When All-Clad's patent on tri-ply cookware expired in the early 2000s, hundreds of brands sprang up to compete with them. Today, the clad stainless cookware market is huuuuge. If you're trying to select a good brand at a good price, it can be overwhelming.
It would be impossible for even the biggest research outfits to test every single brand of clad stainless cookware on the market; there's just too many of them. The good news, though, is that it's not really necessary. Whatever your budget, only a few are worth considering. The reasons why are explained in our other cookware articles. (If you're new to clad stainless cookware, you should check out our archives--and if not our site, find another site you trust and educate yourself before you buy!)
We're here to help, and even though we can't test every brand, we know enough to make a solid assessment and steer buyers in the right direction.
Here are clad stainless cookware micro-reviews to help you narrow the field.
The brands we include are:
- Fully clad or bottom clad stainless steel cookware
- Tri-ply and multi-ply
- Either a recognized brand or having at least 20 reviews on Amazon (or elsewhere).
The brands are listed in alphabetical order, so if you've come here to look for a specific brand, it will be easy to find. Just scroll through the table of contents and click to jump right to the micro-review.
And if you we overlooked the brand you're curious about, let us know! We'll be happy to add it to the list, if we can find enough info to give a decent recommendation.
Asterisks indicate recommended brands.
What Is a Micro-Review?
A micro-review is just a short, two or three sentence blurb about why we like or dislike the cookware, followed by a recommendation. Our writeups are backed by extensive research and cookware knowledge, which you can read about elsewhere on The Rational Kitchen. Check out our Cookware Archives for more information.
We thought this was a good way to cover a lot of ground in one article and provide the info you need to make a good purchasing decision.
Some Cookware Gets Great User Reviews, But We Don't Like It. Here's Why.
If you go just by Amazon reviews, you may get unlucky and end up with poor quality cookware. Here's why:
- Not every reviewer knows enough about stainless cookware to write an accurate review.
- Many reviews are written when cookware is new, and they're not updated when the person has discovered the down side(s) of it.
- People can be biased towards liking a purchase and believing it to be better than it actually is.
- Finally, the truth is that even low quality stainless steel is going to hold up pretty well and feel well made, especially when compared to cheap aluminum cookware with plastic handles and glass lids. So, people who have no experience stainless cookware may perceive it as the best cookware they've ever used. If so, then why not just buy the cheapest stainless cookware you can find? Because cheap stainless cookware is going to lack enough aluminum to spread heat evenly (yes, this is true despite glowing reviews claiming great performance), it's going to be thin and therefore prone to warping, and it's just not going to have the feel and heft that makes high-end stainless cookware a joy to use.
User reviews are great, and they can be really helpful. But you also need to educate yourself about clad stainless cookware if you want the best chance of getting a set you can love.
For more info, see Can You Trust Amazon Reviews?
What Is "OEM" and Why Is It Important?
OEM stands for "original equipment manufacturer." OEMs are typically manufacturers who resell another company's product under their own name and branding.
In the case of cookware, factories make a cookware and sell it to different companies to put their own branding on it. If you've ever wondered why some different brands of cookware look similar to others, it's probably because they were made in the same factory, but with different finishes and labels.
It's a common practice, and usually an indication of lower quality cookware, especially if it's made in China. At the very least, it means that the seller relies on someone else to do the quality control.
There are high end brands of OEM cookware, like Christopher Kimball, Viking Professional, and Wolf. But if the cookware is made in China, the quality is a big gamble. For this reason, we generally avoid OEM cookware, especially if made overseas.
1919 Cookware/American Kitchen
Made in USA by Regal, a company that's been around for several decades. Both of these are really nice lines of cookware that seem to be of comparable construction and quality. It's tri-ply, and equally heavy to All-Clad D3, meaning a good amount of heat spreading aluminum, durability, and almost zero chance of warping. It's drawbacks are that it's expensive, and it isn't available in sets.
The American Kitchen line is a little less expensive, and we actually prefer its handles, which have enough indentation for a firm grip but not so much that they'll cut into your hand. You can get a set of 3 skillets for about $230, although you may not need all three sizes. (We recommend you skip the 5 piece set with the nonstick skillet, as the tri-ply nonstick is not a good use of your hard-earned cash.)
Recommended, with reservations due to lack of experience using the cookware.
360 Waterless Cookware
Fully clad tri-ply made in USA (West Bend, WI). If you want to spend more on cookware than All-Clad, this is the cookware to get. It's well made stuff and will certainly last beyond its lifetime warranty.
Is the cookware overpriced? Well, it has a few drawbacks that make us doubt that this cookware is any better than All-Clad D3. It's standard clad stainless cookware, made of 304 stainless and magnetic ("400") on the exterior for induction compatibility. This is the configuration you'll find in most stainless cookware.
We suspect that the high price point is due to this being "waterless" cookware, which is traditionally higher priced than "regular" cookware. We dislike the waterless marketing gimmick, as any cookware will work in this way (as long as it has a lid). Here's a thread on a cooking forum about waterless cookware; it's old, but the information still stands.
It's also not very pretty cookware, and the steeply curved lids and wide rims on the pots are going to be hard to clean around--a lot of nooks and crannies. (Of course, if you're only steaming food, this may not be an issue).
All-Clad D3 is prettier, cheaper, and offers quality as good or better. And you don't need special, high priced cookware to cook "waterless." While there's no doubt that this is good quality cookware, it's probably overpriced.
*All-Clad D3 (Tri-Ply)*
Made in USA, tri-ply. All-Clad's original and still most popular line, this is great cookware. It has more heat-spreading aluminum than almost any other brand (some are equal, Demeyere and a few others have more) with a durable, high-polished stainless exterior. Expensive--about $700 for the 10 piece set and $120 for a 12" skillet--but with a lifetime warranty that A/C has a reputation for honoring, the cost-per-year-of-use is low.
Made in the USA, 5-ply. Brought to market to stay ahead of all the tri-ply clones that came out after their patent expired, All-Clad D5 has 5 alternating plies of stainless and aluminum (s-a-s-a-s). It's billed as All-Clad's "induction" line, but all that internal stainless layer does is impede the efficiency of the aluminum. It's more expensive than D3 but with the same wall thickness plus an interior layer of stainless, contains less aluminum!
If you need induction compatible cookware, the All-Clad D3 is better cookware for less money.
All-Clad Copper Core
Copper Core, made in the USA like all of All-Clad's clad cookware lines (their other products are made overseas), is a 5-ply cookware with a stainless-aluminum-copper-aluminum-stainless configuration (s-a-c-a-s). The copper layer is about 1mm thick, which is enough copper to provide approximately the same heating performance as the D3, or slightly better due to copper's different heating properties.
It's beautiful cookware, and if you can afford it you will love it. But with only slightly better performance than D3 and a higher price tag, we recommend you go with the D3 instead. (Or, if you want the performance of copper, buy a brand with at least 2mm of copper.)
