If you've ever painted a wall with a brush that's too small or assembled furniture with the wrong screwdriver, you know how important it is to have the right tools, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the kitchen. If you're looking to upgrade your pots and pans or buy new cookware altogether, you may naturally gravitate towards consumer big name brands such as All-Clad, Anolon, Le Creuset and Cuisinart. They're all great, but you could be saving some money and possibly getting a better fit for your specific cookware needs by checking out an emerging segment of the retail cookware scene: high-quality, direct-to-consumer cookware.
Direct-to-consumer products, including cookware, have seen a boom in the past several years. Whereas big retail brands previously had a stranglehold on the kitchen category, these spunky new DTC cookware companies offer new styles, surface materials and tailored cookware bundles, giving you more options than ever.
There's a wide range of online-only cookware that can fit into any kitchen design, and most brands offer all of the cooking essentials -- from a chef's knife and other kitchen tools to a stock pot, saucepan and nonstick cookware such as a nonstick skillet or nonstick pan. You'll also find a sprawling selection of stainless steel pots, copper cookware and handy kitchen utensils, perfect for a home cook like you. Best of all, many are able to keep cookware quality high but prices low, which are two reasons as good as any to give direct-to-consumer cookware a serious look.
How is direct-to-consumer cookware different?
It's natural to think that less expensive cookware is inherently lower quality, but that's not necessarily the case with direct-to-consumer cookware.
Much of the cost of traditional cookware is added throughout the distribution process. Products pass through the hands of resellers, distributors and retailers, all of whom add a markup to the base price in order to make money. By the time any cookware lands in a store, the price has increased dramatically, and you end up paying a lot more than what the manufacturing costs were. That's where direct-to-consumer companies come in.
These cookware brands skip the typical distribution chain, bypassing the middlemen and selling straight to customers instead. This typically means you have to buy their products online, but the upside is you're getting the same high-quality goods for your cooking without the added costs, a difference which you can use to actually buy food to cook. What's not to love about that?
So are you ready to shop? Take a look through your pantry for inspiration and get ready for some amazing kitchenware. Here are the eight best direct-to-consumer cookware brands you might want to welcome into your kitchen, which we update periodically.
Made In is a popular cookware startup based in Austin, Texas, and one of our absolute favorite kitchen and cookware brands -- not just within the DTC category. The company has taken notes from some of the best brands like All-Clad and uses only premium materials and high-end cookware manufacturer choices from around the world -- which you can absolutely feel when you pick up its products. Unlike some of those other brands, Made In keeps prices on its luxury cookware relatively low by avoiding resale, distributor and retail markups.
What does it offer? Made In has a line of cookware including stainless steel sets, as well as a smaller collection of blue carbon steel cookware that is ideal for high-heat cooking (e.g. meats). Made In also has great nonstick and regular frying pans in a wide range of sizes, stockpots, saute pans, sauciers, woks and universal lids.
Beyond pots and pans, Made In also offers a variety of high-end kitchen knives, including chef's knives, paring knives and more. Many of the products (including the pots and pans in its The Starter Kit) have a lifetime warranty. You can purchase items individually or in sets, but some of the more popular items are sold out, so you'll want to get on the waitlist.
Caraway's cookware features a ceramic coating that it's both nonstick and nontoxic. With Caraway's modern design and playful color palettes, it's pretty darn attractive, too. I've personally used these pans and they get significantly hotter and hold heat better than other traditional nonstick surfaces. If you sear a lot of steaks, chicken, pork chops and burgers but don't love clunky cast iron or hard-to-clean stainless, this ceramic cookware is a perfect pick. We're also digging the smart storage racks that come with each seven-piece cookware set as our pots-and-pans drawer often devolves into serious chaos and clutter.
Caraway cookware can only be purchased as a complete set, which includes a 10.5-inch fry pan, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 6.5-quart Dutch oven, 4.5-quart saute pan and four magnetic pan racks and canvas lid holder with hooks.
