Best Overall: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set

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Experienced cooks will love this high-quality set of stainless steel cookware, which includes both a 1.5- and 3-quart saucepan, 8- and 10-inch open skillets, a 3.5-quart sauté pan, an 8-quart stockpot, and a steamer insert. Everything but the open skillets and the steamer insert come with lids. Our tester thought that the pieces in this set heat up quickly, retain heat well, and look good on your stove.

Stainless steel with an aluminum core, they are induction compatible, oven safe to 550 degrees, and dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Plus, everything is durable: “Short of taking a hammer to it, or running it over with a truck, there’s no reason it would fail,” our reviewer raved. The long handles stay comfortably cool during cooking and have hanging holes for storage, but our tester did caution that the side loop handles can get quite hot.

Best Nonstick: Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set

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Experienced cooks will love this high-quality set of stainless steel cookware, which includes both a 1.5- and 3-quart saucepan, 8- and 10-inch open skillets, a 3.5-quart sauté pan, an 8-quart stockpot, and a steamer insert. Everything but the open skillets and the steamer insert come with lids. Our tester thought that the pieces in this set heat up quickly, retain heat well, and look good on your stove.

Stainless steel with an aluminum core, they are induction compatible, oven safe to 550 degrees, and dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Plus, everything is durable: “Short of taking a hammer to it, or running it over with a truck, there’s no reason it would fail,” our reviewer raved. The long handles stay comfortably cool during cooking and have hanging holes for storage, but our tester did caution that the side loop handles can get quite hot.

Best Nonstick: Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set

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Everyone knows that nonstick frying pans are great for cooking eggs, but this set goes way beyond breakfast. With 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans, an 8-quart stockpot, a 3-quart sauté pan, a 12-inch deep covered skillet with helper handle, and an 8-inch French skillet, “the sizes and shapes of pans in this set are all very useful,” according to our tester.

Made from anodized aluminum, the pans are responsive to heat changes while the thick bottoms eliminate hot spots. The lids are shatterproof glass so you can see inside while cooking, and the handles are covered with a non-slip material that stays cool. They are oven safe to 400 degrees. Our reviewer’s only complaints were that they aren’t dishwasher-safe or induction-compatible.

Best Ceramic: GreenPan Lima Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware Set

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Customers praised this nonstick ceramic cookware set for their nonstick surface, but some felt that the care required to maintain the nonstick surface was just a little too picky. Made from hard-anodized aluminum, this cookware is responsive to heat changes, while the stainless steel handles stay cool during cooking. Lids are glass, so you can check on the food without releasing the heat, and the handles are generously sized so they’re easy to grab and hold. The nonstick ceramic interior won’t give off toxic fumes, even if the pan is overheated, but keep in mind that the overheating could damage the cookware’s surface.

This set includes a 2-quart covered saucepan, a 5-quart covered casserole pan, an 8-inch frying pan, a 9 1/2 inch frying pan, a 3-quart covered skillet, a stainless steel steamer insert, and three bamboo utensils.

Best Induction: Hexclad Hybrid Nonstick Commercial Cookware Set

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This innovative cookware has a combination of both stainless steel and nonstick material on the interior and exterior in a hexagon pattern. The stainless steel provides excellent searing ability while the nonstick material means that food will release easily and cleaning will be a breeze. An aluminum core makes this cookware responsive to temperature changes, so it will react quickly when you turn the heat up or down. This set is also very durable, metal utensil safe, and dishwasher safe. If you want to use it in the oven, it’s safe up to 500 degrees. While this doesn’t include as many pieces as some sets, it does includes an 8-inch covered sauté pan, a 10-inch covered sauté pan, a 12-inch covered sauté pan, and a 12-inch wok. The pans are all induction-safe, which reviewers say is a big plus.

Cuisinart MCP-12N Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set

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The Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set offers incredible performance at a great value. We had no complaints with the medium-sized sauté pan (which not only comfortably fit four chicken thighs but also seared each one to perfection). The large stockpot is well-sized for making soup, cooking pasta, or blanching vegetables and is dishwasher safe for an added bonus.

In addition to their performance and high quality, these pans are easy to use. The triple-ply construction gave the pans the benefit of heat conductivity, but the anodized aluminum core ensures they’re not too heavy to handle. The set includes everything you need to cook a meal: two saucepans (1 1/2- and 3-quart), an 8-quart stockpot, a medium-sized 3.5-quart sauté pan, two skillets (8- and 10-inch), and a steamer insert—all with comfortable handles and a design that creates a nice balance when holding the pan.

All in all, it was easy to crown Cuisinart the winner in this competition: this set has everything you need for a starter kitchen and it’s a great choice for those looking to upgrade their old sets, too.

