Nothing feels better than having great cookware at your side when you’re preparing a full course meal for your friends and family. With countless new pots and pans on the market each year, getting a whole set is your safest and most budget-friendly option. Browsing through the best stainless steel cookware sets, however, might make your head spin.
This is why I’ve made this guide to show you some of the top options for this year, their distinct pros and cons, and their different features. Moreover, we will do a deep dive further down the article on how exactly to pick the right set for you. Now, let’s jump into this!
Stainless Steel Sets Comparison Chart
Best Overall – Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel Set
If you’re looking for a combination of superb build quality and excellent practicality, the Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad pro stainless steel 12-piece cookware set is the place you should start from. It is one of the best cookware sets on the market and features a diverse arrangement of various pots and pans that will suit any chef’s preferences.
The 3-ply stainless steel construction with an aluminum core here ensures superb thermal properties for this set. Everything here is oven-safe up to 550-degrees and is made out of high-grade 300 series steel which doesn’t react with foods, won’t alter any flavors, and won’t discolor over time.
A few additional things worth mentioning are the stainless steel riveted handles, the self-basting lids, and the additional steamer insert you get with this set. All of that comes at a price, however, making this also one of the most expensive sets currently on sale. The price per item here is also quite high, especially when compared to cheaper alternatives from other good brands such as Duxtop or Concord.
- Superb build quality
- Tight-fitting lids
- Cool-grip handles
- Triply-ply construction
- Aluminum core
- Low preheat times
- Very expensive
- A bit hard to maintain
Best Budget – Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
If you want to get a full-sized stainless steel set but are on a tight budget, the Cook N Home 12-Piece Cookware Set is the right thing for you. It costs a fraction of the price of the premium brands’ sets and brings decent practicality to the table (pun intended).
All the pots and pans here are made out of mirror-polished 18/10 grade stainless steel. There is an aluminum disc bottom which isn’t the same as having an aluminum core but it still reduces the weight and gives the pans better thermal performance. There is a 1.5-quart saucepan, 3 saucepot casseroles (1.5, 2, and 3 quarts), a 5.5-quart stockpot, and a saute frying pan (10-inch). All of them come with glass lids. The set is oven-safe up to 500 degrees (F) while the lids are rated for up to 350 degrees (F).
The set comes in two different variations – one with stainless steel handles and one with silicone handles. Additionally, you can get a knife block set with it for a slightly bigger price tag. As a whole, this is the perfect budget option for home cooks that don’t want to spend a fortune but still want something practical and of good quality.
- Great bang for your buck
- Large enough for home cooks
- Good thermal properties
- 18/10 stainless steel
- Works on all sorts of stoves
- Easy to clean
- The set isn’t non-stick
- The handles aren’t very stable
- Long-term durability isn’t stellar
Largest Set – Duxtop Professional Stainless Steel Pots and Pans Set
The Duxtop Professional Stainless Steel Set is one of the largest on the market and definitely the biggest one on this list. It features 17 different pieces and is made out of heavy-gauge impact-bonded stainless steel with aluminum cores at the bottom for quicker and more energy-efficient preheating times. It works with all types of stovetops and all the components feature a straight-sided drip-free design.
In the set, you will find two saucepans, one 4.2 qt casserole, a stockpot, a saute pan (with a helper), and two frying pans 8 and 9.5 inches big. Additionally, you get a few accessories such as a boiler basket, a large steam basket, and some flatware such as a two-prong fork, a turner, and a solid spoon. All these added accessories are also made out of the same stainless steel quality. Also, all the pots come with their own glass lids that have large and wide stainless steel handles. The set is oven-safe up to 550 degrees while the lids are safe only up to 400 degrees (F).
- Straight-sided design
- Drip-free pouring
- All the pots have glass lids
- Large and comfortable handles
- Beautiful design
- Comes with plenty of accessories
- Very expensive
- Lids won’t withstand very high temperatures
- Hard to clean
Highest-Grade Steel – All-Clad Brushed D5 Stainless Steel Cookware Set
All-Clad is a well-known brand in the cooking world mainly for its superb quality and outstanding craftsmanship. Their Brushed D5 Stainless Cookware Set is the most expensive on this list but is also the one that will perform the best and last the longest. In other words, if you aren’t restricted by a budget and simply want to get the best possible cookware set, this has to be it.
