12 best saucepan sets to inspire your inner chef

Any home cook needs a decent set of pans to get them going, so invest in our tried and tested sets

Sarah Finley@SarahFJourno
Friday 28 May 2021 16:54
<p>From stainless steel to aluminium, invest in one of these kitchen essentials</p>

From stainless steel to aluminium, invest in one of these kitchen essentials

The saucepans you use can make or break a meal – taking you from the perfect omelette or rice dish to a disaster dinner that no one will forget in a hurry.

If your set of saucepans are on their way out, or you realise they’re not quite doing their job, then it’s time to invest in some new ones. But with so many pans on the market – where do you start? And how do you decide between aluminium and stainless?

Aluminium pans provide heat and an even surface to get to the food, are generally lighter and the metal works well with non-stick technologies.

However, most aluminium pans don’t sit well with induction hobs, while there are some reports that the aluminium can leak into food over time.

Stainless steel pots and pans are much heavier – normally the heavier they are the better their performance. As they can withstand temperatures of up to 250 degrees they’re also great for boiling, sauces and frying more delicate things such as fish – providing hot spots of heat to the food.

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Non-stick pans are normally seen as a necessity – as the technology not only cooks’ food well, but also helps when washing up. They’re infused or lined with a chemical compound coating which helps the food to slide off the pan easier, which means you can cook healthier with little to no oil.

There are also other traits you need to look for when choosing pans – depending on your cooking needs. Ill-fitting lids will create a mess on your hob if pans boil over, while some work better for steaming or draining.

Having pans that stack is important if you have a small kitchen, while stainless steel pans, rather than aluminium pans, normally tend to be dishwasher safe as they don’t scratch easily.

Budget is also a big factor – however sometimes a good quality pan will speak for itself and last for years, so spending a little more on the right pans could be a great investment for your future creations.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Tefal ingenio expertise complete pan set

Everyone knows Tefal for its non-stick pans – but can they keep on impressing us with so much competition? This 13-piece set is ideal for a large family – with two frying pans, saucepans, and detachable handles it definitely stands out. We loved the bakelite handles, which are sturdy and attach to the pans easily, plus the glass lids which vacuumed on to the pans, and have a quirkily designed handle. The two pans also come with plastic lids – for storing leftover food in the fridge.

The frying pans and Wok have Tefal’s thermo-spot technology which indicates when your pans reach optimum cooking temperature – a perfect feature for novices to the kitchen and cooked our meat and vegetables perfectly, without burning them. The non-stick coating also means they are metal utensil safe, and after a weekend of cooking, then cleaning them, we couldn’t see a scratch on them. Oven and dishwasher safe, it’s as though Tefal have thought of everything with this set. If you’re looking to get your money’s worth, they deliver to a very high standard.

Rangemaster 3-piece saucepan set

Made from stainless steel the saucepans have a shiny exterior – looking very stylish on top of our hob. Great for all hob types, particularly on induction, the pans are designed using high-quality 18/10 stainless steel – a factor which really gives them an edge. Though not as heavy as some of the other pans we tried, it was still a struggle to drain water with them and we found ourselves using two hands to hold it up. We did love the feel of the stainless steel handle though, which seemed to mould well into our hands.

The glass lids were also another plus, allowing us to assess how well our pasta and potatoes were cooking, while their small steam vents were great for cooking vegetables. If you want your kitchenware to match you can also opt for their non-stick frying pan, which has a three-layer non-stick coating and works particularly great when cooking meats and eggs. For such an iconic name the price is relatively reasonable – we think these pans would last for years.

Stellar 9-piece saucepan set

This mirror polished stainless-steel set is vast, which is perfect if you love experimenting in the kitchen. With numerous pans and even a 2-in-1 steamer and colander, the pans have a thick “hot forged” base – meaning they distribute heat very evenly – which we found out when we cooked steaks and eggs in them. The domus shape of the pans gave them a unique look, and they were hard to scratch while cooking or cleaning them.

Some of the pans did make the food stick to the bottom, but they cleaned well in the dishwasher. Oven safe up to 210C we put them to the test when cooking a casserole and they fared well. The set is currently on sale, and we do think the original price is a little steep, but for nine pieces of kitchenware the sale price is fitting so grab it while you can.

Ninja foodi zerostick 5-piece saucepan set

These attractive black pans, with silver handles, are suitable for all hob types, but found the five-piece saucepan set relatively light. Made with forged aluminium and a hard-anodised exterior the set includes a; 24cm frying pan and four pans; a 16cm, 18cm and 20cm saucepan and; a 16cm milk pan. All of which come equipped with their zerostick technology – plasma ceramic particles which have been fused to the surface of the pan for a non-stick coating.

