Stainless steel cookware sets are the prized possession of every home cook who owns one. These pots and pans are high-quality choices for making your home kitchen feel like a chef’s dream. But they can also be a lot of work for a busy family kitchen. And sometimes, quite expensive. Read below to check out all of the pros and cons of stainless steel cookware that you need to know to decide if it’s right for you.
One of the first things home cooks need to know about stainless steel cookware is why these pots and pans are better than other options.
Stainless Steel Cookware vs Nonstick
What are the pros and cons of stainless steel cookware as compared to nonstick cookware? Many home cooks gravitate towards nonstick pots and pans because they are great for most meals and provide easier clean-up. However, if you want cookware that lasts, stainless steel is the way to go.
Nonstick cookware sets are very easy to scratch and damage. Accidentally scratching the nonstick surface with a fork, knife, metal spatula, or even a sponge that is too abrasive can render your nonstick pots and pans useless.
Stainless steel cookware sets are exceptionally durable and will not chip, crack, rust, stain, and are scratch-resistant. You will never have to worry about a nonstick coating failing.
Stainless Steel Cookware vs Ceramic
What are the pros and cons of stainless steel cookware as compared to ceramic cookware?
Ceramic cookware might seem fancy and high quality; however, ceramic pots and pans can be very fragile. Ceramic-coated cookware is very easily chipped. You also must use lower heat on ceramic pans otherwise food can burn and stick. Ceramic pans are also coated with nonstick chemicals that can be scratched, damaged, and needs to be cleaned carefully.
Stainless steel cookware does not corrode and can last a lifetime when taken care of the right way. Stainless steel can also be recycled, unlike ceramic pans that are coated with nonstick chemicals.
Stainless Steel Cookware vs Hard Anodized
What are the pros and cons of stainless steel cookware as compared to anodized aluminum pans?
Hard anodized pans are aluminum pans coated with a special nonstick chemical that bonds the coating to the aluminum. These pans are stronger than stainless steel by about 30%; however, the nonstick surface will degrade over time and need to be replaced. The nonstick coating is what protects the aluminum from reacting with food, so if the coating starts to deteriorate, the pots and pans can become unsafe.
Stainless steel does not react negatively with food and does not need a special coating to strengthen it or protect the cookware. When stainless steel pans are cleaned and cooked the right way, they can last longer than any other option for cookware.
Top “Pros” of Stainless Steel Cookware
- Most durable
- Most versatile
- Easy to clean.
- Plied designs enhance heat conductivity.
- Dishwasher safe
- Most sets are oven safe.
- Scratch resistant
Drawbacks of Stainless Steel
- Not inherently nonstick (you will need butter, oil, or fat to ensure food does not stick to the pans)
- Stainless steel alloy often has nickel in it which some people are sensitive to.
- Stainless steel is not the best conductor of heat unless it is coated with aluminum or copper (plied)
- More expensive than other alternatives
How Best to Use Stainless Steel Cookware
When evaluating the pros and cons of stainless steel cookware, cooking techniques can be an important factor.
There are things you need to know about how to use stainless steel cookware before you dive into cooking up gourmet, Michelin-worthy dishes. The first thing you will need to know is how to season your pots and pans. Many people don’t realize you need to season them at all!
The second thing to know are the ideal cooking techniques for stainless steel cookware. Because stainless steel pans are not nonstick naturally, there can be a learning curve. Knowing these things is imperative to make your stainless steel set last a lifetime.
How to season stainless steel cookware
Stainless steel needs to be seasoned. This does not mean adding salt, pepper, or herbs, however. “Seasoning” refers to the process of heating up oil to create a barrier between the food you are cooking and a stainless steel pan. This helps the pan to be more nonstick and prevents rusting or corrosion.
First, you will need to heat your stainless steel pan on medium-high heat for two minutes. Once the pan is warm, add approximately 1/8 inch of cooking oil to the pan until the bottom is coated. Keep heating the oil until small wisps of smoke start to appear. This process can take around 5-7 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat (do not forget your oven mitts!) and allow it to cool completely. Once the pan is cool, you can wipe out any leftover oil using a paper towel.
How to cook with stainless steel cookware
Because stainless steel does not have a nonstick coating, you will need to take special considerations when cooking with these skillets and pans. Always make sure to preheat the pan before adding a cooking fat such as oil, butter, or lard to create a nonstick barrier between your food and the pan.
Preheating should take two to three minutes and unless you are deep-frying, you only need 1/8 inch of oil or melted butter to cook most dishes. You should always heat your oil slowly and never at high temperatures. Heating oil slowly will prevent the pan from scorching and the oil from splattering onto your skin and causing injury.
Another good rule of thumb is to always use seasoned pans and never put cold food into a hot pan. Make every attempt to cook your food after it has reached room temperature.
Care & Maintenance
When evaluating the pros and cons of stainless steel cookware, care and maintenance are a big consideration.
