In this in-depth guide on the best stainless steel cookware, we hope to provide you the most accurate information so that you can make and informed decision on which to purchase. We will talk about why you should invest in them, how to choose the good ones, which brands to focus on and the top models that our team and users recommend.
There are many brands and models to choose from in the market right now. So instead of having to research them one by one yourself, our team has tested tons of them and sift out only the best quality ones for you to shortlist. Be it the whole cookware set, pots or pans, the guide below can definitely help you to narrow down your choices. These cookware are also the ones used by professional cooks, so there’s no reason why you should miss out on them.
Let us take a quick look at the top few models below with comparison before we move on to in-depth discussion on each of them.
Comparison Table For 6 Stainless Steel Cookware Models
You don’t have to be a chef to know how important it is to invest in a good set of cookware. You need to choose a set that is high quality and risk-free to your health, but also somewhat affordable so you don’t break the bank.
Unfortunately, choosing the perfect set isn’t always easy, since there are so many different brands on the market. With a multitude of choices, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed!
Don’t worry though — we’ve prepared a buyer’s guide on how to find the best stainless steel cookware set that will not only last a long time, but offer good value as well.
What you may not know is that most chefs choose stainless steel cookware because it offers the perfect balance between quality, sustainability, and good value for money.
A common question – why choose stainless steel over another materials?
If you are someone seeks cookware set that is risk-free to your health, then you certainly may need to go for one that is made of stainless steel material. Advice is to get good quality stainless steel cookware set for long term usage and investment, so they can last for quite a while you wouldn’t need to change along the way.
Non-stick coated cookware – though easy to clean – are not resistant to scratches. Many of these also contain PTFE and PFOA. Long story short, the chemicals in this cookware can react to food and heat poorly – which can create a serious health hazard.
Some professionals swear by copper cookware, but these pieces are are not easy to maintain, and are one of the most expensive types of cookware out there. So while a decent option, are not optimal for home-use or beginner chefs.
Aluminium pots and pans have great heat distribution, but the material can leech into the food and produce a chemical reaction that may cause health issues like Teflon.
Cast iron cookware can do the job well but is heavy and prone to rust if not seasoned properly. It also happens to be porous and the oil trapped in the pores may turn rancid. Which is why cast iron is not a good choice for beginner chefs.
Stainless steel on the other hand, is resistant to corrosion – thanks to its composition of steel alloy, chromium, carbon and nickel. This makes it scratch resistant, ultra-durable and safe for your food. Better yet, some brands and models even have induction-ready function included!
So while most chefs agree that stainless steel is the best type of cookware to use – there are still an overwhelming amount of choices when it comes to picking the best stainless steel cookware set for your kitchen.
How to Choose Top Quality Stainless Steel Cookware?
There are several different aspects you must consider when choosing a top quality stainless steel cookware set. Below are some guidelines to help you choose the best set for your kitchen.
Here’s what you need to consider BEFORE choosing your cookware set.
A good model should come with sturdy, heat resistant handles that are easy to grip, and the reasoning is simple — you can’t afford to have pans slipping out of your hands when you are cooking with hot food.
Cookware lids should be interchangeable as well, meaning they are able to fit the different sizes of pots and pans in your set. Interchangeable lids are convenient because they allow you to use them with any piece of cookware from the same set. Having vented lids is also a benefit as vents allow steam to pass through the holes easily, and you’re less likely to make a mess on your stovetop.
Number of Layers
Stainless steel itself is not really a good conductor of heat, because it is not designed to distribute heat smoothly.
Fortunately, with the invention of additional outer layers of copper core and aluminium core in the base, the pans can distribute heat very evenly, and food will less likely to get burnt.
If you are someone who does not mind the heavier weight of the 3-ply construction, it’s definitely advisable to go for this upgraded feature. It will save you time, money over time, and lots of stress in the kitchen.
Grade of Stainless Steel
There are many grades of stainless steel which indicate the quality of the material. You may have heard of the 18/0, 18/8 and 18/10 grade but aren’t entirely sure what that all means.
