets (etc!), and you’ll see that there are some very well-thought-out options on the market. Actually, don’t bother. Because we did that work for you. We looked at some of the top food and product review sites out there to see what sets experts and home cooks are loving. And then, of course, we added our own two cents at the end.

The Best Stainless Steel Cookware Set, According to Wirecutter

We love that the folks at Wirecutter just so happened to pick an affordable set. They said that this one has the largest pots and pans — a 5-quart Dutch oven! And a 12-quart stockpot! — out of all the sets they tested, which made them feel like they were really getting something for their money. Don’t worry, though — the handles are all super comfortable, so they’re not too hard to hold or lift. The editors were also impressed by the even heat distribution (for all the pans) and the fact that the pieces were super durable — even after a year of long-term testing.

The Best Stainless Steel Cookware Set, According to Cook’s Illustrated

Before you balk at the price, the editors at Cook’s Illustrated point out that this set will last you a lifetime. And the set price is actually a bargain compared to adding up even just a few of the pieces separately. The testers said the cookware browns food perfectly, feels balanced, has stay-cool handles, and holds up very well over time. For what it’s worth, we’re big fans of this set (more on that later) and it was also Wirecutter’s choice for an upgraded pick.

The Best Nonstick Cookware Set, According to Good Housekeeping

Our friends over at Good Housekeeping did some extensive testing (they fried 165 eggs, seared 50 steaks, and more!) on 35 new nonstick cookware lines. At the end, they picked this anodized aluminum (with a nonstick finish) set because it’s super functional. The pieces have stay-cool handles, stack easily for storage, and can go in the dishwasher. The testers were “blown away” by the heat distribution, quick boiling, and even searing. And the nonstick coating was so nonstick that they could scramble eggs or sauté veggies, which would then just slide right out of the pan.

Some others we like: I’ve Tested Nearly Every Piece of Nonstick Cookware on the Market. This Is a List of the Best of the Best.

The Best Ceramic Cookware Set, According to Good Housekeeping

Ceramic cookware doesn’t seem to get tested all that much, but the thorough editors at Good Housekeeping have done it! They like this anodized aluminum (with a ceramic nonstick finish) set because it consistently released food nicely, heated evenly, and can withstand temperatures up to 600 degrees. Their budget pick (this T-Fal set for $120) tested well but got dinged a little because it didn’t heat quite as evenly.

Read more: Here’s What You Need to Know About Ceramic Nonstick Pans

The Best Cast Iron Cookware Set, According to Amazon Shoppers

If you have the TLC process of caring for your cast iron skillet down pat, you may find that you reach for it again and again. Which means you could end up wishing you had a whole set. And you can! This set comes with a 10.25-inch skillet, 10.5-inch round griddle, and a 5-Quart Dutch oven and lid. It has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon and reviewers rave about the quality and versatility of the pieces. Keep the pieces seasoned and they’ll become heirloom items for your family.

Just want one skillet? Read this: The Best Cast Iron Skillets, According to the Best Experts

Kitchn’s Thoughts on the Best Cookware Set

This so rarely happens with these Best Lists, but honestly, we agree with all of these picks! We absolutely love the All-Clad Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 10-Piece Set (or even this smaller 7-piece set). And honestly, All-Clad cookware! It’s what chefs and serious home cooks most frequently use and we find that the d3 stuff (the tri-ply) is great — although you can get d5 (which has five layers and is even better but more expensive).

However, we realize that All-Clad isn’t cheap, and we also like the Tramontina set. If you prefer nonstick or want a ceramic finish (totally a matter of preference), we support those picks, too! Ditto for the cast iron. While you can certainly go wrong with some other sets out there, you can’t go wrong with any of these.

Do you have a set of cookware that you love? Tell us about it in the comments below.