When I was single, we did not have that many options when it came to cookware. Now, there are so many options that it can seem overwhelming when trying to find the perfect set. So, I put together this list of the best cookware for a single person, keeping washing and storage considerations in mind.
Here are four of the best cookware sets for single persons that are easy to wash and store:
- Amazon Basics Non-Stick Cookware Set
- COLIBYOU 18-Piece Non-Stick Cookware Set
- T-Fal Ultimate Stainless Steel Copper Bottom Cookware Set
- Gotham Steel 10-Piece Non-Stick Pots and Pans Set
In this article, I’ll also cover in detail what a single person needs to consider when buying cookware. This includes basic info like stainless vs. non-stick, what cookware is non-toxic, and other essential information.
What Are the Best Affordable Pots and Pans?
Everyone’s been there: you need cookware, but you don’t have a big budget to blow on Gordon Ramsey-level pots and pans. In such a case, you can still get the necessities that will be good for a wide variety of recipes.
The best affordable pots and pans should come in a set, so you get a few options to work with, rather than buying everything separately. Ideally, they should include non-stick surfaces to make cooking and cleaning easier and come with lids.
Below are two great options for single people at reasonable prices.
This cheap cookware set from Amazon comes with two frying pans, two saucepans with lids, and a casserole pan (basically a pot) with an included lid.
These are non-stick over aluminum bases, making cooking and cleaning easy. As long as you don’t scrape them with metal utensils, this set of cookware can serve you well for quite some time.
For a little more than the previous cookware set, you can also get this set from Amazon.
The difference is that this set comes with a griddle and six utensils: a slotted spatula, pasta spoon, solid spoon, slotted spoon, and a ladle.
The lids on the pots and pans are shatterproof and transparent, making it easy to monitor your food’s progress as it cooks.
What Is the Best Cookware for the Money?
When you’re not on a tight budget but still want to make sure you get significant value out of your cookware, you have to ask yourself what you want to get for your money: something that’s easy to clean? Something that cooks great and will last for years? Ideally, both.
The best cookware for the money should have heavy-duty bases on all of the pots and pans to prevent warping or denting. They should also include lids and have oven-safe surfaces and handles so you can go from searing on the stove to roasting in the oven with ease.
Below you’ll find two great sets of cookware, one a bit cheaper than the other, but both with incredible value for the money.
This 13-piece set from Amazon comes with every pot and pan you could possibly need, but what makes it really special is the layers of copper on the bottom: copper is beloved for its heat conductivity, and when combined with aluminum and stainless steel, you get the best of both worlds.
This means a cooking surface that heats up incredibly fast and hot but with a stainless interior that won’t react to acidic food as copper does.
Cheaper than the previous set, this cookware set on Amazon is still loaded with value – the aluminum construction ensures fast heating, and the non-stick coating makes sticking a bad memory and cleaning up a dream.
What makes this set stand out is that the non-stick surface is treated with diamonds.
Non-stick surfaces usually suffer from scratching, but this diamond treatment makes scratching nearly impossible. Therefore, you get the best of both worlds with this great cookware set.
How Many Pots and Pans Does a Single Person Need?
A single person needs at least a single deep pot, a colander (for draining), a saucepan, and a sauté pan. This ensures you can cook the broadest range of recipes with the bare minimum of equipment necessary. For more food, naturally, you’ll need more than these.
For the sake of recipes that require multiple pans/pots, I’d recommend a small pot, a large pot, a saucepan, a sauté pan, and a small pan. This will set you up for just about any combination of recipes you could desire to cook.
If you want to try your hand at baking, you’ll need separate baking dishes and pans for that as well, which is another topic we’ll cover below.
Single People Should Own at Least a Sauté Pan, Saucepan, and Pot
Why a sauté pan, saucepan, and pot, you may ask? What makes those three pieces of cookware so integral? Because you can do the most comprehensive range of cooking tasks with just those three if you have nothing else.
Many other pieces of cookware make doing specific tasks more manageable, but just about everything you need to do is possible with just these three pieces.
Pots Can Be Used To Boil, Steam, and Blanch
Of course, a pot (think dutch oven) is suitable for boiling water, but you can also boil, steam, and blanch vegetables with a good pot. Unlike your pans, the material a pot is made of isn’t essential. More important than the material is the handle.
You’ll need a sturdy and heat-resistant handle, so you can easily pick up a whole pot of boiling water without the risk of burning yourself. Pots are also invaluable for cooking stews, soups, and broth.
Pro Tip: I recommend getting a good dutch oven. I’ve had mine for decades and it’s still my favorite pot to use for anything from stews to making jams and jellies. Here is a good budget one and a high-end one as well.
Saucepans Are Great for Rice, Sauces, and Even Deep-Frying
Saucepans are a bit like a pan and a bit like a pot. You can make rice or sauce in a saucepan while your main dish cooks in another pot, or you can even do some deep frying that a more shallow frying pan wouldn’t be able to handle.
As with the pot, a sturdy handle is important. Look for stainless steel rivets that won’t tarnish or rust over time with rough handling; regular iron or steel screws are apt to rust or work themselves out of the handle.
Sauté Pans Are Best for Frying and Searing Meat and Vegetables
A sauté good pan is a crucial part of any kitchen if you plan on sautéeing and searing vegetables, seafood, meats, and more. You can even fry foods in a pinch or make gravies out of pan drippings.
