Best Cookware To Have In Your Kitchen

A quick scan of the cookware aisle at your local home goods retailer is all it takes to realize what a challenge it will be to choose the right pots and pans. The styles, materials, sizes, and quality of cookware all vary so wildly between manufacturers that the selection process may seem overwhelming at first. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult and, in fact, can be fun and informative. You just have to know what characteristics to look for, and how to evaluate which type of cookware is the Best Cookware to have in your kitchen.

Cuisinart 12 Pc Cookware Set Review
Cuisinart 12 Pc Cookware Set Review

When you begin the search for cookware, consider quality first. Quality is important for obvious reasons – your purchase needs to last and the food needs to taste good. The second consideration should be your purpose, that is, what will you be cooking, and how? Here, we take a closer look at each of the two main cookware criteria – quality and purpose.

Best Cookware Quality and Construction Reviews

The quality of a piece of cookware is gauged in a number of ways. The thickness of the pan, for example, is important because thicker pans conduct heat better and help prevent food from burning. The ideal thickness of each pan will depend on its composition, so if you’re purchasing pans from a bricks and mortar store, don’t be afraid to take them out of the box, hold them up for scrutiny, and tap them. You should hear a thud, not a ping. While you have the pan in your hand, mimic your normal cooking actions in order to get a feel for it (Awkward? Too heavy/light?). If the pan feels too heavy, imagine how heavy it will be with food in it. After all, you’ll be cooking with it regularly.

Strong, sturdy, and well-constructed heatproof handles are important for safety reasons (burning hands, handles breaking), and so is the composition of the handles. Wooden and plastic handles prevent you from moving a dish from the stovetop to the oven, but metal handles can be hot to the touch. The most versatile handles available are metal with rubber, or plastic, removable sleeves.

The construction and quality of the lids shouldn’t be overlooked either. The lid handles should be heatproof for the same reason as they should be heatproof on the pans themselves – safety. When you test out the pots and lids, pay special attention to fit. Moisture will stay in the pot when the lids fit snugly. Also, glass lids with vented tops are the most convenient because you can check on your food without removing the lid.

Cookware Purpose and Function

The second thing to consider when determining which type of cookware to purchase is the purpose. How will it be used? The reason it’s important to consider your purpose is because pots and pans are composed of different materials, and manufactured in different shapes, dimensions, and thicknesses. Some materials are good for all around cooking, but many types of cookware are either designed for a specific use, or work better for different cooking techniques.

For example, if you cook a lot of Italian or Spanish dishes, which are typically made with foods containing high levels of acidity, you’ll need to focus on cookware that is comprised of nonreactive materials. The reason for that is because nonreactive materials don’t impact the color and taste of acidic and alkaline foods (ex: tomatoes, dairy) like reactive materials do. Also, pots and pans made with nonreactive material don’t stain or pit when exposed to acidic and alkaline foods. Ceramic and stainless steel are good examples of nonreactive material-based cookware.

If you prepare dishes that require a lot of stirring, such as broths, sauces, and stews, heat conductivity may not be so important to you. However, if you prepare meat dishes on the stovetop, for example, heat conductivity will be very important to you because you’ll need to ensure that the meat is cooked evenly. Aluminum and hard anodized cookware are both effective heat conductors, and do a good job of cooking food evenly without the need for a lot of stirring.

Once you get a handle on what to look for in terms of quality, and how to assess your needs based on your personal cooking style, you can make an informed decision about what type of cookware will best suit you. To help you in that endeavor, here is a list of the main cookware styles that are available, as well as a snapshot of the pros and cons of each.

Stainless Steel Cookware Reviews

Even with the overwhelming number of cookware materials and styles available, stainless steel remains one of the most popular. It’s a relatively affordable, scratch-resistant and durable material that doesn’t corrode or pit, and stainless steel is more versatile than many other types of material because it is a nonreactive material.

stainless steel cookware set

The nonreactive nature of stainless steel means that you can cook with alkaline and acidic foods, such as tomatoes and lemons, without worrying about the food taking on a metallic taste, or the cookware pitting or corroding when it makes contact with those types of foods. In short, stainless steel is a good choice for cooks who regularly use ingredients that are high in alkaline or acid, such as red sauces and wine.

