Choosing cookware that’s a perfect match for your kitchen is an important decision. For many of us, we cook in the kitchen at least once a day. So, unlike many other appliances that sit gathering dust, our pots and pans are used hundreds of times each year. They need to last the distance and do the job they’re supposed to do! 

So what is the right cookware set for you? This will depend on your household’s needs, kitchen style, budget and much more. It’s important you consider these factors before jumping in and splashing out the cash.

You may also want to check out our in-depth comparison of Anolon and Calphalon cookware.

Check your existing cookware

How does your current setup look? Do you already have a snazzy looking set of pots but need to replace that wok with a rusted base? Forget buying the set and simply replace the damaged piece.    

What’s your budget?

This is very important. Establish your maximum spend and then see what you can afford. Don’t put yourself under financial pressure to pay off a kitchen set that you can’t afford. That game’s for suckers.

Is durability important?

You’d think everyone would say it is. But is it? If you’re buying for your summer house and the cookware will get used a few times a year – durability doesn’t play such an important role in the decision. Also, if you replace them every year then a long lasting, high quality set may not be needed.

What maintenance is required?

Some pans need more love and care than others. Copper or cast iron has some great benefits when cooking, but will you remember to oil it? If not, a stainless steel set that requires minimal maintenance might be a better option.

How do you like to cook?

Many of us tend to have a method of cooking that gets used frequently: boiling, searing, slow cooking, blanching. If you frequently slow cook casseroles because they’re simple to make, choosing copper pots that are unlined might not be in your best interests. Copper can add an unpleasant bitter flavor when slow cooking. Love to fry? Consider cast iron for evenly distributed heat that puts a smile on your face.

Looks are important

You need to look at your cookware everyday so you sure as heck better like how it looks. If you have a large traditional homestead kitchen, copper, hung from hooks, has great eye appeal. Living in a funky new apartment and impressing your guests with molecular gastronomy? Add some bright colored pots to reinforce how awesome you are.

What cooktop do you have?

You’ll need to look at magnetic cookware if you have an induction cooktop.

Quick Cookware Overview

Do you know a pot from a pan? How about a saute pan from a saucier?
Keep reading for a simple overview.

Braiser

Braiser

A shallow sided, wide pan with a heavy base and a lid that fits securely. An excellent pan for searing substantial pieces of meat. Ideal for steaming (braising) food in the oven at a low temperature as well as frying or even using for casseroles.

Deep Skillet

Deep SkilletA deep skillet has is similar to a traditional skillet, only it’s deeper. This pan is ideal for frying, roasting, baking or stewing. It is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used for most cooking techniques.

Frying Pan

Fry PanPerhaps one of the most common pieces of equipment in many homes, the frying pan is the go-to tool for many recipes. A frying pan is shallow with a long handle – useful for keeping the hands a safe distance when frying food in hot oil.

French Skillet

French SkilletA French skillet is best used to saute and brown food rather than frying at a high heat. Although it is very similar to a frying pan, the French skillet does a better job of keeping liquids on the pan from splashing out.

Wok

WokA wok is a large, bowl shaped pan that originated in China and is now a popular kitchen tool in many parts of the world. A wok can have a flat bottom or rounded, which requires a special stand.

Grill Pan

Grill PanA grill pan is a shallow pan with ridges to give your food that outdoor grilled look. The ridges allow the fat to escape so that the meat doesn’t cook in its own juices. This is the optimal tool for an indoor barbecue.

Saucepan

SaucepanA common pot that most households use. The saucepan has a long handle and is deep with vertical sides – designed for braising, boiling and for making soups and amazing sauces.

Saucier

SaucierA saucier’s main purpose is for reducing sauces, although it’s also good for risotto, porridge and lots more. A saucier is basically a saucepan but has a wider mouth, walls angling outwards and a rolled lip. Its design makes stirring sauces a little easier than a saucepan.

Saute Pan

Saute PanA saute pan has a flat bottom with vertical sides. It is similar to a frying pan but it offers more surface area and volume than a similar sized frying pan.

French Oven

French Oven

A French oven offer versatility – allowing the user to cook on a stovetop, then transfer to the oven and finally, take straight to the table. A first-rate option for slow cooking soups, meat and casseroles.

Stock Pot

Stock PotA stock pot is a large, high walled pot ideal for cooking soup, stock and broth. They’re designed to heat quickly and transfer heat evenly for prolonged periods when simmering.

