The best pots and pans have the potential to elevate any old meal into something special, with the right ingredients, of course. A good piece — and especially set — of cookware is functional, allowing you to achieve a tender braise or create the perfect environment in which to bake (no more burnt cookies or crumbling cakes). It can also prove inspirational and communal (there’s nothing like a good dish to wow a crowd!).
But with so many designs and materials, how do you choose? We tapped seasoned cooking experts, including professional recipe developers, bakers, restaurant owners and top chefs, for some of the best cookware brands and items on the market. From stainless steel pots and pans that distribute heat evenly to beautiful enameled dutch ovens you’ll want to showcase for all to see, read on for the cookware our culinary experts rely on and recommend for everyday use, and keep scrolling for more on how to select the best pots and pans for you.
After all, in the words of Julia Child, “People who love to eat are the best people [so] learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun.”
Size: Various | Material: Stainless steel and aluminum | Dishwasher safe? Yes | Oven safe? Up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Lifetime (see site for details on 10-in. Non-stick Frying Pan)
First up, we have Made In Cookware’s Stainless Clad pans, a notable pick among the chefs we talked to for durable yet nimble pots and pans that are both lightweight and stand up to high heat.
“[Made In pans] are my absolute favorite and a staple in the restaurant industry,” says Carlos Anthony, executive chef at Herb & Wood in San Diego, California (“Supermarket Stakeout”; “Guy’s Grocery Games", among others). “They're made with five layers (stainless steel and aluminum), allowing them to heat and cook quickly while remaining warp-resistant — and their long handles also make flipping pancakes and moving around easier.”
Size: Various | Material: Blue carbon steel | Dishwasher safe? No | Oven safe? Up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Lifetime
Rick Mace, owner and executive chef behind Tropical Smokehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida, says he purchased several items from Made In Cookware this year and couldn’t be happier, with the brand’s Seasoned Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pans a go-to for quick weeknight cooking and leisurely breakfasts on the weekends.
“Since they arrive already seasoned, I've had no issue keeping them virtually non-stick to the point that they have replaced my long-held Teflon omelet pan,” he explains. “These skillets are thin, which means lightweight and also quick to preheat, and they’re safe for the oven and grill. I typically cook broccoli, Brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes on the grill alongside my proteins and then take the skillet directly to the table (don’t forget a trivet!). The 10-inch skillet is the perfect size for 2-4 people.”
“These carbon steel pans are gorgeous,” adds Angelo Sosa, chef and restaurateur behind Tia Carmen in Phoenix, Arizona (he’s also made appearances on Max’s "Selena + Chef" and Bravo’s "Top Chef"). They’re made in France, merging tradition with a bit of modernity, and the curvature of the handles allows chefs and home cooks to handle the pan in a more effective motion.”
Size: Various | Material: Stainless steel and aluminum | Dishwasher safe? Yes | Oven safe? Up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Lifetime
If you like the look and feel of stainless steel, All-Clad's assortment has professional appeal. “All-Clad pans are durable and you can use them with metal spoons and whisks without worrying about any scratches, explains Chris Nirschel, chef and owner of New York Catering Service, a catering and event company servicing the Tri-State area (you may also recognize him from “Food Network Star” and “Chopped”). “Like with most pans, you’ll want to add a touch of oil, which will help you gauge how hot it is and grease the pan to eliminate any potential sticking.” (He personally relies on All-Clad's medium and large sauté pans for everyday cooking).
“They're light enough to comfortably toss foods and move from stovetop to oven and back. They heat evenly but are thin enough to respond quickly to adjustments in temperature,” adds Lori Rasmussen, recipe developer and author of the food blog My Quiet Kitchen. “Maybe best of all, these pans will last for many, many years. I received an All-Clad saucepan and skillet as a wedding gift 22 years ago. Both are still in perfect condition."
Size: Various | Material: Aluminum and Stainless steel | Dishwasher safe? Yes | Oven safe? Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Lifetime
HexClad’s hybrid cookware models offer the best of several cooking worlds, featuring layers of aluminum and steel for optimal strength and heat distribution, along with their signature smooth, non-toxic hexagonal surface for removing food — and any remaining residue — with ease.
