You don’t need top of the line kitchen gadgets to learn how to cook or enjoy the experience, but as a budding chef, you deserve high-quality cookware.
Stainless steel cookware is a must for about any aspiring (or established) chef.
I’ve reviewed some of the best stainless-steel cookware right here, so you can decide what’s best for you and your cooking needs.
What is Stainless-Steel Cookware?
As your interest in cooking grows, you’ve probably browsed the aisles of your favorite kitchen store, making a wish list of all the cooking gear you want to own someday.
For me, it was the chrome spotless finish of the stainless-steel cookware that caught my eye. My first stainless-steel cookware purchase was a stock pot for making broth and soups, then I bought an all-purpose skillet, and finally various sizes of pots.
Stainless-steel cookware attracts chefs of all experience levels, but what is it? Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, and stainless-steel is more than one steel; they contain at least 10.5 percent chromium, less than 1.2 percent carbon, and other alloying elements.
Did you know that there are over 150 grades of stainless-steel, but only four are suited for foodservice? When you’re shopping around for stainless-steel cookware, you want to look for cookware that is “304 grade.”
304-grade steel or “18-8” (18 percent chromium and 8% nickel) is resistant to corrosion and staining and ideal for cookware and utensils. Here are a few more features of stainless-steel:
- Scratch-proof and non-porous
- Longer lifespan than other types of cookware
- Easy to handle
Is Stainless-Steel Better Than Non-Stick Cookware?
If you take a look at your skillets and pots, there’s a good chance that they are part of a non-stick cookware collection. Many cooks like to use non-stick cookware because it’s easy to use, clean, and you don’t need to use as much oil or butter (if you are a health-conscious cook).
Non-stick cookware has a long history with environmental and health concerns due to chemicals released on older cookware, but today they are safer as long as you take care of them properly.
While I keep a small non-stick pan on hand for some of my cooking, I prefer to use stainless-steel. While it might take a while to get used to, you can sear and brown your food. Sometimes stainless-steel is harder to clean, but I see it as just another step of the cooking process (you can’t cook without making a mess).
Stainless-steel isn’t necessarily better than other types of cookware, but you are limiting your cooking experience by not owning at least one piece of stainless-steel cookware.
The Pros and Cons of Using Stainless-steel Cookware
Still on the fence about whether or not you should buy stainless-steel cookware? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages.
Nearly Impossible to Damage
No one wants to invest in cookware only to have to toss it out as soon as it’s damaged. Stainless-steel cookware is resistant to corrosion, rust, dents, scratches, stains, and other damage.
While it may lose its shine after years of use, it is likely to work as well as it did from the first day you cooked with it.
Easy to Clean
As you learn how to perfect your searing and browning, you’ll likely wind up with a mess in your pots. Stainless-steel cookware is easy to clean and maintain, but there are cleaners specifically for stainless-steel cookware that are helpful to have on hand.
Stainless-Steel is Eco-Friendly
If you are worried about the eco-friendliness of your cookware, most stainless-steel cookware consists of recycled steel.
Stainless-Steel is Timeless
Stainless-steel shines and catches the eye of anyone who visits your kitchen. In short, stainless-steel is timeless.
Not the Most Budget-Friendly Option
Many people shy away from buying stainless-steel cookware because it’s typically not the most affordable cookware on the market. I think that stainless-steel cookware is a worthy investment but be aware that if you find stainless-steel cookware with a price tag that seems too good to be true, you may want to check the grade and make sure it’s high-quality.
Not the Best Cookware for Heat Conductivity
It takes a while for stainless-steel to warm up, so you will often see cookware with a copper or aluminum base to improve the heat conductivity.
A stainless-steel pot without a copper or aluminum bottom will still cook food, but it will take significantly longer to reach the desired temperature.
Stainless-Steel is not Non-Stick
If you don’t like to use oil or butter when you cook, you might not be the best candidate for stainless-steel cookware as food will stick to the pan.
5 Best Stainless-steel Cookware Sets
Although you can purchase separate stainless-steel cookware, such as a stock pot or skillet, I will review my favorite stainless-steel cookware sets. It’s important to note that in most cookware sets, the lids count as a separate piece.
T-fal is a well-known name in cookware, and this 13-piece 18/10 (which means 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel) has an aluminum and copper bottom. The stainless-steel base at the bottom of each pot and pan contains a thick aluminum core with a copper disc to ensure consistent, even heat while preventing warping.
This cookware set contains two frying pans (8” and 10.25”), a 12” fry pan with a cover, three covered saucepans (1, 2, and 3-quart), a 5-quart stew/stockpot with cover, and a steamer (which is ideal for steaming vegetables). The glass covers have thick metal handles and edges to ensure a tight fight and an easy way to keep an eye on food without lifting the lid.
With riveted handles, you can feel confident while draining your hot pot of pasta or transferring a
large pot of soup. Not only is the T-fal cookware safe to use on induction cooktops, but it’s also oven safe up to 500 degrees F.
