If you’re like me, you’ve had the same Calphalon cookware set for years. And while it works great, you’ve likely seen the onslaught of direct to consumer brands who make objectively more beautiful products. And while cookware is meant to be cooked with, not gawked at, that doesn’t mean you can’t wonder: do these beautiful pieces compare? The answer is yes—each is made with craft and precision that rivals your favorite set at home. Now, which to get? That’s tougher. To help you out, I tested five brands—Made In, Caraway, Equal Parts, Great Jones, and Food 52’s Five Two. Each had a piece I really, really loved —so if you’re looking for a singular new pot or pan, rest assured, we’ve pulled those out for you. But if you are looking for a new complete set of cookware—I found one set to be a little above the rest, at least for your average home cook.
Best Complete Set
Caraway Cookware Set
Caraway’s Cookware is a statement piece to say the least. The brand prides itself on providing nontoxic and environmentally friendly cookware, but let’s be real: the first thing that will catch your eye are the colors. They are poppy yet well-designed, and you have the choice of six, which might just be the most difficult decision you’ve made in a while. Beyond color palettes, the cookware itself is beautiful, complete with beveled edges, and a sleek design from handle to lid. The Set comes with four ceramic nonstick pieces—a fry pan, a sauce pan, a saute pan, and a dutch oven. I like that they use the dutch oven as both a stock pot and an oven to save space. While the lids are not transparent, they do feature a steam hole, which is a nice and very important touch.
If you’re going to buy a set, it’s better to buy all non-stick and then accent it with stainless steel pieces, which is why I think this set is best. Other sets (like Great Jones’) have stainless steel built in. While these pieces are closer to restaurant quality, I found myself less likely to use them as they are more difficult to clean. Instead, Caraway’s pans are overall the easiest to clean, the easiest to maintain, and the most versatile. Side note: Caraway also offers organization tools: the lids fit inside the pots, the set comes with magnetic pan racks that fit the pans perfectly, and it comes with a canvas lid holder that fits perfectly on the inside of a cabinet.
Made In Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan
Made In’s Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan is the best pan out there by a longshot and any level of cook should have it in their arsenal. Carbon Steel is like Cast Iron, only better. That’s because it gives you the best of both worlds — Cast Iron to avoid sticking and Stainless Steel for heat and easy handling. It’s easy to clean, you can cook anything on this pan, and if you take care of it right, it’ll last forever.
If this was a contest to determine the best set of pots and pans for a chef, out of these five, Made In would win. Their cookware is used in multiple three-Michelin-star restaurants — that’s how good it is. The Starter Set comes with five pieces—a 10-inch stainless steel pan, a 10-inch blue carbon pan, a 2-quart saucepan, an 8-quart stock pot, and a little tin of carbon steel seasoning wax. This is great if you enjoy stainless steel, but in reality, most home cooks don’t. It’s more difficult to clean, but on the flip side, is better for the type of high heat cooking you need when cooking bacon or fish. This is the set you should get if you’re an advanced cook, diving into cookbooks headfirst without a fear in the world.
Best Non-Stick Pan
Equal Parts Essential Pan
When they say this is an essential pan, they mean it. Made of ceramic nonstick material, it’s a 10-inch wonder that you can cook pretty much anything in. It also has a lid, which makes it great for multi-purpose use, and better yet, it has higher walls than your average pan. That means you can stir fry away, or saute without getting little bits and pieces of onions everywhere.
In terms of the complete set, I found Equal Parts to be almost identical to Caraway except for a few minor details. While the price is lower, there are less colors to choose from, and it lacks the smaller touches (no steam holes, no organizational tools). I also found the assortment and sizes of pans to be a little interesting. The pan is small comparatively and the pot is a little big, too. However, this is still an excellent set of ceramic nonstick cookware. All of the pieces nest to make them easy to store, they are free from toxins like teflon, synthetic coatings and lead, and they are all oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Five Two 2.7 Quart Pot
This is the best saucepan you can find. Not only is it a pot, it’s a measuring cup (check out those cleverly designed measuring lines) and a colander. It’s kind of small but it’s the perfect little pot, and the glass lid allows you to see what’s going on inside. Genius.
Food 52’s pots and pans set is really well-designed, crafted with input from Food 52’s online community. The set is comprised of four-pieces and includes a 10-inch skillet, a 4-quart saute pan, a 2.7-quart saucepan, and a 6-quart stock pot. Everything is stainless steel, except for the skillet which is made of nonstick ceramic. The lids are see-through, a really nice touch, and include built in colanders, another ingenious detail. Similar to Made In, the stainless steel interior isn’t great for the casual home cook since they’re pretty annoying to clean, but they have anti-yellowing technology that helps keep them looking fresh and new from day one to day one-hundred.
Best Big Pot
Great Jones Dutchess
The Dutchess, Great Jone’s take on a Dutch Oven, is the best part of the set in my opinion, and so why not just get it on its own? It’ll shine on any stovetop and since it’s made out of enameled cast iron, it’s multifunctional, can go in the oven, and comes complete with a nice gray interior that helps avoid stains. It is also dishwasher friendly, people. If you constantly find yourself using your dutch oven like I do, you’ll be glad you got this.
The five piece set from Great Jones is a fantastic option and includes a ceramic nonstick frying pan, and three fully clad stainless steel beauties — a sauce pan, a saute pan, and a big ol’ stock pot. It also includes The Dutchess, their dutch oven, and you can choose between seven bold colors. All of the stainless steel pieces nest, and four of the pieces share just two lids. It’s a nice blend between chef-worthy cookware — stainless steel that’s great for high heat — and home-cooked perfection in the form of ceramic nonstick and enameled cast iron. It’s easy to clean and even easier to use. Another cool feature is you can have the set engraved with a name, anniversary, or signature dish.
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