While looking for a single piece or set of cookware that will pass the test of time, you may often find yourself on edge. The wide variety of materials, shapes, sizes, it can all be a bit too much, especially when cooking is not your forte. To help you out in this quest of choosing the best cookware, we have a series of articles coming up. Usually, there are about three or four most common options you will find. These include traditional stainless steel, cast iron, non-stick and ceramic kitchen sets. Each one comes with a series of advantages and drawbacks, so keep reading to know more.
Today’s article puts stainless steel cookware under the spotlight. We have a list of benefits and less favorite aspects for this type of material. And we know the mirror-shine of our top five stainless steel cookware sets might blind you. So we also have a quick buying guide prepared, to get your knowledge up to date.
Quick pick: Best Stainless Steel Cookware
|Product||Piece Count||Construction||Heating Capacity||Top Feature|
|Tramontina 80116/249DS 12-Piece Cookware Set||12||tri-ply clad
(18/10 stainless steel, aluminum core, magnetic stainless steel)
|oven safe up to 500°F||exclusive gourmet collection, made of high-quality materials|
|T-fal C836SD Ultimate 13 PC Cookware Set||13||multi-layer core (copper, stainless steel and aluminum)||oven safe up to 500°F||affordable, top-notch quality cookware; vented glass lids|
|Calphalon Premier 3 Piece Set||3||tri-ply clad (aluminum core, magnetic stainless steel)||oven safe up to 450°F||space-saving design|
|Cook N Home 12-Piece Cookware Set||12||aluminum core (18/10 stainless steel)||oven safe up to 500°F||great budget value set|
|Cuisinart 77-11G Chef’s Classic Cookware Set||11||aluminum core||oven safe up to 500°F||cool grip stick handles|
Why Stainless Steel Cookware?
You may already be aware of some of the qualities of stainless steel cookware. Yet when we talk about this long-lasting material, it can be confusing to define it. So, what is stainless steel after all and where does it get its name?
First of all, it’s important to clarify that in this case, we are not simply talking about a single element. Steel, to begin with, is a mixture (known as alloy) or iron combined with up to 1.7% carbon. Add 10.5% or more chromium to this mixture and the result is what we know as stainless steel. In other words, chromium is what gives this alloy its resistance to rust and corrosion.
Plain iron is prone to rusting easily and steel inherits this characteristic. With the added chromium, stainless steel gets a chromium oxide layer. So, in the presence of oxygen, it is no longer the iron reacting (and thus, causing rust). The chromium oxidation makes stainless steel non-reactive. Another element often added to this type of cookware is nickel. Thanks to it, food grade steel becomes stronger and more resistant to acids. That ‘silver-like’ shine is partly because of the nickel too.
How about the name of this alloy? It is, actually, pretty straightforward. As stainless steel does not rust or tarnish, its name states it is a material that “does not develop stains”.
10 Reasons To Use Stainless Steel Cookware
Now, you may be skeptical about this material, because the shine itself is not enough. Fair enough, so let us tell you a bit more about the advantages of using stainless steel cookware.
- It lasts for ages.
If you want something that can survive scratching, scrubbing, banging, this is the one. Having a very high melting point (compared to other cookware materials), it does not bend. Apply it the worst treatments and stainless steel will endure it bravely.
- It has an appealing look.
Shiny and new, even after many uses and washes, is not something easy to get. High quality stainless steel will keep that flawless look for longer.
- It is ideal for searing.
As it faces high temperatures with no issues, this type of material is sear perfection. You can leave worries about warping in the past.
- It has a passive cooking surface.
While aluminium or copper surfaces may react with acidic food, this one is totally safe. Non-reactive, stainless steel cookware is ideal for any type of food.
- It comes with low maintenance needs.
Stainless steel pots and pans are mostly dishwasher safe. And for stubborn stains, hot water and soap or vinegar are all it takes to give it back its shine.
- It is the most versatile cookware.
Whether it’s frying, steaming, searing or boiling, this cookware can do it. With a top quality cookware set, your cooking experience can turn limitless.
- It is affordable.
You will notice how affordable a stainless steel set is, but that is not all. Not only that you do not have to break the bank to buy one, but the long-lasting quality leaves a mark on your budget. As in, you do not have to regularly spend money to get new cookware, you just buy it once and it lasts a lifetime.
- It is compatible with any cooktop.
Other cookware materials may not behave well on high flames or induction cooktops. But stainless steel is an exception from that, so you can use it safely in any conditions.
- It does a great job for slow cooking.
While it takes longer to heat up, stainless steel also retains that heat for more time. So if you plan to try out any slow-cooking recipes, you know this type of cookware is what you need.
- It is safe to use.
Stainless steel cookware is not only super-sturdy and durable. As it does not come with a non-stick surface, it comes with less risks for your health. As you may know, non-stick coatings can deteriorate if not taken care of properly. This brings a risk of contaminating the food. Of course, stainless steel brings none of this to your cooking experience.
