Best Stainless Steel Cookware Sets Reviewed
Stainless steel is like the Ferrari of cookware. It is shiny, expensive, and has a reputation for being high-maintenance.
And as with a luxury vehicle, you need to do thorough research before buying and seriously consider whether investing in high-end cookware makes sense for you.
It is one thing to try out a single piece of cookware, but what if you need a whole set? There are many choices available when searching for the best stainless steel cookware.
All these spectacular looking sets on the market look pretty much the same!
So what is the difference between one set of shiny pots and pans and another? A lot, it turns out.
Choosing the best set of stainless steel cookware requires knowledge about this type of metal, awareness about what you plan to use it for, and a willingness to invest a little more money than for other types of pans.
Luckily, we cover all of these things in this article to prepare you for your upcoming purchase. So, get excited! It’s about to get tasty in your kitchen!
Quick-view: Our Top 5 Picks
|1.||Cuisinart TPS-10||23.1 x 13.7 x 9.3 inches|
|2.||All-Clad D3 Tri-Ply||22.8 x 13 x 19 inches|
|3.||Demeyere 5-Plus||24 x 21 x 18.5 inches|
|4.||Magma A10-360L-IND||11 x 11 x 8 inches|
|5.||Chef’s Star Premium||26.7 x 15.5 x 12.5 inches|
Stainless Steel Cookware Types
Few people realize that stainless steel is not a single metal, but an alloy of several different metals. The variations in proportions of these metals are what differentiate one “type” of stainless steel from another.
Chromium must comprise a minimum of 10.5% of a product for it to be labeled as “stainless.” The other main metals used are iron, nickel, and carbon.
Apart from those, manufacturers add any of several different elements, including manganese, silicon, titanium, and molybdenum to the mix to improve their products and characterize their brands.
But only certain types of stainless steel are used to produce cookware. The coverings of your shiny new fridge or double oven are not going to be the same type of stainless steel as the equipment you cook with.
This is because your cookware needs to be able to withstand the daily rigors of ovens, stove burners, and kitchen abuse in general that larger kitchen appliances generally don’t. In order to do that, your pots and pans have been labeled with “grades.”
The two most common labels are 18/8 and 18/10. These codes represent the percentage of chromium and nickel, respectively, and fall into the Grade 304 category. Grade 304 is by far the most common grade of stainless steel cookware.
Grade 316 (also known as “surgical” or “marine” stainless steel) is another commonly used type. It is more expensive because it contains either molybdenum or titanium in its ingredients for improved corrosion resistance.
If you are confused or still wondering what a “grade” actually is, don’t worry. The most important thing that you need to look for is the 18/8 or 18/10 codes stamped on your potential purchase.
Anything else is likely to be subpar or unique and therefore expensive. You can always Google any unknown codes to find out what they mean. We prefer to stick to those tried-and-true alloy combinations that have always served us well.
Our Top 10 Best Stainless Steel Cookware
Cuisinart TPS-10 10-Piece Cookware Set
Customers rave that it does everything that the fancy brands do, but at a fraction of the cost. So when you combine quality AND value you end up with one of the best stainless steel pots and pans.
Plus, it includes a nifty little steamer insert to cook healthy veggies (or whatever tickles your fancy).
All-Clad D3 Tri-Ply Bonded Cookware 10-Piece Set
We can't say enough good things about these pieces. They are perfectly-weighted, they heat and cook evenly every single time, and they clean up after a big meal better than the participants on “Queer Eye.”
The tri-ply bonded construction consists of durable stainless steel encapsulating an aluminum core to prevent hot spots and give your steaks that perfect sear. Broiling is a breeze, as well, since these pans support oven temperatures up to 600 degrees (sans lids). And just in case you manage to pull off the impossible and damage something, the company offers a lifetime warranty.
- Durable tri-ply bonded construction
- Starburst finish to prevent food from sticking
- Compatible with all cooktops
- Anti-warp design maintains pots' shape under all conditions
- Also available in 5-piece, 14-piece, and 21-piece sets
- Made in the USA
- Set does not include a 12-inch skillet
Demeyere 5-Plus 10-Piece Cookware Set
The bases of these pieces are extremely stable so that you never have to worry about bulging or warping, no matter how hot your burner. Plus, the handles are beautifully designed in an ergonomic manner to keep your hands safe and comfortable while you drain your pasta or flip that ribeye.
This set is comprised of two saucepans with lids (2- and 4-quarts), two frying pans (9.5” and 11”), a 3-quart saute pan with lid, and an 8-quart stockpot with lid.
