The 6 Best Stainless Steel Cookware Sets for Home Cooks

After careful evaluation, here are our winners.

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stainless steel cookware with fried eggs
Photo: Rachel Johnson

Every home cook should consider investing in quality stainless steel cookware. Stainless steel is versatile, easy to maintain, budget-friendly, and truly unbreakable, meaning one set can last you a lifetime.

We tested some of the best stainless steel cookware sets on the market, evaluating each one for overall feel, variety, efficiency of materials, and ease of cleaning. After careful consideration, we determined Calphalon's Premier Stainless Set was our top pick, but a few others made the list as well. To help you choose the best option for your needs—whether you're a beginner looking to invest in your first collection or a lifelong cook looking to upgrade your pots and pans—here are the best stainless steel cookware sets.

Our Favorites

Best Overall: Calphalon Premier Stainless Steel 11-Piece Set

calphalon stainless 11 piece cookware
Bed, Bath and Beyond

Why It's Great

  • Cool, easy-to-grip handles
  • Easy to clean
  • Lifetime warranty

Grain of Salt

  • 450-degree limit in ovens

As our best overall pick, Calphalon's 11-piece Premier Stainless Steel Set performed brilliantly for all of our tests, and its stylish design, durable build, and easy-to-clean surface made it stand out from the rest. The collection includes two frying pans, two saucepans, a saute pan, a stockpot, and five lids.

Calphalon's stainless steel cookware features an aluminum core coated in layers of stainless steel for maximum heat retention and durability. All pieces are dishwasher safe, and barely any food residue remained on the surface post-cleanup. We found the ergonomically designed handles to be equal parts stylish and functional, making the pans easy tilt when basting a steak or making a pan sauce.

"While this set is quite hefty in price, it does offer numerous pot and pan sizes applicable to completely fulfill any kitchen needs," says our product tester Rachel Johnson. "These pieces will surely stand the test of time and prove to be a wise investment in the experienced cook's kitchen."

The Details: 3-ply construction; stainless steel with an aluminum core; dishwasher safe; oven safe up to 450 degrees

Best Runner-Up: All-Clad d5 Stainless Steel Five-Piece Set

All-Clad d5 Brushed Stainless-Steel 5-Piece Cookware Set
Williams Sonoma

Why It's Great

  • Durable five-layer bonded construction
  • Superior heat distribution
  • Great for limited storage space

Grain of Salt

  • Long, straight handle design
  • Handles get warm on high heat

If you're looking to level up your cookware without purchasing a large collection, All-Clad's five-piece set is your best bet, including a fry pan, a covered saucepan, and a covered saute pan.

All-Clad's cookware is unmatched when it comes to quality. These pans have a whopping five layers, including an aluminum core for quick and even heating and thick, uniform 18/10 stainless steel walls for longevity. Although this set is dishwasher safe, All-Clad recommends using a fine powder cleanser to preserve the material. The cons? The handles were somewhat cumbersome and became warm to the touch when working with high heat.

"The All-Clad name carries significant weight in the cookware world," Rachel says. "While this set is definitely the most expensive per piece, it will impress guests and demonstrate that you are a serious cook that values quality."

The Details: 5-ply construction; 18/10 stainless steel with an aluminum core; dishwasher safe; oven safe up to 600 degrees

Best Budget: T-fal Performa 14-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

T-fal performa stainless steel cookware set
T-fal

Why It's Great

  • Quality construction
  • Includes kitchen utensils
  • Inexpensive compared to other sets

Grain of Salt

  • Shows wear and tear over time

Featuring 14 pieces for just $100, T-fal's stainless steel cookware set provides quality pans at an unbeatable price. Not only does the collection include a 5-quart covered Dutch oven, two covered saucepans, a frying pan, and a saute pan, but it also features a slotted spoon, a slotted turner, and measuring spoons. We recommend this set for beginner cooks or those looking to replace several pieces in their cookware collection.

Out of all the pots we tested, this Dutch oven was the quickest to come to a boil. The saute pan worked great for frying a single egg. Like our runner-up pick, this set is made with the highest quality stainless steel. However, because it's not multi-layered, this set felt much lighter than the others we tested, which could affect its long-term durability. We loved the high sides of the frying pan, but when it came to cleanup time, there was a noticeable mark from scorched oil that was nearly impossible to remove.

"For the budget cook, this cookware set cannot be matched," Rachel says. "This set will perform well but will likely not hold up over time. After a year or so of regular use, this set will show noticeable wear and tear."

The Details: 18/10 stainless steel construction; dishwasher safe; oven safe up to 500 degrees

Related: The 9 Best Sauté Pans You Can Get at Every Price Point, According to Home Cooks

Most Versatile: Cuisinart Forever Stainless Collection 11-Piece Set

Cuisinart Stainless Collection

Why It's Great

  • Features a steamer insert
  • Nonstick coating on skillets
  • Safe in oven, broiler, and freezer
  • Inexpensive

Grain of Salt

  • Saucepan can be challenging to clean

Cuisinart's Forever Stainless Collection is the only set on our list to feature a steamer insert, two nonstick pans, and a straining cover, making this an extremely versatile set for home cooks. The cookware has a beautiful mirror-polished finish as well as bonded aluminum bases for optimal functionality.

For half the cost of competitor sets, this set contains two covered saucepans (one has a straining cover), one covered stockpot, two nonstick skillets, and a steamer insert. At first, the pieces felt somewhat light in weight, but we found that they were well made and thoughtfully designed. During testing, the cookware came to temperature very fast and delivered a nice even sear across the meat. Although the saucepan did gain some patina after searing meat, it mostly rubbed off with a little elbow grease.

