There are so many different cookware brands on the market right now, it can feel overwhelming trying to choose which is best for your lifestyle.
You could easily spend hours agonizing over which company to invest in (All-Clad? Cuisinart? Shit Ayesha Curry?), how much money to spend (as much as $1,600 or as little as $60 honestly), and even if spending more money means you’re getting a higher quality product (sometimes yes, usually no).
Personally, I like to try out a lot of different things…so my kitchen cabinets are full of all sorts of pots and pans that I reach for frequently depending on what I’m actually cooking. In fact, if you came over right now and opened my oven you’d find two cast iron skillets patiently waiting for me to fry chicken in while the drawers on either side have barely enough space for my All-clad set (which I’ve added to over the years), a few pieces from Staub, some Cuisinart roasting pans I scored at my local Home Goods and my new, beloved Le Creuset enamel cookware (in artichoke…I die).
BUT if you’re just starting out—or you don’t have an addiction like me—here are a few recommendation for the best cookware no matter your budget or how much space you have in your kitchen. I’ve tried to make sure that I divided everything in its proper category and further separated my selections by price: higher range sets/brands, middle of the road options as well as budget sets that can get you by for a while.
You’ll noticed that earlier in this article I highlighted a few name brands that I use in my own kitchen and I’m not going to lie, they are pricey AF!
Full disclosure: Almost everything in my kitchen has been gifted to me by my sugar daddy—AKA my mom. My All-clad set for example was a gift from my parents when I graduated from culinary school in 2016 while my Le Creuset addition was a birthday gift. Other things, like my Stab pieces, I spent months saving for because I really wanted to invest in items that I could have for a lifetime and potentially pass down one day.
The truth is, when it comes to buying pots and pans, you get what you pay for but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good deals out there!
Say goodbye to that damn Ikea set you’ve had since you graduated from college (you know that one that burns all your food because it doesn’t have great heat distribution) and join me in adulthood!
If you have any brands that you love that I missed be sure to let me know on Instagram @ryannicoleshepard.
I fell in love with stainless steel cookware during my first or second month of culinary school. Growing up, my mom mostly cooked with non-stick pans because she believed, as many do, that they were easier to clean. The truth is, investing in a great stainless steel set will change your cooking life for the better especially if you know how to use it. Stainless steel can be non-stick as well, at the right temperatures.
You can literally do anything with these babies! Stick them in the oven at hell-hot temperatures, make the most tender braise oxtails and even fry up some catfish. Cleaning them is pretty easy as well and while I personally try to hand-wash my set, they are dishwasher friendly. If they ever start looking a little dingy, hit them with a sprinkle of Barkeepers Friend and they’ll look shiny and new in no time.
If your budget only allows for one type of cookware, consider stainless steel Miss. Congeniality.
All-Clad: This was the first higher-end set that I was lucky enough to be gifted in 2016 and four years later, I’ll likely never replace them. These kitchen essentials have been with me through everything and they’re still holding me down. Once I thought I’d ruined my medium-sized skillet when I decided, on a whim, to try to make caramel with no recipe. I walked away from the stove for all of 3 minutes only to come back and find tar level burnt sugar on my pan. I was sure that was just $$$ down the drain. Luckily, after it cooled I was able to run the pan under warm water and with the help of the heat from the stove top (and a fuckton of elbow grease) I got all the sugar off.
This 10-piece set will set you back around $700 but man does it open up a world of possibility. The pots are safe in up to 600 degrees and come with a lifetime warranty. Also, the brand has lots of different goodies you can buy over the years to up your collection like this oval roaster, this wok and this multi-cooker featuring a steam basket.
Calphalon Premier Space-Saving Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set: If you’re looking to spend just a tad less but still want a fantastic cookware, you might be interested in this 10-piece beauty by Calphalon ($470). Calphalon is a well-respected brand and their restaurant-grade cookware is a good addition to any cook’s arsenal.
Middle of the road
So spending rent money on a set of pots and pans isn’t really your thing? Say no more sis. The truth is you don’t have to shell out upwards of $500+ dollars on a nice collection of cookware in order to make recipes that blow your mind.
Cuisinart Professional Series Stainless 13-Pc. Cookware Set: This set rings in at $414 but it’s currently on sale at Macy’s for $250 (sale ends March 29). Missed the sale? No worries they have a 12-piece set that regularly retails for $375.
Open Kitchen by Williams Sonoma: Who knew that William Sonoma had their own bomb-ass stainless steel pots? Well, me actually. I discovered this brand because it was on the sale rack when I was spending money I didn’t have on things I certainly didn’t need in the store. When I first picked up a random saucepan that was tucked on the bottom shelf, I thought it was All-Clad. These pots are so well made, balanced and can handle every bit of kitchen action you could possibly throw its way. Also, the retail price? Sis! $300 for 10 whole pieces. Plus William Sonoma is having a deal right now and you can score 20% off.
I’m not going to lie to you, quality pots and pans will cost you money. Spending $60 bucks on a cookware set is possible of course, but you’ll have to replace them more often. However, not everyone is in a position to spend a lot of money on what they choose to cook in and still need something that is functional, looks nice and is actually fun to cook in.
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Steel 7 Piece Cookware Set: Here comes Cuisinart again for the win! Unlike a lot of other sets in this price range, the Chef’s Classic set is oven-friendly in up to 500 degrees. Also, should you chose to upgrade at a later point to pricer pots and pans within the Cuisinart family, you totally can! Set $100 bucks aside for this beautiful addition to your kitchen.
Tools of the Trade: I’ve never actually cooked with any pots or pans in this collection but I’ve heard good things. No, you can’t put this particular set in the oven but it is dishwasher friendly, comes with additional cooking utensils and retails for $120 bucks. A pretty decent starter set if you ask me.
A Word Of Advice
Whether you can afford to pay a ton of money on pots and pans or not, you certainly deserve cookware that helps showcase your culinary skills. To that end, there are so many ways to score quality cookware that doesn’t involve you breaking the bank. Stores like Home Goods, Tuesday Morning, TJ Maxx and Marshalls are AHmazing for once-in-a-lifetime scores. I’ve gotten lucky on more than one occasion it just requires a bit of patiences.