Confession time: Raise your hand if — despite all of your decorating know-how and aesthetic preferences — your cookware collection is a mismatched smattering of chipped hand-me-downs, leftover ex-roommate inheritances, and the occasional "nice pan" gifted from your well-meaning grandparents. Most of us will readily admit to fantasizing about throwing out the whole lot and starting clean, but it never really seems like a convenient moment to lay down a few grand on professional-grade.
Luckily, the direct-to-consumer craze has come for cookware, and the results are more Kinfolk Kitchen than industrial restaurant supply store. Whether you're looking to outfit yourself for every dinner party eventuality, trying to find a way to stash a pro kitchen's worth of gadgets into one meager cabinet, or you're just trying to get comfortable boiling up a batch of tortellini instead of ordering takeout every night, there's a DTC brand (and bundle) for you. Read on to see how each one's offerings stack up.
The Gist: Direct-to-consumer polymath Italic may have hopped onto your radar with their luxury staples like chic cashmere sweaters and Diptyque-esque candles, offered with the now-oft-cited "cut out the middleman" pricing. But the company has since expanded to cookware, with the same model: stainless steel essentials made at the same factories as All-Clad, Cuisinart, and Calphalon, at a fraction of the price attached to those names.
What It Costs: The seven-piece set, which includes a 10" frying pan, a 3-quart saucepan with lid, an 8-quart stockpot with lid, and a 3.5-quart sauté pan with lid retails for $195.
Why It's Special: For those looking to outfit a kitchen for every basic eventuality in one fell swoop, the price is an obvious draw. Italic boasts that their pans are nonstick and, thanks to a ceramic coating in place of more commonly used commercial coatings, is free of toxic chemical PFOA. Bonus: As with all Italic products, the brand donates one tree for every order placed through its sustainability effort The Sprout Fund.
The Gist: Equal Parts definitely looks the, er, part — what with its millennial-friendly imagery and quirky brand identity — but it's more than another pretty face. The brand offers kits and individual pieces to fit any type of cook (or kitchen), so you only have to store what you'll actually use.
What It Costs: Depends what you're after. Equal Parts' stock ranges from $49 for an oak cutting/serving board to $499 for its "complete kitchen" set, which is composed of everything they make, from measuring cups to a chef's knife to stockpots. Their standard large pot with lid, which has "custom quick-heat technology," costs $99.
Why It's Special: Equal Parts' cookware is ceramic coated (i.e. nonstick) like some of its peers in the market, but the brand has clearly gone the extra mile to think things through at every stage of the prep and cook process. An ideal fit for newbies in the kitchen or first-time homeowners, its considered approach demystifies the cooking process in more ways than one — every kit comes with access to a complimentary "text a chef" service that gives buyers access to a pro who can advise on recipes, help compile a menu, troubleshoot a dish, or even assist in putting together a grocery list.
The Gist: "Design by committee" is usually a punchline, but when your committee is a close-knit (and massive) community of Food52 commenters, chefs, bakers, and food enthusiasts of all stripes, it's nothing to smirk at. Five Two cookware is the product of passionate advice and good old-fashioned experience from Food52's decade-plus as a hub for hip home cooks — so its spec list reads like a wishlist of "why didn't I think of that?" features sourced from its vast community.
What It Costs: Individual pieces range from $89 to $119, with the whole-shebang eleven-piece set clocking in at $429.
Why It's Special: Food52 bulked up their stainless pots and pans with an extra-thick 3mm stable base for more even heating and durability ... and that's just the beginning. These styles' "stay-cool" handles have a unique Y-shape which is welded to the base of the pans, eliminating the need for hardware screws or rivets that can shelter buildup. Put another way? These pans are ultra-easy to wipe clean. The nonstick skillets have a diamond-infused coating that's metal-utensil safe, free from toxins like PTFE, PFOA, PFAS, lead, and cadmium, and finished in an appealing blue-grey shade just in case you want to display them on a pot rack (they have holes so you can do that). Plus, pots have built-in strainers and measurement marks, so you'll never overcrowd your pasta because you didn't know how to eyeball quart measurements ever again.
The Gist: This cookware brand checks all the Instagram boxes: trendy kitchen colors like matte grey, royal blue, and emerald for their "Dutchess" dutch ovens; copper details on their stainless pans; sculptural handles that look like something you'd find at the MoMA store.
What It Costs: The "Family Style" signature set, which includes the dutch oven with lid, stainless stockpot with lid, stainless saucepan with lid, stainless skillet, and nonstick skillet, will set you back $395. Its single Dutchess dutch oven (easily the most Insta-worthy of the collection) alone retails for $145.
