Best Budget Stainless Steel Cookware in 2024 (Reviewed by a Professional Cook)

Sirwan Ajman
Sirwan Ajman

Sirwan Ajman

Sirwan writes cooking guides and product reviews for The Skillful Cook. In his writing, he draws from his experience running a health-conscious café.

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Best Budget Stainless Steel Cookware

Stainless steel’s durability, versatility, and responsiveness has made it a time-tested cookware material. Plus, it’s easy to maintain and use. You don’t need any fancy utensils or specific washing methods. Whatever you want to do in the kitchen, you can do it with stainless steel.

Fortunately, you don’t need to break the bank to get a decent stainless steel cookware set that lasts a lifetime. Many wallet-friendly options are available that can rub shoulders with premium brands. 

For this article, we reviewed and tested many of the most popular stainless steel cookware sets to see which one offers the best balance between quality and price.

Best Budget Stainless Steel Set of 2024
Calphalon 10-Piece Pots and Pans Set

Our tests showed that Calphalon cookware offers a great balance between price and performance. I recommend this 10-piece cookware set if you are on a tight budget.

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The Best Budget Stainless Steel Cookware Sets

The Calphalon 10-Piece Pots and Pans Set is among the best affordable stainless steel cookware. It cooks with rapid and even heat distribution and has excellent build quality.  

Stacked Calphalon Pots

Best Overall: Calphalon 10-Piece Cookware Set

Best Budget Stainless Steel Set of 2024
Calphalon 10-Piece Pots and Pans Set
This 10-piece, feature-packed stainless steel set is Calphalon’s most affordable collection, mainly due to the impact-bonded bottom. The aluminum core is restricted to the base of this pan, rather than running through the sides.
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In our tests, we found that the stainless steel handles don’t heat up thanks to the V-shaped design that minimizes touch points with the body.

Calphalon Stainless Steel Fry Pan

These pots and pans are perfect for stove-to-oven cooking. They’re oven-safe and can tolerate temperatures of up to 450°F. 

All the pots and pans in this set have measuring marks and easy-pour spouts, clever touches that make cooking easier. 

Quick Overview:

  • Colors available: Steel
  • Size: 8” and 10” fry pans, 1.5 qt and 2.5 qt saucepans, 3 qt sauté pan, and 6 qt stock pot
  • Oven Safe: up to 450°F
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes
  • Compatibility: all cooktops
  • Handle Material: Stainless Steel

Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Compatible with all cooktops
  • Fast and even heat distribution
  • Tempered glass lids for monitoring cooking

Cons

  • The single-layer body feels thin
  • Lid handles can get hot

Best Value: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel Collection

#2 Best Choice
Cuisinart 7-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
If you have limited space or don’t need a 10-piece set, check out this Cuisinart collection. It has just about anything an average home chef may need for cooking.
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The plated bottom has an aluminum core sandwiched between two stainless steel layers, offering great heat distribution at the base. 

7-piece cookware set / Cuisinart.com

However, you may experience uneven cooking since the aluminum core doesn’t run through the sides. Stainless steel’s limited heat conductivity prevents uniform heat distribution throughout the vessel.  

The stainless steel lids fit snugly and have stay-cool handles. The contoured handles have a V-shaped design to remain cool and offer a perfect grip. 

Quick Overview:

  • Colors available: Steel
  • Size: 7-piece: 10” skillet, 1.5 qt and 3 qt saucepans, and 8 qt stockpot
  • Oven Safe: up to 500°F
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes
  • Compatibility: All cooktops
  • Handle Material: Stainless Steel

Pros

  • Mirror finish 
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Oven and broiler safe
  • Tapered rims for drip-free pouring
  • Measuring marks on the internal sides

Cons

  • Sharp edges
  • The metal feels thin
  • Not perfect for cooking proteins 

Best Starter Set: Cooks Standard Professional

#3 Best Choice
Cooks Standard 8pc Stainless Steel Set
I love the variety in this Cooks Standard set. The company allows you to pick an 8-piece set alone or with different additional parts to match your needs.
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The basic 8-piece set consists of two saucepans, one stockpot, and one saute pan, all with stainless steel lids. The impact-bonded bottom is made of an aluminum sheet encapsulated by two layers of stainless steel, offering excellent heat conduction and heating up fast. 

What impressed me the most about this set is its excellent build quality. The pots and pans are heavy and don’t feel flimsy. The brushed exterior with the shiny strip around the rims makes a gorgeous contrast that I love. 

