In our stainless steel cookware reviews we’ll look at top rated stainless steel cookware for those who are on a budget and those who want the very best.
Our Top Pick: Cuisinart MultiClad
You'll also learn about important features to look for that you may have overlooked in the past. In the end, you will be able to determine what the best stainless steel cookware set is for you and your kitchen.
Stainless Steel Cookware Reviews
Top Pick - Cuisinart® Stainless Steel Cookware Set
Cuisinart ‘s Multi-Clad series is considered to be for “home professional use”. The MCP 12 piece cookware set combines quality materials like those in high-end cookware without the giant price tag.
This set meets our top pick criteria of quality stainless steel, well-known brand, and overall value. Let’s have a closer look.
- Tri-play 18/10 Stainless Steel With Aluminum Core
- 18/10 Solid Steel Handles
- Induction Compatible
12 Piece Set Includes
- 2x Saucepans with lids (1.5qt, 3qt)
- 2x Skillets + 1 lid (8”, 10”)
- 1x Saute Pan with lid (3.5qt)
- 1x Stock Pot with lid (8qt)
- 1x Steamer Insert
Cuisinart has included a number of ease-of-use concessions, like rolled edges for pouring liquids out of your pots. These edges help prevent excess dripping down the sides. It’s something simple, but I’m sure you can remember the last time that that has happened. You know, when gravy starts to burn on the outside of the pot.
The aluminum core is in the bottom and sides unlike cheaper sets which have aluminum cores in bottom only. It’s sandwiched between 18/10 stainless steel. This combination helps ensure an even distribution of heat.
This set includes "cool grip" handles to help prevent your hands from burning while cooking.
Unfortunately, physics allows heat to be transferred to the handles regardless of the cool grip technology. The handles will get hot, as with any stainless steel pot or pan so you should use a potholder or suitable hand protection.
Price wise, it’s a little steeper than your average stainless set. The quality of materials used to construct these pots and pans are top rated. It’s hard for us to imagine that more expensive cookware is any better when applied in the kitchen because they’re both using the same grades of surgical steel.
If you're looking for quality set at a decent price, check out the Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless Steel Cookware Set.
Mid-Range - Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel
The Calphalon Classic Cookware set is a mid-range priced set for home use created by an American brand. With this set you are getting everything you need to prepare meals on the stove while still being affordable compared to other types of cookware.
- Glass lids (typically better fitting than all metal)
- Induction Compatible
- Straining Holes In Pots
- 10 Year Warranty
10 Piece Set Includes
- 2x Frying Pan (8”, 10”)
- 2x Sauce Pan With Lids(1.5qt, 2.5qt
- 1x Saute Pan With Lid (3qt)
- 1x Stock Pot With Lid (6qt)
The first feature that caught our eye was the straining ability of the pots. They have a strainer and pour spout incorporated right in to them. This should make it easier to drain pasta, or after blanching vegetables in water, without a colander.
The second was the 10 year warranty. This is a prime example of a brand that wants to ensure a good customer experience.
Of course the warranty doesn’t cover misuse or imperfections that are going to occur with any stainless steel cookware set, but it’s something to keep in mind. You can see the full warranty terms here.
This isn’t an 18/10 stainless steel set like our top pick. In fact, we’re not sure exactly what grade of stainless it uses. Calphalon simply states “Medium-Gauge” stainless steel, which is the lowest grade of their stainless steel collections.
If you’re not willing to spend a lot of money, but still want a stainless steel cookware set that is backed by a long term warranty take a look at the Calphalon 10 Piece Classic Cookware Set.
High End - All-Clad 401488R Stainless Steel Cookware Set
All-Cad cookware is one of the top brands in the industry. I’ll start by saying that the All-Clad 401488R cookware set is not for most people. It’s higher quality cookware that comes with a pretty hefty price tag.
