Cookware Materials Every Home Cook Needs to Know

Cookware materials are an important consideration when shopping for cookware because they can vary drastically in terms of durability, cost, and ease of care. To simplify things, we've come up with this list of the cookware materials every home cook needs to know. Let's take a closer look shall we?

Written by Nate Lau| Last updated June 16, 2021
induction cookware on induction stove

Do you enjoy cooking at home? If so, you want to choose cookware sets that are made from materials that suit your cooking techniques and cooking surface. For instance, some people might enjoy aluminum cookware more than carbon steel or copper cookware.

What you enjoy the most is going to depend on your unique cooking style, as well as what foods you enjoy making. Are you interested in learning more? We made sure to cover all of the most used materials in pans today, so make sure to keep reading! We included everything you need to know to choose a cookware set that is best for you.


How to Choose the Best Cookware Materials

You will want to consider several different factors when choosing a new set of pans. Make sure to think about the following when picking new cookware:

- Material: The material the pans are made of will determine how well they heat food. Some frying pans can be used on high heat. While others, like copper pots and pans, are a better heat conductor.

- Cooktop: Next, consider the type of cooktop you have at home. Not all materials can be used on induction cooktops.

- Ease of Cleaning: Non-stick cookware and stainless steel cookware are some of the easiest materials to clean. You will want to be sure you aren't putting pots and pans in dishwashers that can be damaged either.

- Weight: Some materials are much heavier than others. For instance, cast iron cookware is very heavy. If you plan on using carbon steel, cast iron cookware, or anodized aluminum, know these options are a bit harder to work with due to their higher weights.

- Toxicity: Some types of cookware can be toxic. Usually, this is when they have a non-stick coating that is used at a very high heat or with acidic foods.
 
- Cost: Finally, you want to consider the cost of all cookware material, as some are much more expensive than others. 


Types of Cookware Materials

There are several different kinds of cookware materials today. Below is all the information you need to make a finalized choice that gets you what you need. We will cover what the cookware materials work best with, how they are made, what ranges can use it, the weight, and all the pros and cons. Our website aims to arm you with the best data lined up.


Aluminum

Best Cookware Material For Everyday Use

Aluminum Frying Pan

Aluminum cookware is best for home cooks who want a general cooking set to use in the kitchen. An aluminum frying pan should be reliable and work with several different cooking methods. This material is affordable and easy to clean, making it simple to maintain.

Overall, if you need something reliable to cook with everyday, then an aluminum cookware set would be great for you. They don't have the best heat conductivity, but they work well for most people. Plus, these pots and pans are affordable. Many people start cooking with them, then upgrade to other types later.

How It's Made

The aluminum used to make cooking materials needs to be anodized first. Anodized aluminum has been thickened using an electrolytic process, which creates a harder cooking surface. This surface is also going to be non-reactive to most foods. You will still need to be careful that you don't cook acidic foods on high heat in aluminum cookware. This type of food can slowly damage the aluminum pots and pans.

What Ranges It Works On

Anodized aluminum is safe to cook food on ranges with smooth cooktops. There should be a barrier between the cookware and the burner. That means, ceramic and glass tops work well with aluminum. In short, as long as the aluminum pans aren't sitting on a metal burner, you can safely use them.

Weight

Aluminum is a very light weight material. You can expect these aluminum pans to weigh very little.

Pros and Cons 

Pros

  • Low Cost: These aluminum pans are very cheap, making them perfect for anyone just starting cooking their own food in the kitchen.
  • Easy to Maintain: You don't need to do much except clean the pans for them to last a very long time.
  • Light Weight: Aluminum is a very thin material, so you should be able to easily lift the pans as you make food.
  • High Conductive: Aluminum is very conductive, meaning it doesn't take long at all for it to heat up.

Cons

  • Uneven Heating: While it's a great heat conductor, this cookware material gives you an uneven cooking.
  • Warping: When used on a high heat, these pieces are susceptible to warping. This prevents them from sitting flat on your cooking surface in the future.
  • Not Durable: Aluminum can be easily dented and scratched. Avoid using metal utensils when cooking with this material in the kitchen

Carbon Steel

Best Cookware Material For Moving to Oven

Best Carbon Steel Pans Review

Carbon steel is the best for cooking and searing meats, then moving the sauté pan to the oven. The material can handle high heat, but you want to make sure you keep it at a safe temperature range.

