Best Cookware Brands at a Glance
This table shows our picks for best brands in each category of cookware. We don't recommend using 100% stoneware cookware, so we did not include any of it (it's a good choice for some types of bakeware, but that's a different topic).
We include the basic features and drawbacks of each brand. Be sure to also read the more detailed reviews below to learn more.
Best Clad Stainless Steel
-Excellent heating properties (up to 75% more alum. than AC)
-Made in Belgium.
-Best compromise bet. even heating/maneuverability
-Made in USA.
-No grooved rim for pouring
-Very good compromise bet. even heating/maneuverability
-The 12 pc made-in-China set has great pieces.
-Slightly less even heating than AC
-Made in Brazil or China.
Best PTFE (Teflon) Nonstick
-Most durable, long-lasting nonstick pan
-Some environmentally manufacturing processes
-Made in Denmark
-Still probably won't last more than a 3-5 years
-PTFE industry pollutes the planet with toxins.
Best Budget Option: Anolon Copper Nouvelle
-Copper in base and thick aluminum for exceptional heating
-Proably won't last more than 2-4 years
-PTFE industry pollutes the planet with toxins.
Best Ceramic Nonstick
-Durable, even heating ceramic nonstick
-Most lines are affordable.
-Nanoparticles in coating may have health concerns
-Made in China.
Best Cast Iron
-Durable and last forever
-Excellent for retaining heat
-Healthy alternative to nonstick
-Made in USA.
-Must be seasoned or they will rust and won't be nonstick
Best Enameled Cast Iron
Best Overall: Le Creuset
-Most durable enamel of all brands
-Lightest of all ECI Dutch ovens
-Made in France.
Best Budget Option: Tramontina
-Enamel not quite as durable as LC
-Made in China.
-Fast, even heating
-Made in France.
-Must be polished to retain shine.
Why So Many Brands?
Most cookware companies got their start with one product: All-Clad with clad stainless steel, Lodge with bare cast iron, Mauviel with heavy copper cookware, Le Creuset with enameled cast iron. Then they branched out into other cookware types to round out their product offerings.
The thing is, just because a company makes one type of cookware very well doesn't mean they're going to make all their cookware well. Quite often, a company's secondary lines are mediocre quality.
For example, Le Creuset's enameled cast iron is top-of-the-line; the best in the world. You might think their clad stainless is just as good, but it isn't. In fact, Le Creuset's clad stainless cookware is okay, but it's not the quality of a brand like All-Clad or Demeyere. Even so, brand recognition allows them to charge All-Clad prices for their stainless steel.
Also, quite often a brand's secondary lines are made in China or other countries, and not in the same place as their primary line of cookware. As an example, Lodge bare cast iron is made in the US, but their enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are made in China.
And while All-Clad's aluminum nonstick cookware is good quality, it is made in China. If you're trying to buy American-made cookware, All-Clad nonstick doesn't qualify.
The point here is that if you're in the market for top-of-the-line cookware, go with the brands that are known for whatever cookware you're buying.
How to Choose the Best Cookware for You
The first thing to do when buying cookware is to understand what makes it good (or not so good). Here, we discuss important factors, including objective considerations like heating properties and durability as well as subjective (i.e., personal) considerations such as design, ergonomics, weight, and budget.
You probably aren't going to find cookware that rates high in every category; every type of cookware is a compromise. Which factors are the most important is up to you. Having said that, we think good heating performance is the most important feature to look at, and everything else should be considered after that--but hey, you do you.
Heating performance is arguably the most important trait of any cookware. Yes, you need cookware that's comfortable to use, durable, ideally attractive, and easy to clean. But if the cookware doesn't heat your food well, none of those other things matter.
About Thermal Conductivity and Heat Capacity
We go into great detail in other articles (see our Cookware page) about what constitutes good heating performance. In short, you want cookware that heats quickly and evenly ("thermal conductivity") and that holds onto heat well ("heat capacity"). Since these two properties are at odds with each other, you have to decide which is most important to you and how you're going to compromise.
(Why are they at odds with each other? Because responsiveness is the opposite of the ability to hang onto heat.)
For most people, fast-and-even heating is the most important property for most cooking tasks, which means you want cookware with good thermal conductivity.
Copper has the best thermal conductivity of all the cookware types, with aluminum a fairly close second. Thus, cookware that heats quickly and evenly is copper, aluminum, or some combination of each.
Copper is the most expensive cookware on the market, and requires more maintenance than most other types of cookware. Aluminum is some of the most inexpensive cookware on the market and is found in many types of cookware including nonstick and clad stainless. Stainless steel itself has extremely poor heating properties (i.e., slow, uneven, and unable to hang onto heat), but it's durable, which is why it's "clad" with inner layers of heat-conducting aluminum and/or copper.
The thicker the layers of heat-conducting metal(s), the higher the heat capacity of all cookware. Thus, thicker layers of copper and/or aluminum are going to result in cookware that heats evenly and hangs onto heat well. This is why the higher end cookware performs better, costs more, and is heavier than less expensive brands: thicker layers of copper and/or aluminum.
For some cooking tasks, like deep frying, braising, and high-heat searing (think steaks), heat capacity is the more important property. This is where cast iron, and to a lesser degree, carbon steel, shine: these materials heat slowly and unevenly (i.e., poor thermal conductivity), but they hang onto heat better than anything else. If you want to put a beautiful crispy sear on a steak, it's hard to beat cast iron (although the thick and heavy Demeyere Proline, with almost 4mm of aluminum, comes very close--if you have the budget, we highly recommend this pan).
Since cast iron is nearly nonstick when well-seasoned, it can also fill the void for eggs, fish, and other sticky and delicate foods.