We used the frying pan for a quick stir fry, with great results – as the heat distributed evenly and the chicken and vegetables cooked quickly, without leaving anything on the pan. One plus was how all pans are oven safe to 260C, meaning we could start a creation on the hob and then finish it off in the oven – which we did use for an egg dish at brunch. Easy to wash – the saucepans were left with a white residue on them afterwards, which was hard to get off. For a five-piece set we think the price tag is perfect.

Noah 4-piece saucepan set

Part of Noah’s kitchen box – the forged aluminium four-piece saucepan set, in a Perth slate grey colour, have stainless steel handles and knobs. All the pieces, including a frying pan, 16, 18 and 20cm saucepans come with a goldstone non-stick technology which is oven safe up to 210C. We used the 16cm pan to cook porridge and were impressed with the non-stick technology, leaving no porridge on the side of the pan.

We also cooked vegetables in one of the bigger pans and were particularly impressed with the lids, which have steam vents – almost like using a steamer. Easy to wash the pans are also dishwasher safe. The rest of the kitchen box includes everything from a garlic press to a full dinner set – perfect for any new homeowners. For a little under £200 this set it great value for money, considering you get so much more than just the pans.

Procook gourmet non-stick cookware set

This six-piece set comes with four different sized saucepans, a casserole dish and a non-stick frying pan – ideal for anyone who wants to update their whole range. Made from 3.5mm coated aluminium, it means they’re light enough to use without too much effort but have great heat distribution. We appreciated the saucepans strain and pour design, which meant we didn’t burn ourselves when draining vegetables.

The handles for the whole set are made from stay-cool silicone, which give them a good grip, while they never get hot. This feature was particularly useful when we used the casserole dish in the oven. Suitable for most hob types including induction, they are also oven safe to 260C, easy to clean and dishwasher safe. We love how they come with a 10-year guarantee, meaning you won’t have to shell out for another set for a while, although for six pieces we say it’s a great price.

Salter megastone collection non-stick forged aluminium 3 piece saucepan set

We loved the speckled marble design of this saucepan set, which comes in 16, 18 and 20cm sizes. Relatively light, we found the pans easy to move and drain – even with just one hand. The pans all feature soft touch TPR bakelite handles, which we would say were one of their best qualities, as they made them sturdy and easy to use, never getting too hot when we cooked. Their ultra-non-stick surfaces worked well when cooking eggs and sauces, with the heat distributing easily, while there were no visible scratches left on the pans when we made mashed potatoes in them.

Easy to stack and store away in our cupboard we also love how the saucepans are 100 per cent PFOA free – meaning no harmful chemicals are released during cooking. One of the cheapest sets we tried, you wouldn’t have guessed by their quality.

Samuel Groves 3-piece classic set saucepan, casserole and non-stick frying pan

One of the most expensive pan sets we tried, so of course we had considerably high expectations. The stainless-steel set consists of a 26cm casserole pan, a non-stick 20cm saucepan and 28cm non-stick frying pan. Made in England the pans are all very heavy, but make up for it with their ergonomic handles which are riveted for extra strength. We cooked sauces in the 20cm pan and even on a high heat nothing was left stuck to the bottom, while the well fitted brushed stainless-steel lid meant we could leave it to bubble away while we tended to the rest of our dinner.

We also found their frying pan great for cooking fish, quickly and evenly spreading the heat to the salmon to cook it thoroughly. Easy to clean they did leave a few watermarks, but quickly vanished after a polish. Once they do lose their sparkle you can benefit from the companies “pan for life” service, where they polish pans and can re-coat non-stick pans – at 25 per cent of the cost of buying new ones. Great if you’re keen cook and you’re looking to invest in a quality set.

Judge Vista 3-piece draining set

The best feature about this stainless steel three pan set had to be the double-sided draining lids – which was not only great for steaming vegetables, but also for the tricky job of draining the water, without losing half your dinner or burning yourself. The light pans were perfect for making eggs too, with even heat distribution, which meant they didn’t stick to the bottom.

The measuring guides on the side of the pans could be a real time saver if you’re creating something from scratch, while the sturdy phenolic low-heat transmission handles made cooking with them fuss free. Easy to clean and dishwasher safe we can’t really fault them. They could be a little bit cheaper – but you’re paying for a quality product.

Kuhn rikon smart and compact 3-piece set

These are one of those most innovative sets of pans we tried – as they not only stack inside each other but cook everything from soup to vegetables to a high standard. The Swiss designed stainless steel pans are heavier than some of the other pans we tested but have a unique design including silicone lids and handles. We were most impressed with the lids, which form a vacuum as soon as you put them on the pot, while they also have a non-slip grip that stays cool.