Unless money is no object, go with the All-Clad D3, or check out Demeyere if you want truly top notch heating properties.
*American Clad/American Heritage (by Hammer Stahl)
American Clad 9 Piece Set (Amazon)
American Clad 12-inch Skillet (Amazon)
Fully clad, made in USA. There are a lot of reasons to love this cookware. It's made in the USA. It has a lifetime warranty. The design is beautifully thought out (more on that below). And, it has really excellent pieces in the set, including a 13.5-inch jumbo fry pan with domed lid and a 10.5-inch skillet (at least in the set from Amazon; the Everything Kitchens set lacks the jumbo skillet).
It's marketed as 7-ply, and the layers break down like this (cooking surface to exterior): 316Ti-aluminum-aluminum-aluminum-304 stainless-400 stainless-304 stainless.
This makes it similar to Demeyere in design. In fact, Demeyere has trademarked those 3 outer layers, which are designed to keep the more corrosion-prone, magnetic 400 stainless protected by outer layers of corrosion resistant 300 stainless. Demeyere calls theirs TriplInduc®, but it's designed for the same purpose: it makes the pans more durable and corrosion resistant while retaining their induction compatibility.
As far as we know, Demeyere and American Clad are the only cookware manufacturers who do this. And it's impressive, well-thought out design.
The 316Ti cooking surface sounds impressive, too, but it's really just a type of marine grade stainless steel. Titanium helps stabilize the steel at high temperatures--above 900F, which isn't really an issue in home kitchens. Tthe American Clad website claims that 316Ti is more corrosion resistant than other types of 316 stainless, but our research tells us that this isn't the case. (You can read more about 316Ti here if you want to follow up on that.) It's not a bad stainless by any means; but as far as cooking, it's not really better than regular 316 (marine grade) stainless.
Unfortunately, they don't provide specifications on their website, so we can't make an apples-to-apples comparison to All-Clad (as we haven't sawed one in half yet to do the actual measurements). We do know that the skillets and sauté pans are thicker than the sauce pans and stock pots because those pans need superior heat conductivity--again, a design philosophy similar to Demeyere Atlantis: The pieces that need the mass have it; the pieces that don't do not. Brilliant.
American Clad pieces are priced comparably to All-Clad D3; the set is actually a little higher. But you get better pieces than you do in the AC D3 set, so it's well worth the higher price, in our opinion. It beats the pants off AC D5 and is as good as or better than Copper Core.
Because of these intelligent design choices, we are going to give this cookware a thumbs up, even though we haven't actually tested it. It's gorgeous, it's made in the US, and the set has fabulous pieces (that jumbo skillet would cost a small fortune to buy separately). If you want to buy American and don't like the All-Clad, the American Clad is almost certainly worth the investment.
Anolon Nouvelle Copper Clad Stainless Cookware
Made in China. Bottom clad with a sandwich of copper and aluminum. Despite the surprisingly thick layer of copper (about 0.5mm--that's a lot at this price point), which is enough to impact heating performance, we do not recommend these. They're pretty, but those curved sides are harder to clean and use. The stainless is most likely going to be of marginal quality and the bottom cladding, though impressive, is not enough to compete with fully clad competitors.
Anolon Tri-Ply 12 Piece Set (Amazon)
Anolon Tri-Ply 12.75-inch Skillet (Amazon)
Anolon is the house brand of Meyer Corporation, the largest cookware maker in the world. They make many recognized brands, including many of the celebrity-endorsed brands.
Made in China, it's a reasonably priced, mid-range quality cookware: good enough (and pretty enough) to please buyers who've never used high-end cookware, but not anywhere near high-end quality. (Which is fine: this is nice enough to make a lot of home cooks happy.)
Sidewall thickness: At just under 2.4mm, it's going to be thinner and lighter than All-Clad D3 (2.6mm), with less aluminum and thus mediocre heating properties.
The sets have average (meaning: small) pieces. If you want a lot of cookware and don't mind small sauce pans and skillets, this is pretty and functional cookware that offers average quality and performance, plus the backing of an established manufacturer.
Belkraft International Cookware
Made in USA. Part of the "waterless" cookware selling point, a gimmick if ever there was one. 7-ply stainless with plastic handles and lids. They use a stainless with titanium in it which sounds great, but is really about equal in durability and rust resistance as regular 18/10.
Note: You can use the "waterless" method with any cookware that has a lid. You don't need to buy super high-priced cookware to do it.
We couldn't find a price anywhere; you probably have to sign up for a demonstration to get prices. Much as we like made in USA products, we suspect this cookware is vastly overpriced. The plastic handles/lids are simply awful. They're billed as a unique feature of the cookware, but they're almost certainly there because they cut manufacturing costs.
Bonazza 8"/10" Sauté Pan Set
Made in China. Under $40 for this two pan set. Poor quality, thin, prone to warping. Probably prone to rusting, too.
Bonazza sells an array of different power adapters on Amazon...and this set of sauté pans. Not really a ringing endorsement for quality, despite the many positive reviews. Also: sauté pans without lids doesn't really make sense. (To learn why, see Should I Buy a Skillet or a Sauté Pan, or Both?)
Buffalo AtSpotSet Stainless Cookware
See AtSpotSet 6pc set on Amazon (about $130)
Fully clad tri-ply, made in China. You may have never heard of Buffalo cookware, but we've included it because it has a presence on Amazon that's only going to get bigger. We never heard of it, either, but it appears to be the Asian equivalent of All-Clad: popular cookware with an excellent reputation. Buffalo also makes pressure cookers as well as some other kitchen products, which you can view at the link above.
It isn't very pretty, unless you want something with a waterless vibe that's a bit foreign looking. Also, it's difficult to determine the quality level of this cookware and to know how it will perform. It's even hard to determine the piece sizes, as they are all in metric measurements. (A 24cm skillet, the largest in the image above, is about 9.4 inches--so small.)
For these reasons, we can't recommend this cookware, but we can't tell you to avoid it, either. If you want a waterless type of cookware, you might really like this. At about $42 per piece (lids included), the quality is probably okay.
Calphalon Stainless (all lines)
Made in China, tri-ply and 5-ply. (Note: Calphalon's nonstick Unison line is still made in the US. All other lines are made in China.)
Calphalon makes several lines of clad stainless cookware, with the Signature line (pictured abive and linked to) being the highest priced and presumably the best (just under $600 for the 10-piece set). We don't have thickness numbers for the Signature line, but Calphalon's other clad stainless lines measure less than 2.2mm thick (compare to All-Clad D3's 2.6mm). At the higher price point, we can hope that Signature has comparable aluminum to D3, but we haven't tested it yet, so that is an assumption.
Even if it does, it has glass lids, and some of the pans have 3 rivets to clean around! Not good! Although it's actually very pretty cookware, and decently made for a Chinese product, there are better options.
