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For the iconic French chef Paul Bocuse, the question of classic versus modern cuisine was non-existent. “The only cuisine that matters is good,” he once said. And Bocuse knew better than anybody that a chef’s kitchenware was just as important as his vision and talent.
And let’s face it—not all cookware is created equal. A pan is not just a pan. It matters whether it is made from ceramic, stainless steel, or cast iron because all of these materials, in one way or another, could change how you cook your food and even its taste.
Take nonstick ceramic cookware, for example. It is hailed as one of the healthiest materials because it doesn’t require the use of a lot of oil or butter while cooking. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is a chef’s favorite for its durability, taste-retaining, and heat distribution qualities. And cast-iron is perfect for slow-cooking—it is also probably the only material that everyone agrees: the more you use it the better your food tastes. In fact, Bocuse himself had a favorite cast-iron brand—Staub—that he always used in his three Michelin-starred restaurant.
Here are the best cookware brands that will help you fulfill your culinary potential.
For a Dutch Oven: Le Creuset
In 1925, Belgium-natives Armand Desaegher and Octave Aubecq establish Le Creuset in Feysnoy-le-Grand in the north of France and introduced what will become the company’s signature product for decades to come—an enameled cast iron cocotte, as it is known in French, or a Dutch oven.
While cast-iron cookware had already been a staple in French homes, the two entrepreneurs gave it a sleeker, more beautiful, and more functional update. Almost a hundred years later, and Le Creuset has expanded its offerings to bakeware, dinnerware, and kitchen accessories but it is still its high-quality, durable cocottes that make it a favorite of professional chefs and home cooks alike. The secret? Enameled cast iron heats slowly and distributes the heat evenly along the bottom and the sides of the Dutch oven making it ideal for anything from baking a loaf of bread to slow-cooking meat.
Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven
To buy: $360, surlatable.com
For Stainless Steel Cookware: All-Clad
Pennsylvania-based company All-Clad produces some, if not the, best stainless steel cookware. Its products are favored by chefs such as Anthony Amoroso, the MGM Resorts International Executive Chef who says All-Clad’s kitchenware is used in restaurants such as The Mayfair Supper Club, Ambra, and Harvest.
And while it took a while for the company to launch its first cookware line in 1971— its founder, John Ulam was a talented metallurgist who discovered the strength and durability of bonded metals but went on to make dimes and quarters for the US government—today, its pots and pans are used by award-winning chefs across the country.
The company still proudly produces all of its bonded cookware in Canonsburg, PA, using the best American-made metals. Each piece features a pure core of aluminum, stainless steel, or copper which help distribute heat evenly. Another plus of having stainless steel cookware in your kitchen is that the material doesn’t react with food.
All-Clad D5 Brushed Stainless Steel 10-Piece Set
To buy: $700, surlable.com
For Copper Cookware: Mauviel 1830
If you’ve ever had the pleasure to dine at the three Michelin-starred Le Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris, chances are your food was prepared in a Mauviel copper pan.
As the year in the company’s name suggests, the family-owned Mauviel has been around for almost two centuries. It is still based in Villedieu Les Poeles—a village with an 800-year tradition in copper manufacturing—where each day its artisans hand-hammer and hand-carve its cookware from copper. The material is known for its superior heat distribution qualities, it also heats up and cools down quickly so it prevents the food from overcooking.
The company’s commitment to innovation has led to the launch of some 1,000 products crafted from stainless steel and aluminum but its high-quality, durable copper cookware range remains at the heart of the business and kitchens such as that of Le Pavillon Ledoyen.
Mauviel Copper Triply 7-Piece Cookware Set
To buy: $800, Williams-sonoma.com
For Cast Iron Cookware: Staub
There is probably no greater compliment for a company than the fact that the great late chef Paul Bocuse used its cookware in his kitchen. It is an honor that Staub, which was founded in Alsace in the mid-1970s, still rightfully deserves thanks to the quality of its cast iron and ceramic cookware. Bocuse was a fan of Staub’s cocottes for their versatility. “You can prepare so many things in a cocotte,” the French chef once said. “You can roast meat, make soup, and even stew casseroles. This is what French cuisine is all about.”
