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Best Stainless Steel Cookware

Last update: April 2017
Every chef knows, having good stainless steel cookware is no-regret investment, as bringing good cooking experience and living life long in your kitchen. After deliberately reviewing, we unanimously voted for Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro the winner.



  The Winner Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Best Overall : Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro

Best Overall
With solid 18/10 fully-clad stainless steel and aluminum core inside like high-quality, All-Clad, the Multi-Clad Pro yields evenly cooking, sturdiness. While good ergonomic design and 1/3 of All-Clad price tag makes more well-worth to use. This outstandingly get overall best scores. Full Review ›


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Best Performance : All-Clad d5

Best Performance
For upgrading cooking experiences, the All-Clad d5 comes with 5-layers of heavy-gauge stainless steel and aluminum that allows exceptional heat conductivity, heavy-duty construction, exquisite craft, and lifetime guarantee. This is such an heirloom cookware that worth the hype. Full Review ›


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Best Affordable : Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad

Best Affordable
If those two winners bleed your budget, this Cooks Standard cookware is a good optional. At around $200* for 10-piece set, it provides nice tri-ply construction, it makes cooking performance goes far beyond the price tag---not good as the first two winners but very impressively practical for daily recipes. Full Review ›

* Approximated price at the time of reviews. Price is subjected to change.





Our Picks


 

Worth it?

We bet, you should have heard that “Having nice stainless steel cookware means a worthwhile investment in your kitchen” ...and we insist this. Unlike nonstick and most types of cookware, stainless steel pots and pans will last for lifelong and cook almost anything, as well as improve your cooking experiences.

“So, should I buy a whole set?” It depends. Ideally, buying a la carte or buying what you want, is the best choice. Also, this suits for some who aren’t frequent cook or living a couple, which having a nice skillet and two sauce pans is enough for daily uses. However, it’s more expensive than buying whole set, which might has some unwanted pieces, instead. To compromise the issues, we recommend buying a set that containing useful pieces.

According to Cook’s Illustrated, the recommended pieces includes:

Saucepan 2 sizes of covered saucepans,
  • 2-quart one for heating soup or cooking oatmeal
  • 4-quart one for vegetables and other side dishes
Dutch Oven a 6- or 7-quart cast-iron Dutch oven for braising, deep-frying, and even baking bread,
Traditional Skillet a 12” traditional skillet (or fry pan),
Nonstick Skillet a 10” nonstick skillet for cooking delicate omelets and fish,
Cast Iron Skillet a 12” cast-iron skillet (or fry pan) that’s big enough to fit four chicken breasts,
Stockpot a large stockpot that can do double-duty for pasta, lobster, or corn on the cob.

Anyway, some might need extra pieces. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats, for example, also suggested a 14” wok as it’s perfect for indoor smoking, braising, deep frying and steaming. This is a rough guides, the selection is up to your preference and cooking habit.

Remember, bigger set doesn’t always mean better. Manufacturers count anything in the set, includes lids, spatulas, spoon or even recipe books. Beware this before choosing.


What To Look For

1) Good material. For any cookware, heat conductivity does matter. When talking about stainless steel cookware, All-Clad is spotlight for fully-clad cookware. Generally, stainless steel cookware can be divided into 3 types by heat efficiency, from high to low performance:
  • Fully-Clad. This is the finest class. By having conductive materials[1], such as aluminum or copper, layer(s) inside from bottom all the way up to the rim of pots and pans for boosting steady transfer heat and even cooking. Notice the words, ‘clad’ or ‘Ply’, such ‘Tri-Ply’ that means 3 layers of metals. There’re ‘5-Ply’ or even ‘7-ply’ in some models these days.

    Typically, the more layers, the more heat performance (also, the high price and weight), as well as and the more price. All-Clad, like the name, grants for fully-clad.

  • Bottom-Disc. The second best. This type has conductive materials only inside the bottom, not run to the rim. This help boosting ability but can’t be compare to fully-clad. This can be found as ‘encapsulated base’ or ‘bottom-disc’. This kind of cookware has less weight and price than fully clad.

  • No Conductive Material. The worst choice, which can be found in cheap cookware. Poor heat absorption and hard to clean.

Fully-clad cookware makes noticeably better for both cooking performance and clean up.


2) Sturdy craft and construction. Look for heavy-gauge 18/10 stainless steel and thick body for ensuring the quality and toughness. For a peace in mind, we recommend the pans that are heat-proof at least 450°F with stainless steel handles to make universal fit for most cooking methods, includes oven and broiler cooking. All lids should fit firmly to keep in moisture and have heat resistance at least 350°F and we prefer stainless steel to glass.

