Best Cheap Cookware Sets
Published on By Elizabeth Sheer
Cook N Home 12-Piece Review
From $58 Best
The stainless steel pots and saute pan in this set can be used on induction cooktops and are oven-safe to 500 degrees. The collection is easy to clean and each piece comes with a lid.
The Cook N Home 12-piece stainless steel cookware set (starting at $58, Amazon) is quite versatile considering its low price point. Because the pieces are all stainless steel and there is no plastic anywhere on them, they can be used with multiple heat sources, from electric and gas to induction stoves (including glass and ceramic cooktops) as well as in the oven. The pots can withstand up to 500 degrees, but the glass lids are not oven-safe. Consumers who have posted Cook N Home reviews on Amazon have also found the set to be durable and high quality. One reviewer comments that the pans are nice and heavy, although a number of others are pleased with how lightweight the cookware feels.
Many consumers mention that they zeroed in on this set as a low-cost alternative to nonstick cookware, which they saw as a potential health risk. One reviewer reassures fellow shoppers used to nonstick cookware that they are unlikely to burn food or damage this set as long as they use enough oil or liquid and don't cook at very high heat. Reviews on the retail site Wayfair also mention that the stainless steel pieces are easy to clean. One shopper recommends soaking the pans in water for a bit. This cookware is also dishwasher-safe.
There is a vented, tempered-glass lid for every one of the six pots and pans. The set includes a 1.5-quart pot, a 5.5-quart stockpot, and a 10-inch saute pan. There are also 1.5-, 2-, and 3-quart casserole pans, with handles on either side, in lieu of the saucepans common in other sets. The bottom of each piece contains an aluminum disc to aid in heat distribution. Although users report that the pans conduct heat evenly, some point out that this can be an issue when it comes to the stainless steel handles. One reviewer grumbles about having to use potholders.
The Cook N Home 12-piece stainless steel cookware set may be inexpensive, but many reviews speak to its durability and quality, with very few complaints all around. In one review, an Overstock customer says she originally bought this as a starter set until she had enough money to afford a more "permanent" one but now has no plans to purchase another. On the whole, buyers of the Cook N Home 12-piece stainless steel set consider it an excellent value for the money.
T-Fal Signature Total 12-Piece Review
From $63 Best
This set includes utensils and a griddle along with a useful assortment of other nonstick pots and pans. It wins kudos for its value, even heating, manageable weight, and easy cleaning.
The T-Fal Signature Total 12-piece set (starting at $63, Amazon) comes with six nonstick pans, including a griddle, a pretty cool extra that other sets don't have. This cookware also has a Thermo-Spot heat indicator, a circle in the middle of the pans that turns red when the surface has sufficiently pre-heated. Gimmicks aside, more than two dozen T-Fal Signature Total reviews on the Walmart website are almost entirely positive, and many reviewers mention easy cleaning as a selling point. One shopper says it couldn't be easier to get the cookware spic and span. She also notes that the nonstick coating lives up to its name.
If this set has a flaw, reviewers say, it's in the sizing. Several reviews on Overstock mention that some of the items are on the small side. One shopper points to the circumference of the skillets and another opines that the pots could be a bit bigger. This set comes with two saucepans in 1-quart and 2-quart sizes, a 5-quart Dutch oven, and 8- and 11-inch fry pans, in addition to the 10.25-inch square griddle. Many consumers say they're happy with the assortment of pots and pans in the set. Other sizes are available in this line, so it's possible to purchase them separately.
The T-Fal Signature Total 12-piece set also includes a nonstick-safe spatula, ladle, and large spoon, which some reviewers like but others dismiss as poor quality and a waste of money. The pots and Dutch oven have tempered-glass covers with vents, and the handles are made of stay-cool plastic and riveted onto the pots. The cookware is dishwasher-safe and oven-safe to 350 degrees, but the aluminum exterior makes it unsuitable for use with induction cooktops. This set comes in three colors: red, blue, and black.
One other issue some reviewers have with this cookware is how it performs at high heat. On Amazon, one reviewer observes that the heat discolored the pan and caused the nonstick coating to peel. There are also a few complaints about the griddle warping. However, nonstick cookware is not recommended for cooking over high heat, and most reviewers have had no problem using this set, as evidenced by the hundreds of 5-star ratings.
The T-Fal Signature Total 12-piece nonstick set does everything inexpensive cookware should do, according to reviewers -- just don't expect perfection. For a casual cook on a budget, this set should suffice.
WearEver Admiration 12-Piece Review
From $50 Good
In addition to pots and pans with glass lids, this set comes with nonstick-safe utensils. The brand is a longtime favorite among consumers and the cookware is fairly sturdy without being heavy.
