The 10 Best Budget Cookware Sets
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Purchasing a full cookware set can save you tons of time you'd otherwise spend researching each individual pot and pan separately. But these kitchen essentials can also be quite pricey, which is why we found budget-friendly options that can handle any recipe your heart desires, and they're available in a plethora of styles and colors to match any decor. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best budget cookware set on Amazon.
How To Choose The Best Cookware Set For You
If you're looking to buy your very first cookware set, the sheer number of choices available can make your head spin.
If you're looking to buy your very first cookware set, the sheer number of choices available can make your head spin. There are so many shapes, sizes, and materials that making a decision can seem overwhelming. But the most important thing to note right off the bat is that you don't have to spend half a paycheck to get a set that will suit your needs. There are excellent options at many price points, so we'll start by going over what you should look for in a cookware set, depending on your individual preferences and cooking habits.
Stainless steel is great for high-heat applications, like searing a steak or cooking under a broiler. It's extremely durable and nonreactive, meaning you can cook anything in it with no residual flavors or odors. However, it doesn't distribute heat as evenly as some other materials, and inexperienced cooks may find it difficult to cook eggs and other foods that tend to stick to pans easily.
Aluminum is lightweight and typically inexpensive. It conducts heat very well, so it heats up faster than most other materials. On the other hand, it's a softer metal that scratches and dents more easily than stainless steel, and it's reactive with tomatoes, vinegar, and other acidic foods.
Nonstick pans are great for beginners as they're more forgiving when cooking delicate dishes like pancakes or omelettes. Most foods release easily, leaving very little residue behind, making Teflon and other nonstick surfaces a breeze to clean. On the downside, though, they can't handle super high heats, and many of them are not safe for use in the oven.
How To Care for Different Types Of Cookware
Depending on what they're made of, different types of pots and pans can require a very different care regimen.
First off — and please don't be mad at us for this — no matter what type of cookware you have, it will last longer if you wash it by hand rather than in the dishwasher. And if you're on a tight budget, you want your kitchen gear to last as long as possible. Even if pots and pans claim to be dishwasher-safe, the high heat and abrasive cleaners can be damaging, especially for nonstick coatings. But, if you absolutely must use the dishwasher, try to find the gentlest detergent possible and don't use the super hot cycle.
And if you're on a tight budget, you want your kitchen gear to last as long as possible.
Nonstick cookware is probably the easiest to take care of since, as the name implies, food doesn't typically stick to it. A sponge or washcloth with some plain old dish soap is your best bet, but you can also use a paste of baking soda and water, as long as you don't scrub too hard. It's best not to use cooking sprays on nonstick cookware if you can avoid it — they can be harder to wash off and the buildup can make your pans sticky.
For stainless steel, steer clear of abrasive cleaners and sponges, as they may scratch the surface. Dry your pans inside and out as soon as you finish washing them to avoid water spots. For burnt-on food or discolored areas, Bar Keepers Friend is, well, your best friend. This inexpensive powdered cleanser will remove stains and leave your cookware looking brand new. But, if you don't have any, you can boil some water and vinegar, or make a scrub from baking soda instead.
Cast iron is one of the best materials out there for braising, searing, and making homemade pizzas, but it is rather finicky when it comes to cleaning. It's okay to use a little bit of mild dish soap once your pan is well-seasoned, but while you're still building up your seasoning, it's best to forego the suds. You can use hot water and a stiff brush, but steer clear of steel wool as it may damage your seasoning. For tough, cooked-on bits, you can scrub the pan with kosher salt and water, then rinse or wipe it clean with a paper towel. It's important to thoroughly dry cast iron after washing, and to keep your seasoning looking good, heat it up in the oven or on the stovetop and rub it with a thin coat of oil after each use.
A Brief History Of Cookware
While the origins of the very first piece of cookware are unknown, modern-day pots and pans are a far cry from the humble pottery vessels used in ancient days to roast food over a fire. Early boiling methods included using rocks from hot springs to raise the water temperature, and some of the first waterproof cookware was made from turtle shells or carved from rocks.
They made roasting pans by covering a basket with clay and filling it with wood coals.
Native Americans started out using woven baskets for their cooking, and formed special waterproof baskets out of leaves. They made roasting pans by covering a basket with clay and filling it with wood coals. The coals would harden the clay, allowing it to separate from the basket to become its own cooking vessel.
Centuries later, advancements in metalworking led to the creation of the first metal cookware, but it was extremely expensive, so many Medieval kitchens still used clay pots for most of their cooking. It wasn't until the 17th century that iron, brass, and copper began to be used extensively in cookware. Today, stainless steel and aluminum are the most common types of metals used in pots and pans.
Cast iron, the original nonstick material, may be making a comeback, but you're far more likely to find Teflon or ceramic-coated skillets in the average kitchen. It seems like a modern-day convenience, but Teflon was actually discovered — by accident — in 1938 by a scientist named Roy J. Plunkett, who was working in one of DuPont's research laboratories. At first, it seemed that it was too expensive to manufacture for the company to ever find a market for it, and it took years for Teflon-coated pots and pans to be invented. Dr. Plunkett won Philadelphia’s Scott Medal in 1951 for his discovery, and Teflon bakeware was formally introduced to the public by giving each person who attended the banquet a nonstick muffin pan.
Statistics and Editorial Log