Those are actually part of the 300 series grade which are commonly used for dining and cooking, and refers to the types of material used to make up the pan. For example 18/10 simply means that the proportion of the stainless steel is constructed with 18% of chromium and 10% of nickel.
Nickel enhances the shine of the cookware, while chromium protects the pan by repelling stains and preventing rusts. The higher the nickel content, the better quality of the stainless steel.
Types of Stainless Steel Grading:
200 series. They are less expensive than the 300 series but definitely not comparable to the latter in terms of high quality and corrosion resistance. In fact, they are seldom recommended for cooking and kitchen usage.
300 series stainless steel is the more common type of grade we will see in most cases.
316 graded. For ultra-high quality and durable grade, it will be the grade 316 surgical steel. This type of graded cookware will also prevent nickel from leeching into the food. They are one of the most expensive.
400 series. This series is nickel free which means the material will not have chemical reactivity with the food. Though this series is cheaper due to absence of nickel, they will be more prone to rust.
- is magnetic
- is magnetic
- is magnetic
- more likely to rust than 18/8 or 18/10
- rust resistance is better than 18/0 but not as good as 18/10
- great resistance & toughness than 18/0 & 18/8
- does not clean as easily as 18/8 or 18/10. Contains zero nickel
- cleans pretty easily
- is the shiniest among the 3 grades. Cleans well.
- less expensive
- moderate price
- more expensive
- does not conduct heat as well
- conducts heat pretty well
- conducts heat pretty well
- good starter set
- quality is in between 18/0 & 18/10
- arguably the most superior among the 3 grades
What to Consider When Buying Stainless Steel Pots and Pans?
Although the material used to construct is one of the best out there for any kitchen, there are pros and cons in every cookware and this is no exception for these types of cookware too. So below we will discuss on some of the factors you have to consider before getting them for your kitchen.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, stainless steel itself is a poor conductivity of heat. If you require an even heat transfer and fast distribution of heat, you will have to look for base that is made of copper of aluminium. That usually means that the cookware is of higher quality and thus naturally the price will be more expensive too. This feature is often important to users because even heat distribution during cooking can make a difference in the flavor of food.
Unlike cookware made from cast iron or non-stick properties, this type of pans will not leach off metallic properties into your food and will not react with foods. Thus stainless steel cookware is definitely safe and there is no impact on the flavor of your food. Besides, you do not have to worry about what it will do to your health at all!
Cleaning and Maintenance
To some users, they may find it a little challenging to clean and wash the stains left on this type of pots and pans. To others, they find it pretty easy to maintain as long as they soak it in water with washing detergent for 1 or 2 hours before washing them.
Depending on the grading of the steel used, the higher the grade the more pricey the set will cost. Usually the more expensive ones from a good brand can literally last you for many years if not a lifetime. Yes, we are not exaggerating because they are that durable. This type of cookware does not break, chip, dent, scratch and does not corrode or rust easily. However if you are just starting out on a family and is on a budget, a mid-range priced model can do the job pretty well too. Just make sure that it is receiving good reviews from consumers.
Appearance and Outlook
They are quite easy to maintain and will look as new if you clean them properly. There are 2 types of look and finishing. One is the mirror/polished look while the other is the brushed finish. Mirror polished finish is usually very reflective and shiny and thus looks very attractive for buyers. Some consumers don’t really fancy mirror finish because water spots, scratches and fingerprints left on the cookware may look obvious. For brushed finish, it is the opposite of mirror finish and it looks more dull and not as shiny. Some consumers feel brushed finish will look less worn out compared to mirror finish after using for many years.
Well whether you are a green environment person or not, the best stainless steel pan should be Eco-friendly and can be recycled. Those pots and pans that were damaged due to very long term usage can be melted and recycled for making other things beside cookware.
How to Clean Stainless Steel Cookware?
Though the materials used to construct the pots and pans are durable, it can prove a difficult to clean tough stains if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, there are a few ways to season the pans so they will remain non-stick, and easy to clean.
To remove burn marks on the cookware, try adding baking soda. Dry the pan first before sprinkling some baking soda on the surface. Rub the pan using a sponge gently, and in a circular motion.
