12 of the best stainless steel pans for excellent searing and stewing

Hardwearing and efficient heat conductors, the best stainless steel pans are an essential for every kitchen

Compilation of three images showing the best stainless steel pans and cookware sets
(Image credit: Future)

Having a set of stainless steel pans is an essential part of any cook’s kitchen, given how well they retain heat and how durable they are. The best stainless steel pans should be able to last you a lifetime if cared for properly, making them a great investment for any kitchen.

Like the best induction pans, stainless steel pans come into their own when searing or stewing foods such as meat, fish, and seafood because of their smooth steel bases. 

Choosing the best cookware for your home can be confusing with so many options. Our expert cookware tester has rounded up and evaluated a selection of the best stainless steel pans out there to help you make find the right one for you—from top brands including Le Creuset, Tefal, and Circulon. 

Our expert tester used each pan to make a few different meals, subsequently assessing each pan—or pan set—for cooking performance, value-for-money, heat conduction, and how easy they were to care for. Below, they have also shared which pan is best for different needs in the kitchen and detailed all and any specs you'll need to know about each product. 

How we tested the best stainless steel pans

Why you can trust Woman & Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

As with all of our buying guides, from the best woks through to the best blenders and the best food processors, we've tried and tested each of the below recommendations for you so we can be sure our list is comprised of the very best. 

Our primary tests for our stainless steel pans were of course centered around how they performed when we cooked with them. But we also tested a range of other factors. During testing, we assessed the following points for each product:

  • Heat conduction: Did they come up to temperature quickly and evenly, and stay hot after cooking?
  • Performance: Did they allow for a good sear and a good overall final product?
  • Ease of use: We tested the ease of cleaning stainless steel pans. How easy were they to keep clean and maintain? Did they mark or damage easily?
  • Any extras: Did they have any special features, such as internal measure marks or pouring lips? Do they come with lids?

Two of the best stainless steel pans being tested by cooking in them

Two of the best stainless steel pans during our testing process

(Image credit: Rosie Conroy)

The best stainless steel pans, as tested by our expert

Samuel Groves stainless steel pan with non-stick coating

(Image credit: Samuel Groves)

1. Samuel Groves 26cm Non-stick Stainless-steel Frying Pan

Best stainless steel frying pan

Specifications

RRP: $191/£155
Warranty/guarantee: Lifetime
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes, but hand washing recommended
Materials: Stainless steel, aluminium and non-stick F-lon

Reasons to buy

+
The non-stick coating is one of the best we tried
+
The great guarantee means you can buy with confidence 
+
The whole pan is well-balanced for easy flipping
+
The materials give excellent heat transfer for even cooking
+
This is an exceptionally robust pan, withstanding a lot of testing without any marks of wear and tear

Reasons to avoid

-
It has a punchy price point, but we think it's worth saving up for
-
This isn't suitable for use with metal utensils

Weighty without being too hard to handle (as all of the best stainless steel pans should be), this smart frying pan was one of our favorites during testing. Samuel Groves is a British heritage brand, and the years of research and refinement have resulted in a pretty much perfectly formed pan. 

During our trial, we were impressed at just how quickly this came to temperature (under a minute on an induction hob), and while the non-stick coating may not give you quite as good a sear as a traditional stainless steel interior, we did love the ease of maintenance. With a completely smooth non-stick coating, frying eggs and omelets in this pan was super simple and straightforward, without the need for oil.

And washing up was a breeze with just a warm cloth and warm, soapy water needed. After a few consecutive uses, we saw no damage to the interior, but if you do manage to scuff up the coating Samuel Groves promises to recoat it for you—along with a whole other string of extras in their impressive lifetime guarantee. 

The base retains and distributes heat very well thanks to the aluminum core sandwiched between the stainless steel base and interior, a combination that made for a well-caramelized steak crust and a vibrant, crunchy stir fry. Well balanced, we found that the pan didn’t tip during cooking, yet was easily manipulated to swirl oil or ingredients when we wanted to do a quick flash fry. 