Soup Pot

Soup PotA soup pot is very similar to a stock pot; however, its walls are not as high. As the name suggests, it is designed for slowly cooking soups than can then be transferred straight to the table and ladled out to each bowl.

Roasting Pan

Roaster PanA roasting pan is designed to fit large cuts of meat for roasting in the oven. They often come with a rack which allows the meat fat to drip through.

Double Boiler

Double BoilerA double boiler (Bain-Marie) has two pots: the lower is filled with water and boiler over the stove top. The upper pot contains the food which can be heated with a less harsh heat. Great for melting chocolate!

Kitchen Quote

What is the Best Cookware Material?

We compare cast iron, enamel, stainless steel and copper, carbon steel and glass.

Copper

Let’s start our review of cookware material with the best.

If Chris Hemsworth was cookware, he’d be made of copper. Nothing beats it in the looks department and it will demand a prominent position in your kitchen. Stowing it away in a cupboard is just an insult.

Looks are only skin deep. But copper cookware isn’t just about appearance. It excels at conducting heat and if you’re serious about cooking, you should put Cu on the short list.

You may hear talk of copper being dangerous when cooking due to toxicity. Although this can be true, most modern copper pots and pans are lined with food safe metals such as tin so you don’t have to worry.

Copper Pot

What you should consider

Price Factor

Very high. Ouch.

Safe for

Oven and stovetop

The Good

  • Amazing at conducting heat
  • Looks stunning in the kitchen
  • Minimal pre-heating required

Potential pitfalls

  • High maintenance to keep the shine
  • Expensive (but potentially worth it)
  • Not compatible with induction cooktops

Cast Iron

Cast Iron

Cast iron cookware is all about versatility.

It’s at home on a stove top, in the oven or even thrust over a harsh open fire. Nothing phases cast iron, so long as it gets the tender loving care it so sorely needs. Treating it mean won’t keep it keen.

A big complaint about cast iron is that it rusts and chips over time. However, a little oil rubbing followed by some heat will create a layer of protection that’ll keep your cookware in top shape. In fact, a well maintained cast iron pan will provide its caring owner a trouble free, non stick cooking surface that’ll keep you smiling all night.

What you should consider

Price Factor

Relatively cheap – excellent value.

Safe for

It’s a beast – oven, stovetop, fire, grill.

The Good

  • Can be used anywhere – from stove to fire
  • Tough and hard to damage
  • Once seasoned it is non-stick
  • Excellent for searing protein

Potential pitfalls

  • Can crack or develop rust without maintenance
  • Requires effort to heat pans evenly
  • Requires special maintenance and cleaning
  • Acidic foods don’t work well with cast iron

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel cookware is a solid contender in the kitchen. It’s durable – expect it to be searing, blanching and frying for decades.

A major consideration is whether your pots and pans will each have an encapsulated base. This matters a lot. If it’s all stainless steel the heat conductivity will be underwhelming. These sets are usually the cheapest option for good reason. An encapsulated base means there’s a layer of other material, that conducts heat much better, between two layers of stainless steel.

Stainless steel looks good and doesn’t require the regular oiling that some other cooking sets require.

stainless steel pots

What you should consider

Price Factor

From cheap to mid range.

Safe for

Oven or stovetop

The Good

  • Cheaper than copper
  • Non reactive material
  • Tough and easy maintenance
  • Rust resistant

Potential pitfalls

  • Doesn’t conduct heat as well as copper
  • Doesn’t cope well frying some food like eggs
  • Sets without encapsulated base are poor quality.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel pot

Like a good wine, carbon steel tends to get better with age. The secret is to season your pans with oil regularly; this will bring out the best in your pots and pans.

Carbon steel is a lot like cast iron, except that they’re lighter and usually have a non-stick coating. This is because carbon steel is made up of approximately 99% iron and 1% steel. A good combination for making excellent cookware.

The extra benefits offered by carbon steel do come with a price tag though. Expect to pay up to double the price of cast iron cookware.

What you should consider

Price Factor

Mid range

Safe for

Oven and stovetop

The Good

  • Lighter than cast iron
  • Can take high heat
  • Conducts heat efficiently
  • Durable, long lasting

Potential pitfalls

  • Requires maintenance
  • Can develop rust and chips
  • Can react to highly acidic and alkaline food.

Glass

Glass is an excellent option for oven baking. Pies and casseroles are the ideal match for glass bakeware. The beauty of cooking with glass is that you can see the layers of food so you get an added cue as to whether it’s time to eat!

You’ll find that glass takes a little longer to heat up that metal. On the flip side, it also takes longer to cool down so your meal will stay warm for longer.