“When choosing cookware, it’s important to choose durable materials and designs that will last with heavy usage and won’t warp over time,” says Adam Sobel, chef and partner at Mina Group, which includes restaurants Cal Mare in Los Angeles, California and Nana Lu in Honolulu, Hawaii. “Pots and pans that are easy to clean are a big plus, and HexClad checks all of the boxes.”
Sobel is especially big on the brand’s “griddles and sauté pans for their even heat distribution (they also hold high heat to sauté and sear).” Adds Nirschel, “HexClad pans are truly non-stick — and you can use them with metal spoons and whisks.” (Complete your collection with th HexClad 6-Piece Hybrid Non-stick Pot Set)
Size: Various | Material: Stainless steel and copper | Dishwasher safe? No | Oven safe? No | Warranty: For manufacturer’s defects
For those with an appreciation for classic (read: nostalgic) copper, Mauviel’s cookware selection is as lavish as it is extensive, beloved by trained and self-taught chefs for offering pots and pans that enable you to perfect your delicacies with a certain panache.
"These copper pots and pans are so exquisite and beautiful, used by some of the greatest chefs and cooks for generations," explains Claude Booker, chef and founder of Soul Food Starters, a soul food starter kit company that delivers nationwide. "They're not cheap, but the quality and craftsmanship is second to none — and the cookware will outlive you." Booker, who uses a set passed down by his father, also likes how the pans both heat up and return to room temperature quickly, "especially important when it comes to reducing delicate sauces."
“Mauviel pans are made extremely well and are designed perfectly (very classy!)” says Sosa. “The handles get hot, so they require some caution when handling, though with the right care they will truly last a lifetime.” (Make it a bigger splurge with the Mauviel M'heritage 9-Piece Copper Cookware Set)
Size: 5 x 7 inches | Material: Copper and wood | Dishwasher safe? No | Oven safe? No | Warranty: Unknown
When it comes to omelet pans, Perrin Gardner, head chef at Methodical Coffee in Greenville, South Carolina, can’t get enough of this copper creation from Nakamura Douki, relying on it regularly for cooking eggs and well beyond.
“The rectangular pans are typically used to make traditional rolled omelets, but I've used them for everything from crepe batters to brownies (as well as square pancakes),” he says. “Nakamura’s large pots are also useful for simmering or stewing, with a rim designed to accommodate a classic cherry bark steamer on top.”
Size: Various | Material: Ceramic-coated aluminum | Dishwasher safe? No | Oven safe? Up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Limited (see site for details)
Ceramic-coated cookware boasts a polished aesthetic, often with the added benefit of non-stick cooking (and fun shades!) and no toxic chemicals that can leach into food.
Nikki Martin, a private chef who’s made appearances on the Food Network, Bravo and "Master Chef," is personally a fan of the Caraway Cookware Set, which features four core pans and serves as a “one-stop shop" for all of her home cooking needs.
“The ceramic coating is non-toxic and completely non-stick for healthy cooking and easy cleanup, and the sleek design — available in a range of beautiful colors — is a minimalist’s dream,” she says. “I personally use the sauté pan (in the Iconics/White color combo) for everything — from browning chicken in the evening to crisping bacon and flipping pancakes in the morning.” Choose from 12 finishes and styles and consider expanding your collection with the Caraway Deluxe Cooking Set (the brand also has a new Squareware collection that's been picking up steam).
Size: Various | Material: Ceramic-coated aluminum | Dishwasher safe? No | Oven safe? Up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Limited (see site for details)
Personal chef and Sugarface Bakes founder Stacie Zollars considers Caraway’s ceramic-coated bakeware another hot (and healthy) kitchen commodity. “What makes my favorite Caraway cooking and baking sets unique and special is their all-purpose features, and they’re both stovetop- and oven-safe (up to 550 degrees),” she explains. “The durability is reliable, and the variety of colors makes cooking and baking fun for a lifetime! This set is regal, easy to clean, and includes storage to keep pans organized. An overall pick for me, my family and many others.”
Editor take: I also own this bakeware set and can attest to just how easy these tins are to use and maintain. Muffins and brownies bake evenly and lift out easily; the baking sheets make roasting veggies look chic. Generous borders and handles aid in getting them in and out of the oven (Caraway also offers an 11-piece set for more ambitious bakers and bigger families).