So you see that no cookware excels at everything--this is particularly true for skillets. You may need more than one type of skillet to get the heating performance you want: a good clad stainless pan is a great go-to for quick, even heating, while cast iron is unbeatable for searing and deep frying. You may want to round out your collection with a nonstick skillet if you don't like how your cast iron or carbon steel performs for eggs.
In general, skillets are where you should invest your money because they are where performance matters most. Or, if you prefer the straight-sided sauté pans instead, you can invest there (or have one or more of each).
For sauce pans and stock pots, performance is less important. Liquids create their own currents, spreading heat naturally. So if you're buying a set, our general recommendation is to buy a set with the type of skillet or sauté pan you want, and as long as you buy decent quality, you'll probably be happy with the performance of your sauce pans and stock pots (as long as they're the sizes you want).
(Having said that, we discourage buying sets of nonstick because they don't last and you don't need nonstick on anything but your frying pan.)
If you make delicate sauces or work with delicate ingredients like chocolate or hollandaise, then you will need a sauce pan or sauciér that delivers great performance. Again, good quality, fully clad stainless steel is the best option, unless you can afford copper, which will really shine here. (You can read more about sauce pans and sauciers here.)
For most cookware buyers, durability is a close second to heating performance.
In other words, you should buy cookware that's going to last, that can be used with high heat and metal utensils, that can be scrubbed clean with abrasives when necessary, and that can maybe even be thrown in the dishwasher occasionally.
There's a huge range of durability in the cookware market.
We consider clad stainless steel to be the winner in the durability category. It's tough as nails, doesn't rust, can take high heat, and you can toss most of it in the dishwasher. And, it will last for decades.
Enameled cast iron is a close second, although the enamel can chip and crack, especially on inexpensive brands.
Cast iron and carbon steel are as durable as stainless, but because they require seasoning so as not to rust, we put them in third place.
Copper cookware is quite durable, especially if it has a stainless steel cooking surface (which most of it does these days). However, it scratches easily, and it requires a fair amount of maintenance if you want it to keep its luster--so while it is as durable as stainless, we place it fourth because of the maintenance issue.
Finally, in last place comes nonstick cookware, both PTFE (Teflon) and ceramic. You have to be very careful with both types, and not doing so can easily result in ruining it. Both types scratch easily, and high heat will ruin the nonstick coating; in the case of PTFE, high heat can result in the coating breaking down into toxic chemicals.
We find it surprising how huge the nonstick cookware industry is. People really value cookware that's easy to clean, to the point that they're willing to replace their pans every few years (or even more frequently).
Of course, we understand that ease of cleaning is a priority. Who wants to spend more time in the kitchen scrubbing pots and pans? The irony here is that most types of cookware are easy to clean when you follow a few simple steps, so fragile nonstick cookware simply isn't necessary. We include options for nonstick cookware because we know a lot of people want it, but we highly recommend buying more durable cookware and learning how to use it. (And if you absolutely must have nonstick, we suggest going with ceramic nonstick, simply because it's better for the planet and not as potentially dangerous if it does happen to get overheated.)
Stability refers to how much cookware reacts with food and with the environment (i.e., rusting). Ideally, the amount of reactivity should be zero--in other words, totally stable and non-reactive.
Clad stainless wins this category, as well. It is naturally a very stable, non-reactive surface, with no seasoning or special treatment required. (Since most copper cookware has a stainless steel cooking surface, this also applies to copper.)
Enameled cast iron (and enameled cookware in general) is also very stable and non-reactive, so is a close second. But enamel can chip and crack, so it's not quite up there with stainless steel.
Nonstick cookware is quite stable when used at low temperatures, but can break down under high heat (PTFE in particular). Because you have to be so careful not to use high heat with nonstick cookware, we don't consider it a very stable cooking material--and the consequences of high heat on PTFE can be toxic.
Cast iron and carbon steel are also very stable, but only when seasoned properly. Furthermore, liquids and acidic foods can eat away at seasoning, and cast iron in particular can react with acidic foods, imparting a metallic flavor. You can re-season as often as needed to keep them non-reactive, but even so, we consider cast iron and carbon steel the least stable of any cookware, and, in general, best for skillets and solid foods, and not great for liquids.
Ease of Cleaning
If you're a fan of nonstick cookware, it's probably because it is the winner in this category: it is the easiest to clean of all the cookware types.
In fact, many people will tolerate a lot of faults just to have cookware that cleans up easily: namely, low heat restrictions and the inability to use metal utensils, cooking spray, or the dishwasher. Nonstick cookware also has a finite life span of 1-5 years, while most other types of cookware will last for decades.
If you're a fan of nonstick, we urge you to consider other types of cookware: you'll save money in the long run by not replacing your pans every few years, plus you'll be doing the planet a favor.
The next easiest cookware to clean is well-seasoned cast iron or carbon steel. These surfaces are almost as slick as nonstick, and many people use them for their nonstick pans. They're a better choice for a number of reasons, including the absence of toxins and the fact that they last for several decades--and, get smoother and more nonstick with use.
The drawback is that you need to re-season them occasionally (depending on use, it can be anywhere from 0-several times a year).
Enameled cookware is also fairly easy to clean. In fact, some people mistakenly think that the enamel on cookware is the same as ceramic nonstick--but it isn't. Different enamels have different levels of non-stickiness, with the more expensive brands (e.g., Le Creuset Signature) cleaning up the easiest. And if they do happen to get burnt-on messes, you can soak them and scrub them to get them clean with no ill effects.
Stainless steel cookware probably loses this category, but largely because people don't know how to use it the right way: when used correctly (as explained below), stainless steel cleans up surprisingly easily.
