The Definitive Guide To The Best Stainless Steel Cookware

From utensils, pans and pots to appliances and even kitchen islands, stainless steel is present in so many corners of every kitchen. As one of the most versatile, durable and safe materials currently available, stainless steel is always a top choice for cookware. Even so, the variety of brands, sets, and products, all of which come with different names and rather uncommon technical terms, make buyers have plenty of questions when deciding whether to opt for this material or not.

Best Stainless Steel Cookware

This definitive guide to stainless steel cookware is meant to clear things out and ease your worries. Read on to find answers to all your questions, from the basics to the more complicated aspects detailed in plain language.

For those who still wonder what is stainless steel cookware, we will outline some general information. To begin with, let’s have a look at what this material is made of and what the numbers that usually describe it really stand for:

  • Stainless steel is, in fact, a metal alloy consisting of around 10% chromium and several other metals, nickel included.
  • Chromium enhances durability and protects against rust by forming when exposed to air, a non-toxic, passive film of chromium oxide.
  • Nickel, while also helping with rust resistance, gives extra hardness and that high polishing look.
  • The balance of chromium and nickel dictates the so-called “grade” of a particular type of stainless steel. Quality, durability, and the maximum cooking temperature are also connected to this grade, which is represented in numbers separated by a “/”. The first number indicates the percentage of chromium and the second number the one of nickel (e.g. 18/8 or 18/10).
  • These grades are divided into three main series: 200, 300, and 400.
  • The ones from the 200 series are the less expensive and also the less resistant because they have manganese instead of nickel and are more prone to corrosion.
  • The ones from the 300 series, most often labeled as 304 respectively 316, represent the high-quality range, with more resistant products – in fact, the 316 products (the high-end grade, with surgical steel) also have some titanium or molybdenum in their alloy, which increases their resistance to salt water erosion.
  • As for the 400 series, it consists of alloys even more corrosive than the 300 series, which is why are often used for the manufacturing of the inexpensive stockpots, kitchen utensils or mixing bowls. They are almost nickel free (with a maximum of 0.75%).

So now we know what Stainless Steel is made of, let’s see what it’s good for.

What is Stainless Steel Cookware Good For?

Most commonly sold in sets of different configurations, the classic, uncoated and long-lasting stainless steel suits all kinds of cooking techniques.

  • With enhanced heat transmission, sautéed foods are the most delicious when cooked in such pots;
  • With enhanced heat retention, braised foods also turn out surprisingly well;
  • Because tiny pieces of meat or vegetables can stick and caramelize on the pans’ surface, deglazing with a glass of wine or chicken stock makes for the tastiest fonds;
  • Searing or frying is also very easy to handle when using the right cooking tips for stainless steel cookware.
Stainless Steel Cookware
stainless steel cookware

In a nutshell, as long as you have a clad or bonded cookware, you are sure to get the most flavored dishes with the least hassle. This really is the perfect alternative to Teflon-coated aluminum cookware, which happens to be not only very easy to scratch, but also somewhat unsafe for your health.

And just to show you how good is stainless steel cookware, let’s ponder the goods and the bads of having such utensils in your kitchen.

On the plus side, this alloy is:

  • Heavy and durable;
  • Easy to care for;
  • Dishwasher, broiler, and oven safe;
  • Nonreactive, thanks to the smart tri-ply construction;
  • Very resistant to chipping, bending, cracking, and even scratching;
  • Very convenient since it doesn’t impart any kind of flavor to the food you cook in it.
stainless steel cookware
stainless steel cookware

On the downside, stainless steel in its various combinations is:

  • A bit sensitive to sudden changes in temperature;
  • A tad vulnerable to discoloration or pitting when it gets in contact with salted water on high temperatures, mostly when the alloy contains less chromium;
  • Sometimes more difficult to clean and maintain in good condition if certain basic cooking rules are overlooked when handling it.

