The usual behavior of the product list is to display products primarily based on the selected category (e.g. "Cookware") and among other criteria. It's important to understand that when the customer first lands on your product list page, no category is initially being selected. You need to decide if you intend to show all your products or only the selected few products. If you have thousands of products, it is strongly recommended to show only a subset of products for performance reasons, typically your best selling featured products.
To show only the subset of products when no category is selected, you must mark your desired product's as "Featured" under the product's Category tab. So it follows that if you want to show all products when no category is selected, you will need to mark all your products as featured.