Our advice has always been to skip sets and just buy the pans you need. But new brands offering practical cookware packages compelled us to take another look.
Last Updated Sept. 1, 2022.
The Best Buy cookware set from Tramontina has been discontinued, and the closest replacement from that company is a more expensive set with smaller pans in sizes we don't find as useful. In its place, we are promoting the Goldilocks cookware set as our new Best Buy.
If you want to cook with confidence—or help a novice cook get a solid start—quality cookware is essential. You don’t have to spend a ton of money; choosing well is key. We usually insist that you buy cookware piece by piece so you pay for only what you need. To help keep track of everything, we've put together a comprehensive guide to stocking a kitchen with cookware, featuring both essential items and a few handy extras. Even so, people continue to ask us about cookware sets. There have been some interesting developments since the last time we tested cookware sets, so we decided to take another look, buying eight sets priced from about $160 to about $560, including the winning and Best Buy sets from our previous testing.
Cookware sets are different from most kitchen products in that manufacturers typically customize the contents of sets for retailers, meaning that two 10-piece sets from the same brand at different stores can contain different pans. Some sets also contain oddball additions such as colanders to plump up the total number of pieces and make a set seem more valuable. (Lids count as pieces, too.) What’s worse, manufacturers often cut costs by shrinking the pans. As a result, it’s rare to find what we regard as “full-size” cookware, such as a 12-inch skillet, 4-quart saucepan, or 8- to 12-quart stockpot, in a set. Too-small, crowded pans tend to boil over, steam instead of sear, and take longer to accomplish some cooking tasks because they require cooking food in batches.
Frankly, quality can also be an issue: We’ve seen cookware sets for astonishingly low prices, but too many consist of a pile of flimsy, nonstick-coated aluminum pans. They’re not capable of transmitting heat uniformly—and they’re not durable. It’s false economy if you’re constantly fighting your pans just to cook a good meal and you replace them every few years.
However, we recently found new brands that take a different approach. They focus on construction quality, sell directly to consumers to reduce prices, and offer standard combinations of pans, with some even featuring practical pieces of full-size cookware. We rounded up five of these sets, as well as an innovative set launched by a brand we’ve liked in the past.
Nearly all the sets we bought contained the following pans (all slightly smaller than we preferred): a 10-inch skillet, a 3-quart saucepan, a 3-quart sauté pan (a deep, lidded frying pan with tall sides), and a 5-quart (or larger) stockpot. Most sets had additional pans, but we focused our testing on the four they had in common to help us compare s...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.