12 direct-to-consumer kitchen startups that are changing the way we shop for cookware and knives

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  • Up until a few years ago, quality pots and pans were prohibitively expensive, partly because they were mostly sold through department stores, which piled on middleman markups.
  • The new generation of direct-to-consumer kitchenware companies challenges traditional legacy brands like Le Creuset, All-Clad, and Staub with high-quality construction, clever design, affordable prices, and streamlined shopping experiences.
  • If you're looking to upgrade your kitchen tools without breaking the bank, we recommend these 12 dynamic startups, including Made In (cookware, knives, kitchen accessories), Field Company (cast iron skillets), and Our Place (modern dinnerware and drinkware). 
  • Sign up for Insider Reviews' weekly newsletter for more buying advice and great deals.

Cooking is not a skill that we simply enter the world knowing. We learn how to cook from a variety of sources — cookbooks, classes, parents, friends, cooking shows — but it can still be complex and confusing.

That's how most of us initially shop for and use cookware, too: bumbling around, trying to make sense of different materials and the purposes they serve, and collecting tools from parents and roommates that have seen countless kitchens before our own. Sure, you can throw out your old pots and pans and start from scratch, but if you want high-quality, well-constructed cookware and dinnerware, you often have to pay up first, spending hundreds of dollars on name brands. 

You're not alone in these struggles, and in just the past few years, new companies have emerged to lend you a helping hand in the kitchen, with many offering products for half the price of traditional brands like Le Creuset, All-Clad, and Staub. These startups understand that the joys of cooking and eating become even sweeter when your kitchenware lasts a lifetime but doesn't take a lifetime to pay off. 

If you're looking to upgrade your kitchen tools and cookware without breaking the bank, check out our 12 favorite direct-to-consumer kitchen companies. 

Made In: Cookware used by both home cooks and top professionals

Shop cookware at Made In here 

Product range: Stainless clad pots and pans, carbon steel pans, knives, and accessories (spoons, blocks, etc.) 

Background: Childhood pals Chip Malt and Jake Kalick, whose Boston-based family business, Harbour Food Service Equipment, designs and outfits commercial kitchens, wanted to create a one-stop-shop for exceptional, ethically-made cookware. The pair partnered with family-owned manufacturers in the US, France, and Italy on a line of products that meet professional chefs' exacting standards at price points that are accessible to home cooks. 

The brand's investors and advisors include "Top Chef" judge Tom Colicchio and Alinea Group cofounders Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, and Made In can be found in renowned restaurants like New York City's Le Bernardin. Another fun way it leverages its connections to the restaurant biz is through Chef Collaborations, which includes things like the"Family Meal Vol. 1" book of recipes from 15 different chefs, and the Contra kit, a previous project with NYC's Michelin-starred Contra that bundled ingredients along with a carbon steel frying pan and a mother of pearl tasting spoon. 

Celebrity ties aside, Made In often uses customer feedback to influence product design and release decisions, like the introduction of their highly lauded carbon steel wok. 

Materials and construction: While Made In's original claim to fame was its focus on American manufacturing, it now also enlists the help of experienced factories in France and Italy to craft its carbon steel pans and steel knives. We've tested much of the company's cookware and found the pieces to be durable and well-made. 

Other things to know about Made In:

  • Free shipping on orders over $50 
  • 45-day return policy
  • Lifetime warranty 
  • Financing available

What you should buy:

Shop kitchen tools and cookware at Material here

Product range: Kitchen tools, copper core pans, knives, and accessories (boards, wood oil, etc.)

Background: Material's founders Eunice Byun and David Nguyen hated their cluttered kitchens, which were filled with hand-me-downs, poor-quality tools, unnecessary accessories, and unsophisticated color palettes. So they set out to make the kitchen gear they wished they had: simple, thoughtfully-designed, long-lasting products at affordable prices. 

We've used Material's 7-piece Fundamentals set — which includes two knives, tongs, a wooden spoon, a metal spoon, a slotted spatula, and a storage block to hold it all — for more than 1.5 years, and it's still going strong. Its cookware is also good, but tools and accessories are where the brand shines. 

