Stainless-steel cookware is popular with home cooks as well as professional chefs because it’s versatile, easy to care for, budget-friendly, and unbreakable. Stainless steel is a good choice because it distributes heat evenly, is oven-safe, and a quality set can last for decades. Plus, it’s sleek and shiny and commercial-looking. The best stainless-steel cookware announces to the world that you know what you are doing in the kitchen.
Whether you’re setting up a kitchen in your first apartment or upgrading the cookware you’ve used for years, buying a set of stainless-steel pots is a good way to go. A set is cheaper than buying pans individually and provides a selection of pan sizes and types that cover a range of cooking needs.
Keep reading to find some of the best stainless-steel cookware reviewed.
- BEST OVERALL: Duxtop Professional Stainless Steel Pots and Pans Set
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Cook N Home Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set
- BEST HIGH-END: All-Clad D3 Stainless Cookware Set
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Rachael Ray Create Delicious Stainless Steel Set
- BEST FOR SMALL KITCHENS: Calphalon Premier Space Saving Stainless Steel Set
- MOST VERSATILE: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Set
- MOST STYLISH: Cuisinart French Classic Tri-Ply Stainless Cookware
- HONORABLE MENTION: SAVEUR SELECTS 10-piece Tri-ply Cookware Set
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Stainless Steel Cookware
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a stainless-steel cookware set.
Stainless steel by itself is not a great heat conductor, so the best stainless-steel cookware includes layers of aluminum or copper. There are two types of construction: core and cladding. Pans with a core have a layer of heat-conducting metal on the bottom of the pan. Pans with cladding have a layer of heat-conducting metal in the sides of the pan as well as the bottom. Cookware with cladding (also known as ply) conducts heat better than cookware with just a core.
Look for stainless-steel cookware with three layers, or tri-ply construction, at a minimum. Five-ply and seven-ply cookware are also available. It’s pricier, but super durable, won’t warp, and has excellent heat distribution properties. Single-ply stainless-steel cookware is out there, too. It’s lower-priced but not as durable, prone to warping, and doesn’t conduct or distribute heat very well.
Stainless steel is an alloy. It includes elements like chromium, nickel, and carbon to make it strong, flexible, corrosion-resistant, and better able to conduct heat. A stainless steel’s grade is based on the percentage of chromium and nickel it contains.
The most common food-grade stainless steel used in cookware is Type 304, also known as 18/10. The first number refers to the chromium percentage in the stainless, and the second number, the nickel percentage. An 18/10 grade means stainless steel contains 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel. For purposes of food safety, cookware should have a minimum of 16 percent chromium content so it resists corrosion and acids found in some foods. Most high-quality stainless-steel cookware is 18/10 or 18/8 grade.
The best stainless-steel cookware set should have a range of pan shapes and sizes to fit your cooking needs. Choose a set based on your cooking habits. If you whip up lots of soups and stews, look for a set that includes a soup pot. If you pan-fry foods more often, look for sets with several sizes of skillets. Some sets include extras like strainers, stirring spoons, and a steamer insert. Some sets may even include a baking pan to add versatility.
Pieces in Set
The number of pieces in a cookware set is a count of the items included. Note that this number includes lids and any extra items like spoons and strainers. For example, a 10-piece set does not always mean 10 pots and pans. It may include five pans and five lids. Check the items included in a set so there are no surprises when you open the box.
Handles and Lids
Most cookware sets include lids. Lids may fit more than one pot or pan in a set, so don’t fret if the number of lids doesn’t match the number of pots. Glass or stainless-steel lids are most common. Glass lids let you peek inside the pot without lifting the lid and letting heat escape, but they are more fragile than stainless-steel lids.
Stainless-steel cookware may come with stainless-steel, plastic, silicon-covered, or wooden handles, a safety feature that will keep the handles cooler. Handle choices affect the pans’ versatility because some handles are made of materials that are not oven- and dishwasher-safe.
Cookware sets can include a range of accessories, including stirring spoons, spatulas, strainers, steamers, and double-boiler pots. Some sets come with a nonstick pan. Others may include recipe books, pot holders, trivets, or dishcloths.
More pieces usually make for a more versatile cookware set. Most cookware sets will include a range of pan sizes, from saucepans to stockpots. Most stainless-steel pans are compatible for glass top stoves or induction-top stoves as well as being oven-safe, and dishwasher-safe. Stainless-steel cookware is also less prone to staining and reactivity. This means you can cook any ingredients, including acidic foods like tomatoes, without discoloring the pans.
Our Top Picks
We reviewed some popular stainless-steel cookware, measured them against our shopping considerations, and picked some favorites.
Duxtop’s 17-piece stainless-steel set has a wide range of pots and pans, so it meets a wide range of cooking needs. There are two saucepans, a casserole pot, a stockpot, a sauté pan, each with its own lid. The set also includes a pair of fry pans, a boiler basket, steamer basket, fork, spoon, and spatula. This set is compatible with all cooktops, including induction stovetops, oven-safe to 550 degrees, dishwasher-safe, and freezer-safe. The pans are made of 18/10-grade stainless steel with an impacted-bonded aluminum core for even heating. Tempered-glass lids allow you to watch your cooking, and the stay-cool stainless-steel handles will keep your hands comfortable.
