When most people picture IKEA, they think of the Swedish company’s iconic furniture and home décor, known for its unassumingly good looks and ability to endure decades of wear and tear.
But can the same be said for its cookware?
In recent years, IKEA has slowly but surely been expanding its selection of cookware. From pots and saucepans to fry pans, woks, and ovenware, homeowners strolling through the isles of IKEA stores can fully equip their kitchens without having to look elsewhere for a single thing.
The question is, is it worth it?
IKEA has several lines of pans and pots intended for cooking beginners and home cooks. Made from aluminum, carbon steel, or stainless steel, its cooking vessels are affordable, heat evenly, and last for a long time, which turns them into a good choice for equipping a home kitchen.
Of course, some cookware lines are better than others. And the fact that each of these cooking vessels has the IKEA logo stamped on the bottom doesn’t necessarily mean that you get the best value for your money by stacking it in your cabinet.
Getting to Know IKEA’s Cookware Lines
IKEA, as any other cookware manufacturer, has a number of lines (some would call them series, others ranges) of cooking vessels that share similar designs, materials, and traits.
Non-Stick Cookware Lines
IKEA has four lines of non-stick pans and pots that it sells to customers in the United States (don’t ask me how to pronounce them; I’d probably butcher their names!):
- KAVALKAD, the Swedish company’s lowest-priced, entry-level non-stick cookware. It’s made of lightweight aluminum coated with Teflon, but it isn’t oven-friendly, nor is it compatible with induction stoves;
- HEMLAGAD, IKEA’s mid-range non-stick cookware. It’s made of magnetized aluminum that’s compatible with induction. However, similarly to KAVALKAD, it can’t be cleaned in the dishwasher and can’t be used in the oven;
- OUMBÄRLIG, its mid-high-end, disc-bottomed, induction-friendly stainless steel cookware. The frying pans from this line are Teflon-coated, whereas the pots have an uncoated cooking surface;
- IKEA 365+, its highest-priced, top-range non-stick cookware. It’s made of clad stainless steel with an aluminum core and a Teflon coat. Induction compatible, generally oven-safe, can’t be cleaned in the dishwasher.
If I were to sum up the differences between OUMBÄRLIG and IKEA 365+, it’s that both are exceptionally good lines of cookware. However, the former is less performant than the latter (as it’s disc-bottomed rather than clad).
Uncoated Cookware Lines
The home improvement store also has two lines of uncoated cookware:
- SENSUELL, clad cookware with an aluminum core that’s sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. Compatible with induction stoves, dishwasher-safe, and oven-friendly. All in all, an excellent choice;
- VARDAGEN, carbon steel cookware that heats exceptionally evenly and can hold on to heat for hours on end. As with all uncoated carbon steel pans and pots, however, VARDAGEN vessels need to be seasoned and can only be cleaned by hand.
“That’s good, Jim,” some of you are probably thinking by now, “but that doesn’t answer my question! Which ones are worth the money?!”
Bare with me, as I’m about to give you my take below.
Which IKEA Pans Are Worth It?
When you consider their price, IKEA’s non-stick pans are arguably the best in their category. They’re made of aluminum, coated with Teflon, and sport bolted-on plastic handles with thumb rests for added comfort when being held.
On the day of publishing this article, IKEA sold the 9-inch KAVALKAD frying pan for $3.49 in its U.S. store. In other words, you can get a frying pan for less than the cost of a 12-oz package of my favorite Barilla Collezione Tortellini!
The KAVALKAD set, a dynamic duo that consists of an 8-inch pan that’s best for eggs, a single chop, or a small chicken breast, and a 10-inch pan that’s spacious enough for all other foods, sold for as little as $7.99.
As you can probably imagine, those savings come at a cost.
The cooking vessels in IKEA’s KAVALKAD set are not dishwasher safe, so you’ll have to clean them by hand, with soapy water, and their utility is somewhat limited. They’re not compatible with induction stoves, and shouldn’t be used in the oven.