Drawbacks Of Stainless Steel Cookware
There is always the back side of the coin, so you were probably waiting for this. Stainless steel is, indeed, a great material for cookware. But that does not mean it is 100% perfect. The main drawbacks regard the cooking surface.
Stainless steel is not a non-stick material. That means you cannot rely on it to cook eggs without proper seasoning. Experience and skills prove it is possible to do it, but we would advise not to rely on this if you are a beginner or in a rush. Finding the perfect balance between temperature and amount of cooking grease takes practice.
It does not conduct heat well. Compared to other cookware materials, stainless steel takes a longer time to heat up. To be more precise, it takes 16 times more for it to get to the right cooking temperature, compared to aluminum. That is why some stainless steel pans have an extra copper or aluminum core layer (cooking area)
How To Pick The Best Stainless Steel Cookware Sets?
Choosing a stainless steel cookware set is usually a no-brainer. You know what you get and you know it will last. However, you want to ensure that your chosen set actually ticks all the boxes on your wishlist. So here are some things you may want to take a closer look at.
- The grade of stainless steel
You will often notice some numbers stamped on the bottom of stainless steel cookware. They reflect the amount of chromium and nickel present in the alloy. Most common numbers you will find on food grade stainless steel are 18/8 or 18/10. The first number indicates the amount of chromium, while the second shows the nickel. For example, 18/10 stainless steel is an alloy with 18% chromium and 10% nickel.
- The core material
We mentioned already that stainless steel is not a great heat conducting material. That is why manufacturers add a layer of copper or aluminum to increase conductivity. The cooking surface can have an improved core or cladding. While the core is simply a disc at the bottom of the pan, cladding involves a layer (or ply) covering the base and sides.
Price-wise, you should know that copper is more expensive than aluminum. Also, cladding adds to the costs more than a simple metal core. These will reflect in the final price of your cookware.
When you choose your cookware, you look for a perfect balance for weight. You want a pan heavy enough to be stable while you are cooking and mixing ingredients inside. But at the same time, it should not feel like a torture for your wrists or back to manouevre it. For stainless steel, weight is strongly connected with thickness. Heavier means more material used in making a pot or pan. That often translates as extra-costs for the manufacturer and implicitly, a higher price.
When you compare cookware with various cores or cladding, make sure you do not mix them. Compare only copper with copper, not aluminum and vice versa. An aluminum core needs to be three times thicker than a copper one, for the same heat distribution. So a pan with an aluminum core will be thicker than a copper one. Therefore, weight can be deceiving if you skip this detail.
- Heating Capacity
For a high-quality cookware set, you can expect it to be oven safe. If you go for a more affordable version, check the manufacturer’s instructions. Some stainless steel pots and pans may not handle more than 350 degrees. Make sure you also check the resistance of the lid before you put it in the oven.
- Versatility & Accessories
Depending on your cooking needs, you can decide better what stainless steel set is best for you. If you are tight on space, you can get a three-piece combo. But if you are just moving into a new home and want a fully equipped kitchen, a 14-piece set can be more suitable.
Also, look closely at the accessories included in a set. Their type, material and size can make a great difference, especially if you are tight on space. For example, a set with a lid that fits two or three of the pots/pans is better than getting three different lids. Getting more accessories is an advantage only if you plan to really use them.
- Maintenance Requirements
Take a look at the construction of the pots and pans. And also verify the reviews from other users. While stainless steel cookware endures scrubbing well, that may not be enough. Go for a dishwasher safe model. And consider how riveted handles can be tricky to clean. You want to avoid spending hours rubbing burnt grease from your cookware.
Our 2021 Top 5 Best Stainless Steel Cookware Sets
Before we fry your brain with too much technical information, let’s turn our eyes to what is on the market. We picked five stainless steel cookware sets and put them under thorough analysis. Find below their strengths and weaknesses and pick your favorite. Take a look at the table for the highlights of each cookware set or go to the description for more details.
The Tramontina 80116/249DS 12-Piece Cookware Set is far from any ordinary collection. Versatile and made of top quality materials, this set is exclusive gourmet cookware. Finest design and materials reach a high level of quality with the help of top workmanship. The set comes with two fry pans (8 and 10 inches), a covered deep sauté pan (5 quarts) and an eight-quart stock pot with a lid. The covered sauce pans come in three sizes, to allow easy adaptation of the amount you plan to cook. All three (1.5, 2 and 3 quarts) include a lid. This NSF-certified cookware will meet even the highest standards of a professional cook. Inside and out, the finish of this stainless steel set makes a great impression. Mirror-polished exterior embraces a satin-finished interior for a top combination.
- versatile cookware
- stainless-steel lids
- top-quality tri-ply clad construction
- compatible with all cooktops
- oven safe up to 500°F
- lifetime warranty
- solid, sturdy, riveted handles
- suitable for dishwasher cleaning.
