If you poke your head into any commercial kitchen or are lucky enough to get invited to eat at a chef’s house, you’re likely to notice something. Odds are, they all have stainless steel cookware. Sure, there will be the obligatory cast iron skillet and occasional dutch oven, but the bulk of meal preparation will involve simple pots and pans made from good old stainless steel. This metal has become a mainstay by conveying heat from the stove to food efficiently and evenly, being easy to clean, taking bumps and scrapes on the chin, and proving itself to be food-safe. When you’re ready to upgrade your kitchen, stainless steel cookware is one of the first purchases you should make.
Cooking like a pro is more accessible than you think, and trust us — your taste buds will appreciate it.
Kitchenaid Brushed Stainless Steel Cookware Set
This cookware set from Kitchenaid is a one-stop-shop that can bring your cooking game to the next level. We recommend the ten-piece set, but you have the option to buy a few of the pieces individually. The bases of these pots and pans use double-thickness stainless steel and an outer layer of aluminum. The aluminum heats up quickly to reduce wait time, and the extra steel disperses heat evenly to avoid hot spots. Pots include etched measurements, glass lids, and strainers to take some of the work out of cooking. The grill pan features non-stick coating and raised grill ribs. All pieces are dishwasher safe for effortless cleanup. When you’re comparing stainless steel cookware options, this is a great place to start. [Buy]
Calphalon Premier Stainless Steel Cookware Set
This set from Calphalon offers the brand’s renown build quality at a competitive price by including eight pieces instead of ten. A frying pan set makes upgrading your cookware even more affordable. If you have money to burn, check out their 13-piece set. These pots and pans are built using three layers of heavy-duty stainless steel. The resulting heft allows them to absorb heat from your stove and and release it evenly for more consistent cooking. All components are oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. One problem with all-metal construction can crop up when handles get too hot to touch, but this cookware uses long handles that are specially designed to stay cool. All-stainless steel construction makes this option tough to beat. [Buy]
Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel Cookware Set
This Cuisinart cookware set will have you looking and feeling like a head chef, even if you’re just tweaking your mac-and-cheese blend. The brand built its name on premium build quality, and this set upholds that tradition. These pots and pans have a polished finish to prevent discoloration and protect food from tasting like metal or the last thing you cooked. Triple-ply stainless steel increases rigidity and spreads heat evenly. The lids create a tight seal to cook efficiently, prevent your food from drying out, and hold in all those delicious flavors. All pieces can be placed in the oven at up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit and are dishwasher safe. Handles are riveted in place for long-term durability and stay cool so you don’t need to find an oven mit every time you want to move your hot cookware. Choose from sets of seven, ten, 12, or 13 pieces. The 13-piece set includes a frying pan with non-stick coating. [Buy]
Farberware Millennium Stainless Steel Cookware Set
If you’re searching for quality stainless steel cookware at a reasonable price, this Farberware set could be just what you need. At the lowest price on this list, it provides tremendous value. You’ll still get ten pieces of stainless steel cookware backed by a lifetime warranty. The set includes pots, pans, and glass lids so you can keep an eye on your progress without letting heat escape. Bases use a thick aluminum core to heat quickly and evenly. Handles are riveted in place and stay cool while you cook. Everything in this set is oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. You won’t get pouring spouts or built-in strainers; but, at this price, we think that’s a fair tradeoff. [Buy]
Camco Stainless Steel Cookware Set
If your culinary heroics aren’t constrained to the kitchen, check out this stainless steel cookware set from Camco. It offers the same kind of durability, efficiency, and easy cleanup as other stainless options, but in a package that’s portable enough to bring to your campsite. Detachable handles let the entire set stack inside the largest pot for easy transportation. You’ll get one lid that works with the largest two pieces, and another that’s shaped to accommodate the other three sizes. All are oven- and dishwasher-safe, which will come in handy after days on end of washing dishes at a campground. Choose between sets of seven or ten. Both are probably more than you’d want to carry in a backpack, but they’re perfect for longer stays in a camper, overland vehicle, or remote cabin. [Buy]
Why should you trust us
Popular types of stainless steel cookware
In addition to the benefits of stainless steel, some cookware incorporates additional features to stand out from the crowd. Which is best for you will depend on your cooking (and cleaning) preferences.