- Tightfitting and heavy-duty lids included with the set
- A great “starter” set
- Oven Safe and dishwasher safe
- Aluminum and copper bottom reduce hot/cold spots when cooking
- Cookware may heat up quickly and is too hot to handle
- Special care is needed when seasoning pans
- Some users note damage after putting cookware in the dishwasher
Cuisinart Stainless-steel Cookware comes with a lifetime warranty and tri-ply stainless-steel construction. Rivets secure the stainless-steel handles, and the bottoms contain an aluminum core to ensure balanced heat retention and reduce hot or cold spots when cooking. Tempered glass lids help seal in moisture.
The 18/4 Cuisinart set contains one 1.5-quart saucepan, one 2.5-quart saucepan; one 3-quart sauté’ pan with a “helper” handle (all with covers), a 6-quart stockpot with lid, an 8” skillet and 10” skillet.
The handles on the cookware have a “cool touch” design, but it’s essential to handle with care to avoid potential burns. The entire set is oven safe up to 500 degrees F and is also dishwasher safe. It’s important to note that the lids are only oven safe up to 350 degrees F.
You can use the stainless-steel cookware on any stove top, including induction cooktops. Keep in mind that the heat distribution from each stovetop may be different and may cook your food faster (or slower).
- Triple layer steel construction
- Cool touch handles
- Lids are included in the set
- Lower percentage of nickel
- Lids are not oven safe up to 500 degrees
- Some users note issues with warped cookware bottoms
Riveted ergonomic and “cool touch” handles on the pots and pans make for easy transport, and the lids have stainless-steel edges, handles, and tempered glass.
The set includes an 8” and 10” omelet pan, a 12” omelet pan with a lid, three saucepans with lids (1.5, 2.5, and 3.5-quart), a 3-quart saucepan, an 8-quart stock pot with a lid. Each pot and pan come with convenient fill lines on the inside of the cookware and straining holes in the lid, so there’s no need to use a colander.
Calphalon stainless-steel cookware has an aluminum base for even heating and is safe for all types of stovetops, the oven (up to 500 degrees F), the broiler (without the lids), and the dishwasher.
- Fill lines are convenient and accurate
- Straining holes in the lids
- A variety of sizes, including a large stock pot
- Oven safe and induction cooktop safe
- Cool touch handles still get hot
- Many users complain of food sticking (proper care and cooking may remedy this problem)
Due to its corrosion-resistant properties, nickel is a popular metal in stainless-steel cookware. Since there is some controversy surrounding the use of nickel and whether or not it affects your food (or health), you might prefer a nickel-free option. The HOMI cookware is also a great option if you suffer from a nickel allergy.
The 10-piece stainless-steel cookware set has an aluminum core and a copper band on the bottom of the cookware to help retain heat and provide a more even temperature. This set includes a one-quart saucepan with a cover, a 2.5-quart saucepan with a cover, a 7-quart stockpot with a cover, an 8” and 9.5” frying pan, and a 2.5-quart sauté’ pan with a lid.
The cookware features flared rims to reduce dripping and spills when transferring food or liquids, and include lids made of tempered glass. Like other stainless-steel cookware sets, the HOMI set is dishwasher safe, oven safe, and is suitable for all types of cooktops.
- 3-ply base with a copper band
- Even without nickel, the cookware retains good heat
- Handles on lids and cookware can get hot
- Some users note that despite following directions, they experienced burned food and hard to clean pans
I added the Viewee Stainless-steel Cookware Set to my top 5 picks because it’s a budget-friendly option and it comes with a non-stick pan. While the set may not last longer than other stainless-steel sets on the list, every cook should be able to enjoy a stainless-steel cookware set that meets their budget.
The 18-10 stainless-steel cookware has an aluminum core and is oven safe (up to 446 degrees F). The 8-piece set includes a 9.5 open nonstick skillet, a one-quart saucepan, a 1.5-quart and 2.5-quart saucepan with a lid, and a 4-quart stockpot with a lid.
The lids are tempered glass with steel handles and rims. The Viewee set is dishwasher safe and is safe to use on all types of cooktops.
- A nonstick skillet is part of the set
- High-quality stainless-steel (304 grade)
- Budget-friendly set and great “starter” set
- No stainless-steel skillet or sauté’ pan included
- Smaller set that comparable cookware sets
- Cannot handle heat up to 500 degrees F
My Top Choice for Best Stainless-Steel Cookware
With dozens of stainless-steel cookware sets available, it can be difficult to know which ones are better than others, especially when most look the same. I’ve used and owned various stainless-steel cookware throughout the years and have learned how to avoid burnt on food or staining.
Stainless-steel cookware is durable and versatile, but also requires a little TLC. Many of the problems that people experience are often related to their own mistakes in caring for the cookware. It’s also important to look for 304-grade cookware to ensure good quality.
My top choice is the Calphalon Stainless-steel Cookware. While some users complain that the handles get too hot, I find that you encounter that issue with nearly every cookware set and a hot pad is always a necessary item in the kitchen.
What I love most about the Calphalon set is that variety of sizes of pots and pans (including a larger stock pot) and the convenient fill lines and strain holes. Anytime I can cut down on dishes and not use a measuring cup or colander, I’m happy. Calphalon’s lifetime warranty ensures that you will continue to enjoy the stainless-steel cookware set for years to come.