This particular set comprises two frying pans, one 8 and one 10-inch, three saucepans, and a stockpot. Each of those has a stainless steel lid with riveted handles. The handles on the pots are also made out of stainless steel and are quite large and easy to hold.
The professional-grade stainless steel here ensures that the pots and pans can withstand temperatures up to 600 degrees (F). Their lids are also quite durable and can withstand similar temperatures. The preheat times with this set are also minimal thanks to their 5-layer structure with two aluminum layers in between. The inner steel is an 18/10 grade stainless steel that distributes heat evenly when you’re cooking and is super durable and easy to clean. The whole set is also induction compatible. As a whole, there aren’t many other sets that can outclass this one but, at the same time, there aren’t that many that cost more. So, if you are trying to fit in a budget, this isn’t the best value for your money out there.
- Professional grade steel
- Two aluminum cores
- Minimal preheat times
- Oven-safe up to 600 degrees
- Lifetime warranty
- Induction compatible
- Extremely expensive
- Long-term dishwasher usa can corrode the aluminum layers
- Hard to maintain clean
Best for Small Kitchens – Concord Cookware 7-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
If you have a small kitchen and are also on a tighter budget, then the Concord 7PCS Stainless Steel Cookware Set is an ideal option to start your search from! It is budget-friendly and has all the needed items for you to start cooking right away. The set includes a 4 qt Dutch oven with a glass lid, two saucepans with glass lids, one 1.5 qt, and one 2 quarts, and a 9-inch fry pan. The set is made out of polished steel, although not of the highest grade like some of the other more expensive sets on this list. The 3-ply bottoms and aluminum core really do help with faster preheat times and distribute the heat evenly for better cooking.
Cleaning this set is a bit hard as food tends to stick if you haven’t treated it properly beforehand. Still, it is dishwasher and oven safe (up to 550 degrees, with the lids up to 350 degrees). As a whole, this is the perfect budget option for anyone looking to get a good-value stainless steel set that will do its job properly and help you equip your new kitchen.
- 3-ply bottom
- Aluminum core
- Ideal for small kitchens
- Glass lids
- Dishwasher safe
- Hard to clean
- The steel isn’t of the highest grade
- Tends to discolor
Most Durable – Goodful Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Set
Thanks to its high-grade stainless steel construction, the Goodful Classic Cookware Set is one of the most durable sets out there. It is also decently priced with a lot of pieces in the set, making it a great deal for your money. In it, you get 2 saucepans, an 8-inch non-stick frypan, a larger 10-inch fry pan, a 5 qt dutch oven, and a 4 qt jumbo cooker. All of them come with stainless steel lids. Additionally, you are getting an 11.25-inch splatter screen as a bonus accessory.
One cool feature here is that the pots and pans have measuring marks on their inside. The fry pan also comes with a non-stick coating on top of the stainless steel. The bases of all the pieces in this set are tri-ply and also impact-bonded. This will help with heat distribution and faster preheat times. One major disadvantage here is that the set is hard to clean off stubborn stains and is also rated to withstand only around 350-400 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the oven.
- Decently priced
- A lot of useful pots and pans
- Non-stick fry pan
- Comes with a splatter screen
- Stainless steel lids
- Hard to clean and maintain
- The pots can be sticky to certain foods
Best Nickle-Free Set – Homi Chef 14-Piece Nickel-Free Stainless Steel Cookware Set
The Homi Chef 14-pcs nickel-free cookware set is a great option for anyone looking for a set that is made out of stainless steel with no nickel in it. It will be primarily built out of chromium and carbon with aluminum acting as the core material.
In terms of its construction, the pots and pans here feature a 3-ply wall with the inner layer being a 21/0 stainless steel. The core is aluminum which reduces preheating times and makes for better heat distribution. The outer layer is an even harder and more durable 18/0 stainless steel. On top, the glass lids feature a tempered glass structure with stainless steel handles. The inner coating is non-stick and no-toxic without any PFOA or PTFEs, adding to the value of this set compared to others in this price class.