The handles are difficult to grasp, though. The slightly sharp angle with the body makes the pots and pans feel heavier. However, they’re made of stainless steel, which doesn’t transfer heat and prevents them from heating. 

Quick Overview:

  • Colors available: Steel
  • Size: 8-piece
  • Oven Safe: up to 500°F
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes
  • Compatibility: all cooktops
  • Handle Material: Stainless, Stainless Steel, Steel

Pros

  • Sturdy and well-built
  • Induction compatible
  • Riveted handles
  • Stainless steel lids
  • Excellent heating

Cons

  • Not-so-ergonomic handles
  • Not see-through lids

Best Budget Stainless Steel Skillet: DELARLO 8 inch Frying Pan

Best Budget Stainless Steel Skillet
DELARLO 8-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet
If you’re on a tight budget in search of a standalone stainless steel cookware piece, this skillet offers an affordable solution. You wouldn't expect to get a skillet with such a sturdy construction and superb heat distribution at this price.
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Unlike most wallet-friendly stainless steel cookware, this skillet is tri-ply, with an aluminum core running through the sides of the pan for even cooking. Its construction is durable but lightweight. This tri-ply stainless steel fry pan is deep enough to hold food, and the edges have a no-drip design. 

Another great feature of this pan is the ergonomic handles screwed on the outside. This design has removed one of the most significant flaws of riveted cookware. Food doesn’t stick to the rivets, making it easy to clean. You can unscrew the handles and stack the pan more easily. 

Quick Overview:

  • Colors available: Steel
  • Size: 8”
  • Oven Safe: up to 500˚F
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes
  • Compatibility: all cooktops
  • Handle Material: Stainless Steel

Pros

  • No-rivet handles
  • Sturdy construction
  • Induction compatible
  • Nonstick and easy to clean

Cons

  • It doesn’t have a lid
  • The walls are too vertical
  • The outside surface gets stained and doesn’t clean easily

Best Budget Stainless Steel Pot: T-fal E75846 Performa Pot

Best Budget Stainless Steel Pot
T-fal 5qt Stainless Steel Pot
T-fal is a popular brand and the go-to choice for many families. The quality of construction doesn’t disappoint, and the design has comfort and ease of use in mind. The same goes for this pot.
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The pot has vented, tempered glass lids and measurements etched on to the walls of the side so you don’t have to estimate volumes with cooking.

The bottom may develop salt stains, which is common in many stainless steel products. If it’s annoying, you can clean it with Bar Keeper’s Friend and make it as good as new. The lids are ergonomic and easy to grip. 

Quick Overview:

  • Colors available: Steel
  • Size: 5.5 qt
  • Oven Safe: up to 500°F
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes
  • Compatibility: all cooktops
  • Handle Material: Stainless Steel

Pros

  • Oven safe
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Induction compatible
  • Lightweight but sturdy
  • Even heating

Cons

  • The handles can get hot
  • Salt stains can develop
  • The lead is oven-safe but tolerates a lower temperature (350°F)

Best Stainless Steel Pan with Nonstick Coating: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic

Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Steel Nonstick Pan
This skillet is perfect for those who want the durability of stainless steel – but with a nonstick surface. After all, stainless steel can’t become 100% nonstick, no matter how carefully you preheat it.
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The coating on this pan is reinforced with titanium to offer more durability and better nonstick features. However, just like with any nonstick pan, you’ll be lucky if you get more than 3-4 years of life from this nonstick pan with careful treatment.

Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Nonstick 8-Inch Open Skillet
Cuisinart 8-Inch Nonstick Skillet / Cuisinart.com

The encapsulated bottom heats up fast and offers even heating, perfect for frying meats and veggies. And although it’s lightweight enough to allow for stir-frying, it’s high-quality and sturdy. 

The tapered rims allow for drip-free pouring, and the stainless steel handles remain cool during cooking. However, like other nonstick cookware, it can scratch if you use abrasives or metal utensils.

Quick Overview:

  • Colors available: Steel exterior, black nonstick interior
  • Size: 8”
  • Oven Safe: up to 500°F
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes
  • Compatibility: all cooktops
  • Handle Material: Stainless steel

Pros

  • Truly nonstick
  • Easy to wash
  • Oven safe
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • PTFE-based nonstick coating
  • Nonstick surface needs careful treatment
  • Not suitable for high temp cooking
  • Not suitable for use with metal utensils

Best Ceramic-Coated Stainless Steel Pan Set: Blue Diamond

Blue Diamond Stainless Steel Ceramic Cookware
Do you love the idea of kicking Teflon out of your home for good, but aren’t sure if you’re ready for the learning curve of cooking in uncoated stainless steel? In that case, this Blue Diamond ceramic set is right up your alley.
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The 7-piece set I reviewed is the best Blue Diamond stainless steel value for your money, but there are several options with differing pieces, and every set costs under $200.

