A Buyer’s Guide to the
Best Cookware Sets
When it comes to enhancing the quality of your culinary creations, investing in a top-notch set of pots and pans can be a game-changer. Not only does this investment in the best cookware set help simplify the cooking process, it is proven to be more cost-effective than buying each piece separately.
Finding the perfect cookware set for your kitchen, however, requires careful consideration of a variety of factors. From the material of the set – which can range from copper, aluminum, cast iron, or stainless steel – to the specific pieces you need, the options can seem overwhelming. Each material has its unique advantages, and the price of the set will vary accordingly.
It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what you want from your cookware set before heading to the store. Keep in mind that there is no universal cookware set that fits all kitchens, so having a well-defined list of must-haves can narrow down your choices. And why not? A well-made cookware set, if taken care of properly, can last for many years
In other words, with the right set, you’ll enjoy the rewards of delicious meals and a seamless kitchen experience.
And that’s why we’ve put together this buyer’s guide together – to help you find the best cookware that fits your needs – and your budget.
About this Guide
In this guide, we’ll go over the key features to consider when purchasing a cookware set including selecting the right type of material, picking the right pieces, and, of course, price.
In addition, we’ll answer some common questions about the best cookware sets out there. “What’s the best material?” and “Which brand is the best?” are questions we often get. We’ll also provide tips on how to make the most of your cookware.
Hopefully, by the end of this buying guide, you’ll be equipped to make an informed decision and ready to take your culinary skills to the next level. So settle in, and let’s get started on finding the best cookware set for you!
Did You Know?
Nonstick coatings are most useful in a frying pan for use with eggs and meats.
WHICH METAL IS BEST?
A cookware set is an investment that will greatly influence the quality of your cooking, so it’s essential to choose the right material. The most common materials used in cookware sets are copper, aluminum, cast iron, and stainless steel, each with their own pros and cons.
Let’s take a look at each.
Copper is an excellent heat conductor and in cookware it provides quick, even heating across it’s cooking surface. It’s also quite sensitive and responsive to changes in the flame temperature. It also cools quickly when removed from heat. It’s no wonder, then, that this makes copper cookware sets the preferred material for many chefs – both professional and amateur.
Copper looks good, too. Many people love the look of a beautifully shiny copper pan in their kitchen, but it comes at a cost. Heat will discolor the copper and mean it needs frequent polishing. Copper is also a soft metal and is prone to scratching. Hand washing is recommended.
Copper cookware sets are also quite pricey. They tend to fall in the higher price range of cookware sets, Finally, copper has a tendency to react with acidic foods.
In many ways, aluminum cookware sets are very similar to copper. Like copper, aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat. And, like copper, it’s also soft. Dents and scratches are pretty common. Aluminum also has a tendency to react with acidic foods. Did we say it is kind of like copper?
But manufacturers of aluminum cookware work to overcome these problems by anodizing the cookware surfaces. This is an electrical process that creates a scratch-resistant surface over the aluminum base. Anodized aluminum also resists leaching.
On top of the anodized surface, aluminum cookware usually has a nonstick coating. Cleanup is a breeze. And some pieces may even have aluminum cores for even heat distribution.
Anodized aluminum pots and pans are easy to manufacture and can be found everywhere, often at bargain basement prices. But – buyer beware – quality generally matches price.
Cast iron is an incredibly popular material for cookware. Many chefs swear by their cast iron skillets and pots and won’t cook with anything else – ever! And although cast iron is a poor conductor of heat (meaning it takes a while to heat up to the correct cooking temperature), it stays hot for a long time. Extremely durable, withstands extremely high heat, and is relatively inexpensive.
As we said – very popular.
However, cast iron is very heavy. It tends to rust and pit, and, like copper and aluminum, it reacts with acidic foods. Periodically seasoning (applying a thin coating of oil) to cast iron helps minimize these problems, but this material requires much more attention than other materials. That said, the best cast iron cookware sets will last forever.
Perhaps the best cookware sets are made of thick stainless steel. Stainless steel has many advantages over other materials and is the cookware of choice in many restaurant kitchens.
And why not? Stainless steel cookware is resistant to scratching, denting, and discoloration. It’s dishwasher safe. And it does not react with foods like copper or aluminum!
And it looks good!
Stainless steel, however, it is a poor conductor of heat. To overcome this, most sets have a core of copper or aluminum to help spread heat more evenly , though aluminum only has 60% of copper’s conductive power. High-quality sets have a core extending over the entire pan. Low-quality sets, on the other hand, typically just have an aluminum or copper bottom.
In terms of price, the best stainless steel cookware sets cost more than anodized aluminum and cast iron, but generally not as much as copper, which makes them a popular choice with chefs of all types.
Did You Know?
Over time, anodized aluminum can get a chalky appearance if washed in a dishwasher with powdered soap. Use liquid soap instead, or better yet, wash it by hand.
WHICH PIECES DO YOU NEED?