Cameron's Multi-Roaster and Stock Pot
Made in China, bottom clad. Cameron's is a company that makes numerous grill products and just a couple of pieces of cookware. The multi-roaster is kind of a neat idea, technically giving you 3 pieces in one: a pan you can use as a roaster or stock pot, and a lid that doubles as a frying pan.
There's nothing special about this cookware, but for roasters and stock pots, it's perfectly fine. Reviewers say it's good quality and durable. Note that the roaster is oval shaped: it looks round in the pic but it isn't. Some reviewers say it doesn't really work as a frying pan because of the shape, but they like the piece anyway because it's a good roaster.
The prices aren't really all that good compared to other Chinese made stainless cookware. But if you like the design and don't mind the bottom cladding, you might be happy with either of these pieces.
Chef's Star Induction Cookware Set
See Cher's Star cookware on Amazon (about $190 for the 17 piece set shown)
Made in China, bottom clad. ("Impact bonded" means bottom clad.) This Chinese cookware is "built to last" but has only a 1-year warranty--compare that to other Chinese brands Tramontina and Cuisinart MC Pro, which both have limited lifetime warranties.
Christoper Kimball 5-Ply Cookware
Fully clad tri-ply. Made by 1919 (see above), Christopher Kimball 5-ply cookware is nice, but in our opinion vastly overpriced--more than $300 for these two skillets! (Granted, they're big--10-inch and 12-inch--but it's still a lot. To compare, you can get a set of All-Clad D3 10"/12" skillets for about $220.) And we're not sure how this is different from their other 3-ply line, other than marketing jargon and handle design. (Note: A lot of "5-ply" cookware is just tri-ply with two paper thin alloys of aluminum that bond better to the stainless; perhaps technically 5-ply, but for all practical purposes it's just stainless-aluminum-stainless construction.)
If you want top quality, made in USA cookware that's cheaper than All-Clad and probably almost as good, get the original 1919.
See Circulon Momentum nonstick set on Amazon (about $180--pictured)
See Circulon Genesis nonstick set on Amazon (about $130)
Bottom clad, PTFE nonstick, made in China and Thailand. Circulon is a popular nonstick cookware brand in the US. The Momentum is probably their top-of-the-line with its clad stainless exterior, alumimun interior, and PTFE cooking surface.
We are not big fans of any nonstick cookware, and Circulon is no exception. In fact, this is a really mediocre cookware brand. At this price, it's not a terrible option, but even if you love nonstick, you simply don't need it for every piece. And if you want nonstick cookware, tri-ply is not the way to go because the coating is going to wear out long before the rest of the pan--not to mention you'll pay too much for it.
You'd be better off with daily cookware like Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad or Cuisinart MC Pro, supplemented with an All-Clad HA1 hard anodized nonstick skillet (a set of two for about $30 each or $50 each for the larger sizes).
Cook N Home Stainless Steel Cookware
Made in China. Bottom clad. Despite the many positive reviews, this is cheap Chinese cookware. At this price point--about $70 for this 8 piece set--there's no way it can provide good heating or durability. We have nothing else to recommend at this price point, but you'd be better off buying a Tramontina skillet and sauce pan for about the same cost.
Cook's Standard 10 Piece Set (About $140 for this 10 piece set)
Made in China, tri-ply full cladding. Nice looking set with stainless lids, but the 1-star reviews tell the story: poor quality stainless prone to pitting and discoloring. At just over $100 for a 10 piece set (so about $10 per piece), this makes sense. Also, no skillet in the set--just a sauté pan. (Some people prefer sauté pans, but most people prefer skillets.)
Cook's Standard makes an even lower budget line with glass lids, which we also do not like (although this set does have a skillet).
This is super low end cookware. If it's all you can afford, you might prefer it to cheap nonstick. But if you can spend just a little more, you should go with Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad or Cuisinart MC Pro.
Cuisinart Chef's Classic
Made in China. Bottom clad. Much lower price point ($110 for a 11 piece set) and much inferior to Cuisinart's Multiclad Pro line. Okay for a roasting pan or a stock pot that won't take a lot of abuse, but don't buy a set or skillet in this line. Spend a little more and get the MC Pro, which offers performance almost as good as All-Clad D3.
Cuisinart Contour Cookware
See Cuisinart Contour set on Amazon (about $150 for this 13pc set)
Bottom clad, made in China. Cuisinart Multiclad Pro is one of our favorite cookware brands, but most other Cuisinart cookware is mediocre at best, and the Contour is no exception. It's thin, so it will be prone to warping, and it lacks enough aluminum to provide even heating. It has glass lids, which is another hallmark of budget brands. But our least favorite thing about it is the shape: the pot sides taper inward then flare out at the top. This is pretty, sure. But it makes pans a little harder to clean and a little harder to store because they won't stack as well as straight-sided pans, if at all.
If you want Cuisinart, go with the Cuisinart MC Pro for just a little more money and a huge bump in quality.
*Cuisinart French Classic Cookware*
See Cuisinart French Classic cookware on Amazon (about $380 for this 13pc set)
Fully clad tri-ply, made in France. Cuisinart's top end cookware. This is reflected in the price, which is the highest of all their lines.
It's beautiful cookware, with standard pieces (8/10" skillets, 1.5/2.5qt sauce pans) except for an 8qt stock pot with a pasta/steamer insert.
Cuisinart French Classic, like Multiclad Pro, is very close in quality and construction to All-Clad D3. And while considerably less expensive than All-Clad, it's also considerably more than Multiclad Pro. So our recommendation is to go with the MC Pro, but if you don't want a Chinese product, the French Classic is a lovely--though more expensive--alternative.
*Cuisinart Multiclad Pro*
See Cuisinart MC Pro on Amazon (about $215/180/130 for a 12/10/7pc set)
Made in China, MC Pro is closest in quality and design to All-Clad D3 of any other D3 knockoff we know of (except Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad). It has almost the same wall thickness, the same amount of aluminum, and thus very similar performance. Because it's made in China, the steel quality is an unknown.
Some of the pieces also have glass lids, so be careful of that if you decide to buy: read the listing carefully to be sure you get the kind of lid you want.
Even so, it's high quality cookware at a low price point (about $200 for a 12 piece set). The set pieces are pretty average--8/10" skillets, 1.5/3qt sauce pans--except for a lovely 8qt stock pot with a steamer insert; both excellent pieces.
Highly recommended, top-of-the-line budget cookware.
Culina Stainless 12-in. Skillet with Lid
See Culina skillet on Amazon (about $50)
Full tri-ply cladding, made in China. Culina also makes/imports a stock pot and steamer, as well as other kitchenware products. They do not sell a full set of cookware.
At 2mm thick, this doesn't have enough cladding to provide even heating (compare to All-Clad D3, which is 2.6mm thick). This is so thin that it will also be prone to warping under high heat or rapid temperature changes. It's a pretty pan, and the helper handle is a necessity on a 12in. skillet. But you can get better quality for about the same cost (or less) with Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad or Cuisinart MC Pro.
