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Monday, June 17, 2024

The Best Affordable Pots and Pans of 2024, Tested & Reviewed


In our quest to bring you one step closer to perfect diner-style omelets, creamy risotto, and Creole-style red jambalaya, we’ve rounded up our favorite budget cookware picks that deliver year after year. From nonstick skillets to durable stainless steel saucepans, our tried and true recommendations will meet the needs of home cooks everywhere.

The best part? Affordability doesn’t mean sacrificing quality. Each product featured in our guide has undergone rigorous testing to ensure it meets our standards. We’ve evaluated factors including heat distribution, durability, and ease of cleaning so you can buy the very best.

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Amazon


A cast iron skillet is a reliable and durable piece of cookware, and one that we recommend everyone keep in their kitchen. While high-end options abound, our favorite skillets are eminently affordable: Our Lodge pick is priced under $30, and this Victoria cast iron skillet is also great option for a few dollars less.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 5 pounds, 7 ounces
  • Temperature range: Up to 650°F
  • Comes pre-seasoned?: Yes
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: Nope, absolutely not

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly


Misen 3-Qt. Sauté Pan

Misen


Sauté pans fall somewhere in between a skillet and a Dutch oven; they are perfect for shallow frying meatballs or falafel, braising bone-in chicken pieces, and wilting that entire bag of spinach you have in your fridge. While this one is on the heavier side, it’s large, with a nearly 10-inch cooking surface, and heats up relatively quickly and evenly. In our tests, it browned and braised nearly as well as our more expensive favorites.  

Key Specs

  • Weight: 5 pounds, 2 ounces (with the lid)
  • Material: Stainless steel, aluminum
  • Overall dimensions: 21 x 11 x 3 inches
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Temperature range: Up to 800°F
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


Duxtop 1.6 Quart Whole-Clad Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Saucepan with Lid

Amazon


A great small saucepan should heat uniformly, pour smoothly, and be easy to clean. The most saucier-like one we tested (with a shallower depth and sloped sides) was perfect for stirring and whisking. It also features a rolled rim for dribble-less pours and a handle that stays cool even after boiling water or browning butter. 

Key Specs

  • Capacity: 1.6 quarts
  • Weight: 2 pounds, 4 ounces (with lid)
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Lip-to-lip diameter: 6.75 inches
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Temperature range: Oven-safe up to 500°F
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe, but hand-washing is recommended

Serious Eats / Ashlee Redger


Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad 10-Piece Stainless Steel Set

Amazon


For those who want a nice stainless steel cookware set for under $300, this is the one to get. It even includes two of our recommendations for stainless steel skillets and saucepans. The skillet performed particularly well when searing a pork chop to golden brown perfection. 

Key Specs

  • Material: Tri-ply clad 18/10 stainless steel with aluminum core
  • Number of pieces: 10
  • Temperature range: Oven-safe up to 500°F
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes

Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore


Tramontina Covered 3-Quart Saucepan

Amazon


This isn’t the cheapest saucepan we tested, but the Tramontina performed really well for its price, outdoing pots that cost twice as much. Browned butter, perfectly cooked rice, silky pastry cream—this pan does it all, without any sticking or burnt-on bits. 

Key Specs

  • Capacity: 3 quarts
  • Weight: 3 pounds, 4 ounces (with lid)
  • Diameter: 8 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 500° F
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


Vollrath French Style Carbon Steel Fry Pan, 12.5"

Vollrath


If you haven’t considered buying a carbon steel skillet yet, now is the time. A favorite with restaurant chefs, Vollrath carbon steel pans perform just as well (if not better) than others at a fraction of the price. Of the 12 pans we tested, this was the lightest, and it heated up fast and was easy to lift, flip, and sauté with. 

Key Specs

  • Weight: 2 pounds, 6 ounces  
  • Diameter: 7.6 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 600°F
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: No

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


Crock Pot Artisan Cast Iron Skillet

Amazon


Think of enameled cast iron skillets as a cousin of uncoated cast iron; they’re both great for different reasons. Here, the enamel coating doesn’t require seasoning, provides rust protection, and is easy to clean. Renowned for its slow cooker, Crock-Pot shouldn’t be overlooked for its cookware. Lightweight and easy to maneuver, this skillet is a great value, combining affordability with performance. 

Key Specs

  • Weight: 6 pounds, 5 ounces  
  • Diameter: 10 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 500°F
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: No

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


Great Jones Saucy

Great Jones


The Great Jones “Saucy” is more than just a pretty pot. If there’s pastry cream or risotto in your future, you probably need a saucier, and this one is a nicely priced option. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Great Jones emerged as the belle of the ball in our testing, with performance to match—impressing us with its heat conduction and ease of stirring and cleaning. It’s also the most competitively priced of the sauciers we tested, and a perfect fit for those who prioritize both form and function.

