In this comprehensive guide of the best cookware materials, I’ll clear the confusion. If you only have a minute, check out the table below for a quick summary of the key differences between the best cookware materials.
While the interior and exterior are always stainless steel, the core materials vary. The number of layers and the type of core materials impact the performance.
Versatile: Since stainless steel is non-reactive and ultra-durable, it’s great for searing, browning, frying, sautéing, and much more. It should last a lifetime and won’t rust, flake, chip, or warp (as long as you don’t subject it to drastic temperature changes).
Distributes heat quickly and evenly: A major advantage of fully-clad stainless steel is that it distributes heat quickly and evenly throughout the whole pan, including the sides, which is great when cooking sauces: no cold spots or uneven sears. It’s also usually tolerant of high heats, making it safe for the oven and broiler.
Stubborn bits of food, especially if left for a long time, can be tricky to remove. Cooking with stainless steel takes some culinary knowledge and technique.
The combination of its highly conductive core and non-reactive surface makes fully-clad stainless steel cookware perfect for steak, chicken, and other meats. Since it can handle high temperatures, you can use it to brown on the stove and then finish in the oven.
If you’re looking for fully-clad stainless steel cookware, here are the top brands I recommend (click the links to view details on Amazon): If fully-clad stainless steel seems like a match with your culinary know-how, take some time to explore some of these brands.
In other words, the cooking surface and exterior are stainless steel, and aluminum or copper is bonded to the base. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t conduct heat evenly because the cookware ’s sides don’t contain an aluminum or copper layer.
This cookware is suitable for sautéing and frying, rather than simmering sauces or boiling liquids. Lightweight: Since the conductive layers don’t extend up the sides of the pots and pans, this type of cookware tends to be lighter and easier to handle than fully-clad.
If there are stubborn bits of food, it takes time and effort to remove. It’s especially good for browning, searing, and frying since the construction can handle high heats.
Cast iron cookware is heavy-duty, made from one single piece of metal, including the handle. Most people don’t know this since cast iron cookware is so rugged, but the carbon content makes it less malleable and quite brittle.
Therefore, to make it more durable, cast iron cookware is made with thick, heavy walls. The thick walls not only increase cast iron cookware ’s durability, but they allow it to absorb and retain heat exceptionally well.
Its thick walls absorb and retain heat well, so when you slap a cold piece of meat on it, the cooking surface stays hot, allowing you to create a crust and lock in the juices. On the other hand, enameled cast iron is quite expensive (I’ll cover that in the next section).
So if you want the benefits of non-stick cooking but trying to avoid synthetic chemicals in the kitchen, this is a good choice. Heavy: If you want something lightweight and easy to maneuver, I don’t recommend cast iron.
On average, cast iron skillets weigh eight pounds, and that’s without food in them. Seasoning involves rubbing it with fat or oil and baking it in the oven for a couple of hours.
Prolonged exposure to acidic foods can break down the seasoning layer, destroying its non-stick properties. You need to clean it properly (no soap), season it regularly, and store it correctly to avoid rust.
Unlike stainless steel, it’s natural non-stick layer allows you to cook eggs and bake with ease. Since it retains heat well, the meat doesn’t impact the cookware ’s temperature, so you get a perfect crust every time.
This type of cookware is similar to cast iron, but it has an enameled coating to prevent rusting, eliminate the need for seasoning, and make it easier to clean. Non-reactive: The enameled coating prevents the metal from reacting with acidic foods, so go ahead and cook any ingredient you’d like in this cookware.
So, if you’re cooking a one-pot meal and need to adjust the heat often, you might want to pick another cookware type. Food can stick: Although the enamel improves its non-stick properties, it’s not nearly as slick as a Teflon-coated pan.
Enameled cast iron has many uses, but it’s especially popular as a Dutch oven, which is ideal for slow- cooking. You can use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven for braising, stews, chilies, and much more.
Other types of enameled cast iron cookware are suitable for braising, baking and frying. You’ll find skillets, woks, pots, roasters, and pans made from carbon steel.
While it’s beloved by professionals due to its high heat tolerance, it’s gaining popularity among home cooks as well. That makes it easier to maneuver, especially when pouring sauce or transferring to the oven.
