When choosing what type of cookware is right for you, you'll first have to decide between traditional stainless steel, nonstick cookware, or ceramic cookware. There's lots to love on all sides, but we will say that stainless is best for high-heat searing and even heating.
To find the best stainless steel cookware sets, the Just Cooking Tools Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab evaluated 35 stainless steel cookware lines. We checked how well skillets distributed heat on gas and electric ranges, plus their ability to evenly brown steaks and how well the exterior surfaces resisted staining. We also tested the ability of each set's saucepan to maintain a steady simmer and cook tomato sauce without scorching. We scored each set for overall ease of use, considering the usefulness of the owner’s manual, whether the cookware and its lid are oven-safe and dishwasher-safe, and whether the handles and lid become too hot during use.
Based on our extensive testing and our expert input, these are the best stainless steel cookware sets:
- Best Overall Stainless Steel Cookware Set: Hestan NanoBond Stainless Steel 5-Piece Cookware Set
- Best Value Stainless Steel Cookware Set: Goldilocks Stainless Steel 7-Piece Cookware Set
- Most Stylish Stainless Steel Cookware Set: Great Jones 5-Piece Family Set
- Best Stainless Steel Cookware Set for Beginners: Anolon Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set
- Best High-End Stainless Steel Cookware Set: All-Clad D5 Brushed Stainless Steel 5-Ply 10-Piece Cookware Set
- Best Stainless Steel Cookware Set for Chefs: Made-In Cookware's Starter Stainless Steel 3-Piece Cookware Kit
- Easiest-to-Clean Stainless Steel Cookware Set: Le Creuset Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set
- Most Versatile Stainless Steel Cookware Set: Sardel Full Set
What are the pros and cons of stainless steel cookware?
- The pros: Stainless steel can handle screaming-hot temperatures and conducts heats evenly for foolproof cooking. Most stainless steel cookware has a core or interior made from aluminum for even heating. Stainless steel cookware also lacks a nonstick coating, which some people prefer.
- The cons: Cleaning. Contrary to the name, stainless steel pans are prone to staining since food sticks to the surface more than other materials. We recommend stocking up on a great stainless steel cleaner such as Bar Keepers Friend if you want to keep them looking as gorgeous as they are out of the box.
These pots and pans excelled in our tests. They're made of ultra-strong titanium bonded to stainless steel, which makes them super durable; plus, they're oven and broiler-safe up to 500ºF so you can use them for practically anything. Steak seared beautifully and evenly, while water came to a boil quickly and sauce maintained a steady simmer that washed right off.
After testing and using the frying pan consistently, we can confidently say that barely anything sticks to these pans (even though they're not nonstick!) and they're the easiest stainless steel pans to clean. Stubborn bits just required a soak versus a ton of elbow grease like others we tested. Their silver color deepens over time but can look like new again with their special cleaner.
- Highly durable
- Extremely easy to clean
Goldilocks products are sold direct-to-consumer, so by eliminating the outside retailer they can sell top-quality cookware at a fraction of the price of many other pots and pans on the market. Their tri-ply (one layer of aluminum inside two layers of stainless steel) pieces heat super evenly, and the skillet was able to sear a steak evenly from edge to edge. This set includes all the essentials for a first-time cook or small kitchen. To step it up, check out their Essentials Bundle — you get 22 pieces for less than $300 (!).
- Excelled in searing tests
- Tri-ply design
- Basic set may not include enough variety for some people
This set is both stylish and functional. It includes a small ceramic coated skillet, a fry pan with tall walls that can also be used for braising, a wide saucepan, a large stockpot and an oval-shaped dutch oven, which comes in an assortment of bold, yet muted, colors. Thoughtful design elements like a measurement markings inside the saucepan and a pour spout help this set stand out.
In our tests, the fry pan was able to sear steak well, and water came to a boil quickly in the saucepan. The handles were also comfortable to hold, though unique in its design, and they stayed cool during cooking. This set is perfect for new cooks looking to do it all – the price is hard to beat!
- Versatile set
- Pour spout for easy emptying
- Measurement markings inside pot
- Can be hard to clean when used with high temps
Made from three layers of stainless steel and aluminum, these pots and pans heat quickly and evenly. They have thick handles that are easy to grasp and maneuver the pans with. The lid handles are tall and wide, which also make them easy to grasp, with or without mitts. The variety of pieces in this set make for a nice assortment for at a friendly price point. The smaller stockpot especially stands out for being a good size to make soups or sauces, or boil pasta for one.
- Sturdy and comfortable to use
- Includes a good assortment of pots and pans
- Because they heat quickly, use a lower temperature when starting off to avoid possible burning
Made-In's solid pots and pans are five-ply, meaning they're made with five layers of stainless steel and aluminum, so they heat evenly and are super durable. They're oven safe up to 650ºF and can be use on induction cooktops, too. This smaller set comes with three cookware essentials: A 10-inch skillet, 2-quart saucepan, and 5-quart stock pot with lids. It also includes a carbon steel skillet, which is a lighter version of a cast iron skillet that heats quickly and reaches roaring temperatures.
- Includes 3 basic pots and pans
- 5-layer construction is durable and conducts heats well
- Carbon steel requires more maintenance
All-Clad's D5 line features five alternating layers of stainless steel (for top-notch durability) and aluminum (for even heating). They're top-quality with strong, angled handles that stay cool and tight-fitting lids. Their 18/10 stainless steel interior helps with sticking and the exterior is brushed, which helps eliminate fingerprints. All-Clad's pots and pans have excelled in previous Kitchen Lab tests, with saucepans that boiled water quickest and frypans that offer quick, even heating.
- Top-of-the-line design
- Includes five layers of steel and aluminum
With Le Creuset's Stainless Steel cookware, you can crank up the heat and brown a batch of sirloin steaks to perfection. The beautiful pieces have ridged lids to match the company's iconic cast-iron pots and pans, as well as round knobs and thick handles for easy handling. The set is also stick- and stain-resistant and infused with titanium so it will keep its good looks for years to come. For a set with two nonstick pans, consider the 12-piece set, which includes an 8-inch and 12-inch nonstick skillet. (The 10-inch performed the best in our nonstick skillet test!)
- Sturdy design
- Comfortable to hold and move around
- Only includes one 10" frying pan
When three brothers team up with a third generation family business in Italy to make cookware, you trust that the product is going to be good – and the Sardel line does not disappoint. The pots and pans are 5-ply, meaning they are made up of five layers of metal created to heat quickly, evenly, and provide durability. The handles are hollow, which helps keep them cool, and comfortable to hold. In our tests, the nonstick pan worked well: We were able to use a minimal amount of oil to fry eggs with no sticking.
- Includes a variety of different sized fry pans and one nonstick
- On back-order until July 10, 2021