Materials and construction: All the products are made in a region of southern China known for its expertise in knife and kitchenware manufacturing. The knives are constructed with three layers of Japanese stainless steel: the outer two are corrosion-resistant while the inner one is high-carbon steel.

Other things to know about Material:

  • Free shipping on all orders 
  • 60-day return policy 

What you should buy: 

Shop cookware at Milo here

Product range: Dutch ovens, skillets

Background: Cofounder and avid cook Zach Schau loved his Staub and Le Creuset hand-me-downs, but had less luck finding new, affordable enamel cast iron cookware that matched their quality. So he set out to make his own.

The result? Milo's signature Dutch ovens and skillets, which are roughly one-third as expensive as similar legacy-brand models while maintaining the same lifetime warranty. A few key differences between the startup and its predecessors: Milo's cookware is lighter than Staub and Le Creuset's, although its color selections aren't as extensive — for now, you can only buy Milo pieces in black, white, and limited-edition emerald green. 

Materials and construction: The Dutch ovens, which come in 3.5- and 5.5-quart sizes, and the skillet are made from cast iron and coated with two layers of enamel. The iron provides excellent heat distribution and retention abilities, while the enamel protects from scratches, so all in all, you should get a consistent cooking experience. 

Other things to know about Milo:

  • Free shipping on all orders
  • 30-day return policy
  • Lifetime warranty 

What you should buy: 

Shop cookware at Field Company here

Product range: Cast iron skillets, accessories (handle covers, cast iron brushes, etc.) 

Background: If you've ever cooked with traditional cast iron, you're all too aware that it's heavy. Brothers Stephen and Chris Muscarella wanted to challenge this assumption and launched a Kickstarter campaign (that ultimately raised $1.6 million) with the enticing claim of "Lighter, Smoother Cast Iron." 

We could tell the difference from the moment we took the startup's pan out of the box. On average, Field Company's skillets — which were inspired by those passed down from the founders' grandmother — are one to two pounds lighter than comparable models from Lodge and Le Creuset. 

Materials and construction: The founders started by visiting various foundries and meeting with a materials science professor to learn how to pour iron by hand. After a lengthy process of stripping down vintage pans, they were able to create a smooth-surfaced cast iron skillet that wasn't too heavy. 

Other things to know about Field Company:

  • Free shipping on orders over $150 
  • 45-day return policy
  • Lifetime warranty 

What you should buy: 

Shop cookware at Great Jones here

Product range: Dutch oven, saucepans, frying pans, baking accessories

Background: Childhood friends Sierra Tishgart and Maddy Moelis, who come from food writing and product management backgrounds respectively, set out to fill a gap in the cookware market for design-minded millennials ready to invest in their kitchens without breaking the bank. The result? Great Jones — named after prolific cookbook author and editor Judith Jones — a line of eye-catching Dutch ovens, stainless steel pots and pans, and brightly-colored baking sheets that make home cooking look accessible and fun. 

While cheeky branding and written guest features by food- and literary-world luminaries like Alison Roman, Roxane Gay, and Andy Baraghani certainly don't hurt Great Jones' reputation, at the end of the day, none of this would matter if the cookware didn't perform. So we're happy to report that it passed our tests with flying colors. The pieces can withstand high heat and rough handling, and we found them easy to clean even after cooking glazes, curries, meats, and fish. 

Materials and construction: Senior reporter Owen Burke dug a bit deeper into the materials and reported that they're "corrosion-resistant, kitchen-grade stainless steel with 8% nickel for its pots' handles, which are also TIG (tungsten inert gas) welded. Since tungsten doesn't melt, Great Jones' fittings have a tidy, extra-sturdy weld with no screws, no rivets, and no seams to trap food or bacteria." 

Other things to know about Great Jones:

  • Free shipping on orders over $100
  • 30-day return policy 
  • Lifetime warranty 

What you should buy: 

Shop cookware at Our Place here

Product range: Pans, dinnerware, drinkware, a rotating collection of culturally-inspired cookware

Background: We love Our Place's multicultural spin on kitchen gear. While you'll always be able to shop the brand's Essentials collection of tried-and-true cookware and dinnerware (we're especially fond of their hand-painted speckled ceramic stacking plates), Our Place's most interesting offerings are the result of limited-run partnerships with global artists and craftspeople.