Staub 12 Piece Cast Iron Non-Stick Cookware Set
To buy: $1,795, Williams-sonoma.com
For induction-specific stainless steel cookware: Demeyere
This Belgian company really takes cooking seriously. For over a century, Demeyere has been producing some of the best stainless steel cookware by taking into consideration the technical requirements of all cooking processes such as stirfrying, baking, or boiling. Then it adapts the materials and design of each of its products according to these requirements.
The company is also a pioneer in manufacturing induction cookware. It has developed a material that limits the temperature of the pans to 485 Fahrenheit when used on induction cookers so food doesn’t get overcooked or burnt. This obsession with technology has made Demeyere one of the preferred cookware brands for professional chefs around the world.
Demeyere Essential5 Cookware Set of 10
To buy: $700, surlatable.com
For Non-Stick Cookware: Sitram
If there is restaurant-level cooking action going on in your kitchen on a daily basis that requires the sturdiest and most durable cookware then you don’t need to look any further.
French company Sitram offers mid-range cookware made of 18/10 non-reactive stainless steel that features a thick clad base for fast and evening heating. Their pots and pans are designed with functionality in mind—they all have a non-drip pour rim and securely attached handles for added durability.
The company started producing a range of non-stick stainless steel products in 1982 that is still one of their best-selling lines. Sitram was also the first brand to introduce a pressure cooker made of stainless steel in France back in 1963, which has become one of their most iconic products.
Sitram Stainless Steel Horeca-R with Interior Nonstick Triple Coat Fry Pan and Sitram Sitra Pro Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker
To buy pan: from $54, sitramusa.com; To buy pressure cooker: $219, sitramusa.com
For Classic Carbon Steel Pans: de Buyer
De Buyer has been manufacturing cookware and pastry tools since the 1830s and its dedication to the craft as well as its expertise has gained it the coveted EPV label—or Living Heritage Company—awarded by the French Government.
And if that’s not good enough for you, then keep in mind that de Buyer’s products are being used in some of the best cooking schools in France (like the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie and the Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse in Paris) as well in the top restaurants in Europe. Michelin-starred Chef Benoit Witz, a former commis chef for both Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse, of Monte-Carlo Beach in Monaco swears by the brand’s copper and stainless steel pans.
In 2011, De Buyer updated its carbon steel frying pan that has been a staple at the company since its founding. The Mineral B frying pan has a traditional design and is made of iron with no chemicals or coating with the exception of a beeswax finish that makes it stick-resistant.
De Buyer Mineral B Element Non-Stick Frying Pan
To buy: $65, wayfair.com
For Design-Forward Stainless Steel Cookware: Lagostina
Given Italy’s obsession with food and cooking, it’s not surprising that one of the best cookware manufacturers in the world hails from there. Lagostina has been in the business since 1901 and since then it has been led by the belief that innovation and technology can improve our lives and cooking.
What do we mean by that? It was the first company in Italy to introduce an entire collection of stainless steel kitchenware in 1934 that was absolutely unheard of at the time. And in the mid-1950s, it established its own research laboratory which eventually led to the launch of the company’s first pressure cooker in 1960.
Fast forward to 2009 when the company was in the news again, this time with its La Collezione Rossa line that fused stainless steel with color. The result was so beautiful that it won them a design award that same year.
And today, Lagostina’s cookware continues to stand out not only with its impeccable quality but stylish looks, too. Professionals such as Chef Philippe Joannes, the catering director for Monte-Carlo Societe des Bains de Mer which owns the Monte Carlo Casino and the Hôtel de Paris, is a fan of its stovetop cookware.
Lagostina Pastaiola Pot
To buy: $250, Williams-sonoma.com
For Nonstick Ceramic Cookware: Caraway
Caraway may not be one of those heritage companies that trace back their origins decades or centuries ago—it has been around for only a few years—but it already has a cult following for its eco-friendly and non-toxic (and extremely Instagrammable) line of ceramic cookware.
After its founder experienced Teflon poisoning, he decided to launch a company that is all about “cookware as clean as your ingredients.” Its pots and pans have a mineral-based coating that doesn’t leak chemicals into your food. Its best-selling cookware set even comes with its own storage for convenience.
Caraway Cookware Set
To buy: $395, caraway.com