The Best Cookware Set (2024)

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who should buy a cookware set
  • How we picked
  • How we tested
  • Our pick: Tramontina Gourmet 12-Piece Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set
  • Upgrade pick: All-Clad D3 Stainless 10-Piece Set
  • Budget pick: Goldilocks Cookware Set Plus
  • Care and maintenance
  • Other good cookware sets
  • What to Look Forward to
  • The competition
  • Sources

Why you should trust us

All told, I’ve spent more than 140 hours researching and testing cookware sets for this guide. And as a senior staff writer at Wirecutter, I have written reviews for all kinds of kitchen equipment, including skillets and cast-iron pans. Prior to joining Wirecutter, in 2016, I spent over 10 years working in various facets of the food and restaurant industry.

I also interviewed restaurant and cookware professionals about what to look for in a good cookware set, and I spoke with several home cooks who have used cookware sets for years.

Who should buy a cookware set

There are two main approaches to outfitting your kitchen with cookware: Buy a set, or build your own. Both involve their pros and cons. However, buying a set of cookware can be a convenient and affordable alternative to tracking down pots and pans one piece at a time. Cookware sets also make great gifts for weddings and graduations, or for anyone setting up their kitchen for the first time.

Or perhaps you already own stainless steel cookware, but it’s dented, warped, or inclined to cook unevenly. If so, you’re probably due for an upgrade. Maybe you have a set of nonstick cookware that’s wearing out. In that case, we think upgrading to a stainless steel set is worth doing because it will last a lot longer—maybe even a lifetime. (By contrast, nonstick cookware needs to be replaced every few years, once the coating deteriorates.) We make a thorough case for switching from nonstick to stainless steel cookware in our blog post How to Keep Food From Sticking to a (Not-Nonstick) Pan.

Stainless steel is more versatile than nonstick cookware because you can cook over higher heat without damaging the pan—critical for getting a good sear on meats. Stainless steel pans will give your food a rich color and develop better fond (the caramelized bits that form on the bottom of a pan), resulting in more-flavorful food. Stainless steel is also great for high-heat tasks like stir-frying and pan-frying. Many cooks love that it can go directly from the stovetop to the broiler. Though many manufacturers say their stainless steel cookware is dishwasher-safe, we recommend that you wash it by hand. The harsh chemicals in some detergents—plus the prolonged exposure to those cleaners over the course of a dishwashing cycle—can cause damage to the pans (particularly the aluminum in tri-ply cookware). The same goes for nonstick cookware: Heat and harsh detergents break down the nonstick coating.

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Of course, one of the biggest drawbacks to buying a set is that it can seem like a lot to spend at once. Until our 2022 update, we hadn’t found an inexpensive, quality cookware set for under $250. But in recent years, there’s been an influx of direct-to-consumer cookware brands, like the maker of our budget pick, the Goldilocks Cookware Set Plus. As with most direct-to-consumer brands, Goldilocks oversees the distribution and marketing of its product. So the company is able to offer a more-competitive price than brands that are sold through retailers, such as All-Clad and Tramontina. Goldilocks is the first direct-to-consumer cookware we’ve tested that is similar to the aforementioned brands in terms of performance, quality, and construction, yet at a fraction of the price. (Since Goldilocks is a newer brand, we’ll be long-term testing for durability and customer service, if needed, and will update accordingly.)

If you want to spend even less or don’t intend to cook often—or you want to invest in quality pieces from a premium brand like All-Clad without shelling out nearly $700 at once for a full set, we recommend getting only the essential pieces of cookware for your kitchen: a skillet, a saucepan, and a stockpot.

Most cookware sets include smaller pot and pan sizes, so they aren’t the best option for home cooks who want to prepare large meals. Candy Argondizza, then vice president of culinary and pastry arts at International Culinary Center, told us, “Sets often sell you pieces that you don’t need. I like to pick and choose what I want since space is a commodity in my tiny kitchen.”

Though cookware costs more per piece when sold separately, it can be more practical to purchase specific pieces that suit your exact cooking needs. (See our guides to the best skillet, cast-iron skillet, nonstick pan, saucepan, roasting pan, and Dutch oven.)



How we picked

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Because cookware is the cornerstone of any kitchen, we wanted to find sets that included the most useful pot and pan sizes—and that didn’t include impractical pieces that would just sit in your cupboard. We also looked for sets that could retain and distribute heat well, to allow you to cook without fear of hot spots. Additionally, we searched for cookware that is durable yet still lightweight enough to hold comfortably. Here’s a list of the most important qualities we sought (and avoided) when choosing cookware sets to test:

Optimal pot and pan sizes

Most people are inclined to buy sets because doing so is cheaper than buying pieces individually, but sets involve a compromise. To reduce the overall price of a set, most manufacturers include smaller pot and pan sizes. Hugh Rushing, former executive vice president of the Cookware Manufacturers Association (now The Cookware & Bakeware Alliance), told us that “shrinking the pot and pan sizes might only be a 5 or 6 percent difference in cost [for the manufacturer], but it drops the bottom line.” Smaller pan sizes require you to cook in batches and can slow you down in the kitchen.

