The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Best Cookware Sets of 2020

By Amber King ⋅ Review Editor
Monday September 21, 2020
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After researching over 20 options, we tested 9 of the best cookware sets available in 2020. Not only did we spend hours making sauces, dips, dishes, and bread in the kitchen, but we subjected each set to several extensive tests. We measured heat transfer, looked at durability, and noted which could sear, bake, and boil the best. Our expert testers spent over a week straight in the kitchen to get clear comparisons in performance for each set. This in-depth review is hands-on, unbiased, and honest, with our recommendations reflecting which options are better than others for performance and budget.

1

Best Overall Cookset


Tramontina Prima Set


Editors' Choice Award
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$710
List Price
See It

Material: 3-ply Stainless Steel with Aluminum Core | No. Of Pieces: 12
Exceptionally durable
Fantastic cooking performance
Even cooking
Ergonomic handles and lids
Oven safe to 550F
Cooking requires practice to avoid stickiness
Easily discolors and needs polishing
Pot handles can get hot
Expensive

The Tramontina is our favorite set, making the crispiest bacon, cooking evenly throughout, and providing exceptional heat management. This set is versatile and can easily go from the fridge to the stove and into the oven with ease. It comes with all the necessary pieces to keep your kitchen fully stocked and ready for any meal. We love the easy pour-over rims and the durable lids. What's more, the cooking performance is out of this world. We were able to sear meat with confidence, roast veggies evenly, and cook rice without sticking. The stainless steel construction works well with metal tools and ensures that cleanup is easy. Take a stainless steel scrubber to the surface to remove caked-on food, or simply run it through the dishwasher. This set is an investment, but it's worth the cost. If you're seeking a set that you won't have to replace, this stainless steel selection is our top choice.

While this is our favorite set, it's not perfect. First, the steel easily gets watermarks and can discolor. Special care is needed to maintain its shimmering stainless steel finish. We love the ergonomic skillet handles, but they do get hot when searing meat. Finally, it's not non-stick in nature, and butter or oil is required for cooking. While this type of cookware can be tricky to keep free of sticky food residue, you could be cooking gourmet in no time — provided you learn proper care and cooking techniques.

A look at all the gorgeous stainless steel pieces of the Tramontina set; our favorite cookware set tested.
A look at all the gorgeous stainless steel pieces of the Tramontina set; our favorite cookware set tested.

2

Best Non-Stick Cookware


Calphalon Premier Set


Editors' Choice Award
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$499.95
(23% off)
at Amazon
See It

Material: Non-stick with Aluminum Core | No. Of Pieces: 15
Stable and versatile stackable design
Even and flawless cooking performance
The non-stick coating is very durable and can be used with metal tools
Handles can get hot
Glass lids are fragile and hard to clean
Non-stick is made with PTFE, so temperature management is important

Not only does the Calphalon Premier feature the most durable non-stick coating we tested, but it's also the easiest to store. This set fit easily in our cupboards and didn't take much to maintain. Cooking performance is excellent with even heat distribution that makes sauteing and searing a breeze. If you love gourmet cooking without always having to use butter or oil, you need to consider this set. The non-stick finish is amazingly durable, which means it's ok to use with metal tools. Quick clean-ups without extra maintenance is what this set is all about. It can handle the oven up to 450F max and comes with high-quality construction and ergonomic handles and lids.

Even though this set boasts easy maintenance and storage, we worry about durability. The glass lids are excellent for cooking but could break if dropped. The lids stack easily, but the long handles get in the way, with a chance of being knocked off the burner. Finally, be aware that you may need to use pot holders when the heat gets cranked up.

This Cephalon non-stick is one of the most durable non-stick sets tested with excellent storage capabilities.
This Cephalon non-stick is one of the most durable non-stick sets tested with excellent storage capabilities.

3

Best Cast Iron Set


Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Set


Editors' Choice Award
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$141.99
(5% off)
at Amazon
See It

Material: Cast Iron | No. Of Pieces: 4 pieces
Durable
Excellent meat searing and cooking
Easily use with metal utensils
Clean up with abrasive sponges
Needs to be pre-seasoned before using
Requires maintenance
Material isn't non-stick—oil is needed in cooking
No pots or lids in the set

The Lodge Season is our favorite cast iron set because it offers excellent heat retention and cooking performance. It can sear a tuna steak like no other, fry up eggs and pancakes, and includes a dutch oven in the set, which we used for baking bread. When properly maintained and seasoned (and not overheated), cooking performance is unparalleled. If you're seeking a skillet, dutch oven, and tortilla maker that'll last you for decades, this cast iron set is a great choice.