One of the downsides of choosing stainless steel is that it needs to be babied a bit. The material shouldn’t be cleaned using any type of scrubber or abrasive cleaner*. Additionally, stainless steel by itself doesn’t conduct heat well. In order to circumvent that issue, choose stainless steel pans that have copper or aluminum disks on the bottom, or are made with an aluminum core. Here are a few more key characteristics of stainless steel pots and pans:

  • Price:  Low (stainless steel only) to Mid-Range (mixed metals)
  • Easy to Clean:  Low to Moderate (must be gentle*)
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Yes
  • Construction:  Stainless Steel or Stainless Steel with Copper or Aluminum
  • Versatility:  High
  • Durability:  High

Check out our list of the Best Stainless Steel Cookware

Hard Anodized Cookware Reviews

Hard anodized cookware is composed of an aluminum base that has gone through a chemical process which renders the material up to twice as strong as stainless steel. It is considered to be highly durable, and warp, scratch and corrosion-resistant. The composition of hard anodized cookware allows for consistently even heating, and because of that, as well as its lasting durability, it can be moderately expensive. However, when properly cared for, the pots and pans can last a lifetime. They are also great all-around cookware since, like stainless steel, hard anodized pots and pans are nonreactive. So, many people consider it to be a worthwhile investment.

Hard Anodized Cookware

Hard anodized cookware is classified as ‘stick resistant’, and is considered to be fairly easy to clean. Harsh abrasive pads can be used to scrub tough stains and burned on food. However, soaking the pans in hot, soapy water is recommended first because, over time, the abrasive materials will cause the surface of the pans to lose their finish. Here are some key features of anodized cookware:

  • Price:  Moderate
  • Easy to Clean:  Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Not Recommended
  • Construction:  Chemically-Treated Aluminum
  • Versatility:  High
  • Durability:  High

Check out our list of the Best Hard Anodized Cookware

Aluminum Cookware Reviews

The most attractive feature of aluminum cookware is the price. Sheet, or plain, aluminum is the least expensive type of cookware available. It heats and cooks evenly and is lightweight (great for those with arthritis). However, it is soft, so it dents and scratches easily, and it doesn’t hold up well in high heat (it can warp). Additionally, aluminum is a reactive metal, so it’s not recommended to be used when cooking with acidic or high alkaline foods. So, to avoid damaging the pan and altering the taste and appearance of your food, don’t use ingredients like fruit, dairy, sugar, nuts, and most root and green vegetables. Instead, use aluminum pans for tasks such as preparing gravy, browning meat, and boiling rice.

Aluminum Cookware

Aluminum cookware is best for general low heat cooking, but since it scratches easily and can warp from heat, if you use this type of cookware, keep a close eye on it when it is on the stove. Aluminum isn’t nearly as rugged as other compositions, so using abrasive scrubbers to remove burned on food can ruin the pan’s cooking surface. Take a look at the following snapshot of aluminum cookware:

  • Price:  Low
  • Easy to Clean:  Moderately
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Not Recommended
  • Construction:  Aluminum
  • Versatility:  Moderate
  • Durability:  Low

Check out our list of the Best Aluminum Cookware

Glass Cookware Reviews

Glass makes for the best type of cookware lids, hands down. But, what about the pots and pans themselves? When used and maintained properly, glass is highly durable and can last years. However, the potential for breakage is very real, so follow the manufacturer’s directions very carefully when cooking with glass pots and pans.

Glass Cookware

Glass pans are effective at retaining heat, so food will stay warmer longer (great for parties or homes where people eat at different times). However, they aren’t known for being the best distributors of heat during cooking. As a result, you may need to stir foods more often than usual. Another reason to be diligent in making sure the heat is distributed evenly is that glass pans can be challenging to clean when food is burned onto them. They are normally dishwasher safe*, but washing them by hand is recommended because they often require scrubbing.