Cusibox Stainless Steel Cookware Set
See Cusibox cookware on Amazon (about $180 for this 14pc set)
Tri-ply, fully clad, made in China. Cusibox seems to be another importer of Chinese goods, mostly kitchenware items.
If you're looking for a starter set and need a lot of pieces for a low price, this might be a good choice. With a one year warranty (ridiculous), you shouldn't have high expectations. But if you don't expect it to last, then you might be happy with this as a starter set until you can afford something better.
The skillets are small, but the stock pot is huge, and the steamer is a nice extra. We also kind of like the stainless utensils, which will probably outlast the cookware.
Dealz Frenzy Multiclad Pro Cookware
Tri-ply, possibly bottom clad only, and almost certainly made in China. With a name like Dealz Frenzy, this cookware makes no pretense of being anything other than what it is: a cheap clad stainless All-Clad knockoff. Dealz Frenzy is an importer of a number of products, from fish food to rugs. This doesn't mean the quality is awful, but it's rarely an indication of top-of-the-line cookware, either.
Dealz Frenzy also makes a few other sets (see here and here) one of which is clearly bottom clad and the other is meant to compete with the low end "copper" nonstick market (which contains no actual copper). It's all entry level stuff.
The stainless set pictured here is actually very pretty cookware, with big, nicely-shaped handles and stainless lids. But at this price point--about $130 for a 12 piece set (that's less than $11 per pot!)--don't expect great things.
It's confusing as to whether this is fully clad or bottom clad: the writeup calls it tri-ply, but you can clearly see in the photo that there's a seam on the bottom, indicating bottom cladding. It's possible that it's both, with some pieces fully clad (frying pan) and some pieces bottom-clad (sauce pans and stock pots); there are a few brands like this. Our best guess, though, is bottom cladding.
In any case, we doubt anyone would be happy with this cookware. And that's a shame, because it appears to have no warranty at all. It's possible we just missed this info, because the writeup is really vague and a little confusing. But if there's a warranty, we couldn't find it.
The pieces are also small, with the large skillet being only 9.5 inches and the stockpot 5.6 quarts.
You can do better than this. Buy instead: Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad, Cuisinart MC Pro. You'll pay a little more, but the quality of both brands is tried and true, and both have limited lifetime warranties.
Deik Cookware Set
Made in China, bottom-clad (which is easy to tell by this picture--see the seam?). This is an example of a cookware that gets really good reviews, but we can't recommend. At this price point (about $100 for a 10-piece set!), it's unlikely that this is good quality clad stainless cookware. It's almost certainly going to be thin, prone to warping, without enough aluminum to provide even heating.
Glass lids just make it worse.
See Demeyere Atlantis cookware on Amazon (about $750 for a 6pc set)
See Demeyere Industry 5 cookware on Amazon (about $1000 for a 10 pc set)
Made in Belgium. In the Atlantis line, curved-sided pieces are fully-clad (skillets, sauciers), and straight-sided pieces are bottom clad (saute pans, sauce pans, stock pots). 7-ply cladding. The Industry 5 pieces are fully clad 5-ply (stainless-aluminum-aluminum-aluminum-stainless).
Demeyere is top-of-the-line clad stainless cookware. All lines have significantly more aluminum than All-Clad D3, providing significantly better, more even heating. The bottom-clad Atlantis pieces contain a 2mm slab of copper, plus silver for incredibly even heating.
If you can afford it, this is probably the best clad stainless cookware on the market.
You can read more about Demeyere in our All-Clad Vs Demeyere: Which Is Better?, All-Clad D5 Vs. Demeyere Industry 5: Which Is Better?, Top 5 Clad Stainless Cookware Brands, and The Best Cookware for Every Budget.
*Duxtop Tri-Ply Stainless Cookware*
Made in China, tri-ply (be careful--there is a bottom clad set at the same link). About $170 for a 10 piece set.
If ever we wanted to trust and love a budget brand, Duxtop is it. Duxtop, made by Secura, is a budget kitchenware brand, but they have a reputation for quality that exceeds their low prices. They make an inexpensive, stainless French press that we loooooove (read more about it here), and of course, their portable induction cooktops are superior to pretty much everything else in that price range. (See our Duxtop PIC review here.)
Go ahead and take a chance on the Duxtop Whole Clad. At about $170 for a 10 piece set that's very pretty and has great handles and lids, it's worth the risk if you're on a tight budget. It's going to be thinner than our one of our top 3 picks, and the set pieces are pretty average (although the 3 quart sauce pan and 6 quart stock pot are decent). If you hate it, there's a limited lifetime warranty that Secura/Duxtop has a reputation for honoring.
ELO Premium Black Pearl/ELO Skyline Stainless Cookware
See ELO Black Pearl cookware on Amazon (about $300 for a 7 piece set)
See ELO Skyline cookware on Amazon (about $75 for a 10 piece set)
See ELO Premium Multilayer cookware on Amazon (about $275 for an 8 piece set)
Made in China, bottom-clad (Black Pearl and Skyline) and tri-ply (Premium Multilayer). The Black Pearl is a "waterless" cookware with vented lids for "maximum nutrient retention." (This is a gimmick: You can cook this way with any cookware--you don't need to buy special "waterless" cookware). Very economically priced, with the Skyline significantly cheaper.
While ELO brands itself as "German-engineered" cookware, it's really just another Chinese brand without a lot going for it other than the low price--despite its many positive reviews and awards won. (Winning awards may sound impressive, but it's hard to know what that actually means. A lot of "awards" are there for marketing purposes and don't mean very much. We would have to do more research to find out, so until we do, we remain skeptical, especially at this ridiculously low price point.)
The Good: Etched measures inside, drip-free pour spouts, and an encapsulated base that's thick enough to provide good, even heating.
The Bad: Mediocre construction, plastic handles, glass lids, no skillets in sets, small pot sizes in sets, only 6 year warranty.
A 6 year warranty?!? For stainless cookware, this is crazy. Most clad stainless cookware has a lifetime warranty (even many Chinese knockoffs), even at budget prices. For the poor warranty alone, we do not recommend this cookware.
Epicurious Stainless 11Pc Set
See Epicurious 11Pc set on Amazon (about $150)
Bottom clad, made in China. (Note: The other sets on this Amazon page are aluminum nonstick. This is the only clad stainless set at this link.) Since Epicurious is a magazine/recipe website, they aren't likely to own factories where they manufacture their own cookware. This is important because it means that this cookware is OEM'd from a Chinese manufacturer. And while that doesn't automatically mean the quality is poor, it certainly doesn't get a vote of confidence from us. (This is true for almost all celebrity-endorsed cookware lines, by the way, including Rachel Ray, Paula Deen, Jamier Oliver, Emeril, etc.)