Extra care, seasoning, skills, and maintenance are required to use cast iron sets in general, and some folks simply aren't interested in taking on these chores. The surface comes with a pebble finish, which will scrub off over time when metal tools are used. Be prepared to heat it slowly and use oil or butter for all cooking dishes; otherwise, you'll be dealing with stuck-on foods. Even though it's marketed as "pre-seasoned", we recommend seasoning it yourself to ensure its non-stick performance. Cleaning is straightforward, and doesn't require delicate care like non-stick pans, but you do need to dress it with oil after use. While maintenance does take a little extra time, you won't be disappointed with its cooking performance or longevity.

The Lodge 5-Piece cast iron set is simple and will last you for years. While it does require care  it is a durable set of cookware that you can expect to have for decades.
The Lodge 5-Piece cast iron set is simple and will last you for years. While it does require care, it is a durable set of cookware that you can expect to have for decades.

4

Great Value for Stainless Steel


Cuisinart MultiClad Pro


Best Buy Award
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$176.53
(12% off)
at Amazon
See It

Material: 3-Ply Stainless Steel with Aluminum Core | No. Of Pieces: 7
Great value and durability
Fantastic cooking performance
Drip-free pouring
Super easy clean-up
Oven-safe to 550F
Scratches easily, and some discoloration
Handles are not very ergonomic
Requires care and cooking skill

Not only is the Cuisinart MCP 7 Piece a top-quality cookware set, but it heats up quickly, which is unusual for stainless steel. Its stunning stainless steel exterior looks at home in any kitchen, and its 3-ply stainless steel exterior coupled with an aluminum core ensures even cooking on any stovetop. We cooked eggs (sunny-side up), made pancakes, roasted potatoes, and boiled rice without a fuss. The cooking performance was similar to our top-performing models, without the additional price. To clean up, try an abrasive scrubber or throw it in the dishwasher. If you're in the market for an excellent deal, this is one to consider.

Like any stainless steel cookware on the market, it requires cooking know-how to ensure that food doesn't stick. While stickiness wasn't a problem for us, we had to be diligent about preheating and used a temperature gun to ensure the skillet was ready to sear meats and make eggs. Once you get this technique down, food quality is excellent. Another important note, be sure to use oil or butter every time you cook with sticky foods. The handles don't feel particularly ergonomic, and the metal pan scratched when we used metal utensils or tried to clean it with steel wool. Fortunately, this doesn't compromise cooking performance; it is stainless steel, after all.

The Cuisinart Mulitclad is 3-ply stainless steel set with all the pieces you'll need for simple meals. It offers impeccable value.
The Cuisinart Mulitclad is 3-ply stainless steel set with all the pieces you'll need for simple meals. It offers impeccable value.

5

Great Value for Cast Iron


AmazonBasics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron


Best Buy Award
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$86
List Price
See It

Material: Cast Iron | No. Of Pieces: 5 pieces
Excellent searing, roasting, and baking capabilities
Great value and durability
Use in the kitchen or on a campfire
Easy to clean and use with metal utensils
Super slow to heat
Cooler handles than other cast iron sets (pot holders still needed)
Lower quality construction

The Amazon Basics Cast Iron is a high quality, low cost cast iron set that excels at searing meats and baking bread. It's a five-piece set complete with two skillets, one griddle, and one dutch oven. We were pleased with its searing, roasting, and baking capabilities, reminiscent of any cast iron set. Comparable to the Lodge in all of its advantages, this set can be found at a price just a smidge lower than most cast iron sets. We also appreciate the hanger on the dutch oven that makes it convenient to use in a campfire as well as the kitchen. Expect excellent cooking quality, easy storage, and durable construction.

This set offers excellent durability and functionality but seems a little worse in craftsmanship than the Lodge. The exterior finish is more pebbled, and its initial "pre-season" condition is far from non-stick. We made sure to pre-season the set ourselves, which helped, but it was still a little stickier than we'd hoped. Be ready to use lots of oil or butter at first, and after making five meals or so, the problem will be in the past. This set takes longer to heat and loses heat faster than other cast iron sets tested. While its overall performance is similar to other competitors, it doesn't perform at quite the same level.

The Amazon Basics set is durable and a little less expensive. It also comes with a dutch oven with a hanging wire that'll do well over a campfire.
The Amazon Basics set is durable and a little less expensive. It also comes with a dutch oven with a hanging wire that'll do well over a campfire.

6

Best for Stacking and Chemical Free


GreenPan Levels Hard-Anodized Stackable


Top Pick Award
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$249.93
at Amazon
See It

Material: Diamond-infused Ceramic Non-stick and Aluminum Core | No. Of Pieces: 11
Durable non-stick is free of PFOA or PTFE chemicals
Stackable design
Drainage built into lids
Easy to clean
Good cooking performance overall
Ceramic non-stick is a little sticky
Questionable non-stick durability

The GreenPan ceramic non-stick offers the best stackability and storage of any cookware set we tried. The finish is built with multiple layers of diamond-infused ceramic, which is supposed to make it quite durable. It stands out for its excellent cooking performance, features, and simple stackable design. The pans are balanced and sturdy, and the handles stay cool while you cook. We appreciate the pour-off features on the pots that make transferring soups or sauces quite easy. It's also simple to wipe clean, or you can put it into the dishwasher. The pans feel heavy and study, which lends a sense of good craftsmanship.

