Cookware set

A cookware set contains ten or more pieces of cooking essentials: stockpots, saucepans, and skillets in various sizes. It makes a great gift for weddings, graduations, and anyone moving into a new home.

With the right cookware set, you get all the pots and pans you need—often for the best price.

But a cookware set isn’t merely a cost-saver. It also helps you save on time and space. Unless you’re a gourmand, you may not know what pieces you need in the kitchen. A cookware set checks off the boxes, preventing you from cluttering your kitchen with random pots and pans you’ll rarely (or never) use. Plus, there’s no shopping around to find the best individual pieces. You simply buy the set and you’re done.

Cookware sets offer a lot of benefits, but there are some gotchas to be aware of to ensure you buy the best set for your needs. The cookware needs to be durable, heat your food evenly, and be easy to use and clean. Read on to learn more about what to look for in a cookware set and read reviews of our top picks.

Our Top Picks: Summary

The Best Cookware Sets:

Best Overall
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Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad 10-Piece Cookware Set

Our top pick wins out when it comes to even cooking, durability and affordability.

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Why We Picked It

The Tramontina cookware set makes for easy cooking, easy cleaning, and a lifetime of use. It includes 8-inch and 10-inch skillets, 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans with lids, a 3-quart saute pan with lid, and an 8-quart stock pot with lid. All feature sturdy ergonomic stick handles, with holes for hanging.

As a stainless steel set, the Tramontina works with a wide range of cooking surfaces (gas, electric, ceramic, and induction), and it’s designed to be durable. The set uses tri-ply stainless steel construction (which places an aluminum between layers of stainless steel, enhancing the heat distribution and durability of the set). It’s also dishwasher-friendly and oven safe to 500°F.

Keep in Mind

The pots and pans in the Tramontina set are heavier than your typical cookware set, but that’s thanks to their solid construction and larger cooking surfaces.

In a Nutshell

  • Stainless steel
  • 10-piece set
  • Dishwasher-safe
Best Budget
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Cook N Home Ceramic 10-Piece Cookware Set

At under $50, this set covers all the basics at a very reasonable price.

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$59.90 USD

Why We Picked It

Getting all the pots and pans you need for under $50 sounds too good to be true, but it’s possible with the Cook N Home set. This set includes 8- and 9.5-inch skillets, 1- and 2-quart saucepans with lids, a 3-quart casserole pot with lid, and a 5-quart dutch oven with lid. All have anti-slip handles that stay cool to the touch.

The aluminum construction makes for even heat distribution, while the non-stick coating makes for easy cooking. The non-stick coating is safe, too, as it’s PTFE-, PFOA-, cadmium-, and lead-free.

Keep in Mind

While this ceramic cookware set works with gas, electric, and ceramic cooktops, it is not designed for induction cooktops, nor is it oven- or dishwasher-friendly. Much of the budget pricing comes from the smaller sizes of the pots and pans, as well as the aluminum construction.

In a Nutshell

  • Aluminum with non-stick ceramic coating
  • 10-piece set
  • Hand wash
Best Splurge
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All-Clad Copper Core 10-Piece Cookware Set

Superior cooking quality and construction mean this cookware set will last a lifetime.

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$579.48 USD

Why We Picked It

If you want a cookware set that will stand the test of time, and make you feel like a professional chef while you’re using it, this set from All-Clad is it. The 10-piece stainless steel set includes 8- and 10-inch skillets, 2- and 3-quart sauce pans with lids, a 3-quart saute pan with lid, and a 8-quart stockpot with lid. It features tri-ply bonded construction for even heating and warp-resistance, and it’s oven- and broiler-safe up to 600°F.

Beyond superior cooking, the All-Clad cookware set offers easy cleanup, too. The pan interiors feature starburst finishing to prevent sticking, and all the pots and pans are dishwasher-friendly. The construction, complete with ergonomic handles and steel lids, will look stunning year after year.

Keep in Mind

Any way you look at it, this cookware set is pricey. However, it should last you forever, which is why it’s backed by a limited lifetime warranty. Plus, the copper core is worth it for serious cooks. Copper is a superior conductor of heat and hyper-responsive to changes in temperature, giving you precise control over your cooking.

In a Nutshell

  • Stainless steel
  • 10-piece set
  • Dishwasher-safe
Best Eco-Friendly
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Cuisinart GreenGourmet Hard Anodized 12-Piece Cookware Set

Made from recycled steel and a water-based ceramic coating, this nonstick set is also lightweight.

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$150.99 USD

Why We Picked It

If the “GreenGourmet” name didn’t give it away, this Cuisinart cookware set is designed with sustainability top of mind. The water-based ceramic non-stick coating is Teflon-free, plus the hard anodized construction increases its heat conductivity—so you can use less energy to achieve the same cooking results. The handles are made from 70% recycled stainless steel, and the whole set is extremely lightweight.

The 12-piece set includes a 8-inch skillet, a 10-inch deep frypan with lid, 1.5-, 2.5-, and 3-quart saucepans with lids, a 6-quart Dutch oven with lid, and a steamer insert. It’s oven- and broiler-safe.