Both Argondizza and Crandall gave suggestions for the best pot and pan sizes. Note that the number of pieces advertised in a set includes lids. So you’re generally getting half the listed number of pots and pans. A good set should include the following 10 pieces:

  • 1½- to 2-quart saucepan with a lid: for reheating a small amount of soup or melting butter
  • 3- to 4-quart saucepan with a lid: for making sauces or reheating stocks and soups
  • 8- and 10-inch or 10- and 12-inch skillets: for searing meats and sautéing vegetables
  • 3- to 4-quart skillet with a lid: for quickly reducing sauces, making roux, and preparing shallow braises
  • 8-quart (or larger) stockpot with a lid: for boiling water for pasta, handling large-batch sauces, or making stocks, soups, and stews

We prefer 10- and 12-inch skillets because they offer a larger surface area for cooking more food at once. But we’ve been disappointed to find more and more sets—including the All-Clad and Tramontina ones we recommend—moving toward offering only 8- and 10-inch skillets. This is partly what made us excited about our new budget pick, the Goldilocks set, which is one of the only sets we’ve seen lately that includes both 10- and 12-inch pans. Many sets also have 6-quart stockpots; these are too small for making large batches of stock (8-quart or larger stockpots are best for preparing stocks, and they provide ample room for boiling pasta). The main incentive for buying piece by piece is that most sets come with smaller pan sizes.

In addition to your main set, you can always purchase other essential pieces, such as a Dutch oven, a cast-iron skillet, and a nonstick pan. Don’t be tempted to buy huge sets with lots of pieces. Most of the pots and pans in those larger sets are just filler. Ultimately, those pieces won’t see much use and will only clutter up your kitchen. Our experts agreed that you’re better off getting a set with fewer, better-quality pieces that you’ll reach for again and again.

Comfortable weight

The ideal weight and balance of cookware will be different for everyone. However, most of our testers preferred skillets that weighed between 2 and 3½ pounds; these were still light enough to toss ingredients in a pan without placing too much torque on their wrists. We took the advice of our pros and looked at many cookware sets in person before testing, to get a feel for the weight and actual size of the pots and pans. It’s difficult to get a sense of each set just by looking at pictures online.

Additionally, we limited our search to cookware with sloped sides. Some skillets, such as this Viking Contemporary Frying Pan, have sharply angled sides that make tossing vegetables while sautéing difficult.

Durability and even heat distribution

Ideally, we wanted sets of fully clad tri-ply stainless steel, which has an aluminum core sandwiched between layers of stainless steel extending up the sides of the pan. Fully clad tri-ply stainless steel is the best option for both pros and home cooks because of its durability and even heat distribution (aluminum heats up quickly and distributes heat well; steel is very durable and holds heat nicely). Unlike aluminum, stainless steel is nonreactive to acidic ingredients like tomatoes or vinegar, so it won’t leave behind a metallic taste. And unlike nonstick cookware, stainless steel pans can be used over high heat and moved directly from the stovetop to the oven. Bottom line: Good-quality stainless steel pans are buy-it-for-life items.

In addition to making tri-ply cookware, most high-end manufacturers produce sets that are made from five or more layers of stainless steel, aluminum, and sometimes copper. With each additional layer, the pans become more expensive. In most of our tests, five-ply cookware didn’t heat as uniformly as regular tri-ply cookware, or the differences were negligible. One exception was the Demeyere 5-Plus 10-Piece Cookware Set , which heated impressively evenly. That said, the pans in this set took longer to heat up than those in the All-Clad set. Five-ply cookware also holds onto more heat, so it’s slower to react when you lower the heat on your stove. Ultimately, we don’t think five-ply cookware is worth the extra cost.

We did our best to avoid sets that aren’t fully clad (meaning the aluminum core doesn’t extend up the sides of the cookware), since the sides of the pan are prone to scorching. However, if you’re looking for a less expensive set, cookware with tri-ply disks welded to the bottom of the pan (also called encapsulated bottoms) will distribute heat more evenly than pans made from a single piece of stainless steel. In our experience, pans with encapsulated bottoms performed better than those that had just a single layer of stainless steel, but we still wouldn’t recommend them for gas and electric stovetops. Fully clad tri-ply cookware is the way to go. That said, if you have an induction stovetop, cookware with encapsulated bottoms will perform better than fully clad tri-ply cookware. You can read more about this type of cookware and its performance on induction in our guide to the best portable induction cooktop.

