Whether you’re a home cook or a professional chef, you know that your meal is only as good as your ingredients. But we’re not just talking about the produce and the protein that form the basis of your cooking. Your cookware—those indispensable tools of the trade—will either do your farmer’s market-fresh greens and locally-sourced meats justice, or just leave them stuck to the bottom of the pan. And if you’re looking to document your quarantine-improved kitchen skills on Instagram, the latter simply isn’t an option.
Of course, while some cookware looks Insta-ready on its own (thanks to beautiful color palettes, ceramic coatings, and elegant designs), it’s not just about the aesthetics of your pots and pans—they have to be able to get the cooking done, too. Here are some of the best cookware startup brands.
Best Cookware If You Have a Small Kitchen
Need to know: Don’t let the minimalism of Our Place’s best-selling Always Pan fool you. It comes with four distinct elements—a the base pan, which has high sides and is naturally nonstick thanks to its ceramic construction; the nesting steam basket, which doubles as a colander; the beechwood spatula which sits atop a built-in spoon rest; and a modular lid that is specially designed to trap steam and release it. With these four parts, you’re able to braise, sear, steam, strain, sauté, fry, and boil.
Selling point: You can mix-and-match its four components to effectively replace your frying pan, steamer, saucepan, spatula, and spoon rest.
Cost: The Always Pan will set you back $145, which admittedly is a bit pricey for one piece of cookware. But considering its functionality (and how many products it replaces in one fell swoop), you might find it well-worth the money. Our Place also sells beautiful matching bowls, dinner plates, and glassware, which are $45-$50 for a set of four.
Best Cookware for the Beginner Cook
Need-to-know: The company, founded by brothers Jonathan and Eric Wahl, sells professional-grade cookware meant for beginner cooks. They sell entire cookware sets as well as individual pieces, including a sauce pan, sauté pan, and stock pot. (I’m a particular fan of the non-stick skillet.)
Selling point: Every piece is oven-safe, meaning you can start a fritatta or cornbread on the stovetop and finish it in the oven like a cast-iron skillet (but without the fussiness). Abbio also offers tutorials and recipes that help customers master the basics of cooking on their site.
Cost: Abbio’s most expensive single piece is the stock pot at $105, making it one of the more affordable options on this list. If you want the entire collection, you’ll pay $355; not bad at all for five pots and pans and three lids that cover virtually all your cooking needs.
Best Cookware for the Experienced Cook
Need to know: Made In is a cookware company designed for the professional chef in mind—which perhaps explains why chefs Tom Colicchio and Stephanie Izard are Made In Users. It has one of the widest range of products out of any other cookware startup brand on this list—offering over a dozen different kinds of pans alongside knives, kitchen tools, and more. If you need it, Made In probably has it.
Selling point: The brand is best known for its line of carbon steel cookware, which is ideal for the experienced chef who knows how to appreciate and care for this rather tricky material. Carbon steel, a sort of in-between of cast iron and stainless steel, has all the benefits of cast iron’s heat retention and seasoning, alongside the advantages of stainless steel’s heat control and lightweight nature. But like cast iron, carbon steel is somewhat difficult to care for—it can’t go in the dishwasher, and if you’re not good about seasoning the pan, you’ll end up with unsightly rust all over your cooking surface.
Cost: Given the enormous number of products Made In offers, there’s quite a range in pricing. Prices start out at $89 for a frying pan. The most economical way to buy Made In cookware is certainly in sets. The 7-piece non-stick set, for example, comes with the 10″ Frying Pan, 4 QT Saucepan with Lid, 4 QT Saute Pan with Lid, 8 QT Stock Pot with Lid for $525, or 17% off the individual prices.
Best Cookware If You Cook Every Day
Need to know: Caraway makes highly functional ceramic cookware that is as beautiful as it is useful. The brand’s Dutch oven is probably the single most frequently-used piece in my kitchen these days, and that’s just one of the four pots and pans Caraway offers. Also part of the brand’s flagship collection is a small fry pan, a sauté pan, and a sauce pan.
Selling point: Like Equal Parts, Caraway uses ceramic instead of Teflon to ensure its products are non-stick—which not only allows for quick and even heat distribution, but also makes for easy cleanup. I’ve been able to do everything from bake bread to make curries to stir-fry tofu in my Caraway pieces, making them the ideal everyday cookware for most home chefs.