Keep in Mind

While the Cuisinart GreenGourmet set is made from eco-friendly materials, it is a non-stick set. As such, it won’t last as long as a stainless steel one, so you’ll end up needing to replace this set at some point, which reduces its overall sustainability.

In a Nutshell

  • Anodized aluminum with non-stick ceramic coating
  • 12-piece set
  • Hand wash
Best Non-Stick
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T-fal Hard Anodized 17-Piece Cookware Set

With Thermo-spot indicators, lightweight construction, and silicone handles, this 17-piece set is user-friendly.

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$99.99 USD

Why We Picked It

The T-fal cookware set goes beyond the essentials, giving you 17 pieces to outfit a fully non stick kitchen. The set includes 8- and 10-inch skillets, a 11-inch skillet with lid, a 10.25-inch square griddle, 1-, 2, and 3-quart sauce pans with lids, a 3.5-quart deep saute, and a 5-quart Dutch oven with lid, with a 3-quart steamer insert and “one egg wonder” thrown in for good measure.

The set is extremely lightweight, with easy-to-use silicone stick handles. It’s compatible with all cooktops (with the exception of induction), and it’s oven-safe up to 350°F—which you don’t often see with non-stick cookware. This Teflon-free set is also lead- and cadmium-free.

One of our favorite features with this set are the easy-to-understand Thermo-spot indicators. You can prevent overcooking by waiting until the pan tells you it’s ready to cook, then throw the ingredients in.

Keep in Mind

As non-stick cookware, the T-fal set works well with nylon, coated, or wooden utensils—but not metal ones.

In a Nutshell

  • Hard anodized aluminum, non-stick
  • 17-piece set
  • Dishwasher-safe

How We Chose the Best Cookware Sets

What takes a cookware set from good to great? It comes down to five key features: heating, durability, design, cleaning, and sustainability.

These are the features we considered when choosing the best cookware sets of 2019.

Heating

The heating distribution of a cookware set can make or break your meal. A skillet won’t do you much good if your steak comes out medium rare on one side and medium on the other.

The heating capabilities of a cookware set indicate how quickly and evenly your food heats up and whether the cookware can be used on different types of stovetops or in the oven.

Stainless steel offers excellent heat distribution. It can also withstand high temperatures better than non-stick cookware, allowing these pots and pans to be used on the stove or in the oven (again, unlike non-stick cookware).

Copper is another good heat conductor, which is why you’ll often see it and aluminum included as a layer in tri-ply stainless steel, but it’s expensive. However, raw aluminum reacts to acidic foods, giving them a metallic taste, so hard anodized aluminum is a better choice for cookware—providing the same heating capability without impacting the taste of your food.

Durability

You don’t want to buy a cookware set just to have to replace it in a few years. With the right materials, a cookware set can last you several years—or as long as a lifetime.

Stainless steel and non-stick rank the best for providing a consistent heat temperature and being easy to use. However, non-stick cookware can’t handle high heats and doesn’t tend to last as long as stainless steel—especially if you make the mistake of throwing it in the dishwasher. Non-stick is more likely to scratch as well.

Carbon steel, cast iron, and anodized aluminum are more prone to rust and discoloration. Stainless steel, on the other hand, resists scratches and is extremely durable.

Design

Given that you’re buying a cookware set for a practical purpose, utility is more important than aesthetics, but that doesn’t mean you should have to throw good looks out the window. Cookware can look cheap or sleek, and design often plays a factor in the price. Cheaper sets often don’t look as good (and they tend to look worse with time, due to lower durability).

Stainless steel maintains its aesthetic appeal, since it’s scratch-resistant, durable, and easy to clean. If you take care to avoid high temperatures and follow the wash instructions for your non-stick cookware, it should look good for a while, too.

Besides appearance, design also impacts how the cookware feels to use. Lighter, stainless steel and non-stick cookware are easier to handle than heavy cast iron sets. Pay attention to handle placement, too. A single stick handle will make wielding a saucepan or skillet much easier than two small handles (bonus points if the handle includes a hole for hanging). To prevent breakage, avoid cookware with plastic side handles.

Cleaning

The durability of your cookware (and the joy you have using it) largely depends on the time and effort you have to spend maintaining it.

For the ultimate low-maintenance option, go with dishwasher-safe stainless steel. Some food may stick to it, but it’s easy enough to let it soak for a bit first, and then let your dishwasher take care of the rest. Non-stick cookware, on the other hand, isn’t always dishwasher-friendly. High water temperatures can erode some of the coating.

Other types of cookware—notably cast iron, carbon steel, and copper—are even more difficult to clean. Not only will you have to clean them by hand, but carbon steel and copper pots and pans require regular seasoning and shining, respectively, to avoid rusting.

Sustainability

Sustainability isn’t always a deciding factor for some consumers, but it’s more important than you think. Many of the cookware materials that are better for the environment tend to be better for your health, too.

The key materials to avoid here are raw aluminum and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), or Teflon. Aluminum itself is very reactive to acidic foods like tomatoes (which can give your food a metallic taste), so it’s often treated with a chemical to create anodized aluminum (meaning that more chemicals are introduced into your cookware).

