Buying a new cookware set can be really daunting!
Tons of questions run through your mind, like:
What kinds of pans do I need?
How many pans should I have?
What is the best cookware material?
What is the safest cookware?
There’s so much to think of before making the purchase.
But it’s a long-term decision, so there’s no need to rush into buying the first set of pots and pans that you see.
To make things easier, we’ve put together this comprehensive buying guide to help you choose a great cookware set aligned with your needs.
Finding the best cookware set means focusing on the following:
Cookware comes in various types of pots and pans, each of which is suited best for a particular type of cooking.
Knowing the types of pans and what purpose they have will help you with efficient cooking and much less frustration!
Also known as skillets, frying pans are shallow with a wide base, sloped sides, and a long handle.
They’re usually round and come in various sizes, from small 8-inch frying pans to 15-inch frying pans.
Either way, they’re a must-have in a set.
Many think of yummy eggs when they think of a frying pan, and the best egg pan is awesome for this, but they’re incredibly versatile pans.
If like us, you’re a fan of omelets, investing in the best omelet pan will be worthwhile.
We’re sure you know how hard it can be to make an omelet with a low-grade model since eggs stick so easily to the pan.
They’re also great for sautéing vegetables as well as searing proteins, while pancake-lovers will have a blast with the best pan for pancakes.
Thanks to technology, you can even get electric frying pans, so you can forgo the stove here.
They tend to be square and come with a thermostat for getting the perfect temperature, but we advise you to take a bit more time when choosing the best electric frying pan.
You won’t find one in a complete set, so you’ll have to shop separately.
However, if you’d rather stick to the tradition of gas, the best pans for a gas stove will suit you more.
Sauté pans mainly differ from frying pans in that their sides are vertical.
This makes them easier to toss food without losing it all over your stove.
Some of the best sauté pan options come with a lid for extra heat retention and an extra side handle for easier cooking.
For sizing, they’re usually measured in quarts, ranging from 1 to 7 quarts, since many of the associated recipes are liquid-based.
They’re quite common in a set, but be aware you may need to buy one on top.
Apart from sautéing, they’re highly suitable for searing and frying.
Although some consider the frying pan better since it’s lighter and easier to flip food, they’re still popular options due to the high sides.
Stockpots have tall, round sides and a thick, flat base and come with two side handles and a lid.
Their capacity can range from 6 to 20 quarts and are ideal for a slow simmer due to the thick base.
They’re great for preparing soup, pasta, vegetables in large amounts, and seafood due to their narrow diameter and height—this preserves the liquid inside for longer.
An 8-quart stockpot is a pretty standard size if you’re buying singular pans.
Steam baskets can also be used with them if you prefer to steam your food.
A saucepans set is the mainstay of any cooking set and is highly versatile.
They’re taller and narrower than a saute pan but shorter than a pot but with long handles for cooking ease.
Some of the best saucepans sets come with a lid and an additional small handle on the side for better maneuverability.
Saucepan sets also come in various sizes, most between 1 and 4 quarts.
For those of you needing to prepare sauce and soup, poach eggs, boil water, or cook rice, pasta, and vegetables, sets of saucepans are great for all tasks.
A unique type of cookware sets, Dutch ovens are usually made out of denser materials, e.g., cast iron and ceramic, with thick walls and a tightly fitting lid.
They can be round or oval-shaped, with capacities ranging from 2 to 15 quarts, but don’t always feature in a set.
They’re the perfect choice in your set for slow-cooking roasts, stews, casseroles, and more.
Their capacities are also large enough that you can prepare whole birds.
In addition, they’re also used as baking ovens over campfires.
Anything you can prepare in a conventional oven, you can also prepare in a Dutch oven.
Summary: The most common types of traditional cookware are the ones you have seen most often, and give a baseline for the types of pots and pans to own.
Some cooking styles and foods benefit from a more specialized type of cookware, each designed for a specific technique.
The following pieces are great additions to any set if you’re looking to expand on your cooking skills:
Woks derive and are inspired by Asian cuisine, and are a must-have in many kitchens.
Whenever Asian recipes come to mind, think of woks.
Imagine a sauté pan with thinner material and more angular sides, and you have yourself a wok.