Some people might find the swoopy, curved shape of this cookware attractive. But we look at it and think about all the issues you can have with it. Namely, that it's harder to clean and harder to store (the pieces won't stack as nicely as straight-sided cookware). The glass lids are more prone to breaking than stainless, and also can be an indication of lower quality cookware.
*Fissler Original Profi Cookware Set*
See Fissler Profi cookware on Amazon (about $550 for 9pc set with glass lids, $600 for 8pc set with stainless lids)
Made in Germany, bottom clad. Americans are probably most familiar with the Fissler stovetop pressure cookers, also bottom clad and very high quality. Fissler cookware is less popular here, but that doesn't mean it's not a good choice. It may be exactly what you're looking for (you just didn't know it yet).
Most Americans prefer fully clad cookware, largely because of the All-Clad influence on the market. However, some bottom clad cookware is just as good (and in some cases better) than fully clad cookware. Fissler is one of those brands. (Demeyere Atlantis is another.)
With good quality bottom clad cookware, the disc is thick--much thicker than the cladding on fully clad cookware. It also covers the entire bottom of the pan and extends a millimeter or so up the sides. You can see both of these traits in the Fissler image above. (Compare to lower quality bottom clad cookware, in which the disc is much thinner, and smaller than the bottom surface of the pan.)
The aluminum layer is a quarter of an inch, or about 6.4mm. Compare this to All-Clad full cladding, which has 1.7mm of aluminum. Very impressive!
Fissler is excellent quality, with the price tag to prove it. The set with stainless lids is more "American," as it includes skillets; the glass lid set is a "waterless" set and has no skillets.
The Good: Extremely high quality, rivetless handles (easier to clean!), laser-etched measurements, drip-free rim. At 28cm/11in., the large skillet is bigger than average.
The Bad: No skillet in glass lid set, and that excellent bottom cladding makes the cookware feel somewhat unbalanced until you get used to it.
If you're looking for something a little different, or something with a European flair, Fissler is an excellent choice.
Frigidaire Stainless Induction Ready Cookware Set
See Frigidaire 5pc cookware set on Amazon (about $90)
Bottom clad, made in China. This Frigidaire set is made in China by Meyer Corporation, one of the largest producers of cookware in the world. They make Anolon, Circulon, Farberware, Silverstone, and the new Heston Nanobond (reviewed below).
This is a budget cookware set with glass lids and no other pieces available, which is unfortunate, because these are small pots: a 1.5qt sauce pan, a 3qt sauté pan, and a 5qt stock pot. And no skillet! (Who doesn't need a skillet??)
See "American Clad" above.
See "American Clad" above.
Hestan Nanobond (Williams-Sonoma exclusive)
Made in Italy. Extremely expensive ($800 for 5 piece set!), claiming new technology that's better than traditional clad stainless in every way. The Hestan Cue induction plate is available on Amazon, and also claims to be a revolutionary cooking system that offers the accuracy of sous vide in a hot plate at a reasonable price.
While it might be what it claims, we're doubtful. To be honest, the claims are bold, and Heston Nanobond is made by the Meyer Corporation, which is best known for several average quality cookware lines including Circulon, Anolon, several lines of celebrity-endorsed nonstick cookware, and both Macy's and Sur la Table's in-house brands. Not terrible cookware, but not top notch, either.
That doesn't mean the Heston Nanobond isn't revolutionary; it may well be. But even if it is, it's too expensive.
*Homi Chef Nickel Free Stainless Cookware*
Bottom clad, made in China and Korea. At about $7 per piece for the 14 piece set and about $10 per piece for the 10 piece copper-banded set, Homi Chef is entry level cookware through and through. But even so, there are a few things we really like about this cookware.
If you have a nickel sensitivity, you don't have a lot of options for stainless cookware. That's because nickel-free stainless steel (called "18/0" or "400 series") rusts more easily than stainless that contains nickel (called "18/8," "18/10," "316," or "300 series"). Homi Chef probably uses nickel-free stainless to keep costs down, but at the same time, it's great for people who want to avoid nickel.
In some ways, Homi Chef is typical low end cookware, with glass lids and bottom only cladding. But even so, Homi Chef is a cut or two above other cookware at this price point. The main reason is that they're out there with some important info: they actually provide specs on their cladding: 4mm for the stainless set and 5mm for the copper banded set! Even though this is for the bottom disc only, this is unheard of for other Chinese cookware, especially at this price.
(When you consider that All-Clad D3 is 2.6mm thick, this sounds really impressive. But for bottom cladding to be effective, it has to be considerably thicker than full cladding--as discussed above in the Fissler review. So 4mm/5mm isn't as impressive as it sounds at first. But even without knowing the amount of aluminum in the bottom capsule, it's almost certainly more than most bottom clad cookware in this price category. And they get big points for providing this information.)
If you want nickel-free cookware, Homi Chef is worth the risk. The set pieces are average sizes (meaning smallish), and don't expect the copper band on the higher priced set to provide anything other than beauty, as there's not enough of it to enhance heating performance.
There are a lot of things we don't like about this cookware, but if you're sensitive to nickel, it's a good option. It's not going to last as long as 18/10 cookware--a fact reflected by the 6 year warranty--but at this price point, it doesn't have to.
Kitchara 8 Piece Set (Amazon, about $400 for 8 pc set)
5 ply cookware made in China, assembled in the US. With the 5-ply construction, this set is probably meant to compete with All-Clad D5 (which costs a lot more). The Kitchara doesn't seem to be available by piece, but the set has excellent pieces, including 10- and 12-inch skillet and 2- and 4-quart sauce pans. It's also very pretty.
It's trendy right now, but we don't like the s-a-s-a-s construction--to be fair, we haven't measured it, but we can assume that with that extra stainless layer, there's less heat-spreading aluminum than you get in All-Clad D3. The cost is similar to the All-Clad D3, but you get better pieces in the Kitchara set--a big plus.
Kitchara also has a helpful website and top notch customer service--more pluses that make us want to give this brand a chance.
See Lagostina Axia on Amazon (10 piece set app. $250--pictured here)
See Lagostina Tri-Ply on Amazon (12 piece set app. $130)
See Lagostina Martellata Copper Clad on Amazon (10 piece set app. $400)
Tri-ply (and Copper "clad" ply), made in China. Lagostina is another brand that we wanted to love. It's a 100 year old Italian company, bought by Groupe SEB in 2005 (the huge French conglomerate that owns All-Clad, T-fal, and many other kitchenware brands). All Lagostina cookware was at one time made in Italy, and if you only paid attention to their marketing, you'd probably think it still is. Phrases like "Italian craftsmanship" and "Italian culture," plus an endorsement by Giada de Laurentis, are plainly meant to suggest Italian-made cookware. But all Lagostina cookware sold in the US is now made in China; according to their Wikipedia page, all of their cookware is now made in China.
The Axia set linked to here has ceramic nonstick skillets. You are much better off buying a set with stainless skillets and supplementing with lower cost cast aluminum nonstick; your stomach won't do flip flops when you have to throw out that clad stainless pan that's like new on the outside. Ceramic is worse than PTFE/Teflon when it comes to longevity.