The set is compatible with all cooktops including gas, ceramic, induction, halogen, and more. It is also dishwasher-safe and rated oven-safe up to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit). Unfortunately, the lids aren’t oven-safe, so you can’t use them to further cook certain meals. With the set, you will also be getting 5 cooking utensils free, which makes this one of the best nickel-free stainless steel cookware sets out there for the money.
- Aluminum core
- Tempered glass lids
- Non-stick non-toxic coating
- Comes with 5 free accessories
- Decently priced
- Lids aren’t oven safe
- The non-stick coating doesn’t always work well
- Hard to clean
Best with Copper Core – All-Clad 600822 SS Copper Core Cookware Set
As we already saw in the All-Clad D5 set, the brand is highly specialized in making premium cooking sets. The All-Clad 600822 SS copper-core cookware set is one of their best products but will cost you an arm and a leg to get. If you are willing to look past its high price tag, it features a superb build quality blended with great cooking capabilities.
The walls of the pots and pans on this set have five layers made out of high-grade stainless steel, copper, and aluminum. This gives them a warp-free strength and great thermal properties. The interior is made out of highly polished 18/10 steel that has great non-stick properties and doesn’t react with any type of food.
In this particular set, you will be getting two saucepans, a saute pan, a stockpot, and two fry pans (8 and 10 inches each). There are also a few additional options to choose from, including a smaller 7-piece set or a larger 14-pcs cookware set. All of these come with lids for their pans. The lids and handles are also made out of the same high-quality stainless steel. Additionally, you can get your set with a ladle, a full kitchen toolset, pasta pentola, or more accessories from the brand. As a whole, if it wasn’t for the extremely high price tag, this set would’ve been a no-brainer but for now, I would not recommend it due to its poor value for money, even despite the stellar material and cooking qualities.
- Copper and aluminum cores
- Excellent build quality
- Solid stainless steel handles and lids
- Diverse set of items
- 18/10 stainless steel inner lining
- 5-layer structure
- Extremely expensive
- Doesn’t come with cooking utencils
- Relatively hard to clean
Stainless Steel Cookware Sets Buyer’s Guide
Choosing a stainless steel cookware set for your kitchen will depend on a lot of factors. First and foremost, you will have to decide what types of pots and pans you specifically need. What size should they be, do you need two different-sized pans or a large boiling pot? After you’ve answered these questions, you can move onto the more specific features such as core materials, build quality, handles, lids, and others. Most importantly, however, you should focus on the type of stainless steel and the play structure of the set’s items. Let’s talk more about that now…
Types of Stainless Steel Used in the Kitchen
There are numerous types of stainless steel (more than 150) used throughout the industry. Inside our kitchen, though, there are two major systems that classify cookware and flatware into a few individual groups based on their steel quality. For cookware, you have the SAE grades and for flatware, you have the Flatware grades (such as 18/0, 18,8, and so on).
To have a better understanding of what the different grades of stainless steel mean, you have to know what stainless steel is made out of first. The three main components of stainless steel cookware are:
- Chromium- This is the element that adds the “stainless” part to the steel. It makes it resistant to blemishing, corrosion, and stains.
- Nickel- Nickel is an essential component that brings rigidity, toughness, and stability to the metal. It also adds that shiny and luxurious look to these cookware sets.
- Carbon- Carbon further strengthens and hardens stainless steel, just like nickel does. However, it also reduces the wear on the metal. Expensive chef knives also have high quantities of carbon in them to make their edges long-lasting.
With that aside, let’s take a look at some of the most important food-grade stainless steel types. These are:
- 200 series stainless steel
- 304 series stainless steel
- 316 series stainless steel
- 430 series stainless steel
- 440 series stainless steel
200 series stainless steel
200 series stainless steel is one of the most affordable options out there. However, it is also the type with the lowest quality and is often used for food storage. There are rarely cooking sets made with 200 series stainless steel but when you find them, they will usually be much cheaper than the rest.
