Most people would like to be able to cook like a gourmet chef, and we’re here to tell you, You Can! To accomplish this though you’ll need the proper tools to make it happen. This is where finding the best cookware set comes into play. You’ll find a variety of options available out there so we wanted to simplify the process for you and have created a guide to help you choose the set that’s right for you.
After normal wear and tear it’s suggested to replace your pots and pans after 8 years of moderate use, however, that’s not always true. Sometimes you might just be looking to replace a cheaper set that you purchased when times were tight and sometimes that same set might wear out much quicker than a quality set of cookware. Even a kitchen remodel or makeover can call for a shiny new set of pots and pans to put on display or to hang like a centerpiece above your new island. Whatever the reason we’re here to help you make the best choice for your needs and for your kitchen.
Whether you’re trying to impress company or cooking for yourself, having your set of desired cookware may inspire you to cook a meal fit for kings. To get you started we’ve put together a guide which includes some of the top brands.
Our Informative Guide to Cookware Sets
What is a Cookware Set?
Before we talk about cookware sets, we should probably start with what cookware itself is. Cookware is best described as vessels that are used to cook food, typically on a stove/cook top or on the range top of an oven. These vessels are almost as old as the first known humans themselves, well, they are known to be at least as old as the stone age (which is pretty old). To be more precise, archeologists have found pottery that is more than likely to have been used to cook food and it’s dated around 19,2000 to 20,000 BP (Before Present). The pottery was found in a cave in China and is the first known cooking vessels developed in history.
Fast forward a couple of hundred millennia and nowadays you can find pots and pans neatly packaged in a set of matching cookware. Not only is it neatly packaged and matching but you can find them in far better materials than they had during the stone age like stainless steel, cast iron, and ceramic. These materials have revolutionized cooking as we know it. So, before you go about cooking your meals as a chore, remember, we didn’t always have it this good. We’ve come a long way from roasting our food in coals and over a fire on a stick.
How to find the best cookware set for you!
Shopping for cookware can be a tedious and frustrating activity when you’re not sure what to look for. Sometimes you might not even be sure what you’re looking at. Each set has various pots, pans, lids, and even steamers and boilers that to the untrained eye might look like something you’d never use. Don’t worry, we’re here to make shopping for your cookware a fun experience and we won’t leave you without the information you need to make your decision. After all, when you’re done here you’ll know what to look for in a cookware set and you’ll know whether you have a use for the pieces included in it.
- Type and Number of Pieces
One of the first things to look for in a set of cookware is the type of pots, pans, and other pieces it comes with. The reason you’d look at this first is because you’d hate to buy a whole set of pieces that are great for large portions of soup and pans for frying when you need pots for sauce and pans for casseroles. There’s a variety of pieces that can come in a set and we’ll try to cover them all here.
Pots – Stockpot, Saucepan, Casserole Pot, Dutch Oven, Saucier, Double Boiler, Butter Warmer, Rondeaux, and inserts like the steamer insert.
Pans – Frying Pan, Saute Pan, Chef’s Pan, Braiser, Stir Fry Pan, Grill Pan, and Roasting Pans
Chef’s Catalog has a great table with pictures and descriptions of each Pot and Pan and their uses that can be found here!
Another thing you’ll want to consider are the number of pieces included in the set. The number of pieces in a set is very important because the manufacturer considers each piece that’s not attached to a pot or pan as a piece. What this means is that each lid, insert, pot, pan and even manuals or recipes that come with the set are counted in the piece count listed by the manufacturer or brand. Keep in mind that most cookware sets come with a lid or two that can fit on most of the cookware in that set. So just because a set is listed with 10 pieces it doesn’t mean you’re getting 10 actual pots and pans to cook with.
- Materials and Function
Cookware comes in all different types of materials that are good for different uses and have various qualities. For instance, Stainless Steel cookware is great for browning meats and cooking the outside of foods to make it crispy on the outside and tender on the inside but it may not heat evenly. While cast iron cookware takes longer to heat but once hot it will spread the heat out for evenly cooked food on all surfaces. Most of the stainless steel pots and pans you’ll find today are made in a clad fashion.
Clad is the combining of metals such as stainless steel on the outside and copper on the inside to allow even heating. This also makes this type of cookware more expensive. Nonstick cookware, while it’s cheap, makes it much easier to clean than the other types of material but it also scratches easier and may not last as long. You can also find other materials used in cookware such as copper, aluminum, carbon steel, Ceramic, Glass, Glass-Ceramic and Stone. Overall keep the material you’d like in mind when you’re looking for cookware because a full nonstick set may not last as long as a stainless steel or cast iron set will.