Although we didn't have any negative experiences with this set, several online reviews raise concerns about the durability. Some say the non-stick won't last a month, while others report a blackening of the pan material. While we didn't experience any major problems, we did notice that the non-stick is stickier than other contenders. During our egg test, the egg stuck and tore, which wasn't an issue we had with most other non-stick cookware. If you do purchase this set, be aware that it likely will not last as long as cast iron or stainless steel, which is true for any non-stick set.

The Greenpan set stacks nicely  with each piece nesting into one another. It'll fit nicely into any small space while offering excellent cooking performance.
The Greenpan set stacks nicely, with each piece nesting into one another. It'll fit nicely into any small space while offering excellent cooking performance.

7

Great Value for Non-Stick Set


Cuisinart GreenGourmet Hard-Anodized


Best Buy Award
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$249.00
at Amazon
See It

Materials: Ceramic Non-stick with Aluminum core | Total Pieces: 12
Complete set with mostly all you need
Super easy to use, clean, and maintain
Fast boiling time and excellent cooking performance
Easy to clean
Skillet is quite small
Many negative reviews regarding durability
Scratches easily and requires seasoning maintenance
Some uneven cooking

The Green Cuisinart is a complete high-value set that boils water quickly and makes a perfect pancake. It comes with all the necessary pieces you'd need for a complete kitchen set. The non-stick ceramic coating offers good performance with sticky meals, which makes for easy clean-up. It heats quickly and offers decent cooking performance, but not the best we've seen. It's quick to boil a pot of water, and the different pieces will have you cooking up all sorts of gourmet meals. The handles are stainless steel, so this set can also go right into the oven — up to 400F. Another plus is the construction and manufacturing of this product are claimed to be "green". We also appreciate the price. It's hard to find a ceramic set for this price point with this level of craftsmanship.

The biggest caveat we have with this set is the size of the skillet. There is only one, and it is only eight inches in diameter with a fairly shallow wall. This makes it hard to make a large stir-fry or cook for a big family. Another concern is the number of online reviews that state it loses its non-stick properties after just a few months of use. You can re-season it to replenish its non-stick properties, but this needs to be done twice a year to ensure longevity. The manual recommends you do not cook with extra virgin olive oil; if you do, it's unclear if this voids the warranty. We noticed that this set scratches easily, so make sure you're gentle with it.

The Cuisinart Green Gourmet set comes with all the pieces you'd ever need. It's of fantastic value and nests nicely in small spaces.
The Cuisinart Green Gourmet set comes with all the pieces you'd ever need. It's of fantastic value and nests nicely in small spaces.

8

Great for Easy Clean Ups


T-FAL Excellence Non-Stick


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$179.99
at Amazon
See It

Material: Non-stick and Titanium Core | No. Of Pieces: 17
A full set that comes fully loaded
Excellent cooking performance
Super even heating throughout
Best non-stick surface tested
Easy to clean and maintain
Questionable quality
Slow to heat
The non-stick coating shouldn't be heated above medium

With the T-Fal Titanium, you don't have to waste time soaking or scraping food because its impeccable non-stick finish is slippery and super easy to clean. We really enjoyed cooking with it because it offers even heat distribution and superior cooking qualities. After preparing over 20 different meals with it, we concluded that it has the slipperiest surface among the group, with no food sticking — ever. What's more, is that it's very easy to clean. Simply use a soft brush or sponge to wipe away any build-up. You can slide it right into the oven, but be sure you don't heat it over 350 degrees. The price point is exactly where you want it to be, and it offers an incredible value.

While we love this set, it's far from the most durable we've tested. The non-stick coating scratches easily, so you should avoid using metal utensils or abrasive scrubbers on the surface. It does heat evenly, but it took a long time to heat a pot of water. Since the coating isn't free from PTFE, be careful not to heat it over medium heat. This limits its performance significantly, even though it does a good job of searing a tuna steak.

9

A Nice Option for Beginner Cooks


GreenLife Soft Grip


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$85.99
at Amazon
See It

Materials: Non-stick Ceramic and Aluminum Core | No. Of Pieces: 16
Fully loaded with everything you need
Super inexpensive
No need for oil or butter in cooking
No toxic chemicals in its non-stick surface
Lacks durable and quality construction
The non-stick coating sticks without appropriate preheating
Requires careful use to not crack or ruin non-stick layer

TheGreenlife 16 piece is best for any beginner cook looking for a complete set of cookware tools to fill their kitchen. It offers the most pieces of any set tested, including serving utensils, soup pots, and deep-walled skillets. This set is easy to maneuver and monitor because the pots and pans are light, and the lids are see-through. It can withstand oven heat as well, at temperatures up to 350F. We also love that the handles are ergonomic and cool to the touch when cooking. Clean-up is simple—wipe it clean or carefully load it into the dishwasher.