Keep in mind that most glass cookware doesn’t handle extreme heat well and is prone to cracking if you boil water in it.

glass casserole dish

What you should consider

Price Factor

Low-Medium

Safe for

Oven

The Good

  • Excellent heat conduction
  • Doesn’t react with any foods
  • Cook and store directly in fridge
  • Low cost
  • Transparent – can see food easily

Potential pitfalls

  • Doesn’t deal well with high temperatures
  • Not suitable for broiling
  • Temperature doesn’t distribute well
  • Relatively easy to break

Non Stick

Non stick fry pan

If you’re considering robbing a bank, consider using this cookware. If you get caught, no matter what they throw at you, nothing will stick.

Okay, lame jokes aside, non-stick cookware is a brilliant option thanks to its price, durability and the anti-stick factor. Even foods that are notorious for sticking, like eggs, slide off effortlessly.

If you enjoy cooking stir frys and dishes that are cooked on a high heat you’ll need to be watchful that you don’t damage the coating. Some brands don’t handle excessive heat well. Check the manual to work out what your new cookware can handle.

What you should consider

Price Factor

Low-mid range

Safe for

Stovetop and some pans are suitable for ovens.

The Good

  • Easy to wash
  • Even the trickiest foods don’t stick
  • Cook with less fat
  • Doesn’t react with certain foods

Potential pitfalls

  • Can’t use metal utensils when cooking
  • High heat can damage the non-stick coating
  • Cheap pans tend to have a short lifespan

Enamel

Although enamel cookware may not provide the luxurious look that copper offers, enamel can hold its own on the catwalk. The beauty of enamel cookware is the wide array of colours and designs on offer. Whether your kitchen has an old fashioned homestead look to it, bohemian or Hollywood glam, there’s a set that’ll fit your look.

Enamel cookware offers the benefits of cast iron, only you don’t have to worry about the maintenance. If you love slow cooking with tomato bases then enamel is a good option as it doesn’t react with acidic ingredients.

Enamel Pot

What you should consider

Price Factor

Mid range

Safe for

Oven and stovetop

The Good

  • Maintenance such as seasoning isn’t required
  • Durable – you’ll get years out of your purchase
  • Looks impressive – color coordinate your kitchen!
  • The coating is non reactive

Potential pitfalls

  • Doesn’t have a non-stick coating
  • More expensive than cast iron

Silicone

Silicone baking

Silicone is an excellent option when baking food like cakes, muffins and bread. The beauty of silicone is that it’s flexible making it easy to turn out the baked item onto a wire rack without a lot of headache.

Silicone bakeware comes in a wide range of colors so there’s bound to be a design that you like.

Keep in mind that moulds with intricate patterns can be a major hassle to clean. You’re best to stick with simple cake and muffin shapes.

What you should consider

Price Factor

Low

Safe for

Oven

The Good

  • Easy to turn our baked food without it sticking
  • Lightweight and simple to store
  • Relatively low cost

Potential pitfalls

  • Not overly durable
  • Can be fiddly to clean

Cookware brands

Choosing the Best Cookware Brand

There’s a fantastic range of cookware on the market; it can be daunting trying to pick the right set. We’ve narrowed in down to our 6 top brands. They’ve been in the cookware game long enough to have cemented a reputation for products that won’t let you down.

Cuisinart Logo

Price: Middle of the road
Best for: Ceramic, stainless steel, nonstick

Circulon logo

Price: Middle of the road
Best for: Non stick

Calphalon logo

Price: Mid – high
Best for: Ceramic, non stick and enamel

Anolon Logo

Price: High
Best for: Stainless steel, copper, non-stick.

Faberware logo

Price: Low
Best for: Non-stick, stainless steel

KitchenAid logo

Price: Mid – high
Best for: Cast iron, stainless steel, non-stick, enamel

Final Words

If it’s been several years since you last invested in a shiny new cookware set, you’re in for a surprise. Cookware innovation has led to some impressive technology that provides lightweight, easy to clean, non-stick pots and pans. Of course, there’s still the traditional options like copper and cast iron that have stood the test of time. Keep them maintained and you won’t be disappointed.

For most of us, cookware is equipment that will get used regularly. Like a quality bed or television, paying a bit more for the best may make you wince as you make that payment – but it’ll make your life easier and you’ll thank yourself everyday for shelling out the cash.

Good luck with your search for the best cookware out there! If you’ve stumbled onto an amazing new product get in contact on the socials and let me know.

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