While this pan certainly couldn’t be classified as cheap, for a treat for yourself or a loved one, this is a special piece of kit that is sure to be a favorite cookery companion for life. 

With thanks to Selfridges for providing the pan to test in this review

Le Creuset 3-ply Stainless Steel 3-piece Saucepan Set

(Image credit: Le Creuset )

2. Le Creuset 3-ply Stainless Steel 3-piece Saucepan Set

Best overall stainless steel pans

Specifications

RRP: $501/£405
Included in set: 1 x 16cm saucepan, 1 x 18cm saucepan, 1 x 20cm saucepan
Warranty/guarantee: Lifetime
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: Stainless steel

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent heat distribution, conduction, and retention for even cooking 
+
A lifetime guarantee means you can buy with confidence 
+
Internal measuring marks allow for quick and easy following of recipes
+
Great pouring lips ensure the safe transfer of liquids
+
Secondary helper handles mean you get a steady grip when moving the pans from the stove top to the oven and vice versa

Reasons to avoid

-
The high price point can feel a little off-putting, but these really will stand the test of time

There’s no escaping the fact that Le Creuset pans present a serious investment, but as with so many things in life you truly get what you pay for here. The brand has spent decades working out what cooks need and want and has put hours upon hours of testing into getting its stainless steel pans just right. The results, we’re pleased to report, seem worth the effort.

As with a few of our top stainless steel pan picks, Le Creuset has used a multi-layering technique to get the most from the metal while also bolstering the gaps where its flaws lay. The aluminum core surrounded by stainless steel offers the stability and even heating of aluminum, with the high-temperature handling of stainless steel. It’s this combination that allowed the pans to come up to temperature quickly, even over a low or medium heat—and the bodies helped keep dishes hot over a prolonged period of time before serving. 

Seemingly simple tweaks—like the internal measuring marks and the well-formed pouring lips—made these extremely functional for speedy weeknight cooking. Cleaning too was straightforward thanks to the set being completely dishwasher-safe, and we saw no visible deterioration on the pans over a few separate uses. Long handles and secondary helper handles meant we felt completely comfortable moving around the kitchen with these. Highly recommended.

A small stainless steel pan with lid by Dexam Supreme

(Image credit: Dexam Supreme)

3. Dexam Supreme 12cm Stainless Steel Saucepan

Best small stainless steel pan

Specifications

RRP: $59.40/£48
Included in set: N/A
Warranty/guarantee: Lifetime
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: 18/10 stainless steel

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile size for a small household - ideal for making sauces and reheating individual portions of things
+
Small for storage purposes 
+
Great for using on the hob, in the oven and even under the grill - making it a hard working piece of kitchen kit

Reasons to avoid

-
Might not be suitable for families due to its size and shape

Aside from the functionality of individual items in the range, the Dexam Supreme brand holds far-reaching appeal due to the variety of shapes and sizes the company stocks. With everything from stainless steel, jam pans through to dinky (and unusual) 12cm saucepans, there’s something for every kind of dish here. 

We tried the latter, putting the 12cm pan through its paces and absolutely loved the size of it. So often you end up using a pan too large for the job which results in both a waste of energy to bring things up to heat and additional time spent washing up in the aftermath. This is ideal for boiling up a couple of eggs, making a sauce, or even reheating a cup of tea that you’ve left on the side for too long. 

It’s also always the details that impress us, and the helpful measurements on the inside of the pan cut down on prep time without the need for additional measuring tools. It also has a clever storage design which means the lid comfortably sits on the handle, although this then impacts your ability to stack pans inside one another, so we preferred hanging the lid separately and stacking the pan in our usual way, in a nesting configuration. 

