Best Stainless Steel Cookware

After researching the best stainless steel cookware on the market today, we purchased the top 15 options and put them to the chef’s test. We cooked our favorite meals using each set, specifically looking for features like even heat distribution, how easy they were to clean and what kind of convenience features they included, like measurement marks and pour spouts.

After eating way too much good food, we found that we were most pleased with the results we got from the All-Clad D3 stainless steel cookware set. Paying the premium price for this set is well worth it due to its tri-ply build, unique design and ability to always emit even heat no matter what we were cooking. Keep reading to learn more about the All-Clad set and the others that made the chef’s cut.

Top 5 Best Stainless Steel Cookware Compared

 #1  All-Clad D3 Stainless Steel Cookware

Award: Top Pick/Best All-Clad Stainless Steel Cookware

WHY WE LIKE IT: The All-Clad D3 stainless steel cookware set is the best of the best, and it’s easy to tell why. With durable, tri-ply construction and thoughtful design, this cookware set is sure to help you create some culinary masterpieces in your own kitchen.

Pros
  • Very durable
  • Design allows for excellent, even heating
  • Excellent lifetime warranty
Cons
  • Sauce pans don’t have lips
  • Many users dislike the u-shaped handle design
  • Most expensive on our list

The All-Clad brand is one of the most popular and premium cookware brands for both home and professional chefs. And for good reason! Every part of these pots and pans is designed for performance. Its sturdy 3-ply construction allows for quick and even heat distribution. And if you ever have a problem with any part of the 10-piece set, you can always take advantage of All-Clad’s excellent lifetime warranty to get a replacement.

One design aspect that many people don’t like is the u-shaped handles on each one of the pieces. The inner part of the handle dips inward in a u shape, which is meant to allow for greater stability in your hand. However, many find it uncomfortable. We didn’t mind the shape, but understand why some would think that way. All in all, the All-Clad D3 stainless steel cookware was an easy top pick for Gadget Review. It does as good of a job as the best air fryer.

 #2  Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel Cookware

Award: Honorable Mention/Best Durable Stainless Steel Cookware

WHY WE LIKE IT: The Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro cookware set brings Cuisinart’s dedication to quality to the kitchen with excellent lid design, drip-free pouring and quality heating at an affordable price.

Pros
  • Lid seals are tight
  • Designed to eliminate drips when pouring
  • Dishwasher safe
Cons
  • No clear lids
  • Rivet plates retain liquid and grime
  • Heavier than other options

When you buy any Cuisinart products, you know you’re going to get high quality and durability, which also rings true for this Multiclad Pro stainless steel cookware set. One of the best features of this set is in the lid design. Each lid is compatible with a single piece of the set, which allows for the tightest seal possible while sacrificing some of the interchangeability you get with other sets. Each of the pots and pans is also designed with a lip that prevents drips while you’re pouring. Of course, if you prefer a slow cook, the best slow cooker is for you.

Of course, with such durable designs, you can expect some small downsides. For starters, the rivet plate where the handle connects to the pan sticks out a bit, leading to grime and liquid build ups that can eventually lead to corrosion. Make sure you clean this area thoroughly once you’re done cooking. The pans are also heavier than other options on our list, but this can provide some benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked like superb heat retention.

 #3  T-fal C836SD Ultimate Stainless Steel Cookware

Award: Best Stainless Steel Cookware Under $200

WHY WE LIKE IT: If you’re looking for exra-affordable, yet still extra-durable stainless steel cookware, then consider the T-fal C836SD Ultimate set. With a 3-layer design and clear lids, you get premium cookware at a budget price.

Pros
  • Multi-layer with copper, stainless steel and aluminum
  • Thicker base for even better heat distribution
  • Food doesn’t stick despite not being non-stick
Cons
  • Handles tend to get hot during cooking
  • Copper on the bottom might flake
  • Cleaning can sometimes be difficult

Finding high-quality stainless steel cookware at budget pricing can be difficult. Sets under $200 often aren’t long lasting or don’t distribute heat evenly during cooking. You won’t run into any of these problems with the T-fal set We were surprised at how well these pots and pans cooked, due to their extra-thick based made with aluminum, copper and stainless steel. The handles overheating a bit too much for comfort was a small price to pay for the impressively even heat distribution.

One of the downsides to the T-fal set’s design is how difficult they can be to clean at times, even in spite of its ability to prevent food from sticking to the bottom of the pan (see our best non stick pans list for better options). The handle design allows for food build up, especially around the area where the handle connects to the pan. However, these are dishwasher safe, so the cleaning problem can be alleviated somewhat. Overall, if you’re looking for a reliable stainless steel cookware set, the T-fal C836SD isn’t a bad choice whatsoever.