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Materials to avoid

  • Aluminum on its own is reactive to acidic foods and can give them a metallic taste. It’s also not induction-cooktop-compatible. (Because induction burners transfer heat through a magnetic field, cookware must contain sufficient amounts of iron, such as cast iron or magnetic stainless steel, in order to be compatible.)
  • Anodized aluminum’s dark color can make it hard to tell whether foods are browning properly, which is especially important for challenging tasks like making caramel. This material can also be more difficult to clean than stainless steel because it’s harder to tell whether you’ve scrubbed off every bit of burned-on oil.
  • Nonstick sets aren’t ideal for high-heat cooking such as searing. And they have a shorter life span than regular stainless steel, because their coating wears off within a few years. (One nonstick pan, for preparing eggs, is all you need in your batterie de cuisine.)
  • Carbon steel, like cast iron, requires more upkeep to maintain the cooking surface, and it can rust if not properly seasoned.
  • Cast iron is heavy, reactive to acidic food, and more difficult to maintain. But we recommend that you have at least one cast-iron skillet in your kitchen because it’s such a versatile pan. You can use it for everything from roasting a whole chicken to baking cornbread.
  • Copper is an excellent conductor of heat, but it’s very expensive and difficult to maintain. However, we did test the All-Clad Copper Core 10-Piece Cookware Set because it has a stainless steel exterior.

Features and accessories to avoid

We excluded sets with glass lids because they can break or crack easily if dropped. Glass lids also offer little advantage over stainless steel lids because you can’t see through them when they’re covered with condensation. Lids should fit well but somewhat loosely, with just enough wiggle room to allow steam to escape.

We dismissed sets with plastic handles, since even those made to withstand high temperatures can deteriorate over time. Ideally, we wanted cookware that could safely withstand oven temperatures of at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit; that ruled out most cookware with plastic components. Several members of our staff have also seen plastic handles crack after they spent time in the dishwasher.

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Stick handles that provide an easy grip and a comfortable angle allow you to quickly move saucepans around the stovetop using only one hand. So we dismissed sets with small or medium saucepans that had two side handles. We also looked for sets that included a hole on each handle for hanging. Side handles are best for larger saucepans (those over 4 quarts) and stockpots, which have a bigger volume and require two hands to lift.

Many sets include a pasta insert or steamer basket for stockpots, but these pieces are superfluous. In our experience, they take up too much space or have a shallow design that doesn’t allow enough circulation for pasta when boiling.

A note on how cookware sets are sold

Cookware manufacturers often sell variations of the same cookware set to different retailers. They do this primarily to avoid competition among big-box stores, such as Target and Walmart, that sell similar items. According to Hugh Rushing, former executive vice president of the Cookware Manufacturers Association (now The Cookware & Bakeware Alliance), “No retailer wants to have a directly comparable product to another retailer that’s their competitor.” For instance, one store may sell a set of cookware with a saucepan that has a stick handle, and another store might sell the same set with a saucepan that has two side handles. We tried to cut through all of that confusion by testing the best version of each cookware set that we could find across multiple retailers.

How we tested

For each set, we started by testing how well the large skillets retained heat. We did this by using an infrared thermometer to make a heat map of their cooking surface. We also sprinkled the surface of each large skillet with a dusting of flour and placed the pan over a medium-high flame to see how evenly the flour browned. Then, to evaluate how uniformly the skin browned, we sautéed chicken pieces in the skillets. Using the large saucepan from each set, we prepared small batches of caramel to check for hot spots; then we simmered a large batch of tomato sauce in each stockpot to test for scorching.

Additionally, we evaluated how easy the handles were to hold, especially when retrieving the pots and pans from a hot oven using a side towel or pot holders. We also took note of the individual weight and thickness of the pieces in each set. To test for dripping, we observed how easily we could pour liquids from each pot. By hand-washing the pots and pans, we got a sense of how easy they were to clean. And we looked at how well each set nested for convenient storage.



Our pick: Tramontina Gourmet 12-Piece Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set

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Our pick

Tramontina Gourmet 12 Pc Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set

The best cookware set

This well-constructed, affordable, fully clad tri-ply set distributes heat evenly, and it’s durable enough to take some abuse in a busy household.

