Buying cookware is exciting but daunting. You don’t want to just like it – you want to love it now and for years to come. The best material for cookware depends on your kitchen equipment and your preferences such as:
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at these issues and more to help you determine which cookware material best fits your needs.
What’s the Best Cookware Material for Pots and Pans?
The best cookware materials include cast iron, 3-ply or 5-ply stainless steel, and carbon steel because they’re durable and non-toxic and can last many years if properly maintained.
But ceramic, health-conscious nonstick, and other cookware materials have their place. Selecting a set of pots and pans is a highly personal choice. Your budget might want aluminum, but that lovely blue-and-ivory enameled Dutch oven might be calling your name…
Let’s take a thorough look at the pros and cons of stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron, ceramic, and other cookware materials.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is among the first materials that chefs recommend for everyday use. Here’s why:
Stainless steel has remarkable durability. It’s an alloy of several materials, including chromium and nickel, so it’s scratch-resistant.
Chromium forms a protective layer that prevents corrosion and oxidation. When the cookware is damaged or scratched, this protective layer reacts with oxygen and heals itself. The higher the percentage of chromium, the more resistant the stainless steel.
Stainless steel is also resistant to other physical damage, including rusting, flaking, or chipping. The material is highly heat-resistant, so cooking at high temperatures doesn’t warp the cookware. So, you can expect your stainless steel cookware to last longer than non-stick pots and pans.
Effective Heat Distribution
Fully clad stainless steel cookware has excellent heat conductivity. It responds quickly – but not too quickly – to temperature changes and gives you control over your cooking.
Health & Safety
Stainless steel doesn’t scrape, peel, or chip. It’s generally considered safer than non-stick skillets because it doesn’t contain compounds that could leach harmful chemicals. It’s also non-reactive; meaning it’s not as likely to leach minerals when cooking acidic foods.
That said, some people may develop allergic reactions to the chromium-nickel alloy in stainless steel pans. More on that later.
There’s a Learning Curve
Stainless steel looks like it should be easy to cook with and clean because it’s smooth and non-porous. But it’s not non-stick out of the box. Use it like you would a teflon skillet and you’ll be scrubbing your eggs off with a scour. But if you season your stainless steel or learn to pre-heat it properly, it can be a highly versatile non-stick pan. (In other words, there’s a learning curve to making an omelet in stainless steel, but it’s totally doable!)
Good Quality Costs More
There’s a complex manufacturing process behind top-quality stainless steel, and the materials involved aren’t cheap. There’s a wide range in grade and durability of stainless steel, so a wide range in costs as well.
Learn More: Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel Cookware
Properties/What You Need to Know
The first thing you need to know about stainless steel cookware is that it’s never 100% stainless steel!
Steel is actually a terrible heat conductor, so manufacturers add plates of another metal—usually aluminum or copper—to stainless steel pans to achieve faster heating and more even cooking. There are two common methods for this:
Cladding or Impact Bonding adds a layer of aluminum to the bottom of the vessel to improve its heat transfer abilities. While this approach is cheap, it only makes the bottom of the pan conductive, so it doesn’t cook super evenly.
Fully Clad cookware refers to pots and pans made from a 3-ply sheet of metal: a layer of aluminum or copper sandwiched between two full layers of stainless steel. These pans have stainless steel interiors and exteriors, with a more conductive layer in between. They perform better and are more durable than clad cookware – they’re just more expensive. These pots are sold as “3-ply (or 5-ply)” or “fully clad” stainless steel.
Discover the best US-made stainless steel cookware here.
Stainless Steel Grades
Although all steel pans contain some other metal (usually aluminum) to help them heat up better, a pan can’t be labeled as “stainless steel” unless the cooking surface that your food touches is actually stainless steel.
Stainless steel must contain at least 16% chromium to be considered “food safe.” There are many grades of stainless steel. Most pans are made of “austenitic” or “martensitic” stainless steel – in the “300” series (the best quality) or “400” series (nickel-free). 200 series stainless steel uses cheaper manganese instead of nickel and is better suited to mixing bowls than cookware.
