- A carefully selected cookware set can be the finishing touch on a new kitchen or refresh an old one.
- Hard-anodized cookware has the high heat conductivity of aluminum with a safe nonstick surface.
- The best hard-anodized cookware set on for value and durability is the GreenPan Valencia Pro 11-Piece Set.
Buying a cookware set can be overwhelming because of the sheer volume of brands, materials, and types of included pieces. While stainless steel, copper, and traditional nonstick are the most popular options for cookware sets and each have their benefits, another lesser-known cookware material can offer some of the best value: hard-anodized aluminum. According to Fran Groesbeck, managing director at the Cookware Manufacturer’s Association, hard-anodized cookware is known for its strength, durability, and even heating.
Raw aluminum is inexpensive and offers excellent conductivity for cooking, but it’s prone to discoloration and scratching. Hard-anodized aluminum has undergone a chemical process to oxidize the cooking surface of the pan so it’s more durable, nonstick, and doesn’t discolor the food. While hard-anodized cookware is plenty nonstick in its own right, many hard-anodized pieces have additional nonstick coatings. For more information on the technical aspects of the material, see our FAQs.
While durability, cooking, and ease of use and cleaning were top of mind when making our selections, we also looked for sets with useful pieces and no superfluous items. The most important pieces in any cookware set are a stockpot or Dutch oven, a 12-inch skillet, and a 4-quart saucepan, all with lids (it’s worth noting that cookware manufacturer’s consider lids as separate “pieces” when listing the number of pieces in a set). We used this blueprint to narrow down the choices in this guide. If you’re looking for a specific piece, consider purchasing individual items, as a large cookware set is likely to have more than you need.
We think hard-anodized cookware sets are a great option for folks who want to outfit their kitchen on a budget, and are looking for a set that is easy to cook with, care for, and maintain. Below we’ve outlined our top picks for hard-anodized sets.
Here are the best hard-anodized cookware sets in 2021
- Best hard-anodized cookware set overall: GreenPan Valencia Pro 11-Piece Set
- Best hard-anodized cookware set on a budget: Rachael Ray Cucina Hard-Anodized Aluminum 12-Piece Set
- Best high-end hard-anodized cookware set: Williams Sonoma Thermo Clad 10-Piece Set
- Best space-saving hard-anodized cookware set: Calphalon Select Space Saving 9-Piece set
- Best hard-anodized cookware set for induction stovetops: Ninja Foodi NeverStick 10-Piece Set
The GreenPan Valencia Pro set is our top pick because it features 11 basic cookware pieces that have safe ceramic nonstick coatings and are oven-safe to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, all for about $200.
Pros: Oven-safe to 600 degrees F, metal utensil safe, durable ceramic nonstick coating, lots of useful pieces, both PTFE- and PFOA-free
Cons: No 12-inch skillet (though sauté pan can be used in its place)
With seven pans and four lids, the Valencia Pro has everything you need to switch between stovetop and oven cooking. The hard-anodized bodies and stainless steel handles are durable, scratch resistant, and oven-safe up to 600 degrees F. The glass lids allow you to see what you’re cooking without releasing steam or heat (but keep in mind that the lids are only oven-safe to 425 degrees F). The casserole dish is just a Dutch oven by another name.
GreenPan uses a ceramic nonstick coating derived from sand particles, which is as durable and effective as traditional coatings, but free from PTFE, PFOA, and lead. The Valencia Pro set is also dishwasher and metal utensil safe for easier clean up and better durability.
Best hard-anodized cookware set on a budget
The Rachael Ray Cucina set features dishwasher safe and durable cookware basics, making it an ideal set for starting fresh in the kitchen on a budget.
Pros: Dishwasher safe, comes in three different cookware colors, large variety of pot and pan types
Cons: Only oven-safe to 400 degrees F, no large frying pan, saucepans are a bit on the small side
The Rachael Ray Cucina Hard-Anodized Set offers valuable basics in materials known for durability. The hard-anodized aluminum exterior is scratch-resistant, and the tempered glass lids are bordered by a stainless steel rim. The nonstick interior is PFOA free, but not metal utensil safe.
Instead of a third saucepan or skillet, the set includes a 3-quart sauté pan as a piece with more volume and versatility. The serving utensils (a slotted spoon and spatula) are a great addition for a starter cookware set. You can choose from three colors for the serving utensils and the silicone grips that wrap around stainless steel handles.
Best high-end hard-anodized cookware set
The Thermo-Clad cookware set features details that make cooking easier, from the heat-encapsulating stainless steel lids to the metal utensil safe nonstick coating.
Pros: Induction compatible, heat-sealing lids, includes a large stockpot
Cons: Fewer pieces than less expensive sets, no large skillet
Instead of glass, this set features stainless steel lids with double wall insulation to keep food warm. While this means you can’t see the food while it’s cooking, it’s useful for making items ahead of time and keeping food warm for serving. The entire set is oven-safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Thermo-Clad line features a tri-ply stainless steel base, designed to limit hot spots by covering the bottom of the pan edge to edge. The nonstick coating is metal utensil safe, though the brand recommends avoiding abrasive cleaners like steel wool. The unique item in this set is the 6-quart “essential pan,” which is nearly identical in design to a traditional saucier. With a wide base and high, rounded sides, this pan is great for one pot meals.