The Martellata line has a copper exterior, but while gorgeous, the copper layer is too thin to add any actual performance enhancement. In fact, it appears to be an electroplated coating, no thicker than a piece of paper. If you want copper performance, you need significantly more copper than this (but yes, they are pretty).
Lagostina is overall very pretty cookware. But the truth is that it's a Chinese brand that's really nothing special. We also give it negative points for the deceptive, "Italian crafted" marketing.
le Creuset 14 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set (about $1000 on Amazon)
5 Piece Set (about $300 on Amazon)
10 Piece Set (about $560 on Amazon)
Made in Portugal (recently transitioned from China). Tri-ply. This cookware is not the same quality as le Creuset's enameled cast iron cookware made in France. It is an OEM product labeled as le Creuset. The lids are "vented" probably to compete with "waterless" cookware (much of which sells at a higher price point than "regular" clad stainless). But as we've already mentioned, waterless cookware is a total gimmick because you can cook that way with any lidded cookware.
The good: It's pretty, every piece comes with a lid, it has measurement markings inside the pots.
The bad: It's not made in France. Expensive (5 piece set is about $300, 10 piece set is about $560). Thinner sidewalls than All-Clad D3 (meaning less even heating).
This le Creuset stainless cookware is a good reminder that just because a manufacturer is top notch for one product doesn't mean they have the same standards for everything. Nowhere is this more true than with cookware! Always, always do your research and don't just buy based on a name or reputation.
Lenox Stainless Cookware Set
See Lenox stainless cookware set on Amazon (10pc, about $170)
Tri-ply full cladding, made in China. This is another Chinese cookware set, quite likely made in the same factory as many of the other no-name brands on Amazon. Lenox sells several products from band saws to table cloths, and are probably best known for their flatware.
It's a very pretty cookware set with some nice pieces, including an 8qt stock pot and a 3.6qt deep sauté pan. And at about $17 apiece, the pieces are right on the border between "too cheap to bother with" and "possibly decent quality."
You can get a 12 piece set of Cuisinart Multicald Pro for about $40 more. The MC Pro is definitely a safer decision, and the set pieces are similar, including the 8qt stock pot.
See the Made In website (about $250 for this 3pc set)
Made in USA. This is a newer brand, financed with a Kickstart campaign, if that affects your thoughts about it one way or the other. Their sales shtick is direct marketing to consumers via their website. They claim this saves you money--yet many of the pieces are as pricey, or almost as pricey, as All-Clad D3.
It's 5-ply, but doesn't state what those plies are, so it's either got a layer of internal stainless or it's a glorified version of tri-ply. Either way, 5-ply without a clear explanation of the plies is a little bit gimmicky. Its sidewalls are 2.7mm, beating out All-Clad D3/D5 by 0.1mm; no doubt intentionally, to impress savvy shoppers. (But without knowing the exact composition, it's hard to know if it actually beats All-Clad D3 performance. If the added thickness is from stainless steel, it won't beat All-Clad D3. If the added thickness is aluminum, it will. Unfortunately there's no way to know without actually testing it and/or cutting it open to look at the internal structure, which we haven't gotten around to doing yet.)
The pieces in the sets are underwhelming: the basic set of their "most popular pieces" is comprised of 3 small pieces (2 quart sauce pan, 10-inch skillet, 5-quart stock pot). It looks great on paper, but in real life, those are all smaaaall pieces. For example, a 2-quart sauce pan is not large enough to boil a 1-lb box of pasta (and hardly large enough to boil half that much). And if you like to meal prep by freezing large batches of stock, soup, or stew, a 5-quart stock pot is just barely going to get it done for you.
Also, the skillet has very sloped sides, making for a small flat surface area. This wouldn't matter so much if it were a 12in. skillet, but this 10in. skillet has a pretty tiny cooking surface--check the photo above to see what we mean.
It's probably decent cookware, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee. But if you're going to spend the moola, we're not sure there's an advantage to buying this over the All-Clad D3.
Magma Nesting Cookware Set
Tri-ply full cladding, probably made in China (based on price, about $175 for the 10 piece set). This set of nesting cookware is designed for small spaces like boat and RV kitchens, with the entire set fitting into a space smaller than 10x10x10 inches. That's a pretty slick feature for anyone with a tiny kitchen space--but is the cookware any good?
It might be fine, meaning that it performs as well as any middle range, Chinese made cookware. The real problem is the handles, which are going to cause problems, because removable handles pretty much always do. They'll get looser with each use until you'll be afraid to use them to pick a hot pan off a stove.
As you might guess, the pan sizes are also pretty small--although the set does include a 10-inch sauté pan and a 5-quart stock pot (impressive for how tiny the total set is).
Why not just get a skillet, sauce pan, and stock pot? With these 3 pieces (plus a baking sheet or two), you can do everything you need to do, with no worries about the handles falling off. And for about the same price, you can buy top notch brands like Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad, Cuisinart MC Pro, or even All-Clad D3.
Maxam Waterless Cookware
See Maxam cookware set on Amazon (about $250 for the set shown)
Bottom clad, made in China. This is yet another cheap Chinese knockoff of Saladmaster, the original and astronomically priced waterless cookware. Maxam has an added shtick of adjustable vents on the lids, which don't add a lot to the cookware except more pieces to fall apart.
Whether you're interested in waterless cookware or plain ol' clad stainless, you can do better than this set. Maxam is another Amazon importer who sells everything from flasks to luggage. This is probably the same set (meaning: made in the same factory out of the same materials, but with different finishes and labels) as the other Chinese waterless cookware around at this price point. (In fact, see the microreview for World's Finest cookware below--it's almost certainly the exact same product.)
It's got a couple of unique pieces, and the pan sizes are actually decent, with an 11.5" sauté pan and a 7.5 quart roaster. But overall, this is probably not a very high quality set of cookware, and the adjustable vents, which are made of plastic, aren't going to last.
Michelangelo Stainless Cookware
See Michelangelo stainless cookware on Amazon (about $100 for 10pc set)
Bottom clad, made in China, limited lifetime warranty. Michelangelo is a German cookware company that's been around since the 1930s and formerly known as Michelin. While they boast "German engineering," this is, unfortunately, not the same cookware that was once made in Germany. Michelangelo is better known these days for their budget nonstick "copper" cookware (which is copper-colored and contains no real copper).
The glass lids and average pieces make this an uninteresting set: 8/10" skillets, 2/2.5qt sauce pans, and 5qt stock pot. Small.
If you can't afford to buy a better quality set (like Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad or Cuisinart MC Pro), you should probably just start with a skillet and a sauce pan in one of those brands, then add to your pieces as you can afford to.
Made in China. 5 ply full cladding. Another "save by eliminating the middle man," kickstarter-funded brand.