When shopping for stainless steel cookware, you may see ratios instead of grades, such as 18/12, 18/10, and 18/8. These numbers show the ratio of chromium to nickel. Higher chromium content leads to better corrosion, heat, and impact resistance. Super-premium-quality cookware has an 18/12 ratio. The 18/10 ratio is still high quality but not as stable as 18/12. 18/0 pans are nickel-free.
Aluminum is the most commonly used metal in cookware, especially found in cheap, single-use, or camping cookware. Although it’s used to clad higher-grade cookware, there are fully aluminum pots and pans, too.
Excellent thermal conductivity
The ability to transfer heat fast and evenly is the number one feature that makes aluminum perfect for cooking. The only metal with a higher thermal conductivity than aluminum is copper, which is much more expensive. So, it’s only used in premium-quality cookware.
The element aluminum in nature. After oxygen and silicon, aluminum is Earth’s most commonly found element in the Earth’s crust. Since it’s easy to find and is mined, not manufactured, it costs less than steel alloy.
Being lightweight and easy to handle is a major plus for home cookware. Compare washing a stainless steel pot with an aluminum one, and you’ll see why some people lean toward this material.
You may not find pure aluminum products in most home kitchens (for reasons discussed below), but its low weight makes it the go-to option in many restaurants and commercial kitchens.
Natural aluminum is soft and easy to work with – but it also dents and scratches easily. It will discolor if you run it through the dishwasher. Even boiling water in aluminum cookware can darken it, which requires heavy scrubbing to undo. Scrubbing, in turn, can lead to visible scratches, making the cookware unattractive.
Raw aluminum without any coating or treatment will also “react” with acidic foods. This can create off-flavors in your meal as aluminum leaches into your meal.
There are some health concerns regarding ingesting aluminum, although the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) states that only 0.01–5% of ingested aluminum is absorbed by the body.
Properties/What You Need to Know
When shopping for aluminum cookware, you’ll find a wide range of raw, treated, or blended products. Here are a few common options:
Uncoated aluminum is most commonly used for baking pans, such as those made by the famous brand Nordic Ware.
Bare aluminum cookware isn’t non-stick, so it’s not ideal for most cooking purposes. However, you can find many aluminum products coated with enamel, ceramic, or a Teflon-type material, which makes the cookware stronger and more durable.
Anodized products are the best choice if you like lightweight and easy-to-carry aluminum cookware.
Anodizing involves integrating aluminum oxide into the aluminum’s surface, forming a durable, non-stick, non-reactive, and scratch-resistant surface.
And since the coating is directly infused with the aluminum surface, it doesn’t peel or flake. So, you can have cookware with the same thermal conductivity as bare aluminum, but much more durable.
Cast Iron Cookware
Here’s the age-old, iconic kitchenware with unbeatable versatility and durability: cast iron. I love cooking in cast iron, especially because of the rustic, nostalgic flare it adds to my modern kitchen.
Cast iron comes in all shapes and sizes. You can find cast iron skillets, pans, saucepans, griddles, woks, dutch ovens, pots, and many more.
These varied utensils allow for various cooking methods, including sauteing, searing, baking, roasting, braising, and simmering.
The material is compatible with any stovetop (though it could break ceramic or glass) and it’s a classic oven-friendly container.
Cast iron doesn’t feature high-end or patented technology like Teflon. It’s simply made of iron and doesn’t require several layers of materials to achieve the best products. As a result, manufacturers can offer high-quality products at affordable prices.
You can find a decent cast iron skillet at around $20 or a high-end branded product at around $100.
is famous for lasting for generations, making its cost over time negligible. You can even purchase perfectly good cast iron cookware from flea markets or thrift stores. And if it’s in rough shape, it can usually be restored and reseasoned.
Potential Health Benefits
Cast iron is among the least toxic materials for cookware. It’s naturally non-stick without requiring any added chemicals, as long as you keep it seasoned.
Cast iron can leach iron into your food, so some doctors recommend those who are iron deficient use it as a supplemental source. (However, this may be a strike against cast iron for people who have high blood ferritin levels.)
Powerful Heat Retention
You may have noticed that the surface temperature of some pans lower once you drop food into them. This prolongs the cooking time and can make your food steam instead of sear. Not so with cast iron.