So far, these included a Chinese Lunar New Year collection (a bamboo steamer basket, cleaver, platters, and cooking chopsticks) and a bundle of handmade goods from the Mexican state of Oaxaca (tortilla warmers, mezcal glasses, a woven table runner, and more). The brand also places particular emphasis on ethical production and labor, which isn't surprising considering co-founder Shiza Shahid is the former CEO of the Malala Fund nonprofit. 

Materials and construction: The flagship Always Pan is made from aluminum and a nontoxic, nonstick coating free from Teflon and PTFE, while the dinnerware is hand-painted ceramic. Seasonal collections can differ, but products are mostly produced in ethical factories in China and Thailand. 

Other things to know about Our Place:

  • Free shipping on all orders
  • 30-day return policy 

What you should buy: 

Shop cookware at Sardel here

Product range: Stainless steel pots and pans, olive oil

Background: Bobby Flay-approved brand Sardel was founded by three brothers who wanted classic cookware — your standard pots and pans, nothing more — that was inexpensive, unintimidating, and made from top-notch materials. The result? Six pieces (three skillet sizes, a sauté pan, a saucepan, and a stockpot), all manufactured in Italy. Oh, and extra virgin olive oil made using Ogliarola and Coratina olives, which are grown on centuries-old trees in Puglia. 

In our testing, Sardel impressed us on all fronts (heat distribution and retention, construction and feel, versatility, and ease of use and care). Its branding may not be as design-forward or millennial-focused as Great Jones or Our Place, but the product quality, which is ultimately what matters, is excellent. We have yet to try the olive oil, but we'll report back when we do. 

Materials and construction: The Italian-made cookware uses 18/10 stainless steel and has a five-ply construction, with hollow, heat-resistant handles. We noticed that the pans' handles are particularly comfortable, making the whole experience of cooking with Sardel pleasant and enjoyable. 

Other things to know about Sardel:

  • Free shipping on all orders
  • 30-day return policy
  • Limited warranty 

What you should buy: 

Shop kitchen tools and cookware at Potluck here

Product range: Utensils, knives, pots, pans (all are available in sets and bundles, not individually)

Background: Potluck's cookware and utensil sets are perfect for anyone who wants to replace all of their cheaply-made kitchen tools in one fell swoop. Forget bells and whistles; for under $300, the brand's signature 22-piece Essentials Bundle includes everything from measuring cups, saucepans, and skillets to slightly more specialized gear like fish spatulas and bread knives.

Founders Minsuk Kim and Jessica Sheft-Ason are former Glossier managers, so it's no surprise that Potluck stands out from the direct-to-consumer crowd with its affordability and streamlined shopping experience. 

Materials and construction: Instead of five-ply stainless steel construction, which is often touted as the most powerful for cookware, Potluck does tri-ply, making their products less expensive to produce. Apparently, the founders were inspired by a mutual friend who only used tri-ply during her time cooking at the acclaimed Chez Panisse. It's a bit of a tradeoff: while five-ply may not warp as easily over time, it doesn't distribute heat as evenly, according to experts interviewed by The Wirecutter. Five-ply also holds onto heat longer, meaning it won't immediately cooperate if you want to, say, quickly bring something from a boil to a low simmer. 

Other things to know about Potluck:

  • Free shipping on all orders
  • 30-day return policy
  • Lifetime warranty on cookware and knives 
  • Five-year warranty on utensils 

What you should buy: 

Shop cookware at Caraway here

Product range: Nonstick pans and a Dutch oven

Background: What's not to love about nonstick cookware? Pancakes flip seamlessly, eggs slide right off, and cleanup takes ten seconds. Well, unfortunately, traditional nonstick pots and pans are often made with Teflon, a material that can release toxic chemicals when it reaches 500 degrees. Caraway's mission is to provide a healthier, all-natural nonstick alternative, and the company does just that with its thoughtfully-designed ceramic-coated cookware. 

As of April 2020, items aren't sold separately, and Caraway's one-and-done set includes a 10.5-inch frying pan, a 4.5-quart sauté pan, a 3-quart saucepan, and a 6.5-quart Dutch oven — all available in Instagram-friendly colors like sage green, navy, and "Perracotta" (pink and terracotta). One of the bundle's more unique offerings is its storage system: a set of magnetic pan racks and a canvas lid holder for optimal cabinet organization. Although, we think Caraway's cookware is pretty enough to show off on an open shelf. 