- Professional kitchen quality
- Exteriors are finished with a TriplInduc layer that improves cooking efficiency by up to 30% on induction stoves
- The proprietary silvinox surface treatment keeps your pieces satin-polished year after year
- Handles are welded; no inside rivets to interfere with grip
- Compatible with all cooktops
- Made in Belgium
- Seriously costly
Magma Products 10-Piece Nesting Cookware
Two removable handles can be used with any of the pieces and then removed for easy storage. Speaking of storage, the clever people at Magma Products have designed this set to stack together in less than ½ cubic foot of cabinet space. The included bungee storage cord secures everything in place.
Whether on a boat or in an RV, customers rave about the quality and versatility of these pieces. Plus, we imagine that these could also prove useful to those working stiffs who are short on storage space in the kitchen.
- The tri-clad bottoms are made of a top layer of stainless steel, an inner layer of aluminum, and a bottom layer of magnetic stainless steel
- Oven- and dishwasher-safe
- Takes up very little storage space
- Optimized for induction cooktops, but functions with all types
- Thumb Release Trigger Handles easily attach and detach with just one hand
- Does not include nesting spacers
- Interior can discolor
- Some customers report the handles melting when used on gas stoves
Chef's Star Premium Pots And Pans 17-Piece Set
Speaking of those pieces, here’s what you get: two frying pans (8- and 9.5-inches), two saucepans with lids, a casserole pan with lid, stockpot with lid, saute pan with helper and lid, a 9.5-inch broiler basket, a 9.5-inch steamer basket, and three kitchen utensils.
Customers speak lovingly of how functional these pieces are brag about the many delicious meals they have successfully prepared with Chef’s Star.
- Constructed of premium 18/8 commercial grade stainless steel
- Beautiful design
- Compatible with all cooktops
- Extra pieces make cooking for large groups a breeze
- Handles are ergonomically-designed with an anti-slip satin finish
- Prone to temporary discoloration
- Smaller cooking surface than other brands
- Food may stick to pans if not properly preheated
Tramontina 80116/249DS Gourmet Stainless Steel 12-Piece Set
With that type of pedigree, you can rest assured that you're getting something good when you buy Tramontina. This 12-piece set comes with two frying pans (8 and 10 inches), three saucepans (1.5, 2, and 3 quarts), a 5-quart deep saute pan, and an 8-quart stockpot. All pieces except the frying pans come with lids.
In case you remain skeptical about what kind of quality you're getting with this set, know that The National Sanitary Foundation has certified it to be worthy of use in professional kitchens. Even better, the company offers a lifetime warranty to cover any mishaps.
- Tri-ply clad construction of an aluminum core surrounded one level of 18/10 stainless steel and another of magnetic stainless steel
- Quick and even heat distribution on all sides of each pan
- Also available in 8- and 10-piece sets
- Handles are ergonomically-designed, cast stainless steel
- Compatible with all cooktops
- Mirror-polished exterior and satin-finished interior
- Advertised as made in Brazil but arrives with “Made in China” stamp
- Prone to stains
- Some users felt that the cooking surfaces on these pieces were significantly smaller than the advertised dimensions
- Moderately expensive
Duxtop SSC-9PC 9 Piece Whole-Clad Tri-Ply Induction Cookware, Stainless Steel
Each piece is designed with whole-clad tri-ply construction to avoid hot spots and distribute heat evenly, not just along the bottom, but throughout the entirety of each piece.
Although Duxtop is not nearly as well-known as other brands, such as Cuisinart or Faberware, their products generally receive high marks. Customers report that this particular set is durable, distributes heat evenly, is easy to clean, and offers good value for their money. It also includes a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects.
- Products are fully cladded to eliminate hotspots
- Compatible with all cooktops
- Also available in 10-piece and 14-piece sets
- The exclusive Whole Clad bonding technology extends the life of the pieces dramatically, as compared to encapsulated base construction
- Drip-free pouring rims
- Prone to staining
- Some customers report that the items emit an annoying noise when used on induction stoves
T-fal C836SD Ultimate Stainless Steel Copper Bottom 13 PC Cookware Set
The 13-piece set includes three frying pans (8, 10.5, and 12 inches), three saucepans with lids (1, 2, and 3 quarts), a 5-quart Dutch oven with lid, and a steamer. The company also offers a limited lifetime warranty.
- The thick bases ensure even heating
- Also available in 12-piece, 14-piece, and 17-piece sets
- Compatible with all cooktops
- The insides are etched with measuring marks to facilitate recipe adherence
- Reasonably priced
- The exposed copper part can flake if not properly cared for
- The bottoms are not fully encapsulated
- The handles get hot
Farberware Millennium Cookware Set, 10-Piece
This 10-piece set features all the basics you need to equip your kitchen like a pro: two frying pans (8- and 10-inches), two covered saucepans (1 and 2 quarts), an 8-quart covered stockpot, and a 3-quart covered saute pan.