Cast iron has excellent heat retention, so even after you drop your steak onto the pan, it stays at the desired temperature for optimal searing.
Requires Seasoning and TLC
A properly cared-for cast iron pan is non-stick enough to cook eggs or pancakes. But not until it’s thoroughly seasoned.
Seasoning cast iron isn’t rocket science, but it takes several sessions to get a dark, smooth surface. You must clean your cast iron gently to not remove the patina, and re-season it with vegetable oil after each use.
Check out this video on how to season your cast iron skillet:
Cast iron is a workhorse – and it’s not light. Since it’s made of molded iron, a 10” skillet will weigh between 4 and 6 pounds. Weight isn’t a dealbreaker for everyone, but it does make it cumbersome to wash and handle. You also need to be careful if you have a glass cooktop. If you drop your cast iron skillet on it, you may have to kiss it goodbye!
Properties/What You Need to Know
The handles of cast iron cookware heat up quickly and can burn you unless you use silicone covers for them.
To prevent rusting, avoid letting your cast iron make contact with water for too long, and avoid using detergent on the seasoned surface. While some cooks insist that castile soap is safe for washing cast iron, others simply scrub away the food particles with a soft brush under water and dry the pan immediately.
When I’m really on top of my game, I’ll heat my cast iron over the stove to dry it right after I wash it, then rub it down with oil.
Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
Looking for cookware that has many of the benefits of cast iron without the work of keeping it seasoned? Enter enameled cast iron!
Enameled cookware becomes non-stick through a layer of powdered glass melted on its surface. The famed Le Creuset Dutch Ovens are enameled cast iron.
Enamel creates a hard and highly durable coating that’s non-reactive, rust-resistant, and generally regarded as non-toxic. You can cook acidic foods in enameled cast iron without worrying about leaching chemicals or off flavors. Plus, it comes in a range of bright paint colors that add charm to your kitchen.
Enameled cast iron also needs much less maintenance than regular cast iron. You don’t need to season it regularly, and you can wash it with dish soap.
One of the biggest downsides of enameled cast iron is its higher costs. You can find decent products, such as this Crock Pot Artisan, at under $30, but if you want a quality product that will last more than a couple years and cook evenly, you really need to pay for the top brands. The enamel coating on lesser-quality pans can also scratch and flake with use.
Potential Lead or Cadmium Contamination
Some bloggers have expressed concerns over lead and cadmium contamination in the paints used on enameled cast iron pans. Obviously, you don’t want either of these in your cookware! Make sure you do your research and buy products from reputable sources.
Enameled cast iron is more sensitive to higher temperatures than cast iron. Although it can withstand temperatures up to 500°F (260°C), it’s not suited to campfire use.
Properties/What You Need to Know
The best brands of enameled cast iron products include:
The higher-end options, like Le Creuset and Staub, offer more bang for your buck. They have higher quality materials and better craftsmanship, reflected in the cooking quality and heat distribution, as well as the longevity of the pan.
Enameled cast iron is generally dishwasher safe. But check the manufacturer’s manual for the best washing method.
Carbon Steel Cookware
Carbon steel is a close relative of cast iron but handles quite differently. While cast iron is made of 98% iron and 2% carbon, this ratio is 99:1 for carbon steel. This lower ratio of carbon makes the products less brittle, more malleable, and more lightweight because there’s no need to compensate for brittleness by making the cookware thick.
You can have all the benefits of cast iron with its much more lightweight cousin. So, carbon steel can do the job if you can’t use your cast iron skillet for stir-frying because of the toll it takes on your wrists.
Here are the other benefits of carbon steel:
The disadvantages of carbon steel are similar to those of cast iron. Unless properly seasoned, carbon steel can react with acidic food and isn’t entirely non-stick. But once it develops the non-stick patina, there’s nothing you can’t cook with this kitchen workhorse.
Properties/What You Need to Know
Cookware with non-stick coating is popular because it’s so simple to use and clean. Its drawbacks are limited longevity and safety concerns with some brands.