Materials and construction: The cookware set is made from aluminum and stainless steel, with a non-toxic, nonstick ceramic coating and high heat resistance (it's oven-safe up to 650°F). It's free of potentially toxic materials like PFOA, PTFE, other PFAs, lead, cadmium, and nickel. 

Other things to know about Caraway:

  • Free shipping on all orders
  • 30-day return policy 
  • Limited one-year warranty 

What you should buy: 

Shop cookware at Five Two here

Product range: Stainless steel pots and pans, knives, dinnerware, glassware, accessories (oven mitts, spoons, cutting boards, etc.)

Background: Culinary site Food52 has always been a great source for recipes and product recommendations. And, given its captive audience of opinionated home cooks who can provide plenty of insight into the kinds of kitchen gear they really want, it's perfectly poised to make excellent cookware. 

Five Two's community-oriented development process comes across clearly in its products' thoughtful details. For example, the brand's apron has hidden potholders in the bottom corners, extra coverage on the sides and back, and strategically-placed pockets to hold things like pens and thermometers — all as a result of customer opinions and contributions.

Basically, the company excels at accessories with clever design elements you didn't know you needed, made from long-lasting materials. Plus, if you're a fan of a blue-and-coral color palette, you can't help but be drawn to the collection. 

Materials and construction: The pots and pans are tri-ply stainless steel, and the nonstick offerings have a diamond-infused, non-toxic ceramic coating. For many of the tools, Five Two opts for strong yet flexible BPA-free silicone. Accessories such as oven mitts and aprons are made from cotton. 

Other things to know about Five Two:

  • Shipping starts at $9
  • 30-day return policy

What you should buy: 

Shop cookware at Equal Parts

Product range: Nonstick ceramic pots and pans, knives, utensils, accessories (cutting boards, baking sheets, etc.) 

Background: Equal Parts comes from Pattern Brands, a digitally native company that focuses on better home living. Right now, its brands consist of Equal Parts for cookware and Open Spaces for home organization. As the cookware arm, Equal Parts is designed with approachability and sleek design in mind.

All of its pots and pans have a non-toxic nonstick ceramic coating for easy cooking and cleaning, and the rest of the offerings are basic kitchen utensils you'll use every day. Beginner home cooks can take advantage of the free Text-a-Chef service, which offers expert advice on new recipes, meal prep tips, and more. 

Materials and construction: The cookware is made from lightweight aluminum and covered in a non-toxic ceramic coating. They also have a matte black finish for a simple and sleek look. Meanwhile, the variety of accessories are made from BPA-free silicone and nylon, durable fiberglass handles, and sharp German steel. 

Other things to know about Equal Parts:

  • Free shipping on orders over $65
  • 30-day return policy

What you should buy:

Shop cookware at Abbio 

Product range: Non-stick and tri-ply pots and pans 

Background: Abbio was developed by brothers Jonathan and Eric Wahl in 2019 and consists of five essential tri-ply pieces — a large and small nonstick skillet, sauté pan, saucepan, and stockpot. In our testing, the pieces are versatile and durable due to their aluminum and stainless steel construction, and the handles are bent and rounded for a more ergonomic grip.

While the line seems limited, it's actually a benefit for home cooks who are just looking to outfit their kitchen with hardworking cookware and not a large 11-piece set that'll catch dust. There are also helpful posts on cleaning the cookware, easy recipes from chefs around the nation, and more on Abbio's blog.

Materials and construction: Pieces are made with stainless steel and aluminum in a tri-ply technique — the aluminum is layered between the stainless steel. The aluminum heats up the pan evenly and the stainless steel adds durability. The nonstick coating on the skillets doesn't contain harmful PFOAs either. 

Other things to know about Abbio:

  • Free domestic shipping 
  • 30-day return policy 
  • 1-year warranty on defective materials or workmanship

What you should buy:

This skillet is large enough to cook for two, and the nonstick coating makes cleanup virtually nonexistent.

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

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