What every best Cookware has:
- A useful assortment of pieces
- Good cooking performance.
- For nonstick cookware, a surface that is truly nonstick.
After narrowing the wide field of cookware sets down to 12, which were then thoroughly tested, Michael Sullivan ultimately chooses a top-recommended set for most kitchens. Runners up for smaller kitchens and an upgrade, "buy-it-for-life" pick are also named. Only stainless steel cookware sets are included, however. Elsewhere on this site, individual pieces of cookware are tested to name the best cast iron and nonstick skillets.
Editors of Good Housekeeping evaluate a number of nonstick cookware lines, giving them a thorough test of cooking performance, ease of cleaning, perceived durability and nonstick properties. Each is given a brief overview. Elsewhere on the site, dozens of individual pots and pans are tested, including All-Clad, Tramontina, Lodge and Simply Calphalon.
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.
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.
ConsumerReports.org lists test results for 17 cookware sets, including coated (nonstick) and uncoated. Normally, we would rank this source higher, but there are so few brands of cookware included -- and only one is recommended -- that this is much less helpful to the consumer than most of the testing conducted here.
Chowhound.com features a number of 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.
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 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.