As nonreactive cookware, glass is versatile and can be used to prepare any number of dishes. However, because it doesn’t distribute heat well during the cooking process, glass is best-suited for making foods that require a lot of stirring, such as soups and stews. Also, since it is dense and heavy, glass is not a good choice for households where young children are often helping in the kitchen, or for homes where the cook has arthritis. Here are a few highlights of glass cookware:

  • Price:  Moderate
  • Easy to Clean:  Moderately
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Yes*
  • Construction:  Glass
  • Versatility:  Moderate
  • Durability:  Low to Moderate

Check out our list of the Best Glass Cookware

Ceramic Cookware Reviews

The various looks and designs of ceramic cookware make it a draw for those looking for display-worthy pots and pans. The versatile color options allow for creativity in kitchen design. Ceramic is also versatile, since it can easily be moved from the stove top to the oven, broiler, and even the barbecue. Another advantage of using ceramic cookware is that it is a nonreactive material, and can be used to cook almost any type of food.

Ceramic Cookware

One disadvantage to cooking with ceramic pans is that they don’t conduct heat as well as some of the other types of cookware, which means that your food will need a bit more attention to ensure that it cooks evenly. Ceramic is durable, but it is made from fired clay, so it can break. Also, ceramic cannot be cleaned with abrasive scrubbers, because it will scratch the surface. So, if any food gets stuck onto the pan (though it’s a relatively nonstick surface), it needs to be soaked first before cleaning it or putting it into the dishwasher.

  • Price:  Moderate to High
  • Easy to Clean:  Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Yes
  • Construction:  Ceramic
  • Versatility:  High
  • Durability:  Moderate to High

Check out our list of the Best Ceramic Cookware

Copper Cookware Reviews

Unlike traditional copper cookware that was made with a tin interior and copper exterior, today’s copper pots and pans are designed with ease of use and cleaning, as well as long-term durability, in mind. Coated with copper but with (most often) stainless steel at its core, copper cookware is ideal for those who don’t mind spending a lot of money on their cookware, and are looking for a beautiful set that is worthy of being displayed.

Copper Cookware

Unlike ceramic cookware, copper is an excellent heat conductor, so food cooks evenly and thoroughly. Additionally, copper begins cooling as soon as you remove it from the stovetop, so whatever is in the pot stops cooking immediately upon separation from the heat source. That gives you better control over the food and there’s less of a risk of overcooking or burning food.

The best types of foods to prepare using copper pots and pans include those that rely on carefully controlled and balanced heating, such as high-quality seafood and meats. However, avoid cooking foods with high acidic content, as copper is a reactive material, and there is a concern about the metal leeching into the foods.

The downside to copper cookware is that it requires additional care. Copper tarnishes relatively easily, and should regularly be cleaned with a copper cleaner. Otherwise, heat conductivity will suffer. Do not use abrasives to clean any part of copper cookware. However, if you do properly care for your copper cookware, it will last years.

  • Price:  High
  • Easy to Clean:  No
  • Dishwasher Safe:  No
  • Construction:  Copper and Stainless Steel
  • Versatility:  Moderate
  • Durability:  Moderate to High

Check out our list of the Best Copper Cookware.

Cast Iron Cookware Reviews

If you’re looking for the ultimate in long lasting cookware, invest in cast iron pots and pans. They are both affordable and highly durable, and they are also excellent conductors of heat. Cast iron cookware also retains heat well, and, when treated properly, it is naturally nonstick. Cast iron pots and pans can also go from the stovetop to the oven without an issue.

Cast Iron Cookware

Excellent for browning and long slow-simmering recipes, or frying or roasting foods, cast iron cookware is incredibly versatile. The only caveat is that its surface is reactive, so it doesn’t work well with acidic foods.