WearEver cookware has been around since the 1900s (it was one of the first aluminum cookware brands). However, the WearEver Admiration 12-piece set (starting at $50, Amazon) isn't your grandmother's cookware; you can't feed a large crowd with this set. Many consumers who have posted WearEver Admiration reviews online consider the pieces a tad small -- better suited to couples or singletons. On Overstock, the reviews are mostly positive but often mention that the pots are shallow and the frying pans somewhat cramped.
Included in the set are 1- and 2-quart saucepans, a 5-quart Dutch oven, and two skillets measuring 8 inches and 10 inches (although the online description identifies these as saute pans, they do not have straight sides). There are also four nonstick-safe utensils packaged with this cookware. The pots have tempered-glass lids, and the Dutch oven lid fits on the large fry pan. The cookware is dishwasher-safe and oven-safe to 350 degrees, but it is not appropriate for use on induction ranges. The wide handles are designed to be easy to hold and made of plastic, so potholders are not necessary. Although some experts recommend riveted handles, because they're less likely to come loose, Good Housekeeping points to the rivets on this cookware as the primary con of the WearEver Admiration set. They proved difficult to clean and discolored in testing.
In general, consumers reviewing the WearEver Admiration 12-piece set on Amazon seem to consider it pretty well constructed. However, one shopper found that the included utensils melt easily. Another complains that the nonstick coating comes off the pots and pans, even when they're washed with just soapy water and a dishcloth. Buyers must remember to use wood or other non-metal utensils with this set or risk scratches on the pans.
While some pieces in this WearEver Admiration set are on the small side, reviewers suggest that this cookware makes a good starter set for someone setting up their first kitchen. Many users have been relying on the brand for years.
Farberware Classic 10-Piece Review
From $70 Good
This stainless steel cookware is easy to clean, heats evenly, and performs adequately. The two skillets have nonstick cooking surfaces, offering buyers the best of both worlds.
Farberware has been a trusted brand for decades. Many users report that their older Farberware sets are still going strong 10 and 20 years later. The Farberware Classic 10-piece set (starting at $70, Amazon) may become a kitchen standby for a new generation, based on the positive reviews. The general feeling is that the quality has not really diminished over the years, and many Farberware Classic reviews come from parents and grandparents who have given this set to recent grads for their first apartments.
The set includes two nonstick frying pans that measure 7 and 9 inches. The saucepans hold 1, 1.5, and 2 quarts, and the biggest pot is 5.5 quarts. The stainless steel pots have an aluminum-core base to help heat their contents quickly and evenly. The lids for the pots are tempered glass and the handles are made of phenolic, a type of resin that stays cool to the touch during use. The cookware is oven-safe to 350 degrees. This is primarily a stainless steel set, but users should be aware that the aluminum skillets are not compatible with induction cooktops (although some reviewers have tried them on a ceramic glass stovetop and found that they work fine, thanks to the flat bottoms).
Although most of the set is dishwasher-safe, the manufacturer recommends washing the nonstick skillets by hand. Farberware Classic reviews on the retail site Wayfair suggest that hand washing might be good practice for the pots, as well. One reviewer says the stainless steel comes out of the dishwasher looking somewhat dull and blotchy. However, a number of other users comment that the set is easy to clean.
A couple of reviewers posting on Amazon mention a family history of using Farberware and comment that the materials just aren't as durable as the older cookware they grew up with. They found that the nonstick frying pans, in particular, don't seem to hold up as well as the pots do. One reviewer noticed wear after only a few months.
Otherwise the consensus seems to be that the Farberware Classic 10-piece set looks nice and works well enough for basic cooking. Reviewers say the size of the cookware is better suited to a couple or small family than for cooking for a large group, but for a starter kitchen, it's a good buy.
Sunbeam Armington 7-Piece Review
From $20 Think Twice
Carbon steel is known for being able to withstand high temperatures, but consumers say this brightly colored cookware scorches and rusts easily, and the nonstick coating is barely there.
The Sunbeam Armington set (starting at $20, Amazon) comes in sunny colors indeed -- turquoise, red, and lime in addition to black. But a colorful kitchen doesn't make up for a lack of quality. The nonstick surface comes in for particular criticism in Sunbeam Armington reviews. On Amazon, reviewers complain that the nonstick coating comes right off -- and many specify that they use only plastic utensils and follow the manufacturer's directions. One user says the coating came off the first time the pan was used and the food took on an orange tinge, raising health concerns. Others writing on the Walmart website assert that the coating is too thin to keep food from sticking to the cookware. When they scrub off the burnt residue, even with a plastic pad, the nonstick coating begins to peel off.
