Pots and Pans: Our Favorite Models

How much of your cookware is on its last legs? Does your kitchen inventory need a refresh?

If you're ready to invest in a piece that will last a lifetime, explore our list of tried-and-true pots and pans that are worth every penny—plus, they’re the same equipment we rely on in the test kitchen day in and day out. Then put your new cookware to good use with 100 Techniques. This indispensable tome features 100 innovative techniques that will transform your cooking life, paired with more than 200 innovative recipes that put the techniques into real-world, home-kitchen applications.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

Our longtime favorite skillet still beats all newcomers, with a clean design that includes no unnecessary frills. We appreciate the wide cooking surface and low, flaring sides that encourage excellent browning and evaporation; a steel handle that stays cool on the stovetop and won't rotate in your hand; and an overall weight and balance that hit the sweet spot between sturdiness and maneuverable lightness. It resisted warping and withstood thermal shock and outright abuse with nary a scratch or dent. Its three layers of cladding, with aluminum sandwiched by steel, make for deep, uniform browning.

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The cooking surface was slick, both when new and after extensive use, and food never stuck. It’s one of the lightest models we tested, so it was easy to lift and maneuver, but it was also sturdy and resisted denting. All of our testers liked its wide, comfortable handle. Like every other model, its surface became scratched when we used a knife as if to cut a frittata, but it otherwise held up well.

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With flaring sides, an oversize helper handle, wide pour spouts, a satiny interior, and balanced weight, this expensive but beautifully made pan is a pleasure to cook in. Our only quibbles: A small piece of cornbread crust stuck and tore when we flipped the pan, and scrambled eggs stuck a little (but scrubbed out easily). After abuse testing, the pan still looked nearly new.

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This set was a heartbreaker. It has well-designed, balanced pans with practical sizes and shapes and comfortable, cool handles at an outstanding price. Everything cooked beautifully. And then, on the last day of abuse testing, the skillet warped badly as we heated it to 500 degrees on an induction burner, leading us to worry about the set’s durability. (A second copy of the pan did not warp when we heated it more gradually to 500 degrees, however.) Note: Since we originally tested this cookware set, the manufacturer changed its name from Potluck to Goldilocks; the products themselves remain the same.

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Our longtime winner excelled, with uniform, steady heating and good visibility inside the saucepan to monitor browning. Its cup-shaped stay-cool handle was easy to grip, and a helper handle provided another grabbing point when the pan was full. Even after brutal whacking on concrete, this model emerged with only tiny dents inside and one slight dent on the bottom, and it still sat flat on the counter.

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This saucepan has the same tri-ply fully-clad construction as our top-rated All-Clad pan, with two layers of stainless steel sandwiched around a layer of aluminum. It performed almost as well, but ran a little fast and hot, so onions browned slightly around the perimeter of the pan. The cooking surface is relatively narrow. The moderately heavy frame was easy to lift and scrape food from, but its handle gets hot during extended cooking. Its shiny interior dulled after cleaning up pilaf, and it suffered more damage in our abuse testing than higher-ranked models.

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This perfect, pricey pot bested the competition again. It was substantial enough to hold and distribute heat evenly without being unbearably heavy. The light-colored interior combined with low, straight sides gave us good visibility and made it easy to monitor browning and thermometer position. The broad cooking surface saved us time since we could cook more food at once. The lid was smooth and easy to clean. This pot is expensive, but it was exceptionally resistant to damage.

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This reliable pot performed almost as well as a traditional cast-iron Dutch oven. Its fully clad construction ensured stellar heat retention and distribution, helping it sear meat efficiently and evenly. Its broad cooking surface meant that we didn’t have to sear meat in extra batches, and its large, easy-to-grip handles and low, straight sides allowed us to maneuver and reach down into the pot with ease. It was large enough to fry in, and it baked bread adequately, though its loaf was not as satisfyingly browned and crusty as those from our favorite cast-iron pots.

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Our Best Buy lightweight Dutch oven is constructed from three layers of durable stainless steel and aluminum, which radiated and distributed heat efficiently and evenly. This led to a great sear on meat and beautifully cooked rice. We also liked its large, secure handles and tight-fitting lid. But it had one drawback: Its cooking surface is 2 inches smaller than that of our winner, so it took more batches (and more time) to sear food.

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While this skillet started out with a rougher surface than those of the artisan pans, its gently nubbly texture quickly gained seasoning, and by the end of testing it released food and cleaned up perfectly. At about 8 pounds, it’s heavy, but that weight helps with heat retention and browning. Its roomy surface and high sides make it a versatile performer—all at a great price for a pan that will last forever.

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