The 7 Guidelines on How to Choose Cookware

When you’re trying to figure out how to choose cookware, it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed with the mind-boggling number of options out there. There are lots of good choices, but are they right for you?   Should it really be this hard to find the right cookware?

I’m here to make it really simple for you.

Remember, it all starts with YOU.

Here are the 7 guidelines to finding the best cookware set – for YOU.How To Choose Cookware



1. Your Budget.

The golden rule of buying cookware: whatever your price limit, buy the best cookware set you can afford.

When it comes to purchasing cookware,  it’s more like an investment, because chances are, it will stay with you for several years and in some cases for life, handed down to the next generation.


2.       The Material

After price, this is THE most important factor to consider when buying cookware.  Two main things to look for:

  • You want cookware constructed of a material that is an excellent conductor of heat so you get even heat and there are no hot spots in your pans.
  • The material should not react with food.

Here’s a summary of the different materials, their pro’s and cons.

how to choose cookware
Stainless steel with Aluminum Core like the Cuisinart Multiclad Pro; or Stainless Steel with Copper Core, like the All Clad set.  Having a core means having an aluminum or copper disc at the bottom, sandwiched between layers of stainless steel.Good  choices for the home cook:

If your budget allows, look for Stainless Steel cookware with aluminum or copper cladding all the way up the sides.  Keep in mind that cookware with copper will always be more expensive than aluminum.

Hard Anodized Aluminum with a nonstick coating is another good choice, like the Rachael Ray Hard Anodized Nonstick set.


3. Your Cooking Personality

Everyone has a cooking personality.  Everyone!   And it plays a part in your choice of cookware.  So it’s time to figure out yours. Are you a gourmet chef at home or someone who just likes to slap things together and convince your family that it’s a meal?

In a simple world, everyone falls within a wide spectrum of people who:

  1. Cook because they love to
  2. Cook because they have to

You are probably somewhere between these two extremes, with shades of both in your cooking personality.

If you cook because you love to, you will most likely:

  • Be willing to pay for quality cookware that is likely to last a lifetime
  • Choose cookware that looks as good as it performs. Looks do matter because you are very likely to display them in the kitchen.
  • Not mind spending time and effort maintaining your cookware.   After all, it’s a lifetime investment.
  • Make sure that food tastes authentic and there is no possibility of metal leeching into your food.

Your choice of cookware:  Stainless Steel with Aluminum or Copper cladding, Copper cookware and Cast Iron. You might want to invest in an All Clad set that will pretty much last you a lifetime.   Another great choice is Lodge Cast Iron cookware.  We are big fans of Lodge and you can read our review here.

If you cook because you have to, your thoughts might be something like these:

  • Cookware should be low hassle, easy to maintain and clean.  Dishwasher safe preferred.
  • Convenience is very important.
  • Decent quality but within a budget.  I have other things I’d rather spend on.
  • I don’t really care to display my cookware so if it shows some signs of wear, so be it.

Your choice of cookware: Stainless steel with Aluminum core like Cuisinart Multiclad Pro or Hard Anodized Non Stick Aluminum like Rachael Ray for convenience and ease of cleaning.  The Rachael Ray set now comes in a dishwasher friendly version which is great news.


4.       Your Type of Cooking

Yes, your type of cooking does matter when it comes to finding your best cookware set.

For example, if you do a lot of searing and deglazing, then stainless steel might be right for you.  If you do lots of stir frying, then cast iron might be right for you.   For boiling, a basic stainless steel stock pot would do.

There is no perfect pan.  But you can shortlist what would work best for you based on cooking needs.


5.       How many pieces you need. 

This depends on the number of people you cook for as well as your cookware personality.

So if you cook for a small family and are a ‘have to cook’ person, then these are the basic must haves for your kitchen: a 8” or 10” nonstick skillet, a 10” or 12” skillet with lid, a stock pot with a lid, a sauté pan with lid and a saucepan with lid.  Look for a 8-10 piece set or pick up individual pieces from open stock.

