The 7 Guidelines on How to Choose Cookware

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 on how to choose cookware that is best – for YOU.

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

  • 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.

MaterialProsConsWhat to look for
Stainless steelDurable.
Attractive appearance.
Does not react with food.
Easy to maintain.
Poor conductor of heat.
A bit of a learning curve to prevent food from sticking.
Looking for stainless steel that is bonded with copper or aluminum to make it a good conductor of heat.
AluminumExcellent conductor of heat.
Very soft, dents easily.
Reacts with acidic food.
Look for hard anodized aluminum (anodization is a process which strengthens aluminum to twice the hardness of stainless steel and makes it non-reactive to food).
Cast IronInexpensive.
Requires seasoning to maintain.
Can react with food if not seasoned.
Can be bare or enamel coated. If buying enameled, the quality and thickness of enamel is important at it can chip into the food.
CopperExcellent conductor of heat.Very expensive.
Reacts with acidic food.
Look for copper cladding in stainless steel cookware for the heat conductivity of copper at a more affordable price.

Good choices for the home cook:

[Having a core means having an aluminum or copper disc at the bottom, sandwiched between layers of stainless steel.]

Keep in mind that cookware with copper will always be more expensive than aluminum.

If your budget allows, look for Stainless Steel cookware with aluminum or copper cladding. Cladding means layers of metal not just on the base but all the way up the sides. The result is you get even more even and efficient heat in the pan. It’s also referred to as tri-ply (3 layers) or multiclad cookware. Good choices are:

If you’re in the market for a more premium cookware and considering All Clad but feeling the sticker shock, check out Made In Cookware. They are a new company which launched in Sept 2017 and offer American made 5-ply stainless steel cookware with aluminum core. Like All Clad but much more budget friendly. You can read my review here.

Hard Anodized Aluminum with a nonstick coating is another good choice, like the Rachael Ray Hard Anodized Nonstick set. And if you prefer ceramic coated vs teflon type, Caraway cookware offers some excellent heavy gauge aluminum pans. (Read review here).

If you’re wondering about the difference between hard anodized and non-stick, read our guide on Aluminum cookware.

Lastly, if you are someone who wants to be completely sure that nothing can leach from their cookware to their food, you might be a candidate for 100% ceramic cookware like Xtrema.

Xtrema is completely free of any metals and any chemical toxins and I would consider it one of, if not THE, safest cookware available in the market today.

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 or Made In Cookware set that will pretty much last you a lifetime. Another excellent choice is Potluck cookware that offers quality cookware at affordable prices. And if you want metal free, a great choice is Xtrema 100% ceramic cookware.

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, budget friendly triply cookware Potluck (read review) 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.

Here’s a great set that’s perfect for both ‘love-to-cook’ and ‘have-to-cook’ personalities – Caraway Cookware. It looks great, performs fabulously, and is ceramic coated which means no chance of anything leaching into food plus great convenience when it comes to cleaning up. Read my full review here.

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 7-10 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 gauge 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!

Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

70 thoughts on “The 7 Guidelines on How to Choose Cookware”

  1. Hi,
    I bought the blue carbon steel fry pan almost a year ago, about 2 months ago I started seeing markings of silver that looks like the coating is coming off. Also, it sticks all of the time on the bottom , but only at certain spots. Is all of this normal?

    • Hi Mary, blue carbon steel doesn’t usually have any nonstick coating but rather is a heat treated material designed to resist rust and provide some seasoning. Acidic food will sometimes strip the heat treatment, showing the bare metal underneath. This is totally normal. Your pan pan likely needs to be re-seasoned.

  2. What is your opinion of caphalon tri ply copper? There was an extremely great price on a 10 piece so I purchased it to replace a 39 year old caphalon anodized non stick which had seen better days. I notice that caphalon was not in your listings

    • Hi Esme, Calphalon is a great brand and their triply copper is a great choice if you managed to get a good deal on it. Quality cookware with copper is always a more elite choice. My list in above article is by no means exhaustive, rather offers the most basic suggestions. You’ll notice the calphalon set is my top choice for triply copper cookware in my Copper Cookware write-up :)

  3. So marble coating is not actually marble but it’s the name given just after its appearance. Thanku so much for replying.

    • I think the dots embedded in the non-stick coating are some sort of marble or stone, giving it a more durable and abrasion resistant effect. Now whether its real marble or man-made I can’t say.

  4. Hello, thanks for sharing your knowledge with everyone. That’s really informative.
    Can you pls also tell us what exactly is marble coating ? Is it a type of PTFE coating or something new? I am seeing a lot of metal pans available with marble coating.

    • Hi Fatima, that’s a great question and after doing some research, I’m going to conclude that it can be either ceramic based or ptfe based. For example, if I go through product listings of marble coated cookware on Amazon , I see listings which clearly state ceramic, ptfe-free as well as those that only claim pfoa free. (Generally, when a cookware claims to be ‘pfoa free’, it usually means it is ptfe based, just made without the use of pfoa in the process. For a more in-depth explanation of pfoa free, read here. .)

