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Wednesday, August 12, 2020
The Culinary Cook Products The Best Cookware Sets of 2020

The Best Cookware Sets of 2020

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The Top Chef-Selected Cookware Sets of 2020

Deciding on the best cookware sets for your needs can be daunting. They are an important kitchen tool. I have seen some sets that look decent and priced well that just do not last long. This has caused me to be reluctant in spending a higher amount on better quality cookware sets. In the professional kitchen, longevity and durability are the requirements for cookware. They are abused, exposed to high heat and direct flame, and washed with harsh cleaning chemicals.
We have updated our recommendations for 2020 to keep things fresh. One of our biggest entries into our list is a brand named Caraway.

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For your home use, standing up to this type of abuse is not nearly as important. What you want to look for are quality sets that emphasize even cooking, quality materials, and versatility in its usage. For instance, I never buy a frying pan or pot that cannot be moved from stovetop to oven because that is an important feature to have that many advanced dishes call for such as duck or reverse searing a steak.

chef cutting vegetables
Proper cookware is the difference between simple recipes and disaster.

On the other hand, over the top expensive models can lose their versatility because of perceived fragility.
 
Choosing the proper cookware set doesn’t have to be hard. My time as a professional cook has given me the opportunity to use both commercial and consumer sets. We will go over several sets that I would recommend for all skill levels and price points. I will also cover the top models you should look at investing your money into.
“What you want to look for are quality sets that emphasize even cooking, quality materials, and versatility in its usage”
 
When choosing your cookware set, we take several factors into consideration. It needs to be durable. It needs to heat evenly and quickly. It must be well designed to hold up.

What Makes a Good Cookware Set?

Cookware sets consist of several pieces of pots and pan sets bundled together with similar look and design. Many are 10-14 piece sets and can range in cost and quality. As with most things, it is best to find the right price point for the best value and that is our goal with this comprehensive cookware set guide.

There are several brands out there that you can choose from that are typical of what I would call the “Wal-Mart Brand”. These include brands such as T-Fal, who I would recommend you avoid.

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cookware-pan-anatomy
The anatomy of cookware. multi-ply cladding illustrated. Image Credit: consumerreports.org

Be mindful when making your purchasing decision that you do not opt for a cheaper set that will cause grief down the line. Rarely do we have the opportunity to make a purchase that is expected to last 5, 10, 20 years. This is one of those times.

So take my experience as a 20-year chef in both high end and mom-and-pop shops on which sets to choose. There is a set for everyone.

Top Picks: Our Product Summary

The Best Cookware Sets:

Best Overall

Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set

cuisinart cookware set
Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set

Buy On Amazon – $274.99 USD

What Makes It Great

Companies that have products in both commercial and consumer are always given more preference over those who don’t. The reason is their products are built with durability in mind. Much of what the commercial side of the business demands will cross over into the consumer side. This is not a rule of course, as some companies can omit these high-quality features for a lower cost.
 
Cuisinart is a company that does well in most of their products. The MCP-12N cookware set is a good example of that. It has a reasonable price, clocking in at $214.99 USD for the 12 piece set. Its triple-ply design offers good heat conduction and uniform cooking. Its stainless steel construction allows for strong durability. It may not have a copper core of the higher-priced varieties, but it does opt for a pure aluminum core. This allows for lighter weight and increased conduction.

Product Summary

  • Triple-Ply Design
  • Aluminum Core
  • 12 Piece Set
  • Quality Consumer Brand

Best High-End

All-Clad D5 Brushed 5-ply Stainless Steel Professional Grade 10-Piece Set

all clad best cookware set
All-Clad is a brand that makes all their products in the USA. High-quality and recognizable brand when seen in the kitchen.

Buy On Amazon – $899.99 USD

What Makes It Great

All-Clad is a favorite of mine for several reasons. One is an American Made product that is focused on high-quality products. It is always the dream of the chef to have these types of high-quality products in the kitchen but due to price, it is usually left for consumer buyers. All-clad pots and pans are a set to get if you’re looking to impress.

All-clad pots and pans are a buy-it-once product that you will pass on down. It has a 5-ply design made from 100% American stainless steel. It is layered alternately with aluminum and stainless steel, providing an unmatched conductive and even heating product. It has a lifetime warranty and safe for up to 500’F.

Even cooking is so important when cooking. Much of what you end up paying for in high-end cookware is the layering and quality of the material. It is one of the big reasons I enjoy All-Clad.

Product Summary

  • All-American Made
  • 5-ply Alternating Stainless Steel/Aluminum construction
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • 10- or 14-piece set
  • Warp-Free
  • 500’F Max Temp.

Best Entry Level

Cuisinart 77-10 Chef’s Classic Stainless 10-Piece Cookware Set

cuisinart-best-entry-level-cookware-set
Cuisinart 77-10 Chef’s Classic Stainless 10-Piece Cookware Set

Buy On Amazon – $180.11 USD

What Makes It Great

Another Cuisinart cookware set, but this one is on the lower end of the spectrum. It is very hard to find quality cookware set at entry-level pricing that I can be confident in recommending. The Cuisinart 77-10 is a name I trust with the value entry-level demands.
 