All in all, the reason why most people have so many questions about it regards the poor heat transfer and distribution that stainless steel is known to have. Nevertheless, the popular brands nowadays combine stainless steel with layers of aluminum or copper, making these flaws history.

This technique of enhancing the simple formula of stainless steel also raises some concerns about how safe these products really are. And since we just mentioned the presence of aluminum, we’d better tackle another stringent aspect:

Is Stainless Steel Cookware Safe? What about the Aluminum in them? 

Aluminum stainless steel cookware

Since, as already indicated, stainless steel usually has chromium, nickel and other potentially heavy metals in its composition, some people worry that it’s not safe for cooking. Others, on the contrary, claim that it is actually completely non-reactive, therefore totally safe. The truth is that the current production of this type of cookware is long focused on using as little cheap heavy metals as possible.

The healthiest cookware (such brands as Calphalon, Cuisinart, Cook N Home, and other famous manufacturers) make use of a high-performing technology that leaves no room for metal leaking. Their cookware boasts impact-bonded aluminum bases that not only retain and conduct heat flawlessly but are also the safest and easiest to sanitize products currently on the market.

Combining stainless steel with aluminum is one of the best choices because:

  • You get to solve the heat transfer and distribution problem of stainless steel;
  • Aluminum is in the inner layers, sandwiched between several other layers of stainless steel, precisely in order to avoid the potential leaks;
  • The process of introducing nickel in the alloy is very stable and also ensures that will be no transfer of metals during cooking.
  • The final material poses the tremendous advantage that it doesn’t contain Teflon at all, thus sparing you from the danger of ingesting those carcinogenic fumes that enter food once the Teflon layer starts deteriorating.

Long story short, if you shop for the best quality products, you will enjoy the healthiest food you can get! While this statement alone should considerably ease your mind, it can still leave room for some other uncertainties.

If there are high-quality products on the market, completely safe to use, how can you spot the low-quality ones? Otherwise said…

Aluminum stainless steel cookware Aluminum stainless steel cookware

What is NOT so Good About Stainless Steel Cookware?

We wondered the same thing and we found some brands lacking in certain departments.

To spot the not so good stainless steel cookware, the first thing to do would be to look at the warranty. A renowned brand offers a decent warranty for its products and a not so good one sadly doesn’t.

Aside from that, carefully read the product details, to understand what metals they have in their composition.

The more features you will read about and the more products you will get to compare, the easier it will be for you to spot the low-quality products that you should really avoid. Some helpful queues would include the following aspects:

  • The less chromium a cookware has, the higher the chances that it will rust in time;
  • The plain stainless steel cookware, with no addition of aluminum or copper, is also more vulnerable to tear;
  • If the handles of the cookware are made of plastic and aren’t even riveted to the pan, the chances for them to melt when exposed to hot temperatures are higher and your efforts to clean them will be more consistent.
  • If the product is too light, chances are it will also present a lot of hot spots, making it difficult to cook food evenly.

From the low cost and weight of the product to the anonymity of the manufacturer, all these are indicators that you should be focusing on other products available out there. While you do so, consider the following:

Technical and Practical Aspects of Choosing Stainless Steel Cookware

Now that you know the basics, you probably wonder what surfaces can stainless steel cookware be used on, whether it is fit for induction cooktop and glass top stoves or how difficult will it be for you to clean it up…

For starters, versatility is one of the biggest advantages of relying on stainless steel in the kitchen. Think of it as a true workhorse, perfect to use for anything from deep-fried dishes to finger licking stews, all cooked pretty much everywhere from stovetop to oven.

Since induction is one of the biggest concerns of our readers, allow us to set things straight in this chapter:

How to Take Proper Care of Stainless Steel Cookware

Taking care of these products refers to both the most recommended cooking techniques and how to clean them when you’re done cooking.