Buying Options

$252 from Amazon

$289 from Home Depot

$300 from Wayfair

We like the Tramontina Gourmet 12-Piece Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set for its even heat distribution, durable construction, and reasonable price. The Tramontina skillets produced perfectly brown chicken pieces with nice fond development, and the saucepans and stockpot simmered liquids without scorching. We found the wide handles on the cookware and the lids comfortable to hold. This cookware did discolor over high heat, but the effect was a common one among all the sets we tested in this price range. All of the pieces in this collection are induction-compatible and oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

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This Tramontina set includes 12 pieces: 8- and 10-inch skillets, a 6-quart deep sauté pan with a lid, 1½-, 2-, and 3-quart saucepans with lids, and an 8-quart stockpot with a lid. We do wish this set included a 12-inch skillet instead of an 8-inch one. But the 6-quart deep sauté pan is 11¾ inches in diameter (and about 3¼ inches deep), so it comfortably fits a whole chicken cut up. If you want to grow your set, you can buy the Tramontina 12-inch skillet separately—it’s the runner-up pick in our guide to the best skillet. Alternatively, all of these pieces are sold open stock, so you can put together your own version of this set with just the pots and pans you want. (If we were to do this, we’d skip the 8-inch skillet and get the 12-inch skillet instead. And we’d skip either the 1½- or 2-quart saucepan—you probably need only one of these since they’re so close in size.)

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In 2022, Tramontina redesigned its 8- and 10-inch skillets so they have a slightly larger cooking surface with steeper sides, which we prefer. The pans are still nicely sloped to fit the curves of a whisk, and their lips are flared enough to allow moisture to evaporate when you are searing meat or sautéing vegetables. The handle shape remains the same, but it’s angled just a bit higher. We found the higher angle provided more leverage when tossing vegetables, and it made the skillets easier to maneuver around the stovetop. The new pans are also about an ounce heavier than the older versions, but the slight weight difference wasn’t discernible in our tests. The 10-inch skillet still browned chicken the same as the older model, too.

In our tests, the Tramontina 3-quart saucepan made perfect caramel without burning, though we had to swirl the pan more to distribute the heat evenly. The stockpot didn’t scorch while simmering tomato sauce. This wasn’t the case with the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic stockpot, which required frequent stirring to prevent the sauce from burning.

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We also liked that the pieces in this set felt weighty; they seem durable enough to withstand the rigors of daily cooking. The handles on the stainless steel lids were big enough to grab onto, even when we used a side towel or pot holders. We also found that the stick handles were comfortable to hold and the appropriate length, unlike the Anolon Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set’s handles, which were too short.

This Tramontina set comes with a lifetime warranty that covers manufacturer defects. If you encounter problems with this cookware under normal household use, contact Tramontina for a replacement.

How the Tramontina set has held up

In our test kitchen, we long-term tested an older (now-discontinued) version of this set for two years, and all of the pots and pans distributed heat evenly. The skillets became a bit more discolored after searing meat over high heat, but their performance remained the same.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

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As with most of the sets we tested in this price range, the Tramontina skillets tarnished slightly after normal use. Although we easily removed burned-on oil and food bits using a combination of baking soda and warm water, the pans retained a noticeable tint after cleaning. Because the discoloration in no way affects the cooking performance, we’re willing to forgive this minor drawback.

Upgrade pick: All-Clad D3 Stainless 10-Piece Set

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Upgrade pick

All-Clad D3 Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 10-Piece Set

A buy-it-for-life cookware set

The pans in this top-of-the-line fully clad tri-ply set continue to impress us with their even heat distribution. Each piece of cookware is extremely durable and an ideal weight for holding.

Buying Options

$696 from Amazon

$700 from Williams Sonoma

$699 from Wayfair

May be out of stock

You’ll likely never have to replace the All-Clad D3 Stainless 10-Piece Set. It was hands down the best-quality cookware we tested in this price range ($700 at the time of publishing). The pots and pans are the perfect weight, and due to their superior heat conduction, they cooked food more evenly than our top-pick set. This cookware set was one of the only ones that became spotlessly clean after washing—even when coated with burned-on oil. And although this set is much more expensive than our main pick, we think it’s worth the extra cost for its durability and proven longevity.

The All-Clad D3 Stainless 10-Piece Set includes 8- and 10-inch skillets, 2- and 3-quart saucepans with lids, a 3-quart sauté pan with a lid, and an 8-quart stockpot with a lid. The only drawback to this set is that it doesn’t include a 12-inch skillet. But we don’t think this omission is a dealbreaker, since you can always grow your collection by adding that piece down the road. (We also recommend the 12-inch All-Clad pan, which is the top pick in our guide to the best skillet.) All of the pieces in this set are dishwasher-safe, induction-compatible, and oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

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We like the angle of the stick handle, and the rounded bottom fits nicely in your hand, even when you’re holding a dish towel or pot holder. That said, some people may find the concave handle uncomfortable to hold. (If you fall into that camp, we suggest getting our main pick, the Tramontina set, since its pans have rounded handles.) All-Clad also makes a set of fully clad tri-ply cookware with thicker, rounded handles; you can read about this set in the Competition. We also found the handles on the All-Clad lids easy to grab.