You can find sets that have various types of materials in them or you can even pick up a few nonstick pieces to compliment your stainless steel set.
- Features and Benefits
Each set comes with various features and benefits that should be considered when you’re purchasing a set of cookware. One of the first things to consider is how the cookware will look and feel while you’re using it. Looks are not as important as the feel of the set itself. You may have the nicest looking cookware on the block but it may also be the most awkward to actually cook with. Handles are another thing to keep in mind as you’ll want to make sure the handles feel comfortable and are made to withstand high temperatures in the event you want to use your pan on the stove top and finish it off in the oven.
Also make sure you have at least one lid that fits on each piece in your set so you’re not left with pots and pans that have no lids. Glass lids are great because you can see what’s happening on the inside while also keeping in the heat and moisture that makes your food cook and taste great. Also consider storage space for your new cookware set. There’s nothing worse than buying a beautiful set only to find out you don’t have the room to keep it in your kitchen making it a nuisance instead of a virtue.
- Cooktop and Brands
Keep your cooktop in mind while you choose the set you like because there are now different types of cookware that is meant to be used on specific types of cooktops. One of the main examples is induction cookware which is made with an iron rich material and is meant for use on induction cooktops. Induction is a process that allows a pot or pan to heat evenly all over and thoroughly cook your food. Also consider what you’ll be using the set for such as making sauces, browning and cooking meats, or steaming and boiling rice or vegetables. Most cookware sets designate and display this on their packaging or in the products description.
Another thing we briefly mentioned is whether you’ll be putting the pan in the oven while you cook. If you do plan on cooking in this fashion make sure the brand or set you choose is oven safe, from the handles to the surface of the cookware itself.
When it comes to brands you will come across A LOT. Just because a set is a brand name or not doesn’t necessarily make it better or worse than the next set. Just make sure you’re taking what we’ve gone over already into account and you’ll be good to go. Don’t buy a set of cookware just because a celebrity chef endorses it. While their sets and pieces may be great for the 30 minuets they use them on TV it doesn’t mean they’ll stand the test of time. On the other hand it also doesn’t mean it’s a piece of junk just because it’s endorsed by a celebrity. We just urge you to use your judgment when you choose a set and don’t buy it for its celebrity brand name alone.
A Cookware Set Vs. Individual Pots and Pans
Now that we know what to look for in a set of cookware, you might be wondering about individual pieces of cookware. We’ll say it now, We are not out to tell you that just because you don’t own a set you’re not doing it right. Plenty of great sets are created by purchasing individual pots and pans a la carte. Some of the benefits of getting each piece individually is that you don’t have to worry about getting a set that has pieces you won’t ever use. You can also make sure you have the space for each piece you buy instead of getting a set you don’t have the room for.
The Cons of getting each piece individually can be price. Buying each piece separately will, without a doubt, be more expensive than purchasing a set. Obviously we’re talking about high quality kinds of sets and pots and pans here. You can get cheap sets just like you can get cheap pots and pans, but the best ones generally aren’t ones that you’d get for $30 at your local supermarket. Also most sets now come with all of the essentials so you don’t have to worry about not using the pieces in it. Last but not least, a set is a matching, good looking set of cookware that will look great if you display in on a wall or hanging on a rack and always keep in mind that you can buy individual pieces anytime to compliment the set you choose.
Top 5 Cookware Set Reviews
We wanted to give you the best of the best when it comes to sets of cookware that will look, cook, and feel like they are made to last. So what you’ll find here are the sets that have been rated the highest by their users as the best cookware set they own. While any of these sets are great choices, we’ve included the ones that outperform the rest and will continue to impress you for years to come.
All-Clad 10 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
All-Clad Metals is a company based out of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania USA that creates high quality metals, and more importantly, cookware. The All-Clad brand is one of the top rated sets of cookware around and they are built to last a lifetime. While this set might be a little more expensive than most, it comes with a lifetime warranty, so apart from the occasional addition to the set it may be the last one you ever need to buy.