Saveur Selects stainless steel frying pans

(Image credit: Saveur Selects)

4. Saveur Selects Set of 2 Frying Pans

Best stainless steel frying pans

Specifications

RRP: $129.90 USD/£105
Included in set: One 8-inch frying pan and one 10-inch frying pan
Warranty/guarantee: Lifetime, if used for regular household use
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: 18/10 stainless steel

Reasons to buy

+
Seamless shape allows for easy, continuous stirring when making things such as risotto
+
Worked well on both cooker types we tried—gas and an Aga
+
Attractive design makes these pans worth displaying, cutting down cupboard space being taken up
+
Very comfortable handles which are easy to grip and give added security when transferring the pan from the hob to the table

Reasons to avoid

-
The lids on the saucepans rattle a little when boiling liquids, which can be a little irritating but not unexpected

If you care about the aesthetics of your pans as much as the functionality of them, these smart stainless steel pieces are worth splashing out on in our opinion. They’re really well made with a tri-ply 18/10 stainless steel construction which means you can go hard and fast on the cooking here. We got them scorching hot for quick stir-fries in minutes as well as being able to use them for acidic dishes like tomato sauces, which you wouldn’t necessarily do in something like a cast iron pan. 

A small detail, which is an indicator of the overall care that’s gone into the design is that the handles have no external rivets. This essentially means less food getting stuck around them and an easier clean for more straightforward long-term maintenance. The handles were also both tactile and practical, which might sound like a small detail but collectively all the little things made these pans great to test and work with. With a textured finish, the handlers were comfortable to grip and non-stick, giving you a really good purchase when doing things like flipping or pouring. 

The rivetless design is continued on the interior of the pan too, which means no sticky spots of baked-on food after using them in the oven, and lovely clean lines when you’re stirring on the hob. They’re reassuringly weighty too, while also having the benefit of an aluminum core that helps them come up to temperature faster than others we tested. 

On the saucepan, which we also tested, there are condensation rings similar to the spikes you find in very high-end pans like Staub. These allow steam to pool and fall back into your food, intensifying flavors. While the lids rattled slightly when boiling (which can be irritating) we were pleased overall with the high straight sides and the durability of the pan, as well as its carefully milled edge which allowed for easy pouring. 

Circulon three piece stainless steel pan set

(Image credit: Circulon)

5. Circulon Steelshield™ Nonstick Stainless Steel C-series 3 piece saucepan set

Best stainless steel pans for induction hobs

Specifications

RRP: $329/£240
Included in set: 1 x 16cm saucepan, 1 x 18cm saucepan, 1 x 20cm saucepan
Warranty/guarantee: Lifetime guarantee
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: Stainless steel non-stick

Reasons to buy

+
The comfortable handles were nice to use and made moving the pans around easy on the hob
+
We found these pans quick and easy to clean 
+
The material used is scratch-proof, and we saw no evidence of degradation during our testing process 
+
The handles stay cool for safe cooking
+
The coating is a really good non-stick material, so meant everything slipped right out easily

Reasons to avoid

-
There's no denying these are an investment 
-
There are no secondary grip handles, so they can be tricky to move to the table for serving, for instance
-
The design is bulky, so can prove tricky to store

It has to be acknowledged that fully stainless steel pans aren’t for everyone, because despite their name they can—and do—mark, and food can stick to them if not used in a fairly precise way. Bridging the gap between the ease of non-stick and the performance of stainless steel is the Steelshield range from Circulon. 

Cleverly designed to mimic the heat conduction of stainless steel, these pans have a ridged, ringed interior made from stainless steel, while the sides and base are covered in a top-spec non-stick coating. This dual technology means the base of the pans does excellent searing—as good as any of the pans we tested —while at the same time, we found the food was much less likely to stick, making it one of the best non-stick pans in this round-up. The pans are also compatible with induction hobs, which is a very handy point to note.

This combination also made for a much easier cleaning job even when we were a little ‘enthusiastic’ about the heat. While some smaller food pieces did stick to the ridges, on the whole, the base was wiped clean without too much effort, and because all of the pans are dishwasher-safe we mostly popped them into a regular cycle for the machine to do the hard work for us. 

