Choose pots and pans made from a heavy-gauge material with sturdy handles and securely fitting lids. Handle the pots and pans to find options that feel comfortable and durable. Consider special needs of your cooktop, such as flat-bottomed pans for smooth cooktops or magnetic stainless steel for induction cooktops.
Pots and pans come in nonstick, uncoated and cast iron varieties. Nonstick pans clean up well and prevent food from sticking, but scratch easily. Uncoated pans work well for browning or braising foods, but are difficult to clean. Cookware available in each of the styles varies in quality.
The gauge of the material affects the durability and heat distribution of the cookware, states Fine Cooking. Heavy-duty pans are less likely to warp or dent with use. Thicker material holds heat better and distributes the heat so the food cooks evenly.
Handles made of metal allow the pots and pans to go in the oven. Plastic or wooden handles cannot go in the oven, but stay cooler on the stovetop than metal handles. Pick up the pot by the handle to see if it feels solid and secure.
Test the lid on the pan to ensure it fits tightly. This keeps moisture in the pan while cooking. Also examine the knob or handle on the lid for a secure attachment.