Your very first cookware was probably stainless steel, right? When most people think cookware, they think shiny stainless steel pots bubbling away on their cooktop.
However, most of us never think about what to consider when buying stainless steel cookware, so today I‘m going to give you the low down on the five top choices which give you a range of quality and price.
But first, a few things to consider before you decide which stainless steel cookware is for you.
THE ADVANTAGES OF STAINLESS STEEL COOKWAR
I have several stainless steel pots and pans that are still like new, and it has been a popular choice among cooks for a long time for several good reasons.
Stainless steel is fairly low maintenance and if you follow my tips on how to care for it properly, you can save work and make it last longer. If you get into the habit of soaking your pans (no matter what they are made of) immediately after use, they will be much easier to clean when you get around to it and you will avoid ‘water spotting.’
The key to keeping a stainless steel pot clean is to avoid food sticking. A good stainless steel pan can be non-stick through correct cooking technique, avoiding the extra effort with cleaning.
Some stainless steel cookware is dishwasher safe, however, if it has aluminum on the surface, this will corrode in the dishwasher, and copper will tarnish.
Whatever the material or quality, it is best to avoid detergents containing lemon or chlorine for washing stainless steel. As shown in the below video, moving the food around when first added to the oiled pan prevents it sticking.
One of the great things about a stainless steel cooking is its scratch resistant surface so you can use any utensils on it, which is often a hidden cost when buying cookware with softer surfaces.
Stainless steel is usually the cheapest cookware option, but price often reflects quality and grade of thermal conductivity. Cheaper brands with a thinner layered steel base will not perform as well as a 5ply steel with a copper core base.
Good Flavor Preservation
Maintaining good flavor is the most important aspect of cooking. Because stainless steel is hard, it does not leach metal particles into your food which can sometimes affect flavors so that you will get a truer indication of taste cooking with stainless steel.
You can cook anything in a stainless steel pot, so there is no need to worry about acidity affecting the surface of your pot or the outcome of your dish.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES AND STRENGTHS OF STAINLESS-STEEL
18/10 (18% chromium and 10% nickel) stainless steel is the heaviest and most durable. Chromium protects the stainless steel from rust and stains, and of course, is what makes the surface shiny.
The heat distribution of stainless steel is not as good as copper or aluminum,and needs to be combined with either or both to substantially increase its heating capabilities.
Modern technology has come up with a few solutions using combinations of all three metals. You can now have all the advantages of the conductivity of copper and aluminum packaged in with the low maintenance and durability of stainless steel.
Lower grade cookware will have a single layer of aluminum between a stainless steel exterior. Magnetic stainless is used on the outside and allows it to be used on induction cooktops.
The next best combination is a triple layer of aluminum between the stainless steel, but the very best combination is copper in the middle surrounded by aluminum encapsulated in a stainless steel exterior.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT STAINLESS STEEL SET
The most important thing to look for when picking stainless steel pots is the thickness of the base. Induction ready pans have a good thick base which conducts heat well and evenly. Even heat means no hot or cold spots, giving better cooking results.
A well weighted pot indicates it has a thick base and will also stand empty on the stove without tipping. If the pan tips, it is not weighted properly.
Riveted handles are generally more secure and strong than soldered joins.
This All-Clad professional grade set of pans features a 5 ply copper core construction from the base to the rim providing you with even heat distribution all over. A layer of magnetic stainless steel exterior followed by aluminum, copper in the centre, aluminum, and stainless steel inner makes for excellent thermal conductivity.
All-Clad claim their 5 ply cookware is very efficient, only requiring low to medium heat. Cooking with All-Clad at low temperatures is comparable to cooking on medium to medium-high settings with other brands, saving on energy use. If you are used to lower quality cookware, there will be a bit of a learning curve if you choose this set.
All -Clad haven’t tried to get you in with good looks, but rather focus on quality and performance. However, the plain and simple design will fit in with any kitchen and won’t look odd among your other pots and pans.
This set would be a good fit for serious cooks who are frustrated by cheaper cookware and see the need for spending a decent amount of money to get the performance they deserve.
Long, stay-cool stainless steel handles, counter balanced on the larger pots, have been ergonomically designed giving you full control when lifting the pots.
If a full set is out of your budget, you can build your All-Clad collection piece by piece.
5 ply copper core for maximum heat conductivity
Available as individual pieces American made Oven and grill safe up to 600o F
Light to moderate in weigh
Suitable for induction cook tops
May be too expensive for some home cooks
The copper inclusion means faster cooking and therefore a learning curve.
If you are a cooking enthusiast just starting out and looking to equip your kitchen, but your budget is tight, this set would give you everything you need to get you off to a good start. The 8 quart stock pot with steamer insert is very handy to have when cooking pasta and vegetables, and the 3.5 quart sauté pan is perfect for dishes like Eight Treasures Pan Fry.
I do quite like the modern brushed steel finish which I think looks more impressive than the full polished finish, a look which is getting a bit tired in my opinion.
The tri-ply construction consisting of stainless steel with an aluminum core is not as good at conducting heat as a copper core alternative, but aluminum is still a good heat conductor, and you will still get good results.
Suitable for induction cook tops
Oven safe to 550o F
Individual pieces limited
Duxtop’s Professional cookware is constructed of 18/10 commercial grade stainless steel, with heavy aluminum sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. This is a good, well equipped and versatile set providing a lot of options and scope for your cooking. There will be no limit to what you can make with all these pans, and utensils to boot!
This set has a large 8.6 quart soup pot perfect for making soup or stock which also comes with a large steamer for cooking noodles and a vegetable steamer insert. You could have a lot of fun with this cookware.
Dishwasher and freezer safe
Can be used on induction cook tops
Tempered glass lids for viewing
May have too many pieces for some cooks
I love the look of the Viking cookware, it actually looks as solid as it is. Viking is good mid-priced cookware, so if you want quality and can afford to spend a little more, then this could be a wise choice. The 5 ply construction is made of three layers of aluminum between magnetic stainless steel exterior and stainless steel inner throughout the whole pan giving you superior thermal conductivity.
All the handles are riveted through a supportive plate making them stronger than most pan handles. The long handles are designed to be stay-cool.
If you are an enthusiastic cook looking for a sturdy and aesthetically pleasing cookware set with superior performance, Viking should be a good fit for you.
Individual pieces available
Good thermal conductivity
May take some getting used to the fast heating capabilities.
The best feature of this cookware is its copper sandwiched base making it nice and thick, therefore adding the advantage of copper’s fantastic heat conductivity. This set will give the budget conscious or beginner cook a taste of the advantages of cooking with a copper base along with the durability of stainless steel.
The tulip shaped design and curved rims make for easy, no drip pouring. The stock pot is a little smaller than most but would be perfect for a small family, as often the larger 8 quart pots are too big and take up more storage space.
Domed lids increasing inner space
Ideal set for smaller families
Copper core base
Lid handles don’t appear to be riveted
Copper layer limited to the base
The Cuisinart, Duxtop and Analon sets are all in a similar price bracket, but of all three, the Duxtop is the best value for the number of pieces included and best cooking results from its construction. If you can afford All-Clad, then go for it, but if you want copper based cookware, then you would be better off getting a copper set.
My choice of all five brands would be Viking. With excellent thermal conductivity throughout the whole pan, sturdy construction and good looks, it is well priced and affordable for most people.
All the above brands sell pieces individually, so if a complete set is not within your budget just yet, you can still get started with some excellent equipment your kitchen.