Size: Various | Material: Stainless steel and silicone | Dishwasher safe? Yes | Oven safe? Up to 446 degrees Fahrenheit
Silicone is another good bet for bakers who appreciate a non-stick surface with extra flexibility (you’ll typically find that, with a little loosening or unfolding of the edges, muffins and other treats pop out clean).
“They're not as popular as stainless steel, but I've found they're great for cleanup and are flexible for storing in any kitchen (silicone is also softer for baking with kids!),” explains Nicole Pomije, baker and owner of The Cookie Cups, a cookie and at-home baking kit company that ships nationwide. “This assortment from Cookstyle comes in different color combos and is affordable at only $50 for a full 10-piece set."
Size: Various | Material: Natural aluminum | Dishwasher safe? No | Oven safe? Yes | Warranty: Lifetime
Sheet pans are a cooking staple used for everything from baking cookies to roasting potatoes (and so many other things in between). And Nordic Ware has some of the best around, with a wide range of materials, finishes and sizes catered to different dishes and preferences.
“They’re the unsung heroes of my kitchen, combining precision, flexibility and unbeatable non-stick performance to become my ultimate culinary secret weapon,” says Nirschel, “... with a lifetime of durability and the ability to withstand temperatures up to 550 degrees.” His personal collection includes the Naturals 3-Piece Baker's Delight Set — “perfect for roasting delicious vegetables."
Size: 1.5-Quart | Material: Stoneware | Dishwasher safe? Yes | Oven safe? Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Lifetime
There’s just something about baking — and serving — a dish in Le Creuset that feels special (or, as Darwin Castillo, head bread baker at Breads Bakery in New York City puts it, “everything Le Creuset makes is of the highest quality.”
Size: 3.5-Quart | Material: Enameled cast iron | Dishwasher safe? Yes | Oven safe? Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Lifetime
We and many of the experts we consulted agree: If you have the money to spend on an enamel cast iron dutch oven, Le Creuset is the brand to beat. “The enameled cast iron offers incredible heat retention and distribution, ensuring even cooking, while its tight-fitting lid locks in moisture. It lasts forever (there’s a lifetime warranty to back it up) and is the type of item you can pass down for generations,” says Anthony.
“I would say this is the most generational cookware piece. I use it to braise short ribs and make pasta,” adds Nirschel. And from Sosa, “time after time, I'm enamored by the Le Creuset brand — extremely durable and with vibrant colors."
Martin likens owning a piece of Le Creuset to a classic designer handbag you saved up for. "It’s a staple — a bit pricey but worth the splurge for every home cook ... I’ve been loving the variety of signature stainless steel knobs you can select to customize your piece," she elaborates. "The round Dutch oven is the perfect size for fall soups and one-pot comfort meals, my favorite being Coq Au Vin.” (Available as a Round Oven, Oval Oven or Chef’s Oven in a rainbow of sizes and shades.)
Size: 7-Quart | Material: Enameled cast iron | Dishwasher safe? No | Oven safe? Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Limited
Staub is another brand that comes up frequently for durable dutch ovens that withstand high heat. “Staub dutch ovens have a high capacity to retain heat as they are made in cast iron and allow to cook and roast evenly and gently, virtually any ingredient,” says Michelin star chef Silvio Salmoiraghi of Ambrogio by Acquerello in La Jolla, California and Acquerello in Milan, Italy.
He adds, “I prefer to use the bigger sizes Staub offers as I find them the most versatile, allowing a cook to roast game and poultry properly.” When gauging sizing, it’s helpful to think of one quart as one serving (so the 7-Quart version shown would be ideal for 5-7 people, give or take). Staub's 5-Quart Dutch Oven also tends to be a popular choice for bread baking.
Size: 3-Quart | Material: Enameled cast iron | Dishwasher safe? No | Oven safe? Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Limited lifetime
Culinary (and Yahoo shopping) experts recommend Lodge for a similarly striking dutch oven that will save you money without skimping on performance. “From a cooking standpoint, I love how versatile the Lodge dutch ovens are. I use them for bread baking, braising, pasta, sauteing vegetables and roasting,” says Adler.
“Lodge’s assortment offers affordability without compromising on performance. Similar to Le Creuset, Lodge is highly durable and versatile, capable of withstanding high temperatures and offering excellent heat retention,” adds Anthony. Yahoo commerce writer and former baker Britt Ross offers a deeper dive in this Lodge Dutch Oven review.