The cooking performance is good, but not great, which is unavoidable due to its super thin design. We noticed hot spots, despite the aluminum cores. We also noticed that the non-stick actually does stick after cooking on it for a few minutes. This non-stick coating shows scratches and wear marks, even after cooking only with the provided utensils. The handles also loosened after just a few uses. Luckily you can tighten them with the exposed screw, but it certainly didn't inspire confidence in the quality of the fleet.

Why You Should Trust Us


The lead tester in this review is Amber King, a long-time cook, baker, and gear tester. Over the last seven years working for GearLab, she's reviewed hundreds of different products and over 20 different categories, including the popular Camping Cookware review. Amber has been cooking and baking for over 15 years and loves to spend her extra time concocting new recipes, baking bread, and making new things. As a self-trained cook, she's spent countless hours reading about cookware, stovetops, and cooking techniques. While cooking isn't her main profession, she brings a wealth of experience and the perspective of a self-made cook, which any reader can appreciate and trust.

To start our scientific testing, we began with extensive online research of currently available cook sets. After choosing nine sets to test, we bought them at retail prices and got to work. We spent over 40 hours in our kitchen, cooking up a storm throughout the course of a week. With all sets in hand, we took the time to meticulously compare each, noting performance differences while working through a carefully designed testing regime.

We controlled temperatures and delicately selected food to fairly compare the performance of each set. We scrambled eggs, flipped pancakes, seared tuna steaks, roasted veggies, boiled rice, cooked pasta, and made stir fry. Each set was cleaned by hand, put into the oven, used with metal utensils, and scrubbed with steel wool. All of this data was used to score each product and select our award winners. The result is one of the most scientific approaches to testing cookware you'll find, with unbiased recommendations from our testing team.


Analysis and Test Results


Whether you're an aspiring chef or brand new to cooking, we've got recommendations for you. We analyzed and tested a variety of mid-range priced kitchen cookware sets hands-on and side-by-side. After cooking for over 40 hours in the kitchen, we ranked each set based on six key metrics: cooking performance, ease of use, clean-up, storage, durability, and features.

A look at all the cookware sets we tested over a week. We spent over 24 hours in the kitchen putting each through strategic tests to see which perform the best  and which simply don't cut the mustard.
A look at all the cookware sets we tested over a week. We spent over 24 hours in the kitchen putting each through strategic tests to see which perform the best, and which simply don't cut the mustard.

Cooking Performance


To test cooking performance, we cooked! We also constructed several careful tests to see how each set compared. We specifically looked at cooking evenness, pan stickiness, rate of boiling, and searing ability. We also tasted the food to see, which offered the best quality (yum). The cast iron sets, including the AmazonBasics and Lodge, totally crushed the competition, offering some of the tastiest and crispiest food of all. Other top performing cook sets include the Tramontina and Cuisinart MCP.

The Tramontina has impeccable cooking performance.
The Tramontina has impeccable cooking performance.

Cooking Evenness


To test for cooking evenness of all cookware sets, we made pancakes and used an infrared temperature gun; the gun was used to identify temperature differences on the pan when on medium heat. We watched carefully to see how the pancake batter spread and bubbled, then examined the pattern of the cake to look for hot spots or unevenness. In general, non-stick sets with thicker layers and an aluminum core did almost as well as the stainless steel sets. The cast iron did the worst in this test.

The T-Fal Titanium non-stick did an excellent job cooking these pancakes. The bubbles appeared all at the same time  evenly throughout the cake. This temperature distribution was later validated with an infrared temperature gun.
The T-Fal Titanium non-stick did an excellent job cooking these pancakes. The bubbles appeared all at the same time, evenly throughout the cake. This temperature distribution was later validated with an infrared temperature gun.

Of all the sets, the T-Fal Titanium(+/-5F) proved to have the lowest amount of variation in its temperatures. This was followed by the Greenpan Stackable (+/- 10.8F), and the Cuisinart Stainless Steel (+/-10.9F). All cooked evenly, and when using butter or oil, heat distribution was even better. It's not surprising that cast iron is quite uneven, given that the casting process results in different levels of materials in different concentrations along the side of the pan. That said, when searing or cooking, these temperature differences weren't noticeable, even though the temperature gun showed variations up to 33 degrees Fahrenheit—the biggest of any of the pans tested.

We measured the temperature of each pan. In the center  top  left  right  and bottom locations for three different temperatures. This data was averaged and we determined standard deviation to see which had the best evenness.
We measured the temperature of each pan. In the center, top, left, right, and bottom locations for three different temperatures. This data was averaged and we determined standard deviation to see which had the best evenness.