Also, in general, it helps to use low-to-medium heat settings rather than high heat when you cook; this is true for all cooking materials. High heat is more likely to result in a burnt-on, stuck-on mess, whatever type of cookware you're using.
So overall, even though nonstick is the easiest cookware to clean, we recommend going with something more durable and long lasting. You'll save money, and you can learn how to use any cookware so as to minimize your cleaning time.
Ease of Use/Design
This category is kind of a catch-all for the overall look and feel of the cookware. Is it easy to use? Does the overall design work for your cooking style? Is the cookware pretty?
You want to look at the things that make daily use a joy or a pain for you.
Are the handles comfortable? Are they easy to use to stabilize a full pot? Do the larger pieces have helper handles that make them easier to handle?
One note about handles: Many people dislike (okay, hate) the All-Clad D3 handles. Their shape can dig into your hand, especially with a full pan. We get it, but we also believe these are some of the safest handles on the market: the U-shape is easy to stabilize with just your thumb, or you can use your arm and be confident that the pot will stay put. Stabilizing the pan is perhaps a handle's most important feature for safety reasons. We include this information because the All-Clad handles get so much hate, when they're actually well-designed for safety.
Do the lids fit well? Can you use them with more than one piece in a set? Are they stainless (much more durable than glass)? Is the lid pull easy to fit your fingers through or around?
Is the cookware easy for you to handle?
In general, the heavier the cookware is, the more evenly it will heat and the better it will hang onto heat. So you should buy the heaviest cookware you can handle.
If you have strength or ergonomic issues, then finding lightweight-yet-well-performing cookware is important to make your daily use experience positive. For clad stainless, we recommend All-Clad D3 or its budget equivalent, Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad.
Avoid cast iron and go with carbon steel if you want that type of skillet. High end copper is also heavy, so you may want to avoid that, too. The lightest cookware that still performs well is cast aluminum, which unfortunately usually has a nonstick coating--if lightness is important to you, we recommend a nonstick ceramic brand like GreenPan--see our review below.
Rivets (Or Lack Thereof)
Most pans have rivets on the cooking surface and you just have to live with them, collecting gunk and being a chronic pain to clean around. However, rivets are not created equally: some are flush with the cooking surface so they don't collect gunk. Some nonstick pans have coated rivets, making them easier to keep gunk-free.
Even more exciting, some pans have welded handles, so they have no rivets at all. Demeyere cookware has a rivetless cooking surface (reviewed below). And ScanPan Classic is a line of nonstick that has no rivets.
Rivets aren't a dealbreaker, and you may not have given them a lot of thought. But a completely smooth cooking surface is really a pleasure to work with and clean.
If you're looking for clad stainless cookware, consider that Demeyere has the double advantage of a rivet-free cooking surface and their proprietary Silvinox® finish, which adds slickness that makes them easier to clean and helps keeps them looking shiny and new for decades.
Are the pans pretty? Do they make you happy to use? Do they have the features that you like?
You may think it's unimportant to consider whether or not cookware is "pretty," but it does matter. If you buy pans you don't like to look at, it will make daily use harder and less pleasurable. Therefore, you should buy cookware that sparks joy in your heart--of course, it also has to pass the other important tests (heating, durability, budget, etc.).
Budget and cost considerations are probably where most people start, so this category is last-but-far-from-least.
Budget (and Cost-per-Year-of-Use)
You should start your cookware search by deciding how much you want to spend and creating a budget: as long as it's a reasonable number, you should be able to find good quality cookware even on the low end of the scale.
For example, don't plan on spending less than about $300 for a set of clad stainless. If you can't afford that, you may want to buy pieces as you can afford them, or stick to inexpensive pieces like cast iron or cast aluminum nonstick. This is a better strategy than buying a whole set of cheap, thin cookware that won't heat well and will be a constant pain to use.
One way we like to look at cookware expense is as cost-per-year-of-use. So if you buy, say, a clad stainless set for $500, it's more expensive up front, but it will last for the rest of your life: if we conservatively estimate that at 30 years, you cost-per-year of use is just under $17 a year; if you expect just 20 years out of them, your cost jumps to $25 per year. Or, if you spend more and get a 10-piece set of Demeyere Industry 5 for $1000, your cost over 20 years jumps to $50 per year: about the price of one decent quality, large nonstick skillet!
Thus, even if you spend more up front on cookware that has a lifetime warranty, you will save a lot in the long run.
Warranty is also an important consideration. Many cookware brands come with a lifetime warranty, and you shouldn't consider a brand stainless, cast iron, or copper that doesn't have at least a 30 year warranty. (Surprisingly, many inexpensive brands of clad stainless have a warranty of 5 years of less--read the fine print before you buy.)
Do note, however, that a lifetime warranty on nonstick--any brand--is only going to be for manufacturer defects. If you try to recoup your cost for a nonstick pan that's lost its nonstick properties, good luck: makers would go broke if they did this. We include this info because many people find this out the hard way: your nonstick pan's "lifetime" warranty does not apply to the nonstick coating.
(This is one reason we like GreenPan, because they are clear that their pans have a lifetime warranty on defects, but only a 2 year warranty on the coating--much more honest than most other nonstick makers.)
Buying Sets Vs. Buying Individual Pieces
Should you buy a set, or buy individual pieces?
There's no arguing that if you buy individual pieces, you won't have to make any compromises at all. You can get the perfect skillet (the Demeyere Proline), the perfect Dutch oven (Le Creuset), and go economy on pieces that don't need to be top-end (stock pots and--for many of us--sauce pans).
