In order to prepare your favorite dishes the right way, you need to start with the right tools. Just as the quality of your ingredients matters in the kitchen, so too does the quality of the cookware you're preparing all of it in.
But with all the different options on the market, choosing the best cookware set is no easy task. So, we asked food experts to share what they love about their favorite cookware brands, and what factors everyone should consider before pressing the purchase button.
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- Best Overall: Carote Nonstick Granite Cookware ($119.99, Amazon)
- Best for Aesthetics: Food Network 10-piece Nonstick Ceramic Cookware Set ($127, Amazon)
- Best for Oven/Broiler: All-Clad Copper Core Cookware ($2,199.99, All-Clad)
- Best Stainless Steel: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel 11-Piece Cookware Set ($169.99, Amazon)
- Best Nontoxic: Caraway Ceramic Nonstick 7-Piece Cookware Set ($395, Caraway)
- Best Heavy-Duty Stoneware: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron 8-Piece Cookware Set ($769.95, Amazon)
- Best Titanium: The Hestan NanoBond 3-Quart Titanium Sauce Pot ($279.95, Amazon)
- Best Lightweight: NutriChef 14-Piece Nonstick Cookware ($78.90, Amazon)
- Best Reinforced Nonstick Coating: Gotham Steel Pots and Pans Set 12 Piece Cookware Set ($79.99, Amazon)
- Best Cast Iron: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Set ($84.90, Lodge)
- Best Ceramic: Noir Cast Aluminum 7-piece Cookware Set ($229.95, Zavor)
- Best Carbon Steel: Made-In Cookware Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan ($129, Made-In)
How We Chose
We asked professional chefs and restauranteurs about the cookware they like to use when working in their own kitchens, and they gave us plenty of input.
We selected the products on this list based on expert recommendations and factors like:
- Ease to use
- Ease to clean
- Safety and eco-friendliness
1. Best Cookware Set Overall: Carote Nonstick Granite Cookware
Gocha Hawkins, owner and head chef of Atlanta-based Gocha's Breakfast Bar, describes Carote Nonstick Granite Cookware as her favorite cookware for everyday cooking. "You can use these over and over, with no issues," she says. "It is extremely easy to clean — you can simply use a paper towel and water to clean them off."
This cookware heats up quickly and works well on any cooktop. It's also sturdy and durable, so Hawkins says even if you are "a little rough with your cookware," you won't have any problems.
- Comes in an array of sizes
- Cooks evenly
- Handles may get hot — make sure your hands are protected!
2. Best for Aesthetics: Food Network 10-piece Nonstick Ceramic Cookware Set
For anyone who likes to cook in style, this is the cookware set to choose. "First, they are simply gorgeous, and they come in a variety of colors, such as red, silver, bronze and navy," says Erica Barrett of Birmingham-based SOCU Southern Kitchen & Oyster Bar.
This set is extremely easy to clean, and Barrett says you don't need to worry about the handles getting hot. "The handles are extremely solid and the lids fit perfectly," she adds.
- Easy to clean
- Attractive and stylish
- Nonstick finish tends to chip (not a great pick for an everyday set)
3. Best for the Oven: All-Clad Copper Core Cookware
This cookware is a great pick for anyone who needs durability and practicality, according to Chef Omar Loney of Kokomo Caribbean Experience in Brooklyn, New York.
He praises it for heating up quickly, amazing heat distribution, maximum temperature control, and a handle that's always safe to the touch. Good heat distribution is one of the major benefits of cooking with copper, according to Loney.
With all this, expect to make a big investment. "This cookware can be pricey," Loney says.
- Oven and broiler safe
- Dishwasher safe
- Easy to store
4. Best Stainless Steel: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Cookware Set
If you like to cook multiple dishes at once, then Chef Bryant Williams, better known as Chef Baul, who has served as personal chef to numerous celebrities, recommends the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Steel 11-piece Cookware set. He calls it a "must-have."
"I love how the lids lock everything in," he says. "This is important when locking in moisture, flavor and nutrients, which is extremely important to me when cooking for myself, my family and my customers. This set also comes equipped with side grips and helper handles for balance."
