The best cookware sets you can buy to get all your pots and pans at once

  • Whether you avoid cooking whenever possible or love nothing better than preparing something tasty in your kitchen, you need a sturdy set of cookware.
  • After all, you can't scramble an egg, flip a burger, or whip up a healthy stir-fry without something to cook on. The Tramontina 12-Piece Tri-Clad Cookware Set is the perfect choice to cook just about anything.

Whether you're just moving out on your own for the first time and looking to set up your new home or want to upgrade your current cookware set to something better, a kitchen isn't a kitchen without at least a few pots and pans. Having a selection of appropriate cookware to choose from might even inspire you to spend more time preparing healthy, homemade meals.

Before setting out to buy a cookware set, it helps to know the basic types of pots and pans, and which are the most essential. It also helps to know that companies that make cookware sets count lids as a separate piece, meaning a set of two saucepans with lids would sell as a four-piece cookware set.

There are a lot of different types of cookware out there, and making a buying decision can be overwhelming. That's where we step in. We did the research and made your decision easier by gathering up the best six cookware sets for a variety of needs. So whether you're a whiz in the kitchen or just learning the basics, we've got you covered.Advertisement

Here are our top picks for the best cookware sets you can buy:

Updated on 10/21/19 by Connie Chen: Updated prices, links, and formatting.

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The best cookware set overall

The best cookware set overall
The 12-piece stainless steel Tramontina Tri-Clad Cookware Setincludes all the basics you need and is made from high-quality stainless steel that will last through decades of use.

Fully clad with an aluminum core for even heat and excellent conductivity? Check. Riveted, cast stainless steel handles that won't come loose? Check. Both a 10-inch and a 12-inch skillet? Check. A 12-quart stockpot, which is a rarity in a cookware set? Check. Safe for induction cooktops? Check. But the Tramontina 12-Piece Tri-Clad Cookware Set doesn't stop there.

This excellent stainless steel set also includes 1.5- and 3-quart covered saucepans, a 5-quart covered saucepan, and a 5-quart covered Dutch oven. With a full range of the most-recommended sizes, there's just about nothing this set can't handle, even if you cook for a family of four or more. The set is also safe for gas or electric stove tops and oven-safe up to 500 degrees.

The Wirecutter praises the set's durability, excellent heat conductivity, large sizes (most cookware sets include smaller skillets and stockpots), and performance in the kitchen. Pleased owners rave that the Tramontina set has the quality of a much more expensive brand at a fraction of the price.

Pros: Excellent heat conductivity and performance, great selection of sizes, sturdy handles and precisely fitted lids, reasonable price for quality cookware

Cons: Like all stainless steel cookware, you might need to scrub a bit to remove tough foods like eggs, and the cookware can discolor slightly after repeated use

The best stainless steel cookware set under $100

The best stainless steel cookware set under $100
If you just want the bare basics at a reasonable price, you'll get them with the Cuisinart Chef's Classic 7-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set.

With a 10-inch skillet, 8-quart covered stockpot, and 1-1/2-quart plus 3-quart covered saucepans, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic 7-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set includes the basics needed to cook for one to three people.

Made of stainless steel with an aluminum-disk base, the set has stay-cool stainless handles that are riveted in place for sturdy, no-wiggle performance. The lids are glass. While you aren't going to get top-of-the-line performance from the set, you can still expect dependable, solid results.

Experts at the Wirecutter consider this an excellent budget buy for people who love to cook. Amazon buyers are enthusiastic about the set, too. It has more than 11,300 reviews and an average of 4.3 stars.

Reviewers regularly mention the set's quality, the size of the components, and the ease of cleanup. On the downside, some owners mention that the glass lids break easily and that the metal discolors after use at high heat. This is a common issue with most stainless steel that is not fully clad with aluminum, however.

Pros: Great price, conducts heat well, sturdy construction, some people prefer glass lids to metal for easy visibility while cooking

Cons: Not induction-cooktop compatible, not fully clad with aluminum, some buyers complained that the glass lids shatter too easily


The best nonstick cookware set

The best nonstick cookware set
The T-Fal Ultimate Nonstick 17-Piece Cookware Set is nonstick for easy cleanup, hard-anodized for strength and durability, and affordable.

You get a whole lot with the T-Fal Ultimate Nonstick 17-Piece Cookware Set, including 8- and 10-inch open frying pans, a 12-inch frying pan with lid, a 10-inch square griddle pan, 1-, 2-, and 3-quart saucepans with lids a 3.5-quart deep sauté pan with lid, 5-quart Dutch oven with lid, a 3-quart steamer insert with handles, a "One-egg wonder" mini skillet, and a no-scratch spatula and spoon

Made from hard-anodized aluminum, the T-Fal Ultimate Nonstick 17-Piece Cookware Set conducts heat beautifully while resisting stains, scratches, warps, and dents. The inside of the cookware is lined with a hard titanium nonstick coating, so you won't need much elbow grease to get your pots and pans clean after dinner is done.