The basics of handling such cookware include:

  • Preheat the pan before adding oil or other ingredients, rather on medium heat than on high heat – that’s because steel always expands when it gets hot and contracts when its temperature drops down suddenly, making the cooler part (the newly added ingredient) to stick to its hot surface;
  • Never try to forcefully remove dried bits of food stuck on its bottom, but rather soak it and use gentle, nonabrasive sponges with baking soda or Bar Keeper’s Friend to clean it up;
  • Boil a mixture of water with vinegar in it to remove pitting (which shows up because of the salt water previously boiled in it) and fade away discoloration;
  • Dry it with paper towels after washing, to avoid the appearance of water spots;
  • Avoid using bleach when cleaning the cookware because it will strip way the chromium oxide layer from its surface and leave room for rust to develop.
Proper Care of Stainless Steel Cookware
Proper Care of Stainless Steel Cookware

If the staining is too hard, fill the pot or the pan with water; let it boil for about 20 minutes until you can easily scratch the tough burnt stains with a wooden spoon; drizzle it with Bar Keeper’s Friend or baking soda and gently scrub with a mesh dishcloth. Repeat, this time with vinegar added into the water if the burn still doesn’t go away gently.

If rust shows up, you should scrub it again, with Bar Keeper’s Friend or with a paste of tartar cream and lemon juice (as a natural alternative); dry it thoroughly and wait for a couple of days until the protective layer of chromium oxide will form again.

Those who were wondering is stainless steel cookware non-stick are probably a bit disappointed right now, but there’s really no need to! The following tips will make you feel more confident than ever about making this choice.

Is Stainless Steel Cookware Non-Stick? 

The term of non-stick defines the cookware coated with PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), like the ones manufactured by Teflon. But if you are already familiarized with the controversies floating around the safety of cooking with Teflon-coated pots, you will want to read more about the amazing alternative that stainless steel provides.

This material, even though it isn’t a non-stick option by definition, it allows you to get similar results by simply heating the pan properly.

The water droplet trick (also known as the Leidenfrost effect) is a great way to see if the pan has reached the optimum temperature:

  • If the droplet remains intact and starts moving around the pan, the temperature is perfect;
  • If it splits into smaller droplets and moves around, you’re close, but you still need to wait a bit;
  • If it bubbles and evaporates quickly, the temperature is still too low.

Depending on what you get, you can take the pan off the heat or keep it longer and repeat the test. Either way, make sure you wipe de droplets before pouring in the oil.

Alternatively, you can try the butter test: place a cube of butter in the hot pan and spread it with a spoon. If it suddenly starts browning, the temperature is too high. You will know you got the right temperature if it starts bubbling briskly.

non stick stainless steel cookware

 

Once you have obtained the desired temperature, you just need to add just enough oil to coat its bottom with a very thin layer. You wait again until you notice smoke starting to come out gently, and then you can add in the ingredients. Meat will sear up perfectly under these circumstances, as long as you let it sit until it’s perfectly seared on that side. Small chunks of meat stuck to the pan only if you try to flip it too early.

To sum up, you can use your steel cookware as if it’s non-stick if you:

  • Heat it to medium temperature;
  • Wait for the oil to be properly heated;
  • Wait for the meat to sear and release from the pan’s bottom on its own.

When you’re done, don’t just pour water into the hot pan. Let it cool off at the room temperature and even soak it in soapy warm water for a while.

non stick stainless steel cookware

And just in case you were wondering are stainless steel cookware dishwasher safe, again, an encouraging answer: YES, most of them are! But just to be on the safe side, always look up for the manufacturer’s indications.

Factors to consider when buying the best Stainless Steel Cookware

By now, you already know that the only moments when stainless steel cookware could really show up some weakness signs are when you’re preparing recipes that require sudden temperature changes or a really even cooking.

 

The secret to solving all these heat transfer and distribution drawbacks and avoiding potential leaks of nickel is to only buy cookware manufactured by well-known brands and made of high-quality stainless steel.

buying factor Stainless Steel Cookware

The cookware made of high-quality materials will have low levels of nickel and its formulation will be particularly conceived to resist reactivity, leaching or corrosion for the years to come.

