The 6 Best Stainless Steel Cookware Sets of 2023, tested by PEOPLE
The Cuisinart MCP-12N MultiClad 12-Piece set was the clear winner
Cai Cramer is a Commerce Writer at PEOPLE, covering the best and buzziest products across the beauty, fashion, health, and lifestyle spaces. Previously, Cai worked on the Digital Platforms team at PEOPLE after graduating with a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. Cai loves to spend time outdoors no matter the weather, and she'll try any craft twice.
We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.
Stainless steel cookware has come to be a classic set of tools in the kitchen. These staple pots and pans are durable, known for their even-heating ability, and can be used to whip up pretty much anything in the kitchen. Whether you're just starting out at the stove, a seasoned chef like Ryan Gosling, or simply enjoy cooking at home, a set of stainless steel cookware is a smart investment in your future meals. And, if you take good care of a stainless steel set, it could last you decades.
Celebrity chef and nutritionist Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN, recommends opting for "fully-clad" stainless steel cookware, which is a material made with an aluminum core sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. "These pans are thoughtfully constructed to distribute heat evenly, and many professional chefs opt for stainless steel cookware," she notes.
We put 28 stainless steel cookware sets to work in our PEOPLE Tested kitchens and found six clear favorites with a range of features and price points.
Read on for the best stainless steel cookware sets that PEOPLE Tested.
This pan set is a beast — in the best way. If you're looking for a complete set of stainless steel pots and pans for your kitchen that performs well and looks good, this dozen-piece set might be the one. The brushed stainless steel felt really solid and durable throughout each test. The handle on the saucepan felt very nice to hold and handle, and though the stock pot has a bit of heft to it, it's still not difficult to lift.
When we seared scallops with these pans, there was no sticking, and the scallops achieved a really nice golden brown crust with even browning overall. After sitting over high heat from a gas flame for 5 minutes, the handle remained cool to the touch everywhere except at the base. We also made a very pretty frittata in a pan from this set with minimal sticking at the end (though a touch more butter may have solved that issue!).
The lip on the pan helped with oil splatters, and we found this set was quite easy to clean. We ended up with a little discoloration after testing, but a bit of cleanser took it right out. Overall, we enjoyed using this set and found it to come with just about everything you'd need. We'd recommend it to a friend and buy it ourselves, too. If we're being picky, it would be nice to have clear lids, like the tempered glass of other sets, for visibility while cooking.
Price at time of publish: $299.95
Dishwasher safe: Yes | Weight of heaviest skillet: 2 lbs. 7 oz. (10-inch) | Volume of largest pot: 8 qt. | Oven safe up to: 500 degrees F | Material details: Brushed stainless steel, fully clad, tri-ply
If you're a newer cook, on a budget, or both, this cookware set delivers almost everything you need on your stovetop. The even heating produced impressive results, and this set features helpful little extras that really add value, like the steamer basket attachment for the sauce pot, and the hash marks for measurements inside the pans. Not to mention those tempered glass lids we love — a great way to check on what's happening inside without lifting the lid. This is a fairly comprehensive set, though you may want to buy an extra nonstick pan to have a fully stocked kitchen.
This set doesn't have quite the same heft and solid feeling as our overall winner, but we enjoyed using the pots and pans and felt that the handles were pretty comfortable to hold. After cooking over a gas flame, the handle was cool to the touch on the end but warm toward the base. Pouring from the saute pan was pretty simple and easy thanks to the curved edge that curves away from the middle of the pan. Because of this, there was no dripping or spillage when removing the bechamel from the saute pan.
While preparing our scallops, we found no sticking and the pan produced a great, hard sear, browning nicely. The frittata turned out fluffy and evenly cooked, with minimal sticking on its way out of the pan. While we think that these pans are a great value for the price, they are also less sturdy than some of the more expensive options on our list, like the Cuisinart MCP-12N MultiClad Pro Triple Ply 12-Piece. This set was very easy to clean, and the pans showed extremely minor discoloration — among the least of all we tested.
Price at time of publish: $119.95
Dishwasher safe: Yes | Weight of heaviest skillet: 1 lb., 15 ⅝ oz. (10 inch) | Volume of largest pot: 8 qt. | Oven safe up to: 500 degrees F and lids up to 350 degrees F | Material details: Does not specify; disc bottom (aluminum encapsulated)
If you want to invest in high-quality and sturdy construction, this is a great option. You've got all your cooking bases covered with small and medium skillets, small and medium saucepans, a stock pot, and a high-sided sauté pan (though we do wish this one were larger). Squared-off handles on the lids fit comfortably in the hand. While we'd prefer clear lids, we did appreciate that the lids on this set fit multiple pans.
None of the pans felt too heavy to handle, and all of them were easy for us to lift and carry. They felt well-balanced between the body of the pan and the handles, which are fairly long but not too long. The pans felt streamlined and not at all clunky.