- 18/10 Stainless Steel (surgical grade)
- Aluminum Core for maximum heat distribution and retention
- Compatible With All Cooktops
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
10 Piece Set Includes
- 2x Skillets (8”, 10”)
- 2x Sauce Pans (2qt, 3qt) with metal lids
- 1x Saute Pan with metal lid (3qt)
- 1x Stock Pot with metal lid (8qt)
Okay, let’s get it out of the way. I said that this set has a hefty price tag and in fact it’s almost 3 times as expensive as some of the competition. So what are the reasons for this?
Each piece is handcrafted in the USA. That’s actually two points in the same sentence. Handcrafted items are always going to cost more than machine made because it’s very labor intensive. And being made in the USA, as you’ll find out later in the guide section, adds to the overall costs.
All-Clad is a respected brand in both the home and professionally because they are known for using the best of the best materials and back up their products with a limited life time warranty. See the warranty details here.
To be fair, most stainless steel functions pretty much the same in practice. However, the added attention and care to each piece that All-Clad is offering, may be worth it in the long term.
Have a look at the All-Clad 401488R Stainless Steel Cookware set to see if the quality and warranty is a fit for you and your budget.
Best Budget - Farberware Millennium Stainless Steel Cookware
We all need cookware, but we don’t all have the money to spend on it. The 10 Farberware cookware set is what we are calling the best budget stainless steel cookware set and may be what you’re looking for.
- Glass Lids
- Limited Life Time Warranty
10 Piece Set Includes
- 2x Saucepans With Lids (1qt, 2qt)
- 1x Saute Pan With Lid (3qt)
- 2x Skillets (8”, 10”)
- 1x Stock Pot With Lid (8qt)
Why is this stainless steel cookware set so cheap? We believe there are 2 reasons for this. The product is made in China where production costs are much cheaper. The Farberware set is not made from 18/10 stainless steel.
Farberware deliberately constructed this cookware set without nickel in the steel alloy. This makes it perfect for those with nickel allergies or other special needs. On the other hand the lack of nickel in this cookware set makes it a little less durable than those made of 18/10 steel.
Some of the pots in this set have slightly unusual dimensions. While the volumes on the packaging are similar to most, the pots are tall and thin. This can be a bit awkward to cook with if you’re a shorter person.
With that said, it's pretty cheap. Even if it only lasts a few years, you could replace it at least once before spending as much as you might on most 18/10 cookware sets.
If you’re on a tight budget, check out the 10 Piece Farberware Millenium Cookware set.
What's In Stainless Steel Cookware?
The stainless steel used in cookware is extremely non-reactive. It's resistant to acids, bases, rust and just about everything you might think of that can corrode or attack metal. It's also stable at very high temperatures; most stainless steel cookware is oven safe to 500F or more.
However, stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat. This means that a pan constructed out of only stainless steel would be very hot where it was heated and relatively cool everywhere else.
Because of this, almost every set of stainless cookware is constructed with one or more layers of aluminum inside. So really, you're effectively purchasing aluminum cookware with a stainless steel cooking surface.
Aluminum is light, strong and a very good conductor of heat making stainless steel pots and pans heat up quickly and evenly
One of the most important features to look at in your cookware is where the aluminum is within each pot and pan. If it's just in the bottom, heat won't spread up the sides as easily. This isn't a deal breaker, but if you use deep pots and pans quite often it may be something to consider.
What Type of Steel Should I Look For?
"Stainless" is an extremely large category of alloys. There are over 150 grades, all of which have unique properties.
Without getting too deep into the technical side of things, 18/10 steel (18% Chromium, 10% Nickel) is what we consider the best for cookware and is the same grade of that which is used in the medical field for implants.
This is a particularly durable mix of nickel and chromium that will help make sure your cookware lasts for years. It has higher corrosion resistance and less leaching potential of nickel and chromium.
Surgical Stainless Steel Cookware
From time to time you will see cookware list that they are using surgical stainless steel. Surgical stainless steel is also known as 316. It’s also known as 18/10 as mentioned above.
For any pot or pan you want to make sure that it’s using the 300 series of steel whereas something like a mixing bowl would use a poorer quality in the 400 series range of steel. 400 series would degrade fast with heat and abrasives like salts and metal utensils.