When you decided for a brand, make sure that the products cover some simple yet very practical design features such as:

  • Impact-bonded aluminum or copper base to provide that fast and even heating you were looking for;
  • Ergonomic handles, easy to grip even when the pan is full and heavy, long enough for easy handling, and, ideally, double-riveted;
  • Straining holes, fill lines, or anything else that will help you dose the ingredients and transfer them easily from one pot to another.

Nevertheless, the most important feature that your next cookware set should have is a multi-layer structure. Why a multi-clad or multi-ply product instead of plain stainless steel?

buying factor Stainless Steel Cookware

Why is Stainless Steel Cookware different than Tri-Ply?

As suggested, the sturdier the pot, the higher the quality, the longer its resistance in time, the safer and tastier the foods you cook in it.

Manufacturers know it well, and that’s why they have recently introduced this technology that relies on alternating metal layers. Every layer is called “clad” or “ply”, hence the terms of multi-clad cookware or tri-ply cookware.

Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware

Perhaps you’ve also heard of 5-ply or 7-ply cookware, which are basically the same, only that the number of layers from inside varies.

Some vessels have this construction only at their bottom while others have it inside the walls as well. Obviously, the numerous the layers, the thicker and higher-quality the pot or the pan will be.

The main advantage of sandwiching these layers is the fact that it allows you to enjoy the benefits of each metal and reduce the drawbacks that these metals would have had if used separately.

The combination of stainless steel, aluminum, and magnetic stainless steel is the most successful currently on the market:

  • It gives you all the benefits of cooking with stainless steel;
  • It covers the problem of even heating through the insertion of aluminum;
  • It covers the problem of leaking through the isolation of aluminum inside the deeper layers;
  • It allows you to use the pots on induction cooktops through the magnetic stainless steel;
  • And the polished and sturdy outer layer also makes these pots and pans easy to wash in the washing machine.
Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware

As you can imagine, most 5-ply or 7-ply products are rather a marketing strategy, since a 3-ply structure alone is more than enough to provide all the benefits suggested above. If you’re aiming for quality, you should easily find a 3-ply set produced by a famous brand, for a decent price.

Just to prove you so, we’ve put together a top 3 of the best rated stainless steel cookware sets available on Amazon, after thoroughly evaluating not just the official manufacturer’s presentations but, most importantly, the direct feedback coming from our readers!

Read on and see for yourself:

#1 Best Stainless Steel Cookware – Calphalon 10-Piece Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Set

Calphalon 10-Piece Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Set

Our best rated stainless steel cookware set is a 10-piece classic combo manufactured by Calphalon. Including all the necessary types of pots for frying, searing, simmering, boiling, and even more, this top pick comes with a lifetime warranty! Safe to use on the stove, oven or broiler, and compatible to use with the dishwasher, it makes your life in the kitchen not only easier but also a true pleasure. So read on to find out what makes this particular set our favorite stainless steel cookware.

What’s in the package?

This Calphalon stainless steel set includes 6 cooking pots and 4 covers. All items are made of stainless steel, with an impact-bonded aluminum base:

Calphalon 10-Piece Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Set
  • 8-inch Fry Pan
  • 10-inch Fry Pan
  • 5-quart Sauce Pan with cover
  • 5-quart Sauce Pan with cover
  • 3-quart Sauté Pan with cover
  • 6-quart Stock Pot with cover

Main benefits

Opting for this particular cookware set comes with plenty of benefits. The most notable ones are:

  • The variety of pots that cover most of your basic needs in the kitchen;
  • The versatility and compatibility with all kinds cooking facilities, including induction cooktops;
  • Ease of maintenance and the possibility to wash them in the washing machine;
  • The reasonable price;
  • The lifetime warranty.
Calphalon 10-Piece Cookware features