They have a larger base, too, so a wok ring is perfect for these on a stove.
They’re great for cooking food quickly and use little fat or oil, so the meals tend to be lower in calories and, arguably, healthier.
Mostly used commercially, griddles are mostly rectangular with a smooth surface and little-to-no sides.
They’re capable of covering several burners on top of a stove due to their large size.
Griddles are fantastic for preparing bulk foods and cooking different foods simultaneously, e.g., eggs and burgers.
For this, they can be a money-saver for those on a limited budget or who have large families.
Roasting pans are usually rectangular with two side handles and low sides and are the ultimate resource for toasting all foods.
They come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 10 by 14 inches to 14 by 19 inches.
They’re versatile since many come with a rack to keep food off the bottom, but double-up if you want juices running off onto the food below—think meat onto roasted potatoes.
These racks are also great to prevent food from sticking to the pan and burning.
Grill pans are special in that they have a ribbed surface while maintaining the long handle and sloped walls of frying pans.
They come in various shapes and sizes, with the maximum being 12 inches—cast iron is a common material for these.
The raised ridges keep the food away from the pan’s bottom, hence less steam is built up below it.
They can also create those classic grill marks on burgers, steaks, and veggies.
As a portable cooking surface, the pizza stone is a type of baking stone, and there are no prizes for its use.
They’re usually made from ceramic, stone, or metal, and the porous nature of the pizza stone absorbs the moisture, with the best pizza stone creating an especially crispy pizza.
Summary: Special types of cookware are more traditional to certain styles of cooking. If you are an avid cook, you will use specialty cookware more often.
Each of these cookware materials is suited to particular cooking styles.
When steel, an iron alloy, is combined with other metals, mostly chromium and nickel, stainless steel is formed.
It’s one of the preferred choices for cookware since it’s suitable for all kinds of cooking—the best stainless steel frying pan is a testament to this.
The alloy is quite durable and so won’t suffer from dents, scratches, or damage from high heat, even inside ovens and broilers.
The chromium inside the alloy also prevents it from rusting.
Similarly, it makes it highly resistant to corrosion, and thus, stainless steel won’t react with food nor change its flavor.
This also makes stainless steel cookware sets easy to clean since you can simply place them in the dishwasher.
Food can get stuck on the surface of the steel cookware, though, especially if it doesn’t have a non-stick coating, so cleaning can take more elbow grease than other materials.
Cast iron is another iron alloy with a higher carbon content than steel, which can add to its strength and toughness.
Cast iron cookware is a great choice for those interested in slow cooking, searing, and frying.
Aside from cast iron’s high durability due to its high carbon content, it doesn’t heat up quickly compared to other cookware materials due to its lower thermal conductivity.
This can be bad because you might end up with uneven heating and hot spots.
However, it can also be good because that same property, along with its higher density, allows it to retain heat for longer.
Some cast-iron cookware pieces are coated with enamel, which makes it aesthetically pleasing and provides a non-stick surface, as well as protection from rust and corrosion, hence it being dishwasher safe.
Note that the enamel is liable to chip, though, and it also makes the cookware heavier.
On the other hand, uncoated cast iron requires more maintenance via seasoning—rubbing it with more than one coat of oil—to keep it from rusting and being sticky.
This version also can’t be used in dishwashers or left in damp environments.
Compared to other materials, copper is the best heat conductor—it heats up and cools down the fastest.
Copper cookware is suitable for you if you’re looking to exercise maximum control over your food’s heating, but they can be pricier than other materials.
Since copper can react with acids in food, it can ruin their flavor and cause health risks, e.g., copper toxicity.
This is why copper cookware is lined with non-reactive metals, such as stainless steel.
However, a copper cookware set can dent easily and can’t be used in dishwashers.
Copper, additionally, is liable to form a patina, which isn’t a good thing since it can’t be removed without using a specific type of cleaner.
Aluminum is a lightweight and cheap material for cookware while also being a very good heat conductor, although not as good as copper.
But, like copper, aluminum can react with the food and leach into it.
This can not only worsen the flavor but also be dangerous.
For this purpose, aluminum is hard-anodized—the surface hardens with the oxide layer formation on top.
