What to Look For When Buying a Pots and Pans Set

Different materials have different strengths and weaknesses.

Pots and pans on a counter
Nonstick cookware makes serving (and cleaning up) a breeze.Unsplash

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.

Rachael Ray 16344 Cucina Nonstick Cookware Pots and Pans Set, 12 Piece
This set includes all the nonstick pieces you could possibly need and comes in seven fun colors.Rachael Ray

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.

Cuisinart 77-11G Chef's Classic Stainless 11-Piece Cookware Set
This mirror-finish set even includes a steamer insert—perfect for dumplings, veggies or for straining pasta.Cuisinart

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.

T-fal G918SE64 Inititives Initiatives Ceramic Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator Dishwasher Oven Safe Toxic Free Cookware Set
This dishwasher-safe set includes two frying pans, two saucepans and a Dutch oven—plus some cooking utensils for good measure.T-fal

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.