You can buy a prepackaged cookware set (we reviewed them here), but creating your own customized a la carte set lets you focus your space and resources on the pans you need most.
To help you get started, we’ve organized choices into three categories:
- The Essentials: These are the absolute basics we think a home cook needs to prepare the widest selection of recipes with the fewest pans.
- The Add-Ons: With a little more money to spend and space to spare, you can add these pans next. We consider them to be great choices to build out your core set of essential pans.
- Awesome Extras: We admit that we love certain pans that may not be utterly essential, but they make us happy. And, truth be told, we find ourselves reaching for them more often than we expected. Some are a bit of a splurge, but we think they’re worth it.
All of the specific products we list below are winners of full testings we conducted here at America’s Test Kitchen. Where relevant, we’ve also included the best inexpensive version of each piece—what we call our Best Buys—to give you more budget flexibility.