Purely stainless steel
Stainless steel is so well-suited for cooking that you don’t have to complicate the formula to get great cookware. It’s conductive, consistent, easy to clean, and tougher than nails. High-end cookware is built to be hefty for better heat distribution.
Without any other materials, all-stainless steel cookware is as durable as it gets. Use metal spoons and spatulas. Scrub away without worrying about scratches. Throw it in the dishwasher. This style of cookware makes cooking a delight and cleanup a breeze.
You can find this type of stainless steel cookware at a range of prices, and there are even options designed for outdoor use.
As good as stainless steel is, some cooks prefer other metals that distribute heat from the stove to the rest of the pot or pan quickly, so you can get cooking in less time. Some stainless steel cookware is designed with an aluminum or copper base to get the best of both worlds. These more conductive metals are only present on the bottom.
While aluminum and copper are superior heat conductors, they are also softer. That means they scratch easily, so you’ll need to be more careful with them. Copper is also very susceptible to discoloration, so you’ll need to scour it frequently to keep it looking its best. Over time, you can actually wear all the way through.
Weigh the advantages and disadvantages to pick what’s best for you.
Stainless steel is easy to clean, but non-stick coatings are just about effortless. Some stainless steel pots and pans incorporate these slick coatings so you can spend more time enjoying your meal and less time side-eying the cheese that’s hardening to your cookware. If you tend to cook dishes that are hard to clean up, a non-stick coating could be for you.
Remember that these coatings are not as durable as stainless steel. They do lose efficacy over time and can be easily scratched. To get the most out of a non-stick coated surface, avoid using metal spoons and spatulas. Wash carefully with a soft sponge. Even though these surfaces are somewhat delicate, they can last years if taken care of properly.
What to consider when buying stainless steel cookware
Is lighter better? Not in the kitchen. The flimsy, inexpensive pots and pans at the bottom of the price spectrum don’t do a very good job of distributing heat. They have hot spots that burn your food, cool spots that never seem to work, and they’ll probably warp before too long.
When comparing stainless steel cookware sets, we looked for options with thick steel that conducts heat efficiently and evenly. Stainless steel is very durable, but we made sure to check common weak points like where the handle meets the pot or pan to make sure only high-quality sets made our list.
Stainless steel cookware naturally comes at a premium, but we think it’s important to include options for different budgets. Whether you need a starter set for your first home, something to use at the campsite, or an heirloom for your inner chef, there’s something here for you.
Do you need a stainless steel cookware?
Stainless steel cookware is incredibly popular in kitchens around the world, and for good reason. It’s incredibly durable, easy to clean, and does a fantastic job of efficiently conveying heat from your stove to your food. Unlike other metals, stainless steel doesn’t add a metallic flavor to everything you cook and is easy to clean between meals. It’s heavy, strong, and rust-resistant. Maintenance is a piece of cake; food doesn’t stick to stainless steel easily and there’s no need for intensive upkeep like the seasoning required by cast iron. You also don’t have to baby it like those Teflon pans that can’t be allowed to scratch. There’s a reason commercial kitchens are full of stainless steel cookware, appliances, and surfaces.
Stainless steel costs more than what you’ll find in the bargain section of your grocery store, but a good stainless steel cookware set can last a lifetime thanks to these attributes:
- Excellent heat conduction
- Consistent heat distribution
- Easy to clean
- No metallic flavor
Pricing ranges for stainless steel cookware
For less than $200, budget-friendly stainless steel cookware will get you a nice upgrade over lesser cookware, it just won’t be as heavy or refined as higher-end options. Most name-brand stainless steel cookware sets fall into the Between $200 and $300 price range, for which you can expect excellent build quality and longevity. For more than $300, premium stainless steel cookware is often heavier for improved heat distribution and will incorporate top-notch build quality and attention to detail.
How we chose our top picks
We considered how well cookware conducts heat, how safe it is, and how long it lasts. What’s Cooking America has a great breakdown on how to select consumer cookware if you want to learn more.
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