Best space-saving hard-anodized cookware set
The Calphalon Stackable Set includes every necessary piece to start a cookware collection and it all stacks neatly for easy storage in small kitchens.
Pros: Stacks compactly for storage, lids fit on multiple pieces
Cons: No large skillet, only oven-safe to 400 degrees F, not safe for metal utensils
This set is organized by diameter, so that all 8-inch wide pieces fit in a stack that can nest within the 10-inch wide stack. Interlocking plates on the pans’ outside edges stabilize the stacks. Because of the common diameters, the lids are interchangeable among pieces.
Silicone grips keep the handles cool to the touch, but limit the oven-safe temperature to 400 degrees F. The nonstick interior is also not safe for metal utensils. The highlight of this set is a stackable Dutch oven, giving you the versatility of the piece without taking up too much space.
Best hard-anodized cookware set for induction
The Ninja Foodi NeverStick cookware set works on all range types, including induction, and is constructed for maximum durability and heat retention with heavy-gauge aluminum and a stainless steel base.
Pros: Proprietary nonstick coating, metal utensil safe, induction compatible
Cons: No large skillet (though sauté pan can perform similar functions)
Ninja’s NeverStick technology is based on heating the particles used in the nonstick coating to higher temperatures than other brands do for their coatings. This promises a more durable nonstick surface that isn’t prone to chipping or flaking and is metal utensil safe.
The NeverStick line is available in a hard-anodized set that comes with 10 pieces and can be used on all range types, including induction. Though it lacks a large skillet, it comes with a generously-sized stockpot for making soups, stews, and one pot meals. The pieces are also safe to 500 degrees F for easy transition from stovetop to oven.
We identified the best hard-anodized cookware sets through research, an interview with Fran Groesbeck, managing director at the Cookware Manufacturer’s Association, and our own extensive experience with cookware. We developed baseline criteria, such as necessary pieces and safety requirements, and evaluated sets based on these elements and other factors like value for price. We plan on testing these sets in the future and updating this guide accordingly.
What is hard-anodized aluminum?
Aluminum is a common material used in bakeware and cookware because it’s lightweight and has great heat conductivity. The main issue with aluminum is that it will oxidize when exposed to acidic food, leaving dark marks on the surface that can transfer to light colored foods. To prevent this, most modern aluminum pans are coated in a ceramic layer or “anodized,” an electrochemical process that uses controlled oxidation to create a protective layer.
The unique element of this process is that the anodized layer isn’t applied to the surface, but created out of the molecules within the metal. Therefore, the anodized protective layer cannot chip or peel off. It can wear down, but if cared for properly, it lasts longer than applied coatings. “Hard-anodized aluminum is naturally stick resistant, and it is resistant to scratches and food odors,” said Groesbeck.
What utensils are safe to use on hard-anodized cookware?
The hard-anodized layer isn’t a coating, so a hard-anodized pan can be used with any material utensil. However, nonstick coatings are often applied to hard-anodized cookware, so we recommend checking the information provided by the manufacturer before using metal utensils. Single or double layer nonstick coatings can be scratched by metal utensils.
Can hard-anodized cookware be used on induction stovetops?
This depends on the set and will be listed in the manufacturer’s description of the product. Cookware must have magnetic properties to work on induction stovetops, and aluminum is a non-magnetic metal, Groesbeck said. Therefore, a magnetic plate must be applied to the base of aluminum cookware in order to be induction safe. This is why not every hard-anodized aluminum set is induction compatible.
Can hard-anodized cookware go in the oven?
While you should always consult the manufacturer’s instructions, most hard-anodized cookware is oven-safe to some degree. The exact oven-safe temperature will be listed by the manufacturer on the packaging. The lids may have a different oven-safe temperature depending on the material.
Is hard-anodized cookware dishwasher safe?
Consult the manufacturer’s instructions on using the dishwasher or hand-washing your cookware. If the cookware has a nonstick coating, it is always recommended to use non-abrasive cleaners and avoid steel wool or other harsh sponges.
PFOA and PTFE
The acronyms PFOA and PTFE are everywhere in cookware descriptions. Here’s what you need to know about each:
PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, and is more commonly known by its brand name: Teflon. There have been concerns over the health effects of PTFE and PFOA, and while studies have been mostly inconclusive, PFOA was isolated as the more dangerous chemical.
PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was used in the production of PTFE since Teflon was invented in the 1970s. In the manufacturing process, most of the PFOA burns off and only trace elements remain in the cookware. These elements are then only released if the cookware is overheated to temperatures of 570 degrees F. However, since 2010, the EPA has put programs and regulations in place to phase out the use of PFOAs in American manufacturing. The majority of cookware made in the United States since 2015 is PFOA-free, and so are all of our top picks.
International standards are not the same as American ones, so PFOA may still be used in products from other countries.
See more great cookware buying guides