Lightweight and Effective Cooking
Non-stick cookware is convenient to use, and best suited to cooking one-or-two-person dishes. Since most non-stick cookware is made with aluminum cores, it’s lightweight and sports high thermal conductivity. Thus, you can expect even and fast cooking.
Non-Stick Surface Without Oil
The appeal of nonstick cookware isn’t just that you can get a perfect omelet or hash browns without leaving a mess behind. It’s also that you don’t have to use several tablespoonfuls of oil to do it. The non-stick qualities of stainless steel or cast iron are dependent on the amount and temperature of the oil you use. Low-fat dishes can be prepared in non-stick pans.
Restaurants rarely use non-stick cookware because it doesn’t hold up to rough handling. The high-temperature cooking, intense stirring, and metal utensils common in commercial kitchens will damage most non-stick coatings.
Questionable Marketing Claims
I can barely keep up with all the different kinds of non-stick cookware on the market. Most brands claim to have a slick coating that’s 100% healthy and will outlast your grandchildren.
In reality, though, I’ve yet to find a nonstick pan that holds up to more than a couple years of everyday use. And if you dig into the makeup of non-stick cookware coatings, you might find questionable chemicals.
Properties/What You Need to Know
Most non-stick pans are made with a polymer coating known as polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE, sold under the brand name Teflon. This coating is highly oil and water-resistant – but also highly controversial.
When iterations of Teflon made before 2013 were heated above the manufacturer’s recommended temperatures, they released PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), a chemical associated with cancer risk.
Now, PFOA and some similar “forever chemicals” are no longer made in the US, but they may be present in imported cookware. Although it’s now made using different hydrophobic chemical compounds – including one known as “Gen X” – PTFE or Teflon is still used in non-stick pans.
Most experts, like those at WebMD, consider Teflon coating to be “generally safe” as long as you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and don’t overheat your pan. As a general rule, only use Teflon-coated cookware on low to medium flame. Discard your Teflon cookware once the coating starts developing deep scratches, peeling, flaking and chipping,
Copper is arguably the best cookware material for conducting heat. It’s one of the oldest metals discovered and used by humans in the kitchen. But its high price tag keeps it out of most home kitchens today.
High Thermal Conductivity
Thanks to its high thermal conductivity, copper is the ideal cooking material. Copper gives you wonderful results when sauteing, caramelizing, or browning. Plus, since it heats up and cools down quickly, it’s perfect for cooking delicate foods like fish.
You can also rely on your copper cookware set to decorate your kitchen with its unique brightness.
Generally Safe For Health
While copper can have health benefits when ingested in small amounts, excessive exposure can be harmful. Most copper cookware comes with an interior lining of another metal, ensuring that copper doesn’t come in direct contact with the food being cooked.
However, uncoated copper cookware poses a unique concern. When acidic foods are cooked in uncoated copper pans, there is a risk of copper leaching into the food, potentially leading to copper toxicity (Copperiedus). To avoid this risk, be cautious of the type of foods you cook in uncoated copper vessels.
Avoid cooking acidic dishes like tomato or citrus fruits in uncoated copper cookware. Regularly check the condition of your copper cookware and make sure there are no worn-out areas that expose the copper. If the uncoated copper surface begins to show signs of wear or tarnish, consider re-lining or replacing the cookware.
Higher price tag
Copper is a highly sought-after but rare element whose applications go beyond the culinary world. So, you should expect to pay more for a high-quality product.
Copper cookware is often lined with stainless steel or tin to prevent sticking. Depending on how you use and maintain your cookware, the non-stick qualities may get better or may get worse.
Copper pans are a rich chestnut color on the exterior– but it needs proper care to prevent discoloration due to oxidation. While it can create a beautiful patina over time, oxidation could be unsightly for many. So, you may want to polish your cookware from time to time.
Copper cookware can require some adjustments to your cooking style. Its high thermal conductivity and responsiveness mean that it may not be the best option for certain foods.
However, with some experimentation and practice, you can learn how to use copper cookware to its fullest potential.
Properties/What You Need to Know
Since copper is a highly reactive metal, manufacturers don’t usually produce bare copper cookware. Instead, they line it with stainless steel, tin, or nickel. While shopping for copper cookware, ask about the lining metal to ensure you know how to care for it.
