- 10 Best Stainless-Steel Cookware Sets
- Best Stainless-Steel Cookware Sets
- What to Look for in a Stainless-Steel Cookware Set
- Pieces You Need
- Every Kitchen Should Have These Three Pieces
- Choose Your Shape
- Glass or Stainless Lids?
- Core and Ply: What do They Mean?
- Value vs. Price
- How We Evaluated
- Misen Complete Cookware Set
- Cuisinart 77-17N Chef’s Classic Set
- All-Clad Brushed Stainless Cookware Set
- KitchenAid 3-Ply Base Stainless Steel Cookware Set
- Mueller Pots and Pans Set
- Cuisinart 7-Piece Cookware Set
- Hybrid Stainless Steel Cookware Set
- Berlinger Haus 27-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
- Precious Metals Cookware Set
- The Copper Set
- Update Your Kitchen With A Stainless Steel Cookware Set. Expert Chef Lizzy Briskin Gives Some Guidance.
10 Best Stainless-Steel Cookware Sets
While there are several popular cookware materials, from ceramic-coated nonstick to heavy-duty cast iron, stainless steel is a tried-and-true favorite. These gleaming pots and pans are built to last for generations. They’re easy to clean (many are dishwasher-safe), and they resist dings, scratches, and dents.
Cooks love stainless-steel pots and pans because the surface heats evenly and maintains that heat well—no more burning your food on an unexpected hot spot. A high-quality, stainless-steel pot can also go from the stovetop into the oven and can be used with induction stoves, which generate heat through electrical induction that requires a magnetic connection. Keep in mind that certain materials, like copper, aluminum, and glass, will not work on an induction cooktop unless they have a stainless-steel core. So, if you’re on the stainless-steel-cookware train and are looking for a complete set—or just a few pieces—to upgrade your kitchen, here’s what you need to know before you buy.
Best Stainless-Steel Cookware Sets
The Expert: As a trained chef, recipe developer, and food writer, I appreciate the advantages various cookware materials offer for specific tasks. For example, cast-iron is great for searing, and nonstick can make great eggs, but for most everyday tasks, my go-to is always stainless steel—for its reliability, durability, and how easy it is to clean. I purchased a set of stainless steel cookware to set up a new kitchen after moving, and it’s all I need for everything from in-the-oven braises to stovetop sauces to oatmeal.
What to Look for in a Stainless-Steel Cookware Set
Pieces You Need
Before you go all-in and invest in a complete set of stainless-steel cookware, take inventory of what you already own. If you’re very particular about the size, shape, and other features of your cookware, or you need a few pieces to supplement your existing collection, you can buy individual pieces or even a smaller, less expensive set. But if you’re starting over, stocking a new kitchen, or finally ready to treat yourself to all things matching, you may want to invest in a complete set that meets all of your culinary needs. Stainless-steel cookware sets range in size from a few pots and pans with lids to a fully equipped 27-piece set that includes utensils.
Consider These For Your Kitchen: Best Nonstick Cookware Sets • Best Carving Knives • Best Cast-Iron Skillets
Cookware collections vary not only in how many pieces they include but also in the size and type of each piece included. Take a close look at the pan sizes that come in a set. If you already have a great Dutch oven or go-to wok, you may want a set that includes only stock pots and saucepans. If you’re looking for a set of skillets that’s easy to store and can be used to make quick stir-fries and scrambled eggs, there are sets for that, too.
Every Kitchen Should Have These Three Pieces
The three key stainless-steel cookware pieces every cook should have are: a great go-to skillet, a stockpot, and a medium-sized saucepan. The skillet is great for stir-fries, searing meat, and frying eggs. As a bonus, opt for an oven-safe skillet. You’ll need the stockpot for soups, pasta, and blanching veggies. And the saucepan comes in handy for smaller tasks like stove-top oatmeal, sauces, hard-boiling eggs, and other everyday tasks.