In our tests, the chicken sautéed in the All-Clad 10-inch skillet cooked evenly and turned out perfectly golden-brown with a crispy skin, about on a par with the chicken we made in the Tramontina skillet. When we prepared caramel, the dissolved sugar bubbled uniformly across the bottom of the All-Clad 3-quart saucepan; this wasn’t the case with saucepans in the other sets we tested. Also, because the All-Clad saucepan distributed heat so well, our testers didn’t have to swirl the sugar in the pan as frequently as they did in the other saucepans. While simmering tomato sauce, there was no scorching in the stockpot, even with minimal stirring. We did notice that some tomato sauce dripped down the side of the stockpot while we poured, but there were no splatters on the counter.

If you’re partial to keeping your cookware looking bright and shiny, note that this was one of the only sets we tested that looked like new after we cleaned it. Of course, burned-on oil or grease can be more challenging to remove with just regular dish soap or a run through the dishwasher. But applying Bar Keepers Friend or a slurry of baking soda and warm water with a nonabrasive sponge (and a little elbow grease) gets the job done. The All-Clad skillets discolored slightly over heat, though significantly less than almost any other cookware we tested.

All-Clad used to label its D3 line as dishwasher-safe, but it no longer does, after settling a class action lawsuit brought by plaintiffs who alleged that their cookware was damaged in the dishwasher. We’ve always recommended washing any stainless steel cookware by hand, regardless of the manufacturer’s claims. The harsh chemicals in some detergents and the prolonged exposure to those cleaners over the course of a dishwashing cycle can damage pans (particularly the aluminum in the bonded cookware).

Because it’s so durable, All-Clad was the name that came up again and again when we spoke to the pros. Chef Candy Argondizza, vice president of culinary and pastry arts at the International Culinary Center at the time of our interview, said, “Both professionally and personally, I use All-Clad.” Janet Crandall, a private chef and cooking instructor, told us, “They are expensive, but worth it because of their durability.” Members of our own staff have owned or worked with All-Clad cookware for years, including senior staff writer Lesley Stockton, who said, “My oldest All-Clad is over 12 years old, and it’s as good as the day I bought it. When I worked in the Martha Stewart test kitchen, we were cooking on All-Clad pieces that were at least 15 years old.”

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All-Clad offers a wide range of cookware outside the main set, so you can grow your collection. In our cookware guides, we recommend several other All-Clad pieces, including the 12-inch skillet, the 8- and 10-inch nonstick skillets, the 2-quart saucier, and the flared roaster. Go to the All-Clad website to see a full list of its cookware.

The All-Clad tri-ply set is made in the US. (To learn more about how All-Clad cookware is made, check out David Lebovitz’s blog post about his factory tour in Pittsburgh.) We’ve also toured the All-Clad factory and can attest to the quality and high standards that go into making this cookware. The pans come with a limited lifetime warranty that covers manufacturer defects. Should you experience any problems with this set, contact All-Clad for repairs or replacements.

How the All-Clad set has held up:

We continue to reach for All-Clad the most in our test kitchen. Several of our staff members also have All-Clad pots and pans in their own home kitchens (or have worked with them professionally), and they find that they continue to heat evenly and clean up well, even after years of persistent use.



Budget pick: Goldilocks Cookware Set Plus

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Budget pick

Goldilocks Cookware Set Plus

The best budget cookware set

This fully clad tri-ply set performed better than any other set we’ve tested under $250. We like that it includes larger skillets, but the pans are heavier and don’t have the proven longevity of our other picks.

Buying Options

$225 from Goldilocks

The Goldilocks Cookware Set Plus is the best budget cookware we’ve tested, and it performed almost as well as our other picks. It heats evenly, cleans up well, and costs under $250 at the time of publishing.

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This set includes: 10- and 12-inch skillets, 1½- and 3-quart saucepans with lids, and an 8-quart stockpot with a lid. The only recommended pan missing from this set would be a 3- or 4-quart skillet for shallow braising. However, we don’t think this is a dealbreaker since you could instead use a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Additionally, all of the pieces in this set are also sold open stock. If you’re looking for a smaller set of cookware, Goldilocks offers a 7-piece cookware set. But we think for just $50 more (at this writing), you’re better off getting the larger, 10-piece set.