If you get a recently manufactured set, there’s a high chance that the lining is stainless steel. Stainless steel is durable, but it’s not non-stick unless it’s preheated or seasoned properly.
Also, look at the copper gauge, the thickness of copper. Since copper is expensive, some manufacturers may skimp on the cookware’s thickness, making cheap products with no cooking value.
Look for gauges of 2.5mm-3mm, the perfect range for most home uses and cooktops. This thickness range offers decent heat conductivity and retention for most cooking purposes.
Ceramic cookware is sometimes sold as “non-stick,” but its coating is not made of a polymer like Teflon. It’s silica-based instead. Ceramic pans usually have aluminum cores with an attractive white ceramic cooking surface.
It’s Easy To Use
Ceramic cookware is low-maintenance, great for beginners, and perfect for cooking delicate food. Since it doesn’t need seasoning and is easy to clean, it’s growing in popularity among home users.
Very high-quality ceramic coatings do not flake or scratch easily – though you should still avoid using metal utensils on them.
Ceramic cookware is medium-weight and highly versatile. It comes in all shapes and types, and you can even use it in the oven if it has heat-safe handles. It’s also non-reactive, so it’s safe for cooking acidic foods.
Although ceramic is durable, it usually has a shorter lifespan than stainless steel or even high-grade Teflon. The coating may scratch or flake over time, and – even if it doesn’t scratch – it will slowly lose the non-stick properties of its coating.
Ceramic has its limitations. Cooking on ceramic at temperatures over 370°F can reduce the life of your pan. Ceramic pans need to be hand-washed to avoid damaging the coating. Metal utensils are also a no-no.
Finally, don’t subject ceramic cookware to quick temperature changes, or you risk thermal shock. Don’t wash or run your ceramic cookware under cold water while it’s still hot. This sudden temperature drop can cause cracks in the coating. Instead, allow your pan to cool down naturally before washing it with warm, soapy water.
Properties/What You Need to Know
Ceramic cookware uses an advanced silicon-based coating to create a non-stick surface similar to Teflon but without forever chemicals.
The coating is applied over the metal substrate, improving the cookware’s durability while preserving the heating power of aluminum.
The quality of your ceramic coating largely depends on the brand and manufacturer. Make sure you read the labeling carefully – some brands may add PTFE to ceramic.
Is Stoneware the Same as Ceramic Cookware?
When we’re talking about cookware, ceramic stoneware, and ceramic coating refer to completely different things. “Ceramic” cookware has a metal core composed of aluminum, cast iron, or stainless steel coated with a layer of non-porous, glass, or silicone-based ceramic laid on top.
On the other hand, “ceramic,” as in earth-based dishware, is a general term that refers to any dishware made of clay baked at high temperatures. Ceramic, porcelain, stoneware, and earthenware have different textures, uses, and strengths depending on the type of material used and the temperature at which it’s baked.
Let’s explore the differences between ceramic and stoneware here.
Pure Ceramic Cookware
Pure ceramic cookware belongs to the wider family of stoneware and earthenware. They all include a mixture of clay and other minerals baked at high temperatures. But pure ceramic is unique because it’s so versatile to cook with.
High-quality pure ceramic cookware is among the most durable dishware. The baking process exposes the clay to extremely high temperatures, making the final product nearly as hard as a stone. As a result, pure ceramic is resistant to scratches, flaking, or rusting. You can even use metal utensils with them without worrying about damaging the glaze.
This durability means you can use pure ceramic cookware on all cooktops, including stovetops and ovens, and even microwaves. It’s heavy, though, so watch out for your glass cooktop!
Generally Safe For Health
Made of natural earth without toxic chemicals, pure ceramic is one of the safest and healthiest cookware types. There’s no metal core that leaches chemicals or reacts with acidic foods, imparting metal flavors into your food.
That said, be mindful of the glaze used to seal the ceramic as it can leach dangerous compounds, such as lead.
Buy pure ceramic cookware from reputable brands like Xtrema that use lead-free glazing. The high-quality glaze on Xtrema cookware allows you to cook almost anything – even eggs – with little oil.