Choose Your Shape
The shape of your cookware comes down to personal preference. Higher-sided pots and pans can help prevent splashes and spills, but they tend to have a narrower opening for stirring. Flared sides make it easier to pour liquids from your pots and pans. For safer cooking, look for a set with flat rather than rounded bottoms, which helps conduct heat more evenly.
Glass or Stainless Lids?
Most cookware sets have lids, but not all lids are the same. You’ll find sets with stainless steel lids and others with see-through glass lids. Some cooks prefer the better heat retention provided by stainless. But the benefit of a glass lid is that you can see what’s going on inside your pot while you cook.
The most useful lid may be on the Dutch oven or rondeau. These pots are suited for the oven and are the best for braising meat. If the pot lid doesn’t fit tightly, you risk losing your braising liquid to evaporation in the oven. So if you’re going to get one pot with a matching lid, let it be your oven-safe braising dish. A tight-fitting lid will sit inside the lip of the pot, not on top. When you jiggle the handle, the lid shouldn’t move around much. There should also be no vents or holes on the sides or on the top to let out steam.
Core and Ply: What do They Mean?
Core, as it relates to cookware, refers to a pot’s innermost material. For example, some stainless steel cookware has a copper core, which is great at conducting heat but not induction-compatible—it’s also more expensive than stainless. By layering the copper with stainless steel, you get the best of both: a pot that retains heat well and works on every kind of stovetop and that won’t break the bank.
Ply refers to the number of layers of metal in a pot or pan. Most cookware comes in 3- or 5-ply with layers of stainless steel, copper, and aluminum. Pots that are 5-ply tend to be thicker, heavier, and more durable. They also heat more slowly, which can be a good thing because you’re less likely to burn food if you turn the heat on too high with a cold pot. Thicker stainless steel also retains heat longer. Three-ply cookware tends to be lighter and less expensive. Many cooks prefer 3-ply pots and pans because they heat more efficiently and cool down faster for safe cleanup.
In addition, some cookware is finished with a nonstick coating. Stainless steel on its own is not nonstick, so many manufacturers will add a layer of ceramic coating; that way food does not adhere to your cookware. It’s safe to assume that a cookware set is not nonstick unless it’s advertised as such.
Value vs. Price
Cookware sets come in a range of prices, and a larger set isn’t always necessarily more expensive. The other factors that affect the price of a set include the materials (a 5-ply pot with a copper core is likely to cost more than a 3-ply pot with an aluminum core), design features, and functionality, such as being oven- or dishwasher-safe. In addition, some brand names also come with a price tag.
How We Evaluated
As a professional chef, I value cookware that’s not only built to last but also has well-thought-out features, such as tight-fitting lids, stay-cool handles, and no-mess pouring spouts. I am also aware that not everyone needs professional-quality cookware, so while I don’t recommend low-quality, cheaply made products, I do take price into consideration to make sure you’re getting the best value for your budget–every kitchen should have at least a large stockpot, several saucepans, and skillets in various sizes. My recommendations are based on my experience using stainless-steel cookware as well as online reviews to make sure the pots and pans hold up well to regular use.
Misen Complete Cookware Set
This 11-piece set of all-stainless cookware from direct-to-consumer brand Misen has everything you need to outfit your kitchen, including an 8-quart stockpot, a 3-quart sauté pan, and a 6-quart rondeau—ideal for braising. To make a fall-apart tender piece of braised beef or short ribs, for example, I always opt for a wide pot with a tight-fitting lid that’s not too deep, so it can fit in the oven. The lid is essential so all of your delicious braising liquid doesn’t evaporate over the two to three-hour cook. The pots are made from 5-ply (that’s five layers) composite steel that heats evenly and retains heat very well for uniform, reliable cooking.
Cuisinart 77-17N Chef’s Classic Set
For serious home cooks, this 17-piece set is a one-and-done buy. It includes four lidded saucepans in various sizes, a sauté pan, a dutch oven, a stockpot, two skillets, and a steamer basket that fits inside the 2- and 3-quart saucepans. All of the pans are oven-safe up to 500°F and can be used under the broiler. The glass lids are oven-safe up to 350°F.