With pans, you have to make sure the bottom is flat and thick – a thin pan is more susceptible to denting and warping. Good stainless steel pans, for example, often have copper in the middle to help heat conductivity.
As with everything, a solid and heat-proof handle is vital to look for. Pans with cast-iron or stainless steel handles are great for dual-cooking on the stovetop and in the oven.
Rubber or plastic handles would melt, so be careful not to put those in the oven if you happen to buy them. Lids are a big bonus, but make sure they fit snugly and have a heatproof knob for you to lift them.
Choosing the Right Size Cookware as a Single Person
It can be difficult to justify buying large pots and pans as a single person – I mean, you aren’t cooking for anyone else, right?
Not so fast – you never know when you’ll have company over, so it may be better to buy ‘regular’ sized pots and pans.
This way, you can just adjust recipes with one person in mind for your day-to-day life but not be caught off-guard when you host family, friends, or a date.
Another thought is that you can cook larger portions of a meal and refrigerate or freeze them for later – this can save you time when you’re strapped for time later in the week.
Choosing Baking Dishes as a Single Person
Not everyone is into baking, and if that’s you, feel free to skip this section. But for those of you who enjoy a cake every now and then, you may want to pay attention.
Size does matter for baking, as it turns out. For example, you can’t cook a small cake or pie in a large baking pan/dish, as it needs defined edges as it rises.
You have to determine whether you’ll only be baking for yourself or if you’ll be sharing with others. It’s a terrible waste of food to get a full-sized cake pan if you don’t intend on eating a whole cake!
Cupcake and muffin sheets are different, as you can only fill as many of the molds as you want muffins or cupcakes.
This bakeware baking pans tray set from Amazon includes five oven-safe, non-stick pans so you can bake for your own pleasure without making too much. It includes a cookie sheet, loaf pan, and an 8.5″ round cake pan.
Are Expensive Pots and Pans Worth It?
Unlike other industries where companies mark up products for no reason, cookware is one area you do get what you pay for.
Expensive pots and pans are worth it because they will be thicker and more well-balanced, so they heat up faster and cook more evenly. Cheaper pots and pans are thin, so heat distribution is more unpredictable. It’s best to pay more for better cooking surfaces and sturdier handles.
As a single person, you’re probably more familiar with eating out of the pot/pan than, say, a family. Why dirty dishes when it’s just you, am I right? So you’ll want something that stands up to scraping and scratching, like copper or stainless steel. Non-stick isn’t that great for this, which we’re about to discuss in more detail.
Is Stainless Steel Better Than Non-Stick?
Stainless steel is better for cooking than non-stick because heat is dispersed more efficiently without a non-stick coating between the metal and the food. Food tends to stick to stainless steel, though, and they’re notoriously difficult to clean when food is burned.
Stainless steel and non-stick are some of the cheaper options as far as cookware goes, and that’s because they’re relatively cheap to manufacture.
Stainless steel produces a more even heat distribution because there’s no extra coating for the heat to go through – the pot/pan directly heats the food. This makes stainless steel pans excellent for, say, searing a steak.
Stainless steel can withstand nearly any temperature without being harmed, as long as the handle is made of a heat-resistant material. The main drawback of stainless cookware is that burned food residue is hard to clean.
Non-stick cookware has the advantage of being easy to clean due to the non-stick (usually Teflon) coating. Not only that, but the food is less likely to stick to the pot/pan during the cooking process. This makes it easier when you don’t want to babysit your food. If cleaning dishes is a big burden for you, non-stick could make it easier.
Non-stick coatings are most commonly used on pots and pans made of aluminum, but you can find non-stick coatings on nearly every possible material.
The downside of non-stick cookware is that the coating is pretty vulnerable. If you eat out of your pots and pans, for example, you would be apt to scrape the coating off. This results in black flakes coming off in your food, which is toxic and gross.
The conclusion: I’d recommend stainless steel cookware for a single person, especially if you ever eat out of your pots or pans. Unless you use plastic utensils and are very gentle with your cookware, I wouldn’t recommend non-stick.
What Is the Least Toxic Cookware?
Glass is the least toxic cookware because it can’t and doesn’t ever leach harmful compounds into your food. Likewise, metal cookware has a very low chance of leaching metals into your food, which isn’t harmful in most circumstances; i.e., you don’t store your food in metal pots and pans.
Virtually all types of metal cookware can leach some type of metal into food – stainless steel can leach nickel and chromium into food, cast iron can leach iron into food, and copper leaches copper. In addition, non-stick coatings are generally toxic to humans if consumed and are relatively easy to scrape off and get into your food.
So what’s the safest? I’d recommend cast iron, enamel-coated cast iron, or stainless steel. Cast iron leaches very small and safe amounts of iron into food, which is necessary for your body anyway.
Enamel-coated cast iron cookware is pretty pricey but among the safest ways to cook.
Glass is considered the safest and least toxic cookware, so coating cast iron with it is a perfect solution for cooking and health considerations.
Finally, stainless steel may leach metals into food, but it’s relatively safe, provided you don’t store food in the pot/pan.
When you’re a single person living alone, it can be difficult to know what cookware you need, especially when most recipes online are designed with families in mind.
While deciding on cookware as a single person is definitely difficult, it doesn’t have to be. If you have to, you can make do with three pieces of cookware, but a wider range is preferable, so you can cook for any unexpected guests that may pop up.
I hope this article has helped you find the perfect set for you. Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss 4 Ways to Keep Rice From Sticking to the Bottom of the Pot.
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.