What to Look For When Buying a Pots and Pans Set

Different materials have different strengths and weaknesses.

A pot-and-pan set is a great way to outfit your kitchen all at once. You get pretty much everything you need: typically an array of saucepans, a larger pot for pasta and soups and a couple of saute pans. Some even include bonuses, like steamer inserts or cooking utensils.

PFOA-Free

This batch includes every piece you could possibly need and comes in seven fun colors. Rachael Ray

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Nonstick pots and pans are given a coating that makes pretty much anything slide right off. That makes it a great surface for sticky or messy stuff, like scrambled eggs, which would normally be a real pain to clean. For basic cooking, it’s just about the easiest material out there. But it isn’t safe to use in a hot oven, and you have to be careful when using metal utensils, because you can scrape off the coating.

Eliminates Hot Spots

This mirror-finish collection includes a steamer insert—perfect for dumplings, veggies or straining pasta. Cuisinart

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Stainless steel is a classic cookware material, and for good reason. It’ll last way longer than nonstick, it looks lovely, it’s safe to use in any oven, it’s dishwasher-safe and (unlike, say, cast iron) it won’t react to acidic stuff like tomato sauce in bad ways. On the other hand, despite its name, it does stain, and isn’t necessarily the easiest to clean. But it’s a great base material, a workhorse that’ll never let you down.

Nonstick Exterior

This kit includes two frying pans, two saucepans and a Dutch oven—plus some cooking utensils for good measure. T-fal

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Ceramic-coated pots and pans are becoming more popular than ever, and for good reason. They’re made with a ceramic coating that makes them effectively nonstick, but unlike more traditional nonstick coatings, you can heat these up as hot as you want and scrape them with metal instruments, and don’t have to worry about damaging the coating. But they’re not always oven safe the way stainless steel is so be sure to check specs.