If you go with a set, you'll have to make some compromises. You won't have the perfect skillet or Dutch oven, but if you go with a quality brand (as in: one we recommend here), you will have overall performance you can live with, and quite possibly love. You will also probably spend less if you go with a set, though you'll probably make up the difference when you augment your collection with pieces you need (a larger skillet, a better skillet, a nonstick skillet, an enameled Dutch oven).
The truth is that very few sets are going to come with every piece you need. Most of them have smallish pieces, so you'll need bigger pans down the road. Many sets, especially large sets, have filler pieces, which are two or more pieces similar in size, and usually on the small side (1.5 quart and 2 quart sauce pans, for example).
Here's our best advice about buying sets vs. buying individual pieces:
The Best Clad Stainless Steel Cookware
Very Good: All-Clad D3
Best Budget Option: Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad
Clad stainless steel cookware is the most versatile and durable all-around cookware, and we recommend buying sets of it; everything else on this list is primarily recommended for individual pieces. For example, most people won't like an entire set of enameled cast iron: it's heavy and expensive, and the enamel is really best for Dutch ovens. Or, people shouldn't buy entire sets of aluminum nonstick because it wears out so fast and you really only need the nonstick coating on skillets. And even if you wanted an entire set of cast iron or carbon steel cookware, you'd be hard-pressed to find one.
None of these drawbacks apply to clad stainless steel cookware. It's lightweight, durable, and works in a pinch for any cooking task. Sure, you may prefer nonstick (or cast iron!) for eggs, but you can use stainless and it will work (especially if you know the technique to get the least amount of sticking). And you may prefer an enameled cast iron Dutch oven, but until you've saved up enough to get the one you want, the one that came with your clad stainless set is adequate.
Thus, we recommend buying sets of clad stainless over anything else. There are hundreds of brands to choose from, but the brands we discuss here are the best of the best at every price point. If you want to know why, check out our article Stainless Steel Cookware Sets: A Detailed Buying Guide. (It also lists a few more good brands at different price levels.)
See also: All-Clad Vs. Demeyere: Which Is Better?, All-Clad D3 Vs. D5, All-Clad D5 Vs. Demeyere Industry 5, The Ultimate All-Clad Cookware Review, Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad Cookware: A Comprehensive Review
What You Need to Know About Clad Stainless Cookware
For most people, clad stainless steel cookware is the best choice for all-around, daily use cookware. It's durable, heats fast and evenly, is easy to care for, and can take all the abuse you can throw at it and keep coming back for more (e.g., high heat, dishwashers, metal utensils, nonstick cooking spray).
Not all clad stainless cookware is created equally, though. There can be huge differences among brands and you have to do your research if you want the best quality, whatever your budget is. There are differences in steel quality, aluminum grade, construction, heating performance, and more. If you've ever wondered why one brand of clad stainless costs hundreds more than another brand, it's quality construction.
And yes, you'll pay more for brands made in the US and European countries. But for that higher price, you'll get a premium product that will last for decades as well as a company that stands behind their cookware, usually with a lifetime warranty against defects.
Here's what you should know before you buy clad stainless cookware:
For more information on how to buy clad stainless steel cookware, see our Cookware page--we have several articles on this topic.
How to Use Stainless Cookware without Sticking
- 1Heat empty pan on medium-high for a few minutes.
- 2Add enough cooking oil or butter to create a thin layer and swirl around to cover the pan.
- 3When the oil or butter is shimmering (but not smoking--that's too hot), add your food.4) Allow food to cook undisturbed until a crust is created. This crust allows food to release from the pan naturally, without sticking.
- 4Make a delicious pan sauce with the bits left in the pan using stock, wine, or water plus herbs, spices and a tablespoon or so of butter to finish.
- 5If there are messy bits left, soak the pan with hot soapy water, then scrub as hard as you need to with an abrasive pad or some Barkeeper's Friend--don't worry, you won't hurt the pan.
Demeyere cookware is made in Belgium and is the premium brand of clad stainless cookware on the market today. Its Proline skillet (part of the Atlantis line) contains about 46% more aluminum than an All-Clad D3 skillet (3.7mm vs. 1.7mm). The company has put a tremendous amount of research and thought into cookware design, and it shows in their products.
Demeyere makes two lines that we recommend: Atlantis and Industry 5 (also called Industry and 5 Plus).
Atlantis is unique in cookware in that its curved pieces (skillets, sauciers) are fully clad and their straight-sided pieces (sauté pans, sauce pans, stock pots) are disc-clad. This is because of how people typically use these pieces: curved-sided pieces use the sides as well as the bottom and so require full cladding; straight-sided pieces use primarily the bottom of the pans and so do not require cladding on the sides (particularly pans used for cooking liquids).
Atlantis straight-sided pieces have the best disc-cladding in the industry: they contain an astonishing 2mm of copper encased in two thin layers of silver. (Silver is the best heat conducting material known to man, but typically not seen in cookware because of the expense.) This is enough heat-conducting material to provide superb heating, even without side cladding.
Our one complaint about Atlantis is that the extremely heavy bottom cladding can make the pans feel unbalanced in your hand. If you don't mind that, or the weight, Atlantis is the premium line of clad stainless cookware, bar none.
If you buy Atlantis from Sur la Table, it may be called "Silver 7," which is their house name for Atlantis and has insulated "Thermo" lids. Oddly enough, SLT also carries Atlantis pieces which have basically the same configuration, and may or may not have insulated lids. The sets on Amazon do not have insulated lids, and typically are priced identically.
Industry is fully clad, 5-ply cookware with three internal layers of aluminum (different alloys: one for heating, two for bonding to stainless steel). Industry 5 is thicker and heavier than All-Clad D3 but only by about 10%, with about 10% more aluminum. This provides more even heating than All-Clad but without the added weight of Atlantis. And because Industry pieces are fully clad, they feel balanced and are easier to maneuver than many of the Atlantis pieces.