If you are a ‘love to cook’ personality, then you will need several more pieces , like extra saucepans, a larger stock pot and possibly a cast iron skillet for your nonstick needs.   Look for a 14 or 17 sized set. Or of course pick up individual pieces.


6.       Your Type of Stove

Cookware of any material is fine for gas, glass and ceramic cooktops.  The main thing you have to watch out for with glass and ceramic cooktops is that the cookware is completely flat so make sure it’s a heavy guage material.

If you have an induction cooktop, you can only use cookware that is magnetic since induction cooking uses the transfer of magnetic energy.  Therefore you cannot use regular Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Glass, Pyrex or Ceramic.

Your choices include Cast Iron, Magnetic Stainless Steel and some brands of aluminum cookware which are specially adapted to induction cooktops.   If you are not sure if a cookware is induction compatible, try sticking a magnet to the base of the pot.  If it sticks, it probably is.

Check out this selection of different induction compatible cookware.


7.       What to avoid

Here are the items to avoid:

  • Stainless steel cookware with no aluminum or copper as that would be a bad conductor of heat.
  • Basic aluminum with no coating or anodization as that is not durable and reacts with food.
  • Cheap nonstick pans that flake off easily.

Don’t feel pressured into buying a pre-made set if you don’t think you will need all those pieces.  Sets are usually more cost effective but what’s the point if you are not going to use all the pots.

In the end, the best cookware set for you might be a collection of different types of pans of different materials put together to form your perfect cookware collection!

17 Responses to The 7 Guidelines on How to Choose Cookware

  1. Irene says:

    Great article and comments. I am currently in the market for a set of pots and pans. I want to invest in the longevity as well as QUALITY. I recently came across Kitchen Craft pots and pans, made in the Indiana-USA. This is important to me, but the price is what anchors. Do you think ALL Clad compares to Kitchen Craft or Chefs Design, again All american made. What is your input on these products?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Irene, thank you for your comments and questions. While I have not personally used Kitchen Craft pots, I feel you can’t go wrong with All Clad if you are considering that as an option.

  2. Farrah says:

    That’s an amazing article. Really helped me a lot in choosing the best cookware for me. Once again thanks so much :)

  3. Hailey Manhattan says:

    You may have already addressed this and I missed it…..I apologize if that’s the case. I’m just torn as to what to do. I recently got a set of “Simply Calphalon Nonstick” cookware (12 pieces) from my son. He was so excited to get me new cookware. In the meantime, I’ve read so many negative articles or conflicting articles regarding the PFTE. I called Calphalon but really didn’t get the answers I was looking for. It doesn’t say on the box that it is PFOA free and that concerns me. I’ve suffered from a couple auto-immune health issues and I’m very conscious of staying away from toxins. Do you think this cookware is safe? My first thought was to try and exchange it for a ceramic set from Calphalon but I don’t know where it was purchased. I hate asking . After all, it was a gift and I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I don’t cook a lot – so if I’m careful and don’t scratch the pans – would you consider this relatively safe as far as toxins go? Thank you for your help!

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Hailey, thanks for stopping by. In my opinion, you are quite ok using the Calphalon cookware. I would highly recommend you read my article What do you mean it’s not Teflon?

      In a nutshell, here’s what I have found out in all my research:
      – PFOA is burned off during the cookware making process and no significant amount remains in the final product. Also, the use of PFOA has been phased out by 2015 under the stewardship of the EPA.
      – PTFE is an inert plastic that passes through the body if ingested. As long as you don’t overheat the pans, you are safe
      – As for scratches in the non-stick, if you’re careful you shouldn’t have a problem. And even if you get a scratch that reaches down to the metal (unlikely if you don’t use metal utensils, there are 2 layers of nonstick coating to cut through), the metal underneath is hard anodized aluminum which means the aluminum is sealed and non- reactive with food.

      I hope that puts your mind at ease and you are able to enjoy your son’s gift!