- Safe to use with metal tools (no need to limit yourself to wood or silicone utensils)
- No discoloration
- Handles can get hot
5. Best Non-Toxic: Caraway Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set
One of the reasons Ebony Austin, owner of Atlanta-based Nouveau Bar & Grill, recommends Caraway's Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set is for health and safety.
"Even if you overheat this cookware set, you never have to worry about harmful fumes or chemicals," Austin says. She notes the nonstick coating is "excellent" and safe for popping in the oven.
The set also has its own accessories for organized storage. "This cookware set comes with a magnetic pan rack for storing pots and pans and a canvas lid holder that attaches to the inside of a cabinet door," Austin says, calling this feature "extremely convenient."
She's also a fan of the aesthetic. "This cookware set comes in some fun, unconventional colors such as sage, gray, marigold, navy, cream and terracotta," she says. To maintain the nonstick coating, she recommends using wood, silicone or nylon utensils.
- Free of chemicals, Teflon, PTFE, PFOA and heavy metals
- Heavier than other cookware, difficult to handle when cleaning
6. Best Heavy Duty: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Set
"This cookware set is definitely pricey, but well worth the money," says Lemont Bradley, owner of Atlanta-based Clutch Restaurant. "The quality is impeccable and they are extremely versatile, easy to use and durable — all great qualities that you should look for when purchasing a cookware set."
Bradley appreciates the fact that this set has enamel that doesn't crack, so it holds up for everyday use. Additionally, the cast iron skinny grill is perfect for grilling chicken, pork or steaks.
- Stoneware prevents scorching
- Slightly heavier than the typical cookware set
7. Best Titanium: The Hestan NanoBond 3-Quart Titanium Sauce Pot
Sometimes you need cookware that's more modern—and the Hestan NanoBond fits that need.
"There's a place for old school and there's a place for new school," says Jamie Simpson, executive chef liaison for the Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef's Garden in Milan, Ohio. "This is new school. The NanoBond pots and pans by Hestan are in a league of their own."
Simpson calls NanoBond "the reason this pan company exists," and emphasizes the titanium make because its surface is four times harder than stainless steel and can handle temps up to 1000 F. "There's no pan like it," he says. "You can't scratch it, you can't dent it and you can't break it. Move over, copper."
- Upright handles for open flame or gas cooking.
- Heavy fluted offset lid for condensation and evaporation control.
- Flush rivets for easy cleaning
- Induction compatible
- Heavy body for long-term temperature control.
- Worry-free scrubbing. (I clean this pan with sandpaper)
- Heavy fitted lid (it doesn’t bubble around or rattle like most)
- Well-rounded corners for easy cleaning.
- High-density nonstick surface
- With lids inverted, these pots easily are stackable
- Dishwasher Safe
- Difficult to clean in spots
- Lid rim is dentable (could create an uneven seal)
8. Best Lightweight: NutriChef Nonstick Cookware Set
If you hate having to move heavy cookware around your kitchen, you're in luck—the NutriChef 14-piece Nonstick Cookware is lightweight but powerful enough for the cooking you need to get done.
"They are incredibly light, but you don't have to worry about burning your food," says Keon Davis, CEO of Atlanta-based Smooth n Groove. "The lightness of the pan has no correlation to how your food cooks, which is very important. The steam ducts are also a great add!"
The set even comes with scratch-free nylon silicone utensils.
- Reasonably priced
- Cool-touch ergonomic and heat-resistant handles
- Each piece in the set uses a different lid, which are difficult to replace if lost
9. Best Nonstick: Gotham Steel Cookware Set
There's a simple reason Larry White, owner of Arizona-based restaurants Lo Lo's Chicken & Waffles, Brunch & Sip and Monroe's Hot Chicken, recommends the Gotham Steel Pots and Pans set — the nonstick cooking surface is coated three times and also reinforced with ceramic and titanium.
"The cookware has added diamonds to the surface so the pan doesn't scratch. It also distributes heat evenly and quickly," White says.