Versatile: With carbon steel, you can make eggs, grill steaks, fry vegetables, roast chicken, and much more. Durable: Carbon steel is strong, so if you drop it on the floor or smack it against another pan, it’s unlikely to break or scratch.
Affordable: If you want a quality pan at a fraction of the cost compared to enameled cast iron, carbon steel is an excellent option. Responsive: When switching from high to low heat, it doesn’t take the surface long to respond since the walls are thinner than cast iron.
Difficult to clean: Carbon steel isn’t dishwasher safe, so cleanup requires some effort. It’s excellent for searing, browning, and broiling since it can handle extremely high temperatures.
While some brands use copper as the exterior, others use it as the core material for fully-clad stainless steel cookware. Copper is rarely used for the cooking surface because it reacts with acidic foods.
Simply wash with warm water and a soft cloth, and the food will slide right off. Not only is the raw material more expensive than aluminum and steel, but much leading copper cookware brands manufacture their products in France.
It also tarnishes when exposed to moisture and needs to be polished regularly to maintain its beauty. This isn’t a problem in most cases since most brands utilize stainless steel for the surface.
You’ll find it’s especially useful for meals that benefit from precise temperature control, such as fish, sauces, caramels, and fruit flambé. Non-stick cookware with PTFE (or Teflon) coating is made with synthetic materials to prevent food from sticking and make cleanup easy.
It’s most suitable for vegetables, eggs, fish, sauces, pancakes and crêpes, curries, stir-fry, and much more. I don’t recommend it for searing or frying meat, broiling, or grilling as the high temperatures can ruin the non-stick coating.
Ceramic non-stick cookware has a cooking surface made of natural sand-derived silicon using a process called sol-gel. So it’s not technically made from ceramic, but it’s labeled as such because of its smooth glossy texture.
The coating is derived from natural sand and doesn’t contain lead, cadmium, or other potentially dangerous chemicals or elements. Non-stick: Ceramic coated cookware is naturally non-stick, so it boasts excellent food release, and it’s easy to clean.
There’s not much scientific evidence to back these claims, but this is a pro if you trust the brands. Color options: Ceramic-coating cookware allows you to match your pots and pans to your kitchen decor.
Although it’s affordable, you should only expect your ceramic cookware to last around one year before it loses its non-stick ability, cracks, chips, or before the paint discolors. The surface is made of tiny particles, and, at a microscopic level, food isn’t always in direct contact with the heat.
Like PTFE coated non-stick cookware, ceramic cookware is best for delicate foods that tend to stick such as eggs, pancakes, stir-fry, vegetables, and other delicate, flakes foods. It doesn’t react to acidic foods; you can use it for tomato, lemon, and wine sauces.
It’s not the best cookware for searing and browning meat, since it’s more effective at low and medium temperatures. Plus, searing requires adhesion between the meat and the cookware, and, with non-stick, the food tends to slide around too much.
While most aluminum cookware is treated with a non-stick or stainless steel interior, be cautious if yours isn’t. Since most aluminum cookware has a non-stick coating, it’s best for vegetables, stir-fry, curries, eggs, pancakes, and more.
It’s not recommended for searing or browning meat or other recipes that require high heat. Scratch-resistant: This is an excellent choice if you’re low on storage space and need to stack your cookware.
Quality varies across brands: There are many hard-anodized aluminum options on the market, and no two products are the same. Most hard-anodized aluminum cookware is coated with a PTFE non-stick surface, making it a top choice for cooking eggs, pancakes, grilled cheese, and other recipes that tend to stick.
So you can use it for searing if you don’t want to break out the stainless steel or cast iron. Go ahead and test out most recipes in this cookware, but be careful with acidic foods if the surface isn’t coated with non-stick materials or stainless steel.
I recommend something with a hard-anodized aluminum base and PTFE non-stick coating for ultimate durability. An excellent option is the Clifton Contemporary collection, which you can learn about in my in-depth review or check out on Amazon.
One stainless steel pan or skillet for searing, browning, and simmering sauces. And one stainless steel saucepan or stockpot for boiling and making sauces.
Either a cast iron or carbon steel skillet for roasting, sautéing, braising, and frying. Keep in mind that carbon steel is lighter, whereas cast iron is heavier but retains heat well.
For cast iron, go with Lodge (available on Amazon), one of the best brands that still makes its cookware in the USA. You can check out Le Crest’s enameled cast iron cookware on Amazon.