      On the other hand, this Chinese non-stick manufacturer PFLUON clearly states their marble coating is ptfe based with a dot scattering marble effect in the top non-stick layer(s).

      So I would say if you are considering marble coated cookware, you would have to check the product literature of that specific product to see if it is ceramic based or ptfe based. Hope that helps!

  5. It sure is interesting to know that not only does stainless steel cookware are easy to maintain, they also do not interact with your food! My son is currently exploring the culinary arts at a young age, and I would think he will need the tools that w3ill give him the base flavor of everything he wants to cook. It certainly looks like gifting him a new set of stainless steel cookware will be a great idea.

  6. I bought the circulon innovation stainless steel cookware set about a year or so ago and it is peeling already. Really disappointed in it. I bought it for my daughter who has celiac.

  7. Ur opinion on commercial tawa cookware for Indian flat bread or disable making. Is copper or hard anodised cook top better ?

    • hi Sandeep, I don’t know if there are any copper flat pans but I see plenty of options for hard anodized. Another option is cast iron, I believe Lodge has a flat griddle pan that would work well for Indian flat bread.

  8. Hi..your article was very helpful in clearing some of of my doubts indeed. Can you please suggest your opinion about the best stoneware n ceramic available in the market. (I was looking over ozeri brand)Also if this will be a good safe option to try.. if I want to choose nonstick dishwasher safe saucepan? I am using hard anodized currently but after using it in dishwasher I ve noticed now some scratches so want to change it.
    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Bhavi, thanks for your comment, I think you will find my article on Ceramic coated cookware helpful, I also included my recommended brands at the bottom.

      Also, I would strongly recommend NOT washing any nonstick cookware in the dishwasher, even if the manufacturer says it is ok. The environment in a dishwasher is very harsh due to the heat and detergent and can easily damage the coating. In my experience, its so easy to wash off a nonstick pan by hand that I feel no need to wash it in the dishwasher. Just my 2 cents!
      Hope that helps!

  9. Hi, I am into Indian cooking, but quite the contrary, tend to use very little oil or fat while cooking. So wasn’t sure if stainless steel would work for me. I need new cookware and was looking between Circulon Premier Professional Nonstick 13-piece Cookware Set ( I love the fact that the saucepans come with a spout and strainer lid) and Kirkland Signature Hard Anodized 15-piece Cookware Set (more variety in types of pots and pans). Could you advise if I am on the right track here and if not what are my options ? I am looking at a budget of 150$. – 200$

      • Hello Zainab, firstly, thank you for dropping by!
        I cook a lot and I mean A LOT on stainless steel and use oil sparingly too. So I really do think you can do lower fat cooking on stainless steel. Here’s what I do, I let the pan get quite hot, then I take a basting brush and spread a little bit of whatever cooking oil I am using. This makes the pan quite non-stick without using much oil at all. So I definitely think you are on the right track. As for either of those sets, I don’t think you could go wrong with either, your needs will help decide which one is better for you.
        I hope that helped!

        • I think I am going to take your advice and get a few pans of stainless steel along with anodized nonstick as an assortment. Appreciate the article and the personal advice as well.

  10. Hii…im
    Asian and i cook spicy n oily food.
    I dont want to use the cookware made from pfoa bcz it is harmful to health.i want to use stainless steel but it becomes sticky easily. So iam looking for hard anodized cooking pans with nonstick doubt is in hard anodized with nonstick pans does the nonstick material contains teflon or not whether it is good for health?
    Thanku in advance.

  11. Such an informative article. I’m going to buy a new cookware as my Rachael Ray Cucina Hard Porcelain Enamel Nonstick Cookware Set can’t be used on induction stoves. Thank a lot.

  12. Hi.. i m
    Asian and i cook mostly spicy foods with lots of oily
    Stuffs…my stove is gas… what kind of cookware shud i buy? The ceramic or sth else… plz help

    • hi Nazdya, for oily Asian foods on a gas stove I expect you need to hit high heat for quick cooking. I would recommend Cast Iron, Carbon Steel or even Stainless Steel. These types of cookware can withstand the high heat without fear of damaging any coating.

  13. I live in an older apt, so I have an electric stovetop. I wonder which material is best for this this stovetop. I have tried stainless steel, but I feel that it doesn’t heat well in less I have the stove on high heat. But I almost feel like it’s the stove itself not heating well (the apts won’t replace) And I’m worried about using nonstick as I should not use high heat with that either. Do you have a suggestion for a good set to use on an older electric stovetop?

  14. My wife and I have been looking at cooking more in our home, so we’ll be needing to get the right cookware. I really liked the suggestion the article gives about choosing your cookware based off what category of cook you fall into. I think my wife cooks more because she has to, so finding cookware that is low-maintenance like the article says would be a good place for us to start.

