No matter how much you love your enameled cast-iron dutch oven, one piece of cookware can’t handle every recipe. To realize your culinary potential, you need a variety of pots and pans.
There are two options to round out your kitchen. You can buy individual pieces until you have a complete cookware set. But that’ll cost a substantial chunk of cash, to say nothing of the time you’ll lose researching pots and pans.
The significantly easier, usually less expensive option is to buy a pre-packaged set of pots and pans. Unfortunately, these sets often get a bad rap for bundling together equipment you don’t need, while not including everything you do need.
To help you avoid this pitfall, we've spent years researching and testing dozens of the most popular pot and pan sets around. Our most recent favorite is the HexClad Hybrid Cookware Chef’s Package(available at HexClad). With 13 pieces, including some bonus items, it's everything a home cook needs.
Our former top pick, the Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Set (available at Amazon), is still a great option, and our favorite value pick.
Here are the best cookware sets we tested ranked, in order:
HexClad Hybrid Cookware 13-Piece Chef's Package
All-Clad HA1 Hard-Anodized Nonstick 10-Piece
Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece
Relative newcomer HexClad boasts a technology that combines the best features stainless steel with the ease of nonstick pans, in one neat package. The combination makes it our Best Overall cookware set.
These pans differ from most nonstick options. They can’t cook an egg without oil, for instance. But they heat up quickly and evenly like nonstick should, and they exhibit nonstick properties when seasoned and used with a little cooking oil. They can also be used with metal utensils, unlike most nonstick, thanks to the tough, laser-etched hexagon top.
Our chicken thighs had some of the most even, gorgeous searing of any skillet we’ve used. Clean-up was exceptionally easy because any built-up bits wiped away easily with a paper towel.
The pans feature tri-ply construction (like multi-clad stainless steel pans), but they’re significantly lighter. We could toss vegetables with ease, and the ergonomic, rounded handles felt great to use. The saucepans also have a bowl-like shape on the interior, making it much easier to stir into the edges to keep sauces from burning.
This set is not inexpensive, but it contains everything you need for a starter kitchen or a kitchen refresh and then some. The Hybrid Cookware Chef’s Package comes with 8-, 10- and 12-inch frying pans, 2- and 3-quart saucepots, an 8-quart stockpot, and a 12-inch wok. The inclusion of a magnetic layer makes them compatible with induction cooktops.
If you’re specifically after a great nonstick set, the All-Clad HA1 Hard-Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set has your back. It not only aced our tests, but did so in style with a sleek, black finish and shiny metal handles. The handles are long enough to create a perfect balance with each pan, and they feature All-Clad’s signature concave shape that’s super comfortable to hold.
The pans are a little heavier, just because they’re well-built with durable, heavy-gauge hard-anodized aluminum. All-Clad also coats the pans with three layers of PFOA-free nonstick material, creating a slick finish that helps the food release easily.
They perform well, too. The lid fit tightly onto the saucepots, trapping steam inside to create some of the best rice in the testing group. We were also impressed at how crispy our chicken skin became. This set creates a hard sear most nonsticks can’t touch.
Put it all together, and this set became the clear choice for anyone who prefers nonstick. Our only major complaint was the pans don’t nest very well, making storage more difficult.
The hard-anodized nonstick set certainly seems expensive at first glance, but its wide variety of pots and pans make it worth every penny. The set includes 8- and 10-inch frying pans, 2.5- and 3.5-quart saucepans, a 4-quart sauté pan, and an 8-quart stockpot.
Cuisinart MCP-12N Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set
The Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Set, our former Best Overall, offers incredible performance at a great value. The medium-sized sauté pan comfortably fit four chicken thighs and seared each one to perfection. The large stockpot is well-sized for making soup, cooking pasta, or blanching vegetables, and is dishwasher-safe for an added bonus.
In addition to their performance and quality, these pans are easy to use. The triple-ply construction offers great heat conductivity, but the anodized aluminum core makes them light enough to easily handle. It’s a fraction of the cost of our new top pick, and big retailers often put it on sale. That made it a no-brainer for our Best Value pick.
The set includes everything you need to cook a meal: two saucepans (1 1/2- and 3-quart), an 8-quart stockpot, a medium-sized 3.5-quart sauté pan, two skillets (8- and 10-inch), and a steamer insert—all with comfortable handles and a nicely-balanced design that easy to hold.
While we know every shopper can't justify the price, Hestan's NanoBond is an exceptional line of cookware that’s worth the dough if you have it. It’s gorgeous to look at, feels good in the hand, and offers the kind of performance you’d expect at this price—even heating, steady simmering, and no burning at the bottom or in the corners.
Thousands of titanium-based nanolayers are bonded to the stainless-steel surfaces of NanoBond cookware. The brand claims this makes it 400% stronger than traditional stainless steel, and more resistant to staining and scratching. These pieces can even take heat up to 1050°F!