For these reasons, we recommend Industry 5 over Atlantis, even though Atlantis will provide the premium performance.
If you buy Industry 5 at Sur la Table, you get insulated "Thermo" lids for the same price (though you should check both sites to make sure, as prices can fluctuate). The Industry 5 cookware on Amazon does not have insulated lids.
Demeyere also has other advantages, which also show the thought they've put into their cookware design:
If you buy only one piece of premium cookware, the Demeyere Proline skillet is the investment piece you should get. It's an amazing piece of cookware; probably the best skillet on the market right now. It heats quickly and evenly, yet has enough aluminum to hang onto heat much like cast iron, but without all the drawbacks of cast iron.
Unfortunately, the Proline is nearly as heavy as cast iron, so if you don't want heavy cookware, you should go with Industry or All-Clad D3.
Demeyere makes some other lines, detailed in our All-Clad Vs Demeyere article, but these are the two we recommend.
If you want the best of the best and don't mind heavy pieces, Demeyere is the brand to buy.
Demeyere Pros and Cons
Pros: Fast, even heating and excellent heat retention; Silvinox® treatment makes them easier to clean and helps retain shine; no rivets on cooking surface of most pieces; extremely durable. Atlantis only: no exposed magnetic stainless (which is less corrosion-resistant), up to 30% more efficient on induction cooktops than other clad stainless cookware.
Cons: Heavy (people with ergonomic issues should go with All-Clad D3), expensive, Industry set only in 10pc or larger (though open stock is available).
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All-Clad is the original clad stainless cookware, still made in the US (except the lids, which are made in China) and still one of the most widely recognized brand names in the cookware industry.
There's a reason for this: All-Clad is exceptionally high quality cookware. Any line you buy will last for decades and most likely be handed down to the next generation.
Of all the All-Clad lines, we like D3 the best. It's basic tri-ply, with a thick inner layer of aluminum, and the most affordable of the All-Clad stainless lines. And with our testing showing that all the All-Clad stainless lines are very similar in performance, we strongly believe that the lowest priced one is the best option.
Some people swear by D5, with its inner layer of stainless, but we don't see the advantage of it, especially when the price is so much higher.
We love Copper Core because it's beautiful, and if you can afford it, then go for it. But in all of our testing, the D3 performed as well as Copper Core, and in most tests, better than D5.
Now there's an even more affordable D3 option: D3 Everyday. This line is identical to the original D3 but with an updated design. If you're one of many who hate the AC handle design, you'll love D3 Everyday. It has updated handles as well as curved lips on all the pieces; the original D3 has straight-sided sauce pans and sauciers (no lip). Everyday is sold only on the All-Clad website, and it costs less than the original, as well.
All-Clad is much lighter than any Demeyere line (D3 has about 75% less aluminum than the Demeyere Proline skillet). So while the heating is fast and even, it's not as good as Demeyere. However, All-Clad pieces weigh considerably less than Demeyere pieces. For this reason, our recommendation to people who want top quality clad stainless cookware is this: If weight is not a concern, go with Demeyere. If weight is a concern, go with All-Clad.
For more information on All-Clad, see our All-Clad review, where we get into great detail about design and performance.
All-Clad D3 Pros and Cons
Pros: Extremely durable, lifetime warranty, and a great balance between maneuverability and great performance.
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Of all the All-Clad knockoffs on the market, Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad Stainless cookware is, as far as we know, the closest in construction to All-Clad D3. It is high-grade 18/10 stainless steel of approximately the same thickness as All-Clad (meaning nearly identical performance). It has a highly polished stainless exterior that cleans up easily (though it does show scratches and stains).
Tramontina makes cookware in Brazil and China. All our testing shows that the Chinese and Brazilian lines are identical in quality and performance. We prefer the Chinese Tramontina because you get better pieces some of the sets: the Chinese-made 12 piece set is one of the few clad stainless sets that has two large--10 inch and 12 inch--skillets, plus other large pieces. This is an excellent feature, as most 12-inch skillets are sold separately, and at a higher cost than the smaller ones usually seen in sets.
The best deals on Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad are found on Amazon and at Wal-Mart. We do caution you to read the details carefully, as some sets now have glass (rather than stainless) lids, and some sets don't have the larger skillets. There are many set options to choose from, so be sure you get the one you want. Our Tramontina review is a good resource for detailed information about all the options available.
Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad Pros and Cons
Pros: Closest in construction to All-Clad D3, many set options, affordable.
Cons: Can be hard to determine set configurations sometimes, made in China or Brazil.
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The Best PTFE (Teflon®) Nonstick Cookware
Best Overall: ScanPan
Less Expensive/Budget Options: Anolon Copper Nouvelle
What You Need to Know About PTFE Nonstick Cookware
If you want to avoid the possible health issues associated with nonstick cookware, our best recommendation is to use well-seasoned cast iron or carbon steel; these are the only materials that we can positively say are safe, and have a small carbon footprint on the environment.
But if you really want nonstick cookware, here are some things you should know before you buy:
For more information, see our articles What is PFOA? A Guide to Nonstick Cookware Chemicals and Stoneware Cookware: The Facts You Need to Know to Buy Smart, or see our Cookware archives for more articles on nonstick cookware.
ScanPan is a Danish company (all products made in Denmark) that's been in business since 1956. They are well known for high quality--and high-priced--nonstick cookware.
