The resurgence of cast-iron frying pans and cookware might give the impression that nothing is new in the cookware aisle. But makers of pots and pans are busy cooking up new ways to sell this age-old necessity, either promising better results and easier cleanup or by branding cookware sets with a celebrity name.

Walmart, for example, sells a cookware collection from the Pioneer Woman of Food Network fame, which Consumer Reports tested. And when we recently put some familiar brands of cookware sets to the test, things got heated.

Our newest tests include cookware sets from across the price spectrum including a classic 5-piece set from Le Creuset for $450 to a 12-piece set from Tools of the Trade for $60. We also tested a midpriced 13-piece set from Costco’s house brand, Kirkland Signature, which sells for $175. The results were decidedly mixed, and none did as well as our current champ, the high-performing $600 Swiss Diamond 10-piece set. 

We also tested cookware sets from Rachael Ray, which we've seen on discount, as well as from All-Clad, Cuisinart, OrGreenic, Circulon, Farberware, and Scanpan, among others.

In our tests, we gauge how evenly the pots and pans cook, how easily food releases from nonstick pans, nonstick durability, speed of heating water in a 4-quart pot, and how hot the handle gets during heating, as well as its sturdiness and whether panelists find the size and shape comfortable.

In addition to performance, our ratings of cookware sets tell you what pieces are included in a set, the material used, and more.

Cookware Shopping Tips

  • Match the cookware to your cooking surface. Appliance manufacturers’ websites list specifics, including the need for flat-bottomed pans on electric smoothtops and warnings about cookware that scratches this surface. If a magnet sticks to the bottom of a pan, it’s fine to use on an induction cooktop.
  • Pick up the pots and pans when shopping. Is the pot heavy? Do you find the skillet handle comfortable?
  • Try out a skillet before buying the entire set. The frying pans in our tests range from $20 to $160.
  • Count the usable pieces. Keep in mind that manufacturers include such extras as spatulas and other add-ons in their count so 16-pieces may not mean 16 pans and lids.
  • Check our cookware ratings of 18 sets and 20 skillets.to find out whether the cookware is oven-safe and what the recommended maximum temperature is. Check the manufacturer’s online manual before using a pan for broiling.

Send your cookware questions to me at kjaneway@consumer.org.