The scallops we prepared did not stick to the pan, which produced a mostly even browning and a nice crust. The handle was not hot after cooking the scallops. After our frittata test, the eggs did stick somewhat to the sides of the pan and the rivets, but they came out quite easily. Speaking of easy, clean-up was really, really simple. The soft side of the sponge was all we needed to clean up after the tests, which is welcome news, given that dishwasher cleaning is not recommended by the manufacturer. While there was some discoloration after searing, a little cleaner shined these pans back to their original condition.
For those wanting to invest in a high-end, long-lasting stainless steel cookware set, we think that this one is a safe bet. This set delivered even cooking and was incredibly easy to clean, and it would be a solid "go-to" for a home or professional cook.
Price at time of publish: $899.95
Dishwasher safe: No | Weight of heaviest skillet: 2 lb., 7 oz. (10 inch) | Volume of largest pot: 8 qt. | Oven safe up to: 600 degrees F | Material details: Stainless Steel, fully clad, 5 ply
If this is your first foray into stainless steel cookware, we recommend picking up this 10-piece set from Calphalon Classic. This set equips you with everything you need to start cooking like a pro, including 8 and 10-inch fry pans, 1.5, 2.5, and 3-quart saucepans with lids, a 6-quart stock pot with a lid. This set is dishwasher-safe and comes with a lifetime warranty.
We're especially impressed with the design of this collection of pots and pans, noting that the tempered glass lids and straining capabilities are a few of the set's best features. The Calphalon Classic cookware was easy to clean after we cooked a fluffy frittata in it, but we did note that a little bit of bar keeper's friend was necessary to clean up some discoloration after cooking scallops in the pan. The pans felt lightweight in hand, and the stock and sauce pots' spouts made pouring simple and convenient.
For the experienced chef who plans to heat their cookware above 450 degrees Fahrenheit, we recommend checking out one of our other top picks. We noticed a bit of warping when we dunked this pan in ice water after being in high heat, and we wish the walls felt a bit thicker. But, overall, this is a great option for anyone who's just getting into cooking.
Price at time of publish: $199.99
Dishwasher safe: Yes | Weight of heaviest skillet: 2 lb., 1 oz. (10-inch) | Volume of largest pot: 6 qt. | Oven safe up to: 450 degrees F | Material details: Stainless Steel, disk-bottom, unknown ply
This 5-piece cookware set from the trendy kitchen experts at Great Jones is as functional as it is aesthetically beautiful. The star of the show here is the custom-color dutch oven, available in a range of trendy shades that will look great sitting out on your stovetop. Each ceramic-coated stainless steel piece has gently curved sides, and the smart design of the sloped saute pan with high sides impressed our testers.
Minimalists will delight in the sleek, simple design with thick, smooth copper handles. But this cookware set isn't just beautiful to look at — it also proved to be very functional in our test kitchen trials. We were able to prepare the scallops with minimal sticking, and the omelet made in the Great Jones pan didn't stick at all. Cleanup was also a breeze, which is a huge win in our book.
This stainless steel set exceeded our expectations in the ice plunge test, with no warping and minimal discoloration. We especially loved the dutch oven, and it's worth noting that this is the only set we tested that comes with a nice, heavy cast iron dutch oven. We do wish that this set came with more items for the price, but five pieces might be everything the minimalist chef needs to cook an extraordinary meal.
Price at time of publish: $495
Dishwasher safe: Yes | Weight of heaviest skillet: 3 lb. | Volume of largest pot: 8 qt. | Oven safe up to: 500 degrees F | Material details: Stainless Steel, disk-bottom, unknown ply
If you've never heard of "NanoBond" technology — don't worry, you're not alone. But after testing out the Hestan NanoBond Collection Stainless Steel cookware, we recommend you give it a try. Hestan claims that their NanoBond steel is 400 percent stronger than typical stainless steel, and the thousands of "nanolayers" in each piece of cookware help protect your pots and pans from scratching. The heating capabilities are impressive — this set can withstand up to 1050 degrees Fahrenheit.
Weight and hand-feel are important components in a great cookware set, and this one exceeded our expectations. Each piece felt incredibly lightweight yet sturdy, with a well-distributed weight balance that made them easy to maneuver.
The Hestan pans heated well and evenly without becoming overly hot, and the handles stayed cool even when exposed to direct heat. We did notice that oil tended to pool in a few spots on the pans while cooking scallops, but a quick swirl easily dissipated any uneven patches of liquid. The scallops ultimately were left with a nice golden crust, and the eggs cooked nicely (though stuck to the pan a bit).
These beautiful, dark stainless steel pieces were a breeze for us to clean and are dishwasher-safe (though might lose some of their "brilliance" when washed). For the relatively high price, we do wish that this set came with more pieces. But the stunning, easy-to-wash finish earned this set a top spot anyway. The quality of these stainless steel pots and pans is easy to see, and the fancy NanoBond technology makes this set a great pick for the serious chef.
