In my opinion, nothing beats the look of stainless steel pots and pans. When looking at pots and pans, there are a few things to consider. Depending on the kind of stove you have, you may want flat bottomed for a smooth topped stove, or magnetic for induction. What I look for in pots and pans is the depth of the bottom, and if it is all one piece. It should have some weight to it, yet not be too heavy for you to lift and move when full of hot food. Some stainless steel pots and pans clad a layer copper or aluminum in the base, which is a better heat conductor. If clad pots are out of your price range you can look for an aluminum or copper thick bottom plate extending over the whole bottom instead of just in the middle. Also, 18/0, 18/8 and 18/10 indicate the percentage of chromium (usually 18%) and then the number of nickel, higher being better (more rust resistant, better shine). Top of the line have 18/10.
If price is an issue, we can get by with a good saute pan, saucepan and stock pot instead of a whole set to start out, tailored to the size of your most common cooking preferences. My picks for today would be:
Saute Pan: Cuisinart 722-36H Chef’s Classic Stainless 14-Inch Open Skillet with Helper Handle. This has the 18/10 nickel content and the encapsulated alumimum base, a great saute pan.
Saucepan: Cuisinart MCP19-16N MultiClad Pro Stainless Steel 1-1/2-Quart Saucepan with Cover. Again the quality is there, and curved edges for drip free pouring, cool to the touch handles, a complete package.
Stockpot: Emeril by All-Clad E8847964 Chef’s Stainless Steel Dishwasher Safe 8-Quart Stockpot with Lid Cookware, Silver. Its got all the good features I like in my pots, and sometimes its nice to have a glass lid on a stockpot to keep a better eye on the simmering level.