Many people also use this type of cookware for baking pans. You can even use it for cooking skillet cookies, cobblers, and pies.

How It's Made

These pans are very durable and great for providing a surface that can heat up quickly, with an even cooking. They are made from 99% iron and 1% carbon, which makes these types an alloy. However, you do need to season carbon steel.

What Ranges It Works On

Carbon steel can be used on induction, electric, glass, and gas stove tops. As long as the top is flat, you can use this material on. Plus, it works on a portable induction cooktop as well.

Weight

Carbon steel is another fairly light metal. The pieces tend to weigh about five pounds or less, depending on the size of the pan.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Quick Even Heating: The carbon steel allow is great for quick and even heating. That way, you can cook all your food thoroughly with carbon steel. Carbon steel is great for food safe practices.
  • Durable: Carbon steel is very durable, as long as you use it in safe oven temperatures.
  • Great for Hot Cooking: The material is very non-reactive, allowing you to heat the pieces to high temperatures.

Cons

  • Seasoning: For some, seasoning before every use can be a huge hassle.
  • Rust: These cooking pieces are very prone to rusting.
  • Avoid Water: You will need to keep the pots and pans out of the water after cooking. 

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Cast Iron

Best Cookware Material For Versatility

Cast Iron Frying Pan

Cast iron cookware is considered to be the best of all the other cookware types. A high quality cast iron pan will last you many years. 

The cast iron pan can be used in anything. It is very reliable when it comes to cooking and is very long lasting. Cast iron also is the most versatile of all the types. It is heavy and comes with a durable structure. Plus, cast iron cookware can retain heat for a very long time.

How It's Made

Cast iron cookware is made by combining iron and steel together. Then, the metal is poured into a mold, along with powdered clay and water. Cast iron usually takes a long time to prepare.

What Ranges It Works On

You can use them on induction, gas, and electric cooktops. Cast iron may damage glass surfaces by leaving a burn mark.

Weight

Cast iron is very, very heavy- it weighs the most out of all the other materials. A cast iron pan will likely weigh more than any piece of carbon steel cookware. Plus, it will weigh more than stainless steel cookware pieces too.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Non-reactive: If you have enameled cast iron cookware, the cast iron should be non-reactive.
  • Hold Temperature: Enameled cast iron can hold an even temperature for a long time- longer than carbon steel cookware or anodized aluminum. The pots stay hot for a very long time.
  • Long Lasting: A high quality enameled cast iron pan will last you a life time.

Cons

  • Seasoning: Enameled cast iron is another piece that needs to be seasoned before each use.
  • Rust: Cast iron is very prone to rusting. Make sure to keep it out of water.
  • Reactive to Acid: Normal cast iron is very reactive to iron. You will want to make sure you get an enameled cast iron pan if you plan on using acidic ingredients.

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Ceramic

Best Cookware Material For Healthy Non-Stick

Ceramic saucepan with red base

Do you enjoy non-stick cookware, but are worried about Teflon? You can use a ceramic cookware piece instead. They are more environmentally friendly and provide all the benefits of a non-stick pan. They can still break down and the non-stick layer becomes damaged at high heats.

How It's Made

Ceramic cookware usually comes with a metal core, such as aluminum or stainless steel. Nicer brands can contain copper. The ceramic is added to the outside of the pans. A non-stick coating is added to the surface. 

What Ranges It Works On

Ceramic can be used on many cooktops, but not glass. The pans will scratch the surface.

Weight

These pans are very heavy, especially if they are made from 100% ceramic. However, they are still not as heavy as cast iron pans or cast iron pots.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Attractive Designs: Ceramic cookware comes with plenty of fun designs that you can't get with stainless steel pans.
  • Eco-Friendly: Ceramic cookware is safe to eat off of and is great for the environment. They require less power to heat up.
  • Non-Reactive: Ceramic is non-reactive to most kinds of food. It won't leach toxins and doesn't dry out your ingredients either.