- high-end set
- no lids for frying pans
- complaints on false product listing (made in China, not Brazil as advertised).
You may think of non-stick cookware when you hear T-fal. But you are up for a surprise with the T-fal C836SD Ultimate 13 PC Cookware Set. Get ready to cook like a pro, without breaking the bank. The pans and pots in this collection provide the best results, thanks to the copper and aluminum core. Heat distribution and retention is well enhanced by this heavy-gauge multi-layer base. Cook things up a notch with this copper bottom cookware. The set includes three saucepans (1, 2 and 3 quarts) with lids, as well as a covered Dutch oven and a steamer. There is also a 12-inch fry pan with lid and two smaller (8 and 10.5 inches) fry pans.
- non-reactive, stainless steel interior
- ergonomic, riveted handles
- vented, tempered glass lids
- suitable for all cooktops
- lifetime warranty
- dishwasher safe
- copper bottom for improved heat distribution.
- non-stick layer on fry pans prone to scratches
- handles prone to heating after long use (burn risk)
- light-weight pans (can easily tip over some stoves).
Whether you are single or just tight on space, the Calphalon Premier 3 Piece Set is what you need. Thanks to the space-saving design, these vessels can be easily stacked. Same-diameter pots or pans fit in any order, taking 30% less space in your cabinet. The flat tempered glass lid also helps preserve the flavor, as it seals tightly. These pans and pots heat up in no time, thanks to their heavy-gauge aluminum core. Use them on any cooking surface, induction included. The set comes with an 8-inch fry pan and a 2.5-quart chef’s pan with a flat cover.
- easy to stack and nest in any order
- aluminum core for even heat distribution
- dishwasher safe
- oven safe up to 450 degrees
- compatible with metal-utensil use
- steady, well-fitting lid
- suitable for induction stoves.
- no non-stick layer
- not suitable for cleaning with aggressive cleaning products
- flat tempered glass covers prone to heating up.
The Cook N Home 12-Piece Cookware Set offers accessible quality and versatility. Costing less than half, compared to similar sets, this collection has you covered. You get a 1.5-quart saucepan, a 5.5-quart stockpot and a 10-inch saute fry pan. Add to this three saucepot casseroles (1.5, 2 and 3 quarts). All these come with tempered glass lids, steam vent included. Easy to use and clean, this cookware set is surprisingly durable for its price.
- versatile and durable
- affordable cookware set
- aluminum core for quick heat distribution
- reflective finish inside and out (easy to clean)
- compatible with any stovetop
- tempered glass lids with steam vent for all pieces
- oven safe to 500F
- dishwasher safe.
- lids not sealing tightly (producing noise while boiling liquids)
- handles getting hot (burn risk)
- water can infiltrate in the hollow space of the handles.
Top performance is the promise of the Cuisinart 77-11G Chef’s Classic Cookware Set. Classic design blends with top-notch technology for the ultimate collection. It is suitable for any type of stovetop and guarantees safety in use. The Cool Grip handles ensure you have a steady hold of the pots or pans with no burn risk. Say goodbye to hotspots, the aluminum core ensures quick and even heat distribution. You will find the markings on the inside very useful, as they make measurements a breeze.
- classic, appealing design
- aluminum core for even heat distribution
- measurement markings
- tempered glass lids
- Cool Grip handles
- tapered rims for drip-free pouring
- lifetime warranty.
- several reviews complaining about discoloration and pitting
- prone to rusting, according to some buyers.
Maintenance Tips For Your Stainless Steel Cookware
The main strength of stainless steel cookware is how durable it is. In order to keep that mirror-shine and get the best results for longer, there are a few tips and tricks. Keep them in mind while cleaning or using your cookware, to prevent unwanted damage.
- Avoid storing acidic foods in your stainless steel pots.
Though known to be one of the least reactive types of cookware, stainless steel may corrode. To prevent this, store acidic foods in other containers after cooking. Keeping it in the pots for long can impact both the quality of the food and the cookware.
- Let it cool down.
To avoid warping, allow the hot pans to cool down before you soak it. High variations of temperature can impact the structure of your stainless steel cookware. This applies especially to a lower quality material, which may be less resistant.
- Soak it in warm soapy water.
To remove any food remains that might stick to the pans or pots, put some warm water and mild soap and let it soak. This will allow you to scrub it off easily. However, do not let the pan soak for too long, as it can lead to pitting. For any stains or white spots, use some white vinegar mixed with water, to bring the shine back.
- Keep the flame low.
When using your stainless steel cookware, try cooking on a medium heat level. This prevents food from burning or sticking too much to the surface of the pans or pots.
Stainless steel cookware is one of the most versatile and affordable options. You can find a set to match even the high standards of a professional cook or a complete beginner. We hope our guide and reviews help you get a clearer idea on what makes stainless steel so great. Let us know in the comments which set caught your eye! Keep an eye on our next articles, to learn more about copper cookware sets or non-stick pans. Start cooking like a pro!