One of the advantages of purchasing an entire cookware set is that you get all the pieces you need. You could buy individual pieces and assemble your set over time, but tends to be more expensive and inconvenient.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a bigger set is always better, though. There is a wide variation in the type of pieces different manufacturer’s put in their sets, so take your time and find one that suits you best. Besides – do you really want to fill your cupboards with cookware you may never use?
First – what type of cook are you?
If you’ don’t cook frequently, a basic set containing just a few pieces would be fine. If you enjoy cooking, however, or want to try more challenging dishes, a larger set with a few specialty pieces might be what you need..
And remember, you can always supplement your cookware set with specific pieces if you need them.
Let’s take a look a breakdown of what you might need:
Basic Cookware Sets
A basic 1-piece cookware set that covers most cooking needs includes the following.
- 10-inch skillet: large enough to cook up breakfast or fry a few burgers
- 12-inch skillet: the perfect size for large-skillet meals or multiple pieces of meat
- 3-quart sauté pan with lid: useful for sautéing chicken and vegetables
- 2-quart saucepan with lid: a good size for heating up a can of soup
- 3-quart saucepan with lid: versatile for sides, soups, and sauces
- 4-quart saucepan with lid: for making sauces or heating vegetables
- 8-quart stockpot with lid: for cooking soups, stews, or pasta
Note: Lids are typically included in counting how many pieces are in a set.
These pieces are not essential , but can be useful if you are more than just casual cook.
- 6-quart Dutch oven: A Dutch oven is great for cooking tender, delicious chicken and roasts.
- Steamer insert with lid: This duo is suitable for preparing healthy steamed vegetables.
- 5-quart sauté pan with lid: For cooking large batches of chicken or meat with vegetables, a sauté pan is ideal.
- 8-inch skillet: This is a great frying pan for scrambling eggs or cooking a grilled cheese sandwich.
- Rimmed baking sheet: Use this pan for sheet pan meals, cookies, and other baking needs.
- Griddle: A bridle is suitable for making pancakes, burgers, bacon, waffles, vegetables, and more.
- Wok: Woks are ideal for stir frying, steaming, and even deep frying.
Did You Know?
Wide temperature differences cause meats to stick in a stainless steel pan. Bring meats to room temperature before cooking.
PRICES OF COOKWARE SETS
Cookware sets come in a wide range of prices. In general, the more you pay, the better the quality.
$100 – $300
Although there are cookware sets for $100 or less, their quality is suspect. Above about $130 you can find basic sets that may meet your needs.
$300 – $600
Mid-range sets are typically higher quality than lower priced items, but not always. Sometimes they just include more pieces.
The best cookware sets tend to fall in this price range. They are made of premium materials and coatings and feature exceptional craftsmanship – not to mention long warranties.
It’s worth noting that you can find cookware sets of any of the materials we discussed earlier in all price points, but the best cookware sets tend to be in the higher price bracket.
- Pay attention to the handles. Always look for handles that are riveted or welded to the cookware. Screws tend to loosen over time and may eventually fall off.
- Look for sets with ergonomic handles that stay cool on the stovetop. Silicone handles are easy to grip and don’t transfer heat. They are not oven-safe, however. If you do a lot of stovetop-to-oven cooking, metal handles are the way to go..
- Make sure the lids are of high quality. Cookware lids should fit securely. They should not rattle or leave gaps.
- Consider glass lids. Glass makes it easy to check your food without having to lift the lid and let the heat out.
- Cookware knobs should be heatproof and large enough to grasp easily. They should also be tightly attached to the lids.
Q.I don’t cook every day. How many pieces do I need in a cookware set?
A. Make sure you choose enough pieces for the amount of cooking you do, but also consider how your needs may change. Typically, a 10- or 12-piece cookware set with standard pots, pans, and a few lids is fine.
Q. What is considered the very best cookware set?
A. That’s subjective and depends on personal preferences, cooking needs, and budget. However, high-quality cookware sets made from materials like copper, stainless steel, and cast iron are often considered the best..
Q. What cookware do most chefs use?
A. Most professional chefs use high-quality cookware sets made from stainless steel or copper. These materials offer excellent heat conduction and durability.
Q. What is the best cookware that doesn’t stick?
A. The best cookware that doesn’t stick is usually non-stick cookware made from materials like ceramic or PTFE. High-quality non-stick cookware is designed to prevent food from sticking to the surface, making cooking and cleaning easier.
Q. The best longest lasting non-stick cookware is made from high-quality materials and is built to last. Some of the best options include non-stick cookware sets from well-known brands like GreenPan and All-Clad.
Q. What brand does Gordon Ramsay use for pans?
A. Gordon Ramsay is known to use pans from the Royal Doulton range of cookware.
Q. What pan does Gordon Ramsay use?
A. Gordon Ramsay is known to use a variety of pans, but he is often seen using skillets, sauté pans, and saucepans. The exact pan he uses may vary based on the type of cooking he is doing.
Q. Do manufacturers of cookware still use Teflon to make nonstick coatings?
A. Yes, but PFOA, the potentially toxic chemical that was once a key chemical in the manufacturing of Teflon, has not been used since 2013.
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