The stainless steel base fully encapsulates a thick aluminum core. This core provides exceptional heat distribution. Customers appreciate how durable this affordable set is, with many bragging that they've had theirs for years without issue.
- Contemporary flared handles stay cool and comfortable
- The gentle tulip shaped bodies look great and are extremely durable
- Compatible with all cooktops
- Also available in a 12-piece set
- Not as heavyweight as other brands
- The actual cooking surface is on the smaller side
- Some quality control issues with individual defective pieces
Cook N Home NC-00250 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
Customers overall are incredibly pleased with the value of these items, given their price point. As you might expect, they are neither as sturdy nor as efficient as higher-priced brands. According to over 2,000 reviews, though, they heat evenly, are easy to clean, and perform basic functions reliably.
Customers have been disappointed with the design of the handles. Their riveting can come apart, the handles heat up easily and become difficult to handle, and they collect water if you don't dry them properly. But for less than $100 for a 12-piece set, many are willing to forgive these shortcomings.
- An all-surface reflective finish gives a nice look and is a breeze to clean
- Lids are tempered glass and include a steam vent on each
- Also available with silicone handle coverings
- Very affordable
- Lids have a lower oven temperature tolerance than pans (350 vs. 500 degrees)
- Handles are hollow and can collect water
- Rivets can pop off, especially during cooking
- Food tends to burn on the bottom of the pots
Factors to Consider
Cost is an obvious and important consideration because quality stainless steel products are not cheap.
You can save a certain amount of money upfront by buying a cheaper product, but it is likely that those pieces won’t be as durable as more expensive ones.
And if you end up having to spend additional money to buy replacement pieces after several years, have you really saved money in the end?
We believe that, if you have the funds, it makes more sense to invest in a more expensive quality set of cookware that will last you the rest of your life.
Weight is something that many people don’t think about when purchasing cookware. You should only buy items that you can easily maneuver around a kitchen.
Stainless steel can be heavy on its own, but be aware that the weight of these pieces will significantly increase when that pot is full of water or that saute pan has a meal for four people inside it.
Stainless steel alone is not a good conductor of heat, so it needs to be combined with another, more conductive metal. The two best and most popular options are aluminum and copper.
Copper is higher maintenance than aluminum and also tends to be more expensive, so most mid-range companies choose to use aluminum. Unless you are planning to use your cookware daily in a professional setting, copper is probably not worth the extra trouble.
This might seem like a minor consideration compared to all of the above factors, but don’t be fooled.
Well-designed and constructed handles can mean the difference between using your pans daily and hiding them away only for emergencies..
First, let’s discuss design. All handles are not created equal. Their length and composition will determine how hot they get during use.
Their shape can either make grabbing them a breeze or the most painful 20 seconds of your day. Always try to select products with ergonomic handles for comfort.
Then, there is their construction. The two most common ways for handles to be attached to cookware is through rivets or welding.
Both have good and bad aspects to them but, in general, rivets are less popular because they tend to come loose and can be hard to clean adequately.
Products with rivets do tend to be more economical, though, so you will have to decide if welding is something that you are willing to pay for.
One of the most important reasons to choose stainless steel over other types of cookware is its safety.
Quality stainless steel is non-reactive, meaning that it won’t leach metals or toxins into your food. Since most stainless steel includes a small amount of nickel, those with specific sensitivities should choose nickel-free options.
There is no single “safest” option for every single person on this planet, but stainless steel comes close.
And for those who lament the fact that it is not 100% non-stick, remember that the same coating that makes your food so conveniently slide off your pans is also highly toxic.
Stainless steel is an incredibly resilient type of cookware. If you follow care and usage instructions properly, these pieces can last for decades.
In some cases, depending on the quality of the alloy and how it has been used, pans can discolor, but this rarely affects their functionality.
Easy to Clean
Yes, you read that correctly. While it is easy to find many complaints about food sticking to these products, if used correctly, stainless steel cookware can be non-stick and a breeze to clean.
When food gets stuck, you may need to soak your pan for a while, but well-made items will return to their original state with a little patience and elbow grease.
How to choose a set with the right pieces
People’s first question is often, “Which pieces should I buy?” That largely depends on what kind of cooking you plan to do.
Even the most basic cooks will use a good stainless steel frying pan frequently, so it is important to have at least one around 10”-12” in size.
Second in importance are your saucepans. Notice our use of the plural here? This is because, unless you exclusively eat meat and bread, you are going to want to boil things occasionally.