Stickiness


To evaluate pan stickiness, we looked at the surface of each pan. We cooked eggs, pancakes, bacon, and seared meats to search for any type of sticking. We also cooked all at a medium temperature, pre-heated the pans appropriately, and used oil for both the cast iron and stainless steel sets (as recommended). We learned that the non-stick pans were the least sticky, but more importantly, ceramic non-stick is stickier than those constructed with Teflon-like materials.

It's important to note that without oil or butter and an appropriate pre-heat, any set could stick. We are confident in the comparative information supplied by our stickiness testing, but your experience could differ, depending on your cooking practices.

The T-Fal Titanium non-stock shows no sign of sticking and easily releases food.
The T-Fal Titanium non-stock shows no sign of sticking and easily releases food.

Of the non-stick cookware, the T-Fal Titanium is the least sticky, followed by the Calphalon Premier. Food slid right off the pan, making clean-up super easy. Both are made with traditional non-stick materials, with the Calphalon offering the best durability of the non-stick materials. Of the ceramic-based non-stick options, the Greenpan Stackable and Cuisinart Green Gourmet have nearly the same level of performance. While both are non-stick when completely clean, food clung a little to each pan, becoming stickier the longer we cooked. The same is true for the Greenlife 16 set, but after just a few meals, this set became noticeably more sticky than the others.

The results of all of our egg tests. Here we can see that all pans did fairly well in our tests.
The results of all of our egg tests. Here we can see that all pans did fairly well in our tests.

It's no secret that cast iron takes work to get to a state where food won't stick. It must be appropriately seasoned and cared for to ensure food doesn't stick or hold on. It's also important to use oil or butter when making foods like eggs or pancakes. Every time you use it, the more oil the cast iron absorbs, the more it will become "seasoned" and avoid sticking to food in the future. In our testing, we made sure to pre-season each set following these instructions, even though each set claimed that they came pre-seasoned.

Here we see the cast iron pans going through the seasoning process before use. We massaged it with oil then baked the pans for one hour.
Here we see the cast iron pans going through the seasoning process before use. We massaged it with oil then baked the pans for one hour.

Out of the box, each felt rough and pebbly, with the Lodge being the smoothest and the Amazon Basics Cast Iron being much rougher. When cooking, we didn't have any issues with stickiness following all these directions. We cooked at medium heat and preheated the pan. With a little oil, we were able to make an egg sunny-side up without a problem. While it does require priming and isn't as smooth as non-stick cookware, the cooking performance supersedes stainless steel and non-stick contenders.

All cast iron built today comes with a rough finish. This is a result of the casting process that takes place in a sand mold. Many years ago, sanding down the final layer was a part of the finishing process, but that step seems to have been eliminated. You can remove that rough layer yourself, or simply season your pan while using metal utensils.

Stainless steel is a tricky material that requires skill and knowledge to ensure that it won't stick. Most importantly, sticky food results from differences in temperatures. Properly preheating a pan will ensure that stainless steel doesn't stick. We didn't have an issue with either the Tramontina or the Cuisineart Stainless Set when following these directions. However, it's not nearly as non-stick as either cast iron or non-stick cookware.

The Tramontina Prima passes the egg test. This pan offers great heat regulation  evenness  and doesn't stick when you use a little butter or oil.
The Tramontina Prima passes the egg test. This pan offers great heat regulation, evenness, and doesn't stick when you use a little butter or oil.

Rate of Boiling


Boiling time is all about material conductivity and the structural integrity of the material. Materials, like aluminum, which are more conductive with a seamless construction from the base of the pot to the sides, will boil water faster than sets with less conductive materials (i.e., titanium) or with baseplates that have been welded on. Of all the sets tested, the non-stick ceramic set and stainless steel offer the best boiling times. We boiled water in the pots and pans of each set, standardized the data, and looked at the averages to determine success in this metric.

Here we put two cups of water into each pot and skillet to see how long it takes to boil. The Cuisinart Green Gourmet proved to be the fastest boiler.
Here we put two cups of water into each pot and skillet to see how long it takes to boil. The Cuisinart Green Gourmet proved to be the fastest boiler.

The Cuisinart Green Gourmet had the best rate of boiling (1:50), followed by the Greenpan Stackable (2:27), and the Greenlife (2:35). All have a delicate ceramic overcoat with an aluminum core that conducts heat well. The Calphalon Premier and Tramontina (both at 2:50) followed. The Calphalon Premier also has an aluminum core, but a thicker construction of non-stick materials, making it slower to heat than the other ceramic non-stick options. The Tramontina uses 3-ply stainless steel, which takes much longer to heat up but holds heat well. The T-Fal Titanium (3:05) is the slowest of the non-stick, which isn't surprising because titanium used in its core doesn't conduct heat nearly as well as aluminum.