We saw no deterioration after a few different washes and felt confident in the longevity of the flattened, riveted handles and well-made lids. While the handles were comfortable, we found them to be fairly bulky which made storage a bit tricker than we’d like. But overall for oven-safe, induction-compatible pans that have the convenience factor of a non-stick coating, we felt that these would be a top pick for many busy households. 

Tefal Jamie Oliver pan

(Image credit: Tefal)

6. Jamie Oliver by Tefal Premium Stainless Steel 30cm Shallow Pan

Best all-rounder stainless steel pan

Specifications

RRP: $105/£77
Warranty/guarantee: 10 years
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: Stainless steel and Titanium non-stick

Reasons to buy

+
The pouring lip on this was really useful for transferring liquids
+
We loved that it was dishwasher safe
+
This is a great all-rounder thanks to its shape and size
+
It proved to have really good heat retention for keeping food warm when serving at the table

Reasons to avoid

-
We found that the rivets can be hard to clean

This wide-bottomed stainless steel pan from Tefal is the kind of shape that you can use for all kinds of dishes—from Bolognese through to curries, to stews and pasta sauces. It really is the perfect multi-tasker. 

A seemingly trivial tweak, the silicone pads under the handles made this pan really easy to lift and maneuver for quick-fire cooking when you want to get food on the table for your family, fast. The ergonomic design of the side handles is mirrored on the lid, which is also comfy and snug fitting for efficient simmering. Another key feature was the pouring lip running around the entirety of the edge, which meant a no-spill transfer of liquids. Once we’d finished cooking in this pan we found that it kept food warm for prolonged periods of time too, thanks to the natural insulation of the stainless steel. So it's ideal for busy households with people eating at different times. 

Dishwasher and oven-safe, we reckon this would be an all-around practical addition to any kitchen—we liked that it felt robust and weighty without being unmanageable. Showing no signs of deterioration after multiple uses (and runs through the dishwasher), we think this would far outlive its guarantee and become a firm favorite for anyone cooking for a family regularly. The only slight niggle (which we’ve found commonplace in similar designs) is that the rivets aren’t flattened, which can mean food gets caught in the joins. 

Zwilling 5 PIece Stainless Steel Cookware Set Twin Classic range

(Image credit: Zwilling)

7. Zwilling 5 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set Twin Classic range

Best stainless steel pans for a family

Specifications

RRP: $493/£399
Included in set: 1 x 2l stock pot, 1 x 6l stock pot, 1 x 2.9l stew pot, 1 x 1.5l saucepan, 1 x 24cm frying pan.
Warranty/guarantee: Lifetime
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: Stainless steel

Reasons to buy

+
The internal capacity markers make measuring really easy
+
We loved the range of pan sizes and shapes for all kinds of recipes
+
These proved to have great heat distribution for even cooking

Reasons to avoid

-
We found that these were a little tricky to clean

Working out at just over $50/£50 per pot, these aren’t cheap necessarily, but we thought this Zwilling pan set worked out as great value for money given the quality. The bottoms are layered with aluminum to get a good even heat distribution while maintaining their functionality for all stovetops. 

If you only bought one set to furnish an entire kitchen, this could be it (perhaps with the addition of a cast-iron skillet and a good non-stick frying pan). The sizes are generous and range from the ideal capacity to serve a couple, through to a stockpot big enough to make soups and stews that would feed a bigger family comfortably—making them our pick for the best stainless steel pans for a family.

Despite the double handles, these did stack easily for storage with the lids off (one of our preferred pan storage ideas). Internal capacity markers were handy for fast and intuitive cooking. The only slight issue we felt dulled the shine slightly was when it came to tidy-up time. The bottom is bonded with a seam across the base, while the handles have a plate where they attach to the body. 

Both of these areas needed extra attention to get clean when washing by hand, although they did come up nicely after a dishwasher cycle. Nicely finished pouring lips made transferring liquids from the pans to serving dishes fuss and mess-free, while the matte surface meant any accidental spills weren’t particularly visible when they did happen. 