"Overall, this collection features a multitude of pots and pans, leaving the customer without a desire to add more standard pieces to their kitchen," Rachel says. "Cuisinart is a reputable name and offers a lifetime warranty, and this set is reasonably priced for the number of pieces included."

The Details: Mirror-polished stainless steel construction; dishwasher safe; oven safe up to 500 degrees

Best for Beginners: Made In The Starter Kit

Made In starter set
Made In

Why It's Great

  • Nice design
  • Takes up minimal storage space
  • Includes four versatile pots and pans

Grain of Salt

  • Expensive for a smaller set

Made In's Starter Set it's an excellent choice for those who are new to premium cookware, have limited cabinet space, or cook for a small number of people. The six-piece collection comes with a stainless steel frying pan, a blue carbon steel nonstick frying pan, a lidded saucepan, a lidded stockpot, and a can of carbon steel seasoning wax, all of which are must-haves in every kitchen.

During testing, the stainless steel frying pan created a nice even crust on the steak. The pan's large surface and shallow sides make it easy to spill, so we recommend being extra careful when working with liquids in the frying pan. This set is technically dishwasher safe, but hand washing is advised.

"For a relative newcomer, Made In impressed [me] with its quality materials and thoughtful design," Rachel says. "This would be a great 'level up' for those looking to gain more skill in the kitchen."

The Details: 5-ply stainless steel construction and blue carbon steel; dishwasher safe but hand wash recommended; stainless oven safe up to 800 degrees and carbon steel oven safe up to 1200 degrees

Best Conduction: Anolon Nouvelle Stainless 10-Piece Cookware Set

Anolon-Nouvelle-Stainless-10-Piece-Cookware
Wayfair

Why It's Great

  • Copper base for superior heat conductivity
  • Sturdy handles
  • Stylish design

Grain of Salt

  • Signs of wear and tear after one use
  • Pans are on the heavier side

Anolon Nouvelle's Stainless Steel Cookware sets itself apart from the rest thanks to its copper base with superior heat conductivity. Not only does the copper base heat up quickly and evenly, but its stunning color, combined with the polished stainless steel, is also aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

The set comes with two covered saucepans, one covered stockpot, two frying pans, and one covered saute pan. During testing, we noticed some patchy browning on the steak; however, the sauce came out beautifully. The large frying pan fit four eggs at a time, which slipped out of the pan with ease.

On the downside, we noticed some wear and oil marks following use. We also found that the pans were quite heavy, which could be difficult for some to use. Overall, this set gives you the elegance and high-quality performance of copper core cookware without having to spend too much.

The Details: Stainless steel construction with copper base; dishwasher safe; oven safe up to 500 degrees

Related: The 7 Best Copper Cookware Sets, Tested by Allrecipes

Our Takeaway

Our best overall pick, Calphalon's Premier Stainless Steel 11-Piece Set, ranked the highest on our list because of its long-lasting construction, excellent variety of essential cookware, and easy cleanup. This set also features an aluminum core, which offers fast and even heat distribution as well as durability.

How to Pick the Right Stainless Steel Cookware Set

Weight

When it comes to stainless steel, the heavier the pot or pan, the better (to a degree—you want to be able to handle it easily, of course). Especially if you're an avid cook that plans to put the pans through lots of use. Heavier, stainless steel will be more durable.

The heaviest stainless steel is 18/10, which means the stainless steel is made with 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel, both of which protect the steel from rust and help give it its signature shine.

Core or Cladding

Contrary to popular belief, stainless steel is actually a poor conductor of heat. In order to get the durability of stainless steel with the conduction ability of other metals, you'll want to make sure you get stainless steel cookware with an aluminum or copper core, or one with cladding. Cladding (also known as ply) means there has been a complete layer of metal added along the base and sides. Cookware with cladding is going to be more expensive than cookware with solely a metal core.

The ability of a pan to spread heat is going to come down to the thickness of the core, with thicker cores being better at conducting heat. However, a copper core doesn't require as thick of a base to create even distribution, which is why copper-core pots and pans often have thinner bases than aluminum-core cookware.

Versatility

It's important to consider your level of necessity when choosing a set of cookware. Some cookware sets come with 14+ pieces, which may be necessary for an avid cook. But if you think you can settle for something more basic, you can save a lot of money opting for a smaller set with a few basic pieces that can be used for a variety of kitchen tasks.

Price

Not only do stainless steel cookware sets range in size, but they can also range in price from less than $100 to close to $1,000. While it's important to invest in a quality set, the good thing about stainless steel is you don't have to break the bank to get one.

About Our Tests

Rachel Johnson, our seasoned product tester, examined stainless steel cookware sets from a variety of popular brands including Cuisinart, All-Clad, T-fal, and more. Rachel tested the stainless steel cookware three ways: Timing how long the pots took to bring water to a boil; using a frying pan to fry an egg; and using a frying pan to make a Bourbon Pepper Pan Sauce.

Each set was rated on the following metrics:

  • Overall Feel: Does this set feel well-made and sturdy? What kind of kitchen would this set be best suited for?
  • Variety: Is there a use for each item or do some pots or pans appear redundant? How many lids does this set come with? Any bonus items?
  • Efficiency of Materials: How quickly and evenly does the pan heat and cook food?
  • Cleanup: Is it dishwasher safe? What kind of cleaning products can be used?

Why Take Our Word for It?

Allrecipes is a community-driven brand providing trusted resources to our large network of home cooks. Ecommerce Writer Melanie Fincher and Product Tester Rachel Johnson determined the best stainless steel cookware sets on the market by evaluating the cookware sets' overall feel, variety, efficiency, and ease of cleaning.

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