Stainless steel pans also can take a beating from high heat, metal utensils, and deep cleanings and still maintain functionality which is why I keep one in my kitchen. Not all stainless steel pans are created equally, lower ply and cheaper construction can lead to unevenly cooked food and pans that don't heat very well.
Stainless is also not non-stick, you will have to cook with more fats and oils to prevent food sticking (which can be a good thing when making pan sauces). And their lifetime warranty shows that they stand behind their USA made pots and pans.
Non-stick cookware allows you to cook without fats and oils for healthier meals and helps create perfect eggs, hash browns, and hamburgers that will never stick. Ceramic non-stick cookware material used in pans like Willing Spirit's Thermal Coated Ceramic Cookware has become increasingly popular as it is free from PTFE and FOA, and the coating is scratch-resistant.
With the Willing Spirit collection, you're also getting the heat reactive benefits like from a clad stainless steel pan. Their proprietary coating is made with actual diamonds which has amazing non-stick properties.
They're also a 'clean cooking pan free fromPFOA and PTFE chemicals. I've used mine at home for perfect crêpes and omelets that slide right off of the pan.
Like stainless steel, there are many variants of what non-stick pan bases can be made of. From aluminum, stainless steel, copper, and other metals, read the manufacturer's description of what your pan is made of.
Carbon steel cookware works a lot like cast iron with half the weight. When properly seasoned, your pan will take on non-stick properties and will give your food a unique flavor.
The thinness of the pan also helps it heat up and cool down quickly compared to cast iron. Carbon steel cookware is great for high heat fast cooking applications; these pans are a staple in commercial kitchens.
All the benefits of bare cast iron with added beauty and easier maintenance. This makes enameled cast iron great for deep-frying and slow-cooked meals at low heat.
Enjoy the even and long-lasting heat distribution of cast iron and go straight from stove top to oven in the same pan. The porcelain coating on these pans is cast in many colors making it a tool and a showpiece for your kitchen.
The enamel is simply cleaned with soap and water, no special steps here. Le Crest is one of the most iconic manufacturers of this style and like cast iron, it is one of those tools that you can pass down to future generations.
Enamel cast iron cookware is an investment and has a high price tag. The enamel coating can crack and chip from drops or extreme temperature changes (running a hot pan under cold water).
Le Crest has many color options, Stab and Combed both have frying pans with stay-cool wooden handles.” You can't go wrong with a Dutch oven from Le Crest, Stab, or Combed.
Gdansk makes an iconic mid-century design for their cookware (featured in the above photo! Modern copper pans are lined with stainless steel, so they don't transfer any additional flavors to your food.
These won't be as reactive as the 90% copper pans, but will still do an awesome job heating up and cooling down quickly. We go through all the major shapes and sizes of cookware and explain the types of pans out there and tell you what they're best for.
Chef Austin Death is Everything Kitchen's Culinary Wizard, Kitchen-Gadget Reviewer, and New-Product Tester. He studied under chefs in College of the Ozarks' Culinary Program.
It's his job to make sure you choose the kitchen tools that are right for you by testing the best we have to offer. When not cooking, Austin is tinkering with computers or exploring the Ozarks with his wife Amy.
Making the right choice will lead to your food being cooked well, your family being safe and your cookware lasting many, many years. Rustic, and reminiscent of old southern hospitality, cast iron cookware remains a classic as ever.
Try and talk a connoisseur into parting with her 150-year-old, family handed down cast iron skillet and chances are, you would leave with a sore bump on your head. Cast iron pots and pans are sort of heirlooms, that have again become the battle tools of modern chefs, food influencers on social media, amateur cuisine enthusiasts and even the person next door.
So these sets developed a seasoning over time with the cooking oil, giving way to a much-prized shiny black patina over the years. Diehard fans make sure that their cast iron casseroles, pans, skillets, and such never see soap and water, instead maintaining them by hand cleaning and baking them with a barely-there coating of oil.
Steel is usually combined with other metals such as nickel, carbon, and chromium to produce enduring alloys that are corrosion free and tough. In fact, seasoning carbon steel over time gives a better non-stick patina than cast iron.