Of these sets, most of the smaller pots boiled water under two minutes. Those with a welded on bottom, like the T-Fal, took a lot longer to heat the water as it comes only from the bottom and very little from the sides. The Cuisinart Green Gourmet has a full cast construction, which maintains its conductivity. Of the larger pots, it was able to boil two cups of water in 2:13. The Tramontina also has a full cast construction and boils water in 3:50; the non-cast construction of the Cuisinart Muliclad took 7:31!

In addition to our timed tests  we also cooked plenty of pasta  rice  and other delicious grains. We appreciate that this large pot  part of the Greenpan set  has lots of space for cooking spaghetti.
In addition to our timed tests, we also cooked plenty of pasta, rice, and other delicious grains. We appreciate that this large pot, part of the Greenpan set, has lots of space for cooking spaghetti.

Even though cast iron sets don't have pots, we performed the tests in the skillets. Here we learned that the Lodge skillet could boil water in 3:25 minutes, while the AmazonBasics took 9:10! This considerable difference supports the possibility that it's constructed with less heat conductive materials. We noticed a similar difference during our cooking performance tests.

Searing Ability


During this test, we put two tablespoons of oil in the skillet of each set and allowed it to preheat to 400 degrees (measured with an infrared temperature gun). We then put a chunk of seasoned tuna of the same thickness into each skillet. We allowed it to sit for 45 seconds on each side, monitoring the temperature, and then analyzed the final product.

The cast iron takes a while to heat  but holds heat well. It offers the best searing ability of any type of pot or pan material.
The cast iron takes a while to heat, but holds heat well. It offers the best searing ability of any type of pot or pan material.

The Lodge and Amazon Basics cast iron skillets are the best for searing. Even though these pans took longer to preheat, the outer was the crispiest and most delicious. This was followed by the Tramontina and the Cuisinart — both the stainless steel options. Of the traditional non-stick contenders, the T-Fal Titanium prevailed, with the Greenpan Stackable winning the ceramic non-stick category.

A look at the deliciousness we got to indulge in after cooking an abundance of tuna steaks.
A look at the deliciousness we got to indulge in after cooking an abundance of tuna steaks.

Ease of Use


When assessing ease of use, we noted key features and details about the functionality of each set. For example, does the lid fit tightly? Is the handle ergonomic? Do you need to use potholders when using each pan? We also considered which sets require cooking skills and which can be used out of the box with ease.

Hands down, cheaper non-stick sets like the T-Fal Titanium and the Greenlife are the easiest to use. Their non-stick constructions don't require much prior experience, and even the newest chef can quickly figure out how to keep food from sticking. They are also lightweight and come complete with all pieces, making them super easy to use in the kitchen. Neither, though, have pots that pour exceptionally well.

Lightweight sets with ergonomic handles are very easy to use. Here  we use the Cuisinart Green Gourmet that can easily be held up with one hand  even when fully loaded with sauce and meatballs.
Lightweight sets with ergonomic handles are very easy to use. Here, we use the Cuisinart Green Gourmet that can easily be held up with one hand, even when fully loaded with sauce and meatballs.

Of the higher quality non-stick sets, we prefer the Celaphon Premier and the Greenpan Stackable. The Greenpan Stackable features a lighter construction than the Calphalon Premier and comes with two lids with drainage holes, perfect for straining water without using a colander. It also features pour out runnels that add convenience.

The Calphalon Premier has bigger glass lids that are bulkier and harder to use, but each skillet has a compatible lid. Unfortunately, the handles on it get hot after cooking for over half an hour. It's no surprise that all the non-stick sets, which are easy to use out of the package, don't require special cooking skills.

The lids of the Calphalon Premier are unique and quite easy to use. Just make sure you have a potholder handy  as they can get hot!
The lids of the Calphalon Premier are unique and quite easy to use. Just make sure you have a potholder handy, as they can get hot!

The cast iron sets don't come with lids, get hot, and require the use of potholders. They are also quite heavy, which can be difficult for some. Cooking can also be a challenge if these sets aren't properly maintained or cooked with. Both sets are virtually the same, except the Lodge set comes with larger skillets. The Amazon Basics, however, has a dutch oven with a hanging wire, which the Lodge does not. If you plan on camping and taking your cast iron with you, the Amazon Basics is a better investment.

The pour spout on the Greenpan pots is awesome! Just make sure to use a cloth or pot holder when straining water as the lid can get quite hot. We appreciate the drainage holes in the lid that makes straining a breeze.
The pour spout on the Greenpan pots is awesome! Just make sure to use a cloth or pot holder when straining water as the lid can get quite hot. We appreciate the drainage holes in the lid that makes straining a breeze.