This set includes 10 stainless steel pieces that are made with a brushed finish, that way you won’t notice a few scratches or dings after a lot of use (and they can take the abuse). It contains 2 frying pans at 8 and 10 inches, 2 sauce pans at 1.5 and 3 quarts both with lids, a saute pan at 3 quarts with a lid, and a stock pot at 8 quarts with a lid. So not only are you getting a set that’s going to last you’re getting one that’s great for any type of cooking, and looks great in use and on display.
It’s made with a D5 ply stainless steel clad, meaning there are five layers that provide even heating throughout the pan or pot. The first (cooking surface), third (core layer), and fifth layer (Magnetic bottom layer for induction cooking) are all made with stainless steel. The second and fourth layers are aluminum and provide even heating throughout the cooking surface of the pot or pan you’re using. It’s hard to go wrong with such technology in a set of cookware.
Cuisinart 12 Piece Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel Cookware Set
The Cuisinart Multiclad Pro is one of the most affordable, high quality sets on the market today. It looks amazing with a brushed finish and polished steel interiors and cooks better than it looks. It’s another set that’s made in a Multiclad fashion meaning it has a 3 layers of metal making up each piece. Two stainless steel layers on the outsides and one copper core layer that provides even heating and cooking on all sides of the cookware itself.
This set comes with 12 pieces and remember that includes lids. You’ll find two fry pans that are 8 and 10 inches, two Sauce pans at 1-1/2 and 3 quarts with lids, a 3-1/2 quart saute pan with a lid, an 8 quart stockpot with a lid, and a steamer insert that includes a lid. Each lid can be used on various pans making a lid that fits each pot and pan included in the set.
Also the handles on each piece are riveted on and will maintain their coolness while they’re evenly heated on all sides on your cooktop. Each piece is also oven safe but should still be gripped with a mit or towel when they’re removed from the broiler. If you’re looking for a great set at a great price look no further.
Anolon Advanced 11 Piece Nonstick Cookware Set
When it comes to a good set of nonstick pots and pans, it will be difficult to find a better set than this one. Most Nonstick sets just don’t last after years of use and under normal wear and tear and will peel and warp. That’s just not the case with this set by Anolon and its quality can be seen by all of the positive reviews on Amazon.com. This isn’t the only thing that makes them such a great value but it does speak volumes seeing as most nonstick sets receive bad reviews.
You find 11 Pieces including the lids in this set and just the right combinations. Included here are two saucepans at 1-1/2 and 3 quarts with lids for each, one 8-1/2 inch French skillet, one 8 quart stockpot with a lid, and two saute pans, one deep at 12 inches and one at 3 quarts both with lids.
This set is oven safe up to temperatures of 400 degrees and each lid is glass to seal in moisture and nutrients while still allowing you to see what’s cooking inside each pot or pan. The handles are also designed to be gripped comfortably and not to slip. You won’t be disappointed with this nonstick set.
Another great set of cookware is brought to you by Rachel Ray. While we previously recommended you not buy celebrity endorsed cookware for the celebrity’s name, it only seemed right to also mention there are good celebrity sets out there and available. This just happens to be one of many that seem to perform well in the nonstick arena.
Included in this set you’ll find 14 great pieces that can be used to cook various meals. There are four sauce pots at 1, 2, 3, and 4 quarts with lids, two fry pans at 8-1/2 and 10 inches, a 3 quart saute pan with a lid, and a 6 quart stock pot with a lid. While it’s not the largest set you’ll find out there it’s great for any kitchen and still looks great to display or to fit conveniently in your cabinets or cupboard. It also comes with glass lids and handles that reduce heat transfer. Nonstick is the way to go when it comes to a quick and easy cleaning.
Simply Calphalon 8 Piece Nonstick Cookware Set
Last, but certainly not least, is the Calphalon 8 Piece Set. It’s hard to think about cookware and not (at least once) come across Calphalon as one of the sets that cross your mind. While it may not be the best when it comes to hard use all day everyday, it’s certainly a top choice for daily home cooking. As one of the smaller sets it has everything a kitchen needs to cook a complete meal.
This set includes two fry pans that are 8 and 10 inches, 2 sauce pans at 1 and 2 quarts with lids, and a stockpot at 6 quarts with its lid. Again you have glass lids that lock in taste and nutrients but still allow you to see everything that’s cooking on the inside without lifting them. The nonstick surface is great for easy cleaning after cooking a big meal but should NOT be cleaned with steel wool like any nonstick set of cookware. What makes this set great is that is small and ready to go when you are, but doesn’t leave you without the necessities any good kitchen should have.