T-fal C561SC Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set

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If you’re looking for easier to clean, nonstick cookware, look no further than the T-Fal C561SC Titanium Advanced Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set. There are plenty of advantages to either type of cookware, but you’ll generally find nonstick is easier to clean, especially after cooking with frying pans. While a nonstick pan will never rival a stainless one when it comes to searing meat, this set performed admirably. It cooked eggs perfectly without requiring any extra oil and the saucepots simmered sauces and cooked rice without scorching. In addition, this set’s stockpot boiled water faster than any others in our test group.

In addition to the basics any kitchen should have to get cooking, this nonstick set includes a few bonus items: two saucepans (1- and 2-quart), a 5-quart stockpot, a large 5-quart sauté pan, two skillets (8- and 9-inch), a spatula, and a slotted spoon. The comfortable, padded handles stay cool as you use them and the pans heat up quickly and evenly. Because of its performance and low price, the T-Fal also earns our Best Value Award. The only way to make T-Fal a better deal would be throwing in metal utensils!

Circulon Symmetry Hard Anodized Nonstick 11-Piece Cookware Set

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Each pan in the Circulon Symmetry Black 11-Piece Cookware Set has raised, concentric circles on the nonstick surface. While I couldn’t tell you the history of these ridges or how they became a Circulon signature trait, I can tell you that they definitely work to keep food from sticking to the pan! In addition to acing the nonstick tests, the Circulon pans performed well overall (except that the tall-and-skinny stockpot design took the longest in the group to boil water). Overall, these were some of the more comfortable pans we used, with well-thought-out, padded handles and nicely-balanced weight.

This set has a nice variety of items, including three saucepots (1-, 2-, and 3-quart), an 8-quart stockpot, a medium-sized 3-quart sauté pan, and two skillets (8.5- and 10-inch). Everything you’d need in just the right sizes!

Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick 11-Piece Cookware Set

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The soft, padded handles on the Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Nonstick 11-Piece Cookware Set made these andonized aluminum pots and pans a joy to work with. It was one of the few sets that didn’t have blazing-hot stockpot handles after boiling water for 30 minutes! The hard anodized nonstick coating is even utensil safe (although, it was one of our least favorite nonstick surfaces to use without added oil).

In addition to the standards—two saucepots (1.5- and 3-quart), an 8.5-quart stockpot, and a medium-sized 3-quart sauté pan—you’ll get a small and a large skillet (8.5- and 12-inch). The addition of that second, larger skillet feels like a bonus from the usual 10-inch addition because it gives you the room to make stir-fries or other one-pot meals.

Calphalon Premier Space Saving Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set

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Those with very small kitchens will love how easy it is to store the Calphalon Premier Space Saving Hard Anodized Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set. The lids are a bit strange looking, but they store flat and all of the pots and pans are designed to fit into two, neat stacks. While the pans themselves are a bit heavy, the handle design helps balance things out and the extra weight worked hard to retain heat as we cooked.

The nonstick set includes two saucepots (2.5- and 3.5-quart), a smaller 6-quart stockpot, a medium-sized 3-quart saute pan, and two skillets (8- and 10-inch).

Cook N Home Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set

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I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you avoid the Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set, but you will certainly get what you pay for. These pots and pans were super-lightweight, heating up quickly but also losing that heat equally as fast. The handles were some of the hottest to the touch, too, so make sure you have those oven mitts handy!

We were also a bit disappointed in the contents, too. It lacked any skillets, providing one 10-inch sauté pan instead. It did include four saucepots—for some reason providing two 1.5-quart pots along with a 2- and 3-quart pot. The 5.5-quart stockpot was a little on the small end, too, but functional.

Whether you’re just getting your own place and your cooking will be limited to boiling water for ramen or you plan on cooking more gourmet meals for entertaining, cookware is a necessity. You may only require specific inexpensive pieces or a whole new set. Or if you’re a seasoned cook, you might be looking for higher-quality cookware to replace older pieces that have seen better days, or to upsize pots and pans to fit a growing family. Even when a full set is purchased, it’s not unusual to add a few new pieces that weren’t included in the set, like a nonstick frying pan, a cast-iron Dutch oven, a grill pan, or a roasting pan.

The most common pieces of cookware are frying or sauté pans for foods like burgers, steaks, and eggs, and saucepans for cooking pasta, steaming vegetables, making mac and cheese, and cooking soups and sauces. Dutch ovens are great for making chili or cooking large quantities of foods that won’t fit in the saucepot. Stockpots are used for even larger quantities of food, as well as for making soup stock. They can also be used for water bath canning.

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