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Are you ready to up your kitchen game? Steel Wok
No matter how you slice it, growing up is hard to do: There’s more responsibilities, more decisions, and, of course, way more expenses. But one of the benefits of becoming an adult is getting to own some truly nice pots and pans (no more roommate hand-me-downs!). Offering the ultimate combination of durability and convenience with no bulkiness or extra heft, investing in quality stainless steel cookware is one of the first steps you can take. Stainless steel cookware is certainly the best for even heat distribution and high-heat searing (think pan-fried steak and seared scallops), but there’s a lot more to love about these durable sets than just their excellent performance. We know these sets aren’t for the faint of heart—or wallet—which is why we’re here to guide you through the process of finding the best stainless steel cookware set for your lifestyle.
Not sure if you're sold on stainless steel? Check out our top picks for best cast-iron skillets and best frying pans.
To determine the best stainless steel cookware sets, we consulted our friends at the Good Housekeeping Institute, which evaluated 35 different sets. Their team of on-staff experts—which includes all types: engineers! data analysts! registered dietitians!—rigorously put everyday products to the test (and then more and more tests) in their New York City-based labs to determine which ones you can trust. For these sets, their Kitchen Tech Experts evaluated each on user-friendliness, heat distribution and retention, maneuverability, stain resistance, cleanability, and performance—they even gauged their ability to maintain a steady simmer, evenly brown steaks, and cook tomato sauce without scorching. After reviewing their findings, we’ve determined that these are the best stainless steel cookware sets you can buy in 2022.
Yes, there is such a thing as an affordable stainless steel cookware set, and that is the Tramontina Triply Clad Stainless Steel 12-Piece Set—which even comes with more pieces than any of our other recommendations. Constructed of durable 18/10 stainless steel, this cookware offers a lot for its low price, including a covered stock pot, covered deep sauté pan, two frying pans, and three covered saucepans.
Though the Good Housekeeping Institute warned “if you use it to simmer chicken soup, you should make sure you keep an eye on the heat level and stir from time to time,” their lab panel was impressed with the Tramontina Triply Clad Stainless Steel Set’s ability to evenly pan-fry steak and that the handles and lids stayed cool while in use. Boasting even heat distribution on electric and gas ranges and in the oven safely up to 500° (even the lids!), these pots and pans are also dishwasher-safe, but it’s good to keep in mind that like the Williams Sonoma Signature Thermo-Clad Stainless-Steel Set, the riveted handles and stain-prone exterior aren't the easiest to clean.
As one of the top home goods retailers, it should be no surprise that Williams Sonoma has extended its “winning with talent” motto to its hand-crafted Thermo-Clad Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Set. This cookware is not only constructed of nonreactive 18/10 stainless steel construction with a proprietary aluminum-alloy core, but the Good Housekeeping Institute found that it distributed heat best on gas ranges. That being said, it also offers excellent stick resistance and the pans and lids are oven-safe up to 500° and 375°, respectively.
Testers lauded this set's user-friendliness, remarking that the “handle[s] and lid[s] stayed cool to the touch during cooking.” We love the classic polished exterior design of this dishwasher-safe cookware, but you can also pay a bit extra for the brushed exterior if that fits better with your kitchen’s aesthetic—just be aware that either option can stain when used with high heat.
You can do it all with the All-Clad D5 Brushed Stainless Steel 5-Ply 10-Piece Set, which the Good Housekeeping Institute said “excelled [during testing], with saucepans that boiled water quickest and fry pans that offer quick, even heating.” This chef-favorite brand is known for its extremely high quality, so comes as no surprise that this cookware meets every expectation with its stick-resistant 18/10 stainless steel interior and five alternating layers of stainless steel and aluminum.
In addition to offering fast and even heat distribution, this sturdy set’s premier design features securely-fitting lids and durable, angled handles that stay cool while cooking on your stovetop, as well as a brushed exterior to reduce the appearance of fingerprints. Though the D5 Cookware Set is dishwasher-safe, All-Clad recommends washing your pots and pans by hand with a mild dish soap and sponge to ensure it lasts a lifetime.
Whoever said Le Creuset was only good for Dutch ovens clearly never experienced the delightful experience that is cooking with this Le Creuset Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Set, which the Good Housekeeping Institute said “maintained a steady simmer” and “browned steak evenly” during their tests.
Though it only comes with one 10-inch frying pan and distributed heat poorly on electric ranges, we like that this sturdy cookware is stick-resistant, dishwasher-safe, and oven safe up to 425°—even the lids! Plus, this titanium-infused, 18/10 stainless steel set is designed with the same aesthetically pleasing details Le Creuset is known for, like round knobs and thick riveted handles for top-notch maneuverability.
Made in Italy, the Ruffoni Opus Prima Hammered Stainless Steel 7-Piece Cookware Set is as beautiful as it is high-quality, with a hammered stainless steel construction and intricately etched produce-themed handles. Though these artistic choices aren’t necessarily the most functional—as testers found the pots and pans were a little difficult to grasp and their thin material didn’t hit as evenly as the panel would’ve liked—the Good Housekeeping Institute was still impressed with its performance.