A non-stick stainless steel pan by HexClad

(Image credit: HexClad)

8. 30cm HexClad Hybrid Pan

Best non-stick stainless steel pan

Specifications

RRP: $167/£134.99
Included in set: N/A
Warranty/guarantee: Lifetime, if used for regular household use
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: 18/10 stainless steel

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent durability from the stainless steel coating. We saw no signs of damage after using various utensils in the pan
+
Stainless steel frying pans can be hard to get used to but this gives all the benefits of a non-stick pan alongside the functionality of a stainless steel one
+
Lightweight and easy to manoeuvre on the hob top

Reasons to avoid

-
They’re an expensive piece of kit, so we’d suggest buying one to begin with before gradually investing in a full set product by product

Somewhat of a recent success story, 2023 saw Hexclad carve itself out some real space in the high-end pans market. They’re loved by chefs and have ambassadors like Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth repping them, as well as other big names like Gordon Ramsay who swears he uses them at home. We’re of the thinking that if it’s good enough for that pair, they’ll probably fare okay in our own kitchen, but—as ever—wanted to test them ourselves to be sure. 

With so much fanfare and a fair whack of celebrity backing, it would be easy to dismiss the pans as a bit of a fad. However, we found the 30cm frying pan that we tested was actually a pretty worthy contender in our list. 

They’re not a straightforward stainless steel pan, so perhaps aren’t for purists, but they offer the heat conduction of the former with the added benefit of non-stick properties (the coating is PFOA-free too). We’ve tried similar pieces before—with stainless steel mesh on a non-stick coating—but these are by far the most cleverly done. Where others have a raised texture which means food can still easily get stuck on the metal finish, the stainless steel pattern across the base here is almost flush with the non-stick material so that food really does just slip right out when done. In fact, with everything we cooked, we couldn’t fault the non-stick properties, with everything from eggs to pancakes lifting easily with a spatula. 

A little like a cast iron pan, these have to be ‘seasoned’ but it’s a fairly quick and painless process to do so. There’s a tutorial online you can follow, but essentially it’s a standard approach that sees a little oil heated steadily in the pan to create an additional non-stick coating of sorts. 

We especially liked the hollow handles to take a little weight out of the piece, but to also help them stay cool when cooking on the hob. Being both oven and dishwasher-safe meant we could cook big family meals in this pan, like paella, and go from cooking to clearing up seamlessly. In some cases, like with the pancakes, it was just as easy to wipe it around quickly with a soft cloth to clean up, as the coating meant no scrubbing was needed. The sides are fairly high with a nice rounded bottom, meaning stirring isn’t such a risky game, when compared to other similar-sized pans, and wooden spoons go around the edges in a fluid movement. 

The only thing we’d comment on—aside from the price, which undoubtedly puts these into investment territory—is that they can take a little bit of getting used to. The manufacturers say not to get them too hot and we found that when bringing them up to a low or medium heat it could create patching on things like the pancakes, where the heat distribution hadn’t quite evened out yet. 

A small stainless steel saucepan with lid by Dexam Supreme

(Image credit: Dexam Supreme)

9. Kuhn Rikon Allround 24cm frying pan

The best stainless steel pan for families

Specifications

RRP: $95/£76.95
Included in set: N/A
Warranty/guarantee: Limited lifetime
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: Stainless steel with a nonstick coating

Reasons to buy

+
Great everyday pan for making meals in
+
Excellent non-stick coating means nothing catches on the interior
+
Good, weighty bottom that can withstand consistent and heavy use

Reasons to avoid

-
If you’re looking for a classic stainless steel pan then this might not be for you due to its non-stick coating

With a fairly standard design, this isn’t a pan that you’d necessarily buy as both a practical and a display piece, but what it perhaps lacks in finesse it more than makes up for in its adaptability. It’s nicely sized for a couple of portions and is able to be used on all hobs as well as being safe to use in the oven. 