Also, your cast iron pot may recover from an occasional lime splash or red wine reduction but carbon steel won’t. Great for making foods that don’t have a long cooking time such as eggs, stir fries, sauté dishes and pancakes, carbon steel cookware can be quite a handy addition to your kitchen.
Like steel alloys, aluminum is corrosion resistant although certain kinds of foods will stain or discolor it. It also leaches into your food if you cook with acidic ingredients on high heat for longer durations.
Like steel, ceramic surfaces are tough and you can use metal spatulas or hard scourers on it without scratches. Ceramics are also widely considered to be the most non-reactive so that you have no harmful substances leaching into your food while cooking certain kinds of dishes.
Pretty much one of the best conductors of heat that results in even cooking, copper is great for foods that you leave in the pot undisturbed for longer periods of time. The best copper cookware sets can get very expensive, and just like iron and carbon steel, you cannot cook reactive foods in it.
These days besides the above, cookware can also be found made of titanium, silicon, porcelain, diamonds, nanotech, and other compositions. No matter how careful you are in picking your food, you are still at risk of severe health complications.
The US National Library of Medicine stated that this risk arises because some cookware is made of materials that may leach harmful chemicals and heavy metals that can accumulate in your body and messes up your health. Some of these toxic chemicals are even more hazardous than any man made preservative and artificial compounds.
Here’s a quick comparison table showing you the beneficial features, disadvantages, usage, and best brands of the best cookware materials. Cookware and kitchen utensils are made of several types of materials, including aluminum, copper, lead, iron, Teflon, ceramic, glass, and stainless steel.
Amongst these materials, the best ones for cooking are titanium, cast iron, stainless steel, 100% ceramic, and glass. From a health standpoint, it is considered as one of the healthiest and safest metals for cooking.
Dr. James Mes chino, a well-known expert in nutrition, wellness, fitness, and anti-aging as well as the author of several published books, suggest titanium cookware as the best and safest cookware option. He even stated that experts use high-quality titanium cookware as part of a prudent cancer prevention program.
In a review published in the International Journal of Implant Dentistry, researchers from South Korea and Ghana reported titanium as being safe and successful in multiple cases where it is utilized. Although the study did note some minor issues of titanium toxicity in the field of dental care, this element is generally judged to be safe for cooking purposes.
So if you’re the type that loves eating low-fat or fat-free diet, it can be your ideal choice of cookware. Apart from their health benefits, titanium cookware can really stand the test of time.
In fact, some manufacturers are so confident in the cookware ’s durability that they even offer a 20-year warranty! Since they’re nonreactive, you can cook any alkaline or acidic food without any issues.
You can clean them with just a piece of washcloth or using a sponge pad with warm, soapy water. Interesting fact: Titanium is named after Titans, the sons of the Greek mythology’s Earth goddess.
Since it works well with bone, you can find it in medical instruments and surgical applications like in joint replacements These metals can potentially leak into your food when the cookware is chipped and may lead to health issues.
For instance, a 2019 review released in the Interdisciplinary Toxicology reported aluminum as a neurotoxic element that has been associated with many central nervous system disorders, including Alzheimer’s. Still, experts said that the nonporous feature of titanium prevents the toxic metal from leaking into food.
In addition, while titanium cookware can withstand scratch, they’re not impeccable. Don’t scour the pan when trying to remove food residue that sticks on it.
Instead, fill the pan up with water and boil it to release the sticky residue. Don’t use abrasive cleaning tools like steel wool as they would ruin the non-stick coating of your pan.
Instead, try cleaning the pan with liquid detergent and a soft washcloth, or sponge. Originated from China, cast iron was first introduced in the 6th century BCE.
Cast-iron is placed into the limelight once again as alarming issues on the effects of non-stick chemical coatings on health and the environment arise. Today, it becomes a healthy, safe, and cost-effective alternative to cookware with low health risks, if any.
In fact, Merely Smith, an expert home economist and nutritionist who is a regular guest on a Canadian national daytime program, admitted that one of her cast-iron frying pans lasts more than three decades! Plus, unlike other cookware that are prone to wear and tear over time, the surface of the cast iron becomes more seasoned and smoother the more you use it.
It would develop a natural seasoning that works pretty much the same as a non-stick coating, allowing it to release food easily. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein substance found in your red blood cell that carries oxygen.
