The Best Cookware Sets for Every Budget

Published on 01/20/2024 · 10 min readUpgrade your kitchen within your budget! Explore our guide on the best cookware sets, tailored for every price range without compromising on quality.
JoDee Martin, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert JoDee Martin

Photo by Cooker King

Cooking for a large family of eight demands durable, reliable cookware that can withstand the test of time. As a stay-at-home mom with extensive experience in the kitchen, I've used all types of cookware in regard to quality and price, from budget-friendly options such as my first set of store brand pots and pans that cost a total of $40 to premium All-Clad sets that redefine culinary experiences (not to mention cost over $2,000).

Let me share the best cookware sets for every budget, ranging from affordable finds to top-of-the-line selections.

What to Consider when Purchasing Cookware Sets

1. What cookware does Gordon Ramsay use?

First of all, it's funny that this is one of the top questions asked, but also, it makes sense! I mean, who doesn't think he's an amazing and entertaining chef? When it comes to the pans he actually uses, Gordon Ramsay is known to use HexClad at home. He says, "HexClad stands up to my demands at home and in the studio. They are beautiful pans, and their hybrid technology cooks to absolute, utter perfection." (Was I the only one who read that in his voice in my head?) If you want to get his preferred cookware, then HexClad is the one to get.

2. What is the best cookware brand?

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Determining the "best" cookware brand is subjective, as it depends on individual preferences and needs. However, the top-selling cookware brands are All-Clad, Le Creuset, Calphalon, Cuisinart, and Lodge.

3. What pans should a home chef have?

Depending on the types of foods and recipes you intend to make, this answer could be slightly different. Home chefs should have a variety of pans to handle different cooking tasks. But the basics to have would include:

  • Stockpot: These are used for things like soups, stews, and sauces. These pans are usually your largest and are made to hold the most food (usually liquids). A stockpot is also used for things that you may want to simmer or cook over a longer period. Stockpots typically have two handles and a lid.
  • Saucepan: This is similar to a stockpot, but different in that a saucepan has more versatility for everyday cooking. They are smaller, will have one long handle and a lid, and are used for things like reheating leftovers, boiling water, and making sauces. Their size usually ranges from 1 to 4 quarts.
  • Skillet/frying pan: This would be used for sautéing (think vegetables), frying (i.e., eggs), searing (such as steaks), and even baking (IF your pan is oven-safe). In a pinch, if you don't have a grill pan, you could even use this pan for grilling things such as sandwiches or pancakes.
  • Sauté pan: This is similar to a skillet, but with higher sides. Sauté pans are perfect for cooking liquids and are great for one-pan dishes such as stir fries.
  • Dutch Oven: These are great for cooking slow and low, braising, roasting, frying and making large batches of things like chili or stew. Dutch ovens can go in the oven or cook on the stovetop. They are ideal for baking sourdough bread.
  • Grill pan: My favorite style of grill pan is a cast iron one that has lines or ridges on one side and is completely flat on the other. This allows you to flip the pan to the side you want to cook with- getting the grill marks on a steak or sandwich, or a flat surface for things like pancakes or eggs.

There are many other pan styles, such as a wok, cast iron skillet, griddle pan, roasting pan, etc., that some may use more than others. Again, it will depend on the cooking you plan to do and the recipes you plan to make.

4. How long should a set of cookware last?

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One of the biggest things that will affect the length of your pan's life is whether they are coated. Non-stick coating tends to scratch over time, especially if you use metal utensils or really ANYTHING metal on them. (This is a crime in my house that all have had the "threat from mom" if they ever use metal on a coated pan). Not just the utensils, though; even stacking pans inside each other can scratch the coating. My pans that have lasted the longest and are still going strong are all surgical stainless steel.

If you are willing to invest in quality and take care of your pans properly, there's no reason they shouldn't last you for decades. But if you are buying pans for your newly graduated student heading off to college- trust me, buy them the less expensive pans!

If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out to any of our Curated Kitchen Experts.

The Best Cookware Sets for Every Budget

Depending on what your personal budget is, there are a few different options. The way you cook and the source of heat may determine which type of cookware you’ll want to get.

Consider the heat source

It’s important to consider your heat source, whether it’s an induction cooktop, gas, or electric stovetop, and what type of oven or stove you have. Suppose you have an induction cooktop. In that case, it will only work with pans that are magnetic or have magnetic circles along the bottom (generally, stainless steel or cast iron, such as Dutch ovens, are great for induction). Typically, if a magnet sticks to your pan, it will work on induction. Gas cooktops will heat and cool faster, whereas electric is slower for both.

Consider the type of cooking you do and the type of chef you are

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For me, I tend to want things to heat up quickly. I am the type that will turn the heat to max and quickly cook both sides of a grilled cheese sandwich or pancake (because "ain't nobody got time for that"), but then I usually end up with the middle being unmelted cheese or batter not always getting fully cooked.

This is also the reason my husband is nominated as the one who does all of the grill-type cooking because he has the patience I lack. He will turn the burner on low, let things warm up slowly, and gradually cook everything at a slow pace. He is the best chef when it comes to things that need time. Here he is making his famous crepes. I usually have to leave the room when he cooks because it's like watching paint dry to me!

