If your saucepans have seen better days, or just don’t seem to be up to the job in hand, then feast your eyes on these sensational sets.
Not only did we assess how quick and evenly the pans heat up, but also how well the lids fit, whether the pans are oven safe, how cool the handles stay and how easily they wash.
For those with a non-stick surface, we tested how effective it is, and we also took into consideration the number of pans included in each set, as well as the sizes, in terms of practicality.
Before buying, you’ll need to think about what type of pans are best suited to your needs. Aluminium is among the most common because it’s easy to clean and generally resistant to chipping and peeling.
Many aluminium pans have an enamel coating on the outside and are non-stick on the inside. If you don’t mind forking out a bit extra, you might want to consider upgrading to hard-anodised aluminium pans, which have been electrochemically treated to give a hard finish that’s even more resistant to chips and scratches. Neither work on induction hobs, however.
Stainless steel pans also have durability on their side and they happen to be dishwasher safe, as well as being immune to scratches or worse. But food can stick and you can get hot spots, although the addition of copper or aluminium layers sandwiched between the stainless steel layers can help.
While cast-iron pans are not for the weak wristed and take their time to heat up, you only need a low to medium heat, which they retain beautifully and they last years.
Most have an enamel or non-stick interior. Copper pans (usually bonded with stainless steel for extra strength) also boast longevity but heat up really quickly and have outstanding heat distribution. But they’re expensive, need special care so as not to tarnish and don’t work on most glass-topped hobs or halogen, electric radiant and sealed plate hobs.
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Tefal Ingenio 10-piece set, stainless steel: £150, John Lewis & Partners
If you’re short on storage space but need a lot of pans, this versatile set (which is also available in non-stick and with different numbers of pans) will do you proud. Not only do the pans nest inside one another, but they have stackable lids and easily detachable handles that are really sturdy when clipped on – which can be easily transferred from one to the other when cooking. You can bung them in the oven up to 250C and they’re suitable for all hob types including induction and they can go in the dishwasher. With titanium bases to ensure they last you years, this is a practical option for big families, although the biggest isn’t huge so you might need to buy one or two extra jumbo pans to add to your collection.
Eaziglide never-stick 3-piece saucepan set: £135, Eaziglide
It’s a bold claim to say nothing will ever stick to a pan, but with these it’s actually true – even scrambled egg and home-made caramel sauce left no trace (which obviously gets another big tick for being easier to wash up). They are surprisingly lightweight even when full to the brim, and the twistable draining holes mean you can control the amount of steam that escapes during cooking. They’re suitable for all hob types and to top it all off, you can finish off your culinary creations in the oven, up to a scorching 260C. The night sky finish gives it a classy look, but the handles could be more grippy.
Le Creuset 3-ply stainless steel 3-piece saucepan set: £258.75, Amazon
You’ll want a lot of pan for your penny at this price and although they do dull a little over time, they are otherwise hard to fault, heating evenly on any heat source – and right up to the sides – and withstanding any kinds of utensils, thanks to the multi-layered stainless steel and aluminium. The lids fit tightly so no moisture escapes and the handles are ergonomic. We also like the capacity markers and all-round pouring rim. They are dishwasher-friendly, oven safe, and if you’re not happy with them after 90 days, you get your money back. We reckon they’ll last you a lifetime.
Argos Home 3-piece aluminium pan set: £19, Argos
If you don’t have more than £20 to spend (off to uni, perhaps?) or you want very lightweight pans, this set of three in a retro-looking red design are a good buy. While they’re not going to set the world on fire with whizzy features or durability, they do their job well and the handles stay cool even when the pans get really hot. We also like the glass lids, with a handy air vent. But they don’t suit induction hobs and the non-stick surface is prone to scratching if you wash them up too haphazardly.
Circulon momentum hard anodised 5-piece pan set: £89.99, Amazon
This is one of those brands that once you try, you’ll go back to again and again. Among the main reasons are that they work on all hobs, last decades, heat evenly and can be used with metal utensils as the hard-anodised construction is twice as hard as stainless steel and doesn’t chip or scratch. They also boast a patented non-stick system with an iconic groove design that food genuinely doesn’t stick to, and yet you can bung it all in the dishwasher after use. We like the fact that a frying pan is included in this set – arguably their best bit of cookware. But they aren’t quite as quick to heat up as some.
Robert Welch Campden saucepan set, 3-piece: £170, Robert Welch
This brand, which has historically been best known for its top-quality knives and cutlery, has been branching out in recent years, including with some top-notch cookware. This stackable three-piece solid set not only looks gorgeous but works on all hob types. They heat up quickly, leaving no cold spots, thanks to the thick base made up of copper sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel to ensure even heat distribution across the whole base. And the handles stay cool so no need for hot hands. A stunning set that you can add to over the years – or go the whole hog first time round and get the 10-piece set for £525.
