When it comes to the best stainless steel cookware, savvy shoppers know to bring home a set that can handle it all: high temperatures, metal utensils, a variety of toppings and frequent use of the dishwasher. When I began rigorously testing the most popular stainless steel sets on the market, I considered this collective criteria – plus at least a dozen other qualifications. If you want to invest in the best overall kit, our top choice is the fully clad D3 stainless steel, which exceeded our expectations for durability, temperature control and value.
Stainless steel is often the preferred cooking material for professional chefs. While copper and cast iron sets may have higher heat retention, they require additional care and maintenance (they are also usually heavier). While non-stick cookware may be praised for having the easiest surfaces to use and clean, the material falls short when it comes to proper scorching and browning. At the same time, stainless steel offers the best combination of all possible features. It performs exceptionally well and is easy to maintain, requiring only a simple cleaning process at start-up.
Here is a list of all the winners of our stainless steel testing process. Below, you can also find our test methodology and how each group performed during the evaluation process.
1.All-Clad D3 Cookware Set, 10 piece Set
This classic cookware is loved by professionals and home cooks alike, and for good reason. It browns perfectly and evenly and keeps stews and sauces at a steady simmer. When using it, you don’t have to constantly rearrange the chicken, stir the chili or adjust the heat under the broth. Although it’s shiny stainless steel inside and out, it has an aluminum core, so it works great. The classic angled shape on the skillet makes it easy to roll out omelets or pour in sauces.
Since the handles are riveted to the base, they’ll never loosen or fall off. The D3 can be used at temperatures up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can put a pan cobbler under the broiler to brown its cookie tops. The set includes a variety of basic pots and pans, including an 8-quart stockpot for cooking crab or pasta water.
You can go ahead and put these pots and pans in the dishwasher or easily wash them by hand. We recommend that you do not use them to roast loin of beef at high temperatures, or you may find yourself with cooking splatters that will take some work to wipe off. The size of each pan is engraved on the bottom, so you always know if you’re holding the one specified in the recipe. If you prefer to buy American, you’ll be happy to know that All-Clad is made in the USA.
2.Tramontina 12-Piece Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Cookware Set
This comprehensive set from Tramontina has ergonomic handles and an overall sturdy and well-made feel. Among our testers, it scored highest in design and ease of cleaning. As one tester put it, it also “heats up quickly and has good heat distribution. However, testers didn’t like the way the scallops formed a lace-like shell and the vegetable omelet stuck to the bottom of the pan. Overall, the unit felt durable, well-made and comfortable in our hands throughout our testing. It was also easy to clean.
3.Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set
The lids on this set are not glass, so you have to remove them to see what you are cooking.
Overall, the best stainless steel cookware set is the Cuisinart MCP-12N MultiClad Pro 3-Piece 12-Piece Set. According to testers, this cookware set feels durable and lasts a long time. Plus, it’s very easy to clean.
The set is oven safe up to 500 degrees and the pans maintained a fairly even temperature during the test. Temperatures around the pans range from 350 to 400 to 334, which means that when you brown meat or fish, it will be cooked evenly without fuss.
After heating one of the pans, testers cooked several scallops and found they didn’t stick together, turned cleanly and were easy to remove from the pan. Overall, the pans gave the shellfish an even golden brown color. The testers found similar results when they cooked a vegetable-stuffed omelet, noting that there was little to no sticking to the pan and that the pan provided a nice, even sear. After cooking, they noted that the pans were easy to clean and had little discoloration.
Testers liked that the pans’ handles stayed cool even in high temperatures, which is an ideal safety feature, especially if you have small children in the home. They also liked the durability of the set, describing it as a “beast.
It’s worth noting that since the lids are not glass, you have to lift them up to check your dishes while cooking. However, all parts are dishwasher safe, so they are easy to clean in case of spills.
4.Anolon 75818 Nouvelle Stainless Steel Cookware
This set meets all the important requirements – it includes cookware in the size you’re likely to use, it’s made of stainless steel that won’t rust or stain, and it won’t react with acidic foods like ketchup. It also features a multi-metal base for optimal heat distribution, retention and control.