Saucepans are useful for making soups, sauces, pasta, boiling eggs, and even reheating leftovers. Ideally, you should have a small one for sauces and individual dishes and a larger one that allows you to cook for multiple people.
Saute pans come next. Despite looking very similar to the frying pan, this piece has a lot more versatility.
Saute pans are deeper with straight sides and usually come with a tight-fitting lid. This design enables you to fry, simmer, and even cook one-pot dishes.
That May Be All You Need…
Those are your essentials to ensure a functional kitchen. If you are looking to keep things simple and/or affordable, you can get away with a three-piece set of one frying pan, one saucepan, and one saute pan.
Sets that include lids will raise the number of pieces to five or six.
Perhaps You Want More…
If you are a more advanced cook (or just want more shiny decorations to hang in your fancy kitchen), we suggest you add additional sizes of each of the above items, plus a few more specialized pieces.
And it goes without saying that you choosing stainless steel utensils to accompany and “match in” with your cookware should be a strong consideration.
Stockpots take up a lot of space but can be extremely useful when cooking for large crowds – think Thanksgiving dinner – or if you like to make things like bone broth or corn on the cob.
Then there is the wok. We consider woks to be an essential tool for any kitchen. You can make so many delicious, quick meals simply by cutting up some veggies and protein and tossing them in a wok for a few minutes with some flavorings.
Just make sure that you invest in a large enough one. There is nothing worse than accidentally tossing your intended dinner onto the floor because the wok was too small for all of the ingredients.
Dutch ovens are another great option if you are a fan of cooking things like stews or slow-cooked meats, such as pot roasts.
It Comes Down to Choice
If you add up these additional items, you are looking at cooking sets of anywhere from 13 to 17 pieces. Again, so much depends on what you plan to cook and for how many.
How to Clean
Many people complain that their stainless steel pans are difficult to clean. While this may indeed be true in some instances, we believe that most of the time, customers are not well-informed on how to properly clean their items.
There are several ways to successfully remove that food that you accidentally burned onto the bottom of your pan last night.
Here’s an awesome way to clean a pan with burned on food:
In addition, customers swear by one particular product: Bar Keepers Friend Powdered Cleanser to make their cookware shine like new.
How to season
Properly preparing your pans to receive the food that they will cook is a critical first step to success with stainless steel items.
This can be intimidating for novices, but it’s not actually that hard. If you devote a small amount of time to adequately seasoning your pan with the best oil, you will have so much easier of a time when cooking with stainless steel.
This video gives you a good walk-through on seasoning your stainless steel cookware:
And don’t forget; seasoning is not a one-time-only activity! For best results, re-season your pans regularly. The frequency will depend on how much you use them.
Best Stainless Steel Cookware Brands
Honestly, all of the stainless steel cookware brands that we have listed here have a positive reputation. These guys really produce good products that do their jobs well.
Farberware and Cuisinart are the most well-known cookware brands to the general public because they offer a wide range of cost-effective products outside of stainless steel.
All-Clad, T-Fal, Tramontina, and Demeyere are all high-end manufacturers who have a recognized specialization in stainless steel products and associated brands. They are more expensive, but their pieces have a reputation for lasting years, if not decades.
The remaining stainless steel cookware brands on this list are not as well-known, but they have produced items sufficiently well-received by the public and professional cookware reviewers to make it onto our list.
Invest More and Save Later
If you are a nervous first-time customer willing to spend some money (but not a lot), we advise you to go with Farberware or Cuisinart brands. People looking for a serious commitment will probably be happier with one of the more expensive, specialized brands.
Only if you are on a very tight budget or if you have a specialized need (such as travel-ready items) do we suggest one of the lesser-known brands.
But again, each set on this review has met our expectations, so you should be safe with whichever stainless steel brands choice you make!
Q: Is it better to buy a set or each piece individually?
A: In general, cookware sets are more affordable than purchasing each piece individually. But, if you cook infrequently or are on a tight budget, purchasing piece by piece might make more sense for you. In this way, you can ensure that you only buy what you use the most.
Q: What is the difference between “plys” and “cladding”?
A: The best way to understand the difference between these two terms is to think of them like this: layers vs. bonding.
In other words, the number of “plys” simply refers to how many different layers of metal the pan is comprised of.
“Cladding,” on the other hand, tells you the different layers of metal used to construct the item are fused together. It can also mean that another material was added to the bottom of the pan to enhance heat transfer.
Selecting the best stainless steel cookware set is a serious investment for most people and can be confusing and even intimidating. We have given you a lot of information in this article.
We hope that you can use our industry knowledge and product insights to find a product that will grace your kitchen and elevate your cooking for many years to come.