The Cook N Home set includes a saucepan, casserole pot, fry pan, and a pair of casserole pans, all with tempered-glass lids, so there’s a range of pans to meet typical cooking needs. The pots and pans’ handles on this set have silicone sleeves that stay cool to the touch while cooking. Those silicone handles mean these are not oven- or dishwasher-safe, but the pots and pans are induction-compatible and work on most cooktops. The pans have an aluminum disc core for even heating. The outer stainless steel is mirror polished for a sleek look and easy cleaning. It’s a good basic set for budget-conscious cooks.
If you want to invest in top-notch cookware, All-Clad’s D3 Stainless Steel set is a good choice. This set has three layers of alternating stainless-steel and aluminum cladding on the bottom and sides of the pot for superior heat conduction. The walls and bottom of the pans are thick, so the pans distribute heat evenly. The set includes two saucepans, a sauté pan, and a stockpot, each with its own stainless-steel lid. There’s also a pair of lidless fry pans, so you can handle a range of recipes. The handles are designed to stay cool while cooking, and the pots are compatible with all cooktops, including induction. This set is also oven-safe to 600 degrees and dishwasher-safe.
If you’re setting up your first kitchen, this 10-piece set from Rachel Ray is a good choice because it has a range of pots and pans with basic features you want in stainless-steel cookware. The set includes a saucepan, stockpot, and sauté pan, each with its own glass lid. There’s also a 1-quart pan and 10.25-inch-deep pan without lids, as well as a wooden spoon and slotted turner. The pans have core construction for even heat distribution and silicone handles that are oven-safe to 400 degrees. They’re made of 18/10-grade stainless steel. The pots also feature etched measurement markings inside and flared rims to make it easy to pour liquids from the pans without making a mess. The cookware is dishwasher-safe and induction-compatible, too.
Cookware sets can take up a good chunk of cupboard space in small kitchens. Calphalon’s space-saving set solves this problem by making all three pots stackable. The pans and their lids nest inside of one another so they’ll fit in a space the size of a single large stockpot. The set includes a chef’s pan, a stockpot, and sauté pan, each with a glass cover. This set has features that go beyond easy storage, though. The three pans have three-ply construction and an aluminum core, stay-cool aluminum handles, and are induction-compatible, dishwasher-safe, and oven-safe to 450 degrees.
This Cuisinart set has six pots and pans that can go from an induction stove to an oven, meaning you’ll have a pan for almost any recipe you want to make. This set includes a pair of saucepans, a sauté pan, and a stockpot and steamer insert, each with a stainless-steel lid. There are also a pair of skillets. The pans are made of 18/10-grade stainless steel with tri-ply construction and an aluminum core. Cuisinart’s heat-surround technology maintains an even temperature on the bottoms and sides of the pan, so there are no hot spots where food gets overcooked. Each piece has a cool-grip handle and a tapered, drip-free pouring rim. They are induction-compatible, dishwasher-safe, and oven-safe up to 550 degrees.
The Cuisinart French Classic Stainless set imported from France is made of gleaming, polished stainless steel and has elegantly curved handles. It’s a gorgeous take on classic cookware. But it’s not just beautiful. These pans are high quality, with three layers of metal cladding, an aluminum core, an 18/10-grade outer layer, and an 18/10 inner layer. The set is safe for induction cooktops, freezer-safe, dishwasher-safe, and oven-safe to 500 degrees. The stay-cool stainless-steel handles have a contoured design that gives the handles a unique swooped look. They are riveted for extra durability and have a thumb rest for easy control. This 13-piece set includes a pair of saucepans, a sauté pan, a Dutch oven, and a stockpot, each with its own stainless-steel lid. It also has a pair of skillets and a pasta insert.
Saveur Selects Voyage Series Tri-ply 10-piece Set is an exquisite ensemble of kitchen essentials. Each piece has a stainless steel body and a highly conductive aluminum core for fast, even heat distribution. Mirror-finished stainless steel exteriors don’t stain, tarnish, or rust, and they resist corrosion, oxidization, and flavor absorption. The lids are made from double-walled stainless steel with internal drip ridges and condensation rings that lock in moisture; this helps evenly distribute flavor throughout the dish. Stay-cool handles, which are embossed with SAVEUR Selects’ signature milled texture, offer a comfortable non-slip grip. This multi-purpose set includes nearly everything needed to make soups and sauces, sauté, fry, and more. These pans are suitable for all stovetops and are dishwasher- and oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This set comes with an 8-inch frying pan, a 10-inch frying pan, a 2-quart sauteuse, a 4-quart casserole, an 8-quart stockpot, and four interchangeable lids.
FAQs About Your New Stainless-Steel Cookware
Here are some frequently asked questions about using and maintaining stainless-steel cookware.
Q. Are stainless-steel pans oven-safe?
Most stainless-steel pans are oven-safe, but check the manual to be sure. Keep in mind that stainless-steel pans with plastic handles will not be oven-safe.
Q. Are stainless-steel pans dishwasher-safe?
Many stainless-steel pans are dishwasher-safe, but check the manual to prevent any possible damage.
Q. Will stainless-steel cookware work on an induction cooktop?
Not all stainless-steel cookware will work on an induction cooktop, so check the manual to ensure that the set is induction-compatible.
Q. How do you store stainless-steel cookware?
Stainless steel is sturdy and easy to store. It will withstand stacking in a cabinet, but you can keep your set in tiptop shape by hanging pans from a rack or placing a dishcloth between each pan to prevent scratches.
Q. How long does stainless-steel cookware last?
With proper use and care, high-quality stainless-steel cookware can last for decades.