You need to know how to maintain stainless steel cookware if it is going to last for a long time. One of the most frequently asked questions about stainless steel cookware is, “can stainless steel cookware go in the dishwasher?” The answer to this question is that stainless steel cookware is one of the only dishwasher-safe materials for pots and pans! However, many experts still recommend that you clean them by hand to avoid warping under high temperatures.
Regardless of whether you handwash or use the dishwasher, these pots and pans need to be thoroughly dried after cleaning to avoid water spots and stains. Stainless steel is extremely durable but can stain from burnt on food and oil easily if cooking temperatures are too high.
There are a few different ways to clean stains and burnt-on residue from stainless steel. But, avoid using steel wool to clean your pans as these tools can scratch the finish of the cookware and even void warranties you may have.
You will know when to replace stainless steel cookware if the stains do not come out or your pans warp. However, before discarding them, check with the manufacturer to see about guarantees or warranties that may have been included with your purchase. Sometimes, warranties can replace your pan for free.
Stainless steel pans can be recycled after they retire from your kitchen since they do not have a nonstick coating on them. You can also repurpose your stainless steel pans in many different and creative ways around your home!
If you need a starting place to start checking out which stainless steel cookware sets are best for you, look no further. These three cookware sets all offer 12 pieces but vary in the quality of stainless steel and the types of pans that are included. Check out these top three stainless steel pan sets to start comparing.
Cuisinart 12 Piece Cookware Set– Cuisinart is a brand known around the world for being high-quality and a leader in the cookware industry. Their Multiclade Pro Stainless Steel 12-piece Cookware Set is perfect for home chefs that love to make large meals for their families and friends. This set includes:
- 1.5 quart saucepan
- 3 quart saucepan
- 8 quart covered stockpot
- 8 inch open skillet
- 10 inch open skillet
- Steamer insert.
Each piece also comes with a lid to make 12 pieces total. These pots and pans are triple fly with an aluminum bore and stainless steel exterior to ensure excellent distribution of heat.
This Cuisinart set is also oven-safe up to 500 degrees and can be used in the dishwasher. The quality of this set is so exceptional that you never have to worry about surface discoloration or metals reacting with your food.
Cook N Home 12-Piece Set– If you are budget conscious shopping for your next stainless steel cookware set, Cook N Home has a great 12-piece set for less than $70. The stainless steel is a lower grade than most high-end sets but is still reinforced with an aluminum disc to increase the level of heat distribution. Included in this set is:
- 1.5 quart saucepan
- 1.5 quart sauce pot
- 3 quart sauce pot
- 2 quart sauce pot
- 5.5 quart stock pot
- 10 in sauté fry pan
- And matching lids for all
Each of the matching lids features tempered glass with steam vents. The handle on each piece is riveted stainless steel which makes this set oven safe up to 500 degrees. However, it is not recommended to use the lids inside the oven as they are only heat resistant up to 350 degrees. This set is also safe to use in the dishwasher and is easy to clean by hand.
Calphalon Premier Stainless Steel 11 Piece Set– When you are looking for the absolute best in cookware, Calphalon is one of the most trusted brands for higher-end pots and pans. This superior set is built to last with a 3-layer design that features heavy-gauge aluminum that ensures consistent and even heat distribution.
Calphalon pans are even guaranteed to be metal utensil safe with top performance. This set includes:
- 10 inch fry pan
- 12 inch fry pan with lid
- 1.5 quart saucepan with lid
- 2.5 quart saucepan with lid
- 3 quart sauté pan with lid.
- 8 quart stock pot with lid
These pots and pans are oven-safe up to 450 degrees. Calphalon guarantees these pots and pans to be dishwasher safe which makes cleanup convenient and easy. The best thing about this set however is the stay-cool handles that do not get hot on the stovetop which makes cooking safer for families.
Considerations to Make When Purchasing Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is notorious for being a poor heat conductor which means if you want the best cookware set available with the best and most consistent heat conductivity, you need to choose a set that is at least 3-ply and has a copper or aluminum core. These pans are going to be more expensive, so your budget is another consideration you will need to make.
The more expensive may likely yield better results when it comes to stainless steel cookware. The more expensive pots and pans are generally multi-ply and have the copper or aluminum cores that are recommended for best results. You will get what you pay for and the cheaper pot and pans sets will not last as long or perform as well as the higher-end sets such as Calphalon or Cuisinart.
You will also need to consider how many pots and pans you actually need, and which pieces you will use most frequently. Most of the pans are versatile and you might not need a 20-piece set if you don’t plan on catering or hosting large dinner parties or family gatherings. Most families find an 8–12-piece cookware set is sufficient to meet their needs.
Remember, sets may seem the easiest and most convenient way to start your cookware collection; however, if you will not use all the pieces included, it is best not to spend your money. Pans, pots, and accessories can be purchased individually, and many people decide to mix and match different cookware materials. Some people will cook primarily with stainless steel pans but have a nonstick pan reserved for some of the trickier foods like eggs.
