Buyer’s Guide: The Best Nonstick Cookware for Your Kitchen

To find the right pots and pans for your kitchen, consider the size, coating, and safety concerns outlined here—and don't miss our roundup of top-favorite picks!

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Best Nonstick Cookware Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

Practical nonstick cookware is popular with kitchen newbies and experienced chefs alike. After all, cooking with coated vessels can prevent foods from sticking to surfaces, saving meals from ruin. What’s more, nonstick cookware often requires less (or even no) oil, resulting in lower-fat fare. Like its traditional counterparts, nonstick cookware can range widely in price, from $50 to $500. Here’s your opportunity to learn what you need to know about nonstick pots and pans so you can pick up the best nonstick cookware set for your particular cooking style, space, and skills—not to mention your budget.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Cuisinart 66-17N Chef’s Classic Non-Stick Set
  2. BEST VALUE: T-fal Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set
  3. ALSO CONSIDER: WearEver 15 Piece Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set

Key Considerations When Choosing Nonstick Cookware

Coating Concerns

Food slides easily from cookware surfaces thanks to one of two types of coating: classic or ceramic. Classic, officially known as PTFE (for polytetrafluoroethylene), was first made popular when the brand name Teflon first hit the market in the 1960s. Ceramic coatings are made with ceramic nanotechnology—a fancy way of saying “very small particles”—and are considered the more environmentally friendly choice. While PTFE tends to last longer than ceramic, the Environmental Protection Agency has found a potential health risk in overheating PTFE-coated pots and pans. At temperatures around 500 degrees, PTFE can release fumes that are likely carcinogenic, so those who cook at high temps may wish to opt for ceramic. Unfortunately, ceramic coated cookware doesn’t hold up as well as PTFE and may need to be replaced within a few years after frequent use.

Appliance Applications

Remember, you don’t just cook in your cookware—you also reheat in it and wash it as well. So it’s essential to consider if a set is safe for the dishwasher and/or microwave. While Teflon itself is microwave safe, PTFE cookware is generally made of metals—and metal, of course, should never be placed in a microwave, where it’s likely to explode. Some ceramic cookware is microwave-safe, but pieces with any metallic compounds are not to be nuked.

When it comes to cleaning, many (not all) nonstick cookware brands claim their products are dishwasher safe. Just remember that the higher the temperature, the faster a nonstick coating will degrade. So to prolong the life of your nonstick cookware, consider washing it by hand no matter what the manufacturer says. Ask the salesperson to steer you towards the right cookware for your reheating and washing methods, and always check the label on the cookware itself.

To avoid scratching nonstick cookware, skip metal spoons and spatulas and use wood, silicone, or nylon instead. Fortunately, some nonstick cookware sets throw in an assortment of utensils as part of the deal.

Size Matters

Finally, as with any set of cookware, think about how many pieces you need. Ask yourself the following: How much cooking do you usually do? Are you making meals for small or large groups? What will your kitchen storage accommodate? If you occasionally prepare dinner for yourself and your partner, an eight-piece set that includes various sizes of saucepans, skillets, and a large soup pot might suit you fine. If you serve up multiple meals per week for a large family, however, larger set with up to 15 pieces offers more flexibility and range.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

The Best Nonstick Cookware Option: Cuisinart 66-17N Chef's Classic Non-Stick Set
Photo: amazon.com

This extensive but not prohibitively expensive 17-piece set of classic nonstick aluminum cookware is enormously popular, with good reason. It’s especially well suited for fat-free cooks, thanks to a surface that’s anodized (toughened up with a protective oxide layer) and reinforced with titanium. That means no oil is needed to keep food from sticking. Safe in dishwashers and oven temperatures up to 500 degrees (lids are safe up to 350 degrees), this sleek black set also boasts stay-cool handles. It’s metal, so not microwave-friendly, but it’s dishwasher safe.

Best Value

The Best Nonstick Cookware Option: T-fal Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set
Photo: amazon.com

This 12-piece set of hard anodized aluminum cookware hits the sweet spot with not too few and not too many components. The budget-friendly set is perfect for folks with small kitchens, with just six vessels: two saucepans, two frying pans, a griddle, a Dutch oven, with corresponding lids and tools. It also comes with a slotted spoon, spatula, and ladle. A built-in heat indicator in the center of each piece helps prevent undercooking or overheating, which can extend the life of the set when kept under 350 degrees, where it’s both oven and dishwasher safe (but a microwave no-no).

Also Consider

The Best Nonstick Cookware Option: WearEver 15 Piece Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set
Photo: amazon.com

This ceramic-coated, 15-piece set boasts nine vessels and six lids, with saucepans, fry pans, a soup pot, a griddle, and more. Safe in the dishwasher and the oven if kept under 350 degrees, the WearEver cookware is made of aluminum (and thus not microwave-friendly). Less heat-sensitive than its PTFE counterparts, the set can withstand cooking temperatures up to 700 degrees. Bring on the coq au vin and bananas foster!