So what's cooking? You, perhaps?
Learning how to cook is always great strategy to help you save money and watch your calories at the same time.
Whether you are just learning how to cook or want to take your grilled chicken game up a notch, it's crucial to have good pots and pans. Poorly made pots and cookware can break easily or get scratched up when you clean them, so it's important to choose wisely. Odds are, you'll cook more if you feel like you have the best pots and pans to work with too.
We talked to some professional chefs about which pots and pans they recommend as good values for at-home cooks. Here are their top choices.
Best pots and pans
1. Best overall: Hestan NanoBond Collection
Looks aren't everything. But to some chefs, they're a lot. Rick Gresh is the culinary director of Chicago's Flight Club, and he speaks and demonstrates as a culinary expert at events around the country.
He absolutely loves the Hestan brand for reasons both aesthetic and scientific. "The NanoBond line is really impressive with its technology," he says, referring to the brand's titanium-based alloys, which prevent scratching and wear-and-tear.
In particular, he's a big fans of the Hestan NanoBond stainless-steel titanium skillet, which is available in 8.5", 11" and 12.5" versions, running roughly $150, $230 and $400, respectively. "It's such a durable pan, and it conducts heat evenly and is really beautiful to look at," says Gresh.
Yes, Hestan pots and pans are expensive. But they can be well worth the money if you love to cook and you'll use them literally for decades. NanoBond pots and pans conduct heat 35% better than typical cookware, and they're expected to last five times as long in the kitchen, even with regular use. They're scratch- and stain-resistant and totally dishwasher safe, and feature flush rivets so food can't get stuck in any nooks and crannies.
2. Best overall runner-up: All-Clad Brushed D5 Stainless Cookware
Depending on how fancy you want to get, some recipes can call for heating a dish in a frying pan, then transferring it to a separate dish before putting it in the oven. This can have delicious results, but can also later clog up your dishwasher. So Luis Cuadra, the Executive Chef of the Los Angeles institution District, recommends the All-Clad brand — in particular, the saute pans that come in a variety of sizes, from 2 quarts to 6 quarts. Cuadra favors the 6-quart version.
"It is versatile because I can start cooking an item in it on the stove, then easily put the pan in the oven to finish the dish," he says. "I love to make almost everything in that pan. From braised short ribs to fish filets and pastas, its size and shape allow me to prepare a huge array of items."
Cuadra thinks the pan is especially helpful for making braised short ribs, "which is a great ‘one-pot meal.’ After searing and braising the short ribs, I finish them in the oven, low and slow with the lid on. Once they are fork tender, I take them out and strain the braising liquid, add some nice vegetables and potatoes, and cook in the strained sauce," he says. "Once the sauce is reduced, I add the short ribs back in. It is an elevated pot roast dish with every component in the same pan, which minimizes the mess and clean-up. Plus, it can stay in the oven warm until everyone is ready to eat!”
All-Clad offers several different cookware lines, ranging from copper to nonstick to classic stainless steel. The D5 Collection features classic stainless steel — specifically, five layers of stainless steel and aluminum, making it incredibly durable, with top-notch quality. If that seems like a bit much for your kitchen needs, you can always go with the more affordable D3 Collection, which is also very durable, performs well, and is beautiful to look at in any kitchen, only it uses three layers of stainless steel instead of five.
Best frying pans and skillets
3. Editor's pick: GreenPan Levels Ceramic Nonstick Fry Pan
Pat LaFrieda is the CEO of New York's Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, a family-run company that supplies high-quality, humanely raised beef to restaurants and retailers across the country. This is a guy who knows burgers, and knows how frustrating is when a sticky pan won't you let you flip a patty properly. That's why GreenPan is his favorite brand.
"They coat it in Thermolon, a non-toxic ceramic coating to ensure it’s non-stick, but without the toxic chemicals of other non-stick pans," he says. "Plus, they can be used on all types of stoves — such as induction, gas, and electric. I have an induction stove in my home kitchen because it’s safer for my kids and heats the pan more evenly than any other burners."
4. Best for low prices: T-fal Professional Nonstick Fry Pan
Heating conduction is very important when choosing a pan, because poorly designed gear will distribute heat unevenly throughout the surface, leading to an unevenly cooked meal. And no one wants that.
Alexa Frazier Blay is a New York- and Ontario-based cook and photographer who runs Key To My Lime, which she calls "a website dedicated to delicious budget-friendly recipes for all dietary preferences." She likes the T-fal frying pan because "it's the perfect size for cooking just about everything, and the nonstick coating is very durable and effective. Plus, it has a really thick bottom, so it doesn't warp and it conducts heat very well," she says. "It's hard to find a nonstick fry pan with great heat conduction at a good price point, and I love how affordable this option is."
How affordable are we talking? Prices vary depending on where and when you're shopping, but we've routinely seen the 12.5 T-fal frying pan on sale for less than $40, while the adorable 8 version goes for under $25. That's doable even on the budget of a college student or young professional (remember: the more you cook at home and don't eat out, the more you save money).
5. Best for low prices runner-up: Winco Aluminum Non-Stick Fry Pan
While you can spend a lot of money to cook like the pros, you don't have to, and there are plenty of bargain pans that get the job done.
Detroit-based Heirloom Hospitality’s Culinary Director Ryan Prentiss says Winco has "the absolute best non-stick pans. All you need is a 6-inch one for cooking eggs and a 10-inch for cooking omelets or searing delicate fish."