The carbon-steel exterior is magnetic and will work with induction stoves but is not oven-safe. (Carbon steel is typically used in cookware that needs to get extremely hot, such as a wok or a pan that will be used for searing and deglazing.) Another complaint with this set is that the pots and pans are too lightweight and seem unlikely to last very long. Positive reviews often point to the low price, and many buyers seem to consider the cookware disposable -- a perfectly fine choice for college or another temporary living situation.
There are just four pots and pans in this ultra-cheap set: a 9.5-inch fry pan, 1.5- and 2-quart saucepans, and a 4.5-quart Dutch oven. The sizes are fairly typical, although our top picks have Dutch ovens that hold at least 5 quarts. The pots come with vented, tempered-glass lids and the pieces have Bakelite plastic handles designed to stay cool during cooking. The whole set is supposed to be dishwasher-safe, but again, some users report that even hand washing disturbs the nonstick coating.
For less than $20, the Sunbeam Armington 7-Piece might be good enough for a beginner who doesn't do much cooking. But be aware that you get what you pay for with this set; the nonstick coating may not stick around for long.
Chef’s Du Jour 32-Piece Review
From $25 Think Twice
Only four of the 32 pieces in this cookware set are pots and pans. Buyers report that food sticks and burns, the knives don't cut, and the nonstick coating peels off at the get-go.
The Chef's Du Jour 32-piece set (starting at $25, Amazon) may seem like a good buy if you are looking to equip a kitchen without spending much money. Unfortunately, Chef's Du Jour reviews rail against the quality, warning shoppers that it likely won't be long before they have to buy everything again.
A 32-piece set may sound like it includes practically every pan you could imagine, but it comprises only four pieces of cookware: a 3.25-quart Dutch oven (tiny compared with the other sets we researched), 1.25- and 1.75-quart saucepans, and a 8.625-inch saute pan. The rest of the 32 pieces: three lids; six kitchen tools; a seven-piece cutlery set that includes scissors and a wooden block; and four knives, forks, and spoons. The pot lids are made of vented, tempered glass and the handles are a stay-cool material. Although everything but the knife block is dishwasher-safe, none of the pieces can go in the oven.
The pans in the Chef's Du Jour 32-piece set are made of carbon steel with a nonstick coating. The steel rusts very quickly, as does the flatware, according to user reviews on Amazon. The nonstick interiors don't seem to work very well, either. Food sticks to the surface, reviewers say, and pieces of the coating come off easily.
The other items in the Chef's Du Jour 32-piece set seem no better in quality. In reviews, consumers describe the knives as very soft and flimsy and report that they don't cut much of anything. (A knife from the set will cut butter, but only just, says one reviewer.) The flatware bends easily, according to some reviews, and the handles have come off after a few uses.
On the whole, the Chef's Du Jour 32-piece set is exactly what most purchasers seem to expect from cookware that costs about $1 per item; i.e., the quality is poor. Although some customers who posted reviews on Overstock are glad to have outfitted a starter kitchen on the cheap, a couple of other reviewers say the pieces remind them of a children's toy set. Even a parent who was happy with this purchase for a son's first apartment concedes that, if he does much more than boil water, he'll need a replacement soon enough.
Where to buy
Choosing a Cookware Set
Purchasing a multi-piece cookware set typically costs significantly less than buying each piece individually. The trick is to find a set with the pieces, features, and performance you want within your budget. Well-burnished names such as All-Clad, Le Creuset, Calphalon, and Swiss Diamond are aspirational, gourmet brands that can easily cost well over $700 for a set. It's possible, however, to get a good set of cheap cookware that features elements of the upmarket sets and bears a brand name such as Farberware or T-Fal. We found cookware sets for less than $80 that can help home cooks turn out good-tasting, good-looking food.
Before making a purchase, consider what kind of cookware is right for your range. This is particularly important with a smooth, ceramic-glass or conduction stovetop, because some cookware can't be used on those heating elements. Also take account of your cooking style: What size pots and pans do you prefer? Do you want to start a dish on top of the stove and then pop it in the oven for a while? Do you want to peer into a covered pot through a glass lid as a dish bubbles away? Do you prefer metal spoons and spatulas or plastic, wood, or silicone? Do you mind washing by hand? Also, pay attention to the handle: Will the vessel be comfortable to hold when full? Will the handle get hot to the touch? You might try stopping in a nearby store to physically check out the goods: feel the weight, hold the handle, and inspect the finish.
Most budget cookware is made from aluminum, carbon steel, or stainless steel. The interior cooking surface may be the same metal as the exterior, but cheap aluminum and carbon steel cookware usually features a chemically based nonstick finish (sets with eco-friendly, nonchemical coatings are priced above the Cheapism price range). After looking at both nonstick and uncoated cookware, we chose the best cheap cookware of each type and one good set in each category. We also looked for features that make some cookware sets a better value than others.