Here are a few budget ranges and some options for each.

Budget-Friendly Options:

1. Cuisinart SmartNest Non-Stick Aluminum Cookware Set · 12 Piece Set

If you like organization, Cuisinart's SmartNest Non-Stick set is an excellent choice. Nesting means that each pan will fit inside the next larger pan taking up less space in your cupboard and shelves. Not all cookware is able to nest together. With specially designed nesting tabs, you'll save storage space. Its quick and even heat distribution make it a staple in budget-friendly cookware.

2. Rachael Ray Cucina Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Cookware Set (12-Piece)

Rachael Ray's cookware offers a balance of style and functionality, perfect for a family kitchen. This set comes in 7 different colors, making it a fun way to match your kitchen in whatever color your style is. I always loved watching her cooking show and seeing the cute, trendy colored cookware- it was so fun and vibrant, just like Rachel Ray is. If you love colors in your decor, you need to check these options out. You may have seen this cookware in common stores as it's a brand by a famous TV chef; if you have another favorite TV chef, you could also search for their recommended cookware. To see some of the Rachel Ray cookware check out her site here.

3. T-fal Signature Nonstick Cookware Set (12-Piece)

Known for its affordability and nonstick prowess, T-fal offers a reliable set that won't break the bank. These pans have a unique feature of Thermo-Spot® heat indicator which tells you when your pan has reached the optimum temperature to seal in the flavor of your food. How it works is when the pan is cold the Thermo-Spot® pattern is clearly visible, however as the pan heats up the pattern will change and turn a solid red once it reaches the ideal temperature. This is a great visual feature for beginner chefs. You can learn more about T-fal cookware and their different set options on their website here.

Mid-Range Choices:

1. GreenPan Valencia Pro Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set · 11 Piece Set

This collection combines style with usefulness and is made with strengthened hard anodized aluminum, which provides extra durability and scratch resistance. This cookware also has Magneto base for superior induction efficiency. Each of the pots and pans features Thermolon Minerals Pro ceramic nonstick, a diamond-infused coating that's metal utensil safe and designed to stand up to intense use while giving you even heating, effortless release, and easy cleanup. Having stainless steel handles means you can cook on the stovetop and then place the cookware right into the oven. Being dishwasher-safe means a quick cleanup after cooking a meal for your family while you relax and enjoy your time together.

2. All-Clad D3 Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set

Known for its exceptional quality, All-Clad is a favorite among chefs. The set includes everything you need to cook like a pro, including 8 and 10-inch fry pans, 2 and 3-quart saucepans with lids, a 3-quart saute pan with lid, and an 8-quart stockpot with lid. Cook like a professional chef in your own home with a set that will give you the quality of a commercial kitchen. All-Clad cookware is a brand commonly used by top chefs in their homes.

3. OXO Ceramic Professional Non-stick · 10 Piece Set

For those leaning towards ceramic cookware, this set has a non-stick coating that ensures clean food release, requiring less oil, making it perfect for healthy cooking. This set features a hard-anodized aluminum body that heats faster and more evenly than traditional aluminum, along with clear tempered glass lids that help keep an eye on your meal as it cooks without losing heat.

Premium Picks:

1. Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron 5-Piece Cookware Set

Renowned for its durability and vibrant colors, Le Creuset's enameled cast iron set is a statement in any kitchen. The iconic Dutch Oven and skillet are included in this set, making it an ideal starting point. With a combination of style and superior heat retention, even cooking, you are sure to impress with both looks and taste.

2. Ruffoni Symphonia Cupra Copper Cookware Set · 7 Piece Set

Elevate your cooking experience with Ruffoni Symphonia’s Cupra copper set, known for its exceptional conductivity, strength and beauty. This versatile set includes a braiser, soup pot, saucepan, and frying pan that can move seamlessly from stovetop to oven to table. The copper color of this cookware gives your kitchen a style of class and sophistication so desirable you’ll want to display them as part of your decor when not in use.

3. Demeyere Atlantis Stainless Steel Cookware Set (3-Piece)

Hailing from Belgium, Demeyere's Atlantis set offers top-notch quality and design. The 7-layer construction provides unparalleled frying and perfect browning and guarantees exceptional heat distribution and retention. Some of the unique features of this set include stay-cool handles and dripless pouring. Stay-cool handles allow you to move, adjust, or stabilize the cookware without the risk of burning yourself on the handles. The dripless pouring is achieved with rolled rims on the edge of the cookware, encouraging a mess-free transfer from one pan to another.

Find the Best Cookware Set for You

Choosing the right cookware set for your family involves the consideration of budget constraints, preferences, cleaning options (is it dishwasher-safe or non-stick?), and long-term durability. Whether opting for budget-friendly, mid-range, or premium options, the market offers a variety of choices to cater to every need. By understanding what to look for and reflecting on personal experiences, finding the perfect cookware set becomes a satisfying journey that enhances the joy of cooking for the entire family.

If you have any questions about finding the best cookware set, please reach out to any of our Curated Kitchen Experts. They’re more than happy to help!

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