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We think this set is a really good choice if you don’t mind slightly heavier cookware or the fact that it stains slightly with use. It cooked on a par with the Tramontina and All-Clad sets we recommend. But because Goldilocks is a newer direct-to-consumer brand, we don’t know yet how it will perform over time (though we’ll keep using it and update this guide accordingly). When we sautéed chicken, it stuck slightly in the pan, but only a little. Rice didn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepans, and there was no scorching in the stockpot while we were cooking tomato sauce. We had to swirl the 3-quart saucepan a bit more when making caramel, but overall we still found it distributed heat evenly. The Goldilocks cookware takes a little longer to heat up than the Tramontina or All-Clad cookware (after 6 minutes over medium-high heat, the All-Clad skillet reached an average of 197 degrees Fahrenheit, while the Goldilocks skillet reached an average of 179 degrees). That said, the Goldilocks skillet did a slightly better job at retaining heat than our other picks.

The Goldilocks pot lids are noticeably lighter than those in the All-Clad set. (All-Clad’s 8-quart stockpot lid weighs 1 pound 5.8 ounces, whereas the corresponding Goldilocks lid weighs 1 pound 0.5 ounces.) The Goldilocks stockpot lid was very slightly warped and didn’t sit completely flat on the pot. However, considering this set’s remarkably low price, we don’t think this small flaw should deter you. Just keep in mind that since the lids aren’t quite as durable as those of our other picks, they may dent easier if they take a tumble from your stove onto the floor.

The Goldilocks pot lid handles, and those on the sides of the stockpot, are wide with a slight dimple (similar to All-Clad’s handles); this makes them easier to grasp and more comfortable to hold. The stick handles on the Goldilocks set are strikingly similar to those on the Cuisinart 77-7 Chef’s Classic Stainless 7-Piece Cookware Set (our former budget pick). A few of the Goldilocks pieces are a bit heavier than those in the Tramontina and All-Clad sets, so some people may find them more cumbersome to lift. (For instance, the Goldilocks 10-inch skillet weighs 2 pounds 10.1 ounces, while the All-Clad 10-inch skillet weighs 2 pounds 2.2 ounces.) The pans also discolor slightly, similar to the Tramontina cookware, but they clean up nicely with Bar Keepers Friend.

Goldilocks is a direct-to-consumer cookware brand that was formerly called Potluck. (We opted not to test the former Potluck set because it came with just seven pieces and included a 10-inch skillet only.) The set we now recommend was introduced after the company’s rebranding.

Since the Goldilocks set is relatively new, we don’t know how it will perform over time (as we do with the Tramontina and All-Clad sets we’ve been long-term testing for years). However, we’ll continue to test this set to see how it holds up against our other picks, and we will update this guide accordingly. Goldilocks offers a lifetime warranty on its cookware, and it accepts returns within 30 days of your purchase. (According to the website, Goldilocks will email you a label and cover the return shipping cost if you live in the contiguous 48 states, though we haven’t tested this ourselves.) Shipping is also free for the contiguous 48 states, but Goldilocks charges $45 to ship to Hawaii and Alaska and $35 to ship to Puerto Rico. But even with the added shipping cost, this set would still be less expensive than similar-quality cookware.

How the Goldilocks set has held up

Wirecutter staff writer James Austin has owned this set for two years and said, “It’s been fantastic. No real bugaboos to note, they seem to be heating evenly and haven’t really picked up any dings or stains yet.” Family members of staffers who’ve owned this set for over a year also said the cookware is performing well.

Care and maintenance

Though a lot of stainless steel cookware claims to be dishwasher-safe, we still recommend washing it by hand whenever possible. A sponge does a much better job of getting into a pan’s nooks and crannies (especially where the handle meets the pan or around rivets). For difficult-to-remove items like burnt-on oil or lime deposits, a sponge and some Bar Keepers Friend usually do the trick. In the Wirecutter test kitchen, to remove burnt-on oil or discoloration we often use a slurry of baking soda and warm water, along with a sponge and a little elbow grease. For other cleaning options, refer to our blog post and video on the subject.

Never clean your stainless steel cookware with harsh chemicals, like oven cleaner, that could cause permanent damage. Also, avoid using steel wool, which can severely scratch your cookware.

To avoid liability for damage caused by misuse, cookware manufacturers routinely advise against cooking over high temperatures. However, judging from our years of experience, as long as you reduce the heat after preheating your pan on medium or medium-high heat, you won’t damage your pans.

For information on how to prevent food from sticking to your stainless steel cookware, check out our blog post on the subject.

If you’re worried about using metal utensils on your stainless steel cookware, don’t be: Although such tools may cause minor scratches on the surface of pots and pans, they will not damage the cookware’s performance.

Also, don’t place a screaming-hot pan under running water or in a sink to soak. Chef Janet Crandall told us, “I can’t stress enough the care of good cookware. Never put a hot pan or pot into water. Let them cool down. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on cookware, they will warp.”



Other good cookware sets

The Made In 10-Piece Stainless set did well in our tests. However, most of our testers found the stick handles on the skillets to be uncomfortably low, preferring the higher angle of the handles on our picks. That said, if you’re shorter, you may actually prefer the handles on this set. While we prefer All-Clad’s set for the price, we still think this is well-made cookware if you’re specifically looking for stick handles with a lower angle.