ScanPan makes several lines of cookware, including a few lines exclusive to Williams-Sonoma and a few lines exclusive to Sur La Table. We like the Classic line best because there are no rivets on the cooking surface; alternatively, you can buy the ES5 line from Sur la Table, which is basically the Classic with an upgraded handle (no rivets on the cooking surface):
If you want a different aesthetic, ScanPan has several options to choose from. For more information, see our detailed ScanPan review.
ScanPan has two coatings available: Stratanium and Stratanium+. Stratanium+ pans are newer and supposedly more durable and capable of better browning--but we noticed very little difference in our testing, so we recommend sticking with the less expensive Classic line, or other lines with the original coating.
We like ScanPan for two reasons. The first is that they make quality nonstick pans that tend to last longer than other nonstick cookware (although probably not more than about 5 years, so don't expect miracles). The second is that the company is environmentally conscious in some respects: they use almost exclusively recycled aluminum and was one of the first makers to stop using PFOA (now banned in most countries).
If you are environmentally conscious, you may be willing to pay a higher price for ScanPan, even if their pans last only marginally longer than other brands (if at all).
Unfortunately, ScanPan still has many of the issues of all nonstick cookware makers: they use PTFE (despite calling their nonstick coating a "ceramic titanium," it most definitely contains PTFE), so they are still contributing to the pollution of the world's water supply with PFAS. And we don't like that they are not clear that their nonstick products all contain PTFE. But despite these complaints, ScanPan is a good company that makes a good product.
If you want to learn more, read our guide to nonstick cookware chemicals.
ScanPan Pros and Cons
Pros: Well made, some of the most durable nonstick coatings on the market, some environmentally conscious manufacturing processes.
Cons: Expensive, nonstick probably won't last more than a few years, PTFE production contributes to world's contaminated water supply.
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Anolon Copper Nouvelle
If you don't want to pay ScanPan prices--and we certainly understand if you don't--there are several options at lower price points. Anolon Copper Nouvelle is our favorite.
You can go lower, but you'll get a flimsy pan that doesn't heat evenly or retain heat well. For this reason, our recommendation is that you should spend around $30 for a 10-inch nonstick skillet: at this price, you can get a thick aluminum body and other high-end features that make the pan a pleasure to use (as long as you buy the right product).
Anolon Copper Nouvelle is better than most at the $30-ish per pan price point: it offers a thick, cast aluminum body, plus 0.5mm layer of copper in the base of the pan for unparalleled heating: even, quick and responsive.
No, it's not enough copper to equal Mauviel or Matfer Bourgeat, but it is enough to bump up the evenness and responsiveness and make it better than anything else at this price point.
The pan has a coating of durable PTFE, and the steel/copper/aluminum base makes it induction compatible.
The pan also has a stainless steel handle and flush, nonstick-coated rivets.
Our one criticism of this pan is that it has very sloped sides and a smallish flat cooking surface. But it's a small criticism.
There are other nonstick pans around this price point that are nearly as good, but the copper base really puts the Copper Nouvelle on another level. We aren't the biggest fans of nonstick cookware, but if you must have it, then the Anolon Copper Nouvelle is one of the best options you'll find.
Anolon Copper Nouvelle Pros and Cons
Pros: Good price, excellent heating properties (0.5mm copper in base).
Cons: PTFE coating won't last long and is potentially unsafe if overheated, best for skillets only as the nonstick coating isn't needed in sauce pans and stock pots, pan has steep sides and smallish flat cooking surface.
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The Best Ceramic Nonstick Cookware
Best Overall: GreenPan
Best Budget Option: GreenPan
What You Need to Know About Ceramic Nonstick Cookware
Ceramic nonstick cookware was invented in 2007 and is still a rather small fraction of the gigantic nonstick cookware industry. It's not as nonstick as Teflon (PTFE), and it doesn't last as long--so most people who buy it are looking for a healthier alternative.
You can spend more, but you don't have to to get great performance and durability. GreenPan is the original ceramic nonstick pan and is now available in several product lines. We like the Lima, Paris, or Valencia Pro if you need induction compatibility; if you want the newer Thermolon Minerals coating, then Padova usually has the best price. Or if you want something else you can check out our detailed review and select one of their several lines; if you need induction cookware, be sure the line you select has it, as many GreenPan lines do not have induction compatibility.
You can spend less, but what you get is an extremely thin, flimsy pan that won't distribute or hang onto heat very well. Since nonstick pans have a finite life, you may prefer a lighter, cheaper pan. However, we believe that GreenPan offers good quality at an affordable price, and provides most of the features of higher end cookware such as stainless steel handles and a heavy aluminum base for even heating and good heat retention.
There are other ceramic nonstick brands that are just as good, but as far as we know, there aren't any that are better. So we're sticking to GreenPan for a recommendation, although you may find other brands you prefer. In our ceramic frying pan article, we also recommend Kyocera and Tramontina. You can't really go wrong with any of them.
One thing we don't recommend is buying more expensive ceramic nonstick, such as one of the many direct-to-consumer brands popping up everywhere these days (Caraway, Our Place, Great Jones, etc.). These are all good quality products, but the prices are too high for cookware that isn't likely to keep its nonstick coating much more than a year.
GreenPan Pros and Cons
Pros: Good quality, good price point, high-end features (like stainless handles), thick aluminum for even heating, lots of lines to choose from.
Cons: The nonstick coating probably won't last very long (though still safe to use, unlike Teflon), not all lines are induction compatible.
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The Best Cast Iron and Carbon Steel Cookware (Primarily Skillets)
Best Overall: Lodge
Best Budget Option: Lodge
What You Need to Know About Cast Iron and Carbon Steel Skillets
Because cast iron and carbon steel are nearly identical materials, with the same density and heating properties, we grouped them together. Cast iron is the thicker, heavier material and provides the best heat retention; carbon steel is thinner and lighter, but still retains heat pretty well (certainly better than aluminum).
