Shopping For the Best Cookware Set? [Here’s What To Look For]

CRYSTAL H.  |   |   Updated
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Looking for the right cookware set for your home kitchen? There’s a swag on offer. Here I cover what to look for when choosing cookware that’s right for you along with some popular choices…

choosing cookware what to know

In a hurry? If you’re short on time, check these out:

✔ Nonstick induction — Caraway Cookware Set (has storage options)
✔ Pure ceramic — Xtrema Ceramic Cookware
✔ Stainless steel clad 5-ply — Made In cookware

While‘s main focus is ceramic, when you’re looking for new or replacement cookware there’s more than just ceramic. There’s a bunch of options!

From my experience and the added research I’ve done over time, I’ve put together this guide to help you deal with those uncertainties or that feeling of overwhelm when you have so many choices.

What should a cookware set include?

As a starter, I’d recommend the following basic pieces for a cookware set to get you by — 3 pieces that will cover most cooking needs.

3 basics:

A saucepan for boiling vegetables and cooking rice and pasta (2 qt)

Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 2-Quart Covered Saucepan, Silver

A sauté pan for browning and sautéing (10″)

AVACRAFT 18/10 Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Saute Pan with Lid

A stockpot for soup, seafood, or larger number of vegetables (8 qt)

Cook N Home 8 Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot with Lid

Building on the basics

  • Add a 4-quart and 6-quart saucepan and a medium and large frying pan for more flexibility
  • Plus a dutch oven and/or griddle pan to round your cooking options
  • Consider larger-sized options for a large family or entertaining needs

I recommend basing the size and number of pieces on how many you cook for and whether the assortment of pieces cater to your cooking style and meal preferences.

What features to look for in a cookware set

How to choose cookware? Your kitchen is special.

Ask yourself these questions about the cookware set…

  • Is it compatible with your cooktop
  • Does it have the right assortment of pieces
  • Meets your standard of quality
  • Has a solid base
  • Feels right when handling
  • Resistant to heat of your stovetop or oven use
  • Has lids designed for steam release
  • Looks durable
  • Features nonstick (if that matters)
  • Is easy to clean / Has low maintenance
  • Is in your price range

Let’s look at these in more detail…

Make sure the cookware suits your cooktop

Cookware compatible with your cooktop makes sense. Most pots and pans are good to go on gas, ceramic, and electric cooktops, but not all are designed to work on an induction cooktop.

What if you find yourself in a new kitchen in the future with an induction cooktop?

If you have an induction cooktop or could possibly have one in the future with renovations or moving house:

  • You will need a magnetic base in the cookware — often a ferrous base. Cast iron, for example, but there are many others available. Generally induction cookware is more expensive than standard pots and pans.
  • I explain how to use this type of cookware in my article on using induction for cooking

Right assortment of pieces

best Cookware pieces to suit your cooking style. choose between saute pan, skillet, saucepan, stockpot, dutch oven, griddle pan for your purposes to make best cookware set
Assortment of cookware pieces to consider in your kitchen collection

When looking for a new of replacement set, one of the things I consider is whether it has the right assortment and type of pieces for what I want and would use. The list of cookware pieces is large and some items can be superfluous.

Also consider your kitchen storage space — how or where you could store all the pieces. Do you have the space?

List of cookware pieces, their descriptions and their uses

*The difference between a sauté pan and a skillet or frypan: A sauté pan has straight sides while the sides of a skillet are slanted. To understand the benefits of one over the other, see my article comparing these different pan types.

Features that make a difference:

  • Rims — Slightly rolled rims will help with pouring whereas straight rims are better for tossing ingredients while cooking.
  • Sides — Cookware with high vertical sides are best for simmering liquids whereas those with flared sides are good for evaporating liquids while cooking.
  • Non stick — If you prepare simple low-fat meals or prefer the convenience of easy clean, consider cookware with a non-stick surface.

Meets your standard of quality in pots and pans

What quality are you okay with in light of the price you’re willing to pay? Look for design features that can matter, for example, handles welded or fastened with screws — are they likely to stay secure?

You might want to look at whether the product is covered by a warranty, where the item was made, or the origins of the company and the feeling of trust you have in the brand name.

All the best cookware reviews will tell you that performance and design are what matters the most. 

Has solid base

I prefer to cook with a solid based pan. Too thin and you risk burning the food and warping the pan. A flat base or a slightly concave one (like the bottom of a wine bottle) will flatten on heating and works best. Whereas, a curved base — one that’s bulging out — will have a hot spot — not ideal!

For fast and even heating performance, choose a base with an core of aluminum, and sometimes copper. For example, a 3-ply or the 5-ply stainless steel of Made-In have inner conductive cores.

Made In Cookware

Stainless steel pan by Made In10pc Stainless Steel Best Seller Set
5-ply clad
Made in US and Italy
Induction compatible
Stay cool handles
Oven Safe Temperature: 800ºF
Image courtesy of Made In

For slow cooking, you’re best with a pot that’s solid and holds the heat. Enameled cast iron and pure ceramic like Xtrema’s products are good options — for example, their Versa Pot set.