304 series stainless steel
This series of stainless steel is the one you find across the widest range of products used in the kitchen. It has high levels of nickel and chromium in it, which gives it excellent durability and resistance to rust and corrosion. It still can corrode, however, especially when exposed to acidic substances such as salty solutions or tomato sauces. It is used in flatware, various appliances, prep tables, and more.
316 series stainless steel
When it comes to cookware, 316 series stainless steel reigns supreme. Yes, it does cost quite a lot compared to the 200 and 304 series but it has superb qualities and is far less prone to damage by salty substances. This is thanks to the addition of molybdenum in its structure.
430 series stainless steel
This series is used mostly in prep tables and induction-ready cooking sets. Unlike the rest, it is magnetic. It also costs less due to its higher susceptibility to corrosion.
440 series stainless steel
Last but definitely not least is the 440 series stainless steel which has the highest levels of carbon in it. That makes it extremely hard and durable. For that reason, it is mostly used in very expensive knife sets and other cutlery. It is also extremely expensive even when compared to the 316 series.
There are also additional types of stainless steel cookware based on other properties of the pots and pans. For instance, you can separate them into 1-ply, 3-ply, 5-ply, and other sets that have multiple layers of metal around them or at their bottom. There are stainless steel sets with copper core (or any other heat-conducting material for that matter) that have great thermal properties.
Now, let’s dive now into all the features that you will have to consider before getting a new set of stainless steel pots and pans!
How to Choose a Stainless Steel Set
When shopping for a cookware set of any kind, the first thing you will notice is that there are countless individual pots, pans, and sets out there. The easiest way to learn how to filter the best ones out is to know exactly what to look for. This is why I’ve compiled this list of features that can be a good point of reference every time you cross-check two cookware sets. Here are all the important factors to consider:
- Weight & Thickness
- Stainless Steel Grade
- Heating capacity
- Set Size
- Price & Warranty
When choosing a new cookware set of any sort or type, the most important thing you should look at is the sizes of each individual pot and pan. Smaller sets will only include a 1-quart saucepan, a 4-quart casserole, and a 6-10 inch stockpot. Sets that are made out of more pieces will have further sizes for their saucepans (such as 2-4 quart ones), more casseroles, and one or two fry pans with different diameters. Usually, these frying pans are 10-14 inches big.
The other thing you have to look at are the lids and whether there is one for each element of the set. Some sets will even include additional cookware such as a boiler basket, steam basket, 2-prong fork, a slotted turner, solid spoons, and more. These are always a welcome addition to any cooking set as long as they don’t bulk up the price too much.
Weight & Thickness
In terms of overall weight, stainless steel pots are arguably some of the heaviest out there, if we count out traditional cast-iron cookware. Still, next to aluminum, copper, and other cookware materials, stainless steel really has a certain heft to it and is slightly harder to manage around the kitchen. That being said, these pots are far more durable, and quite a lot sturdier when put on the stove. This makes them safer and the added weight also helps them distribute and retain the heat better, ultimately allowing for a more optimized cooking process.
The thickness of your pots is slightly subjective as different people prefer different thicknesses for their pots. However, the rule of thumb is that the cheaper the set is, the thinner the walls will be. That will definitely take away some of that premium feel of stainless steel but will also allow them to heat up slightly faster. Ultimately, it will be a matter of budget, preheating time considerations, and personal preference.
Stainless Steel Grade
As we already discussed earlier, the grade of your stainless steel cookware set is one of its most important characteristics. Most stainless steel sets are made with 300 series steel (304, 316, and others). The reason for that is because the price for this particular steel is decent and its durability is quite good. This series is also corrosion-resistant and won’t stain easily. Unfortunately, sets made out with 300 series steel aren’t magnetic and won’t work with induction stoves.
Some sets and flatware will have grades looking like this – 18/10. This will tell you the levels of chromium and nickel in them (18 being the chromium and 10 the nickel).