Lodge cast iron skillets are an excellent choice for most frying pan tasks. They are super affordable, yet one of the most durable cookware types you can buy, and will last pretty much forever. It's just a bonus that Lodge skillets are still made in the USA (though not all of their products are).
Lodge carbon steel--grouped together here because they're nearly identical materials--has the same heating properties as cast iron but because it's thinner, won't retain heat as well. For this reason, we recommend cast iron for high-heat searing and deep frying, and carbon steel as a replacement for nonstick cookware.
Having said that, we know that many people swear by their carbon steel pans and find them as good as cast iron--plus they're lighter. Since they're both inexpensive options, you may want to get one of each and try them out for yourself.
When well seasoned, both cast iron and carbon steel become almost as nonstick as Teflon (PTFE) without any of the worries about toxic chemicals.
Some people swear by cast iron and/or carbon steel skillets for everything, and some people use them for dedicated tasks such as searing steaks. If you don't mind the weight, they do work well for most skillet tasks; if you do, you should still have one in your cookware collection (preferably cast iron) for high heat searing, deep frying, and eggs (especially if you're trying to avoid nonstick cookware chemicals).
The main drawback of cast iron and carbon steel skillets is that they require seasoning. Without seasoning, the pans will rust and won't retain that nearly nonstick finish. And, though most cast iron now comes pre-seasoned (carbon steel typically does not), it usually benefits from another seasoning before use.
Overall, we are huge fans of clad stainless for daily use cookware. But most cooks will benefit from the addition of a cast iron or carbon steel skillet (especially cast iron) to their collection.
Lodge Skillets Pros and Cons
Pros: Durable (will last forever), affordable, nearly nonstick surface, and excellent for most tasks. Cast iron is especially great for high-heat searing and deep frying; carbon steel is great for searing (though won't hold heat as well as cast iron) and as a replacement for a nonstick skillet (e.g., eggs).
Cons: Require seasoning to prevent rusting and maintain nonstick surface, heavy, best for skillets but not great for other types of pans because of weight and the need for re-seasoning if used for liquids often or for long periods (like braising).
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The Best Enameled Cast Iron Cookware (Dutch Ovens)
Best Overall: Le Creuset
Best Budget Option: Tramontina
What You Need to Know About Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware is heavy, so it's not ideal for every type of cookware--and enameled cast iron can be spendy, and isn't necessary for everything either. But for Dutch ovens, which you use primarily for long, slow braising as well as soups, stocks, and stews, enameled cast iron is the ideal material. The weight helps hold in heat for a loooong time, which is exactly what you want for braises and stews. And the enamel protects the cast iron from rusting (and no worries about seasoning getting eaten away).
Here are the most important facts about enameled cast iron Dutch ovens:
Le Creuset is, in our opinion, the top choice for enameled cast iron Dutch ovens. Here are a few features that set them apart:
- Their enamel is more durable than any other brand.
- They are the lightest weight cast iron Dutch ovens on the market (though still heavy).
- Though the enamel is not nonstick their Signature line in particular cleans up easily.
- Light-colored interior makes gauging doneness easy.
- The Signature line has larger handles and a lid handle oven safe to 500F.
Cast iron heating performance is going to be about the same whether you pay $30 or $300. So unlike most types of cookware, with Le Creuset, you're not paying for performance. Rather, you're paying for durability, color selection, and lighter cast iron.
If all of that is worth it to you, and you have the budget, we highly recommend Le Creuset. While most brands of enameled Dutch ovens get good reviews, Le Creuset has consistently high quality reviews with very few complaints about chipping, cracked enamel, or defects.
We particularly love the 6.75 qt round, wide Dutch oven, which runs up to $100 less than the standard round 5.5 qt model (though it looks like this pricing may not last). And, the round, wide oven is part of the Signature line, so it has all the great features of the upgraded line. (Note: The Signature line costs roughly the same as the Classic line, but has some upgraded features--listed above and in our other Dutch oven articles--that make it the better choice.)
Le Creuset Pros and Cons
Pros: Extremely durable, lighter than other cast iron, excellent roomy handles and pulls, dozens of color options, Signature line has nearly nonstick enamel.
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Tramontina is a budget brand of made-in-China cookware. It's good quality cookware, and just as importantly, it uses the smart design choices of the more expensive brands it's knocking off.
We like the Tramontina enameled Dutch oven because it's closest in design to Le Creuset: it's got a similar lid pull, big roomy handles, a light-colored interior for easy gauging of doneness, and straight sides (rather than curved) for the maximum amount of flat cooking surface.
And though Tramontina doesn't have nearly the color selection of Le Creuset, they do have several beautiful options, including off white, gunmetal (black), red, cobalt blue, teal, and eggplant. It's a little frustrating that the different colors are all separate listings, so you can't just go to a size and select the color you want. (Tramontina, if you're listening, please fix this!)
Interestingly, the different colors vary quite a bit in price (maybe why the colors are separate listings). If you don't mind certain colors, you can get a 6.5 quart or 7 quart model for $50-$60 (a fantastic deal!). Even some of the 5.5 quart colors (the most popular size) cost less than others.
Even if you're not on a budget but can't see spending $300 on a piece of cookware, the Tramontina is a good choice. You won't have as many color options as Le Creuset (or even Staub). And the enamel isn't quite as durable. But considering that you can buy approximately 5 of these for the price of one 5.5 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven, you may not care about these shortcomings.
Overall, the Tramontina enameled cast iron Dutch oven is a really nice piece of equipment.