Does that make them “good” or “bad,” then? The answer depends on your baseline.
Suppose you’re a freshman in college who’s just looking for a pan to get them through the following year or two. By all means, go for a KAVALKAD pan or get the two-piece set. After all, you can get a perfectly legit frying pan for as much as it would cost you to get a 12-pack of beer.
If you’re a first-time homeowner, and you want your cooking experience to be as good as the sleek design of your new kitchen, you’re better off getting slightly pricier pans and pots, be it from IKEA or elsewhere.
The 11-inch IKEA 365+ frying pan is a step up in every sense of the word, and, without a shadow of a doubt, a pan that’s worthy of keeping on your shopping radar.
Basically, it’s a disc-bottomed stainless steel pan with an aluminum core, a bare metal handle, and a non-stick Teflon coating. To help you compare, you’re entering into Misen or Made In territory.
And it comes with a 5-year limited warranty which—when you consider that the coating on most non-stick pans has a hard time lasting more than 1-2 years—should tell you something about IKEA’s confidence in its quality.
Frankly, I think that IKEA’s carbon steel and stainless steel pans are some of the best pieces of cookware you can find out there. And, compared to the top brands in these categories, its products are easier on your wallet.
For example, the most accurate way to describe the 11-inch SENSUELL stainless steel frying pan is as “the budget shopper’s All-Clad.” For readers who didn’t get the reference, All-Clad is an American cookware manufacturer that makes the best stainless steel pans and pots on the market; no doubt about it.
At $49.99, this clad stainless steel pan consists of an aluminum core, which gives it quick and even heating, that’s sandwiched between thick stainless steel sheets, making it safe to clean in the dishwasher and non-reactive to foods.
Heavy and sturdy, SENSUELL pans take some time to heat up. But, once they do, they turn into a steady source of heat that brows your food exceptionally well, and that cooks it evenly on all sides.
I am equally enamored with the 2.5-quart SENSUELL saucepan, a must-have for home cooks who make pasta, sauces, soups, stews, and gravies often (though it must be said, it comes equally handy when frothing and warming milk or melting chocolate on the stove).
Plus, all cooking vessels in IKEA’s SENSUELL line come with the company’s limited 25-year warranty (terms and conditions apply), which has you covered in case of defects in material and workmanship under what it defines as “normal, domestic use.”
The OUMBÄRLIG line of stainless steel cooking vessels is almost as good as SENSUELL. But the vessels themselves are disc-bottomed rather than fully clad, so they don’t distribute heat as evenly, especially on the sides.
Which IKEA Pots and Saucepans Are Worth It?
What about pots, the kind you’d boil spaghetti or potatoes in, and saucepans, the kind you’d simmer tomato sauce or cook eggs in? Of all cookware lines at IKEA, which ones should you go for?
When selecting pots and saucepans, look for cooking vessels made of stainless steel, disc-bottomed or fully-clad, made of thick, heavy-on-the-wrist sheets of metal that give it a superior ability to distribute and retain heat.
Disc-bottomed pieces of cookware are okay, but unable to heat as evenly as their fully-clad counterparts, whose aluminum core doesn’t end at the bottom but runs all the way to the sides.
Plastic and wooden handles are convenient to hold and don’t heat as quickly as metal handles. Still, they make your pots and saucepans less versatile since plastic can’t go at high temperatures in the oven, and wood tends to swell up and break apart in the dishwasher.
So opt-in for cooking vessels with all-metal handles instead. You’ll be using them for boiling, deep-frying, poaching, and steaming—and you want them simple and sturdy—so an uncoated cooking surface and fewer bells and whistles are the smarter choices.
Avoid the cooking vessels in IKEA’s ANNONS and HEMLAGAD lines and go for the disc-bottomed OUMBÄRLIG (good enough) or fully-clad SENSUELL (best in class) ones instead.