Further non-stick coatings are added to make it easy to clean, which also removes the need to use oil when cooking.
You can find the best hard anodized cookware here.
A new choice of material when it comes to cookware, ceramic is gaining fame as a replacement for PTFE (also known as Teflon) for the best nonstick cookware.
The reason for this is that Teflon, while a relatively stable and safe compound, can break down if used in high-temperature cooking, which releases chemicals into the air and food.
You can check out the best ceramic cookware here.
Yes, non-stick pans are safe as long as they aren’t used for cooking above 570 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since cooking on the stove won’t exceed this range, you’re safe to use a PFOA or Teflon set.
While many focus on a non-stick set for ease of cooking, other materials still have non-stick properties, so don’t constrain yourself to a specific coating.
Ceramic cookware is different from the rest in that the best ceramic cookware sets are made of metal—usually stainless steel or aluminum—but the exterior layers are ceramic.
Thus, they’re an excellent alternative if you’re looking for a healthier and environmentally friendly option.
However, they can’t be used at high heat since the non-stick properties reduce.
They can also be difficult to clean if you’ve used oil to maintain their non-stick properties.
Due to their lack of magnetic properties, they can’t be used on induction stoves, either.
Carbon steel is another iron-carbon alloy, but with cooking, it’s mainly used by professional cooks due to its versatility and durability.
Carbon steel has good heat conductivity, but it’s lower than aluminum’s.
They’re still a good choice for cooking at high temperatures, though, and they retain heat well due to their higher density—so consider using them for styles such as stir-frying.
Also, like cast iron, it requires seasoning to avoid rusting.
Additionally, the best carbon steel pan can only be hand-washed with small amounts of water, soft brushes, and paper towels to avoid ruining their non-stick properties.
If you’re still confused on which pan is the right one, watch this video.
Summary: There are so many options for cookware materials, but stainless steel is the safest to use and copper offers the best heat conduction.
The cookware set that’s best for health ideally doesn’t have a Teflon coating and doesn’t need fat or oil.
For pan types, woks and sauté pans are ideal here.
Also, while stainless steel cookware can be frustrating to cook with, it’s one of the safest cooking materials.
The cookware sets you need in a set depend entirely on the types of meals you’ll be preparing and how many people in your household.
If you aren’t concerned about learning particular cooking techniques, then you don’t need a large set of pots and pans.
However, consider at least having these pieces of cookware for your set:
For us, the top cookware set to buy is the Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad 12-piece cookware set, which consists of:
It features polished surfaces that don’t react with food and cool-grip handles secured with rivets.
The aluminum core makes for great heat conductivity, so there’ll be no hot spots.
Moreover, the rims are tapered to allow for pouring without any dripping.
It’s also one of the best pans for gas stoves and a great inclusion to your induction cookware set options, but you can safely use this set inside ovens, too.
For cleaning, all of the set’s pieces are dishwasher safe, making it even more hassle-free.
No matter your choices for a saucepan set, these tools make for a great addition to your kitchen.
Best cookware sets are just the tip of the iceberg; check out our full comprehensive guide to all kitchen essentials.
Need a cleaning brush?
Consider this 5-pieced colored silicone brush set by Jagurds, which is great for non-stick cookware.
This cooking toolset works well on non-stick surfaces: a 14-piece set of silicone tools by MIBOTE.
Don’t forget a pair of gloves, such as these silicone cooking gloves by AYL, which will keep your hands clean and safe from the heat.
Need new recipes for trying out your new pots and pans?
This Salmon with Honey Ginger Garlic Glaze is perfect for testing out your grill pans capabilities.
Your cast-iron skillet is the perfect pan for these Skillet Chicken Fajitas, which will please the whole family.
Finally, your nonstick skillet is the perfect pan to cook some healthy Asian Chicken Fried Rice, which is one of our favorite recipes.
Many find that buying individual cookware items is better than buying an entire set.
The good thing about this is that you can cherry-pick from the different materials and pan styles to get the best of all worlds, thus forming your own best cookware set.
Whatever you do, don’t rush into your buying decision.
Think about the types of foods you cook at the moment and wish to try in the future.
You can then align this to your family size and decide on the best set for you.
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