He says, "Non-stick pans don't last forever no matter how well you care for them, so spending extra money on them just isn't worth it. Restaurant grade ones are simple, easy-to-clean and slightly thicker than ones designed for home use so they last a little longer and have better heat transfer.”
6. Best cast iron skillet: Lodge Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
Cast iron skillets are hardly just for the campfire. They can make a great steak and so much more in the kitchen, thanks to the fact that they can be moved from stovetop to oven, and no temperature is too hot for it to handle. What's more, the material is virtually indestructible and can last for generations if properly cared of.
And if you are going to invest some solid cast iron cookware (and you should!), it's wise to take a close look at the brand that's pretty much synonymous with the material: Lodge, which has been making cookware that's been passed down from family to family since the 1890s.
Professional and amateur chefs alike love Lodge, and its cast-iron skillets in particular. "I love the ease of being able to take my skillet from the stove to the oven, or vice versa. It's especially perfect for someone working in a small kitchen who doesn't have room for a skillet, a dutch oven, and a casserole dish," Blay says.
"While the modern cast iron is a good starting point," she says, Lodge's products improve on the concept. "It has gone under an additional step in the production process where all the little bumps are smoothed away. This makes it so much easier to season and get a truly nonstick surface on your cast iron. And don't forget to buy the accompanying cast iron lid. Mine comes in handy all the time."
7. Another good nonstick fry pan: Original Copper Round Nonstick Fry Pan
If you're just starting out on your cooking journey, Chef Stacie Zollars of the Houston, Texas-based Sugar Face Bakes recommends the budget-friendly Original Copper Frying Pan, which she calls "an essential piece I use from stove to oven weekly. It is stick-resistant even when I accidentally burn my caramel! Everything slides right off, and it's the perfect piece for those who are starting out learning to cook and experimenting with new foods! This pan lives on my stovetop!"
The "Original" model is sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, and similar copper fry pans are available for basically the same price or a little less at Amazon.
8. Another good frying pan: Made-in Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan
While professional chefs will spend more money than the average consumer on high-quality gear, they also often have to keep to a budget. Executive Chef John DiPierro of New York's The Banty Rooster had to keep price in mind while getting ready to open his new Southwestern-inspired place.
"The reason we chose Made-In was quality of the pan for the price," he says. "It’s crazy expensive to outfit a kitchen with decent pans, so we shopped around and I did my homework- and made-in came back the highest rated amongst my chef friends. Plus, their customer service is all-star level."
Best cooking pans and dutch ovens
9. Best dutch oven: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Round Dutch Oven
It's not always the case that trendy products are also the highest quality. But Le Creuset's beautiful cast iron dutch ovens are not just incredibly popular (there are subreddits devoted to them!), they are absolute workhorses in the kitchen that can satisfy pro chefs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.
We could go on and on here about why Le Creuset makes the best dutch ovens, and why they actually are worth the $300+ you'd pay for one even when there's a good sale. But if you need convincing, it's best for you to read the entire story we published investigating whether Le Creuset dutch ovens are worth the money. (Spoiler: If you like to cook and care even a little about aesthetics too, the answer is probably yes.)
10. Best dutch oven runner-up: Cuisinart Chefs Classic Enameled Cast Iron 7-Quart Covered Casserole
Some pots and pans require that you season them before you add food to prevent stickiness, but you don't need to worry about that with Cuisinart's cast-iron dutch ovens.
Zollars, from Sugar Face Bakes, has become an online influencer known for her healthy dishes, and she loves Cuisinart's dutch oven because "it's versatile for stovetop or the oven. This is the prime material for slow roasting, braising, and that pot of soup that feeds a crowd," she says. "It's a piece that is durable, non-stick and needs no seasoning so you can cook with ease for the perfect meal without the hassle."
11. Most versatile cookware: The Proclamation Duo
As the old jokes goes, minimalism is the least you can do. If you have a smallish kitchen and storage area and are looking to take up as little space as possible, then Chef Jake Rand has the right set for you. Rand works at Sushi Koshō in Sebastopol, California, and he recommends the California brand Proclamation Goods for those looking to keep it simple.
"Beautiful and well-made, the 'Dutch Duo' fits my philosophy of simplicity both in design and function. It’s become my go-to in my home kitchen. I really can’t stand clutter, and these space-savers are great for everything from stir-frying to braising and roasting when using the custom-fit lid," he says. "This cleverly designed set and a good knife just might be the two most essential kitchen tools for home cooks."
Best kitchen utensils
You need to get a grip before you can cook right, and Chef Jonathan Benno, of Benno and Leonelli, inside Manhattan’s Evelyn Hotel, praises OXO kitchen utensils. "The OXO brand is one of the best, not only for the professional chef but also the home chef. The tongs, whisk and the small rubber spatula works well for us at Leonelli Taberna and Benno Restaurant because it is all about the grip and the durability," Benno says. "Not only are they all so accessible to the general public, these tools never break."
Benno adds that "another reason why I love and support OXO is because they support a charity that gives back to a disease that affects us all, cancer. My Mom died of cancer just before I got married, and now that I have two kids and knowing OXO fully support pediatric cancer research, Cookies for Kids Cancer, to me it is a no brainer to support every product that they have.”