What to Look Forward to

The Tramontina 12-Piece Tri-Ply Clad Cookware Set is very similar to the Tramontina set we currently recommend, but it has different handles and a brushed exterior. The Costco set has a 5-quart Dutch oven and a 3-quart covered deep sauté pan (versus a 6-quart Dutch oven and a 2-quart covered sauce pan in the set we recommend). We’re curious to see if there are any differences in the quality or performance of these two sets.



The competition

$80 to $550

We opted not to test the Five Two Essential Cookware 11-Piece Complete Set because it comes with glass lids, and the stockpot is only 6 quarts. Also, this set comes with two ceramic nonstick skillets. According to our research, ceramic coatings don’t last as long as PTFE coatings.

The Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set was our previous runner-up pick. However, after a new round of testing, we found the skillets warped over high heat. The bottom of the pans bowed so much that they wobbled on a flat surface. We tested multiple skillets to be sure this wasn’t a fluke, but all of them had the same results. Although the pans were still usable after warping, their damage voids the warranty. The Cuisinart manual says to never use the cookware over high heat, instead recommending “a low to medium setting for most cooking.” Many cookware manufacturers have the same recommendation, but our picks haven’t warped like the Cuisinart, even after years of cooking over high heat.

The Cuisinart 77-7 Chef’s Classic Stainless 7-Piece Cookware Set was our former budget pick. However, this set is prone to hot spots because it’s not fully clad. The single layer of stainless steel around the perimeter of the pan is too thin to evenly distribute heat and causes food to burn.

The skillets in the Cuisinart French Classic Stainless 10-Piece Cookware Set have higher sides, so tossing vegetables is a bit more challenging than with our top picks. And for the price of this set, we wish it came with a second skillet.

The Henckels Clad Impulse set includes a 6-quart stock pot, which is smaller than the 8-quart ones we recommend. It also includes only 1- and 2-quart sauce pans, which are a bit small, so we’ve decided not to test it.

The Quince 5-Ply Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set is made of five-ply stainless steel, which falls outside the parameters we’ve set for this guide.

We like the sizing of the pieces included in the Heritage Steel Eater Series 8-Piece Core Set, but we’ve ruled out five-ply cookware, so we decided not to test it. It also comes with one less saucepan than the All-Clad set we recommend.

The OXO Mira Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set comes with glass lids, so we didn’t test it.

The stick handles on the Anolon Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set were too short and not as comfortable to hold as the wide, longer handles on the Tramontina cookware.

The Duxtop Whole Clad Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Premium 10-Piece Cookware Set did poorly in our caramel test, as areas of the saucepan started to burn the sugar before the center had fully dissolved. This set also dripped the most when we poured liquids.

We dismissed the Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad Stainless Steel 12-piece Cookware Set because the rivets weren’t secure on some of the pot handles, causing them to wiggle.

We didn’t test the Caraway Cookware Set for this guide, since it’s nonstick. However, we did do some at-home testing of its sauté pan as a point of comparison in our review of the Always pan; this testing confirmed our understanding that ceramic-coated pans don’t last long. The Tramontina set we recommend is comparably priced (at the time of testing), and should last for decades if cared for properly.

After testing the Misen 3QT Saucier in our guide to the best small saucepan, we ruled out the cookware sets from Misen. Its five-ply construction made the pan slower to heat up, and its tubular handle was hard to hold onto. We’ve also watched Misen’s cookware go in and out of stock frequently.

The Great Jones Family Style set is unusual among the cookware sets we looked at in that it includes a nonstick pan and an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. However, we decided not to test it for a few reasons. For one, when testing the Great Jones Saucy for our guide to the best small saucepan, we found the loop-shaped handles uncomfortable to hold. Also, the nonstick pan is only 8½ inches, so it’s not as versatile as the 10-inch pans we recommend in our guide to nonstick skillets. And it has a ceramic coating, which we’ve found quickly loses its nonstick properties. The set’s only other skillet, a 10¼-inch skillet/sauté pan hybrid, is also on the small side.

The Open Kitchen by Williams-Sonoma Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set has a small, 6-quart stockpot (we recommend at least an 8-quart stockpot), so we opted not to test.

$600 to $800

All-Clad’s D3 Stainless Everyday 3-Ply Bonded Cookware (10 pc) is a tri-ply set similar to our All-Clad pick. The handles on these are slightly curved, which some may find more comfortable than the stick handles on our upgrade pick. This set includes the same basic pieces as in our All-Clad pick, but all in slightly different size. The Everyday set performed as well as our top pick, but we noticed there was a loose piece of metal in the handle of the 3-quart sauté pan, which caused it to rattle while sautéing vegetables (the representatives we spoke to at All-Clad said they’d never heard of this being an issue before). This may have been a one-off manufacturing error, but we’ll keep an eye on customer reviews to see if others experience a similar problem with the handle.