Nonstick Cookware.A nonstick coating applied to a metal pot or pan helps it release foods easily and clean up quickly. With a nonstick surface, users can cook without adding any fat to the pan. This makes nonstick cookware the most popular choice among home cooks. But keep in mind that a nonstick surface doesn't brown or caramelize foods very well, and the coating can scratch off if you don't treat the pieces with care. We read reports from users saying the nonstick surface of some low-cost cookware degrades quickly, raising concerns about the release of potentially toxic compounds. Bottom line, according to experts: Avoid temperatures higher than 500 degrees, and if the nonstick coating starts chipping off, it's best to toss the cookware.
Stainless Steel Cookware.Although the Food and Drug Administration has found no risk to humans, the health concerns surrounding nonstick cookware prompt many consumers to seek out other materials. With that in mind, we looked at a relatively easy-to-use alternative available on a budget: stainless steel. Although good cast iron sets are also available in the Cheapism price range, they are heavier, higher maintenance, and less suited to everyday cooking.
Stainless steel is dense, does not hold smells or tastes, and is highly resistant to pitting or staining. It is also strong and nonreactive, which means that acidic foods such as tomatoes won't damage it. Unlike aluminum, the basis of many low-cost pots and pans, steel is magnetic (as is cast iron) and will work on an induction stovetop. However, steel is not as good at conducting heat, so the best cheap stainless steel cookware incorporates an aluminum or copper disk at the bottom for better heat diffusion. Some cookware sets also let users keep one foot in each world, by combining stainless steel pots and nonstick aluminum skillets in the same set.
Pricey vs. Cheap Cookware.Surely a soupcon of snob appeal partly accounts for the sky-high prices affixed to gourmet cookware. But the difference in build quality -- the material components and how they're put together -- is the primary factor that distinguishes cheap cookware sets from the rest. The rap on low-cost cookware is that food scorches, pots have hot spots, the bottoms warp, the finish stains, and the nonstick coating flakes off. Pricier cookware is heavier, far more durable, and -- holding the cook's skills constant -- likely to deliver better results. These pans transmit heat evenly and quickly, so food cooks faster at lower temperatures; seared meats and caramelized vegetables are easily accomplished.
The component materials of choice in the mid- and upper ranges of the market include cast iron, aluminum, copper, and stainless steel. Some higher-cost cookware features a nonstick finish, but many pieces have a stainless steel or anodized aluminum interior crafted in a way that makes it easy to clean. Cast iron is often finished with an enamel coating. Consumers who buy high-end cookware undoubtedly figure they're making a long-term investment.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
Cookware Reviews: What We Considered
Expert sources such as America's Test Kitchen tend to evaluate individual pots and pans with high price tags. Most of the cookware sets tested by Consumer Reports and the Good Housekeeping Research Institute also exceed our $80 price ceiling, and the handful of budget options in those tests generally did not perform well. In choosing the best cheap cookware sets, we relied heavily on reviews by home cooks on retail sites such as Amazon, Wayfair, and Walmart.
Ultimately, frugal shoppers want good quality cookware that does the job competently. Consumers want a well-rounded set with pieces they'll actually use. Oven-safe pieces are a particular boon. The quality should be good enough that the pots and pans don’t burn easily and the lids should fit properly. Reviewers who use nonstick cookware are adamant that the coating should be durable and not scratch or come off. The best cookware, whether nonstick or stainless steel, evenly distributes heat so food doesn't get burned. Cooking and cleaning should both be easy. Foodies may assert that only expensive cookware can produce gourmet meals, but the cookware reviews we read suggest that frugal cooks are more than satisfied with the dishes that come out of their cheap cookware.
Pots and Pans.What comes in a set of cheap cookware? That all depends. Expect to get a combination of saucepans, skillets/fry pans (with slanted sides) or sauté pans (with straight sides), a stockpot or Dutch oven, and a few lids. Larger sets usually come with a bonus of some kind, such as a griddle. A full set can be a bargain, especially for a first home, but only for someone who's going to use all (or most) of the pieces in it. Consumers should match our picks against the way they cook and what they really need.
A cookware set may contain as few as three pieces or more than 30. Note that those numbers often include lids, cooking utensils, and other miscellaneous items in addition to pots and pans. Also, price is not an indicator of the quantity of pieces that make up a cookware set. One of the cheapest we researched boasts 32 pieces.
The size of the pieces seems to be a bigger issue for reviewers than the size of the set. One cheap set might have a 3.25-quart Dutch oven, for example, compared with the 5-quart size that's typical among the best cheap cookware. Consumers are often surprised at the relatively small size of the pots and pans in many cheap cookware sets; a 2-quart saucier is just not as large as you might think. If you routinely cook for a crowd, you'll probably need to augment a cookware set with larger open-stock pieces that may or may not match.