We tested new cookware from three startups.
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In the last few years, a new generation of cookware companies has sprung up. Brands like Great Jones and Made In offer pots and pans designed to look good and perform as well as the big names that have defined the category for decades—all without sticker shock. In addition to curated sets that include the key items beginners need to get started in the kitchen, these newcomers sell individual pieces, knives, and more.
Based on the direct-to-consumer model established by brands like Warby Parker and Away, these brands sell exclusively online from their own websites. By cutting through the clutter in the marketplace and eliminating the middleman, they attempt to offer stylish and “thoughtful” products free of markups.
Founded by two childhood friends and named after Julia Child’s legendary cookbook editor, Judith Jones, Great Jones is a fashionable cookware company whose mission is to empower you to cook.
The Great Jones skillets and saucepans have a core of aluminum, fully clad (or covered) with shiny stainless steel. This combines aluminum’s ability to distribute heat evenly and stainless steel’s resistance to denting, discoloration, and interaction with food.
On the “small fry,” an 8 ½-inch skillet, there’s a ceramic nonstick finish. The Dutch oven, playfully named “The Dutchess,” is cast iron with a shiny gray enamel surface inside and a matte enamel finish outside that comes in seven colors, including black, white, and a dusty millennial pink.
All of the handles are stainless steel, but they’ve been polished to give them the bronze color that stainless steel develops over time, and they aren’t attached with metal fasteners called rivets.
The Family Style set includes one of each of the company’s offerings, including an 8 ½-inch ceramic nonstick skillet and a 10 ¼-inch skillet with a lid, 3- and 8-quart saucepans with lids, and a 6 ¾-quart oval enameled cast iron Dutch oven, available in seven colors. Each of the pieces in the set is also available as open stock.
The Family Style set costs $395. We think it’s a great buy. Even on Amazon, you’ll pay about $375 for a comparable-sized oval Le Creuset Dutch oven. Right now, Amazon is selling a 10-inch All Clad skillet for $99 and a 3-quart saucepan for $150. The suggested retail price for an 8-quart All-Clad saucepan is $345.
Great Jones is attractive, but not as professional-looking as the other two brands. That’s largely due to the fact that the handles are a different color from the body and aren’t riveted on as they usually are in commercial cookware. On both the interior and the exterior, the stainless steel is highly polished. The skillets have straight sides as opposed to traditional sloped sides, which make them good for cooking dishes with sauces, but less convenient for sliding out an omelet.
The handles are comfortable to hold, and the helper handles on the saucepan and the 10 ¼-inch skillet make them easy to maneuver. Inside the saucepans are convenient measuring marks, and the smaller of the saucepans has a pour spout. While The Dutchess is pretty, I personally prefer the glossier finish found on most enameled Dutch ovens. Weighing in empty at about 15 pounds, it’s heavier that a Le Creuset.
The Great Jones skillets conduct heat evenly from their bases to their sidewalls. This means you won’t have to keep rearranging burgers to brown them uniformly or stir gravy to keep it from scorching at the point where the bottom meets the sides.
When we cooked spaghetti sauce in the 3-quart saucepan and chicken cacciatore in the larger skillet, the pans maintained a steady simmer and there was no burnt-on sauce on the bottom. Rice steamed up tender and fluffy in the 3-quart saucepan; however, the pour spouts let some water escape so the rice was slightly drier than rice cooked in saucepans with more tight-fitting lids.
As the Dutch oven is oval shaped, the sides hang over the burners, resulting in an uneven heat. You’ll need to regularly rearrange pieces of meat for a beef stew, say, and if you’re trying to achieve a steady simmer, you’re better off using the oven than a burner. While the ceramic nonstick finish made clean-up easy, we did get some sticking when we fried eggs.
When you cook on the stovetop, the pot handles, but not the lid handles, remain cool enough to be used without a pot holder. You can safely place any of the pieces in the oven or under the broiler up to 500°F, which means you can easily brown off a frittata or finish salmon in the oven.