The set includes a 1.25-quart pan with lid, a 2.5-quart pan with lid, a 6.5-quart stockpot with lid, an 8-inch French fryer, a 10.5-inch French fryer and a 3-quart sauté pan with lid.
The base has a layer of copper encased in aluminum and covered with stainless steel, making it suitable for any stovetop surface, including induction. Our lab tests determined that while the five-layer design of this cookware makes the parts heavy and takes some time to heat up, it also allows them to hold heat well and distribute it evenly, with only a five-degree difference center between the rim and the bottom, which is slightly hotter because it sits directly above the burner. These pans allowed our scallops to bake nicely without any major sticking – a major plus, but the rest of the stuff that likes to stick to the bottom of the pan reminded us that these pans are not “non-stick”. Cooking an omelette in this set can be a bit tricky, but still workable.
The tulip shape looks elegant and the polished exterior adds class, while the brushed interior hides the inevitable scratches from use. The handles are made of cast stainless steel with two rivets attached for durability, and the domed lid features a high-ring handle that’s easy to grip even if you’re wearing finger gloves.
The set is oven safe up to 500 degrees and can be used under the broiler. For easy cleaning, all parts are dishwasher safe; however, our reviewer warned that harsh dishwasher cleaners may fade or leave a film on the stainless steel. Since the lid is stainless steel and not glass, you can’t see what’s cooking, but that means the lid is also oven safe and unbreakable.
5.Nanobond Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set
This cookware set performed well in our tests. The pots and pans are infused with titanium, making them strong and virtually non-stick, which is probably one of the biggest pain points of stainless steel cookware, especially when it comes to cleaning. In our lab tests, they required little to no elbow grease, and in our home tests, testers found that soaking them for a while made them easier to clean. In addition, they have flush rivets, so there are fewer areas for food to get stuck. Their color will darken over time, but can be restored to like new with the included Hestan cleaner.
The 11-inch skillet is our go-to for almost every meal. (We’ve used it in our home almost every day for the past three years, and then some!) In our tests, it heated evenly, browned steaks nicely on both sides, and was virtually stain-free. Like other pans, it is sturdy and durable, with a long handle and finger grip on the bottom that helps balance the pan nicely. In addition, it has a large surface area and shallow edges, making it ideal for stir-frying. The other parts in the set are also suitable for two pans with good insulation. They cleaned up quickly after our sauce sear test. All parts are oven safe up to 1050ºF. While the Hestan Nanobond 10-piece cookware set may seem expensive at first glance, it is competitively priced with other high-end cookware.
Things to Consider Before Buying
We know that price is always a factor, so when comparing price points consider how often you cook at home and whether you need to purchase additional parts to complete your cookware collection. Celebrity chef Serena Poon recommends fully clad cookware, adding that while these cookware tend to be more expensive, you can view your purchase as an investment: “Cheaper stainless steel cookware is less reliable in terms of quality output, and you will have to replace them more often.”
If you can’t stand to wash your pots and pans by hand, you may want to look for machine-washable cookware, such as our top pick, the Cuisinart MCP-12N MultiClad Pro 3-Piece 12-Piece Set. But Poon adds an important caveat: “Most stainless steel cookware is dishwasher safe, but if you insist on washing your hands with a non-abrasive soap and sponge, you may prolong the life of your pans,” she says.
A pound or so can make a big difference in the handling of pans and pans. Depending on how many “layers” your pot or pan is made of, you can find lighter and heavier pans that suit your needs. If you are not used to using a heavier one, expect an adjustment period. We recommend that people who have difficulty lifting heavy objects choose a lighter stainless steel cookware set to ensure safety.
Some chefs value visibility when cooking, and glass-topped pans are perfect for watching your cooking. Others are content to cover their pots and pans, peeking inside as needed, and may prefer a stainless steel top to match the rest of their pans. When choosing a new stainless steel cookware set, pay attention to the lid design. We especially like sets with well-designed lids that make it easy to strain pasta.