The good: Their prices are reasonable, their sets have nice pieces in them, and at 3.0mm thickness, you'll never have to worry about warping. They also make knives and offer a couple of cool sets that include a knife or two.
The bad: This is 5-ply with an internal layer of stainless--meaning it will be slower to spread heat than a pan with no internal stainless. And remember that, despite the Kickstarter funding, this is made in China, which may mean poor quality.
Recommended? It's hard to say. The 5-ply is gimmicky and unnecessary, but the 3.0mm thick walls are impressive. We need to get our hands on some and try it out before we can say one way or the other. In the meantime, you can buy the Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad for about the same price, and are almost guaranteed to love it.
Momscook Stainless Cookware
See Momscook 11pc set on Amazon (about $140)
Full tri-ply cladding, made in China. This isn't a well known brand, but we included it because it's pretty cookware with stainless lids and handles and a couple of nice pieces in the set (an 8 qt stock pot with steamer insert and a 3qt sauce pan). The skillets are small (8/9.5"), however, and the 3.5qt sauté pan is pretty average, as well. You might be tempted to buy it for its "German technology," but there's better stuff out there.
For about the same cost you can get a 7pc set of Cuisinart Multiclad Pro--a brand of known quality.
(If you want to read something funny, check out the Momscook writeup on Amazon. Bad translations can be very entertaining.)
Mr Rudolf Cookware
Bottom (disc) clad, economically-priced Chinese import with glass lids. Induction compatible. The quality is average, so if you want low-priced pieces for some of your lesser-used cookware, this is a decent option. Probably OEM as some of the pieces look suspiciously like other brands. We don't recommend this for frying pans or other hard use cookware. We also don't care for the glass lids, but if they don't bother you, and the bottom cladding doesn't bother you, it's probably fine if you want to save a few bucks. The sauce pan/double boiler/steamer trifecta pot is a great way to get a lot of functionally at a really low price.
OXO Good Grips Tri-Ply Stainless Cookware
See OXO 13pc set on Amazon (just under $400)
Full tri-ply cladding, made in China. OXO is better known for their utensils, but they make several lines of cookware, too. This OXO clad stainless gets glowing reviews, and by all accounts is a durable, well made product. At about $30 per piece, and with the OXO reputation, it's probably a good product.
The good: Nice pan sizes, including a 12in. skillet and 8 qt stock pot. The sauce pans are curved, like sauciérs, which makes them more functional (a whisk can reach everywhere). Measurements are etched into the insides. All of these indicate thoughtful, well-planned design. They're also very pretty, and have enough heft that we suspect the heating properties are better than average for Chinese tri-ply. They also have a limited lifetime warranty backed by OXO's excellent reputation for customer service.
The bad: Glass lids, unknown heating properties.
If you like the glass lids, this is a nice set at a reasonable price--less than All-Clad D3, more than our budget favorites Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad and Cuisinart MC Pro. We can't recommend the OXO cookware because we haven't tested it. But with the OXO name, it's probably worth the risk if you like the looks of it.
Bottom clad, probably made in China (at about $200 for this 14 piece set, it's doubtful that it's made in Germany). Rösle is probably best known in the US for its high quality kitchen utensils. And they are beautiful, top-of-the-line, utensils--once made in Germany, now made in China.
Being made in China does not automatically mean the quality is poor; many companies have excellent quality control in Chinese factories. However, we can surmise from the price point of this Rösle cookware that the quality probably isn't all that great. Glass lids are also an indication of lower quality and cost-cutting.
We would love to recommend the Rösle cookware, having had a long-standing love affair with their utensils. And if you want German or waterless styling, this is probably one of the better economy sets to get. Like most of the German-style cookware they have measurements etched inside the pans and are rivetless for easy cleaning (both nice features). But once again, we prefer our tried-and-true faves, Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad, Cuisinart MC Pro or (if you can afford it) All-Clad D3.
RSVP International Double Boiler
RSVP International is a Chinese importer that sells a number of kitchen tools and utensils, although this is their only piece of cookware (so far). (It's probably an OEM product, as it looks suspiciously like this cookware.) It's a disc-clad, induction compatible double boiler that comes in 1 qt and 2 qt sizes--these are both small, and best used for small batches of delicate sauces. The quality is most likely mediocre, but it gets decent reviews, and it's a piece you probably won't use all that often, so the quality will probably work for you. So if you want a smallish double boiler at an economical price, it's a decent option.
Stone & Beam Tri-Ply Cookware
Tri-ply. Based on the price (less than $120 for this 12 piece set), probably made in China, although this isn't made clear in the Amazon writeup.
It's actually gorgeous cookware, with a lot of individual pieces available. The 12 quart stock pot is a great buy (and plenty good quality for a stock pot). For daily cookware, however, it's doubtful that this will hold up very well.
T-fal Multiclad Cookware
See T-fal Multiclad cookware set on Amazon (about $150 for 12pc set)
Fully clad tri-ply, made in China. If you love T-fal but don't want nonstick, this is the set to get. It has the best pieces, including a 12in. skillet, 3qt sauce pan, and 6qt stock pot with steamer insert. The small sauce pan (1.5qt) is a filler piece (who needs 3 small sauce pans?).
T-fal Performa Stainless Cookware
See T-fal Performa cookware set on Amazon (about $120 for an 11pc set)
Fully clad, made in China. T-fal's stainless set with "Techno Release" technology on the skillets that are supposed to prevent sticking. (All-Clad also makes a bumpy-bottomed skillet, and it doesn't work very well, either.)
Another mediocre set with average-sized set pieces (8/10" skillet, 1/3qt sauce pans, 5qt stock pot). The measuring spoons are a little bonus, and count as the 11th piece. You have the option to get stainless or stainless/silicone handles.
Glass lids and thin walls make this a budget set.
T-fal Stainless Steel Copper Bottom Cookware
Made in China. Bottom-clad. T-fal is best known for its nonstick cookware (in fact the name "T fal" is derived from the word "Teflon"), most of which is of decent, but not stellar, quality. (We like their T-fal Professional skillet, but it is not our favorite because the stamped aluminum is thin compared to cast aluminum nonstick pans you can get for just a few dollars more.)
When you see the 4,000+ positive reviews on Amazon, you might think we don't know what we're talking about. But on this particular Amazon page, T-fal has lumped their stainless cookware in with their nonstick cookware. The vast majority of reviews on this page are for the nonstick cookware, and not the stainless set seen here.
It's not horrible cookware, but it's bottom-clad only, and the copper layer is probably too thin to add much heating performance. And it has glass lids.
We also deduct points for the tricky way they lumped the reviews together, conflating their more popular product with their less popular product.
*Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Cookware*
Made in China and Brazil, with the Chinese being the best deal and no discernible difference in quality. Fully clad tri-ply. See our Tramontina review for detailed info.
This is our choice if you're on a budget. The 12-piece set from Wal-Mart for about $300 is one of the best cookware deals on the planet.