Of the stainless steel sets, we prefer the Tramontina over the Cuisinart Multiclad. Even though the pieces are heavier, the Tramontina has a more balanced and ergonomic design that doesn't slip when pouring or moving pots and pans around. The Cuisinart Stainless Steel has thinner handles that are much more difficult to hold, especially when loaded down with food. The Cuisinart handles also get much warmer than the Tramontina, so make sure you have potholders available.

The T-Fal set offers incredible value. It's lightweight  easy to use  and offers excellent non-stick properties that make it simple to cook with and clean. It retains heat surprisingly well but takes a little time to warm up.
The T-Fal set offers incredible value. It's lightweight, easy to use, and offers excellent non-stick properties that make it simple to cook with and clean. It retains heat surprisingly well but takes a little time to warm up.

Clean-Up & Maintenance


You don't want to spend precious minutes scrubbing pans when you could be with your family. So how hard is it to clean up and maintain your cookware? While testing this, we took the time to scrub each pot, pan, and lid, by hand. We also loaded up pieces that could be put into the dishwasher to see how they fared on a hot water rinse cycle. We were most impressed by the stainless steel pot sets, specifically the Tramontina and the Cuisinart MCP.

We took the time to handwash each item and put them into the dishwasher.
We took the time to handwash each item and put them into the dishwasher.

While the stainless steel sets are stickier than non-stick and cast iron sets, they proved to be the toughest. Being constructed of 3-ply stainless steel, you can use metal utensils, steel wool, and other abrasive materials to clean up stuck-on foods. Even though the Cuisinart Muliclad shows scratches after wear, it doesn't affect performance because the entire piece is made from these heavy metals. While both might need to be polished from time to time, neither need to be seasoned or treated carefully. Both can be put into the dishwasher.

Stainless steel is simple to clean in soap and water  while using an abrasive sponge. These sets are durable and built to take the hardest scrubbings.
Stainless steel is simple to clean in soap and water, while using an abrasive sponge. These sets are durable and built to take the hardest scrubbings.

All the non-stick cookware sets, like the Calphalon Premier and T-Fal Titanium, are easy to clean up. The non-stick coating doesn't hold onto food, so it doesn't require an abrasive brush or much muscle to clean-up. Our only gripe with this type of cookware is that you're not supposed to use abrasive sponges on most of the sets. So if you're dealing with stuck-on rice, you're limited in the tools you can use to remove this food. However, a simple soak with hot water and soap usually does the trick.

Some lids are harder to clean than others, with numerous cracks and crevices. Most of the sets can be put into the dishwasher.

Cast iron requires a little extra care. To ensure performance  simply add a little oil on a rag or paper towel after use. The material is porous and will absorb the oil to stay primed for excellent cooking performance.
Cast iron requires a little extra care. To ensure performance, simply add a little oil on a rag or paper towel after use. The material is porous and will absorb the oil to stay primed for excellent cooking performance.

Some ceramic non-stick sets, like the Cuisinart Green Gourmet, need seasoning twice a year to maintain their non-stick layer. This is similar to cast iron sets. However, we a little know-how; we found both the AmazonBasics and Lodge to be incredibly easy to maintain. The cleanup is simple—you can take a pot scraper or steel wool to the set, and even use a little soap if needed. You can scrub the material without worry about damaging it. It's important to dry it completely on your burner or with a towel (or it will rust) and add a little oil, which will keep it seasoned and maintained. You also can't put it in the dishwasher.

This fully-loaded set from Greenlife features a non-stick coating that is environmentally friendly. It offers great value but lacks in quality.
This fully-loaded set from Greenlife features a non-stick coating that is environmentally friendly. It offers great value but lacks in quality.

Quality & Durability


When buying cookware, this is probably one of the most important metrics to consider. You don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a new cookware set, only to find that you have to re-purchase a new one a few years down the line. While we didn't have any of these sets for years to truly test durability, we made sure to do online research and assess the quality of the materials at our testing facility. We also used metal utensils on all cookware (just to see how they fared) and cleaned each up with steel wool. In general, those constructed of higher quality materials, with more layers, did best in this category.

Looking to bake bread? The cast iron dutch ovens are fantastically durable and can take temperatures higher than 550F!
Looking to bake bread? The cast iron dutch ovens are fantastically durable and can take temperatures higher than 550F!

It's no surprise that our cast iron contenders totally crushed in this metric. For example, cast iron has been known to last for 20+ years, if cared for properly. Of our two contenders, the Lodge offers the highest level of quality. Lodge has been making cast iron skillets for over 120 years and the cooking performance shows. These sets are well cast, balanced, and crafted. While the Amazon Basics brand does good work, it feels lighter and not as balanced in hand, earning a lower score in this category.

Stainless steel is also an incredibly high-quality material, so it's no wonder most chefs stock their kitchens with it. Look for a set with at least 3-ply construction. The Tramonina set is our favorite because the pieces seem to be thicker, with a cast construction throughout. The Cuisinart Multiclad Set is a good choice too, but the pieces are thinner and don't regulate heat as well. Of the two, the Tramontina seemed to discolor more quickly than the Cuisinart. But this didn't seem to affect performance. With proper maintenance, a quality stainless steel set should last you 10+ years.