Cons

  • Not for High Temps: You can't use ceramic on high temperatures, like you can a cast iron skillet.
  • Prone to Chipping: Overtime, these pans will chip.
  • Needs More Care: Never put your hot pan in cold water, or the the ceramic will break apart.

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Copper

Best Cookware Material For Healthy Non-Stick

copper pan

Copper offers the best heat conductivity and temperature control. It is long lasting too and is very easy to clean.

How It's Made

The copper metal is set on a high heat, melted, then tin is added to it. From there, the metal is shaped and a protective coating is applied. The coating is washed off before the pan gets to you.

What Ranges It Works On

Most copper pans work on all cooktops. They work on gas, electric, glass, and induction surfaces. Copper resists heat, so you can use it in the oven too.

Weight

Copper pots aren't as heavy as a cast iron pot, but they still are quite dense. An 11 inch copper pan is going to weigh around 11 pounds.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Even Heat Distribution: When compared to stainless steel pans, a copper pan has much higher levels of heat distribution.
  • Iconic Style: Many people love the appearance of copper cookware.
  • Easy to Clean: Copper is one of the easiest pieces to clean.
  • Non-Reactive: Copper is usually lined with stainless steel, tin, or aluminum. That means it should not react to foods.

Cons

  • Scratch Easily: Copper does scratch easily, so you will need to use softer utensils with it.
  • Expensive: Copper is very expensive, more so than nonstick cookware and most iron options.
  • Needs Extra Care: Copper is sensitive to acidic foods and can rust easily. You will need to take time to maintain and clean it by hand.

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Enameled Cast Iron

Best Cookware Material For Home Cooks

Enameled Cast Iron le creuset

If you love cooking every day, then this type of pan will allow you to make just about any dish at home. The pan maintains warmth and is resistant to sudden temperature changes.

How It's Made

Glass enamel glaze is applied to the surface of a normal cast iron pan. This makes the pan perfect for baking dishes of any kind. Plus, it makes it provides it with more durability.

What Ranges It Works On

You can use a cast iron pan on any type of range. You can move it easily to the oven too, since it resists temperature changes.

Weight

These pans are just as heavy as normal cast iron. If you need something lighter, we recommend that you try a normal nonstick cookware set.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Non-Reactive: If you use enameled cast iron, it is non-reactive.
  • Long Lifespan: Cast iron can last a life time when taken care of properly.
  • Holds Temperature: Like cast iron, this option will hold the heat well, keeping your food warm.

Cons

  • Seasoning: Like cast iron, you will need to season any pans you use.
  • Prone to Rust: Again, like cast iron, make sure to clean quickly and not leave them in water for long.
  • Hand Wash Only: You will need to hand wash and maintain these pans like copper cookware.

Hard Anodized

Best Cookware Material For Aluminum Upgrades

Bialetti 10 Piece Hard Anodized, Ceramic Pro Cookware Set

Looking to upgrade from your simple aluminum or steel pan? Hard anodized is aluminum that has went through an oxidizing process. It provides a reliable non-stick surface.

How It's Made

Aluminum is hardened through a chemical and electrical process. The surface can't react with food once it goes through this adjustment. Overall, it is now twice as hard as a stainless steel option. Many people prefer it over cast iron, carbon steel, and copper cookware for its usefulness in the kitchen.

What Ranges It Works On

You can use this on any surface in the kitchen, except for an induction stove.

Weight

Aluminum is very light, but when you put it through this process, the final result is slight heavier. That makes it denser and less prone to damage.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Non-Stick: These pans are coated with a layer of non-stick. Foods release easily.
  • Durable: The cookware is much more durable than steel after going through the process.
  • Non-Toxic: The non-stick surface is not made with Teflon or other harmful toxins.

Cons

  • Pricey: These pieces are more expensive than other non-stick products.
  • Hand Wash Only: These products require a bit more care in hand washing, so the porcelain coating doesn't come off.
  • Not Induction Safe: Most people today own induction cooktop ovens, but these are not compatible with this type of stove.

Glass

Best Cookware Material Without Chemicals

Glass Cookware

No matter what brand of glass cookware you buy, it won't have any toxins in it. This is because it doesn't use plastic, nonstick coatings, or metal. It's very healthy.

How It's Made

The glass is melted, then shaped in a mold. Most of the time, no other materials are added to it.