 #4  Duxtop SSIB-17 Professional Stainless Steel Cookware

Award: Best Ergonomic Stainless Steel Cookware

WHY WE LIKE IT: The Duxtop SSIB-17 Professional stainless steel cookware set is one of the lesser known sets on our list, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less quality. It features an impressive ergonomic design for all its pots and pans, including measurement markings and anti-slip handles.

Pros
  • Engraved measurement markings
  • Comfortable handles
  • Glass lids allow you to observe
Cons
  • More expensive than most
  • Food tends to stick more during first few uses
  • Not an established brand

Duxtop isn’t a name you hear too often in the cookware business, even though they’ve been around for a little bit. However, that doesn’t affect the quality of this cookware set in the slightest. If you’re looking for pans that are comfortable to use, this is the set you should consider. Its overall durable, ergonomic design makes for a more comfortable and convenient time in the kitchen. The handles are more rounded with an anti-slip design and the insides of the pots and pans include measurement markings. The lids are even clear so you don’t have to risk burning yourself to check on how well your food is cooking.

This is the largest set on our list, offering 17 individual pieces, including some cooking utinsels. One of the only downsides we could find to this stainless steel cookware is that food tended to stick more to the bottom of the pans more during our first few gos in the kitchen. This cleared up over time, but it’s definitely something to think about. In the end, you’re getting a solid cookware set when you buy the Duxtop SSIB-17 Professional, so don’t be worried that the price isn’t worth it. You may also want to check out the best electric kettle.

 #5  Calphalon Classic 10-Piece Cookware Set Stainless Steel Cookware

Award: Best 10-piece Stainless Steel Cookware

WHY WE LIKE IT: Calphalon is another big name in the cookware game and the quality of their classic stainless steel set backs that claim up. The set uses a tried and true design that’s not flashy but gets the job done with chef-like efficiency through even heat distribution and added durability.

Pros
  • Pour spouts for easier pouring
  • Simple, yet classic design
  • Includes fill marks for easy measuring
Cons
  • Scratches easily
  • Handles heat up quickly
  • Don’t stack very well

The Calphalon Classic stainless steel cookware brings us back to a time when simple, austere designs where prevalent. There’s not a lot of flash to these pots and pans, which we found to be a good thing. They still heat evenly and hardly ever let food stick to the bottom. The set even includes measurement marks and pour spouts for greater convenience during cooking.

The set is super durable, as well, which doesn’t come as a big surprise for Calphalon products. We were a little disappointed in the lack of effective stacking and that the pans stratched easily if you don’t put some kind of cloth between them. However, if you’re looking for a simple, reliable and highly effective 10-piece stainless steel cookware set, the Calphalon Classic will probably be just right for your needs. Add a full lifetime warranty and super-affordable price on top of all those features and you’ve got yourself a set that will last you a long time. Now you are cooking with gas. Speaking of gas, Check out the best gas range reviews.

How We Choose the Best Stainless Steel Cookware

As a former line cook/sous chef/general kitchen lackey, I spent eight years running hot and cold stations at some of the best (and a few of the worst) restaurants in the Bay Area, including the Michelin-rated Plumed Horse in Saratoga, California. During my time in these high-end establishments I had the opportunity to use some of the classiest, most expensive stainless steel cookware imagineable, and as a result I know just how much punishment they can put up with in the most hectic use scenarios.

When shopping for the best stainless steel cookware, the three factors you want to keep an eye on are: the “ply” rating of the pan or pot (which is just a fancy way to refer to the thickness of the metal), the conductive material on the bottom or inside the layers of the cookware (aluminum or copper are preferred), as well as the overall durability rating (18/10 or 18/18) which will dictate how long it lasts. I have several family members who still have stainless steel cookware that was passed down to them by their parents, and although it’s not in the best shape ever, it’s still a piece of kit that’s been on top of a controlled fire for over 40 years and could easily go another 40 more with proper care.

Related: Best Coffee Maker With Grinder

How the pot or pan is layered with various types of metal is referred to as ply. In general you won’t need much more than 3-play cookware for most daily tasks, though there are reasons to go with thicker ply if you can afford the added cost. More layers between the heat source and your food means a more even cook overall, and allows you to better control and contain hotspots on your pan to prevent burning for longer cook times as you might find with stews, soups, or certain braises.

The ply content of a cookware set is also where you’ll choose between either an aluminum or copper core – and while it’s hotly contested topic which is “better” – ultimately I believe it’s a matter of how you plan to use the cookware and how long you want it to last. Copper core pans are strong, but definitely won’t last a decade or longer unless you take extremely dainty care of them. Aluminum cores conduct slightly more heat, but can also warp easier over time and generally doesn’t work with induction burners, which should be a concern for only a small set of stove owners out there.