We found ourselves reaching for this pan more often than not due to it coming up to temperature quickly and evenly, as well as its hard-wearing non-stick coating. Over the course of a week or so, when being used every day, we saw no evidence of degradation from utensils. That being said, we’re yet to come across a pan that can wholly withstand everyday cooking without eventually scratching a little.

The wishbone handle helped reduce heat transfer, meaning that it stayed cool enough to touch even over prolonged periods, and it happily could be transferred between the stovetop and oven. We thought this would be a great addition to a family kitchen thanks to it being a bit of an all-rounder.

A set of stainless steel pans by ProCook, set up on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: ProCook)

10. ProCook Elite Tri-ply Cookware Set

Best starter set of stainless steel pans

Specifications

RRP: $258/£209
Included in set: One 14, 16 and 18cm saucepan each, and a 26cm frying pan
Warranty/guarantee: 25 year guarantee
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: Stainless steel saucepans with a non-stick frying pan

Reasons to buy

+
Good price point for the quality of pans, so ideal for families where pieces will get a lot of wear
+
Combined benefits of stainless steel heat conduction with a non-stick coating in the frying pan for ease of use across various recipes
+
Easy storage thanks to the hanging hook

Reasons to avoid

-
The edges of the pans weren’t as good as some of the other brands we tested for pouring liquids from

The ProCook brand is ideal if you’re looking for a mid-range option that performs well but won’t wipe out your savings account. The brushed stainless steel handles are both attractive and practical. They’re hollow, so ensure the pans aren’t too heavy and are light too, to make them easily movable while cooking. Additionally, the construction means they don’t get as hot when using them on the hob. 

The sides of the pans are fully upright, which makes them ideal for all kinds of recipes, from quick pasta dishes through to soups and stews, and because of their construction they can be transferred to and from the oven safely. 

We found that the lips weren’t the best for pouring from, but if you’re transferring liquids and can afford to do it confidently—in one fluid movement—then you should be okay. 

These kinds of pans are always a little awkward to stack, but the nesting sizes mean they do sit inside one another okay. The hanging hole in the handles offer another storage option, and the lids sit stably upside down in each, so if you have the space you can stack them up on top of one another in a tower. 

Four piece saucepan set by De Buyer

(Image credit: De Buyer)

11. De Buyer Prim Appety Stainless Saucepan Set

Best budget stainless steel pan set

Specifications

RRP: $206.75/£150
Included in set: 1 x 14cm saucepan, 1 x 16cm saucepan, 1 x 18cm saucepan, 1 x 20cm saucepan
Warranty/guarantee: 2 years
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: Stainless steel

Reasons to buy

+
The pans are dishwasher safe, meaning they're quick and easy to clean
+
We loved that they were lightweight—proving easy to move around
+
We loved how fast these were to bring up to temperature, with great heat conduction

Reasons to avoid

-
There are no lids included, which can be a little irritating for some recipes
-
The handles can get hot during use

Handling both searing and stewing easily, these stainless steel pans felt like professional pieces of kit despite their more reasonable price tag. With few bells and whistles on the design side of things, they’re oddly pleasing in their functional form (although we have to say the lack of lids did make us feel slightly irked when it came to trying to steam or simmer anything). 

Thanks to their lightweight build we found these really easy to handle and swirl when making soups and sauces, and even once full they were straightforward to lift and maneuver with just one hand. Despite their seemingly delicate makeup, the bases were thick and sturdy enough to conduct heat well, and we found these came to temperature rapidly without the need for too much intensity from the hob top. Caution did have to be exercised if used over prolonged periods, as the handles had the potential to get very hot—especially when used over gas. 

Being dishwasher-safe we loved that we could throw these straight into our machine after using, but the hollow handles do retain water which we found needed to be drained before stashing them away. Competent cooks shouldn't be put off by a couple of niggles surrounding the handles, however, all in all, we thought these pans were excellent performers and would bring a touch of professionalism to domestic kitchens, making them our best stainless steel pans for those on a budget.

