There are a few purchases that signal you've transitioned from a share house to a grown-up home and one of them is quality matching cookware. In your early 20s, you probably accrued hand-me-down pots and pans, which wear the battle scars of burnt lasagne and charred stir-fries, but when you finally move into a home of your own, it's time to invest in a new set.
Bulk-buying cookware can be a costly move, so it's important to do your research before upgrading. Start by asking yourself what kind of cook you are: Do you need an extensive cookware set or are you an occasional chef? Do you want to display your pots and pans on open shelves or is space a premium? Ahead we share our staff's honest reviews of four of the best cookware sets on the market, which are each suited to a different cooking style. Pick the category you care about most—design, value, space, or chef-quality—and donate those scratched pots. It's time for an upgrade.
The Best for Open Shelves
Price Per Piece: Roughly $83 per piece for a set of six.
Quality: "These are among the best-quality cookware I've owned. They're made from copper, which is said to be the best material for cooking and roasting because copper is a perfect heat conductor. I noticed that it heats up faster than other pans so I can use a lower setting. The handles are also thick and sturdy—you can definitely tell the difference from cheap cookware."
Final Word: "I'll admit that the main reason I bought this cookware was for its design—I love the look of hammered copper pots hung on a white wall or stacked no open shelves. But I was really impressed by the sturdiness and quality of each item. If you are choosing this set for aesthetics, it's worth noting that copper does discolor. Keep your stovetop heat moderate, and buff tarnishes with a mild abrasive (Food52 recommends a DIY salt, cornstarch, and lemon juice paste)."
The Best for Small Kitchens
Price Per Piece: $45 per piece for a set of 10.
Quality: "This cookware set was personally recommended to me by chef Michael Chernow (of The Meatball Shop), so I know the quality's there. The hard-anodized construction allows for even heating, and the nonstick interior is safe for metal utensils. It's a great set for beginner/intermediary cooks!"
Final Word: "This cookware set is genius for a few reasons, but the main selling point for me is that the lids don't have top handles, which makes the set entirely stackable! In my studio apartment, this saves a ton of cupboard space."
The Best Value
Price Per Piece: $11 per piece for a set of 10, which includes utensils.
Quality: "I was a bit dubious about the quality of this cookware set given the affordable price, but I was so impressed. It's made of durable, scratch-resistant metal and has a Thermo-spot heat indicator that shows when it's perfectly preheated and ready for cooking."
Final Word: "If you're shopping on a budget, this cookware set is amazing. It includes every pot and pan you'd need in a starter kitchen, including utensils and a colander, which other sets don't. The only thing to note is that the handles are plastic, which means you can't put the pots in the oven. It's not a dealbreaker, but it's worth pointing out!"
The Best for Budding Chefs
Price Per Piece: Roughly $60 per piece for a set of seven.
Quality: "Not all stainless-steel sets are made alike, but this one is high-quality. It's light, has great heat conduction and retention so food cooks quickly and evenly. By cutting out the middlemen, Misen is able to offer a top-notch product for serious home cooks at a reasonable price."
Final Word: "The first time I tried my Misen skillet, I made this pantry pasta recipe by chef Scott Conant. I don't know if it was the chef's tips or the skillet itself, but the recipe turned out fantastic! I noticed the pan had great rapid heat distribution and didn't stick—which is always important."