Note that cast iron is pretty much cast iron: when you buy a brand like Le Creuset, you're not paying for better heating properties. So the Tramontina Dutch oven is going to provide very similar results to a Le Creuset model.
There are certainly reasons to go with Le Creuset, but it may be just as smart--especially if you're on a budget--to go with Tramontina. If you're in the "less expensive" camp, we highly recommend Tramontina Dutch ovens.
Tramontina Dutch Oven Pros and Cons
Pros: Great price point, great design (very close to Le Creuset).
Cons: Enamel won't be as durable as Le Creuset, made in China, not as many colors to choose from.
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The Best Copper Cookware
Best Overall: Mauviel
Best Budget Brand: If you're buying copper cookware, you shouldn't be looking for a deal. Budget copper cookware isn't real copper cookware (though some tri-ply copper is good quality). Having said that, most brands of real copper cookware are high quality, including Matfer-Bourgeat, Falk, and Brooklyn Copper Cookware.
See also: How to Pick the Best Copper Cookware.
What You Need to Know About Copper Cookware
If you want the absolute best (and arguably the most beautiful) cookware, copper is the choice of most professional chefs. It heats quickly and evenly and is very responsive to temperature changes. Because France is the home of gourmet food, it is also where much of the world's high-end copper cookware comes from. Mauviel is a popular French brand.
You can get Mauviel in two thicknesses: 250 (2.3mm) and 150 (1.3mm). The 250 will provide the best and most professional performance: fast, even heating and the best heat retention. The 150 won't hold heat as well but will still heat fast and evenly; it's roughly the equivalent of high end clad stainless steel with at least 2.6mm of aluminum (like All-Clad D3).
You can also get Mauviel with brass, cast iron, or stainless steel handles, which are primarily for aesthetic reasons, with no major pluses or minuses to any of them (though Julia Child claims the cast iron handles are best--perhaps for the weight they add to the lid). If you find, say, a sale on the line with stainless handles, there's no reason not to buy unless you've got your heart set on brass or cast iron.
Most copper cookware today has a stainless steel cooking surface (only specialty items like jam pots have a copper surface--you don't want that for your daily use cookware). Older designs features tin cooking surfaces, which you can still find many places. Tin conducts heat better than stainless, but it's soft, with a low melting point, and requires re-tinning every few years. You can still find tin-covered copper, but it's not as common as it once was. (And finding someone to re-tin the copper is even harder.)
For these reasons, we recommend going with stainless-covered copper (like Mauviel).
The truth is that any French-made copper cookware is going to be extremely high quality, and you can't go wrong with any brand. Mauviel is one of the more popular and readily available brands. If you prefer the looks of Matfer-Bourgeat or Falk (made in Belgium), the quality of these brands is also superb.
If you want the good stuff, just stay away from "copper" cookware that is copper-colored or contains only an electro-plated, paper thin copper coating. This is often called copper tri-ply or something else with copper in the name.
You can best tell the difference by the price: any genuine copper cookware is going to run the same or more as high end clad stainless cookware (like Demeyere Atlantis).
Mauviel Pros and Cons
Pros: Beautiful in any kitchen, best performing cookware on the market (with the possible exception of the Demeyere Proline skillet).
Cons: Expensive, requires polishing to retain shine, somewhat heavy (esp. if you go for the thicker line).
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Other Brands/Honorable Mentions
Clad Stainless Steel: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro is a good bargain brand, comparable to All-Clad D3 and Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad. We prefer the set options in the Tramontina, MC-Pro is probably just as good quality.
Nonstick PTFE: All-Clad HA1 or Essentials (we're not sure what the difference is) are almost as good as Anolon Copper Nouvelle, but lack the copper in the bottom plate so the heating isn't going to be quite as even. Both brands are induction ready.
Nonstick Ceramic: Kyocera makes a nice skillet, as does Tramontina. As long as you buy a reputable brand with a cast aluminum body, you'll get decent performance and approximately the same life span; we do not recommend going with a boutique or expensive direct-to-consumer brand as despite all their glowing reviews and online praise, the ceramic coating is going to have about the same life span as less expensive brands.
Cast iron: Lodge is really the obvious choice, but if you want to go with an expensive boutique brand, we like the Field skillet for its lighter weight and simple lines.
Carbon Steel: Matfer-Bourgeat is as good as Lodge and in some ways better. The handle is welded on, so there are no rivets to clean around (a huge feature!). The prices are comparable to Lodge, too, so you will pay approximately the same for a pan made in France--but compare prices, because this does not apply to all pan sizes.
Enameled cast iron: Lodge Dutch ovens are adorable, and as good quality wise as Tramontina. We prefer the shape of the Tramontina, as the Lodge has curved sides and less flat cooking surface. But if you love the design, it's a good choice.
Copper: If you want the very best, spare-no-expense, artisan hand-crafted cookware, then Brooklyn Copper Cookware is the way to go. All their pans are made by artisans, old-school style--with tin lining rather than stainless steel for superb, near-nonstick performance.
If you want the look of copper without the expense, you have several "tri-ply copper" brands to choose from, some better than others: some have a real copper layer, while others just have copper electroplating for looks only (not enough copper to improve heating). If you're interested in one of these, check out our Copper Cookware Buying Guide to make sure you get a good brand.
Final Thoughts on the Best Cookware Brands
The best cookware brands aren't always easy to find, but you don't necessarily need to spend a fortune to get good brands. When shopping, you need to think about the type of cookware you want as well as the features that you want. We took a detailed look at all of these considerations to help you find the best brands of cookware for you, whatever your style or budget may be. We hope we've helped--please let us know if you have any questions or comments.
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