Is it time to replace your cookware? If the bottom of a pan is warped (which can create hot spots that burn food), or if handles are loose or broken, it’s time to shop. And when a nonstick pan’s coating is flaking, it’s got to go.
Cookware is sold in sets—consisting of about 7 to 12 pieces—or as individual pots and pans. If you need an entire set, we’ve got you covered, starting with details on what’s included.
“In boxed sets, manufacturers count a lid as a piece,” explains Marion Wilson-Spencer, a market analyst covering cookware for Consumer Reports. “Even utensils and a cookbook may count as pieces.” So keep in mind that a 12-piece set won’t contain a dozen pots and pans.
Top 5 Pots And Pans
- 8-piece nonstick cookware set includes 8-inch fry pan, 10-inch fry pan, 1.5-quart sauce pan with...
- Aluminum body with non-stick coating for easy cooking and cleaning--BPA-free
- Nonstick exterior - fast and easy to clean, nonstick interior for easy cooking and easy clean up
- New ergonomically designed stay-cool handles
- SET INCLUDES: 8" and 10.25" Fry Pan, 11.5" Fry Pan with lid, 10.25" Square Griddle, 1-quart, 2-quart...
- DISHWASHER SAFE: Easy to clean and dishwasher safe cookware set. Hard anodized aluminum construction...
- FREE YOUR HEALTHY CHEF - Our cookware is made of Thermolon ceramic non-stick, manufactured free of...
- SET INCLUDES - 4" mini frypan, 7" open frypan, 9.5" open frypan, 1QT covered saucepan, 2QT covered...
- SET INCLUDES: 7.75-inch and 11-inch fry pans, 1-quart and 2-quart sauce pans with lids, a 5.5-quart...
- DISHWASHER SAFE: Easy to clean and dishwasher safe cookware set. Nonstick interior and exterior for...
The allure of owning top-shelf cookware is enticing. But faced with a smorgasbord of cookware styles, materials, and prices—from cast iron and stainless steel to nonstick enamel and copper—it’s wise to be well-informed. Use this guide to sharpen your shopping skills before buying.
Cookware Sets vs. Open Stock
Consumer Reports buys and tests cookware sets, fry pans, and Dutch ovens, so we know that cookware can be an expensive investment. Here are some things to consider before you go shopping:
Take inventory of the pots and pans you own to determine what needs to be replaced or what is missing from your cookware arsenal. Individual pieces—or “open stock”—are widely available. If you only need to swap out a scratched frying pan, the open stock is a cost-saving way to go, and what’s popular now.
Dutch ovens are versatile, moving from stovetop to oven to your table. A Dutch oven can brown, braise, boil, and bake bread. It has high sides, and when made of enameled cast iron, it holds heat well, making it a good choice for deep frying.
Consider Your Cooking Style
Think about what you cook frequently; this will influence your choice of materials. For example, if you sear meat often, uncoated stainless steel will facilitate even browning. If you prefer slow-cooked tomato sauces, even creamy sauces, you’ll want to steer clear of unlined copper cookware, which can impart bitterness.
Match Your Cookware to Your Cooktop
Finally, consider how your new cookware will pair with your cooktop. Flat-bottomed pans—overwhelmingly the most popular type—are essential for a smooth top range. Round-bottom works will need a vented ring placed on top of a burner to support the work. If you have an induction cooktop, cookware with magnetic properties is a must. Bring along a magnet when you shop. If it sticks to the bottom, it’ll work with an induction cooktop.
The Parts of a Pan
Coating vs Cladding: What’s the Difference?
Hard-coat anodized is a fancy way of saying the soft surface of nearly pure aluminum has been changed to a hard surface. It has nothing to do with the nonstick coating, which allows food to brown without sticking to the pan.
Cladding refers to the layers of metal fused together to create the cookware. So while the outer and inner layers of the pan may be stainless steel, the inside layer may be aluminum or copper, or another conductive or magnetic material. Clad can also mean a material was added to the bottom of a stainless steel pan, enhancing heat transfer.
Shopping Tips to Chew On
Quality cookware is at the heart of any serious cook’s kitchen. You need a variety of pots, pans, and casseroles, maybe even a few specialty items. Will a $500 set of cookware make your meals twice as tasty as a $250 set? Not necessarily. Here’s how to build the perfect culinary collection:
Choose Your Pieces
If you’re building a set of cookware from scratch, depending on how you cook and how many people you cook for, you will want an assortment of skillets and pots, a stockpot, and lids. In boxed sets, manufacturers count a lid as a piece, and it might fit more than one piece of cookware in the set. A set that contains more pieces might not be the smartest choice if you use only a few and the rest take up space in your cabinet. Note: Utensils and even a cookbook can count as pieces of a set.
Pick It Up
We all shop online, but it’s essential to handle the cookware at a retailer. See how it feels in your hand. If it’s heavy, think how much heavier it will feel when it’s full of food. Make sure that the handles are easy to grasp and that the pot or pan is well-balanced. Check that handle attachment is tight and sturdy. Read the packaging to see whether the cookware can be cleaned in a dishwasher.
These allow you to see what’s going on inside the pot without having to lift it off, letting steam escape. But they add weight and can break, which could be a problem in a household with young kids.
From Stove to Oven
If the box says the cookware is oven-safe, be sure to check the specifics. What temperature can this cookware safely be used? Some cookware can be used in ovens set to 350°F, while others can withstand higher heat—up to 500°F.