The trick with cast iron cookware is in the seasoning of the pan. Prior to using this type of cookware, make sure you season it properly, or the food will stick. Cast iron can be a challenge to clean when food gets stuck on it, and since abrasives are out of the question, your best bet is to season it correctly in the first place.

  • Price:  Low to Moderate
  • Easy to Clean:  Moderate
  • Dishwasher Safe:  No
  • Construction:  Cast Iron
  • Versatility:  High
  • Durability:  High

Check out our list of the Best Cast Iron Cookware!

Nonstick Cookware Reviews

For a good all-around cookware set, nonstick pots and pans work well. Their coating makes them incredibly easy to clean and, contrary to what many believe, as long as they don’t overheat, nonstick pans are safe. The nonstick coating (Teflon is the most popular and common) will begin to break down at high heats (above 500°F) and toxic gases and particles, which remain unseen, can be released. However, nonstick cookware has been the best-selling cookware for the better part of the last ten years, so it really is safe to use.

Nonstick Cookware

Nonstick cookware is more about the coating and less about the composition of the pots themselves. So, the price can vary wildly, depending upon your needs. You can get an inexpensive set that is good for the short term, as long as you don’t use abrasives to clean the surface. Or, you can splurge and get a more durable set, comprised of, say, stainless steel, and, as long as you care for it properly, the nonstick surface will last years. Either way, read the manufacturer’s instructions. Some nonstick cookware will be easily transferable from oven to stove top, while other pieces are designed specifically for the stove top and should never be left in the oven.

  • Price:  Varies
  • Easy to Clean:  Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Read Manufacturer’s Instructions
  • Construction:  Varies – Teflon Surface
  • Versatility:  Moderate to High
  • Durability:  Moderate to High

Check out our list of the Best Non-Stick Cookware

Induction Cookware Reviews

Cookware that is designed exclusively for induction cooktops are labeled as such and have magnetic properties on the underside of the pots and pans. Other than that, the cookware can be made of stainless steel, cast iron, or any other material. So, when looking to experience the induction method of cooking, you have to purchase not only the cookware, but the cooktop as well.

Induction Cookware

When food is cooked using the induction method, it cooks up to 50% faster than traditional cookware and methods. The reason is that there is no middle man (electric burner) to transfer the heat to the pan. It all works using electromagnetic activity, which means that the pan itself is the starting point for the heat. Induction cooking is also energy efficient, simply because it takes less time to cook the food, and the heat is focused squarely on the pan and its contents.

If you like the idea of installing an induction cooktop, but don’t want to invest in specialty cookware, consult the manufacturer of your current cookware set. Some cookware, including some cast iron pots and pans, work okay with induction stovetops. If you don’t do your homework, however, you will ruin both the cooktop and the cookware. For example, glass, copper and aluminum will not work on an induction cooktop unless it has magnetic properties underneath.

If you have small children running about, induction cooktops and cookware would serve you well, as they are safe because there’s no open flame, and the cooktop doesn’t typically get that hot since the heat is centralized in the pan. Additionally, as soon as you turn the dial off, the pan cools down. It helps prevent burning the food, and allows the cook to have more control in the kitchen.

The price, durability, and ease of cleaning will vary based on the type of cookware you choose.

  • Price:  Moderate to High
  • Easy to Clean:  Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Read Manufacturer’s Instructions
  • Construction:  Varies – Magnetic Underside
  • Versatility:  Moderate to High
  • Durability:  Moderate to High

Check out our list of the Best Induction Cookware!

Titanium Cookware Reviews

Cookware that is constructed of titanium actually has it only as its core material. The exterior coating of titanium cookware is typically ceramic, but can also be composed of other materials, such as hard-adonized aluminum. Since titanium is an expensive material, you will pay a premium for your pots and pans. The upside is that titanium is lighter than many other materials traditionally used in cooking equipment, so it would be a good choice for those with arthritis, or weakness due to other conditions. Additionally, titanium is as strong and durable as cast iron, so you get the durability of cast iron without the weight. For many people, that makes the higher cost worth it. In fact, because titanium is so lightweight and rugged, it is the ideal and preferred cookware choice for backpackers, campers, hikers, and professional climbers.