Be careful that you're buying the "Tri-Ply Clad" line of cookware: Tramontina also makes several lines of bottom-clad cookware.
True Induction TIGourmet 10 Piece Tri-Ply Cookware Set
True Induction makes nice induction cooktops (see our review here). So we really want to like their cookware. Compared to other low-cost brands, like Tramontina, however, True Induction is probably a cut below. It's hard to tell, though, because the write up is pretty vague. In fact, it doesn't even list the skillet sizes--bad, bad, bad!
We also hate the glass lids (but you already knew that if you've been reading this article).
If you want to take a chance on some really low-priced cookware, True Induction has enough brand recognition for us to give it a "maybe." And at about $250 for a 10 piece set, it's a bargain--but not so much of a bargain that it's certain to be absolute crap (i.e., $25/piece).
On the other hand, why take a risk when you can get a known brand for about the same cost (or just a little more)? You're probably better off with one of our other bargain choices: Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad or Cuisinart MC Pro.
USA Pan 5-ply 8 Piece Set (Amazon--about $365)
USA Pan Skillets (3 sizes, including 13-inch pan with cover) (Amazon)
5-ply made in USA.
This company is better known for its top notch bakeware, but their clad stainless set is well-priced--not cheap, but less than All-Clad D3--and seems to be of good quality. Their set pieces are average, they aren't the prettiest cookware, and the 5-ply is gimmicky. They're also not clear about what the plies actually are, or their thicknesses, both of which makes it hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison with All-Clad D3.
Despite these drawbacks, it's probably decent quality clad stainless cookware at a good price--and made in the USA, if that's important to you.
If buying US-made cookware is important to you and you want to save some money over All-Clad, give this cookware a try.
Viking Professional 3 Ply/5-Ply
Viking currently has 4 cookware lines (as of early 2019). The Viking "Professional" 3- and 5-ply are made in the USA by the Clipper Corporation. Their other lines (with glass lids) are made in China.
The US made cookware is goooorgeous and we wanted to love it. But like so many others, the construction falls short. At a thickness of about 2.5mm, the 3-ply is thinner than All-Clad D3, meaning less heat-spreading aluminum. Yet it actually costs more than All-Clad D3. (That's what name recognition will do for you.)
The 5-ply doesn't impress us, either. If you want 5-ply, Demeyere Industry 5 is a better option for the same or maybe even less; Demeyere Atlantis is even better. If you want a tried and true 3-ply, stick with All-Clad D3.
Needless to say, the made-in-China Viking is a nonstarter: overpriced, with average to poor performance.
Tri-ply, fully clad, made in USA. Vollrath makes several lines of cookware with the Tribute being their top quality line, with sidewalls even thicker than All-Clad D3 and offering better performance due to a thicker aluminum core. It's also less expensive, with a 12-inch skillet going for around $95.
The good: Excellent performance, good price, made in USA. Some pans come with a tough silicone handle designed to hold up in commercial kitchens (if it matters to you, be sure which handle you're getting before you click "buy").
The bad: Since it's made primarily for commercial kitchens, it isn't available in sets. It's getting harder to find on Amazon, and lids are sold separately (even for sauce pans and stock pots). And, because of the heavy gauge construction, these are heavy pans.
Some pieces of Tribute also have 4 rivets (as you can see in the image above), which are a pain to clean around (not to mention overkill).
If you want top quality American-made cookware that's built like a tank at a lower price than All-Clad, Vollrath Tribute is a decent option.
About other Vollrath lines: All Vollrath cookware is good quality cookware, with the Tribute being the best.
Wearever Cook and Strain Stainless Steel Cookware
See Wearever Cook and Strain cookware on Amazon (about $70 for this 10pc set)
Made in China. Bottom-clad. Yes, once upon a time this was an American brand, but no more. Despite the glowing reviews, we do not recommend this cookware. Wearever used to be a good brand, but the quality has suffered.
Bottom clad cookware, made in China or Vietnam. This is another German brand of goofy waterless style cookware like ELO (in fact, we suspect they may be made in the same factory as they're so similar in appearance and have similar selling points). WMF makes several kitchenware products sold on Amazon, including Silit cookware which is also made in China.
Some people really love WMF cookware and think it to be very high quality. At this price point, though, we don't expect a lot. Unless you really want to try the waterless style cookware, go with Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad or Cuisinart MC Pro (and incidentally, you can cook "waterlessly" with either of these brands, as well).
Wolf Gourmet Stainless Steel Cookware
See Wolf cookware on Amazon (about $1000 for the set shown)
Made in USA. 7-ply (s-a-s-a-s-a-s), fully clad. You'd think Wolf, as a maker of top-of-the-line gourmet appliances, would also have top quality cookware. And their cookware is heavy and well made, that's for sure. Unfortunately, their 7-ply design has alternating layers of aluminum and stainless, and as we've mentioned, internal stainless steel does nothing but slow down the pan's performance. Internal stainless is a cost-effective way to make cookware sound more impressive than it really is--and to charge more for it.
The most you can say about 7-ply cookware is that its mass will make it perform like cast iron. But cast iron is a lot cheaper.
If you want multi-ply cookware with a ton of heat spreading aluminum (not to mention copper and even silver), go with anything by Demeyere.
World's Finest 7 Ply Steam Control Cookware Set
See World's Finest cookware set on Amazon (about $330 for the set shown)
If this set looks familiar to you, see the Maxam microreview above.
This is the identical cookware! So here is an example of a product made in China and sold to different companies to put their label on it and sell as their own. It happens all the time, and with more than just cookware.
It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not great either. We know that World's Finest/Maxam are not doing any of their own quality control. And these Chinese OEM products aren't known for high quality. For this reason alone, we would avoid these brands. The gimmicky adjustable vents are another--just more parts to break, without providing anything you can't do yourself by lifting the lid occasionally.
If for some reason you're interested in this cookware, this set is about $80 more than the Maxam set. (And no, that doesn't mean it's better--it's exactly the same.) So go with the Maxam.
*Zwilling/JA Henckels Aurora Cookware*
See Zwilling/JA Henckels Aurora cookware on Amazon (about $600 for this 10pc set)
5-ply (s-a-s-a-s), made in Belgium. Zwilling/JA Henckels owns Demeyere, and their Aurora is a slightly lower quality version of Demeyere Industry 5.
The Industry 5 is rivetless, this has rivets. The Industry 5 has the Silvinox finish, this does not. But the internal construction is identical: 5 layers of thick stainless and aluminum, providing excellent performance.
For about half the cost of Industry 5, and about $100 than All-Clad D3, you can have excellent cookware. Highly recommended.
We hope this list has helped you narrow down your search and know that, even if you're on a tight budget, you can still get excellent clad stainless cookware. You just have to do a little research to know what you're looking for.
We may seem picky in that there are only a few brands we really like. But good quality is hard to find these days, especially when you're on a budget. You should be choosy--very choosy. After all, it's your money!
And thanks for reading!