The one piece of advice White does offer about this set is that they cool down very quickly, so they are easiest to clean minutes after they are done being used. "Using a sponge and warm water is all you need to clean thoroughly," he says.
- Not as expensive as similar sets
- Extremely durable
- Nonstick coating can last years
- Handles may be uncomfortable (they are sharp-edged) and can get hot
10. Best Cast Iron: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Set
Cooking with cast iron is a little more work, but it's worth the extra effort.
"Cast iron cookware can last a lifetime if you take care of it properly," says Julia Cedenblad, head chef at the healthy eating app Lifesum. "They might need some extra love and care, but that time pays off. This set specifically includes all of the essential pieces and they're pre-seasoned with 100 percent natural vegetable oil."
Another thing Cedenblad loves about this set is it's relatively lightweight for cast iron, and its easy-to-grip handles make them very easy to maneuver. But as with any cast iron cookware you would use, she says, "Be sure to dry and oil immediately after washing."
- Will last a lifetime
- Can handle high heat
- Nontoxic and eco-friendly
- Increases iron content of food cooked in it
- Not dishwasher safe (can be tough to clean)
- Must be dried and oiled immediately after washing
- Require some fat when cooking — be mindful of the amount of oil you use
11. Best Ceramic: Noir Cast Aluminum Cookware Set
This cookware set is made with a ceramic interior and high-quality aluminum casting, making it very durable and useable on all cooking surfaces.
Each piece in the set comes with either long handles or silicone grips that can be swapped out in different colors to up-level the aesthetic appeal. (And if you want to remove the handles and grips completely, each piece can safely be used in the oven).
The lids are made from tempered glass, which makes it easy to keep an eye on your food as it cooks.
- Oven safe up to 500 degrees (remove handles and grips first)
- Able to use for induction cooking
- High heat can damage the inner ceramic coating
- Cannot use cooking spray with these
12. Best Carbon Steel: Made-In Cookware Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan
This carbon steel frying pan has the same high-heat capabilities of cast iron, but at a much lighter weight for easy maneuvering in the kitchen.
Like cast iron, carbon steel should be seasoned for the best cooking results, and the Made In Cookware Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan comes pre-seasoned (though an unseasoned version is available, too). Get it in either the 12-inch or 10-inch version.
- Able to withstand temps up to 1200 F in the oven
- Able to cook with induction heat
- Comes with a lifetime guarantee
- Not dishwasher safe
Things to Consider Before Buying
This is hardly an all-inclusive list of cookware sets on the market. Whether you choose one on our list or not, here's what you help you determine which is the absolute best cookware set to meet your needs.
All experts agree that you should take the manufacturer's instructions seriously. These instructions will tell you how you can properly use, clean and store your cookware to help it last. Don't buy cookware with the expectation that you can disregard these guidelines and still get good results.
"Read the directions because they thoroughly explain how to cook and take of the cookware set," Hawkins says. "With these directions, even a novice can use them efficiently."
Care and Longevity
Most cookware will last for a long time—as long as you take care of it properly. Even durable cookware like the cast iron set recommended by Julia Cedenblad will degrade if it is neglected. (Make sure you know how to season cast iron with oil if you're buying this type of cookware.)
For other cookware materials, you might be able to get away with using the dishwasher, though washing by hand could still be a better option, as this may prevent the coating from getting scratched, cracked or chipped.
You should always consider the price of the cookware set against how many years it is likely to last you with proper care, as opting for the cheaper set may cost you more in the long run.
For example, a $500 set of cookware that lasts for a lifetime is a better deal than a $100 set of cookware that only lasts for a few years if you can afford to spend a little more upfront.
What You're Using It For
Not every cookware set is going to be the right fit for every purpose, which is why many chefs keep multiple types of cookware in their homes.
If you know there are certain cooking techniques you favor, look for cookware that matches your needs. For example, cooking methods that require higher temperatures, such as broiling or baking, may mean you need to look for cookware specifically designed for that. If you need a set that's quick and easy to clean, opt for a high-quality nonstick cookware set.