A unique feature of the T-Fal pans is the ThermoSpot Temperature Indicator, which changes to let you know when your skillet or griddle has reached the perfect preheated temperature. Silicone handles won't burn your hand and are riveted for stability, and the glass lids make it easy to see how your food is cooking.

Pros: Nonstick yet scratch-resistant, includes a griddle, reasonably priced, dependable performance and excellent heat conduction

Cons: Not suitable for induction cooktops, like all nonstick cookware, it's best limited to low-to-medium heat

Read our full guide to the best hard anodized aluminum cookware sets.

The best affordable starter cookware set

The best affordable starter cookware set
If you or someone you know is just starting out in a dorm or first apartment and needs an inexpensive cookware set that gets the job done, it's hard to beat the Vremi 15-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set.

If you want to add a little color to your kitchen, check out the Vremi 15-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set. The 8-inch and 10-inch frying pans, 1-quart, 1.5-quart, and 2-quart saucepans with lids, and the 5-quart Dutch oven each have a different, cheerfully bright color of enamel layered over an aluminum core that conducts heat evenly and effectively.

You also get a five-piece set of non-scratch cooking utensils that includes a masher, slotted spoon, ladle, turner, and pasta server.

Admittedly, you aren't going to get the finest quality for such a bargain price, but this is still a decent set of cookware that performs quite well. The nonstick coating is easy to clean, the glass lids fit well, and the set performs nicely on low-to-medium heat. You can even pop the pots or pans into the oven up to 480 degrees.

Overall, this is a great choice for someone looking to stock their first kitchen, or someone who only cooks occasionally.

Some owners complain the handles come loose too easily and the pots and pans are all small sizes, but those are the only negatives.

Pros: Colorful, bargain price, nonstick and easy to clean, good heat conductivity

Cons: Small pots and pans, some complaints of handles coming loose, some complaints of discoloration after use


The best cast iron cookware set

The best cast iron cookware set
If you love the ability of cast iron to sear meat to the perfect brown, travel easily from stovetop to oven, and last practically forever, you'll appreciate the Lodge Logic 5-Piece Cast Iron Set.

There's a certain mystique to cooking with cast iron. Yes, it can be a pain to clean and season – although the Lodge Logic 5-Piece Cast Iron Set is pre-seasoned to take care of that chore for you – and yes, it is very heavy, which can be a con for those with arthritis or weak arms. But it's hard to beat cast iron when it comes to searing a steak, baking stovetop cornbread, or scrambling eggs.

While you won't find saucepans or stockpots made of cast iron, you will find skillets and Dutch ovens. And Lodge brings both together in its five-piece set that includes a 5-quart Dutch oven with lid, an 8- and 10-inch skillet, and a 10-inch griddle.

With proper care, you can pass your Lodge cookware set down to your children, and they can pass it on to your grandchildren. But while you're still using the cookware, you'll enjoy the foundry-seasoned, naturally nonstick interiors, the integral handles – no wiggling or loose handles here – and the way the pieces can cook over any type of heat. They can handle induction, gas, electric, oven, grill, and even an open campfire.

Pros: The Dutch oven's lid also fits the larger skillet, incredibly durable, holds heat longer than any other type of cookware, pre-seasoned

Cons: If you don't like the weight or maintenance of cast iron, this isn't the set for you

Raed our full buying guide to the best cast iron skillets and pans.

The best cookware set if you want to splurge

The best cookware set if you want to splurge
The All-Clad d5 Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set is just as much a professional in the kitchen as you are.

All-Clad has a well-deserved reputation for manufacturing some of the finest pots and pans available. Its cookware sets also have a reputation for being quite expensive. But as they say, you get what you pay for, so if you are able and willing to splurge, the All-Clad d5 Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set will bring superb quality to your kitchen.

The 10-piece set includes 8- and 10-inch skillets, 2- and 4-quart covered saucepans, a 4-quart sauté pan with lid, and an 8-quart covered stockpot. All are made with 5-ply bonded construction that alternates layers of stainless steel and aluminum for the utmost in heat conductivity, meaning the pots and pans heat slowly and evenly to perfectly brown and cook your food.

Says one happy owner on the Williams Sonoma website, "I have never been happier with any other pots, pans, or other cookware that I have ever purchased in my life. They are light and hold heat like nothing else."