If you’ve jumped on the induction cooktop trend, this line will work for you. Although Great Jones says its cookware is dishwasher-safe, it recommends hand-washing. For the most part we had no problem cleaning the pans with soapy water and a non-abrasive cleaning pad, and as there’s no rivets to clean around, there’s no detail work involved.
However, when we pan grilling a steak resulted in burnt-on grease that required considerable scrubbing with Bar Keepers Friend to remove. Complete instructions—which are written to sound as if a friend is talking to you—come with the cookware.
The lids in the set can be engraved with a name, date, or saying for an extra $50. Shipping is free for all orders over $100.
The Great Jones website only has five reviews, with just one customer giving less than a 5-star rating for hot handles. In particular, reviewers love the look of the set.
Great Jones offers a lifetime warranty against defects.
With the inclusion of an oversized cast iron Dutch oven, this collection is a real bargain. It also contains a large 8-quart saucepan, an essential for boiling pasta, that’s rarely included in a set. In addition, you get basic skillets and a saucepan. Best of all, the stainless clad pots and pans distribute heat well from the bottom up the sides, giving you even browning and simmering without scorching. Anyone who’s a serious cook will want to supplement the collection with a larger 12-inch fry or sauté pan for skillet dinners.
Made In was designed to give you professional but affordable cookware. After all, the website says, “the best experiences are ‘Made In’ our kitchens.”
The cookware is composed of aluminum clad in stainless steel. As with Great Jones, the aluminum promotes even heating while the stainless steel protects against denting, keeps the cookware looking good, and prevents the aluminum from leaching into food and turning it gray. The stainless steel handles are attached with rivets.
The Made In Starter Kit consists of a 10-inch fry pan and 2- and 5-quart saucepans with stainless steel lids.
The Starter Kit costs $275. If you were to buy the same pieces from All-Clad on Amazon, it would cost you $330. Opt for Anolon Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel and the same pots will cost you a comparable $280.
Beautifully designed of brushed stainless steel, Made In looks like it would be at home in a commercial kitchen. The handles feel particularly good in the hand and they’re riveted onto the body, so it’s unlikely that they are ever going to fall off. However, foods like scrambled eggs or tomato sauce can accumulate around the rivets and make cleaning harder.
The fry pan has the traditional sloped sides that make lifting out wedges of frittata or sliding out a crepe an easy task. On the bottom of each pan you’ll find engravings that specify its inch diameter and quart capacity, which come in handy when a recipe specifies a pan size.
The skillet conducted heat evenly not only on the bottom but also up its sides, illustrating the benefit of clad cookware. We used it for a one-pot chicken dinner and found we didn’t have to constantly rearrange the chicken pieces and stir the tomato gravy to get even cooking.
When we cooked spaghetti sauce in the 2-quart saucepan, it stayed at an almost constant temperature. The lid provided a nice tight fit on the saucepan so rice came out moist and fluffy.
Although a nonstick skillet is not included in the set, we did test the one they offer separately and found the traditional nonstick surface gave beautiful results. We could turn the pan over to release pancakes and fried eggs and virtually wipe it clean afterward.
When used on the range top, the pot handles, but not the lid handles, stay cool enough to maneuver without a mitt or pot holder. If you want to brown a thick cut of meat on top of the stove and then continue cooking it in the oven, you can place Made In cookware in an oven up to 500°F. It’s also safe for use on an induction burner.
Made In describes its cookware as “dishwasher-friendly” but suggests you give it TLC by hand-washing. After searing a steak, we used a good amount of elbow grease and Bar Keepers Friend to get the skillet looking pristine again. A booklet with thorough care instructions and basic cooking advice comes with the cookware.
Made In also makes carbon steel skillets, wok, and roasting pans, as well as larger, more expensive sets and cutlery. Made In is, well, made in the U.S., and they often offer free shipping.
The Made In Starter Kit currently has 1,589 reviews, with 97% of them giving the set five stars. Users call out how much they like the feel of the cookware in addition to performance.
The cookware comes with a 45-day trial period and a lifetime warranty.