With thanks to Sous Chef for providing the pans to test in this review

Kuhn Rikon stainless steel pan set

(Image credit: Kuhn Rikon)

12. Kuhn Rikon Allround Stainless Steel 3pc Saucepan Set

Best starter stainless steel pan set

Specifications

RRP: $283/£229
Included in set: 1 x 16cm saucepan, 1 x 18cm saucepan, 1 x 20cm saucepan
Warranty/guarantee: Limited lifetime guarantee
Oven safe: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Materials: Stainless steel

Reasons to buy

+
The comfortable handles made moving these around easy
+
We loved the glass lids with steam holes that allowed you to see how things were cooking without removing them
+
The thick bases ensured even temperature distribution 
+
The hanging hooks were great for storage options
+
These pans are Aga compatible  

Reasons to avoid

-
We found that the external rivets could be hard to clean
-
There are no internal measure markers, meaning you have an extra step if following a specific recipe when compared to pans with internal markers

Oven-safe and dishwasher suitable (which is good because the rivets can be tricky to get clean), this is a stainless steel pan set that is perfect for families who want multi-functional and practical pieces in their kitchen. The included lids have been given as much thought as the pan bodies, with steam holes and glass tops to allow for easy simmering and simple monitoring while your food cooks—a relatively rare element in competitor pieces. The comfortable ergonomically designed handles also helped in making transitional moments efficient. We liked that when the lids were flipped upside down in the pans they didn’t slide around, which made them easy to store on top of the bodies, and also meant the pans could be stacked up on top of each other in a pyramid.

The handles promise 'cooltouch' technology, and we found the claims to be true even when cooking on the hob over prolonged periods of time. This of course isn’t the case when used in the oven, but for safer simmering or stewing on a hob this was a nice bonus feature. 

While they might be slightly pricier than your average pan purchase, the stainless steel makeup of these pans really does positively impact their performance. We found them to come up to temperature evenly, and we got a good medium-high heat easily for frying off meat before stewing it. For an all-round set that can do both searing, stewing and simmering, we thought these made the perfect starter stainless steel set. 

How to choose the best stainless steel pan for you

  • Think about how you will use them: When looking at how to choose the best stainless steel pans, it’s important to think about how you’re going to use them in your kitchen. For instance, if you’re lifelong loyal to a cast iron skillet for getting the perfect sear, you might prefer to go for a set of saucepans only, while if you’re looking to replace your full cookware set then it might be a good idea to ensure you have all shapes and sizes that you need, as well as a few non-stick frying pans to boot. 
  • Shapes and sizes: We’d recommend at least three saucepans in small, medium, and large for ensuring you have everything you need to make sauces through to soup recipes. Consider whether or not you’ll be using your pans in the oven a lot too, as pairs of short side handles are often better here, rather than one long one. Aside from regular pots, we’d also consider both a frying pan and a saute pan as essentials. The former is great for getting a searing high heat for cooking things like steak, as well as having it on hand for everyday tasks like frying eggs or making pancakes. The latter has to be one of our favorite shapes and is the ultimate multi-tasker when it comes to working hard in the kitchen. Traditionally saute pans have higher, straighter sides than frying pans and are great as a sort of hybrid model. Use them to warm sauces and gravies or get meat browned off easily before adding them to a stew. They’re equally as great for classics like risotto or paella, if you don’t want to shell out on a pan made for just one use. 
  • Requirements: A final consideration is whether or not your chosen pans come with lids or not—and what kind of lids they are—as this makes your set much more multi-functional. You might prefer stainless steel lids from aesthetic and durability points of view, but glass ones are also worth thinking about, as they provide easy access when wanting to check things like biryani, where you wouldn’t want to remove the lid and lose all the vital steam, but you still want to be able to check on progress.  
  • Budget: As with most things in life, when it comes to choosing the best stainless steel pans, you get what you pay for. With a few exceptions, which are detailed below, we’d say that it’s worth stretching the budget here a little to get the very best you can afford. Stainless steel is so durable that if you invest in high-quality pans once, they should see you through many a happy year in the kitchen and work out reasonably when it comes to cost per use.
  • Compatibility: If applicable, remember to check that you’ve selected the best pans for an induction hob. More recently these have become the norm, as the induction technology simply needs a magnetic reaction to work, but it’s worth being doubly sure before you purchase. Other compatibility considerations include whether or not the pans can go into the oven or not, and if they come with lids (as mentioned above). It’s all the little things that will ensure you get the most use out of your chosen pieces. 