Why It's Special: Aside from aesthetic value — which, with the advent of the open-shelving trend, is certainly nothing to scoff at — Great Jones has clearly thought through the process of outfitting a kitchen. Its signature set's stainless lids are interchangeable, meaning less storage space required for those few occasions a year when you want to pop a lid on a skillet. Unlike some other brands' enamel pieces, its dutch ovens (and everything else in the collection) are dishwasher-safe, making cleanup easier than you'd expect for something that looks so good. And if you're not sure what you'll really use, their concierge service will match you with the pieces you need and help you assemble a custom set. Plus, with the addition of its new "Holy Sheet" sheet pan, it's one of the few DTC brands actively thinking about bakers, too (or at least one of the first to expand in that direction).
The Gist: If your kitchen style skews more California casual than Le Creuset contemporary, Our Place is probably your jam. The Brand has put all its weight behind one flagship pan and fills out the rest of its collection with entertaining essentials that look like something you'd encounter at a spendy restaurant sourced from East Fork Pottery or Hawkins New York. (We won't tell your guests if you don't.)
What It Costs: Its "Dinner for Four" set, which includes the signature Always Pan with utensil and strainer and ceramic plates, bowls, and cafe-style glasses for four, retails for $250. The Always Pan alone costs $145.
Why It's Special: Our Place puts more emphasis on the act of entertaining than on just cooking, since place setting essentials make up the bulk of its offerings. But that doesn't mean its flagship cookware should be overlooked. The ceramic nonstick Always Pan is a remarkably well-considered starter piece, with a unique nesting spatula design (no more scaring your dog when your precariously perched wooden spoon drops off the stove), and a nesting steamer basket so you can finally stop frying those Trader Joe's potstickers. As a brand, Our Place has a decidedly global perspective, partnering with Mexican artisans on their special Holiday 2019 Nochebuena collection (with more capsules to come), and supporting Immigrant Defenders Law Center throughout the season.
The Gist: Material Kitchen landed on our radar with its utensil collections and cutting boards, but now it's in the cookware game, too. Officially named The 29 Collection (in reference to Copper's place as the 29th element on the Periodic Table), Material Kitchen's cookware has a copper core. Oh, and its nonstick coating is a trendy shade of deep green, if you're into that.
What It Costs: A build-your-own set of two pans and a saucepan costs $250.
Why It's Special: The copper core design was chosen to offer quicker and more even heating, and the five-ply stainless steel guards against warping, even with years of use. Its nonstick coated pan has been tested extensively against wear from metal utensils and nightmare-level messes (think: burned milk), and Material Kitchen claims it'll last up to 37 times longer than ceramic coatings. Skeptical? Each piece has a 60-day free trial and is guaranteed for life.
The Gist: Caraway's cookware comes in one succinct set that also stores easily no matter what your kitchen configuration is, so it's as simple to use as it is to put away. The pans are finished with three layers of ceramic coating for longevity and heat-resistance up to 650 degrees, and their streamlined design in buzzworthy hues definitely make them appealing to look at.
What It Costs: Caraway's all-in-one set costs $395 and includes 10.5-inch fry pan (which shares its lid with Caraway's Dutch oven), a 3-quart saucepan with lid, a 6.5-quart Dutch oven, and a 4.5-quart sauté pan with lid. Also included is a canvas lid holder with hooks, and four magnetic pan racks that interlock to keep things looking tidy in your kitchen.
Why It's Special: Caraway really made convenient storage the center point of its collection. The pots and pans all stack effortlessly in the pan rack, and the cabinet door storage rack for lids can be installed in a few seconds thanks to its self-adhesive strips. For apartment-dwellers, this is a godsend.
The Gist: When you think "disruptors," you probably don't think of a family with a 100+ year background in kitchen supply. But Made In cofounders Chip and Jake are unique in that they have the family heritage to back up their USA-made nonstick frying pans and other pieces, as well as the fresh, young perspective you'd expect from a direct-to-consumer cookware brand.
What It Costs: Made In's so-called "starter kit" clocks in and $359 and comes with six pieces: a 10" stainless steel frying pan, a 2-QT saucepan with lid, an 8-QT stockpot with lid, and the brand's oft-touted 10" blue carbon steel frying pan, with a can of carbon steel seasoning wax for maintenance. Single pans start at $65.
Why It's Special: Pick your poison: carbon steel, stainless, nonstick — Made In does it all. From their signature carbon steel frying pan to their stainless steel clad stockpots, Made In's products are proudly used in Michelin-starred restaurants including New York's legendary Le Bernadin (not bad for a startup). The label also offers a surprising range compared to other DTC brands, including over 14 cookware pieces (not including their handmade knives, which are also highly acclaimed). If you're looking to purchase items a la carte, the brand makes it easy to round out your existing collection with specialized items like, say, a carbon steel Paella pan or Wok, butter warmer, or summer-ready grill pan for cooking on an open flame. They also offer adaptable, one-size-fits-all silicone lids for their pans to cut down on storage space.
Emily Bihl is a freelance writer and sometimes-songwriter who can invariably be found rearranging furniture in a domicile somewhere along the Mississippi River. She lives with her black labrador Selkie and a small army of homemade ceramics, and has not willingly closed a browser tab since 2011.