Nonstick pans can bring a lot of joy to your culinary life. Foods that can bake onto stainless steel or cast iron, slide effortlessly out of these pots and pans without the use of any cooking oil or butter. The nonstick coating is not only attractive to health-concious cooks, but anyone who wants easy-to-clean cookware.
The other great thing about nonstick pans? They’re typically less expensive than the tri-ply stainless-steel options. To make sure we found the best nonstick cookware, we tested these pans against our top-rated cookware sets to see if they could stand up to the heat. We looked for something that provided a good value for the price and performed well enough as stand-alone items.
After extensive testing, we can tell you that the best nonstick cookware set is the T-fal C561SC Titanium Advanced Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set(available at Amazon).
Here are the best nonstick cookware sets we tested, in order:
T-fal C561SC Titanium Advanced Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set
Circulon Symmetry Black 11-Piece Cookware Set
Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick 11-Piece Cookware Set
Calphalon Premier Space Saving Hard Anodized Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set
Vremi 15-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set
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Because of its performance and budget friendly price, the T-fal C561SC Titanium Advanced Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set earns our pick for both best overall nonstick, and best value among all the cookware sets we tested. During our tests, this set cooked eggs perfectly without requiring any extra oil and the saucepots simmered sauces and cooked rice without scorching. In addition, this set’s stockpot boiled water much faster than any others in the group.
Inside this nonstick set, you’ll find a few bonus items: two saucepans (1- and 2-quart), a 5-quart Dutch oven, a large 3-quart deep sauté pan, two skillets (8- and 9-inch), a spatula, and a slotted spoon. The riveted handles are ergonomically designed for a comfortable and safe grip and they stay cool as you use them and the pans heat up quickly and evenly. The handles are oven safe up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This high quality set of cookware are also easy to clean, allowing you to save some time from scrubbing pans after cooking.
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 (and, I’ll probably dirty up all the tasting spoons and mise en place bowls, too). So, 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 cookware sets (and my house was quite cluttered for a few weeks), but it was well worth it to help you find the best cookware set for the value.
After researching some of the best nonstick cookware sets on the market, we decided to cook a multi-component meal using each set. To function for everyday life, the pots and pans sets 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 the set. To earn our seal of approval, at least two saucepans, one sauté pan, and a stockpot had to fit on a standard cooktop range at the same time.
Keeping that in mind, we designed the tests to evaluate performance, ease of use, and value. We seared chicken thighs in the sauté pan, tossed vegetables in the nonstick pans, simmered sauces and cooked rice in the saucepots, and blanched vegetables in the stockpot. We also 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 sets completely failed but we did have a few favorites. We also compared how easy it was to clean each pot and pan and found out whether they were dishwasher-safe.
Things to Know When Buying a Cookware Set
Although I wish it weren’t true, there is 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 1-cup of oatmeal in a large, 8-quart pot. (For those of you who opted out of culinary math: 1 quart = 4 cups)
So, cookware sets try to anticipate your needs by providing small, medium, and large pots and pans. Before you jump into a set, consider your cooking style: 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 you want a selection of saucepots or if having a large skillet is more important in your set.
In the end, it’s best to look for a set that has at least two small saucepots, one large stockpot or Dutch oven, a small fry pan, and a larger skillet or fry pan. Anything extra, I consider a bonus! Most sets come with a lid for every saucepan, stockpot, and sauté pan. Sets count these lids as extra pieces to increase the count, so 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 stainless-steel metal lids. Yes, that means you can’t see what’s going on inside the pot, but those glass lids always fog up anyway! The metal lids will never drop and shatter, giving them a longer lifespan than the glass variety.
Choosing Nonstick or Stainless Steel
Deciding which set you should get depends on your cooking style. Stainless steel is great for searing meat, leaving behind those delicious fond bits that make the perfect start to a pan sauce. They also tend to last longer than the nonstick varieties, which can be easily scratched and generally can’t go into the dishwasher. That being said, nonstick is easy to cook on and easy to clean. Many people find themselves attracted to nonstick pans when they start out because it’s a low-cost investment that can be upgraded in the future. When looking at nonstick, keep in mind there are two material types: The hard anodized aluminum pans are Teflon-free and tend to be heavier (and more durable) than the coated varieties.
What should a good nonstick pan do well? It not only has to release your food without sticking, but should also be properly balanced and weighted. If it's too heavy, it'll feel cumbersome and hard to clean. It’s also important that your nonstick pan heats evenly, otherwise there’s no chance your fried egg will look Instagram-worthy.
Caring for Your Nonstick Pans
Nonstick pans have a reputation for being cancer-causing, but they’re actually just as safe as stainless steel. The chemical coating responsible for health concerns isn’t used anymore; in fact, you’ll find the words “PFOA-free” on every nonstick pan out there. Today, there are two types of coating choices for nonstick pans: PTFE (commonly known as Teflon) and ceramic.
You’ll have to be careful when caring for your nonstick pan, because both types of coating can scratch and will break down over time. To avoid damaging your pan, choose wooden, silicone, rubber, or nylon spatulas instead of metal utensils, and never use stainless steel scrubbing brushes or wool steel when cleaning. To prolong the life of your pots and pans, don’t put them in the dishwasher (I know, hand washing is such a pain!). When cooking, always use low or medium heat settings instead of high heat and avoid using these pans in the oven even though sometimes they're marketed as "oven-safe" (especially if they have plastic handles).
Other Nonstick Cookware Sets We Tested
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 high-quality 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, sleek cast stainless steel handles and nicely-balanced weight. The hard anodized material, used for bodies of the pans, are twice as hard as stainless steel.
The nonstick 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/fry pans (8.5- and 10-inch). Everything you’d need in just the right sizes! They're oven-safe up to 400 °F and are compatible with induction cooking. They're built to last, with scratch-resistant material throughout the design of the pots and pans.
Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick 11-Piece Cookware Set
The soft, padded handles on the Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick 11-Piece Cookware Set made these pots and pans a joy to work with. It was one of the few sets that didn’t have blazing-hot stockpot handles after boiling water for 30 minutes! The hard anodized nonstick coating is even metal utensil safe (although, it was one of our least favorite nonstick surfaces to use without added oil). The set features tempered glass lids that allows you to monitor the food while you're cooking.
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. They're dishwasher-safe and oven-safe up to 400 °F.
Calphalon Premier Space Saving Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set
Those with very small kitchens will love how easy it is to store the Calphalon Premier Space Saving Hard Anodized Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set. The lids are a bit strange looking, but they store flat and all of the pots and pans are designed to fit into two, neat stacks. While the pans themselves are a bit heavy, the stainless steel handle design helps balance things out and the extra weight worked hard to retain heat as we cooked, thanks to the hard anodized aluminum build.
The nonstick set includes two saucepots (2.5- and 3.5-quart), a smaller 6-quart stockpot, a medium-sized 3-quart sauté pan, and two skillets (8- and 10-inch). They're dishwasher-safe but they might not be oven-safe.
You will certainly add a splash of color to your kitchen with the Vremi 15-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set. Each piece comes in a different color, which offsets the inexpensive look of its plastic handles a bit. Overall, we found the pieces in the set to be smaller and less functional than we’d prefer cooking a large dinner with. Also, it didn’t perform nearly as well as some of the other sets.
Inside the nonstick box set are three saucepots (1-, 1.3-, and 1.75-quart), a small 4.2-quart stockpot, two fry pans (8- and 10.5-inch), and five nonstick kitchen utensils. They're not built for induction cooktop uses and they're hand wash-only.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.