Why is stainless steel good to cook with?

There’s a reason you’ll find chefs all over the world stocking their kitchens with stainless steel pans—they’re reliable, durable and high-functioning. But why else are they preferable to cook with?

  • They are great for acidic foods: While uncoated cast iron skillets, for instance, are great for high-heat cooking, they’re less able to deal well with acidic foods so don’t do well with basics like tomato sauce. Here stainless steel has no problems, making it a great choice of material to invest in if you’re a cook who likes to make acidic-based meals, as the metal doesn’t react when it comes into contact with ingredients such as tomato or vinegar.
  • They hold heat very well: Stainless steel does a really good job of keeping a steady heat even after colder ingredients have been added. This might seem arbitrary but it’s not a given with all pans. Even after taking it off the heat, stainless steel will hold in heat well (with a lid on) which is especially handy if people are eating at different times. This means it is a great material to turn to during busy hosting periods, such as Christmas. 
  • They're ideal for searing: Stainless steel is a top-class cooking investment because of its ability to help you get that perfect sear, due to its great heat maintenance. Testing whether a stainless steel pan is hot enough to sear with is simple, just drop a little water onto the surface, and if it balls and disperses quickly it’s ready to go. When searing, don’t be tempted to move your meat, fish, or vegetables before they have had time to form a proper crust. You’ll know you’re ready to flip when you can gently move the food around the pan with just a shuffle of the handle, without having to scrape it aggressively.

How to clean stainless steel pans 

stainless steel pan boiling on hob

(Image credit: Getty Images)

To keep your stainless steel pans performing perfectly and to their best ability, they need to be maintained appropriately, and you need to ensure you know how to clean stainless steel properly. But it should be quick and easy to do, so long as you follow a few key steps while using them: 

  • Firstly, when using your pans try not to let them get too hot too quickly as this can warp the metal irreversibly.
  • Secondly, avoid allowing food to burn onto the surface, as it's this material that can build up and make your pans hard to use in the long run.
  • Finally, always keep your plans clean and cared for by washing them only after they've cooled down. If you add cold water to a hot pan it can result in buckling of the base or interior of the pan, as well as discoloration, which will create an uneven cooking surface resulting in patchy cooking.

Luckily, most stainless steel pans are dishwasher safe, so can also be loaded in cycle after cycle if you’re happy to keep them maintained by your machine. Some people prefer to hand wash their pans the old-fashioned way, and because they’re tough they withstand being scrubbed if needed—although day-to-day maintenance should only require a wash with a soft cloth and warm soapy water.

A common complaint from stainless steel pan users is that food sticks to them, and that might be true, but this only happens if a couple of simple steps aren’t followed. To get the best efficiency from your pan purchase, make sure to heat the pan first, then add the oil. 

If you add the oil while the pan is coming up to the temperature you’ll overheat it which not only results in a poor flavor experience but also can also mean food sticks immediately when it comes in contact with the hot oil, because of the extreme fluctuation in temperature. Ingredients should also be room temperature where possible, so should be brought out of the fridge for an hour or so before you begin to cook with them. 

Rosie Conroy is a food and drinks journalist with over a decade of experience working for big-name titles in both print and online. Formerly the Digital Food Editor of woman&home, Rosie went on to head up the team at SquareMeal, reviewing the best London restaurants and hunting out emerging culinary trends. With previous experience in food styling and recipe development, Rosie knows what to look for in a good piece of kitchenware and has extensive experience testing consumer goods—from kitchen electricalz and cooking accouterments through to new foodie treats.