Stainless steel sets like this one are bound to last you for many years. Don't be afraid to drop the lids...they're durable and built to last.
Stainless steel sets like this one are bound to last you for many years. Don't be afraid to drop the lids...they're durable and built to last.

The non-stick cookware is the least durable of all cookware types. This is because the non-stick material can eventually chip away and scratch, which isn't ideal when cooking. Of all the non-stick cookware, the Calphalon Premier and Greenpan Stackable (ceramic non-stick) are our favorites, and both have a super-durable surface. When cleaning both with steel wool (not recommended) and using metal utensils, we didn't notice any scratching on the surface. All the other non-stick cookware scratched easily. While Titanium is a durable metal, it's prone to deforming because it's quite malleable.

Many companies claim non-stick cookware to be incredibly durable. Some market them with statements like "Hard Anodized Aluminum". It's important to note that these metals are the CORE of the pan, not the outer layer that receives all the direct contact. Focus on finding cookware with a durable non-stick layer, ideally with a thicker construction.

Storage


In this metric, we evaluated how easily each set was to store. How do the lids stack with the pots and pans? Do the lids have big handles, resulting in a cluttered mess? Or does the entire set nest together? All the cookware has holes in the handles for hanging if you prefer to store your cookware that way. If you have cabinets, however, stacking might be the easiest solution. Of all the contenders, the Calphalon Premier and Greenpan Stackables dominated this category.

The Calphalon Premier set is super easy to store. Choose to store them with the lids on  or off in their own pile.
The Calphalon Premier set is super easy to store. Choose to store them with the lids on, or off in their own pile.

Both offer great stacking capabilities. The Greenpan Stackable uses only two lids that fit onto both pots, but there are no lids for the skillets, making things easier to manage. Fewer pieces, right? The Calphalon Premier uses lids for all the pieces, and they stack into each other in a variety of ways. We like the Greenpan Stackable for its simplicity, while the Calphalon Premier uses completely flat lids with handles on them to get around the problem of lid handles, making the cookware difficult to stack. With stackable sets like this, it takes time to unstack and access the pots and pan you might need. While it looks good, it's not quite as functional in some situations.

The Greenpan set-up only has two lids to deal with. All the pieces nest easily together  resting on the other's handles.
The Greenpan set-up only has two lids to deal with. All the pieces nest easily together, resting on the other's handles.

Other sets that aren't marketed towards storage solutions but do well in this metric include the Cuisinart Green Gourment, Tramontina, and the Cuisinart Multiclad set. The Green Gourmet nests nicely in a tower with balanced handles that don't fall over. The lids need to be stored separately. The Tramontina has many pieces, but if you flip the lids upside down, the pots and pans nest together; this is a bit of a balancing act, but it works. The Cuisinart Stainless Steel just has few pieces, and they nest well, especially if you store the lids separately.

While the Cuisinart set doesn't advertise its excellent stackability and storage  we're impressed with how it fits inside our tiny cupboards.
While the Cuisinart set doesn't advertise its excellent stackability and storage, we're impressed with how it fits inside our tiny cupboards.

Features


In this section, we just looked for neat features and what's included in all the sets. The more features each had, the better they did. For example, the Tramontina offers all the right pieces that you'd want in a full kitchen set. There are no extraneous pieces that you'd never use, and it has everything you need. The Calphalon Premier also has everything you need. The flat glass lids are pretty nifty, with latch points that articulate well with each pot and pan, making them stable and easy to use.

We appreciate this feature of the Calphalon Premier set which keeps the lid in place while cooking and transporting around the kitchen.
We appreciate this feature of the Calphalon Premier set which keeps the lid in place while cooking and transporting around the kitchen.

Other cheaper sets like the Greenlife and T-Fal Titanium come fully loaded with everything you'd want in a starter kitchen set, from a tiny little egg pan to strainers to cooking tools. While they aren't the highest quality, this is a set you'd appreciate if you want all pieces at once, without a need for the best of the best or the highest in quality.

We've taken the time to test some of the best low to midrange sets out there. These delicious pancakes are just one of the perks to this great work. We hope we've helped in your quest for a new cookware set.
We've taken the time to test some of the best low to midrange sets out there. These delicious pancakes are just one of the perks to this great work. We hope we've helped in your quest for a new cookware set.

Conclusion


Finding an excellent kitchen cookware set can be troublesome, especially with so many options out there. You're in luck, though, because we've done the hard work for you! Our recommendations are thoroughly researched, unbiased, and will help you find exactly what you need for your kitchen ambitions. After taking the time to read through this article, we hope we've helped you find the cookware set of your dreams.

Amber King