One of our favorite up-and-coming cookware brands is Potluck, which launched in 2018 and is dedicated to bringing professional-quality kitchen tools to home cooks at affordable prices. Its high-quality cookware is made in the same factories as other high-end brands, but priced significantly lower, thanks to the direct-to-consumer business model.
Potluck sells a variety of full kitchen sets, including a seven-piece essential cookware set ($175), three-piece knife set ($80) and a striking kitchen tool set with all the things you forgot to get for $80. You can also buy the full line -- a 22-piece stainless steel cookware set of kitchen essentials -- for under $300. The cookware pieces -- which include 1.5- and 3-quart saucepans, a 10-inch skillet, an 8-quart stockpot and three lids -- are stainless steel, and the knives are stamped from high-carbon steel.
Lighter cast-iron cookware? I'm listening. Cast-iron cookware is a favorite among home cooks, and the Field Company has given classic cast iron a modern update. The American-made cast-iron skillets are lighter and smoother than the ones your parents used to cook in, but the pans are every bit as long-lasting and versatile. If you're new to cast iron, know that few other cookware materials get and stay as hot, so if you want a tight sear on your steaks and burgers or crispy crust on your breakfast potatoes, you need to get yourself some cast iron and fast.
The Field Company offers five different cast-iron skillet sizes, ranging from 6.75 inches all the way up to an enormous 13-inch frying pan (you probably don't need one that big FYI). You can buy them individually or in sets, and there are a number of accessories available, as well. These cast-iron skillets have hundreds of great reviews citing how Field Company's cookware is all well-made and worth the investment.
This cookware brand is an offshoot of food website Food52 and sources much of its design and product innovation from actual chefs. That means it's user-friendly with lots of clever detail, but it all looks pretty great too. Five Two sells full cookware sets as well as individual pieces, including stainless steel and nonstick. There's also tons of gadgets, accessories and tableware to choose from, like this handsome roasting pan or these nifty silicone spoons, making it a great place to turn if you just need a piece here or there or want to add some accessories to your collection.
If you're partial to stainless steel cookware, you'll love the stainless pots and pans from Brigade Kitchen. It offers four core cookware products, called The Hardware, that are made from premium materials and are ideal for home cooks in smaller households. (If you frequently cook for five or more people, this stainless steel pan set might not be big enough for you, sadly.)
The lineup from Brigade Kitchen includes a stainless steel skillet, saucepan and saute pan, all of which are naturally nonstick and designed for fast and even heating. Knife options include a paring knife and Santoku knife. The cookware brand offers a 60-day trial period with free returns, but based on the stellar reviews, we don't think you'll need to take the company up on that offer. People swear these perfectly sized stainless steel pans perform flawlessly and are easy to clean.
Founded by three brothers, this stainless steel cookware has drawn the praise of big-name chefs like Bobby Flay. It has a simple, streamlined design similar to All-Clad's, and uses five-ply construction like other high-end stainless steel cookware but at a more approachable price tag.
All the Sardel cookware is made in Italy and the direct-to-consumer brand sells a range of fry pans, saucepans and stockpots starting at just $80. Or you can snag the entire eight-piece set for $495, which includes a nonstick fry pan in addition to the stainless steel wares.
No kitchen is complete without a Dutch oven, and if you don't want to shell out big bucks for storied French brands, one of the best is Milo. This consumer cookware brand offers high-end enameled cast iron cookware, including two Dutch oven sizes, but the prices are less than half of what you'd pay for other popular brands. And if you're still balking at the price, remember that a good Dutch oven can also double as bakeware and make delicious baked goods.
The cookware company sells a 5.5-quart Dutch oven as well as a smaller 3.5-quart model. Both sizes come in either white or black enamel, and they're dishwasher- and oven-safe up to 500 degrees. Plus, Milo products come with a lifetime guarantee, and reviewers say the quality is unbeatable given the affordable price.
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This article was originally written for Chowhound by Camryn Rabideau and updated by David Watsky.