We also noticed that some pans from the Everyday line were polished around the rim and others weren’t, which suggests there may be an issue with quality control. The All-Clad representatives we spoke to said there may be slight differences in the finishes, depending on the type of machines used to manufacture the cookware. That means you may encounter similar inconsistencies with the rims on our upgrade pick, since it’s made from the same tri-ply cookware as the Everyday line. The different finishes on the rims are distinguishable when next to each other, but this is mainly an aesthetic issue and shouldn’t affect the way the pans perform. We’ll continue to monitor customer reviews to see if there’s an increase of complaints regarding the rims on either cookware line. For now, if you prefer skillets with rounded handles, we’d recommend getting the Tramontina set.

Since the skillets and stockpot in the All-Clad D3 Curated 10-Piece Set (sold exclusively at Crate & Barrel) are smaller than we recommend, we opted not to test this full set.

The All-Clad D5 Brushed Stainless 10-Piece Set took longer to heat up, so it took more time for us to make caramel and achieve nicely golden-brown chicken. This set also costs $200 more than our upgrade pick (at the time of publishing).

The Sardel Stainless Steel Set comes with one less saucepan than we recommend, and the one it includes is small, so we decided not to test it. However, we appreciate that this collection comes with a 12-inch skillet.

The pots and pans in the Caraway Cookware Set run small and are made of five-ply cookware, which falls outside the parameters we’ve set for this guide.

Over $800

We were curious to see if the Demeyere 5-Plus 10-Piece Cookware Set was worth its exorbitant price. In our tests, the pans heated incredibly evenly and didn’t discolor over high heat. However, the pans took almost double the time to preheat as our picks and were heavier than we’d prefer. We think this set is worth the steep price only if you’re looking for rivetless cookware.

The Le Creuset Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set is more expensive than our current picks and comes with one less skillet, so we didn’t test it.

At a whopping $1,500 (at the time of this publishing), the De Buyer Affinity set is just too expensive for what you get. The size of the pots are oddly shaped, and this set has fewer pieces than our picks.

The Liberty Tabletop 360 Cookware is one of the few manufacturers that makes its cookware in the US. However, it’s prohibitively expensive for most. We think our recommended sets are a better deal, in both quality and price, so we’ve opted not to test this collection.

Because copper is such an excellent conductor of heat, we decided to test the All-Clad Copper Core 10-Piece Set to see how it would perform against regular tri-ply stainless steel cookware. In our tests, the Copper Core cookware heated up so fast we had to swirl the pan more when making caramel, to prevent it from burning. Unlike the tri-ply All-Clad set we recommend, the Copper Core skillets discolored badly over high heat.

The skillets in the Williams-Sonoma Signature Thermo-Clad Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set have a very small cooking surface. The handles on this set are also very long, which we found awkward—especially on a crowded range. At 3 pounds 14.8 ounces, the Signature Thermo-Clad pan was a bit hefty for some of our testers.

We tested the Hestan 12.5″ Open Skillet to see if its NanoBond Technology made it less prone to discoloration than other cookware. The pan discolored slightly in our tests, but it was easy to clean with the Hestan brand stainless steel cleaner. However, because the skillet concentrated heat in the center of the pan, we opted not to try the full Hestan 10-Piece Set.

We alsotested the Hestan 12.5″ Probond Forged Stainless Steel Skillet, but it discolored and warped the first time we used it. So we decided not to test the Professional Clad Stainless Steel 10-piece Ultimate Set. Also, this set retails for a whopping $1,500 (when not on sale).

The Hestan Thomas Keller Insignia 7-Piece Cookware Set has only two universal pot lids and is quite expensive, even at its reduced price of $900 (at the time of publishing). We think most everyone would be happier with our recommended All-Clad set, which costs significantly less.

This article was edited by Marilyn Ong and Christine Cyr Clisset.


  1. Candy Argondizza, then vice president of culinary and pastry arts at International Culinary Center, email interview, July 27, 2016

  2. Janet Crandall, private chef and cooking instructor in Los Angeles, email interview, July 29, 2016

  3. Penny Rosema, then executive vice president of the Cookware Manufacturers Association, phone interviews, August 1, 2016

  4. Hugh Rushing, former executive vice president of the Cookware Manufacturers Association, phone interview, February 3, 2020

  5. Minsuk Kim, co-founder of Goldilocks, phone interview, February 7, 2022

  6. Elvin Beach, associate professor of practice, Department of Materials Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University, email interview, March 29, 2022

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