Boiling was effortless with these pans, with vegetables and potatoes cooking quickly. While we used the marked measurements on the side of the pans for making soup – a clever extra. Easy to clean, with a quick wipe, storing them was effortless. For just three pieces they are on the expensive side but we loved how easy they were to use and their quick results.

Prestige eco 3-piece non-stick saucepan set

If you’re trying to be more environmentally friendly this set of pans will be right up your street – made from recycled materials, they can also be recycled too, along with the packaging they come in. The pans, which come in the standard sizes, are also palm oil free and PFOA free. We loved the scratch proof element of the green marbled detailed pans, but weren’t as impressed with the non-stick.

When we cooked eggs the heat distribution was slightly off, with the egg sticking to the sides and bottom of the pan. Its stay cool handles soft grip handles made cooking with them easy however, while the lids fit well and had a good grip. If you’re looking for light pans, which won’t break the bank then these could be a good option – plus for every pan bought, Prestige plant a tree. Lovely!

ProWare copper tri-ply set of three saucepans

The first thing that stands out about this set of pans is the shiny copper colour – which looked great sitting on our hob. The pans are made with a stainless-steel interior for easy cleaning and an aluminium core which means there is an even heat distribution. Great for boiling and lightly sautéing vegetables. We also cooked a risotto in the bigger pan and loved how it dealt with both high and low temperatures – giving us a well-cooked risotto with no rice traces left on the bottom of the pan.

The only downfall is they don’t work on induction hobs. A very unique set of pans, if you compare them to your bog-standard silver sets. At over £200 they don’t come cheap – but they are a worthy investment – for quality and style purposes.

Which saucepans should I buy for my hob?

Ceramic – You can use any saucepan type except copper, and stainless steel with a copper base. Look for saucepans with a flat, smooth base so they make full contact with the hob surface.

Induction – Only use saucepans marked as induction-friendly on the packaging as some ranges are not compatible. Induction-friendly saucepans have a magnetic material in the base, for example in stainless steel or cast iron.

Read more: 10 best sustainable kitchen products for a more eco-friendly home

Gas – All saucepan types are compatible with gas hobs. Look for pans made of materials that conduct and distribute heat evenly and respond quickly to temperature changes.

Which is the best pan material?

Aluminium – The most popular because they’re inexpensive, lightweight, durable, scratch and stain resistant, easy to clean and good at conducting heat. But they don’t have quite the longevity of other materials and they don’t like very high temperatures.

Hard-anodised aluminium pans – These lightweight pans are electrochemically treated to give a hard finish that’s twice as hard as stainless steel, making them even more scratch-resistant. They have outstanding heat distribution for faster cooking, are longer lasting and boast excellent anti-stick properties. But they are expensive and not usually dishwasher safe.

Stainless steel – These are durable, scratch resistant and dishwasher safe. On the downside, food can stick to the bottom and you can get hot spots, although some manufacturers add copper or aluminium layers to improve heat distribution.

Cast iron – Just like a cast iron bath, these take time to heat up, but have outstanding heat retention and you only need a low to medium heat, making them great option for slow, even cooking and the heat retention keeps food hot after cooking too – making them a great option to take straight to the table. They are scratch resistant, long lasting and usually have either a non-stick interior coating or thin protective layer. But they are heavy.

Read more: These £12 pan-lid holders have made my tiny kitchen tolerable again

Copper – These pans (which are usually coated with tin or stainless steel to stop them reacting with certain foods) heat up quickly, are highly responsive to temperature changes, boast excellent heat conductivity and last forever, making them a firm favourite among many chefs. But they are pricey and need special care to avoid tarnishing. Plus, they don’t work on certain hobs.

What is non-stick?

As the name suggests, non-stick is a special saucepan coating that stops food sticking, which means you need less fat and they’re easier to clean. Most types of pans come in a non-stick version, including aluminium, cast iron and stainless steel. Don’t use with metal utensils, avoid abrasive scourers when washing up and look for well-known brand names like Teflon.

Do I need a different type of saucepan for an induction hob?

Not all saucepans can be used on induction. This is because induction technology uses the power of magnetism, which requires the pan itself to be magnetic. Cast iron is fine, as is a magnetic grade of stainless steel. Aluminium and copper alone, however, won’t work. The benefit of induction friendly pans is that they are compatible with most other hob types.

The verdict: Saucepan sets

You really can’t fault Tefal and its ingenio expertise complete pan set. It was a delight to cook with, the pans and wok heated up quickly and evenly and our food cooked perfectly every time. We loved the detachable handles, which were not only sturdy when you transferred them from hob to oven, but easy to transfer to the brand’s other pans.

We think the Rangemaster 3-piece saucepan set comes a close second – light, stylish and durable, we love how evenly the heat distributed on the pans and for a well-known name, the set is priced reasonably.

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