Best Cookware for the Instagram-Minded Cook
Need to know: If you’re interested in documenting your culinary adventures, there’s no better prop—both from an aesthetic and a functional perspective—than Great Jones’ collection of cookware. This female-owned, female-operated company keeps design at the heart of everything they produce, and that means pieces of beautiful cookware that looks as good as they cook.
Selling point: Great Jones isn’t privileging form over function—rather, its pieces are all fantastic to cook in as well. The Dutch oven and fry pans (both small and large) are naturally nonstick thanks to their ceramic coating, whereas the large stock pot, saucier, and covered skillet are made of fully-clad stainless steel. All pieces are dishwasher safe and, better yet, oven-safe up to 500°F.
Cost: Pieces in the Great Jones collection range from $40 for the baking sheet to $160 for the Dutchess Dutch oven. You can buy the core set of products for $495 (which includes everything but the baking sheet).
Best Cookware for the Cook Who Does a Lot of Prep Work
Need to know: For chefs who love the dicing and julienning as much as the sautéing process, the choice is clear: Misen. The brand provides the necessary (and quality) tools to complete one’s mise en place prep at a near-professional level through its knives and cookware—all of which are made using premium steel.
Selling point: Everything is high-quality and incredibly durable. I’ve had my set of Misen knives for four years, and they remain as effective as ever. The pots and pans are also ergonomically designed and easy to care for. I’m particularly fond of the roasting pan, which can bake, sear, and roast with ease. Plus, its large handles make it easy to take in and out of the oven.
Best Cookware for the Cook Who Loves Using Cast Iron
Need to know: Cast iron is beloved for its heat retention and durability, but it’s heavy. Field Company makes high quality cast iron cookware that’s not only lighter but also smoother than traditional cast iron pieces.
Selling point: Field Company makes skillets, griddles, and dutch ovens. Everything is pre-seasoned to be non-stick and can be used on any type of burner. Even though all the cookware has the vintage look of classic cast iron, its lighter weight means you’ll be able to move it around the stove, oven, grill, or table without strain. The brand works with recycled iron sourced from American vendors.
Cost: Cast iron skillets start at $95, while dutch ovens cost $295. You can also gets sets like the two-piece cast iron cookware set ($285) or a field skillet and dutch oven set ($395) as well as accessories like seasoning kits and leather handle covers.
Best Cookware for the Classic Cook
Need to know: For anyone looking for a classic cookware set, Sardel delivers. The company was founded by three brothers, and they partnered with a family-owned factory in Italy that has been making cookware for over 100 years. There are stainless steel, carbon steel (a blend of cast iron and stainless steel), and non-stick options that have timeless design and provide quality performance.
Selling point: Sardel’s skillets, pans, pots, and more are designed to have five layers of metal that allows them to heat evenly and last for years to come. The cookware can be used on all types of burners and has less of a markup than other luxury brands because they sell direct to consumers online.
Cost: Carbon steel skillets start at $70, while stainless steel and non-stick start at $90 and $100, respectively. You can invest in a 6-piece set ($420), which will equip you with a 10″ non-stick skillet, 12″ stainless steel skillet, 2 QT sauce pan with lid, and 8 QT stock pot with lid, and don’t forget to stock your pantry with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar set ($50) sourced from Puglia and Modena
Best Cookware for the Eco-Conscious cook
Need to know: The Proclamation Duo—which seeks to reduce the amount of waste in the kitchen—lives on top of my stove, both because of its beautiful form and its superior functionality. It’s comprised of a skillet, a deep pot, and a lid, which makes it another all-in-one beauty that is extremely versatile. Its unique hinging design, which allows the skillet to sit on top of the pot perfectly to create a very large Dutch oven that can roast a small turkey or make an army’s worth of stew. So really, you’re getting three durable, high-quality pieces of cookware with one purchase.
Selling point: The Proclamation Duo is responsibly crafted from a supply chain that is environmentally-friendly, and the team’s partner manufacturer is family-owned and leverages sustainable business practices. Plus, Proclamation Goods is part of 1% for the Planet, which means the team donates a percent of sales to environmental nonprofits seeking to create a healthier world for this generation and the next.
Cost: The Proclamation Duo costs $379, which while comparatively pricey for three pieces, comes with a lifetime warranty—so replacing it should cost you nothing.
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