What’s the Best Cookware for Your Kitchen?

Looking for the best cookware? The key is knowing what the piece is designed for. From stainless to ceramic, here's how to find the right pots and pans for you.

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A good cookware set can be the difference between making a killer meal and having it fall flat. A stainless steel skillet should be your kitchen workhorse, while that nonstick pan is essential for making perfect eggs. And a cast-iron skillet is so useful; I’m definitely taking it to the desert island with me! But what is the best cookware, and when should you use it?

Our Guide to the Best Cookware

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pans are classic, and they last forever. They’re super durable, lightweight and some brands are even magnetic (making them compatible for induction cooking methods). Unlike copper or aluminum, they don’t react with any foods, so stainless steel is my go-to for cooking anything and everything.

When to use it: Boiling pasta, browning butter or making pan sauces—it’s perfect. I often use my stainless steel skillet interchangeably with my seasoned cast-iron skillet when searing meats and vegetables. Just don’t make any of these stainless steel cookware mistakes!

Recommended Stainless Steel Cookware


Nonstick

Teflon and other nonstick coatings have chemicals like PTFE and PFOA that have raised health concerns. They’ve given nonstick cookware a bad rap over the years, but nonstick pans have gotten safer as technology has improved. A good nonstick pan is definitely a kitchen essential, because its slippery surface doesn’t require any oil at all. Your food won’t stick (which makes it super easy to clean, too).

When to use it: Nonstick is my first choice for making eggs, whether fried, scrambled or over easy. I also like a nonstick pan for making pancakes or crepes, and if I’m trying to cook low-fat or nonfat without oil, I choose the nonstick without a doubt. By the way, here’s how to clean a nonstick pan.

Recommended Nonstick Cookware


Ceramic

Newer to the nonstick cookware scene is ceramic coating. It’s a more environmentally friendly option, and it’s free of worrisome chemicals. But ceramic cookware isn’t built for prolonged exposure to high heat, so just make sure you only use your ceramic pans for low-heat cooking.

When to use it: Use it anytime you would use a nonstick pan if you’re worried about chemical coatings.

Recommended Ceramic Cookware


Uncoated Cast Iron

Uncoated cast iron is that classic black, heavy cast iron that your grandmother used. When seasoned, it makes a great alternative to nonstick cookware. I wouldn’t cook eggs in it, but I use cast iron to cook just about every other substance that I don’t want to stick. Cast iron rivals my stainless steel skillet for the most-used cookware in my house.

When to use it: Use it for almost anything! I always choose cast iron for cornbread and breakfast hash. It’s also great for any dishes that start on the stovetop and finish in the oven. Worried about cleaning cast-iron pans? Here’s how to properly clean a cast-iron skillet.

Recommended Uncoated Cast Iron Cookware


Enameled Cast Iron

This type of coated cast-iron cookware was made famous by the beautiful colors of Le Creuset and Staub. They don’t have to be seasoned like uncoated cast iron, which makes them a bit easier to clean.

When to use it: Braising, stewing, or making soups and stocks—porcelain-enameled cookware will do it all, and look good doing it. I also love my enameled Dutch oven for deep frying.

Recommended Enameled Cast-Iron Cookware


Carbon Steel

Carbon steel cookware is up for even the hottest cooking jobs. It performs beautifully when exposed to high temperatures, and it works just as well in your kitchen as it does on the campground.

When to use it: Paella, anyone? This cookware is the perfect vessel for hearty, big-batch recipes. But, like cast iron, you can use it for pretty much anything.

Recommended Carbon Steel Cookware

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.