The non-stick glaze on pure ceramic cookware makes cleaning a breeze. Since nothing sticks to the surface unless you burn it, you can wash your cookware with a simple water and dish soap solution.
However, ceramic cookware isn’t the best option for the dishwasher since dishwasher detergents contain abrasive and harsh materials that can lower your cookware’s lifespan.
Although ceramic cookware and stoneware come at a wide range of prices, premium-quality pure ceramic lands on the more expensive end of the price spectrum. You can get stainless steel or cast iron cookware of the same quality at a much lower cost.
Not Suitable for High-Heat Cooking
While pure ceramic cookware has excellent heat retention qualities, it doesn’t fare well with high-heat cooking. You can use it for slow-cooking methods quite effectively since it takes more time to heat up. It’s better for cooking stews and soups than searing and sauteing.
Properties/What You Need to Know
I highly encourage you to venture out and add a piece of pure ceramic cookware to your kitchen. But when you do, watch out for shady manufacturers. Many – especially on Amazon – may advertise their cookware as pure ceramic, but use tainted clays, or mixed materials, or may be even completely wrong. There is very little regulation on imported clay cookware.
Once you get your hands on some Xtrema or other pure ceramic made by skilled craftsmen, you’ll find it has a learning curve. Preheating, and knowing when to add the oil are things you need to learn to get the best out of your cookware.
Finally, although pure ceramic is hardy and durable, it can be a bit high-maintenance. For example, always bring ingredients to room temperature before adding them to the cookware. Plus, they have different storage methods than regular pans (you shouldn’t stack them) to avoid cracking, chipping, or scratching.
That said, by properly caring for your pure ceramic cookware and getting a high-quality product, you can ensure it lasts for generations.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Cookware For Your Kitchen
Cookware Compatibility with Different Cooking Surfaces
Using the wrong type of cookware on a cooking surface can damage your pan or cooktop or both – and may even lead to safety hazards. Here’s a rundown of the most common cooking surfaces and the compatible types of cookware for each one:
The ideal cookware for a gas stove is made of thick, durable materials that withstand high heat and direct flame. Your options include stainless steel, cast iron, and carbon steel.
Lightweight items like thin aluminum or copper aren’t a good choice for a gas stove. These metals expand quickly under high heat and warp or bend. Uneven bottoms or hot spots also increase the risk of warping and reduce your stove’s efficiency.
Ceramic cookware or enameled cast iron can be used on gas stoves if labeled safe for gas stovetops. The material is lightweight and durable and heats quickly. But non-compatible cookware can crack or break under high heat and create safety hazards if the hot contents spill.
Electric stoves use a heating element that transfers heat to a pan through direct contact. Therefore, the right cookware for an electric stove must have a thick, flat bottom to efficiently absorb and evenly distribute the heat. That means no woks or round-bottom pots and pans.
Thermally conductive materials, such as stainless steel, copper, and aluminum, are suitable for electric stoves. Cast iron is also an option, but it may take longer to heat up and cool down.
On the other hand, ceramic doesn’t work well with electric stoves because it doesn’t conduct heat as efficiently as metals. Unless you get top-grade ceramic-like Xtrema, it’s usually fragile and may crack or break under direct high temp.
An induction cooktop is an electric stove that uses electromagnetic fields to heat the cookware directly. Unlike regular stoves, only the cooking utensil becomes hot while the cooktop surface stays cool.
To be used on an induction stove, your cookware must contain iron. The most popular options are magnetic stainless steel, cast iron, and carbon steel.
Aluminum products don’t work on induction stoves unless labeled as induction-ready, meaning the cookware is made of an aluminum-iron alloy or has an induction plate fixed to the bottom. Ceramic and glass cookware aren’t suitable for induction cooktops for the same reason.
Your pots and pans must have smooth flat bottoms for maximum efficiency and heat distribution.
A glass-top stove, or a ceramic cooktop stove, is a type of electric stove that features a smooth, flat glass surface with electric heating elements beneath it.
The glass surface is always made of ceramic and glass to increase durability and heat conductivity. However, given the transparent appearance, many assume the cooktop is only glass.