Tower trustone 3-piece saucepan set: £54.99, Amazon
The five layers of coating do a good job of keeping the heat steady and even during cooking, while the glass lids have steam ventilation and the handles are well balanced and stay cool. We like the look too – a speckled black that gives a contemporary aesthetic, and you can use them all on hob types. The non-stick is impressive for the price and if you need frying pans too, buy the 5-piece set for an extra £18, also available on Amazon. They are lightweight so good for weaker wrists, but on the downside the shape can distort a bit over time.
Prestige dura forge 5-piece pan set: £99.99, Prestige
This comprehensive set has five pans, each with a 3D steel base and cold forged aluminium body which – in plain English – translates to all the strength and thickness needed for easy cooking. We liked the chunky base, the strengthened rims that don’t warp over time, and the non-stick seemed more durable than others in this price-range – and also meant we could, for example, fry and egg with no oil. Suitable for all hob types, they’re dishwasher safe and can go in the oven up to 180C. There are better quality pans out there, but for the price this is a great all-rounder set.
Anolon Advanced 3-piece glass lidded saucepan set: £149.99, Anolon
We love the snazzy silver-bronze look of these slightly flared pans from Anolon, a brand known for their quality professional and home cookware. At £50 each, they don’t come cheap, but for keen cooks with a sense of style, these thick-based pans are outstanding, with heat distribution that puts most other pan sets to shame and whose non-stick coating doesn’t chip and lasts years, with barely any need for oil when cooking. The trade-off for this kind of quality non-stick is often that you can’t put the pans in the dishwasher, but that’s not an issue with these and they can go in the oven up to 200C too. It can be a little tricky to drain water as the rim is quite slippery, but that’s not an uncommon problem. You can use them on any hob and you get a lifetime guarantee.
ProCook professional steel cookware set, 6-piece: £199, Procook
More serious cooks will love these six hard-wearing pans that include all the staples (plus, you can buy additional pieces ranging from steamer insert to stockpots). The 18/10 stainless steel is top quality, with a base that heats up instantly and evenly, spreading up the sides in no time. They work on all hob types, as well as going in an oven up to 260C (probably hotter than your oven will even go). Then, when you’re done, you can bung them in the dishwasher – in fact, they clean more easily than any other set we tried. The liquid measure on the inside is great for adding ingredients as you go and the frying pan has a brilliant non-stick surface. Shame they don’t have the easy-pour lids that the Gourmet range does, though, and be warned they are quite heavy.
GreenPan mayflower 3-piece saucepan set: £104.95, GreenPan
Best suited to more rustic kitchens, these bluey-green aluminium pans with stay-cool wooden handles and see-through lids look so nice that you may well want to have them on show. Performance wise, the stand out point is that they’ve been treated with a ceramic non-stick surface fortified with diamonds, no less, which makes a massive difference to the durability. Suitable for any hob, we were taken with the lovely thick base and comfortable handles. But it’s a shame they won’t go in the oven and, as you’ve probably guessed from the handles, they are not dishwasher friendly either.
Lakeland Hard anodised bell shaped 5-piece pan set: £177.99, Lakeland
This comprehensive set (which includes milk pan, three saucepans and a frying pan) gets the thumbs up from us for their bell shape, which look good and have wider bases than their predecessors. They’re oven-friendly up to 180C – a boon for one-pot cooking or browning something off before serving. Other plus points include the genuinely non-stick surface, speedy heat-up time, robust glass lids and the fact that they come out sparkling from the dishwasher. An excellent mid-range set to suit all needs from a company with great customer service and that never quibbles about returns.
Zyliss forged aluminium 3-piece pan set: £119.99, Amazon
If you had a budget of around £100 for your new pan set, we’d urge you to go slightly over for this set of three aluminium saucepans whose heat distribution properties far surpass other pan sets we tried around this price range. The triple-layered ceramic-enforced non-stick is impressive too, which the manufacturer says is down to whizzy Swiss technology – the bottom line is you need little or no oil and can use any utensils, including metal, and it all goes in the dishwasher with no risk of chipping. The soft-grip handles get 10 out of 10 from us for ergonomics and yet they are oven safe up to 180C.
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, eg stainless steel or cast iron.
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.
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
The all-singing all-dancing Tefal Ingenio 10-piece set won us over with its innovation, practicality and the fact that you get so many pans to cater for your every cooking need. We’re also giving a special mention to Le Creuset 3-ply stainless steel 3-piece saucepan set, which don’t come cheap but are an absolute joy to use and are also available in toughened non-stick.