Buying a cookware set, or even a single pan, can be a serious financial decision with some going for as much as $300 per piece. There are dozens of styles, surfaces, and sizes to choose from—not to mention artisans and producers, which is why a well-researched high-quality pan makes an excellent holiday gift. We’ve done the sleuthing for you and below you’ll find some of the best cookware offerings out there for every kind of cook, novice to expert. And, THE perfect gift topper (or, even better, stocking stuffer) is a set of Beautiful Briny Sea salts—packaged in fetching colorful containers, the flavor blends are some of the best we tasted and tried; you can find them at Williams-Sonoma or online.
Hestan NanoBond Molecular Titanium Stainless Steel Skillet: The science behind NanoBond sounds complicated (Molecular Titanium, bonds thousands of titanium nano-layers to the 18/10 stainless steel construction, resulting in a cooking surface 4X harder than typical stainless steel) but the idea is simple—a super durable, even-heating pan that’s extraordinarily resistant to scratching, staining, and salt pitting – and more non-stick than any other stainless pan we tried. The pan is not coated, nor is it anodized. Lifetime warranty, dishwasher safe, non-toxic and non-reactive, and made in Italy—hence the sleek stylish profile. Great for beginning cook to expert. $127.96
Heritage Steel Stainless Steel Rondeau: This was one of our favorite all-around pans (and Heritage brand is made in the U.S.) The Heritage Rondeau is a nice choice for someone who has everything else—it’s that pan you never knew you needed until you started using it. Wide and shallow, it’s suited to poaching, simmering, pan roasting, braising and even oven roasting (even to boil water for pasta). This one’s heavy base makes for superior even-heating. Crafted with the company’s 316Ti stainless steel in a 5-ply construction, the cookware is 20 times more resistant to salt corrosion than standard offerings. $219.95
Vermicular Oven Safe Skillet: Japanese craftsmanship is at the heart of this elegant yet mighty cookware line. The Oven-Safe Skillet is a cast iron beauty, but marvelously lightweight at only 2.4 pounds. Coated in non-toxic enamel, you won’t need to season this pan and it can handle the dishwasher too. It boasts a bit more heat-conductivity than traditional cast iron pans, and eliminates excess moisture instantly—each pan comes with a small cookbook and very specific heating instructions to achieve the absolute best results. $195.
Clay Coyote Flameware: These artisan pots can be used over direct heat (e.g. a stovetop or grill), are microwave and dishwasher safe, and all lead and nickel free. For the cook who has everything, these are great alternatives to metal for your kitchen. The Grill Basket (perfect for anyone who likes to grill) and the Tagine (great for stews) are made of their specialty Flameware and can be used directly over an open flame, which is pretty cool—they also look pretty fabulous in any kitchen.
Viking 5-ply 12” Stainless Steel Chef’s Pan: The 5-ply layering in this pan provides spectacularly quick and even heating—just as a side-by-side, it fried bacon in half-the time of my non-stick pan. The core is made up of five layers, three layers of which are aluminum, which helps to disperse heat quickly and evenly throughout the bottom. It’s durable, attractive and a serious workhorse. Ideal for the experienced chef, but also a great first pan for the beginning cook—nothing like starting at the top. $377.95
Borough Furnace’s 5.5 Quart Enameled Dutch Oven: A family-owned business since 2011, this New York Finger Lakes-based company gets the nod for creating the one and only enameled cast iron cookware in the United States—the Dutch oven specifically. Owners John Truex and Liz Seru machine their own tooling and make castings in house, allowing them the ease to experiment and tweak designs until perfection is achieved. $325
MacKenzie -Childs Flower Market 3QT Casserole: This versatile piece of cookware gets extra points for being both beautiful and functional. From the fetching antiqued brass finished sparrow-topped lid to the flowery design, it’s a pan that you have to put on the table. Cooks will love its versatility too—from sauté to braise, it is hand-glazed with a heavy-gauge steel underbody, bronzed stainless steel rim, and 18/10 stainless steel construction. $118.00
Made-In Blue Carbon Steel Grill Frying Pan, 11”: Made-In’s grill pan is a marvel for those who love to grill—the perforated bottom allows the flames to kiss the food, but keeps everything together on the grill (read: Brussel sprouts, shrimp, or a piece of delicate fish). Made from heat-treated carbon steel they stamp the steel into a thin disc that’s half the weight of cast iron but every bit as durable. It seasons faster, responds quicker, and is rugged enough for an open flame, and with 62 perforations and a very cool pan to gift someone who has it all. We also loved the ergonomic handle which dispersed the weight of the pan, taking pressure off of the wrist when handling. Can handle heat up to 1200 degrees. $89
Netherton Foundry 11″ Chef’s Prospector Pan: This Shropshire, England-based iron works crafts stunning pre-seasoned pans with turned oak handles. PTFE & PFOA free, the pans are spun from 1mm thick metal, so they heat up fast and cool quickly. The Prospector pan’s deep sides, gently curved profile and broad cooking area across the base lend it a unique versatility—make everything from Bolognese sauce to a perfectly seared steak in this one. $70 (avg price)
OrGreenic cookware: This non-stick pan is oven safe up to 500 degrees, and the hammered exterior in Rose Gold lends these pans a designer look at very much non-designer prices. It’s a large pan, but fairly lightweight and the non-stick diamond granite surface coating is PTHE, PFOA, and PFOS FREE. A nice choice for beginning to intermediate cooks. $67.95
GreenPan Valencia Pro Ceramic Non-Stick 12”: Named the best ceramic nonstick frypan by America’s Test Kitchen, the Valencia Pro frypan combines hard anodized aluminum with a diamond-infused ceramic non-stick coating. GreenPan invented ceramic nonstick cookware 15 years ago, and their coating is free of chemicals, such as: PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium—their cookware is ideal for new cooks because of their forgiving ultra-non-stick surfaces. Oven safe up to 600 degrees, and they just launched Infinite8—the company’s newest iteration of non-stick coating. $109.99
Finex 3 Quart Cast Iron Mini Dutch Oven: A beautiful and functional piece in a new, smaller size—this is the kind of dish you want to put on the Thanksgiving table—rustic and artful with hand-polished stainless steel and brass handles for that added tabletop panache. Handcrafted in Portland, each pan is pre-seasoned and comes in the signature Finex octagonal shape but be warned, this is not cookware for the new or novice as it does require several steps to maintain seasoning and is sensitive to acidic foods until a full season is attained. Cooks will also love that it has a lifetime guarantee. $300