Titanium Cookware

Use caution when adjusting to your new cookware though, as titanium heats up quickly (and evenly). Heating food more quickly is a plus unless the food gets burned! The titanium itself is nonreactive, so it is a great choice for the versatile cook.

The surface composition of titanium cookware will be the deciding factor in whether or not your pots and pans can go into the oven, and whether or not they are truly dishwasher safe. It’s best to read the manufacturer’s instructions before doing either with your titanium cookware.

  • Price:  High
  • Easy to Clean:  Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Read Manufacturer’s Instructions
  • Construction:  Varies – Titanium Core
  • Versatility:  High
  • Durability:  High

Check out our list of the Best Titanium Cookware!

Enamel Cookware Reviews

Enamel is another type of cookware coating. It can be found most often on cast iron and ceramic pots and pans. The enameling process creates a nonstick surface that is dishwasher and oven safe. Other advantages to purchasing enamel-coated cookware include the fact that the heat distributes consistently and evenly (though a little slower than some others), and the nonstick surface makes it easy to clean by hand. It is best not to use abrasive scrubbers or metal cooking utensils, however, as the enamel surface can chip more easily than other surface materials.

Enamel Cookware

When cared for properly, enamel-coated cookware is highly durable. Of course, the core material will play a role in how long the pots and pans last, but since heavier materials, such as ceramic and cast iron, are typically used, your enamel-coated pots and pans could potentially last a lifetime.

Enamel-coated cookware is versatile since it’s nonstick, and it evenly heats foods. It’s also nonreactive, so there’s no concern about metals or chemicals getting into the food.  So, this cookware is a good choice for general everyday cooking. Pots and pans in this category start in the midrange in terms of pricing, however, if you do plan on purchasing enamel cookware, consider paying a little extra for the high end pieces.

  • Price:  Moderate to High
  • Easy to Clean:  Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Yes
  • Construction:  Enamel – Core Varies
  • Versatility:  High
  • Durability:  High

Check out our list of the Best Enamel Cookware!

Silicone Cookware Reviews

Silicone is used to make bakeware, so if your culinary focus is on the oven, you’ll want to at least consider silicone. It is a flexible, highly durable material that requires no oiling or greasing. In fact, all it takes is a gentle twist of the wrist to release a loaf of bread from the pan. As such, silicone bakeware is also incredibly easy to clean.

Silicone Cookware

The pans heat up quickly and cook evenly with no dark or burned edges or bottoms, and even though it may not be a traditional baking material, there is no need to adjust your ingredients, baking temperature, or baking time to accommodate the silicone composition.

Silicone is microwave, oven, dishwasher, freezer, and refrigerator safe. That means you can bake, reheat, freeze, refrigerate, and store your baked goods right in the pan. Keep in mind, though, that the pans do cool down quickly, but just as with anything that comes straight from the oven, it will initially still be hot to the touch. As another precaution, avoid using anything sharp in the pan, such as a knife, and don’t use near an open flame, as these actions could damage the pans. Also, the material feels a bit flimsy, so support it by putting a cookie sheet under the pan when baking.

  • Price:  Moderate
  • Easy to Clean:  Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe:  Yes
  • Construction:  Food Grade Silicone
  • Versatility:  Moderate (Bakeware Only)
  • Durability:  Moderate to High

Check out our list of the Best Silicone Cookware!

Clearly there are lots of options when it comes to fulfilling your cookware needs. In separate articles we’ll spend more time elaborating on the specifics of each category and we invite you check those out to further inform your selection process. All product links will carry you to Amazon.com, the worlds largest online store, who can delivery cookware to your door in only a couple days. Such a purchase may result in a small commission to us. This would come at absolutely no cost to you Amazon pays this, but it would certainly be appreciated, so THANKS! if you do so.

Meanwhile, Thanks for stopping by and happy cooking!