Best Stainless Steel Cookware
- Aluminum Core: Light and conductive, aluminum core cookware has an aluminum foundation that allows for more even heating throughout the pan, while its stainless steel cladding allows for higher durability.
- Copper Core: Even lighter than aluminum, a copper core stainless steel cookware set doesn’t require as thick of a base to create an even distribution of heat, meaning that copper cookware often have thinner bases than aluminum core cookware.
When choosing a premium cookware set, you are looking for two things: durability and performance. Cost is important, so be sure and check price but like most products - you get what you pay for.
The best stainless steel cookware fulfills all of the above expectations, as long as you invest in a high quality stainless piece set and care for them properly. Unlike ceramic cookware, stainless steel allows you to use the hottest temperatures on your induction stove and are great for everyday use.
Whether fry pans, stockpots, skillets or sauciers, aluminum foundation or copper core, we want you to make your decision as an informed and discerning consumer. Discover what to look for in your stainless steel cookware; which pots, sauce pans, fry pans or even which specific sautè pan are best to buy to complete your cookware set, and more.
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN
- What is the best stainless steel brand?
- What are the best stainless steels pots and pans to buy?
- Is 18/10 stainless steel a good quality?
- What is the safest cookware for your health?
- What are the best utensils to use with stainless steel utensils?
- Stainless Steel vs Cast Iron
- Stainless Steel vs Ceramic Cookware
1. WHAT IS THE BEST STAINLESS STEEL BRAND?
When it comes to premium clad cookware, it’s hard to compete with the rugged strength and relative affordability of stainless steel. The iron and carbon steel alloy is a natural fit for the usual rigors of the kitchen with added chrome for corrosion protection, nickel to improve its mechanical properties, and molybdenum or titanium for resistance to extreme temperatures.
But it may surprise you to learn that the best stainless steel cookware aren’t actually made of stainless steel — at least not entirely. Stainless steel is actually a very poor conductor of heat in comparison to other metals such as aluminum and copper cookware.
A pot, fry pan, sauté or sauce pan that is crafted of 100% pure stainless steel will heat too fast, causing uneven heat distribution while also providing low heat retention that can’t be fixed with the addition of a glass lid.
An added appreciation note for glass lids over the stainless steel lid, because who doesn't like to see what's going on in there? When chefs and manufacturers refer to stainless steel cookware, they are usually referring to aluminum or copper core cookware, which is clad in (usually) multiple layers of high carbon steel to protect the heat-conducting inner material.
As described above, both aluminum and copper core pots and pans are worthy options, as long as they are entirely clad in layers of high quality stainless steel (detailed below). Copper foundation clad cookware offers premium conductivity that heats 5X better than cast iron and 20X better than pure stainless steel.
This allows the stainless steel pot to quickly heat up and cook evenly, as well as noteworthy responsiveness to the minute changes in temperature when increasing or decreasing heat — a must for chefs who want to exercise ultimate control while cooking in terms of nutritional qualities, taste and color. This instant heat distribution is the same reason copper is often used on an induction cooktop.
2. WHAT ARE THE BEST STAINLESS STEEL POTS AND PANS TO BUY?
When you’re trying to decide what stainless steel cookware sets to buy, the options can be overwhelming — especially for a first time customer trying to analyze the countless cookware brands.
There's no need to go out and buy a 12piece cookware set when choosing a few key items will do. Here we’ve put together a list of our kitchen must-haves for professional chefs and home cooks alike, with stainless steel pots and pans in both traditional and nonstick pan options.
Pan size isn't everything, but when you have a lot of movement while cooking, a generously sized stainless steel skillet with a large cooking surface can be your best ally in the kitchen, and a necessary addition to your stainless steel cookware set. The slanted sides differentiate it from a sauté pan, and make it ideal for stir-frying and other rapid cooking techniques in which ingredients are moved around quickly and frequently.
A nonstick cookware set can be even better suited for tasks involving a good deal of movement, especially those you’ll be cooking over low-mid heat — nonstick pans generally react badly to a high heat and their life will be shortened when used this way frequently. A nonstick skillet is perfect for sticky, egg-based foods that you serve straight from the pan, such as omelettes
Due to its straight-sided design, a sauté pan has a greater usable surface area than a fry pan or skillet of the same dimensions, making it particularly well-suited to tasks with larger meats such as searing a giant steak or browning several thicken thighs. Oven safe and broil safe, no stainless steel cookware set is complete without it.
The stainless steel frying pan for when you’re going to be cooking large items over low-mid heat, a nonstick version of a largesauté pan can be your best bet. Opt for the highest quality nonstick coating you can afford — it’ll last longer — and bypass a lot of the scrubbing and scraping after cooking. It should go without saying, but it's always important to make sure you get pans with lids.
No stainless steel cookware set is complete without a decently large stock pot. From making soups, stocks, broths and stews to cooking beans and boiling vegetables, the humble stock pot is perhaps the most versatile and useful pot in your kitchen.
No kitchen is complete without a decently large stock pot. From making soups, stocks, broths and stews to cooking beans and boiling vegetables, the humble stock pot is perhaps the most versatile and useful pot in your kitchen.
A rounded sauce pan with a wider mouth, flared walls, and a rolled lip shares all the utility of a traditional saucepan while excelling at specialized cooking tasks involving more viscous substances. In addition to cooking the sauces for which it was named, this pan’s rounded design makes it great for cooking risotto, oatmeal, custards, and other foods prone to getting stuck and burnt in corners.
Although famous for making stir fry, a wok is a surprisingly versatile addition to your stainless cookware collection. With more even heat distribution and requiring less oil than a typical fry pan, woks can be used for a range of other tasks including steaming, smoking, and deep-frying on an induction cooktop or more traditional stoves.
