In our tested research of the larger stainless steel cookware market, we chose the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel Set as the best value set. Learn more about the cookware set’s features and why we’d suggest it to anyone looking for low-cost cookware.
It’s almost expected that when you shop for a cookware set, you’ll look at larger price tags. That was true of most pan sets we tested in our bigger stainless steel cookware review. After all, obtaining a full family of high-quality pots and pans without spending a fortune might be difficult. It’s not impossible, as we discovered when we received Cuisinart’s Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel Set. A combination of exceptional heat conduction, convenient stackable designs, and an optimal range of pan sizes all contributed to our decision to name it the best-value stainless steel cookware set on the market.
1. Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Cuisinart Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set
$180$440Save $260 (59%)
What You Get: 8- and 10-inch fry pans, 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans with lids, 3.5-quart sauté pan with lid, 8-quart stockpot with lid | Material: 3-ply clad stainless steel | Cleaning: Dishwasher-safe | Oven Safety: Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
- Beginner cooks looking to upgrade to stainless steel
- Small to medium-sized kitchens
- Bargain hunters searching for great deal
- You’re a more experienced cook looking for an investment set of the highest quality
Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Set Features
A Near-Professional-Quality Cookware Surface
The industry standard for stainless steel cookware is 3-ply clad construction, which, despite its lower price point, is exactly what you get with the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic set. The phrase “3-ply” refers to an aluminum core sandwiched between two layers of steel (aluminum transmits heat extremely well, but it isn’t sturdy enough to stand on its own, which is where the steel comes in). Because of the set’s structure, the heat can be turned up fairly high, allowing cooks to sear proteins to maximum flavor. I made pan-fried turkey burgers, seared scallops, and sautéed chicken breast in the frying pan, and they all came out with the same golden-brown crust and juicy innards. Much of this is due to the previously mentioned 3-ply sandwich, and it’s a tribute to this set’s capacity to withstand higher temperatures.
However, remember that I said the set holds up “well” rather than “perfectly.” When I utilized this set, I had to alter the cooking temperatures. The Cuisinart pan’s surface heated up significantly faster than the All-Clad, so the protein crusts browned much more quickly than expected. However, if this were your daily set, you’d quickly acquire accustomed to its specific heating speed and learn how to set your burner to accommodate the pans. However, more experienced cooks will likely be used to particular temperatures—the kind that heavy-bottomed, top-tier sets can withstand—and will want to consider this feature before purchasing. (As an aside, my tests with simple long-grain rice and hard-boiled eggs did not appear to be harmed by what I considered a quick-heating element. I discovered that the set needed to be heated to a boil before being reduced to a simmer to correctly cook both meals, providing fluffy, separated rice grains and solid yellow yolks.)
Nonetheless, the Cuisinart pans’ cooking surface excels in other areas, particularly surface adherence. This refers to food’s tendency to stay at the bottom of the pan or pot long enough to develop a strong flavor. The surface adhesion strength of a certain set is especially noticeable when creating sauces like marinara, which becomes savory and flavorful when the adhesion is correct. My marinara tests went out brilliantly, with a flavorful, just-right fond. The Cuisinart set can handle similar components that necessitate that level of consistent browning and caramelization.
Flexible for Small- and Medium-Sized Kitchens
Anyone purchasing a whole cookware set will want to know that the pans they are acquiring will meet all their culinary needs—this is especially crucial for those on a tight budget. In other words, most cooks would prefer not to buy more components. Fortunately, during the test, I found that Cuisinart’s pan set provides the right range of sizes, from small to large. It’s a range that can accommodate most standard-sized recipes, and there are no options that would look out of place or “too large” on a stovetop or in a storage cabinet. In short, the Cuisinart set saves space where it can while remaining large enough to handle large-batch cooking operations. The fry and sauté pans can easily prepare up to six servings and are comparable in capacity to the All-Clad.
The stockpot is where you’ll see a change. It is, admittedly, slightly taller and thinner than other sets, which is visible when the pot is placed on a large burner. I found that there was still sufficiently surface area at the bottom of the pot to make an incredible fond on the marinara, which is the true test of a good pot. You may require more space if you have a large kitchen stove or frequently batch cook.
The stockpot is one of the set’s thin form. Cuisinart pots also feature narrower and shorter handles, which has an advantage: If you have a stove or cabinets that are small or medium in size, they will fit better in your area. The stockpot handles, when combined with the narrower base, allow a smaller saucepan to slide onto the burner next to it, allowing for more cooking at the same time. The handles also allow the pots to stack and slide into smaller cabinet spaces. If you have larger hands, you may find this set restricting and uncomfortable to grip. However, if you have a smaller room, this may be a tradeoff you are ready to make.
A Great Value Proposition
Yes, nonstick is typically advertised as the easiest material to clean, but a nonstick pan will never provide the adhesion required for good caramelization, so your proteins and sauces will not be as flavorful as they would with a stainless steel set. You can’t additionally use metal utensils or cook on high heat like you can with a stainless steel set. Cuisinart can do all of the above, so while it’s a little more expensive than a nonstick set, it’s worth it for a conscientious cook.
It’s also worth noting that I’m afraid I have to disagree with the assertion that nonstick cookware is more comfortable to clean than stainless steel. I used warm soapy water and a sponge to clean the Cuisinart set. For more tough problems, a lengthier soak and the scrubby part of the sponge were sufficient.
This set’s high-quality design, durability, and endurance, and all stainless steel sets in general make it a good purchase. That is why you cannot beat the value provided by this set. The Cuisinart Chef’s Classic cooks, cleans, and stores well, all at a shockingly low price. And, because it is expected to last for years (as do all of the greatest stainless steel pans), it is a no-brainer purchase.
How Does The Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Compare To Other Stainless Steel Sets?
When I tested five stainless steel cookware sets in my broader review, the All-Clad D3 Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set came out on top. However, at $700, it will not appeal to all cooks—which is where the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic comes in. The pan impressed me with its optimum heat conduction, stackable designs, and equally ideal range of pan sizes, especially considering its relative price. I ultimately determined that it was the greatest value stainless steel cookware set on the market, and I would suggest it to any budget-conscious consumer. (If you’re looking for 5-clad pans, Made In’s “Sous Chef” set is also worth a look.)
How I Tested The Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Set
I did a series of tests to see if the pans could cook common recipes in the expected time and with the desired color, texture, and flavor. Each test was developed with the pan shape in mind, and I kept them as simple as possible to prevent significant fluctuation.
I pan-fried 85% lean turkey burgers on medium-high heat, seared scallops for two minutes on each side to test, and sautéed boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a lemon-butter sauce in the fry and sauté pans. This was to test for caramelization and browning on the outside crust, with the rest remaining juicy yet thoroughly cooked.
I cooked marinara sauce in the stockpot to test capacity and flavor using two 28-ounce cans of peeled tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Also I cooked long-grain white rice in a medium saucepan to ensure it didn’t stick or clump, resulting in separated cooked grains. I reheated two sections of the marinara and created hard-boiled eggs to check for properly cooked yellow yolks to test the smaller saucepan’s capacity to heat and cool.
After each test, I let the pans cool before washing them in warm soapy water to see how easy they were to clean.
As a professionally educated baker, I have 15 years of experience catering and designing unique cakes and pastries. I received my bachelor’s degree in culinary arts from the Institute of Culinary Education and my master’s in food studies from New York University. During my study, I spoke with Sharon Franke, a 30-year employee of the Good Housekeeping study Institute, and Mahsa Kazemifar, a private chef who went to the Culinary Institute of America and New York University with me. They are both quite knowledgeable about cookware.