3) Good ergonomic design. When pick up, they should feel balance in hand without pull overly to one side. The handles should be easy to grip and feel cool when cooking, as well as shouldn’t be too close to the pot for preventing burns.
Besides, they should be heavy enough to hold firmly on stovetop and oven without warping or sliding around. Don’t pick too heavy pot unless you’ll have to find lighter ones so sooner. Also, the rims should has round-shaped and smooth edges for making easy pouring and safe from cutting your fingers.

4) Practical for your real habit. What kind of recipes do you often cook? How much will you be cook? How many do you cook for? Ask yourself these questions before picking cookware to decide what you really need. This will help prevent overbuy some pieces that waste your money and cabinet space.

5) Work with your cooktop. Some pans works nicely on specific burners, mostly gas stove. Many stainless steel pans don’t work well with induction cooktop that need magnetic materials, such as cast iron and magnetic 18/0 stainless steel in the bottom. Typically, flat-bottomed cookware is recommended so as to flexibly work with many cooktops than round shape.


Best Stainless-Steel Cookware

All-around, the Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro is our pick from having everything great features as a stainless steel cookware set should be, in very unbeatable price. Say, It has All-Clad features but not at All-Clad price.
 

Best All-Around: 
Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro


  The Winner Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro
Performance 9
Quality 10
Ease of Use 10
Appearance 10
Value 10
OVERALL RATING
9.8/10


In short: all-around worth. The Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro (MCP) provide fully clad, sturdy 18/10 stainless steel with a thick aluminum core that makes it almost comparable to All-Clad standard tri-ply line, while needs less than a half of All-Clad price. An useful 12-piece set is sold for under $250[2] ---reasonably best choice for us all.

The performance is excellent for home cooks. All-Clad, our benchmark, is initially made for restaurants and chefs. So, it does superior for super-fast and evenly cooking that easily yields nearly perfect cooking results. But, if you don’t really need restaurant performance at home, this may not much worth. While the Multi-Clad Pro can serves all-purposes for daily uses nicely. It works well with most stovetops, includes induction, as well as oven- and broiler-safe up to 550°F. From expert tests, it worked impressively---didn’t reach All-Clad ability but not too bad[3], and better than many pricier ones.

Cuisinart has good reputation for ease of uses in most products. Indubitably, this cookware hits big scores on decent ergonomic design. With flared rolled rims, it makes easier pouring without spills. The handles are more comfort to hold and friendly for small hands. These features are good for saucepans and stockpots and make 4-quart saucepan being picked by Cook’s Illustrated as the Good Buy product.

The Multi-Clad Pro has flared rolled rims
The Multi-Clad Pro has flared rolled rims, which makes good for pouring without spill out. This feature is definitely useful for saucepans. (Cook’s Illustrated picked 4-quart saucepan as the Good Buy product.)

Also, the shape is relatively more user-friendly for home duties. Multi-Clad Pro has relatively wide and open shape stockpot (so they call Dutch oven, instead of stockpot). This make easy for making stews and soups by browning meats and sautéing vegetables before stewing, which usually does in home style recipes. While the skillet has straighter and higher sides, helping easy prevent ingredients bouncing off. The extended helper handles found in big pans, such as 12” skillet are very helpful, too.

On the downsides, we’ve found many users experienced discoloration but can easily handle with polish cleaners, such as Barkeeper’s Friend, or proper care. Still, it carries a lifetime warranty for manufacturer defects.

In a nutshell, Cuisinart does great job as offering practically good tri-ply stainless steel cookware with good design for home usage, and in reachable budget.
 

Best Performance: 
All-Clad d5


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back All-Clad d5
Performance 10
Quality 10
Ease of Use 10
Appearance 10
Value 9
OVERALL RATING
9.8/10


For upgraded experience, All-Clad is literally the first name to go, for both cooking ability and craft quality. The famous original tri-ply, crafted of 18/10 (304 grade) stainless steel with thick aluminum layer inside for ideal performance for every task, is unsurprisingly a most mention as ‘best product’ out there, includes Cook’s Illustrated, Good Housekeeping and many reputed chefs. So far, the d5 is even better.

The d5 offers 5-ply, more layers of aluminum and durable stainless steel for extra strength and cooking ability. For the reason, it brings optimal results---superior temperature control, beautiful searing, perfect golden browning, or even boiling water. The results turn good on every burner and optimized for induction. From our views, the d5 reaches perfect ceiling for cooking ability.