The handles of any cookware set are often overlooked but are almost equally as important as everything else in it. There are a few options that you can typically choose from and those are – having the handles made out of stainless steel too, having your handles rubberized (or wrapped in thermal silicone), or having them made out of other plastic materials. Of course, stainless steel handles are the best as they last the longest and are surprisingly good at staying cool during the cooking process. Silicone handles look amazing and are super soft to the touch but are prone to long-term damage and can break or crack over time. They are also prone to staining and discoloring. Lastly, you should also look at the width and size of the handles. Large and wide handles are far more comfortable to use even when you have your cooking gloves on.
The core of your pots and pans is the most important part of their construction. Depending on their type, they will heat up faster or slower and will retain heat differently. Sets made out entirely out of stainless steel are slow to heat up. That is why most sets nowadays have a different material for their core. Most commonly, multi-clad pots and pans have copper cores. Aluminum is another frequent choice for core material.
Both aluminum and copper are lighter than steel and will bring the overall weight of the set down. They are also much better at conducting heat and will allow the pots and pans to heat up much faster. This will drastically reduce your preheat times and make your cooking much more efficient.
Another detail to be mindful of here is that the “core” of your pots and pans isn’t only their center bottom part. It is the whole bottom layer of the cookware. Some cheaper sets, however, only have their bottoms as aluminum or copper (or a combination of both). This will mean that the sides of the pot will heat up slower, although the overall cost of the set will be much cheaper, tricking some buyers into getting those.
That brings me to one of the main disadvantages of copper-cored stainless steel sets – they are very expensive. That is especially valid when the set comes from a premium brand that has blended both materials perfectly. Add to that an induction bottom, and you will be paying a premium price tag.
The build quality and technologies used in making your stainless steel pots and pans are rather important. The way they are built will determine how well they distribute heat and how fast they take and release it. Typically, that isn’t something you can objectively measure when shopping online, so it is harder to focus on this specific feature. Still, you can rest assured that most of the premium brands out there pay extra attention to the overall quality of their sets. That means that the core layer will be perfectly blended with the rest of the materials, the handles won’t wobble, and the lids will be a perfect fit without moving around when your food boils up.
The heating capacity of any cookware set primarily depends on its stainless steel grade or type. Higher-grade sets can withstand higher temperatures. Sets with aluminum or copper core can also withstand higher temperatures. Generally speaking, however, every stainless steel pot or pan can be used on top of a gas stove. Moreover, most sets are rated oven-safe up to 550-600 degrees (Fahrenheit). Still, make sure that you read the set’s manual and see what are the official temperatures up to which you can cook with the set. One last thing to check is the glass lids, as they are often rated safe only up to 400-450 degrees (Fahrhandlenheit).
If you want to learn how to use a gas stove, click here!
The size of the set is strictly dictated by your budget. If you can afford it, a bigger set is always better. The reason for that is that you typically get more value out of your money if the set includes more pots, pans, and stainless steel accessories. Some of the best deals out there currently are 15-20 pcs sets and have everything you need to fully equip your home kitchen. When you’re cross-shopping between a certain few models, you can even compare their price-per-item price by taking the whole price and dividing it by the elements in the cookware set. This will give you an idea of how good of a deal you’re getting with each individual choice.
As I already mentioned, certain stainless steel cookware sets will come with a lot of accessories. This makes them a far better deal for your money and also quite practical if you’re now equipping your whole kitchen with cookware and flatware. Some of the most commonly added accessories include boiler baskets, steam baskets, forks, solid spoons, turners, splatter screens, and other cooking utensils.
Price & Warranty
Price-wise, stainless steel sets vary quite a lot. This is quite good as there will be decent options for anyone that is on a tight budget, as well as people looking to get a high-end set. On average, good 7-10 piece sets will set you back around a hundred dollars, with the good ones easily reaching over two hundred. Look for brands like Cuisinart if you want that top-shelf build quality.
When it comes to warranties, different manufacturers offer different coverages for their sets. However, since stainless steel is quite durable, quite regularly you will see lifetime warranties or at least 5 to 10-year ones that cover anything from manufacturing defects to any damage to the cookware. Some brands even go as far as offering you trial months during which you can test out their cookware sets and see if you like them or not.