As suggested, plenty of other aspects is worth mentioning in this chapter. All in all, you will notice that this stainless steel cookware is made of high-quality materials and with impressive attention to details. The design of every single item of this set reflects the manufacturer’s concerns for comfortable use:

Calphalon 10-Piece Cookware

On the plus side,

  • Good quality for a decent price;
  • Impact-bonded aluminum base that provides fast and even heating on the bottom of the pots and pans;
  • A nickel content maintained between 8% and 10%;
  • Ergonomic and long handles that make it easy to carry it around;
  • Double-riveted handles, which offers increased sturdiness and easy cleaning;
  • Convenient fill lines that help you measure volumes;
  • Versatile design that lets you strain liquids through the straining holes of the tempered glass covers;
  • The match between the pots’ lids and the pans;
  • The possibility to use all types of utensils for stirring or handling the inside content;
  • The convenient weight;
  • The lack of Teflon coating that flakes off and threats your health.

On the downside,

  • This stainless steel cookware set has aluminum sandwiched between the layers of steel only at the bottom. For this reason, the sides seem to conduct heat a bit slower compared to the bottom of the pans and pots.
  • Also, items are not completely nonstick, requiring the use of minimum amounts of butter or oil for cooking. And even so, some dishes can stick, mostly when the pot or the pan is not appropriately heated;
  • The handles sometimes get warm, despite being advertised as stay-cool by the manufacturer.
Calphalon 10-Piece Cookware downside

Just to draw a conclusion, as most of our readers say, if you’re looking for good quality at a fair price, you have to buy these! The 10-piece classic stainless steel cookware set from Calphalon is a gem for your kitchen. It doesn’t just make your life easier, but it also helps you cook in a healthier way, no matter what dishes you have on the menu. Any potential concerns that one may have should be eased by the lifetime warranty. Makes sense why we’re calling it the best rated stainless steel cookware?

#2 Best Stainless Steel Cookware – Cuisineart 12-Piece Multiclas Pro Stainless Steel Cookware Set

Cuisineart 12-Piece Multiclas Pro Stainless Steel Cookware Set

Part of the Multiclad Pro line manufactured by Cuisinart, this 12-piece stainless steel set offers deluxe cookware for professional home chefs and passionate amateur chefs just as well. If you’re tired of cooking just stews and soups, this one will come in handy, offering you a lot more than the basics. From steaming veggies to grilling cheese or putting together a divine béchamel sauce, there’s little you cannot do. So here’s what you should know about it before opting for this particular product:

What’s in the package?

As suggested, the offer consists of 12 items; all made of stainless steel, in an elegant silver shade, with mirror-polished, non-reactive interiors and brushed 18/10 stainless steel exteriors:

Cuisineart 12-Piece Multiclas Pro Stainless Steel Cookware Set
  • 1-1/2-quart Sauce Pan with cover
  • 3-quart Sauce Pan with cover
  • 8-inch open skillet
  • 10-inch open skillet
  • 3-1/2-quart Sauté Pan with cover
  • 8-quart Stockpot with cover
  • Steamer inserts with lid

Main benefits

If you’re eager to know what makes this stainless steel cookware set the perfect instrument for those truly passionate about cooking, here are some of the most outstanding benefits:

  • Triple-Ply construction, consisting of magnetized stainless steel, aluminum core, and 18/10 stainless steel, ensuring unsurpassed heat conductivity and even heating;
  • Lifetime warranty against defects;
  • Versatility in cooking and maintaining it, being oven safe and dishwasher safe;
  • Compatibility with an induction cooktop.