When selecting cookware for a glass-top stove, stainless steel, anodized aluminum, and copper are excellent choices. Avoid extremely heavy pans – like a Le Creuset Dutch oven – that could break the glass.
Like other non-gas stoves, you should avoid using cookware with rough, uneven, or warped bottoms, as these can scratch the glass surface and won’t distribute heat evenly.
Health, Safety, and Environmental Considerations
Unfortunately, choosing the right cookware for your kitchen involves more than just finding a good match for your stove and cooking style. Using safe, food-grade materials gives you peace of mind.
One of the most common concerns about cookware safety is the presence of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). These highly stable chemicals stay non-reactive even at high temperatures (up to 570°F/299°C). They’re also extremely long-lasting and don’t break down in the environment, hence the name.
PFOA has been regularly used to make Teflon non-stick coating in cookware since the 1960s. However, studies have concluded that long-term exposure to PFOA may lead to adverse health effects, including cancer, thyroid disease, and reproductive problems.
The US banned using PFOA in 2014, and the European Union completely banned the chemical in 2020.
However, Teflon or PTFE is still being manufactured and used in a variety of cookware brands. While this doesn’t technically contain PFOA, it does contain other, newer hydrophobic chemicals, such as “Gen X,” that may be a risk to human health or the environment.
Cookware can be a source of minerals that leach into your food during cooking. Some minerals may be beneficial, while others can be harmful or neutral.
Let’s consider how different types of cookware can affect the composition of your food:
When choosing the right cookware, your personal preferences are key! After all, cooking is a personal and enjoyable experience, so why not choose cookware that reflects your unique style and needs?
Your cookware should look good and ideally complement the overall decor of your kitchen.
Think about the color, shape, and material of your cookware. Do you prefer bright, bold colors that stand out in their kitchen or understated, neutral tones that blend in?
The material can also impact its appearance. For example, copper cookware is prized for its elegant, shiny appearance, while stainless steel is often chosen for its modern, sleek look. On the other hand, cast iron cookware is often favored for its classic, vintage appearance.
Type of Cuisine
Have you ever seen a professional chef’s kitchen? They have different cookware materials, sizes, and types, each suitable for cooking a specific dish.
For example, a wok is ideal for stir-frying and sautéing, while a Dutch oven is excellent for slow-cooking stews and casseroles.
Pancakes and eggs call for completely non-stick surfaces –such as preheated steel, nonstick, or ceramic, while stainless steel is better for soups. This way, you can cook your soup for long hours without worrying about chemical leaching.
We all wish we could have a dedicated piece of cookware for every culinary task, but space and budget constraints often make that impossible.
But with a little creativity and flexibility, you can make the most of your kitchen setup.
Take the skillet, for example. This versatile utensil can handle everything from searing a juicy steak to sautéing veggies. And a Dutch oven can be the ultimate kitchen chameleon. Its ability to boil, bake, braise, and brown lets you whip up any dish with just one pot.
Your cookware determines the other accessories you use in your kitchen. For example, if you have a non-stick pan, using metal spoons can damage the Teflon coat. Instead, go with silicone or wooden utensils to protect the cookware.
Another accessory is the lid. If you get a cookware set, there’s a high chance that one lid can be used for more than one piece. If you get a single piece, ensure it has a lid if you need it for your cooking method.
The lid’s material is also an important consideration. You can have:
Cookware Sets vs. Open Stock
Finally, you should decide between a cookware set or an open stock. A set will be more convenient and takes the guesswork out of the shopping process.
In most cases, a set will save you a few hundred dollars compared to buying the same pieces separately. Plus, you’ll have matching pots and pans that add to the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen.
Depending on the set, you can get 10 to 18 pieces, lids included. Most sets contain:
Unfortunately, not all of the items are necessary. Depending on your family size, cooking style, and space, you may never use some pieces. In such cases, going for open stock is a better option since it gives you the freedom to pick only the ones you need.
Best Cookware Sets
To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of my absolute favorite cookware sets that will have you cooking like a pro in no time!