Key Specs

  • Capacity: 3 quarts
  • Weight: 3 pounds, 0.5 ounce  
  • Diameter: 8.5 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 500°F
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes

Serious Eats / Tim Chin


Tramontina 10-Inch Professional Aluminum Nonstick Restaurant Fry Pan

Amazon


We don’t use nonstick skillets all that often, but if you’re going to have one, it should work well without breaking the bank. This Tramontina is well-priced, features a padded handle for comfort and stability, and delivers impressive results.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 1 pound, 5 ounces
  • Temperature range: Up to 400°F
  • Induction-friendly?: No
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe; hand-washing recommended

Serious Eats / Donna Currie


Amazon Victoria 10-Inch Cast Iron Square Grill Pan with Double Loop Handles

Amazon


Love grilled veggies but don’t have the setup or time for an outdoor grill? It’s time to try a grill pan, and the Victoria is a top-performing pan at a great value. Among the 10 grill pans we tested, this one stood out for its lightweight build and seamless cooking process. Thanks to an efficient design, food glides easily off the grates, while still achieving nice, deep char marks.  

Key Specs

  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Material: Cast iron
  • Number of grates: 12
  • Temperature range: Up to 650° F
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: No

Serious Eats / Will Dickey


Crock Pot Artisan Enameled Cast Iron Braiser

Amazon


Sporting generously sized looped handles and a cooking surface comparable to the Le Creuset (though on the smaller size for a 5-quart braiser), this is a great, low-cost option that comes in a handful of fun colors. While its durability isn’t on par with Le Creuset or Staub, its affordability makes it a great pick—it’s $235 less than the Le Creuset and $305 less than the Staub.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 14 pounds, 12.5 ounces
  • Dimensions: 15 x 12 x 5 inches
  • Capacity: 5 quarts
  • Temperature range: Up to 500° F
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Care instructions: Hand-wash recommended

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray


Cook N Home 12-Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot with Lid

Amazon


We recently tested 22 stockpots, and this dependable pot was one of our favorites. Efficient and well designed, the pot includes handles that are covered in a grippy rubber to protect your hands from the hot metal, just in case you are the sort of person who might reach for them without an oven mitt on. 

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 10 x 12.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Capacity: 12 quarts
  • Materials: Stainless steel, tempered glass
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


Tramontina 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet

Amazon


This stainless steel skillet tested well across the board, effortlessly searing chicken breasts, sautéing vegetables, and deglazing with ease. The price seems to fluctuate a bit, but it’s usually under $50, making it a great choice for home cooks of all levels. 

Key Specs

  • Oven-safe temperature: Up to 500°F
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik


Cuisinart Chef's Classic Enameled Cast Iron 5-Quart Round Covered Casserole

Amazon


Priced at a fraction of the cost of the premium French brands, the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic is an excellent value, emerging as a standout performer among the 20 Dutch ovens we tested. Despite its modest capacity, the base of the pot is surprisingly roomy.

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 11.5 x 6.2 inches
  • Capacity: 5 quarts
  • Weight: 3 pounds, 4.1 ounces
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe; hand-washing recommended
Serious Eats / Emily Dryden

Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok

Amazon


After a quick pre-seasoning, this wok proved itself to be a true kitchen workhorse. Compared to the other woks we tested, its nonstick properties are unparalleled—the only pan from our testing that produced unbroken, unstuck fried eggs. With its generous capacity, it quickly became our go-to pan for tossing bok choy and garlic fried rice, while also boiling water in under nine minutes—securing the second-fastest time of the 11 woks we tested. A thoughtfully designed wooden handle and a helper handle means no singed fingers, and peace of mind with every sauté and stir. 

Key Specs

  • Diameter: 13.5 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds, 4.1 ounces
  • Comes pre-seasoned?: No
  • Induction-friendly?: Yes
  • Dishwasher-safe: No

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly


FAQs

What’s the best cookware for the money? 

We’re partial to cookware that does it all, and for us, that’s cast iron—few options rival the versatility and enduring appeal of a cast iron skillet. The more you use it, the better it gets, and Lodge’s affordable basic cast iron skillet has been one of our most recommended pieces of kitchenware for years and years. 

Why don’t nonstick pans last? 

Nonstick pans have their limitations. Yes, they can be convenient, but the reality is that their surfaces are not built to last forever; they will chip, scratch, and show other signs of wear and tear. This is exactly why we suggest buying cheaper nonstick cookware (and why our top pick is under $50). If you’re using a nonstick pan often, you can expect to replace it every couple of years. You’ll know it’s time to say goodbye to the pan when it loses its nonstick qualities, the finish begins to flake off, or it becomes deeply scratched.

Why We’re the Experts

  • Caroline Schnapp is a freelance writer who’s written for Serious Eats since 2024.
  • We’ve tested and published numerous reviews on pots and pans (including Dutch ovens, skillets and sauté pans).
  • For this story, we referenced our extensive library of cookware reviews, choosing pots and pans that outperformed the competition, on a budget.

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