If baking soda doesn’t work on super tough stains, another effective way is to use Bar Keepers Friend. It’s a proven way to make sure your cookware looks as new as when you first bought it.
Cleaning water spots is easy. Water spots are developed by minerals in the water, so just use some club soda to rinse and wipe them off. You may also use vinegar to soak the pan, and then clean off using a cloth.
If the food is stubbornly stuck to the pan, soak it with vinegar or washing detergent for a couple of hours before scrubbing with a scouring pad. Refrain from copper or steel scrubbers as they could scratch your pans.
To qualify as a top-rated cookware, the pan should be constructed with 18/10 grade or higher.
There are many reputable brands out there, but which are actually worth your time and money? We have handpicked 6 of the best sets below based on consumer feedback, composition, quality and price. Read on our best stainless steel cookware reviews below.
With all of the most important features and technology in place for what a top-notch cookware should have, this 12-piece Cuisinart MCP-12N is voted as one of the best stainless steel pots and pans.
This is an elegant and deluxe cookware set by Cuisinart intended to provide superior cooking performance so that you can enjoy not only the food, but the process of cooking as well. Thanks to their great heat distribution technology, you don’t have to worry that the food will be burned or undercooked.
These pans are easier to clean than some other brands, and they also boast sturdy, easy to grip, cool handles.
If you take into consideration that this set has nearly every size of pot and pan available, you are more likely to save money because you won’t need to buy additional pieces, like other sets require of you. They are also incredibly durable, so you may never need to buy another set again!
It is not difficult to make a choice when you are comparing this Cuisinart MCP-12N MultiClad Pro to other pots and pans.
Highly recommended for a cookware set that is constructed with great quality, durability and won’t burn too big a hole in your pocket.
The All-Clad 401488R 5-ply 10-piece bonded set is as durable as a tank. Simply put, they have one of the best stainless steel pans around in terms of performance and long-lasting durability.
All-Clad cookware is one of the most expensive around, but don’t be put off by the price if you’re priority is quality and sustainability. The price definitely reflects the superior quality of craftsmanship you would expect in high performance cookware.
Price tag aside, the only drawback of this set is that it requires more maintenance than most other brands. Most customers find that the non-stick feature makes keeping it shiny and flawless a little challenging compared to non-stainless surfaces.
Chances are you have used a number of inferior brands before and are now looking for durability plus an all-in-one set. If that’s the case, then this All-Clad stainless steel cookware set may be the smartest investment you will ever make.
The “Guaranteed For Life” cookware warranty makes it an even wiser purchase, in our opinion.
This 9-piece premium stainless steel cookware set is touted as the most complete collection for induction cooking. The best part is, it could be the only set you need for your daily cooking duties.
Not only is this set shiny and attractive, it is constructed with 18/10 commercial grade stainless steel, which is designed for lifetime use.
Though this is an extraordinary and superior set, educating yourself on the fundamentals of basic care and maintenance is a must. For example, we’re all guilty of occasionally forgetting about a pan on the stove. This is one set where you do not want to forget a boiling pan of water for too long, as keeping a dry pan on high heat can severely reduce its lifespan.
You are also encouraged not to use cooking sprays on the pans, as the chemicals can be difficult to remove – this may risk staining the cooking surface.
If you’re okay with the basic maintenance, then this set of Duxtop pots and pans is one of the most professional cookware sets we have come across. What really sets them apart is their premium quality and performance in induction, coupled with excellent heat distribution that cooks your food evenly.
This set includes 9 pieces and is one of the most complete sets you will find in the market right now.
This T-fal 13-piece ultimate stainless steel cookware set is constructed with multi-layer base copper bottom. With this construction, it allows for even and fast heat distribution. Besides that, the thick-gauge aluminum core can prevent warping and help to eliminate hot spots.
This model is designed for durability, appearance and high performance. It comes with a long-lasting brushed polish and will still look great even after years of usage.
The 3-quart saucepan included in this set is great for boiling and reheating sauces as the saucepan has a straight up and small surface area. If you need searing or browning of foods, you could turn to the fry pan. For cooking in larger meal quantities, you could make sure of the Dutch oven as the surface area is wide.