This line offers just about every performance and ease-of-use feature you could ever want. The 10-piece set includes 8.5- and 11-inch skillets, 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans, a 3.5-quart sauté pan, and an 8-quart stockpot. Read our full review here.
Hestan ProBond is great-looking and high-performing cookware, competitively priced with stainless steel sets from All-Clad. While not as exceptionally durable as their NanoBond line, the ProBond pieces are similarly well-constructed, with even heating, flush rivets, and a good weight.
The 10-piece set includes 8.5- and 11-inch skillets, 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans, a 3.5-quart sauté pan, and an 8-quart stockpot. It’s a solid assortment of basics at a better price than buying individual pieces. You can supplement your set with ProBond nonstick skillets, but you’ll have to look to another brand for a Dutch oven.
For an inexpensive, easy-to-clean nonstick set, look no further than the T-Fal C561SC Titanium Advanced Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set. Like most nonstick cookware, it’s easier to clean than regular pans, especially after frying.
While a nonstick pan will rarely rival a stainless one for searing meat, this set performed admirably. It cooked eggs perfectly without requiring any extra oil, and the saucepots simmered sauces and cooked rice without scorching. To top it all off, the stockpot boiled water faster than any others in our test group, the pans heated quickly and evenly, and the comfortable, padded handles stayed cool.
This nonstick set includes the basics any kitchen should have, along with some extras: two saucepans (1- and 2-quart), a 5-quart stockpot, a large 5-quart sauté pan, two skillets (8- and 9-inch), a spatula, and a slotted spoon.
Equal Parts made one of our favorite nonstick pans, so it’s no surprise that we loved their entire set. For starters, these pans are absolutely gorgeous, which somehow makes cooking out of them that much more fun.
Each pan features comfortable handles that didn’t get too hot, and the ceramic nonstick coating got a great sear on the chicken without burning any residue onto the bottom. That helps to make clean-up a breeze! The pans also stack nicely and feature universal lids, making this set perfect for anyone with storage constraints.
The ceramic nonstick set is definitely minimal, though, and we thought the price tag was a little high for four pans. It comes with an 8-inch Fry Pan, 3.5-quart Sauce Pan, 10-inch Essential Pan (a sauté pan with 2.5-inch tall sides), and an 8-quart oven-safe stockpot.
GreenPan Premiere Ceramic Nonstick 11-Piece Cookware Set
GreenPan was the first company to produce ceramic nonstick pans, and they have dozens of cookware sets to choose from. We tested the 11-piece Premiere Ceramic set because of its stainless-steel construction, which is heavier than aluminum but more durable.
Some of the premium nonstick sets we tested were a little skimpy on pieces, but not this one. You get six well-built pots and pans, plus lids and a steamer basket. The nonstick properties were top-notch, and the pans included small details that we appreciated, like rounded handles that stayed cool as you cooked and recessed handle rivets that we appreciated when cleaning.
On the flip side, they didn’t heat as evenly as some of the other sets we tested, and it was a little hard to stir into the corners of the saucepans. They were also a little on the heavy side, but that’s well worth it for a well-built pan.
This Williams Sonoma exclusive set includes 9.5- and 12-inch frying pans, 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans, a 3-quart sauté pan, a 6-quart stockpot, and a stainless steel steamer insert.
At first glance, the Anolon Advanced Home 11-Piece Cookware Set doesn’t seem very different from the Anolon Advanced set. Surprisingly, its performance blew its predecessor out of the water.
This upgraded version has an enhanced nonstick finish that performed much better on our tests. The eggs flipped with ease, and the rice simmered perfectly without browning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. We also loved the soft, ergonomic handles, and were thrilled when they didn’t get hot after extended use.
On the flip side, the pans didn’t heat as evenly as multi-clad stainless steel, and they couldn’t produce a hard sear on the chicken thighs, either. Still, if you’re specifically after a nonstick pan set, this one won’t disappoint.
In addition to the standards—two saucepots (1.5- and 3-quart), an 8.5-quart stockpot, and a medium-sized 3-quart sauté pan—you’ll get a small and a large skillet (8.5- and 12-inch). The addition of that second, larger skillet feels like a bonus from the usual 10-inch addition because it gives you the room to make stir-fries or other one-pot meals.
If the gorgeous appearance of the Caraway Cookware Set doesn’t make you want to buy it, the attention to detail will definitely push you over the edge. The set comes with four pans, three lids, and two specially designed storage pieces. The modular racks house the pans on their side so they’ll easily fit inside a cabinet, and the genius canvas lid holder can hang on the inside of the door.
When it came to performance, these pans absolutely met our expectations. The lid features a small hole to allow steam to escape, producing some of the better rice in the group. It also passed our nonstick tests, allowing eggs to slide around without any cooking oil. That said, the set lost some points because it doesn’t contain a full set of pots and pans, despite the high price tag.