Move over, dutch ovens. A large stock pot offers everything you love about a 3 QT stockpot, but on a whole different scale. Be ready to cook for a crowd at a moment’s notice, whether it’s a whole bunch of corn on the cob, lobster, whole-chicken stew, or large quantities of pasta. With 10 QT stock pots / dutch ovens you can make large batches of soups and stews to have enough for the week and freeze extra.
3. IS 18/10 STAINLESS STEEL A GOOD QUALITY?
As one might guess while perusing options and prices online, not every stainless steel cookware set is created equal. 18/10 stainless steel indicates that 18% chromium and and 10% nickel was added to the iron/carbon steel base alloy to give it more resistance.
18/10 is the most common found version of stainless steel found in clad cookware, as it’s perfectly adapted for kitchen use in terms of both food safety and ability to resist high temperatures.
The alloy doesn’t affect the taste, appearance, or smell of food, which is a must in food preparation. The easy sterilization makes stainless cookware ideal for use in professional kitchens with the highest standards in hygiene. In addition 18/10 stainless steel is highly durable, able to withstand prolonged use without corrosion.
Favored by industrial designers for the alloy’s ease of use, gorgeous and high quality stainless aesthetic finishes for a premium stainless steel cookware set is quickly attained with little effort.
4. WHAT IS THE SAFEST COOKWARE FOR YOUR HEALTH?
For those buying a stainless steel cookware set for the first time, many wonder whether it is safe for cooking. As we mentioned previously, stainless steel is often a preferred option in professional kitchens due to the ease with which it can be cleaned and sterilized.
While a stainless steel cookware set does release low levels of nickel and chromium — especially while cooking more acidic foods like tomatoes — it is not a significant concern for the vast majority of the population, and is considerably less than common aluminum cookware. Only those who have an extreme nickel or chromium sensitivity or allergy should experience problematic symptoms after prolonged use.
The highest possible risk comes from damaged stainless steel pots and pans, which will release higher levels of nickel and chromium in what is called heavy metal leaching. The quantity of leaching and its impact will depend on the quality of steel, cooking time, overall use, and care of the pots and pans in question. Damaged stainless steel cookware should be discarded to reduce exposure and risk. It might be easy to overlook, but try to ensure that your new piece set is oven safe.
5. WHAT ARE THE BEST UTENSILS TO USE WITH STAINLESS STEEL?
Although stainless steel is extremely strong and durable, you should use silicone, wood, or plastic utensils to protect your cookware’s cooking surface against damage and preserve its utility. Eterna nonstick coating is also quite durable, but sharp utensils can damage the interior of the cookware with repeated use.
Carving or cutting should never be done inside your pots and pans to avoid unnecessary scratches and dings. However, if you do decide to use metal utensils with your cookware set, it will eventually leave the surface with marks and scratches.
While such marks don’t necessarily affect the performance, they will diminish the cookware set’s pristine and polished finish. To maintain that “out of the box” look and shine, it’s recommended to avoid any metal or other unduly hard and sharp utensils on the cooking surface or while cleaning a stainless steel saute pan. From rubber spatulas to wooden spoons to more innovative technology, we recommend researching your utensils before purchase. With just a little bit of extra care and preventative measures, your stainless steel cookware set can last for a lifetime.
6. Stainless Steel Cookware Vs Cast Iron Cookware
- Though both cooking surfaces have a devoted fan base, stainless steel cookware is certainly more popular for home cooks due to ease of use and the added benefit of requiring less effort during clean up time. For example, cast iron dutch ovens are notoriously heavy duty cookware that often require extra effort.
- Many chefs also claim that the stainless steel handle feels nicer in their hand. Cookware brands will often offer both options, but Dalstrong prioritize stainless steel because of the added benefits of stainless steel cookware sets.
- Stainless steel and cast iron cookware do share some similarities, in that they are both versatile, reliable and add a wonderful sear to your meals. A lot can be said for the delicious food you can cook with a cast iron fry pan saute pan (regardless of pan size), but ultimately the energy needed to wield one over a stove and the additional time spent cleaning gives the edge to the stainless steel cookware set.
7. Stainless Steel vs Ceramic Cookware
Though they both have their uses, and the ceramic nonstick cookware offer a lot of interesting designs, we at Dalstrong strongly believe that Stainless Steel adds more value to both home cooks and professional chefs.
- Stainless steel cookware is more durable and reliable than ceramic cookware. The main reason being that stainless steel can withstand cooking temperatures well above the capabilities of ceramic cookware.
- Ceramic is not designed to be used on the highest temperature of the induction stove (or any stove for that matter), so you need to ensure that you are cooking with low to medium heat.
- Stainless steel has a longer life span than ceramic cookware.
- Stainless Steel requires a lot less maintenance to stay in pristine condition. Tips on how to clean stainless steel pans properly.
CHOOSE YOUR COOKWARE
Whether a wedding or housewarming gift, a first-time purchase, or simply an upgrade from your previous stainless steel pans or pots, a high-quality stainless steel cookware set will elevate your cooking and allow you to create culinary magic time and time again.
Like all important purchases, it's important to check price. Don't splurge on a 12piece cookware set when a handful of high quality essentials will do. Choose from our complete cookware collection to build your own set, or consider buying the complete Avalon or Oberon lines to ensure that you have just the right pot or stainless steel pan to complete the task at hand.
You can also check in with our Expert Knife Finder Quiz and get specific recommendations based on your needs.
Written by Kate Melton
Lifelong food lover, baker, and obsessive watcher of cooking shows, Kate’s greatest talent is chasing her toddler without ever spilling her wine.