Size: 12-Inch | Material: Cast iron | Dishwasher safe? No | Oven safe? Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: Limited lifetime
Of course, we couldn’t address cookware without mentioning a cast iron skillet, revered for its ability to withstand and retain high temperatures (use it atop and inside the oven, and even over an open flame). This quintessential pick from Lodge has Ina Garten’s personal seal of approval, and happens to be the one item (besides knives) Martin won’t leave home — at least when heading to cook for a client — without.
“It gets crazy hot and the baked-in seasoning on these pans makes everything just burst with flavor! It ensures the best crust on a filet, and is my secret weapon for perfecting ribeyes and crisping up chicken thighs!” she says. “Lodge makes a variety of affordable sizes and they are built to last. I also use mine to cook breakfast outside on the grill, and even for camping. This baby goes everywhere with me.”
When evaluating cookware, experts say you want to prioritize pieces that can be used for a range of dishes and purposes, especially for those who are cooking in a small space — and ones you won’t have to replace. “I think versatility and durability are the most important aspects to consider,” says Adler. “Beyond that, ease of maintenance is huge. Copper cookware is great for a lot of things, but I personally don’t like polishing pots after every use!”
A few other factors to consider include stove type (a gas oven can support a wide range of cookware, whereas glass-topped electric is more compatible with lighter, smoother pans). ergonomics (lighter materials mean easier maneuvering, while rounded, elongated handles are easier to hold), safety (some handles remain hot to the touch, whereas others are coated for added protection), and convenience (as Adler explained, some materials will require more TLC, whereas non-stick and dishwasher-safe options are easier to clean). Then there’s also the price (we tend to consider quality cookware a worthy investment, but you’ll want to gauge what’s comfortable for you).
The best cookware materials
Many experts will say the best cookware is whatever you’re most likely to use. And because much of the above depends on the material, a quick overview:
Stainless steel is typically non-reactive (meaning it won’t affect food flavor) and, while tougher to clean, usually dishwasher safe. It may not cook food as evenly, though copper and aluminum (clad) materials are often added to help with distribution and durability.
Carbon steel (mostly iron mixed with some carbon) offers the heat retention we tend to see with cast iron, but with easier maintenance. “Just like cast-iron, when cared for properly, carbon steel will develop a patina or seasoning, which will result in a practically nonstick surface with repetitive use,” adds Mace.
Copper is well-known for its high heat retention, even distribution and durability. But without coating, it’s reactive (when met with acids, it can latch onto food). Copper also requires a bit more maintenance, such as polishing, and therefore isn’t as practical for frequent use.
Aluminum is lightweight and great at retaining heat. Anodized aluminum tends to be more durable and is hardened through a process that ensures it's also nonreactive (so it won’t leach into food).
Cast iron is known for its extreme durability and high heat tolerance (use it stovetop, inside the oven, or, when placed on a grate, over open flames). Because it isn’t coated, it will require some extra elbow grease (ie deep-cleaning and seasoning accordingly).
Enameled cast iron is treated with a porcelain coating to help prevent tarnishing and make for easier cleaning. You can often choose from a range of colors. And like cast iron, enameled cast iron can withstand very high heat.
Ceramic-coated cookware often consists of a base material (such as aluminum) coated with a smooth silicone, ceramic-like finish that offers non-stick properties without any of the chemicals that can be found in traditional non-stick options. Like enameled cast iron, the coating often comes in a wider color range.
Non-stick cookware is treated with a special coating that ensures a smooth surface for flipping (think pancakes; eggs) and tends to be easier to maintain (though in the case of more traditional non-stick options, you’ll want to be conscious of any ‘coating’ chemicals that can flake off into your food).
Is non-stick cookware safe?
While convenient (and FDA-approved), traditional non-stick coatings have been linked to certain chemicals (often falling under the category of PFAS) that some sources caution can transfer to food — especially when in the face of high heat — proving a potential source of carcinogens or at least rendering the pans less effective over time.
Because of this, experts and manufacturers typically recommend avoiding cooking with traditional non-stick pans when using higher temperatures (more guidance here) or opting for a ceramic coating (look for labels like "non-toxic" and “food-safe”). We suggest visiting respective brand websites for more information on materials and how their products are made.