This ceramic nonstick set includes one 10.5-inch frying pan (skipping the smaller 8-inch egg pan that comes with most cookware sets). You’ll also get a 3-quart saucepan, 4.5-quart sauté pan, and a 6.5-inch Dutch oven (which is a great bonus item instead of a traditional stockpot). If you don’t need all the sizes of pots and pans and this set fits your needs, you’ll be happy with the Caraway.
All-Clad BD005710-R D5 Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set
All-Clad is well known for top-of-the-line (and expensive) cookware. The All-Clad BD005710-R D5 Brushed 18/10 Stainless Steel 5-Ply Bonded 10-Piece Cookware Set is no exception. These 5-ply, bonded stainless-steel pans offer undeniably superior heat distribution and performance, but a few shortcomings pushed them down in the ranks.
First, the very hefty price tag is hard to swallow, especially since the heavy material makes it harder to flip vegetables or pour out the contents with ease. The straight, stainless steel handle design doesn’t help either, throwing off the balance and making you really feel the weight of each pan.
That said, if you’re willing to shell out (or have a wedding registry in your near future), these pots and pans will last a lifetime. The set comes with two saucepots (1.5- and 3-quart), an 8-quart stockpot, a medium-sized 3-quart sauté pan, and two skillets (8- and 10-inch).
Tramontina 80116/249DS Tri-Ply 12-Piece Cookware Set
If you regularly make large amounts of soup or stock, you may want to consider the Tramontina 12-Piece Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set. It’s the only set that came with a 12-quart stockpot. That's overkill for boiling pasta or blanching vegetables, but perfect for larger batch recipes. The wide handles were comfortable to hold, and the tri-ply construction provided even heating, from browning chicken breasts to cooking sauces without scorching.
You’ll get some larger-sized pots and pans with this set for a great price. (But if you’re looking for small 1-quart saucepans, this isn’t the set for you.) The roomier pans are nice, giving you more space to cook larger quantities while still fitting on a standard range top. You’ll find two saucepots (3- and 5-quart), two stockpots (5- and 12-quart), a large 5-quart sauté pan, and two skillets (10- and 12-inch) in the set.
Circulon Symmetry Hard Anodized Nonstick 11-Piece Cookware Set
Each pan in the Circulon Symmetry Black 11-Piece Cookware Set has raised, concentric circles on the nonstick surface. While I couldn’t tell you the history of these ridges or how they became a Circulon signature trait, I can tell you that they definitely work to keep food from sticking to the pan!
In addition to acing the nonstick tests, the Circulon pans performed well overall (except that the tall-and-skinny stockpot design took the longest in the group to boil water). Overall, these were some of the more comfortable pans we used, with well-thought-out, padded handles and nicely balanced weight.
This set has a nice variety of items, including three saucepots (1-, 2-, and 3-quart), an 8-quart stockpot, a medium-sized 3-quart sauté pan, and two skillets (8.5- and 10-inch). Everything you’d need in just the right sizes!
From a performance perspective, we really liked the pans included in the Great Jones Family Style Set. The small nonstick pan is one of our favorites, and we loved the way the saucepan had measurements etched into the side for ease of measuring. The handles are welded to the pans, too, making clean-up so much easier than scrubbing around traditional rivets.
The pans passed our tests with flying colors, but the set itself doesn’t contain all the items we consider essential. For example, we would really like to see a small saucepot and a 12-inch skillet in the mix. And while we liked how the sauté pan and stockpot share a lid to save storage space, we wondered what we’d do if we wanted to cook with both pans covered at once.
The price seems high for a set that’s missing so many pieces. That said, it’s the only set we tested that includes a Dutch oven. That’s a big selling point, considering that a single Le Crueset Dutch Oven can cost almost as much as this entire set!
The set comes with Great Jones’s “Small Fry” (an 8.5-inch nonstick pan), and three fully-clad stainless pieces: “Deep Cut” (a 10.25-inch deep sauté pan), “Saucy” (a 3-quart saucepan), and “Big Deal” (an 8-quart stockpot). It also includes the “Dutchess,” a gorgeous 6.75 quart Dutch oven available in several colors.
Hi, I’m Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef and dinner party enthusiast. I’m the type of person that uses every single pot and pan in the house when I’m cooking dinner. (I’ll probably dirty up all the tasting spoons and mise en place bowls, too). I definitely understand the importance of having the right set of pots and pans to get the job done! It wasn’t easy testing all these samples (and my house was quite cluttered for a few weeks), but it was well worth it to help you find the best cookware for the right value.
Professional chef and food writer Sharon Franke also contributed testing and writing to this piece for both Hestan sets.