Best Non-stick: Calphalon 10-Piece Pots and Pans Set
This is the best option if you’ve recently started cooking. It’s oven-safe and compatible with many cooktops. The two-layered Teflon coat makes it extra non-stick and easy to clean. The material is highly durable and perfect for frequent, daily use.
Best Stainless Steel: Made In 7-piece, 5-ply Cookware
This set offers every benefit you expect from stainless steel cookware. With excellent heat distribution, impressive durability, and a 5-ply design, it cooks beautifully and offers a pleasant cooking experience.
Best Enameled: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Cookware Set
Want to add variety to your kitchen by adding attractive colors? This Le Creuset enameled cast iron set has the full beauty, durability, and premium quality package. You can use it with any heat source, and the porcelain enamel is scratch, stain, and stick-free.
Best Copper: Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper Cookware Set
This 3-ply copper set combines three different metals to get the best out of each. The aluminum core sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel ensures the highest heat conductivity and durability. And the hammered copper exterior gives you a blend of beauty and practicality.
Best Cast Iron: STAUB Cast Iron Set 4-pc
Enjoy French craftsmanship with this 4-piece cast iron set, with a universal lid that fits all pieces. It’s also stackable, meaning you can save a lot of space without risking scratches, thanks to the durable textured enamel interior.
Best Ceramic-coated Aluminum: T-fal Fresh Recycled Aluminum Ceramic Non-stick Cookware
If you’re looking for durable, eco-friendly cookware, you can’t go wrong with this T-fal set. Made of recycled aluminum with a ceramic coating, it offers healthy cooking with little oil. The added utensils and the stainless steel handles are all you need for a pleasant cooking experience.
Best Cookware Brands
A high-quality, durable cookware set that gives acceptable cooking results isn’t cheap. There’s an overwhelming variety of brands that promise healthy cooking with no toxic chemicals and great cooking quality. These are the best options you can’t go wrong with:
- Best value: Made In
- Highest quality: All-clad
- Best Dutch oven: Le Creuset
- Best budget: Lodge
- Most beautiful: Caraway
- Most affordable high-end: Calphalon
- Best induction compatible: Cuisinart
- Best handmade: Staub
It’s not uncommon to get a cheap knockoff at the real stuff’s price. That’s why knowing you’re getting a genuine product is essential. It may not be easy to tell fake from genuine, so always try to get your cookware from reputable outlets.
Every brand has distinctive features that help you identify knockoffs. For example, Le Creuset has different telltale signs like embossed knobs and exposed cast iron rims. Or, cast iron skillets never have handles attached with screws. Original cast iron should have handles molded with the body.
If you’re shopping in the store, inspect the packaging and look for misspellings, flimsy materials, and grammatical mistakes. And always look for the manufacturer’s logo on the bottom of the cookware or other designated places.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Cookware Material Lasts the Longest?
Cast iron and steel carbon are among the longest-lasting cookware materials. Thanks to their main ingredient, iron, they last for generations. Plus, cast iron can be revived even if it’s rusty.
What’s the Safest Material to Cook With?
While all cookware materials have their pros and cons, stainless steel is known to have the lowest health concerns for humans. Stainless steel pans don’t react with acidic foods and don’t leach toxic chemicals into dishes.
What Cookware Do Most Chefs Prefer?
Chefs constantly switch between different cookware pieces and materials depending on the cuisine and dish. You can find cast iron, stainless steel, and carbon steel in most commercial kitchens since they can hold up to intense use.
Why Do Chefs Not Use Non-Stick Pans?
Professional chefs don’t often use non-stick pans because this type of cookware can’t deal with the demands of heavy-use commercial kitchens. It’s also unsuitable for high-heat applications since many types of nonstick cookware can release toxic fumes at high temperatures.
What is the Best Cookware for Induction?
The most important feature of cookware for induction is flat bottoms to ensure full contact between surfaces. Ferrous metals, such as cast iron, carbon steel, and magnetic stainless steel, are the best options. Use a magnet on the bottom of your cookware to see if it works with induction.
Choosing the best cookware material depends on a wide range of factors, including your cooking style, specific dishes you want to prepare, your cooktop, health concerns, etc.
Based on these factors, stainless steel, cast iron, and steel carbon are among the safest and most versatile options for most purposes.
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