5-Ply Construction
The d5 features with more layers of aluminum and stainless for boosting cooking quality

Comparing to standard line, the d5 improves much better on ergonomic design. It comes with more comfort handles and flared rims for easier pouring. These upgrading are only found in the d5 and higher series, such as Copper Core or d7. Combined with extremely sturdy construction and refined USA-made[4] handcraft with lifetime warrantee, this makes it worth the extra cost for exceptional durability.

The easy cleaning is a common feature of All-Clad stainless steel cookware since having less hot spots and burnt sticks. This makes impressive cleaning and keeping shiny, with no (or very less) discoloration and looks brand-new after heavy uses.

Splurge worthy? If you want to boost your cooking experiences personally or professionally, invest in the d5 is well-worth as you’ll get remarkable performance cookware that will last for a lifetime.
 

Best Affordable: 
Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad
Performance 9
Quality 8
Ease of Use 8
Appearance 9
Value 10
OVERALL RATING
8.8/10


For inexpensive options, we kept our eyes on fully-clad feature priced under $200 for a standard 10-piece set. Our outstanding contenders are Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad and Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad. We can tell you that the winner won by inches, see our comparison review.

The cooking quality are both nice. Tramontina, as a former release, was brought to compare with All-Clad tri-ply and praised as a budget alternative by Cook’s Illustrated. From TheSweetHome testimonials[4], the performance came across standard line but got some distances to All-Clad or even Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro. This result test was consistent with SeriousEats[5]. After heat-controlled experiments, we found no significantly different between Tramontina and Cooks Standard. Both performed well on gas stoves and slightly worse on electric and induction burner.

The construction is both satisfied solid. Both are made of 18/10 tri-ply with aluminum core, and oven-safe around 500°F. The thickness of pots is nearly the same, which pretty good but not as thick as to All-Clad and Cuisinart, and a bit heavier. Still, the two feel sturdy and not warp easily.

Perhaps, design is the noticeably different between them, and makes Cooks Standard preferable. After remodeled in 2014, Tramontina skillets have smaller cooking surfaces and too flared rims. While Cooks Standard has more straight and curved rims, which make no-messy searing. Moreover, Cooks standard provides more comfortable and cooler from v-shaped handles.

Honestly, Both Cooks standard and Tramontina are steals. They’re really nice budget alternatives. Not as consistent performer as All-Clad or Cuisinart, this two runners serves impressive results for daily cooks and startups in very affordable price. Unanimously, we finally picked the Cooks standard as best value products, mainly from price, better in ease of use and a steamer.

Still, the Tramontina is outstanding in terms of bigger pieces.

All-Clad d5 (10 pieces) Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro (12 pieces) Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad (12 pieces) Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad (12 pieces)
Saucepan with lid 1½ quart 1½ quart 1½ quart 1½ quart
Saucepan with lid 3 quart 3 quart 3 quart 3 quart
Sauté Pan with lid 3 quart 3½ quart 5 quart 5 quart
Stockpot with lid 8 quart 8 quart 8 quart 12 quart
Dutch Oven with lid - - - 5 quart
Steamer - included included -
Skillet 8 inch 8 inch 8 inch 10 inch
Skillet 10 inch 10 inch 10 inch 12 inch

Noticeably, comparing with standard set of 10 to 12 pieces, Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad 12-piece set offers larger sizes of pots and pans. Say, this is a rare set that includes a 12-inch skillet, a 12-quart stockpot, and a roomy 5-quart sauté pan, which are useful for preparing big meals for a group of 6 to 8 persons. However, for a small family or a couple, it’s quite too big.


Market Reviews

Update: April 2016
The prices mentioned are estimated retail prices at exact period and are subject to change. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers.

There’s tons of players in stainless steel cookware market. Our review put the major priority on products that have 18/10 fully-clad feature as the finest quality available. Still, we also reviewed some interesting encapsulated-disc cookware as a cheaper alternative. We separated the products from price per set of 10 piece set.

High-End (more than $600) *

Start with other top-notch series of All-Clad, such as Copper Core ($1,399 for 10-piece set) and d7 ($799 for 7-piece set). They reflect effectively good performance, but even costly than d5. Anyway, if the fetal price isn’t issue, they’re no-regret. But, we don’t recommend Master Chef2 (MC2) for not markedly better than standard Tri-ply and incompatible with induction.