Feels right when handling

Ergonomic handles, that you can comfortably grip, reduce the risk of injury, for example, when taking the cookware from the oven or cooktop to the counter or sink.

Cool-to-touch handles mean you don’t need pot holders each time you lift the lid or grab the handle of the cookware on the stove. Handles that stay cool are silicone-coated, Bakelite, and wood types. Metal gets hot, but u-shaped lid and helper handles and one long and hollow on the side are designs that keep them cool to touch.

Caraway Ceramic Nonstick Cookware

Stainless steel pan by Made InNonstick Ceramic Best Seller
US company, founder Jordan Nathan
Induction compatible
Stay cool handles
Aluminum core
Complementary pan & lid storage
Oven Safe Temperature: 550ºF
Image courtesy of Caraway Home

Heat resistance of cookware

Check what the manufacturer says about the recommended heating for the pots and pans. No higher than medium heat settings are sometimes given for nonstick cookware for good reasons — to maintain the integrity and performance of the nonstick coating.

If you have a 100% ceramic saucepan, it will withstand the highest heat of any kitchen oven much like a ceramic crockpot insert. (This answers the question: Can you use crockpot insert in the oven? Yes, if it is ceramic.) You’ll find the same with a cast iron skillet.

If you want to use your stovetop pans in the oven, the material of the handle will determine whether or not you can use it at high heat temperatures. As a guide:

  • Stainless steel handles are oven safe to 500°F (260°C)
  • Phenolic resin (Bakelite) parts to 350°F (175°C)
  • Silicone parts to 400°F (204°C)
  • Cast iron and Xtrema pure ceramic (maximum heat)

Lid design has steam release

Make sure the lids of the cookware have vents or a mechanism for steam release as this will prevent pressure build-up in the saucepans.

On clear view lids vs metal lids…A lot of cookware sets have saucepans with glass lids so you can see the pot contents when cooking. It’s about not having to lift the lid and release the heat and steam, but you’ll find condensation often means you can’t see through them anyway.

With metal lids the pot is oven-safe to higher temperatures. Something to weigh up. Plus, some sets have lids that work on other pots or pans in the set and this versatility can save you money and storage space.

  • Remember to recycle your old cookware. You can find out how here.

Is durable

The exterior finish is important for a couple of reasons. You might prefer a certain color in your kitchen. But there’s also the durability of the finish. Here’s an overview of some common finishes…

  • Ceramic glazes provide a tough exterior. These are found in pure ceramic cookware brands like Xtrema. They contain various inorganic minerals and oxides that give strength, color, and glossiness to the cookware finish.
  • Painted exteriors, though economical, can scratch or wear away with use. Beware: High flames will tarnish the beautifully colored pots and pans that are painted.
  • Anodized finishes are tough and chemically inert. You can read more here: Chemical Materials, Elsevier
  • Porcelain enamel is a glass-based coating that is sprayed and fused to the cookware substrate through high heat (1500°F). It won’t peel, flake, or rust.

In terms of cooking surfaces, you should know that all nonstick coatings are likely to wear with use over time. These are the least durable finishes. Beneath the nonstick coatings is often aluminum, which you can still use, but it’s not ideal.

The toughest cookware is cast iron. Stainless will last you for years and pure ceramic will also with care to avoid thermal shock and accidental breakage.

Easy to clean / Low maintenance

Low maintenance means ease of cleaning and care. For instance, some cookware need seasoning from time to time — cast iron for example.

For easy cleanup and care, nonstick cookware comes to mind as offering the convenience of a simple wipe and dry. But then, most cookware today are dishwasher safe.

Are there areas prone to grime build up? If you prefer hand washing, just be aware of riveted handles, which can attract grime around the rivet points inside the pan and can require cleaning around these for hygiene reasons.

Is in your price range

Let’s be real, the price you pay plays an important part in this decision.

Things to consider price-wise:

  • How many pieces and what size pots and pans do you need?
  • Will you be mostly cooking for the family or entertaining guests or both?
  • Do you want a matching set or don’t mind mixing?
  • Do you have an induction cooktop or likely to get one in the future?

Cookware style

There are different styles to choose from. Each present a different feel for your kitchen. You could choose a certain style to suit your home.

I’ve written about certain styles and the brands covering these:

Cookware material

Cookware is designed in various types of materials. Each material type has its advantages and downsides in cookware use.

I’ve written about these pros and cons in these articles:

Why shoppers buy ceramic non stick cookware

For nonstick cookware, people are turning to ceramic. Because…they are:

  • Simple and lightweight to use.
  • The food can be flipped and easily slid from the pan without messy clean up.
  • Less need for oil or fat.
  • Easy to clean up
  • Free of PTFE and PFOA

Modern ceramic nonstick designs are induction ready.

Cookware is an everyday item that you will want to last and enjoy for a reasonable amount of time. It’s worth considering the features and design so you invest in something to give you long-term enjoyment and satisfaction in the kitchen.

© original article created: 2022-06-15