Why You Should Buy the Best Stainless Steel Cookware

The best stainless steel cookware is preferred by world-renowned chefs and upstart home cooks alike for all the reasons we’ve listed above and more. If you’re someone who prefers a heavy, durable pan to cook your morning eggs in opposed to a flimsy Teflon pan, then they could be a great investment to last you in the long term.

Stainless steel pots and pans contain no harmful chemicals in their core materials (like Teflon), so whenever you cook using them you can be sure your food and anything you server to your family will be 100% contaminant-free.

Stainless steel cookware are also highly versatile, and can go from the stovetop, directly into the oven, and back again without any extra damage to the handles or core of the pan. This in mind, we looked for stainless steel cookware that was rated for temperatures up to at least 550°, a temperature range just beyond what most home ovens can reach on their own.

Most Important Features of the Best Stainless Steel Cookware

Steel Durability

  • When talking about stainless steel, there are different durability ratings which dictate how hard (i.e.- durable) the metal actually is.
  • All the cookware on this list, as well as most stainless steel pots and pans sold today, come in either one of two ratings: 18/10 or 18/18.
  • The first number signifies the chromium content, while the second represents the nickel content. No matter which style you go with however, most experts agree that there’s no discernible difference in how either type of pan performs, and in general this designation will only affect the impact a cookware set has on your pocketbook and a very minor addition to corrosion resistance over time.

Weight

  • On average, stainless steel cookware is heavier than standard aluminum or Teflon pans, but lighter than cast iron.
  • When you shop for a set of pots or pans, you want something that you can easily hold in one hand without your arm getting tired, as this style of cooking will give you the most control over the outcome of your food.
  • A heavier profile is also better if you have an electric range, as the weighted surface will induct heat more quickly from the element, resulting in a faster cook time overall.

Ply Count

  • When you read a description that refers to the “ply” number of a stainless steel pan or pot, what it’s actually referring to is simply the number of layers of metal that separate your food from the fire below.
  • 3-ply is far and away the most common type of stainless steel pots and pans, though some higher-end models have begun to push into 5-ply and 7-ply to give their cookware more weight and a more durable feel throughout.

Induction Conductivity

  • Part of the ply system, or the metal layers, sometimes includes adding a ring of copper to the bottom of the pan or a ring of aluminum inside so the stainless steel (which is not normally magnetically inductive) will work on an induction burner.
  • Induction burners are a fringe product that most kitchens don’t have or need, but in case your place came pre-installed with induction-only burners you’ll want to make sure the cookware set you plan to buy has induction-ready technology in it first.

Mistakes or Things to Avoid

  1. Expect some sticky situations: If you’re wondering how to clean stainless steel cookware, it’s not as self-explanatory as you might think. Unlike Teflon-coated or well-seasoned cast iron pans, food can stick fairly easily to stainless steel cookware vs. nonstick cookware since it doesn’t have any surface oil/materials to easily prevent it in high-heat situations. This can mean a lot more scrubbing during cleanup, so if you’re someone who prefers the ease of a non-stick surface, you should probably go with one of the aforementioned pan styles instead.
  2. Wait for cookware to cool before cleaning: Whether you’re a first time stainless steel cookware owner or have worked with them all your life, it’s always a good idea to let your pots and pans cool completely before trying to clean them. Unlike cast iron, stainless steel pans are still susceptible to warping if they go from extreme hot to cold in seconds, which over time can negate the benefits of using them over other pan types entirely.

What Else You Should Think About

No best stainless steel cookware set would be complete without a few additional kitchen accessories to round things out, now would it?

If you’re feeling to lazy to fire up the stove or oven but still want something to eat on the fly, you might be better off going with one of our picks for the Best Stainless Steel Microwave instead (because more stainless steel is always a good thing, right?). Also, if you’re a first time owner of stainless steel cookware and want a few more cleaning tips aside from what we’ve already provided here – or you’re just a visual learner – check out this guide that breaks down everything you need to know about proper care and cleaning in greater detail.

Of course, instead of slaving over a stainless steel stock pot all day there’s also the option to go with the Best Slow Cooker instead, which is a set-it-and-forget-it option that even the most accomplished chefs in the world can agree are nice for a big meal that doesn’t take up an even bigger portion of your day!

Chris Stobing

Chris Stobing is a writer and blogger from the heart of Silicon Valley. Raised around tech from birth, he's had an interest in PC hardware and networking technology for years, and has come to Gadget Review to contribute his knowledge on both.

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