All-Clad Copper Core 5-Ply
All-Clad Copper Core crafts 5 layers of stainless steel, aluminum, and a thick copper core for superior performance and strength. Heat-safe up to 600°F.

Maulviel, likes some European brands, such as DeMeyere, Le Creuset and Fizzler, is truly positions in high-end quality and outstandingly gorgeous design. There’s no suspicion on performance and craft, but they require such an astronomical price, which may not worth the hype than All-Clad. They’re good investment if the budget is not your concern, though.

Maulviel, the top-notch French-made brand, offers exceptionally beautiful craft and performance cookware since 1830. Mauviel M’Cook ($799 for 10-piece set), a competitor of the d5, comes with 5-ply clad, which makes impressive cooking performance (oven-safe up to 680°F) and dishwasher-safe. However, we’ve found many complaints that the handles are too small for the lids. This makes difficult to remove them without contacting the lid, as well as hard to grab, even use pot holders. Some users found water is trapped in the handles after being washed, too.

Maulviel Copper Heritage ($1,599 for 9-piece set), offers 2.5-mm thick copper with stainless-steel inside. Though this heirloom cookware works as advertised; the cooking ability is beyond superb, the bronze handles get hot easily and sometimes can’t hold with bare hands. Also, as made of thick copper, the pots are truly heavy even when without ingredients in. Try the weight before buying.

The DeMeyere 5 Plus ($999), a Belgium-made brand, offers 5-ply with commercial 18/10 stainless-steel with modern design and well-made craft. Interestingly, this cookware has no rivet, which easier for washing. It works with most stovetop, but design for making very compatible with induction stoves, as having TriplInduc layer for boosting up to 30% of induction-cooking efficiency.

Le Creuset Stainless-Steel ($850 for 10-piece set), well-known French brand from Dutch oven, offers award-winning tri-ply stainless steel cookware.

Le Creuset Stainless Steel Cookware Set
Le Creuset accents gorgeous design and quality. The performance is remarkable, even for inductive stovetop.

Above from beauty in old-style design, the construction is well-made and sturdy as an heirloom product. Outside is infused with titanium to resist discoloration while inside layer is made of surgical-grade stainless steel. It’s compatible with most stovetop, includes induction, and dishwasher-safe. Some users prefer it than All-Clad from more comfortable handles and traditional design.

Mid-Price ($300 - $600) *

Viking Contemporary ($399 for 10-piece set) is outstanding for beautiful Winsor style 3-ply and nice quality craft. However, the odd variety pieces, uncomfortable handles and price tag lessens much scores.

Calphalon Tri-Ply ($299 for 13-piece set), and Calphalon Contemporary ($399) that is identical in quality but different in design, performed worse than Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro but better than Tramontina Tri-Ply in experiment test[6], for evenly cooking. Moreover, many users experienced about badly food sticks and hard to clean.

Cuisinart French Classic ($399 for 10-piece set) has the same qualifications, Tri-Ply, as Multi-Clad Pro, our pick. With spending another $100, it would be worth for those who want France-made certified product, not China-made, and more enhancing beauty.

Cuisinart French Classic
Cuisinart French Classic provides gorgeous French-inspired look with same qualifications of Multi-Clad Pro.

Emeril’s Pro Clad by All-Clad ($299 for 12-piece set), a China-made, works moderately nice. But it has glass lids and slightly thinner than Cooks Standard and Tramontina while cost a hundred more for the reputation of chef Emeril and All-Clad. It’s discolored easily.

KitchenAid Tri-Ply ($299 for 10-piece set), works fairly well in mid-range, but has many blamed for durability, design flaw and cleanup.

Lagostina Axia ($279 for 10-piece set) is a fine in both quality and craft. This is an interesting rival of Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro with a bit more expensive. We didn’t experience yet, however, most reviewers are impressed.

Low Price ($200 and below) *

Duxtop Whole Clad Tri-Ply ($199 for 10-piece set), another budget tri-ply clad, works nicely on various cooktops. As an induction stove manufacturer, Duxtop offers the cookware that works well with induction cooktop without buzzy noise. The cooking performance is moderately well in mid-price range, but appears much food sticks and discoloration.

T-fal Tri-Ply Multi-Clad ($199 for 12-piece set) is probably the first fully-clad, best quality of T-fal stainless steel. The whole construction and cooking performance are satisfied for amateur cooks or beginners to economically upgrade. The set includes a steamer, which is hardly found in low-cost sets. Still, it easily to have food sticks and hard to keep shiny after cleaning.