How Does Stainless Steel Compete With Non-Stick?
You might assume based on the name ('non-stick') that food sticks to everything that doesn't have a non-stick coat. This isn't the case.
Metal cooking surfaces (like stainless steel, cast iron, or copper) all can be used to fry eggs or perform other delicate tasks with a little bit of care and preparation.
As long as you preheat your pan, keep your heat relatively low and use a generous amount of cooking fat, food won't stick to your stainless steel cookware.
There are some advantages to non-stick. Most notably you can crack an egg into a cold pan on a burner turned all the way up with no butter or oil and flip it easily. You can't do that with a stainless steel pan.
On the other hand, you don't have to worry about replacing your stainless steel pans as you would with nonstick cookware when the non-stick coating goes bad. In fact, they'll probably last you for years if taken care of properly.
Seasoning Stainless Cookware
Here is an awesome video review of how to season a stainless steel pan.
The process called 'seasoning' involves spreading a layer of oil on very hot metal cookware in an effort to make it non-stick.
With cast iron the effect of seasoning lasts a long time. With stainless steel the effect is short lived, especially if you wash the pot or pan with soapy water.
Best Stainless Steel Cookware Cleaner
Stainless cooking surfaces should clean easily with hot water and a bit of scrubbing. In order to get off extra tough bits or polish your steel, use a mild abrasive cleaner like Bar Keeper's Friend.
Never put cold water in a hot metal pan or pot. Not only can this result in splashing of hot oil, it will cause the metal to cool unevenly and warp your cookware.
While you can put stainless steel in the dishwasher, it'll usually discolor and require you to hand wash and polish it afterwards. We always recommend hand washing pots and pans no matter what they’re made of.
Warning! Stainless Steel Handles Are Hot!
Stainless steel cookware has stainless steel handles. Sometimes their coated with silicone but most of the time they are not.
Because stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat (comparatively), these handles are usually a bit cooler than the rest of your pot. They're still made of metal and attached to a hot pot or pan, so you'll almost always need to use a potholder.
Why Is One Cookware Set More Expensive than The Other?
Expensive cookware is often, but not always, made in a country where manufacturing is expensive like those made in the USA that also has tight quality controls.
Cheap pots and pans are sometimes, not always, made in a country where manufacturing is cheap, like China which usually has less human oversight between the factory and your door.
It's in the best interests of an established brand that sells expensive cookware to make sure that you're happy with every set you purchase and that they last you a very long time.
If you buy a cheap set from a brand overseas that you haven't heard of before, chances are they're less likely to care about your experience compared to those in the USA, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Canada.
This isn't to say that you should buy the most expensive set of cookware available, but rather that you should research a few sets you might be interested in and see if you can find evidence that they last for a few years.
A number of middle-of-the-road brands offer the same sturdy construction as the high end ones for less than half the cost.
Does Every Cookware Set Cook The Same?
Durability is important when it comes to stainless cookware and not all pots and pans cook exactly the same. The thickness and makeup of your cookware determines how they handle on the stove or in the oven.
Thick, heavy pots and pans will retain a lot of heat. A thinner, lighter pan will reach a high temperature more quickly and cool off faster when you turn off the burner.
Most modern stainless steel sets are induction capable, either from using a magnetic stainless alloy or because of an iron disk built into the bottom.
The difference doesn't matter too much so long as the set you purchase is marked as 'induction compatible cookware'.
Final Thoughts - How To Choose The Best Set
Purchasing a set of stainless steel cookware is pretty simple. There aren’t a lot moving parts to think about.
Here are the 5 things we consider before deciding on a new set:
- Brand – Is this a reputable brand?
- What grade of steel and how thick is it?
- Is it induction compatible? Only if you have an induction range.
- Warranty options – just in case something goes wrong.
- What do I need? Large skillets? Big pots?
Armed with the information we’ve covered in this guide, you should be ready to go out and buy the best stainless steel cookware set for you and your kitchen.
Did you enjoy this guide? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to ask questions and share your experiences.