  15. I am looking at two sets of cookware. Oneida Prime 12 piece Forged Aluminum and Oneida Prime 10 Piece Anodized Aluminum. Prices are similar. Any suggestions? Is one healthier than the other? Is one better for nonstick than the other? Other pros and cons? Anyone have either of these?

    • Hi Theresa,
      Oneida Prime 12 piece Forged Aluminum has Whitfords Fusion ceramic non-stick coating.
      Oneida Prime 10 Piece Anodized Aluminum has Whitfords QuanTanium (teflon type) nonstick coating.
      Ceramic non-stick coatings tend to last much much less than ptfe/teflon type coatings. By some standards they are ‘healthier’ though honestly, at normal cooking temperatures, I don’t find that really applies. [Read my ceramic coatings review here if you want more details)].

      So if a ‘healthier’ cookware is your priority, get the ceramic coated. But if longevity of non-stick is important to you, then I would recommend the hard anodized set with the teflon type non-stick coating. QuanTanium is a reinforced coating which has an 8/10 rating by the company. Should give you several years of use without wearing out.
      Hope that helps!

      • Is Oneida a good brand of pans? I like the idea the Quan Tanium is long lasting. Is the Anodized aluminum going one of the better materials or is there something else I should be looking at? Thanks!


        • Hi Theresa, I’m only familiar with Oneida bakeware, not cookware but I think its a reasonably good brand.
          As an alternative thats more tried and tested for me, Cuisinart non-stick also uses QuanTanium non-stick coating and comes in many set sizes.

          I think hard anodized Aluminum is a great choice for cooking material, specially if you are looking for non-stick.

  16. I am torn between anolon and stainless steel. I have a gas stove and am having a hard time which to go with. I have never had stainless steel, but when I would cook with them at a friends house the food always stuck to them. Everyone seems to swear by them, but I don’t want to add more oil for it not to stick. I am leaning more towards anolon, but am concerned of the nonstick coating. Then there’s ceramic but I haven’t seen that recommended a lot for gas stoves.

  17. Hi I’m trying to decide between – Belgique
    Hard Anodized 11-Pc. Cookware Set and Cuisinart Contour 13-piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set – please suggest.

  18. I’m trying to decide between the Cuisinart or the Rachel Ray Hard Anodized Non Stick Aluminum Cookware. Any comments or suggestions? Thank you.

    • Hi Nikita, you didn’t specify if you are looking for non-stick or stainless steel cookware so I’ll try and suggest both.
      Firstly, for budget non-stick cookware, I’ve heard good things about the Tramontina Primaware.

      If you are looking for stainless steel, you would do well with T-fal Elegance, it comes with 2 fry pans, 2 sauce pans and a dutch oven which I find quite sufficient for basic needs.

      I have included links to both so I hope that helps!

  19. Are you familiar with the epicurious hard anodized pots? I am currently trying to decide between those and the Rachel ray hard anodized. I really like that the Rachel ray are light (I have joint problems) but the epicurious aren’t as tall and each pot is about a half quart larger! It looks like the epicurious is a newer brand so I can’t find many reviews!

    • Hi Kathleen, I have had so many readers asking me about Epicurious, but unfortunately I don’t have much information about that brand yet. I believe they are exclusive to JC Penney and they do look good but beyond that, I can’t comment on performance and longevity of the non-stick. I hope some of the other readers are able to comment and help out.

  20. I have the Caphalon Try Ply stainless set and I love it! It cost me $399.99 but it was worth any penny. I also have a Caphalon cast iron pan that I love! To clean my stainless steel pans I use the Pampered Chef Stainless steel cleaner and it makes my pans look like brand new.

  21. 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?

    • 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.

    • Although I get the “made in the USA” thing, nowadays the raw materials our out-sourced and it may just be “assembled” in the US. Either way, I think that standards in other countries like Germany tend to be much higher than US and so I’m okay buying German-made. And in regard to price… hate to use a much-used expression but “you get what you pay for.” Personally invested in my cookware because I use it daily. I was really glad I did. I learned what performance in cookware is actually like. I had no idea what hand-cast was about until I used it. This stuff is pretty incredible to cook with. Family members have bought it too and agree. website is

  22. 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!

    • 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!

    • Hailey,
      I don’t think Simply Calphalon is PFOA-free or it would say so on the box. For the Calphalon Contemporary it says clearly on the box and their website that it is PFOA-free but for Simply Calphalon it does not say so anywhere. Why take a chance when you have other options? Your son loves you and cares about your health. He will feel very guilty if these pans affect your health adversely and will wonder why you did not tell him about it when you knew about it all along. Your son wants to make your life easy, not difficult. Discuss your concerns frankly, tactfully and lovingly. A strong, loving relationship will not be messed up over a set of pans. Your son will understand because he will never want to inadvertently harm his mother.

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

    • 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.

  24. 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.

    • 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!

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

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

  27. 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

    • 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!

  28. 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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