Although we love the design and the performance of this cookware set and heartily recommend it, it isn’t much cheaper than the big-brand clad cookware that’s already out there. The Starter Kit itself offers the bare minimum pieces. Anyone who cooks a varied repertoire of dishes for a family will certainly need a larger skillet and most likely will want at least one nonstick skillet for items like omelets and pancakes.
And while the 5-quart saucepan is useful for small batches of soups and stews and boiling water for pasta, we’d recommend supplementing the set with a 6-quart Dutch oven and an 8-quart stockpot.
In a professional kitchen, mise en place or “put in place” is used by chefs to describe the process of setting up their stations before service. Misen is an ode to mise en place, with the company claiming its cookware is designed to help you cook better by putting in place quality tools.
Like the other brands we tested, Misen’s skillets and saucepans are made of several layers of aluminum clad in stainless steel. The aluminum gives the pieces even heat distribution while the stainless steel strengthens them, keeps them looking handsome, and prevents the aluminum from leaching into your eggs or cream sauce and turning it unpleasantly gray. The handles are stainless steel and attached with rivets.
The Starter Cookware Set consists of a 10-inch skillet, a 3-quart sauté pan and a 3-quart saucepan. Both pans come with lids.
The Starter Cookware Set costs $250. Buy the same pieces from All-Clad on Amazon and it will set you back $430.
We noticed immediately that Misen is heavier than the other brands, which meant it conducted heat more slowly and took longer to preheat. It also means it’s less likely to burn or scorch foods.
The body of the pans are brushed stainless steel and the handles are polished. On the sauté pan, there’s a helper handle that is, well, helpful as this cookware is heavy to begin with. We wished there was one on the 3-quart saucepan as well.
As the handles are attached with rivets, which gives the cookware a professional look and should make them exceptionally durable. However, you have to be careful to clean around them to remove food debris that gathers there. The skillet has straight sides which makes it convenient for simmering a one-dish dinner but less convenient for rolling out an omelet.
When we greased and floured the skillet, we got even browning on the bottom and even up the sides of the pan. An Italian chicken stew simmered slowly and steadily in the 3-quart sauté pan. The rice to accompany it came out tender and moist from the 3-quart saucepan. A sirloin strip steak seared perfectly evenly to a golden brown without any overcooking.
You can comfortably hold the pot handles without a pot holder when you’re cooking on a stovetop burner. However, the lid handles get too hot to lift bare-handed. As the cookware is oven safe up to 500°F, you could make a skillet mac ‘n cheese and then give it a crispy topping by running it under the broiler. Misen can also be used for induction cooking.
Without any qualifications, the manufacturer says its cookware is dishwasher-safe. Like just about all stainless-steel cookware, it develops stains from pan grilling that take a bit of work and applications of a cleaner like Bar Keepers Friend to remove. No use and care instructions come with the cookware. To access them you have to check out the FAQs on Misen’s website.
Also available from Misen are larger, more expensive sets, as well as knives and open stock including stainless steel and nonstick skillets in 8-, 10-, and 12-inch sizes. On orders over $75, free shipping is offered.
Misen’s cookware has a 5-star average rating based on 338 reviews. Quite a few customers specifically say they prefer it to All-Clad cookware.
Free returns are offered for 60 days. There is a lifetime warranty against defects.
Misen is high quality cookware that compares with All-Clad in performance but costs considerably less. The Starter Cookware Set is aptly named because, before long, anyone who cooks for more than two people is going to need larger pans for boiling spaghetti water, braising stews, or making soup.
Ultimately, all three of these sets are excellent choices. If not superior to the more well-established brands, they certainly can compete. Great Jones offers a well thought-out collection for a very reasonable price. Its pieces don’t scream, “I am a chef,” which can be a good or bad thing depending on what you find attractive.
If you want a pro-look, either Made In or Misen will fill the bill, but if you’re going to do a lot of cooking, you’ll need to invest in more than the basic set. Considering it’s the lower priced of the two, we’d give the edge to Misen. Looking for more cookware? Check out our roundup of the best complete cookware sets.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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