Best Cookware Sets of 2021

Familiar names such as Anolon, Calphalon, and Cuisinart do well in CR's tests—but so do a few newcomers

A person cooking on a range with a cookware set.
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Is it time to replace your cookware? If the handles are loose or broken, or if the bottom of a pan is warped (which can create hot spots that burn food), it’s time to shop. And when the coating of a nonstick pan is flaking, it's got to go.

Cookware is sold in sets—consisting of about five to 15 pieces—or as individual pots and pans, typically called open stock. But a 12-piece set won't contain a dozen pots and pans. “In boxed sets, manufacturers count a lid as a piece,” explains Marion Wilson-Spencer, CR's market analyst for cookware. “Even utensils and a cookbook may be counted as pieces.”

We buy and test cookware sets ranging from less than $100 to $600 or more, from well-known brands such as All-Clad, Anolon, Calphalon, Cuisinart, and Zwilling J.A. Henckels, as well as sets sold under the names of celebrity cooks like Ayesha Curry, Rachel Ray, and the Pioneer Woman.

In our tests, we evaluate heating evenness, speed of heating, sauté performance, nonstick durability, handle sturdiness, and more. To evaluate various pieces, we cook pancakes, fry eggs, boil water, and simmer tomato sauce.

For more information, see our cookware buying guide, which includes a primer on different types of cookware and the materials they're made of.

Below are the 10 best cookware sets from CR’s latest tests—both nonstick and stainless steel—listed alphabetically by type.

Best Nonstick Cookware Sets
Anolon SmartStack
Anolon SmartStack

    Anolon SmartStack

    CR’s take: The Anolon SmartStack is a space saver, with all 10 pieces nesting together to store in two neat piles—one for the pots and one for the frying pans. Pancakes cook evenly, and we were able to quickly heat 4 quarts of water in the 8-quart stockpot. It also earns an Excellent rating for simmering sauces. Though the handle stays cool to the touch, it could be sturdier, and this set earns only a Fair rating on the handle sturdiness test.

    Cuisinart Green Gourmet Hard Anodized GG-12
    Cuisinart Green Gourmet Hard...

      Cuisinart Green Gourmet Hard...

      CR’s take: The 12-piece Cuisinart Green Gourmet nonstick set aces all our key cooking tests. Pancakes brown evenly in the frying pan, and eggs slide out one after another without sticking. We were able to easily maintain sauce at a low simmer, and the 6-quart Dutch oven quickly brings water to a near-boil. This top-scoring set is made of anodized aluminum, a process that hardens the surface. One of the pieces is a steamer insert.

      GreenPan Levels Hard Anodized Stackable
      GreenPan Levels Hard Anodized...

        GreenPan Levels Hard Anodized...

        CR’s take: With only six pieces, the GreenPan Stackable includes the fewest pieces of the nonstick cookware sets in our ratings, but it doesn’t fall short on performance. With Excellent ratings on both our cooking evenness and speed of heating tests, the GreenPan stands up to the competition. So does its nonstick surface, which earns top marks in our tough durability test. Simmering a tomato sauce is impressive, and eggs slide easily out of the skillet one after another.

        Kenmore Arlington Metallic
        Kenmore Arlington Metallic

          Kenmore Arlington Metallic

          CR's take: This eye-catching 12-piece set also stands out for its performance in the kitchen. Cooking evenness and speed of heating are top-notch, and the nonstick coating is so slick that you'll never be stuck with egg residue in the pan. Our sauces simmered without scorching and the nonstick coating is durable, earning a Very Good rating in that test. The handles stay cool to the touch when cooking but could be more sturdy (typical of pans in this price range).

          The Rock by Starfrit Nonstick
          The Rock by Starfrit Nonstick

            The Rock by Starfrit Nonstick

            CR’s take: Though it sounds like it’s named after an action hero, The Rock by Starfit is named for its hard, rocklike surface. The coating appears pebbly, but that doesn’t affect its nonstick properties, and we effortlessly cooked pancakes and eggs. Cooking evenness is superb, and this 8-piece set aces our speed of heating test by quickly bringing 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 5-quart stockpot. The surface stands up to our durability test, in which we rub steel wool over the coating 2,000 times, earning a Very Good rating.

            Best Stainless Steel Cookware Sets
            Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel
            Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless...

              Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless...

              CR’s take: The attractive 10-piece Anolon Nouvelle Copper stainless set has a five-layer metal base, including a copper core that rings the bottom. This set earns a top rating of Excellent for cooking evenness, and speed of heating in the 6-quart stockpot earns a Very Good rating. Simmering in the saucepan, however, is only so-so, and the eggs needed nudging out of the pan in our food release test.

              Calphalon Premier Space Saving 8 piece
              Calphalon Premier Space Saving 8...

                Calphalon Premier Space Saving 8...

                CR’s take: Short on storage space? Calphalon designed this set so that it stacks and nests, which frees up precious cabinet space. The Calphalon Premier Space Saving 8-piece stainless set earns a Very Good rating in our evenness tests, like our other top performers in this category. The stainless handles are long and sturdy, and you can use these dishwasher-safe pots and pans on any type of range, including induction. You can also pop them in the oven up to 500° F.

                Fissler original-profi collection
                Fissler original-profi collection

                  Fissler original-profi collection

                  CR's take: This 8-piece set has five substantial cooking vessels and three lids. It earns a top mark of Excellent for cooking evenness and also aces our tests for heating water quickly. The handles stay cool to the touch when cooking and are sturdy, so this set should serve you well for a long time. The pans do very well at simmering sauces but aren't as impressive when it comes to sautéing.

                  Kenmore Elite Devon Tri-Ply
                  Kenmore Elite Devon Tri-Ply

                    Kenmore Elite Devon Tri-Ply

                    CR's take: This nicely priced 10-piece set should satisfy most of your cooking needs. The lids are glass so that you can watch what you're cooking without letting any heat escape. Cooking evenness is top-notch, and this set earns Very Good ratings for both speed of heating and gently releasing eggs from the pan. The handles stay cool to the touch but could be sturdier.

                    Made In Cookware The Starter Kit
                    Made In Cookware The Starter Kit

                      Made In Cookware The Starter Kit

                      CR’s take: With just five pieces—three pans and two lids—the Made in Cookware Starter Kit is aptly named. But even a novice cook will appreciate the performance of these pots and pans. The stainless steel pan aces the cooking evenness test, meaning pancakes turn out evenly browned. Speed of heating is also superb, and we quickly brought 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 5-quart stockpot. Food release is impressive, earning a Very Good rating, though no uncoated pan measures up to a nonstick pan on that test.

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                      Mary H.J. Farrell

                      Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.