Is it time to replace your cookware? If the bottom of a pan is warped (which can create hot spots that burn food), or if handles are loose or broken, it’s time to shop. And when the coating of a nonstick pan is flaking, it’s got to go.
Cookware is sold in sets—consisting of about five to 15 pieces—or as individual pots and pans, typically called open stock. But keep in mind that a 12-piece set won’t contain a dozen pots and pans. “In boxed sets, manufacturers count a lid as a piece,” explains Marion Wilson-Spencer, CR’s market analyst for cookware. “Even utensils and a cookbook may count as pieces.”
We buy and test cookware sets ranging from less than $100 to $600 or more, from well-known brands such as All-Clad, Anolon, Calphalon, Cuisinart, and Zwilling J.A. Henckels, as well as sets sold under the names of celebrity cooks like Ayesha Curry, Rachel Ray, and the Pioneer Woman.
In our tests, we evaluate heating evenness, speed of heating, sauté performance, nonstick durability, handle sturdiness, and more. We cook pancakes, fry eggs, boil water, and simmer tomato sauce.
For more information, see our cookware buying guide, which includes a primer on different types of cookware and the materials they’re made of.
Below are the best cookware sets from CR’s latest tests—six nonstick sets and four uncoated sets—listed alphabetically by type.
Best Nonstick Cookware
CR’s take: The Anolon Smartstack is a space saver, with all 10 pieces nesting together to store in two neat piles—one for the pots and one for the frying pans. Pancakes cooked evenly, and we were able to quickly heat 4 quarts of water in the 8-quart stockpot. It also earns an Excellent rating for simmering sauces. Though the handle stays cool to the touch, it could be sturdier, and this set earns only a Fair rating on the handle sturdiness test.
Cuisinart Green Gourmet Hard Anodized GG-12
CR’s take: The 12-piece Cuisinart Green Gourmet nonstick set aces all our key cooking tests. Pancakes brown evenly in the frying pan, and eggs slide out one after another without sticking. We were able to easily maintain sauce at a low simmer, and the 6-quart Dutch oven quickly brings water to a near-boil. This top-scoring set is made of anodized aluminum, a process that hardens the surface. One of the pieces is a steamer insert.
Swiss Diamond Reinforced #6010
The 10-piece Swiss Diamond is one of the most expensive sets in our tests. What do you get for a premium price? The nonstick coating proves to be one of the most durable in our tough nonstick durability test—Swiss Diamond withstood all 2,000 strokes with steel wool. And its handles are among the sturdiest of all nonstick sets in CR’s tests. Simmering a sauce produces impressive results, and this set earns a Very Good rating for cooking evenness. The 8.5-quart stockpot is a generous size, and the set’s glass lids allow you to keep an eye on what’s cooking.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Motion Grey (Bed Bath & Beyond exclusive)
Zwilling is long known for its knives, but this cookware is a cut above. The 10-piece Zwilling J.A. Henckels Motion Grey is made of anodized aluminum and works with any type of range. Sold exclusively at Bed Bath & Beyond, the set earns a Very Good rating in our nonstick food release tests, meaning food slides off somewhat easily when the nonstick surface is new. So take good care of the nonstick coating—no metal utensils or abrasives. This cookware is labeled dishwasher-safe, but the manual says hand-washing is recommended to keep it looking good.
Calphalon Premier Space Saving 8 piece
Short on storage space? Calphalon designed this set so that it stacks and nests, which frees up precious cabinet space. The Calphalon Premier Space Saving 8-piece stainless set earns a Very Good rating in our evenness tests, like our other top performers in this category. The stainless handles are long and sturdy, and you can use these dishwasher-safe pots and pans on any type of range, including induction. You can also pop them in the oven up to 500° F.
Rachael Ray Create Delicious
The low price of this snazzy 10-piece Create Delicious set from Rachel Ray earns a CR Best Buy designation for its impressive performance and good value. It earns an Excellent rating on our cooking evenness test, and when we brought 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 6-quart stockpot, speed of heating was also impressive. Its performance in our food release test, however, was subpar, so if you like to fry eggs, you may want to stick to a nonstick skillet. Be aware that two of the 10 pieces are wooden utensils.