In a recent systematic review published in Los One, researchers from the University of Arizona College of Medicine in the United States discovered that cookware containing iron could help decrease iron-deficiency anemia, especially in children. So if you serve your dish in the skillet itself, chances are, your food will likely stay warm throughout your meal.
You can use it to cook almost anything and anywhere, from sautéing healthy vegetables to baking cakes, and from stove to grill. One of the cast iron cookware ’s main drawbacks is that it is quite heavy (which means it has excellent heat conductivity).
Plus, its heavy weight and hot handle cause it to be inconvenient for cooking that need agile and quick movements, such as stir-frying. So before using the skillet, you need to make an effort to preheat it while rotating it now and then to ensure the heat is well-distributed.
It is prone to cracks and rust if you didn’t care and maintain it properly as instructed by the manufacturer. Avoid shocking a hot pan with cold water since this can cause it to warp or crack.
When cleaning, never use strong detergent or an abrasive sponge, such as steel wool, to avoid ruining the seasoning. When storing, stack it in between sheets of paper towel to avoid scratches and place it in a clean and dry area.
The big oval or round pot of this type of cookware is also called Dutch oven, which is perfect for soups and stews. Enameled cast iron cookware shares pretty much the same benefits as the conventional ones.
Moreover, some enamel glazes used on the skillet may contain a high amount of cadmium and lead, both of which are linked to certain health conditions. Since the enamel may chip, these toxic metals may leak out and contaminate your food.
To remove tough stains, soak them with some water and soap before gently rubbing them with a soft plastic brush. Stainless steel pots and pans are one of the most popular cookware across the globe.
The US National Laboratory of Medicine stated that health issues from this type of cookware are rare. They are called stainless because of its anti-rust and anti-corrosion features, which makes it an excellent material for cooking.
Plus, their hard and non-porous surfaces make them resistant to wear, dent, and scratch. Since stainless steel doesn’t conduct heat evenly, most stainless steel kitchenware is reinforced with another metal base to help promote uniform heating, typically aluminum and copper.
While copper and aluminum cookware are not recommended due to health concerns, experts stated that stainless steel with these metal cores are generally accepted as the metal won’t come into contact with your food unless you excessively scrub them. This metal combination contributes to its hardness to withstand damages at high temperatures.
However, some stainless steel cookware may also contain nickel and chromium, both of which are linked to some health issues. Fortunately, according to Reader’s Digest, the quantity of metals migrating into your food is negligible and probably harmless as long as you don’t have allergies.
Dr. Robert Brown advised you to avoid preparing a meal with nickel-plated stainless steel cookware if you or anyone in your family is known to have nickel allergy or have experienced symptoms like skin rashes because of allergic contact dermatitis. In one study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers from the Oregon State University’s Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology said that you can effectively avoid chromium and nickel exposure by choosing cookware that doesn’t contain these toxic metals.
Never let any salty or acidic foods remain in your pan and pot for an extended period. To remove tough burnt-on spots, fill the pot with water and boil for about 15 to 20 minutes.
When dealing with more stubborn stains, try coating the pan’s bottom with baking soda or stainless steel cleaner like this one. It is the harmful version of ceramic kitchenware as their coating may contain toxic metal, including lead and cadmium.
Since pure ceramic cookware is made of completely natural materials, it is odorless, does not contain any toxin, non-reactive, 100% green, and eco-friendly. Plus, it can withstand high temperatures, retain heats, microwaveable, and ideal for baking in the oven.
Since it has a naturally non-stick feature, you only need to lightly coat the cookware with oil, non-stick spray, or liquid stock. Never let water or other liquids boil away since overheating the cookware may lead to a thermal crack.
Never shock a hot ceramic pan with cold water to avoid sudden cracking. If you’re looking for cookware like pots and pans, then the best materials that won’t affect your health would be the following, due to the reasons I mentioned above.
But if you’re looking for small kitchen utensils like spatulas and spoon, the best ones would be those made of materials that contain no toxic chemicals, no heavy metals, no BPA, and no harmful plastic element, such as: The most popular wooden utensils on Amazon are made of natural teak wood, which can resist water, crack, and warp.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, common materials used in kitchen utensils are aluminum, stainless steel, iron, lead, copper, and Teflon. These metals are considered safe and result in little to no negative health impacts.