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Sure you certainly could limit your cookware to the odd assortment of garage sale finds and hand-me-down pots and pans you’ve been using since college, but why would you when you can purchase a well-equipped cookware set online these days for less than you think? You can find high-quality 10 to 15-piece stainless steel, nonstick, or anodized sets to keep your kitchen fully equipped for years to come, and finally toss those yard sale pickups for good.
What is Included in a Cookware Set?
If you’re working with a fixed price point, the first thing you need to calculate is the right quality to quantity ratio, and whether a higher quality material is worth sacrificing one or two tools in a set. Whatever you decide, a full cookware set should always include an eight-inch skillet, a ten-inch skillet, two sauce pans, a three-quart sauté pan, and a stock pot with around a six-quart capacity (plus lid). The final consideration to keep in mind is the material you prefer. Here’s how to find the best cookware set material for you.
Stainless Steel: Classic stainless steel is something like the gold standard when it comes to cookware. Stainless steel pots and pans are stain and scratch-resistant, and generally more durable and long-lasting than other materials. They are also highly heat reactive, meaning they heat up and respond to temperature changes quickly and precisely. Another major benefit to stainless steel is that the material does not interact with food, meaning there’s no chance of the pan messing with your flavors. However, they can be a little more difficult to work with than nonstick varieties.
Nonstick: Ceramic sets or sets made with a nonstick coating are popular with beginner cooks because of their ease-of-use. The nonstick surfaces often require little to no oil, and are ideal for cooking things like eggs, which slide right off the surface. On the downside, nonstick pans are usually of slightly lesser quality and a little less durable.
Anodized Aluminum: Technically another nonstick variety, anodized aluminum pots and pans have been electrochemically hardened to be twice as hard as stainless steel, and coated with an oxidized layer that is nonstick and scratch resistant.
Copper: Boss-level cookware is often made of copper, as it is the best and most reactive heat conductor of all materials. At the same time, copper cookware is finicky to maintain, heavy, and usually much more expensive than other sets, making it best only for the most avid home chefs.
1. Cuisinart 10-Piece Tri-Ply Stainless Steel
Cuisinart’s stainless steel cookware makes for a perfect foundational set that you can continue to add to over the years. Not only does stainless steel tend to last longer than other materials, but the high standard of quality offered by a trusted brand like Cuisinart is reliable and effective. Users praise the pans’ superior heat retention, as well as how evenly heat is dispersed across the surface. We also appreciate the tapered rim design, which makes pouring much easier.
2. Calphalon Simply Pots and Pans Set
If nonstick is a nonstarter for you, we’d recommend the Calphalon set, which is made from hard-anodized aluminum to resist corrosion and warping, as well as a durable two-layer nonstick interior. We like that the pans heat evenly without hot spots and how easy the nonstick layer makes for cleaning up. Though simple, these pots and and pans are well-designed, with silicone handles that stay cool to the touch on the stove, and snug-fitting lids that effectively trap steam and moisture.
3. Gotham Steel Hard Anodized Pots and Pans
Another nonstick option, we like the Gotham set for more than just their bright color (which, incidentally, makes monitoring cooking slightly easier). According to the manufacturer, this set’s superior quality is due to the nonstick cooking surface reinforced with Gotham steel titanium and ceramic. One standout feature people really seem to love is that these pots and pans were clearly designed for easy stackability and storage.
4. T-Fal Ultimate Stainless Steel Copper Set
Though not made entirely of copper, the pots and pans in this set have a heavy base that features layers of copper, stainless steel, and aluminum to help facilitate even heat dispersal. And unlike standard copper cookware, this set also features an anodized aluminum nonstick surface, so they are still easy to use.