Best-Selling Stainless Steel Cookware on Amazon
- OUR THICKEST SuperStainless COLLECTION – The 5-ply version of our new SuperStainless line features our signature MultiPly cladding tech, producing the most durable, highest performing cookware in your kitchen. We craft each pan with premium metals: 304 stainless steel for easy-clean cooking; 3 aluminum layers for max heat retention; and 430 stainless steel for performance on all cooktops.
- BRING YOUR CONFIDENCE UP TO BOILING – Each pan features the heft, prestige, and capability you need to bring more confidence and flavor out of every dish. Cast stainless steel handles make maneuvering easy. Durable rivets ensure your cookware keeps going. Any-rack dishwasher safety means cleanup is a cinch. And heavy, custom-fitted lids lock in steam and ingredient flavor.
- COOK, BAKE, SEAR & GRILL ON ANY COOKTOP – Designed for use with EVERY heat source (gas, electric, induction, oven, open fire), SuperStainless is our next generation ‘all rounder’ cookware line. It removes all the guesswork! Simply put, if you need to buy a single pan set that is sure to work with your cooking mood 365 days a year, this is it. Any dish. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyhow.
- Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Construction
- Polished Stainless Exterior w/ Riveted Stainless Steel Stick Handles and Tempered Glass Covers
- Set Includes: 1.5 Qt. Saucepan with cover, 2.5 Qt. Saucepan with cover, 3.0 Sauté Pan with cover and helper handle, 6.0 Qt. Stockpot with cover, 8” Skillet and 10” Skillet
- Contemporary Essentials - This contemporary 11 Piece kitchen cookware set ensures you have everything you need to create inspiring meals every day! With a brushed satin stainless steel design and sleek ergonomic handles, the practical cookware will suit any kitchen décor while providing professional cooking performance for every meal, large or small.
- Strong And Durable - The pots and pans feature a 3-ply premium quality stainless steel base with a thick aluminum core for fast and even heat distribution and maximum durability. The non-toxic stainless steel cookware will not discolor, react with food, or alter flavors, keeping your meals safe and healthy. The even heating reduces hot spots that can easily burn foods and cooks foods faster to save you both time and energy!
- Versatility - This cookware set is a complete kitchen in a box! Simmer, sauté, fry, boil or braise to your heart's content! Includes 1.5 and 2.5qt saucepans, 8” and 10” skillets, large 3qt sauté pan, versatile 8qt stock pot, 9.4” steamer insert plus various sized lids. Each pan is suitable for oven and stovetop cooking, including induction.
- Polished cooking surface does not discolor, react with food or alter flavors.
- Cookware also features cool grip handles secured with stainless steel rivets and self-basting, tight fitting lids, Triple-Ply construction includes the unsurpassed heat conductivity of a pure aluminum core. It insures maximum heat retention and even heat distribution, eliminating hot spots
- Oven safe up to 550F, Rims are tapered for drip-free pouring.
- Included with set: 10” Fry pan 12” Fry pan with cover 1.5 Qt. Saucepan with cover 2.5 Qt. Saucepan with cover 3 Qt. Sauté pan with cover 8 Qt. Stock pot with cover
- Durable 3 ply metal construction
- Evenly sears, browns, and sautés
Frequently Asked Questions
Can stainless steel cookware be non-stick?
Stainless steel cookware is not inherently nonstick; however, food should not stick to the surface of your pots and pans if you utilize the proper cooking methods such as using oil or butter.
Can stainless steel cookware go in the oven?
Yes! Most stainless steel cookware is oven-safe as long as the handles are made from oven-safe materials also. Some handles are made from plastic or silicone and these should not go into the oven. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions that will come with your set to get the recommendations on heat settings and usage.
Are there foods you should not cook in stainless steel?
Unlike aluminum, copper, or iron, stainless steel is not reactive with food. Thus, any food can be cooked in stainless steel. That said, some food requires more skill than others such as fried eggs and anything cheesy.
Is stainless steel cookware dishwasher safe?
Yes, stainless steel cookware is dishwasher safe if the handles are not silicone. Silicone can become damaged under the high heat of the dishwasher. Many experts, however, recommend washing your pots and pans by hand, even if they are dishwasher safe.
Can stainless steel cookware be used on induction cooktops?
Stainless steel is highly recommended for induction cooktops. You must have pots and pans that are made with magnetic iron or steel to heat on an induction cooktop surface. Stainless steel checks the boxes and is the perfect cookware for induction ovens.
When should I replace stainless steel cookware?
Stainless steel cookware can last a lifetime when properly cared for. However, if your pots and pans have warped you should replace them or even heating will be impossible. Unsightly oil burns that cannot be removed may also cause you to replace your stainless steel cookware.
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