Price at time of publish: $899.95
Dishwasher safe: Yes | Weight of heaviest skillet: 2 lb. 12 oz. (10-inch) | Volume of largest pot: 8 qt. | Oven safe up to: 1050 degrees F | Material details: Molecular Titanium 18/10, fully clad, tri-ply
We know that price is always a factor, so consider how often you cook at home when comparing price points and whether you'll need to purchase additional pieces to round out your cookware collection. Celebrity chef Serena Poon recommends fully clad cookware and adds that while these tend to be pricier, you can think of the purchase as an investment. "Less expensive versions of stainless steel cookware are less reliable in terms of quality output," she says. "And, you'll have to replace them more frequently."
If you can't stand hand-washing pots and pans, you may want to look for cookware that is dishwasher-safe, like our top pick, the Cuisinart MCP-12N MultiClad Pro Triple Ply 12-Piece. But Poon adds an important caveat: "Most stainless steel cookware is dishwasher safe, but you'll likely increase the longevity of your pans if you stick to hand-washing with non-abrasive soaps and sponges."
A pound or so can make a big difference when maneuvering around your stove with saucepans and skillets. Depending on how many layers of "ply" your pot or pan is made from, you can find lighter and heavier pots that suit your needs. If you aren't used to using heavier ones, expect an adjustment period. We recommend those who have difficulty lifting heavy objects opt for the lighter stainless steel cookware sets for safety.
Some cooks value visibility while cooking, and glass-topped pots are perfect for watching what you cook, including our best budget pick, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Steel 7-Piece set. Others are content to cover up their pots and pans, peek inside as needed, and might prefer a stainless steel top to match the rest of their pot. Pay attention to lid design when choosing your new stainless steel cookware set. We especially love the sets that come with thoughtfully designed lids that make it easy to strain pasta.
Our testers tried out a total of 28 stainless steel cookware sets. In addition to inspecting the design, weight, and feel of the pieces, they conducted four tests. In the temperature test, thermocouples were placed on the pan surface while in use to evaluate whether the pans heated evenly. In the searing test, scallops were cooked, and their browning and searing were evaluated. In the sticking/broiling test, a frittata was prepared and then removed from the pan. Finally, an ice bath test was conducted to test whether a hot pan would warp when placed in cold water. We rated each set of cookware on its design, durability, heating capability, and ease of cleaning.
While there are pros and cons to both types of cookware, stainless steel cookware stands out for a number of reasons: It is lightweight, versatile, and ideal for pan sauces, searing, and finishing dishes in the oven. Unlike nonstick, stainless steel is usually uncoated, which makes it more durable. Nonstick cookware is easier to clean and can be more affordable. It is also better suited to cook delicate items such as eggs or tofu.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to the longevity of stainless steel cookware — but, in general, it should last you decades. Some of the factors that affect how your pans stand the test of time include how hot you regularly heat them, how you clean them, and the exact makeup of the material. Check with the manufacturer of your desired cookware set before purchasing, because some have warranties that extend for a lifetime.
You may be using too much or too little heat, not using the right technique for the protein you are cooking, or improperly cleaning the pan. Try these steps to prevent your food from sticking: Preheat your pan before adding oil, start heat at medium then adjust accordingly, bring food to room temperature before adding to the pan, leave more space while cooking in the pan, move the food less frequently while cooking, and properly clean your pan.
Stainless steel will work on induction cooktops if it is made with magnetic grade steel. All of the sets on our list are induction-ready.
This article was written by Rennie Dyball and updated by commerce writer Cai Cramer, who covers the best products across beauty, fashion, health, and lifestyle. To curate this list of the 12 best stainless steel cookware sets, we looked at things like design, durability, heating capability, and ease of use. Our testers also looked at how the cookware performed with a searing test and a stick test. Finally, we consulted celebrity chef and nutritionist Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN, for what options to look for in a stainless steel cookware set.
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don't stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we've awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
Want more product recommendations? Check out all of our PEOPLE Tested content.
UP NEXT: The Best Food Processors PEOPLE TestedPros: Cons: Price at time of publish: $299.95 Dishwasher safe: Weight of heaviest skillet: Volume of largest pot: Oven safe up to: Material details: Pros: Cons: Price at time of publish: $119.95 Dishwasher safe: Weight of heaviest skillet: Volume of largest pot: Oven safe up to: Material details: Pros: Cons: Price at time of publish: $899.95 Dishwasher safe: Weight of heaviest skillet: Volume of largest pot: Oven safe up to: Material details: Pros: Cons: Price at time of publish: $199.99 Dishwasher safe: Weight of heaviest skillet: Volume of largest pot: Oven safe up to: Material details: Best Design: Pros: Cons: Price at time of publish: $495 Dishwasher safe: Weight of heaviest skillet: Volume of largest pot: Oven safe up to: Material details: Pros: Cons: Price at time of publish: $899.95 Dishwasher safe: Weight of heaviest skillet: Volume of largest pot: Oven safe up to: Material details: UP NEXT: The Best Food Processors PEOPLE Tested