T-fal Tri-Ply Multi-Clad
T-fal Tri-Ply Multi-Clad is another cheaper upgrading for beginners or food enthusiasms for everyday basis.

Low Price ($200 and below) * without Fully-Clad

For budget people and those who can’t lift heavy weight of ‘good’ cookware, the encapsulated base, or conductive disc in the bottom, cookware is the second best. This is not our preference as lower performance and material quality, there’re some interesting models, though.

Cuisinart Chef’s Classic ($199 for 14-piece set) instantly caught our interest. Though lessened heat efficiency, Chef’s Classic has many good features like Multi-Clad Pro, such as 18/10 stainless steel, no-spill-over rims, comfortable handles, and practical shape for home cooks. It works well on many stovetops, best with gas range, but not for induction stoves.

More importantly, it has variety size selections, from 7- to 17-piece sets, with an optional 11-piece glass lids set. We love that each set includes all-useful pieces and container sizes. Besides, the larger sets include a steamer and a pasta insert. Overall, this is a wise choice for colleges or beginners, as well as budget savers for having practical cookware.

77-7 (7 piece) 77-10 (10 piece) 77-11g (11 piece with glass lids) 77-14 (14 piece) 77-17** (17 piece)
Saucepan with lid 1½ quart 1½ quart 1½ quart 1½ quart 1½ quart
Saucepan with lid 3 quart 3 quart 2½ quart 3 quart 2 quart
Saucepan with lid - - - - 3 quart
Sauté Pan with lid - 3½ quart 3 quart 4 quart 4 quart
Stockpot with lid 8 quart 8 quart 8 quart 9 quart 9 quart
Skillet 8 quart 8 quart 8 quart 8 quart 8 quart
Skillet - 10 quart 10 quart 10 quart with cover 10 quart
Skillet - - - - 12 inch with cover
Steamer with lid - - 18 cm 20 cm 20 cm
Pasta Insert - - - 24 cm 24 cm

Calphalon Classic ($199 for 10-piece set) stands out for cooking ability, material quality, and practical design. The cooking performance is better than others with bottom disc. The Classic has real stay-cool handles and straining holes with pour sprouts for easy draining liquid without using a colander. Also, it’s oven-, broiler- and dishwasher-safe, as well as compatible with induction stovetop.

T-fal Ultimate Stainless Steel Copper Bottom ($199 for 13-piece set), a popular one, performs pretty good for gas ranges; it heats a bit too quick but quite even. It allows for induction burners and dishwasher-safe. The construction feels sleek and solid. Still, many users complained that handles get very hot when cooking, which requires pot holders.


* Roughly estimated price per set of 10- to 12- piece set. The price of some products may vary by retails or promotions.
**Discontinue by manufacturer.





Footnotes
(1) Stainless steel itself isn’t a good heat conductor. As the result, the quality cookware needs conductor material, mostly aluminum and copper, to boost cooking performance. Therefore fully-clad type is preferable.
(2) The prices mentioned are estimated retail prices at exact period at the time of reviewing and are subject to change. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers.
(3) According to TheSweetHome.com experiments on stainless steel skillets, All-Clad did best results on even heating. On skillet test, All-Clad tri-ply had 30-degree difference between the hottest and the coldest spots on the heat map, while Multi-Clad pro and Tramontina had 50- and 78-degree. For boiling test, All-Clad saucier reached for quick boiling in 6 minutes and 30 seconds, whereas Cuisinart Multi-Clad Unlimited and Tramontina needed 7 minutes and 40 seconds and 11 minutes and 11 seconds. And after 10 minutes off the stove, All-Clad went down to 137°F, Cuisinart and Tramontina were at 142°F.
(4) Not every piece is USA-made. The body of pot and pans are made in the US with material from the US, while some other pieces, such as handles, lids and some small parts may come from China. While Emeril’s by All-Clad series are entirely made in China, from materials from China.
(5) J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from SeriousEats did side-by-side test on All-Clad and Tramontina tri-ply series for 4 aspects: heat distribution, heat retention, speed to react temperature change and miscellaneous. He concluded suggestion for All-Clad as differently all-around better performer, but Tramontina was for budget buying.
(6) According to TheSweetHome evenly test on skillet by comparing difference between the hottest and the coldest spots on the heat map, All-Clad tri-ply had 30-degree difference (best result), Multi-Clad pro had 50, Calphalon Tri-Ply had 70 and Tramontina had 78.