In addition to being oven-safe up to 500°, their lab panel noted “they were able to handle tricky tasks like searing a steak and they were easy to clean.” This set also offers a good assortment of sizable pieces, including a skillet, stockpot and saucepan. Overall, if you don’t mind sparing the extra expense, we think the Ruffoni Opus Prima Cookware is a pretty solid (not to mention, simply pretty) option if you want to make a statement before, during, and after your most lavish dinner parties.
We get it, some kitchens can be so tiny that they’re basically a deterrent when it comes to cooking at home, but we think Carrie Bradshaw would’ve considered storing her sweaters elsewhere had she known about the Hestan NanoBond Stainless Steel 5-Piece Set. With a rivetless and stain-resistant inner lining, this cookware was quick to impress with its cleanability, wide surface area, and comfortable handles.
Not only did it earn a perfect score for ease of use and retained heat well without overheating too quickly, the Good Housekeeping Institute also noted that “it scored a 5 [out of 5] in the heat distribution and steak tests, a 4.5 in the scorching test, and a 4 in the boil test.”
Constructed of an aluminum core and thousands of titanium nano-layers bonded to the 18/10 stainless steel construction, the exterior of these pots and pans do tend to discolor over time—which makes sense, considering they’re oven and broiler-safe up to 500º—but that can be easily remedied using Hestan’s specialized stainless steel cleaner.
You've likely seen the female-founded Great Jones cookware all over your Instagram feed by now, so if you want to stay on-trend with some colorful kitchen gear that is as gorgeous as it is functional, consider the Great Jones Family Style Set.
For us, the main draw isn’t even the solid performance scores for searing, scorching, and heat distribution—it's the unique ovular Dutch oven that comes in this 8-piece set. The Good Housekeeping Institute was equally impressed, remarking “Its handles are a brass color, while the pans are stainless steel and shiny. The handle on top of the lid got hot during the sauce test, but its handle stayed cool enough to grasp without a pot holder.”
On top of the thoughtful features—think a rivetless design and etched measurement markings and a pour spout on the included saucepan—this corrosion-resistant, kitchen-grade stainless steel cookware is oven-safe up to 500º. Keep in mind that the ceramic nonstick coating of the frying pan isn’t the best at releasing fried eggs, so you’ll want to use it over medium-low heat for best results.
For heat distribution and searing foods, yes. Many of these sets feature an aluminum core for even heating, which can streamline nearly every cooking process, and a stainless steel construction for optimal durability—so when you invest in a set, you can rest-assured that it will be a staple in your kitchen for the rest of your life.
Plus, you don’t have to deal with the annoying chips that occur with the wear and tear of nonstick-coated pots and pans, and don’t need to worry about the seasoning or rust issues faced with cast-iron skillets.
Wondering what the drawbacks are? There is one caveat (besides the expensive price, of course): cleanability. Though the name may suggest otherwise, stainless steel isn’t actually stainless. In fact, it’s more likely to stain because it lacks a nonstick surface. Some people like their cookware sets to look “lived in”, but if you want to keep yours looking brand new, you’ll need a little elbow grease and a quality stainless steel cleaning agent. On lazy days when you don’t feel like doing dishes, many of these sets can be thrown into the dishwasher, though that may wear on the polished design over time.
Not all stainless steel is created equal. There are multiple grades, with varying levels of durability and heat- and corrosion-resistance. Each type consists of a mixture of metal alloys that usually includes at least 10.5% of chromium and over 50% iron. Stainless steel is graded based on its makeup, with four types of classification:
Austenitic, which contains elevated levels of nickel, chromium, and molybdenum to offer optimal strength and ductility. This is the most common type of stainless steel used for cooking.
Ferritic, which contains more than 10.5%, but less than 30% chromium. (These options are typically magnetic, which can cause some shoppers to think the cookware isn't actually stainless steel, but in fact, they’re preferable if your priority is preventing cracks from stress corrosion and oxidation from high temperatures.)
Duplex, which is a combination of austenitic and ferritic stainless steel. This option offers the best of both worlds in terms of durability and corrosion resistance, but this is better suited for industrial and underwater use than for culinary purposes.
Martensitic, which has a similar makeup to ferritic, except it has increased levels of carbon. This is typically used for medical grade and surgical grade instruments.
Grade 304 is the most common austenitic food-grade stainless steel, which means it meets all the necessary criteria to be used in food prep, storage, and eating. (You might also see this on packaging as 18/8 and 18/10.) Unlike grade 316 stainless steel (more on this below), it doesn’t contain molybdenum—which means it doesn’t hold up quite as well over time to prolonged, repeated exposure to some ingredients like salt or acidic foods like lemon or tomato juice.
Large Cooking Pots Grade 316 is another great food-grade stainless steel, but it's expensive. The added molybdenum helps prevent corrosion and pitting while also offering higher heat tolerance (hence the price markup).