The 7-piece set includes ceramic-coated stainless steel skillets of three sizes and a nice large saute pan. It’s ideal if you don’t want to invest in an entire pots and pans set but need different-size pans to fry different things simultaneously. 

The Blue Diamond ceramic coating is made of diamond-reinforced silica, so it’s free of PTFE. This set is a great choice if you don’t like Teflon, but still want fully nonstick cookware

The tri-ply stainless steel means that its aluminum core runs through the entire vessel. This creates more even heat distribution while offering more durability than impact-bonded pans.

Quick Overview:

  • Colors available: Silver
  • Size: 8” and 11” frying pans, 3.75 qt saute pan
  • Oven Safe: up to 600°F, Glass lids up to 425°F
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes (Handwashing is recommended)
  • Compatibility: all cooktops
  • Handle Material: Stainless Steel

Pros

  • PTFE-free non-stick coating
  • Sturdy handles
  • Easy to clean
  • Tri-ply stainless steel
  • Lightweight but sturdy

Cons

  • Coating not as durable as PTFE-based nonstick
  • Not suitable for high-heat cooking
  • Handles get hot

Best Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Cookware: All-Clad

Best Splurge
All-Clad D3 3-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set
Okay, so this set is definitely not budget cookware. But if you’ve been sold on the wonders of stainless steel and want to invest in a set for a lifetime, this is a great one to choose. The premium workmanship of All-Clad has made it a reliable and high-rated brand that stands the test of time.
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This is a high-quality US-made stainless steel cookware set, combining quality and beauty. It’s also oven-safe and can handle 600°F. All Clad was the original manufacturer of tri-ply stainless steel pans, so their products have excellent thermal conduction, heating up fast and consistently without showing hot spots. 

The stainless steel handles have a comfortable and ergonomic angle and stay cool while cooking. It’s also easy to clean and comes out as good as new after careful washing.

Quick Overview:

  • Colors available: Steel
  • Size: 10-piece 
  • Oven Safe: up to 600°F
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes (Handwashing is recommended)
  • Compatibility: all cooktops
  • Handle Material: Stainless, Stainless Steel, Steel

Pros

  • Premium build quality
  • Trip-ply construction
  • Durable 
  • Tight-fitting lids that retain flavors perfectly

Cons

  • Not dishwasher-safe 
  • Higher price tag

How to Get the Best Stainless Steel Pans For Your Money

If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to do extensive research to get the best cookware for your buck. Before taking the plunge, read this buying guide and make sure stainless steel is what you’re after.    

What Exactly is Stainless Steel Cookware?

Stainless steel cookware isn’t made of a single element. Instead, it’s an alloy consisting of different materials at varying percentages. 

Steel is a combination of iron and carbon, making it durable and strong. However, it’s prone to rusting, so manufacturers add chromium to give it the signature shine that makes the product stainless. Nickel also increases the steel’s brightness and corrosion resistance.

This resulting stainless steel sheet is still unsuitable for cooking due to its poor thermal conductivity. So, during a process called cladding, a layer of aluminum or copper is placed between two stainless steel sheets to achieve thermal conduction. 

This process results in a product with many benefits, including:

  • Superior heat transferability
  • High durability
  • Beautiful and shiny surface
  • Versatility

Is Stainless Steel Nonstick?

Stainless steel can be nonstick. It takes trial and error to heat it to the perfect temperature and add the oil at the right time to achieve nonstick results. 

Cookware can’t be truly non-stick – in the sense that food slides off it without using much oil – unless it’s coated in PTFE (black nonstick coating) or ceramic. Most ceramic or nonstick coated pans are made of aluminum, but there are a few made of more durable stainless steel.

What Makes Stainless Steel High Quality?

Not all stainless steel products are created equally. Since stainless steel is an alloy of different metals, manufacturers use varying combinations of metals, resulting in different qualities and price ranges. 