What Ranges It Works On

Make sure you don't use it on surfaces that can scratch it. Most flat stovetops are going to fine.

Weight

Glass going to be slightly heavier than aluminum or copper, but not by too much much. These pieces tend to be denser, so the glass can hold the heat.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • No Toxins: There are no metals to leach or BPA to get in your food.
  • Doesn't Absorb Flavor: Glass won't hold onto smells and flavors from previous meals.
  • Doesn't React: Glass can't react to acidic foods in the kitchen like aluminum or copper will.

Cons

  • Cracking: Glass can crack when there are sudden temperature changes.
  • Doesn't Like High Heats: The glass will explode if you use it with your broiler on, since it's very hot.
  • Long Heating Times: Glass also takes a long time to warm up, since you need to do it slowly.

Induction Friendly

Best Cookware Material For Induction Stoves

All Clad Frying Pans best induction cookware

When it comes to being induction friendly, you will want cast iron, enameled cast iron, and stainless steel cookware in your kitchen.

How It's Made

All of these materials are made differently, but the manufacturer ensures they have a flat bottom for the induction tops.

What Ranges It Works On

Induction friendly products can work on most other surfaces.

Weight

Usually on the heavier side becuase of the heavier base needed for induction. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Induction Safe: Induction stoves need special products to transfer heat into them.
  • Several Options: There are many materials that are induction safe.
  • Heat Transfer: Many induction safe items have a wonderful heat transfer function.

Cons

  • Price: Induction friendly materials tend to cost more.
  • Need Magnetic Steel: Only objects with magnetic abilities work on induction stoves. Glass will never work.

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Non-Stick

Best Cookware Material For Induction Stoves

All Clad Frying Pans best induction cookware

Nonstick options are the best for cooking foods like eggs; anything that doesn't want to release from the surface.

How It's Made

PTFE or Teflon is applied to the surface to make it easier to clean and cook on.

What Ranges It Works On

Nonstick pans work on any surface, as long as you don't run the stove too high.

Weight

These pans are lighter than steel, usually right around the weight of aluminum.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Nonstick: You receive quality levels of nonstick for cooking anything.
  • Good For Eggs: These pans are the best for making eggs, since they release foods easily.
  • Cost-Efficient: These pans are usually more cost efficient than carbon steel pans.

Cons

  • Potential Toxins: Make sure you are using them at the correct heats so they don't release toxins into your food.
  • Fragile: These pans scratch easily over time. They normally only last a few years.
  • Chipping: The nonstick can chip off and make it's way into your dishes.

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Stainless Steel

Best Cookware Material For Low Maintenance

Viking Contemporary 3 Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan

Need an easy to clean piece of cookware? This type will be the best choice for you. It doesn't need to be seasoned either.

How It's Made

Stainless steel is made of several types of metals that are melted together into an alloy.

What Ranges It Works On

Stainless steel should work on all of the main kinds of cooktops.

Weight

Stainless steel is slightly heavier than aluminum, but not as heavy as cast iron or carbon steel pans.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy to Clean: Stainless steel is easy to clean and somewhat nonstick.
  • Non-Reactive: Stainless steel is not going to react to acidic foods.
  • Improved Conductivity: You get additional heating distribution and conductivity.

Cons

  • Not For High Heat: You want to use this on medium-high heat at the highest level.
  • Overheating: If you do happen to overheat it, the bottom will be discolored.

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Titanium

Best Cookware Material For Cooking Away From Home

Titanium Pan

If you need something for camp, this option is going to be the best choice. Anytime you are not at your home kitchen, reach for this.

How It's Made

A core of aluminum receives a titanium layer on the outside. This makes it much stronger than stainless steel cookware.

What Ranges It Works On

It works on every type of stovetop. That includes the induction stove.

Weight

These pans are very heavy, usually a little lighter than a cast iron, depending on their size.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Healthy Cooking: you receive healthier cooking, since you don't need to use butter or oils.
  • Durability: These pans are very strong and long lasting.
  • Shorter Cooking Time: They heat up faster, allowing shorter cook times.

Cons

  • Pricey: Not good for a tight budget.
  • Need Extra Care: They can easily burn your food, so keep an eye on them!

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