  4. robert kiewning says:

    I am looking for the best cookware for my buck without going all over town and being lied to. please help fixed income.

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hello Robert, I totally understand your concern. I am not sure if you are looking for nonstick or stainless steel cookware. Please check out my top 3 picks in each category here. You can read reviews and check the price and I hope that helps you shortlist.

      To further help, if you are looking for the best non-stick cookware within a budget, I would recommend Rachael Ray non-stick. It has one of the best quality non-stick coatings and is very well priced for number of pieces offered.

      If your choice is stainless steel, then I would recommend Cuisinart stainless steel. You can choose between a 7 piece set to a 14 piece set, depending on your needs and budget and get a quality set that will last you a long long time.

  5. Tammy says:

    How do I know the difference between nonstick pans that the coating flakes off and non-stick surfaces that have real staying power. Have paid a pretty penny for non-stick pans that eventually were scored and began to flake. This is with careful use, plastic utensils only, and no dishwashing machine. Thanks for your advice! I am tired of throwing out a pan every year or so.

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Tammy,
      You’ve touched upon a sore point for most home cooks – how to make non-stick cookware last!
      Truth is, the non-stick property of most non-stick pans will wear out sooner or later, no matter how much care you take. Here’s what I do:
      1. Use stainless steel for most cooking and know my pans will last a long long time.
      2. For eggs etc, get one good quality non-stick fry pan/skillet.
      3. Accept that the non-stick pan will not last forever and will need replacing sooner or later.
      If you get a Tefal pan, you will get 1-2 years out of it, maybe longer if you’re super careful. If you buy Scanpan, you can get more than 4 years as per one of our readers.
      That’s it!

  6. Lea says:

    What is the best choice for cooking if you need it to be lightweight?
    I can’t seem to find any measurements for weight…

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      That’s a great question Lea, one I hadn’t thought about.

      In my opinion, if I was looking for lightweight cookware, I think my choice would be hard anodized aluminum. As far as I know its lighter than stainless steel and definitely lighter than cast iron and copper.

  7. Ellen says:

    Thank you. Costco has a stainless set and a hard anodized set — as a “love to” cook, stainless is clearly the way to go.

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hello Ellen, thanks for your comments. I have to agree, my personal choice is stainless steel for almost all cooking, except eggs… for that I feel nothing beats a good non-stick pan.

  8. Asieh says:

    Hi I was struggling to find a best cooking set, came up with your advices, found it really helpful. Many thanks, well done :)

    I almost found what I needed, just a worry about it; To use a Hard Anodized Nonstick set, its recommended as below: Do not use on high heat. Low to medium heat recommended I wonder what is counted as high heat? I have a gas hob, does this mean I can use the pans on high degree of my hobs?

    Cheers Asieh

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Thanks Asieh, thank you for your kind words, glad you found this site helpful!

      High heat would be the highest dial on your stove setting. Generally considered temperatures over 450 F. Staying below this temperature preserves your non stick pans as the coating can start to deteriorate above 500 F. Which is why most nonstick pans recommend cooking at low to medium heat (275 F to 375 F).
      Hope that helps!

  9. Brandon says:

    All clad cookware heats very eenlvy and retains heat, is very durable, and will out last any cheaper set by decades. I bought a set of Paul Revere Bi-Metal [stainless outer, copper inner] clad cookware 33 years ago, and it may have cost three times as much as then K-Mart sold cookware, it is going as strong as the day I bought it. My mother owned a set of basically the same type, 30 years before that. In fact, over that time period, I have also used a Wear Ever Teflon coated saute’ pan, and have gone through at least a half dozen or so of those, but have yet to discard a single piece of the S.S. Clad cookware. The type of cookware is cost effective over the span of ones life time.I only choose Cast Iron cookware over all others, if you know how to use those in the old school way, there is no problems with it either.Invest in good long lasting, tried and true cookware, and you’ll never have to buy it again.I hope this helped.Happy Holidays!

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