Stainless Steel Grades

Manufacturers categorize stainless steel using numerical grades that show the composition and uses of the product. Food-grade stainless steel is available under these grades:

  • 400 series. Also known as ferritic stainless steel, it has magnetic conduction features and is used on the bottom of pots and pans, making them suitable for induction stovetops. This is cheaper, lower quality, and contains manganese, found in mixing bowls and cutlery.
  • 300 series. Most stainless steel cookware is made with the austenitic series, known for its combination of nickel, chromium, and carbon. 304 and 304L are the most common types used in cookware. Some manufacturers may add molybdenum and titanium to boost durability and corrosion resistance. These products are labeled as 316. 
  • 18/10 and 18/8. These are subcategories of the 300 series, showing the percentage of chromium and nickel, respectively. 18/10 has a higher percentage of nickel, making it more corrosion and rust-resistant. 

Construction Process  

The copper or aluminum core added to stainless steel cookware makes it heat conductive. Copper has superior conduction qualities but costs way more than aluminum. However, the process can vary across manufacturers.

  • Tri-ply cookware involves two stainless steel sheets with a copper or aluminum layer in between. The entire vessel is made of this tri-ply sheet, making it highly effective in heat distribution. 
  • 5-ply cookware is similar to tri-ply, only with 5 alternating layers of stainless steel and aluminum. This boosts the product’s strength, durability, and heat conductivity. 
  • Impact-bonded cookware contains the clad construction only at the bottom. It’s added to the pots and pans as a disc bonded to the base, increasing heat conduction only at the base. 

Other Factors

Like any other product, other factors, such as brand and design, determine stainless steel cookware quality and price. 

Some brands are known as premium and cost more, while you can find budget-friendly alternatives with similar qualities. For example, Calphalon and Cuisinart are known as lower-cost equivalents of All-Clad. 

Design and aesthetics also affect cost and quality. For example, the construction of handles, the exterior finish, and the lids can determine the general feel and functionality of the cookware. 

Handles that don’t heat up, are riveted, and made at a perfect angle are coveted pieces that can make a big difference in your cooking experience. 

Is Stainless Steel Cookware Worth the Money?

The short answer is a resounding yes! Many users opt for stainless steel because it’s highly durable and promotes healthy cooking. It doesn’t contain shady nonstick materials and is pretty straightforward to use. 

Most stainless steel cookware is dishwasher and oven-safe, easy to clean, and versatile. You can use it for oven-to-stove cooking and pretty much every cooking method, including: 

  • Searing
  • Sauteing
  • Baking
  • Simmering
  • Boiling
  • Braising
  • Roasting 

The only catch is that stainless steel isn’t nonstick. It takes time to get the hang of it and preheat it at the right temperature. But once you get there, you can rely on your stainless steel cookware to last a lifetime. 

Is Cheap Stainless Steel Cookware Safe to Cook With?

Generally speaking, stainless steel is among the safest options to cook with. It doesn’t contain “forever chemicals” like PTFE nonstick pans do, but may react with acidic foods and release chromium and nickel, which can cause allergic reactions.

If you have nickel allergies, check out our review of the best nickel-free stainless steel cookware sets.

Reputable brands manufacture their products with food-grade stainless steel that doesn’t pose health hazards. However, you should take caution if purchasing off-brand and knockoff products. These are made by shady manufacturers that don’t have rigorous quality control procedures. For example, the aluminum they use in their products could be contaminated with lead.

All the products covered in this article are made by reputable brands known for their quality materials. 

Definitely don’t buy PTFE-coated products from knockoff brands. If they don’t go through FDA approval, they may contain harmful chemicals not allowed by FDA. For example, they may contain PFOA, a component banned by the FDA.

Cheap Teflon coatings will flake off much faster than quality brands and can find their way into your food.

Closing Thoughts 

Stainless steel has become a staple in our cookware thanks to its durability, versatility, and ease of use. You may need to try different temperatures to achieve a nonstick surface on uncoated stainless steel, but it can be done. If you don’t want to mess with food sticking, you can also get stainless steel pans coated in ceramic, like those from Blue Diamond

The good news is that decent quality stainless steel cookware is within the reach of most budgets. 

Best Budget Stainless Steel Set of 2024
Calphalon 10-Piece Pots and Pans Set
In our tests, we found that Calphalon produces the best stainless steel cookware in its price range. If you want to learn more, read our in-depth review of Calphalon cookware.
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If you have any questions regarding the best budget stainless steel cookware, please share your comments below. 

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Sirwan Ajman
About The Author
Sirwan is a food writer and a proud owner of a health-conscious café. He enjoys experimenting with new flavors. Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines hold a special place in his heart.

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