After selecting more than a dozen top-rated cookware sets (a combination of stainless steel and nonstick), we cooked a multi-component meal using each set. To function for everyday life, the pots and pans had to be sized appropriately to cook dinner for one. But we also wanted to know if you could easily cook a larger dinner (like Thanksgiving) using each set.
To earn our seal of approval, at least two saucepans, one sauté pan, and a stock pot had to fit on a standard cooktop range at the same time.
We designed the tests to evaluate performance, ease of use, and value. We seared chicken thighs in the sauté pan, tossed vegetables in the skillets, simmered sauces and cooked rice in the saucepots, and blanched vegetables in the stockpot. If the set came with nonstick gear, we fried a few eggs without oil to see how well the coating worked.
Finally, we measured any noticeable hotspots and maybe did a little taste testing to see if one set made a tastier meal than the others. In the end, none of the products completely failed, but we did have a few favorites.
Things to Know About Buying a Cookware Set
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all pot or pan. Each cooking task requires a specific size. For example, you wouldn’t want to boil pasta in a small, 1-quart saucepot because it won’t all fit. And, it certainly wouldn’t make sense to cook up one cup of oatmeal in a large, 8-quart pot.
Cookware companies try to anticipate your needs by providing a variety of sizes in their cookware sets. Considering your own cooking style can help you determine what’s important to you in a set. Do you usually cook for one, or for a crowd? The former means you can opt for smaller cookware. Do you cook mostly soups and sauces, or are you a fan of scrambles, stir-fries, and pasta? The answer determines whether to prioritize a selection of saucepots or a large skillet.
Typically, it’s best to look for a set with at least two small saucepots, one large stockpot, a small egg pan, and a larger skillet or sauté pan. (All oven-safe, of course.) Anything extra (like being dishwasher safe or including a frying pan), I consider a bonus!
Most sets come with a lid for every saucepan, stockpot, and sauté pan. Sets often count these lids as pieces to increase the count. The above set would have five pots and pans, but will be called an 8-piece set.
While we’re on the topic, try to look for metal lids. Yes, that means you can’t see what’s going on inside the pot, but glass lids always fog up anyway! Metal lids will never drop and shatter, giving them a longer lifespan than the glass variety.
Choosing a Pan Material
Your pan material will depend on your cooking style.
Stainless steel is great for searing meat, leaving behind those delicious food bits that make the perfect start to a pan sauce. It won’t affect the taste of your food, and it heats up quickly. Stainless steel cookware also tends to last longer than nonstick pans. Unfortunately, it doesn’t distribute heat as evenly without help, usually in the form of an aluminum core. And while it’s dishwasher safe, those left behind food bits can make cleaning difficult.
Nonstick cookware is easy to cook with, has fewer hot spots, and is even easier to wipe down and maintain, making it great for beginning home cooks. It’s a low-cost investment that can be upgraded in the future. However, Nonstick can’t go in the dishwasher, and is easier to scratch. Chemicals like PFOA and PTFE(Teflon) may also be harmful. When they deteriorate due to chipping or excessive use of high heat, they may flake into your food or release fumes. Other materials like hard-anodized aluminum or ceramic present safer nonstick options.
Ceramic cookware may refer to genuine ceramics or to aluminum with a silicone finish. They’re nonstick, but avoid the chemicals involved with traditional nonstick cookware. They can be eco-friendly to produce, more affordable than stainless steel, handle high heat well, and offer more colors than most other cookware. Ceramic does retain some of nonstick’s drawbacks, however. The nonstick capabilities can fade over time, and these should absolutely not go into the dishwasher. Ceramic isn’t going to last forever the way stainless steel or cast iron might.
Aluminum cookware comes in regular (lightweight, affordable) and anodized (a little more durable). Aluminum can be easy to handle, and heats up well. However, regular aluminum can wear out quickly, and may react with some foods.
Anodized aluminum solves those problems, but also costs more, and doesn’t heat up as fast as raw aluminum. However, it gives you an incredibly strong, lightweight set of cookware.
Carbon steel is very similar to cast iron heat retention and searing of cast iron. Ironically, it has less carbon than cast iron. That makes it thinner, lighter, and relatively nonstick. The downsides? You have to keep it seasoned, it’s not dishwasher safe, and it may react with more acidic foods. Depending on the construction, the handles may get hot. You tend to see carbon steel in restaurants more than homes, but there’s no reason you can’t put it in your kitchen, if you want.
Cast iron is a classic for a reason. Heavy-duty, old-fashioned, and incredibly durable, cast iron and help bring out the best flavors in whatever you cook in it. It’s got great heat retention, and heats evenly. On the other hand, it’s about the heaviest cookware you can get, making it hard to handle. It’s also high maintenance. You need to season it, and cooking acidic foods can strip the seasoning. Likewise, you need to clean and maintain it carefully to avoid damage and rust.
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