The 77-10 has an aluminum core but is not formed together. This means a thin cookware set will require careful management of temperature. If you are looking to have stainless steel cookware set on a budget, this is a good choice. But for less than $100 more will get you a much higher quality Cuisinart product, the MCP-12N listed above.

Product Summary

  • Inexpensive
  • Name Brand
  • 10-Piece set
  • Stainless Steel with Aluminum core

Best Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware Set

Caraway Non-Stick Ceramic Coated 7-Piece Cookware Set

caraway cookware review set
Caraway makes an elegant and high-quality ceramic cookware set that is functional, practical, and beautiful

Buy On Caraway.com – $395.00

What Makes It Great

Caraway has reinvented what a good cookware set is. Not only is this one of the top non-sticks I have used in a long time, but it also provides a unique experience. Upon receiving the set, you are greeted with a brilliantly laid out packaging that slowly introduces you to each new piece, like unraveling layers of surprises.
It comes with a very practical cloth hanger that solves the problem of finding a place to store your lids. A small but welcome addition. Another addition is the vertical storage option available to store your pots and pans upright on a counter.
And finally, the quality of the cookware set. The non-stick is non-toxic with no leaching chemicals. The set is heavy, with a very solid core and heats evenly. The long handles provide important leverage for heavier cooking. The lids are good quality with a tight seal.

Product Summary

  • 7-Piece Set
  • Comes with ability to hang lids on wall/fridge
  • Storage issues are solved
  • A must-have for those with small kitchen space.
  • Good quality construct
  • Outstanding price for what you receive.

Best Non-Stick – Runner Up

Calphalon Cookware Set 1876788 Contemporary Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick 

caphalon cookware set non-stick
Calphalon Cookware Set 1876788 Contemporary Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick

Buy On Amazon – $521.20 USD

What Makes It Great

Caphalon is a brand you have likely not heard much of. They make mid- to high-end products and tend to focus around commercial applications. I have owned a Caphalon chef knife for around 10 years now and it holds up quite well. Their cookware is prevalent in professional kitchens and they are thought of as a low-cost option. They are durable and hold up well with few compromises. Caphalon’s cookware sets keep their commercial qualities. Their consumer products offer great value at a reasonable price.
 
If you are looking for a bit better product than the Rachael Ray version, the Caphalon cookware set 1876788 is a fantastic alternative. I added this as a notable mention for those who might want higher quality.

Product Summary

  • Commercial-level durability
  • Hard-Anodized Nonstick
  • Three non-stick layers of coating
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Oven-safe pots and pans

Best Copper

Fleischer & Wolf Seville Hammered Copper 10-Piece Cookware Set

fleischer & wolf cookware set copper
Fleischer & Wolf Seville Hammered Copper 10-Piece Cookware Set

Buy On Amazon – $399.99 USD

What Makes It Great

Owning copper pans and copper pots is the desire of many chefs and home cooks alike. They suffer from some drawbacks. Too heavy to use in a commercial kitchen. Too expensive to keep on hand. Too soft to handle the heavy-duty. There are only a few reasons why one would choose the best copper cookware set and that is for show. Now, don’t get me wrong. Nothing beats the conductivity and even heating of copper cookware. But with the alternatives available, it is hard to justify unless the flash is your game.

The Fleischer & Wolf Copper set is one of the best copper cookware sets available right now and that is due to a few reasons. One, it has a triple-ply core of copper, aluminum and stainless steel. This means it is a heavy-bottomed, high conducting and high-quality cookware set. The copper is not just for show. It provides fantastic heat dispersion and is a dream to cook with – especially on a gas stove. The hammered aesthetic is beautiful and is backed by durable stainless steel to bolster strength and longevity. If you are dead set on getting a copper cookware set, this is your model. Others options are just too ambiguous and often are copper for show only with aluminum or pure stainless steel bottoms. This has the best of both worlds and is a good brand name to rely on.

Product Summary

  • Copper, Aluminum, Stainless steel core
  • Triple Ply
  • Beautiful design
  • Excellent conductivity

How We Review Our Cookware Sets

Reputation

There are several factors that we consider when choosing the best cookware sets. The first is the name. The brand reputation speaks loudly to its quality. I would not recommend no-name Chinese brands or brands that are Amazon-exclusive. The reason being is that the level of abuse pots and pans tend to go through can be large. Many of the companies that we choose have built their reputations through commercial cookware sets and products. These include Cuisinart, Kitchenaid, Caphalon and more.
 
Companies like T-FAL have let their products slip in quality over the years. Their consumer products tend to fall apart or break down. This brings us to our second factor.

