What every best Cookware has:
- A useful assortment of pieces
- Good cooking performance.
- For nonstick cookware, a surface that is truly nonstick.
ConsumerReports.org lists test results for a number of cookware sets, including coated (nonstick) and uncoated. Editors cook pancakes to measure cooking evenness and clean sticky béchamel sauce to evaluate ease of cleaning. They also test the surfaces of nonstick pans by cooking four eggs in a row without adding oil between each, and they scrub the surfaces with steel wool to test their durability. This report puts special emphasis on handles, which get three separate scores for safety, comfort and sturdiness. Only two nonstick sets are recommended, with one also receiving a best buy designation.
Cook's Illustrated has a number of individual reviews of cookware that are extremely helpful in extrapolating how well cookware sets made up of similar pieces will perform. Reviews include stainless steel, nonstick and cast-iron cookware Skillets, pots, pans, fry pans, Dutch ovens, stock pots and roasting pans are all reviewed. Each review is thorough and includes testing. For more expensive items, comparable alternatives are suggested.
Cooking enthusiast Michael Zhao and Leslie Stockton choose the best skillet by hands on testing, research and speaking with experts. Ultimately, they pick the All-Clad 12-inch Stainless Steel Fry Pan, but the exhaustive research in this report results in a lot of useful information about other pots and pans that are top picks (or not) for the kitchen. There are no reviews of nonstick or cast iron pans, however, just stainless steel.
Like Cook's Illustrated, Chowhound.com has thorough reviews of individual cookware items that are very helpful in determining how a set of cookware made up of items in that particular line will perform. Chowhound.com's reviews are some of the most rigorous and detailed of any testing organization, with an up to 5-star rating and breakdowns for various attributes. However, this site is more difficult to navigate than Cook's Illustrated, and it can take some searching to find specific cookware reviews.
Editors of Good Housekeeping evaluate 10 lines of traditional cookware, giving them a thorough test of cooking performance, ease of cleaning, perceived durability and nonstick properties. Reviews include pros and cons as well as an overview of each set. Elsewhere on the site, dozens of individual pots and pans are tested, including All-Clad, Tramontina, Lodge and Simply Calphalon.
Amazon.com has thousands of cookware sets in all price ranges and categories. It is an excellent source for owner reviews of cookware -- which often note durability problems that are missed by some professional tests. It's also a great way to learn how well the cookware performs in real-world use. Cheap cookware sets get the most ratings, but better brands get reviews from foodies or people who really care about cooking, so they tend to be more detailed and informative.
Walmart.com is a great resource for cookware brands that you might not find elsewhere, and is the primary seller of one of our top picks, the Tramontina 8-piece 18/10 Stainless Steel TriPly-Clad Cookware Set. There are a good number of reviews for the products and they tend to be thorough and well-thought-out. Reviewers can also say if they would recommend the cookware to a friend.
BedBathandBeyond.com is a popular destination for a variety of household products, including cookware, both sets and individual pieces. Many sets get dozens or hundreds of reviews, and reviewers can say if they would recommend the product to a friend. A wide variety of brands are represented here.
Macys.com is a particularly good resource for mid-level to high-end cookware sets. There are fewer reviews overall, but the top-rated sets can have hundreds. Reviews are thorough and reviewers have the option to recommend the product. There is also a demographic breakdown that includes the cooking skill level of the contributor, which offers interesting insight, especially in negative reviews where it may be obvious that the buyer did not understand what they were purchasing.
There aren't quite as many cookware sets overall at Wayfair.com as at some other retailers, but it's still a great resource for many of the most popular ones. Some sets get hundreds of reviews, although they tend to be briefer with less detail than at other sites. Also, we found many reviews -- both positive and negative -- that focused on shipping or other issues specific to the site, rather than the overall performance of the cookware.