The cookware is safe for oven and broiler up to 600 degrees and is also suitable for induction cooking.

Pros: Finest quality stainless steel cookware clad with multiple layers of aluminum for superior heat conductivity, limited lifetime warranty, stick-resistant surface, riveted heat-resistant handles

Cons: Very expensive


Types of pots and pans

Types of pots and pans
  • Skillet: Also called a frying pan, a skillet is a kitchen workhorse used for frying, sautéing, grilling, searing, and browning foods. Skillets have gently sloping, shallow sides, a wide bottom, a long handle, and often, no lid. Frying pans are measured by the size across the top of the pan. The most common sizes are 8-inch, which is perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich or scrambled eggs for one, 10-inch, which is perfect for everyday use if you are only cooking for one or two people, and 12-inch, which is good if you are cooking for a family.
  • Sauté pan: A sauté pan is similar to a skillet, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. A sauté pan has straight sides (skillets have gently sloped sides), a long handle, and sometimes a smaller loop handle on the other side for ease in lifting the pan. Most sauté pans include a lid. Use your sauté pan to sauté, braise, or cook up any large batch of food with a lot of liquid. A 5-quart sauté pan is the most useful size or 3-quart if you only cook for one or two people.
  • Saucepan: The pot you will reach for over and over, saucepans are round, with straight sides, a long handle and a fitted lid. Saucepans are perfect for heating and cooking soups, stews, rice, sauces, or vegetables. Saucepans are measured in quarts. A 2-quart and a 4-quart saucepan will cover your needs nicely.
  • Stockpot: A tall, round pot with a fitted lid, stockpots are perfect for large batches of soups or stews, corn on the cob or pasta. Stockpots are measured in quarts and an 8-quart pot is large enough to handle a family's needs.

Which metal is best for cookware?

Which metal is best for cookware?
  • Stainless steel is one of the most popular materials for cookware sets, and for good reason. It doesn't react with foods, works with just about every cooking technique, is very durable and resistant to scratches, dents, and rust, and is safe for the dishwasher (although it's best to wash your cookware by hand). Stainless steel does not conduct heat well, however, so you'll usually find it reinforced with either aluminum or copper. Most stainless steel works with induction cooktops.
  • Aluminum is very soft on its own, so almost all cookware made of this reasonably priced metal is anodized – a process that hardens and strengthens the aluminum, and also reduces its tendency to react with acidic foods like tomatoes. Aluminum is a great conductor of heat and is suitable for most cooking methods. It resists scratches and stains and is easy to care for. Aluminum cookware is usually not compatible with induction cooktops.
  • Nonstick pots and pans are generally anodized aluminum coated with a nonstick material, such as Teflon, that prevents food from sticking. This makes cleanup a breeze, particularly with sticky foods such as cheese. On the downside, the nonstick coating tends to scratch easily and wear away over time. You'll need to be careful while stirring or mixing; use plastic or silicone utensils to avoid scratching the cookware. Nonstick pots and pans are generally not safe for very high heat, and although they are dishwasher safe, doing so can speed up the disintegration of the nonstick coating. Most nonstick cookware is not suitable for induction cooktops.
  • Copper is hard to beat for warm natural beauty, but you'll pay a premium for cookware made from this super-conductive metal. Copper reacts to changes in temperature very quickly, meaning it will heat up and cool down faster than most other cookware metals, thus giving you close control over your favorite dishes. On the downside, because copper is reactive, it usually has to be lined with another metal, such as stainless steel, and it requires polishing to maintain its glow. It's also prone to scratches and discoloration, and it's not compatible with induction cooktops.
  • Carbon steel is something like a hybrid of cast iron and stainless steel, but much more expensive than either of those metals. It's lighter than cast iron, heats up faster and conducts heat better than cast iron, and develops a natural, somewhat nonstick surface just like cast iron. It also requires periodic seasoning, rusts easily, and reacts with some foods – also traits of cast iron. Despite its flaws, many chefs love the tight temperature control carbon steel offers, as it responds quickly to changes in the heat. It's also suitable for use with an induction cooktop.
  • Cast iron cookware sets are rare, but it's a very popular metal for skillets, saucepans, and Dutch ovens. This heavy metal is actually not a good conductor of heat, but once it heats up, it stays hot for a long time. Cast iron is great for searing meats, scrambling eggs, and baking cornbread, and it goes into the oven just as easily as it cooks on top of it. It requires periodic seasoning, however, is very prone to rust and discoloring, and can be a pain to clean, although it does develop a naturally nonstick surface. Enameled cast iron is a little easier to care for, but is very expensive. Cast iron is suitable for induction cooktops.