A good set of pans will enhance your culinary adventures for years to come. Read our reviews of stainless steel and ceramic pans, from cheap to blowout, to find out which is best for you.
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Over the years, kitchen cupboards can get cluttered with pots and pans of varying quality. Rather than picking up odd and mismatched saucepans along the way, buying a set where all perform in a similar way can help build your confidence as a cook. You'll get to know your pans and their capabilities as you try different recipes, never having to second-guess which one to use. If you often cook for friends and family or your cookware is stored in open view, style may also be a consideration.
Pan sets come in so many combinations of sizes and types, it can be difficult to decide what to go for. Every one of the combos we've tried and tested here has different items that can be added to complete your ideal collection. From steamers to casseroles, pasta pots to woks, there's a lot you can add later to the basic trio of lidded saucepans.
As with any equipment you use daily, buy the best you can afford. A thin aluminium set with plastic knobs may be binned in a few months, but higher-grade stainless steel pans will last and save you money in the long-run.
What to look for? Think about how much room you have to store them. A heavy base is crucial for distributing heat efficiently. Consider the lining – we all love non-stick properties but some need to be oil-seasoned every month and may not be suitable to go in the dishwasher.
Well-fitting lids are important as are comfortable handles. With regards to size, ask yourself if that giant casserole is going to languish on the shelf? And do you really need a tiny milk pan? Stick to the basics with at least two 16-20cm pans and you can grow your kitchen collection from there.
Read on to discover which saucepan sets stood out in our rigorous test. For over 200 buyer's guides, visit our product review section and find reviews of food processors, slow cookers, non-stick frying pans and much more.
Le Creuset 3-ply stainless steel saucepan set
Best investment saucepan set
Combining good looks with second-to-none construction, this set of three saucepans will be on display in your kitchen years from now. The pans' triple-layer stainless steel ensures even, constant heat and the solid lids made cooking with less water possible, locking in steam and flavour. Laser-etched measurements inside the pans and curved rims for no-spill pouring only made us love them more. They're heavier than the other pans we tried, but an extra grab handle makes lifting easy, even when full.
Tefal Ingenio Essential 14-piece pan set
Best saucepan set for small spaces
A clever range that has long been a bestseller. Although this basic Ingenio line isn't suitable for induction hobs, it did everything we asked of it on gas and electric hobs, and in the oven, too. Clicking the detachable handle in place, then detaching to slot onto another pan can take some getting used to, but the benefit is that it only needs a tiny amount of cupboard space.
Robert Welch Campden 3-piece saucepan set
Best stylish saucepan set
Lovely to look at, these pans are also a dream to use. This stylish trio comes from a British company renowned for their top-notch cutlery, so the handles are very comfortable to grip – and they stay surprisingly cool, even over intense heat. Using the same high grade of stainless steel, they've sandwiched a layer of copper in the base of these weighty pans to ensure perfect heat control for serious home chefs.
Budget saucepan set with a clever design
The cheapest set in our selection is a great choice for those who live in an open kitchen-dining space and love a bit of peace and quiet. The silicone rings, though not to everyone’s taste, mean lids make next to no noise when removed and replaced, and with nifty pouring spouts and hole-punched panels on each side of the soft-handled pans and lids, it's a cinch to drain vegetables and pasta. The grade of stainless steel is not top-class but is heavy enough for even heat distribution without hot spots. Under £50 for three? A steal.
ProCook 6-piece professional ceramic cookware set
Saucepan set with best variety
We enjoyed testing this easycare ProCook selection – especially the shallow casserole that will undoubtedly be a firm favourite for cooking family-sized stews, chillis and risottos. Where this saucepan set really scored highly was in the non-stick test. Everything glided from the base, even without oil and the toughened ceramic coating was so simple to clean afterwards. The pale grey lining also made it easier to see how well food was browning.
Which saucepan set to buy
If you're starting out, a three-pot set will give you everything you need in terms of cooking most meals. Something like a Sunday roast is covered – potatoes, vegetables and gravy will all have their place. Choose a set you can add to later and go for the very best quality you can afford. A seasoned cook? Think about what gets used most in your kitchen (we all have our favourites) and look for a set that incorporates that style of pan in its wider range, if not already included in the box.
What we looked for when testing saucepan sets
As well as how the sets looked together on the cooker, there was a long list of attributes on our list of must-haves.
Efficient cooking: Crucially, they had to have excellent, non-stick linings and efficient heat distribution so we could rely on food being evenly cooked, with responsive heating and cooling when we adjusted controls.
Weight and balance: Heavy-based pans are great for cooking, but they couldn't be so weighty that we'd struggle to move one from hob to sink, or so light they could tilt easily on the stove.
Build quality: The saucepans had to be built to last, with firmly welded or riveted handles, which had to feel comfortable to grip when the pan was full.
Storage: Finally, we looked at how the sets stacked together for storage, marking down any that were likely to topple over and cause cupboard chaos.
How we tested saucepan sets
Scrambled and fried eggs
Each set was used to make breakfast eggs. Creamy scrambled eggs were left on a low heat, while any frying pan in a set was tested by frying eggs without oil.
Would a panful of beans boil at the edges and remain stone cold in the middle? This was a good way to note heat distribution, looking for an even heat distribution.
The base of all good recipes, we wanted our onions to brown easily and evenly on a medium heat. When they reached just the right colour, we would turn off the heat to see if they stayed golden or overcooked.
How responsive were the pans to changes in heat? We looked at the speed of water coming to the boil and how evenly heat seemed to distribute, then how responsive the pan was to shut-off when spaghetti threatened to boil over.
This review was last updated in August 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.