All-Clad Brushed Stainless Cookware Set
All-Clad is known for making some of the highest-end cooking utensils, and this beautiful, 10-piece set does not disappoint. Each pot has a subtle brushed finish for a timeless look. What you get: a stockpot, two frying pans, two lidded saucepans, and a 3-quart sauté pan. If you’re in love with this look but not ready to drop $800 on the 10-piece set, All-Clad offers a basic 5-piece set for $500.
KitchenAid 3-Ply Base Stainless Steel Cookware Set
These pots and pans from KitchenAid have a different shape than those of most competitors, with higher sides and a smaller diameter, which can help reduce splatters and spills. The saucepans have convenient pour spouts, and the lids have vents on the sides for straining or letting out steam. The set includes a 3.75-quart steamer insert that fits into the 6-quart stockpot, which has convenient volume markers on the inside for easier measuring.
Mueller Pots and Pans Set
This is a high-value set of cookware with two frying pans, three saucepans, an 8-quart stockpot, and a steaming insert. The pots come with tight-fitting tempered-glass lids that allow you to see what’s happening inside as things cook.
Cuisinart 7-Piece Cookware Set
For an established kitchen, where you’re not starting from scratch, this 7-piece set from Cuisinart is a great buy. It includes a 10-inch skillet (no lid), lidded 1.5- and a 3-quart saucepans, and an 8-quart stockpot. The pots have an aluminum core for even heating, but the stainless-steel finish means they’re still safe for induction-stove use.
Hybrid Stainless Steel Cookware Set
This set of three skillets with lids combines the even heat distribution of stainless steel with the easy-to-clean nature of a nonstick finish. The set is oven-safe up to 500°F and includes 12-inch, 10-inch, and 8-inch skillets, as well as lids that fit each pan. The set is on the pricier side, but it’s also endorsed (and used) by restauranteur and chef Gordon Ramsey, so you know it’s high quality.
Berlinger Haus 27-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
This full set of cookware and utensils is a budget-friendly way to stock a new kitchen. In addition to six lidded stockpots, the set includes six handy utensils (spatulas, spoons, and pasta grabbers), a hanging rack, stainless-steel magnetic spice jars, two trivets, and a mesh strainer. Three rows of satin lines on each pot add a stylish touch.
Precious Metals Cookware Set
You’ll want to display these pretty pots and pans on your stovetop at all times. They have a retro look with slightly rounded sides that also help to contain splatters. The set includes two long-handled frying pans, a deep stock pot, and a medium saucepan. The two lids included fit on both the frying pans and the pots. Plus, this set is dishwasher-friendly and oven-safe up to 500°F. The pots are made from fully clad stainless steel, which ensures quick, even heating on any kind of stovetop, including induction.
The Copper Set
This beautiful set of a skillet, saute pan and sauce pot from Material has a five-ply copper core for very even heating, and a non-toxic, PFOA- and fume-free non-stick coating that allows you to cook with less fat. While you’ll want to avoid metal utensils, which can scratch the surface, Material says that their non-stick is proven to last up to 37 times longer than ceramic surfaces. And the saucepan has a handy measuring tool on the inside, so you don’t need to measure liquids in a separate measuring cup. This set is oven-safe up to 500°F and induction-compatible.
Update Your Kitchen With A Stainless Steel Cookware Set. Expert Chef Lizzy Briskin Gives Some Guidance.
PM: Can you share a tip when using stainless steel cookware?
EB: You’ll always need a drizzle of cooking fat for sauteing and searing. Otherwise, your food will stick to the pan. That is, unless you purchase a nonstick-coated stainless steel pan.
PM: Is stainless-steel cookware oven-safe?
EB: Yes, most stainless steel cookware is safe to use in the oven. Each product has a recommended high heat threshold, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidance before cooking in the oven with your new pots and pans.
PM: Is stainless-steel cookware induction-compatible?
EB: As long as your stainless steel pot or pan has a magnetic core it will be induction-compatible. Aluminum and copper will not work with an induction stove.