Given the variety of items and the quality of their material, this cookware set is obviously a great fit for any kitchen, no matter what cooking instruments you have and what cooking style you adopt. The features below listed will give you an even better image of how to make the best of these pots, pans, and skillets:

Cuisineart 12-Piece Multiclas Pro Stainless Steel Cookware Set Cuisineart 12-Piece Multiclas Pro Stainless Steel Cookware Set features
Cuisineart 12-Piece Multiclas Pro Stainless Steel Cookware Set features

On the plus side,

  • The pots heat up evenly, thanks to the layers of stainless steel and aluminum that cover not just the bottom, but also the sidewalls;
  • The cool grip handles are easy to work with and rather sturdy, thanks to the stainless steel rivets;
  • The tapered rims allow drip-free pouring and the tightfitting lids help you keep the flavors inside and cook delicious meals;
  • Each piece is oven safe up to 550 F and pans are safe for broiler use as well;
  • They work great even on an induction cooktop and the cool grip handles stay cool when used on the stovetop.

On the downside,

There’s really little that one can complain about this multi clad pro stainless steel cookware set from Cuisinart. The two most often commented issues regard:

  • The potential discoloration that may occur after cooking particular dishes;
  • The alleged tendency to stick some foods.

Nevertheless, the user’s instructions are pretty simple and clear, indicating how these stains might occur and what one would have to do in order to keep them look at their best or to avoid sticking the food.

 All in all, this set comes from one of the most reputable manufacturers of stainless steel cookware. The technology behind it is meant to provide an excellent cooking experience even for the pickiest persons. From the tri-ply structure to the design of each item, everything is conceived to help you get to the next level in the kitchen. So if you’re ready to experience more with your food, feel free to make the switch from a classic stainless steel cookware set to this deluxe version. The price is really great for the quality that it provides!

#3 Best Stainless Steel Coowkare — Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

Our third recommendation includes a stainless steel cookware set manufactured by Cook N Home. While it caters all the basic needs of every kitchen, it also comes with an incredibly economical price. If you want to know more about it, here are the basic details, as described by the manufacturer and our readers who already got to test it:

What’s in the package?

This set consists of 6 pots with dedicated, tightly fit glass lids – sauce pan, casseroles, stock pot, and a frying pan:

Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set
  • 1/2-quart Sauce Pan with lid
  • 1/2-quart Casserole with lid
  • 2-quart Casserole with lid
  • 3-quart Casserole with lid
  • 1/2-quart Stock Pot with lid
  • 10-inch Frying Pan with lid

Main benefits

Despite being conceived as a rather economical option, all the products in this set:

  • Are made of good quality, 18/10 stainless steel;
  • Work on induction cooktops;
  • Feature mirror polished stainless steel both on the inside and on the outside;
  • Provide even heat distribution through the aluminum encapsulated at their bottom.

What else should you know before purchasing them?

Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

On the plus side,

  • This set is suitable for all cooking sources, electric and gas stove, glass, and ceramic;
  • Pots are dishwasher safe, very easy to clean and maintain;
  • Items feature stainless handles riveted to the body, for enhanced durability;
  • The tempered glass lids give you clear view while cooking;
  • The customer support is great, replying fast and making everything possible to solve any problems.

On the downside,

  • These pots only have aluminum at the bottom, not on the side walls;
  • The glass lids might develop small cracks, depending on the temperature they are exposed to, which shouldn’t exceed 270 F;
  • The pans, even though usable in the oven, again, shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures higher than 350 F;
  • They have no stay-cool handles, requiring some mittens to remove them from any heat source.
Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

Without pretending to be top-notch stainless steel cookware, this set from Cook N Home is your best choice in terms of budget stainless steel pots. All items look and feel nice, and as long as you follow the basic rules of cooking with stainless steel, you should be able to enjoy all the benefits, without worrying too much about sticking food or discoloration.

Your Go-To Resource To Shop For Stainless Steel Cookware Sets

Our definitive guide to stainless steel cookware sets should be your go-to resource every time when in doubt about what to choose. With the hope that we’ve put together all the aspects that matter to you, so you won’t have to waste days of reading all kinds of Amazon reviews, here’s a quick reminder: we’re here to help!

Whatever extra questions you may have, feel free to ask!

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