Teflon is more common among non-stick cookware. At high temperatures (which, as we mentioned previously, should be avoided with non-stick cookware to improve durability), Teflon can break down and leach toxic substances into your food. As long as you keep temperatures below 500°F, however, Teflon-coated cookware should be safe to use.

A good option for sustainable cookware is stainless steel. It’s safe to cook with at all temperatures, and it also tends to last longer, which is better for the environment.

What Is a Cookware Set?

A cookware set is a set of pots and pans that covers the basics most kitchens need. It typically includes at least 10 pieces:

  • 1.5- or 2-quart saucepan with lid
  • 3- or 4-quart sauce pan with lid
  • 8- or 10-inch skillet
  • 10- or 12-inch skillet
  • 3- or 4-quart skillet with lid
  • 8-quart stockpot with lid

If you’re thinking to yourself, “That only looks like six items,” you’re not wrong. It’s six cooking containers, plus four lids.

With a 10-piece cookware set in your kitchen, you can accomplish most cooking tasks, from heating butter and making sauces, to searing meats and sauteing vegetables, to boiling water for pasta or cooking soup.

What to Look for in a Cookware Set

What should you consider when buying a cookware set? Here are the top features to keep in mind.

Material

The material and construction of your cookware sets matters. It impacts the durability, price, and how well (and where) you can cook.

  • Non-stick pans are coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), typically Teflon. When used at high temperatures, these can release toxic fumes into the air. So, to be safe, you’ll want to use these at low temperatures only (500°F or lower). However, they’re highly stick-resistant, and therefore quite easy to clean.
  • Stainless steel cookware is safe for both stovetops and oven, it’s dishwasher-safe, and it’s highly durable. It also tends to be middle of the road when it comes to price. However, it can lose heat if it’s not reinforced with aluminum or copper.
  • Ceramic-coated cookware is another option for those who want something non-stick. As opposed to fully ceramic cookware, which can only go in the oven, ceramic-coated cookware is typically metal cookware (aluminum or stainless steel) that has a coating of ceramic. It’s not quite as durable as Teflon-coated cookware, but some prefer it.
  • Copper pots and pans heat up the fastest, but they’re super pricey, require regular maintenance and polish, and don’t work with induction cooktops.
  • Cast iron pans can be used anywhere (stovetops, ovens, broilers, and even over the grill). They’re also extremely durable. However, they don’t heat evenly, they’re heavy and unwieldy, and they take more work to clean.
  • Aluminum is lightweight, affordable, and scratch-resistant. It works on stovetops and ovens, but if non-anodized, it can lend a metallic taste to your food.

To choose the best material for your pots and pans, consider what’s important to you. Where do you cook most often (stovetops vs. oven)? Is ease of cleaning more important to you than temperature control?

Price

Cookware sets can cost anywhere between $80 to $1,500, with the average set costing a few hundred dollars.

To get the best price for your cookware set, it’s again important to consider your needs. If you don’t cook often, a budget set might work just fine. However, if you want more control over your cooking, a pricier option may make you a lot happier. Generally, pricier sets will last longer, but that mostly depends on the material used (the inclusion of copper tends to drive up the cost of stainless steel sets, but it also improves their heat conductivity).

Be wary of purchasing large sets, as the number of pots and pans also drives up the price. Don’t let a 14- or 17-piece set lure you, if you’ll never actually use most of the items. Go with a more practical 10- or 12-piece set instead.

Versatility

Cookware sets include a variety of sizes and types of cookware. Some are also made to go in the oven.

Be thoughtful about what you need from your cookware. If you regularly cook on both stovetops and in the oven, a set that’s compatible with both is a necessity for you. Look for stainless steel, cast iron, copper, and aluminum sets. If your recipes tend to lean more stovetop-only, a non-stick set may be all you need.

Also think about the recipes you use. If you’re creating a lot of sauces, a set with more pans may be more beneficial to you the one with extra griddles and steamers.

Why Do I Need a Cookware Set?

In theory, a cookware set sounds like a great idea, but do you really need one? If any of the following describe you, chances are you need a cookware set.

  • You need to replace several cookware items at once. If you’ve found yourself in a position where multiple pots and pans have been misplaced or outworn their use, it can often be more cost-effective to purchase a new cookware set than to buy the individual pieces.
  • You’re moving into a house. If you’re moving into your own place, you’ll need your own pots and pans to cook with. A cookware set is a perfect housewarming gift for you, or for anyone else in a similar position, like newlyweds and graduates.
  • You’re on a budget. Typically, a cookware set is significantly cheaper than purchasing all ten items separately. This is because manufacturers design these items to work as a set, and they can be slightly smaller in size than the pieces on their own. While you may eventually need to buy random items for special recipes, like a cast iron skillet for fajitas or a crock pot for meal prep, a cookware set satisfies most cooking needs.

When don’t you need a cookware set? If you’ve already got a good selection of pots and pans, it probably makes more sense to simply buy replacements for those, as opposed to a brand new set which can clutter your kitchen.

Related Resources

Now that you’ve found your cookware set, outfit your kitchen with our other product guides.

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Laura Rubin