Durability

Durability means different things to different people. To us, it means how long we expect it to function as intended. Long term use without the need for repairs, replacement or warranty is important. Cookware needs to be useful for many applications such as stove-to-oven use, high heat, and cleaning resistant. Although material plays a big role in these things, quality and durability impact a much larger scale.

Design

The design of the product is important due to how difficult it is to the manufacturer. It can also say what compromises happened to keep a specific design, and how well it can conduct heat. Engineering and design, in this case, are interchangeable.

money for cookware set

Price

Getting the best bang for your buck can be difficult when choosing the right cookware set. Some cookware set prices are very low which can lead us to ask why. Some products priced high can be questionable. You may not know if you will utilize or need all the features it offers.

Price is important to consider. Too low and you risk a substandard product. Too high and you may overpay for features you don’t need. Our recommendations take this into careful consideration. Use an approach that offers the best quality for the lowest price. Are there cheaper options? Of course, but the compromises may outweigh the savings.

Try to balance your own price tolerance with your needs accordingly. I typically use a buy-it-once approach to these types of purchases, and I encourage you to as well.

Types of Cookware Materials

Copper

The biggest benefits of copper cookware sets are that it is an excellent conductor. It heats rapidly and cools quickly. Copper pan set cookware is unsurpassed when you are cooking sugar and fruit mixtures. The biggest downside of copper cookware is that it is very expensive. It is also quite heavy. If you are a restauranteur who is cooking with sugars or desserts, copper cookware may be a good investment. If you are a home cook looking for cookware that has great longevity and doesn’t mind the cost, copper cookware is a good investment.

copper bells
Copper is a beautiful material that has significant weight, but unmatched heat transfer.

 
Because copper reacts with some foods, it typically has a tin lining which is soft and can easily be scratched. Copper is a malleable metal and requires great care. Because of these deficiencies in copper cookware, you will find products layered. This is done between stainless steel or aluminum on the bottom of pots and pans.

Aluminum

In commercial kitchens, aluminum is the most widely used metal used. It is lightweight and conducts heat the best beside copper. It is also fairly inexpensive. Aluminum is a soft metal and it is important that it handled properly to avoid dents. Avoid using aluminum cookware with acidic foods as the metal reacts chemically with many foods. Light-colored foods such as soups or sauces could be discolored when cooked in aluminum. This can happen especially if aluminum stirred with a metal whisk or spoon.

aluminum
Aluminum is a lightweight and soft metal that can transfer heat very well.

 
Anodized aluminum has a hard, dark, corrosion-resistant surface. This helps prevent sticking and discoloration.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel conducts and retains heat poorly. It is a hard, durable metal that makes up for some of its shortcomings. Stainless steel is great for holding foods and for low-temperature cooking. This helps where hot spots or scorching are not problems. Many essential kitchen tools guides include stainless steel pots and pans. Stainless steel pots and pans can be had with aluminum or copper bonded bottoms or with an aluminum layered core. Such cookware gives the rapid, uniform heat conductivity of copper and aluminum. It also gives the strength and durability of stainless steel.

Cast Iron

Cast-iron cookware distributes heat evenly and holds high temperatures very well. Use it often in griddles and large skillets. Although inexpensive, cast iron is heavy and brittle. If using in a commercial kitchen, keep it properly conditioned and dry to prevent rust.

Glass

Glass retains heat well but conducts heat poorly. It does not react with foods. Tempered glass is suitable for microwave cooking, as long as it does not have any metal on it. If you are in a commercial kitchen, you will want to avoid glass. These are not essential kitchen tools as much as they are essential for a home chef. Thorough cleaning and total shut down occurs if glass breaks in a commercial kitchen.

Ceramics

Use ceramics, including earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware. Using them primarily for baking dishes, casseroles, and baking stones. This is because they conduct heat uniformly and hold temperatures well. Ceramics are nonreactive, inexpensive and suitable for microwave use. Ceramics are easily chipped or cracked and should not be used over direct flame. Quick temperature changes can cause the ceramic cookware to crack or shatter.

Plastic

Plastic containers are used frequently for food storage or service. They cannot be used for heating or cooking, except in a microwave oven.

Enamelware

Do not use pans lined with enamel for commercial cooking. In many areas, their use in commercial kitchens is prohibited by law. The enamel can chip or crack easily, providing areas for bacteria to grow. Also, chemicals used to bond the enamel to the cookware can cause food poisoning if ingested.

Non-stick Coatings

Without affecting a metal’s ability to conduct heat, a plastic known as Teflon and Silverstone may be applied to many types of cookware. It provides a slippery, nonreactive finish that prevents food from sticking and allows the use of less fat in cooking.

Do not use non-stick cookware on high heat and be mindful not to use metal utensils as it can scratch or chip the coating.

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The Culinary Cook

Professional Chef & Blogger

With 15 years of experience working in restaurants, resorts, and a fully Red Seal Certified chef, The Culinary Cook shares tips, tricks, and recipes for everyone to enjoy.

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