Benefits of Cooking With Stainless Steel
Nowadays there are quite a lot of materials that are all used in cookware. Those can be cast iron, carbon steel, aluminum, copper, ceramic, stoneware, and, of course, stainless steel. There are some distinct advantages to using steel in your cookware. Some of the most important ones are:
- Good Durability – Out of all the materials out there, stainless steel is one of the most durable ones along with maybe only cast iron. It doesn’t chip, it won’t peel, it won’t rust, nor will it stain. A good stainless steel set can last you decades and could be even passed onto the next generation if taken care of properly.
- Great cooking capabilities – Single-ply sets aren’t as good but multi-ply stainless steel sets are superb in their heat absorption and distribution.
- Easy to clean and maintain – Thanks to their polished, hard, and non-porous surface, stainless steel pots and pans are very easy to clean and won’t absorb any type of food stains. They can be scrubbed, soaked, and cleaned with almost any detergent or sponge. Additionally, most sets are dishwasher-friendly, further adding to their overall convenience.
- Doesn’t react with foods – If you regularly cook foods that are acidic, you definitely want to consider stainless steel. It doesn’t react with foods, even ones that are highly acidic such as tomato sauce.
- Easy to use – Thanks to their evenly distributed weight, these sets are super easy to handle in the kitchen. The weight advantage is especially noticeable when compared to various cast-iron alternatives.
- Stylish appearance – The polished look of these sets is second to none and can rival only the copper pans in terms of the “wow” factor. Their neutral colors also blend in perfectly with all types of kitchen decorations.
- Budget-friendly – While there are undoubtedly some very expensive stainless steel sets, there are also ones that are on the budget side of the spectrum. These typically include fewer pots and pans, however, and aren’t as durable or multi-ply as the more expensive sets.
On the other hand, there are certain disadvantages to stainless steel. One of the main ones is that they are poor heat distributors (unless they have a bonded core conductor). Non-conductive stainless steel pots and pans often have a hard dime distributing the heat around evenly. To fix that issue, manufacturers have made multi-ply pots and pans that are much better at that task.
Another classic issue is that they aren’t non-stick. In order for your stainless steel cookware to not have your food stick to it, you will either have to oil it up or buy a set that has a type of non-stick coating.
Lastly, stainless steel discolors. Some sets might not do that for a long time but eventually, they all do discolor forming rainbow-like color formations along their structures. That typically happens when exposed to super high heat or to salty water continuously over the years.
If you want to learn more about the different materials used in all sorts of kitchen cookware sets, check out my full detailed guide to cookware materials!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are stainless steel pans non-stick?
No, most stainless steel sets will have your food stick to them if you don’t properly oil them up. There are, however, certain models that have different types of coatings that will prevent food from sticking to them.
Are stainless steel sets dishwasher-safe?
Almost all stainless steel kitchen appliances are dishwasher-safe. Still, there are certain strong detergents and hot programs on your dishwasher that might tarnish the materials over time.
What is the best stainless steel grade?
Grade 316 stainless steel is usually the choice that most cookware companies go with. It is great for food-grade cookware thanks to its chemically resistant nature. It is also very resilient to spices and acidic compounds like tomato juice, lemons, and others.
Is 18/10 stainless steel good?
Yes, in fact, stainless steel that has 18% chromium and around 10% nickel is one of the best out there. It is used in both cookware and flatware and has superb cooking properties with great long-term durability.
Can stainless steel cookware be toxic?
One of the main benefits of stainless steel is that it doesn’t react with food. What that means is that there won’t be compounds in the cookware that leach chemicals into the food while it is getting cooked. However, cheaply made sets have been studied and are known to leak nickel into the food in small quantities.
Choosing some of the best stainless steel cookware sets on today’s market can feel like a chore. There are many options, all seemingly identical in their properties and features. However, upon deeper inspection, there are quite a lot of differentiating factors. Look at the core material used, whether the set is multi-ply, how well made the lids and handles are, and what sizes and types of pots and pans are included. Lastly, consider the price-per-item in the set and see whether you can get a better deal out of a more complete package.