The stainless steel handles which are riveted are designed for comfort while the vented hole on the glass lids help to ensure that steam can escape easily while still trapping the nutrients and moisture in your foods. The T-fal C836SD set is also dishwasher safe and oven safe up to 500 degree F. The only minor downside with this T-fal stainless steel cookware is that it is not compatible with induction cooktop.
Our testers and consumers have claimed that even after years of usage, they have not seen much dulling on the exterior and interior of the pots and pans. Cleaning is easy because the non-stick interior works very well without the use of sprays to remove stains. They don’t even need to use a dishwasher for this.
Consumers have also commented that many times they were not very gentle with the cookware but they look as good as when they first bought them. In fact, consumers do not see any scratches or dents in most cases. Though the finishing may look slightly faded, the shine is still in very good condition without need of extra polishing.
This cookware set definitely lives up to T-fal’s claims and lives up to its reputation as one of the top sellers. Highly recommended for someone looking for a well-weighted, non-stick and durable cookware.
What’s so special about this 10-piece Magma A10-360L induction-ready, stainless steel cookware set? The “nesting” feature, of course.
The nesting feature allows you to stack the pots and pans up nicely for easy storage. A bungee storage cord is included as well to keep them steadily in place.
When you set them up as nesting storage, the area takes up only less than half a cubic foot of cabinet space! So you get an ENTIRE cookware set, which you can store in a single, small cupboard in your kitchen.
Another interesting feature of this Magma’s gourmet set is their detachable handles. The set comes with 2 removable handles so you can attach and detach them easily from any of the cookware as and when you need. This is great if you want to move them straight into the oven.
In 2015, this Magma nesting model attained 2 awards namely the ‘Product of the Month’ and ‘Gear of the Year and Editor’s Choice’.
As this marine-grade yacht-quality cookware is designed for RVs and boats, you can expect these heavy duty pans to be long-lasting and perform remarkably at the highest level.
If you are starting your new home and may not have that much budget to invest in great quality pots and pans.
But don’t worry — the Cooks Standard 11-pieces set is one of the most affordable, and still rated as one of the best stainless steel cookware sets on the market.
You can use this set of versatile pans on most cooktops, and they work seamlessly with induction, gas, electricity, glass and more.
Although the price is on the lower side, the quality is no lesser than those top-end sets like Cuisinart, Rachel Ray, T-Fal and other brands.
This may not be a non-stick set, but it is not difficult to clean and wash. Just soak or wash them with some dishwashing detergent and warm water – they should clean easily with minimal effort. The best part is – you can place them in dishwasher if you really have no time to spare!
If you have any doubts about buying this cookware set, yes you should be aware that most of the super high quality stuffs doesn’t come that cheap. So what are some of the drawback of this cookware?
It should be noted that this set should never be used for temperatures over 400 degree Fahrenheit on stovetop, unless you want to reduce their lifespan.
This set should never go more than high heat (about 400 degree Fahrenheit) on stovetop, so do not try to cook with that kind of high heat temperature because it will only reduce the lifespan. Anyways, you do not need to use high heat for most of the cooking activities and not many pots and pans out there can withstand such high heat too.
Another slight drawback is the vented lids. Steam not only comes out from the vented hole but also comes out slightly from the edges of the cookware. Depending on how you see this ‘flaw’, it shouldn’t affect much of your cooking or the quality of the food.
Considering the low price point and with almost all the features you need, I would recommend and list this Cooks Standard NC-00391 set as the best budget stainless cookware set.
Shopping for the best stainless steel cookware doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially since we’ve done all the research for you! Hopefully our stainless steel cookware reviews above can help you in your purchasing decision.
If you have any more questions on any of the cookware sets listed above, or need additional help making your purchasing decision, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are more than happy to assist you in finding the perfect stainless steel cookware set that is the ideal fit for your kitchen.
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Katy is the founder and publisher of this Thinkcook kitchen blog. She manages a team of 8 that conducts extensive research, scouring the web for best kitchen products.
In 2016, she was listed in the ‘Top 10 Most Trusted Reviewers of The Kitchen’ and came in top for the ‘Kitchen Reviews Masterclass’.