Experiencing food sticking on your cookware? Or maybe a discoloration of your soup accompanied by a weird smell and taste? Fed up of doing away with your damaged cookware? There’s only one reason why. You failed to use the right type of kitchen cookware! The biggest dilemma is always between Stainless Steel Vs. Nonstick Cookware. But we are here to help you make the right choice.
Deciding on the right type of kitchen cookware to use is an uphill task for most, if not all, cooks. The big question always narrows down to either stainless steel or nonstick. Both of these cookware has its benefits and drawbacks, and this makes it even harder to decide.
What type of food will you be cooking? Which cooking method will you be using? These are some of the essential aspects you should consider before making up your mind. One wrong choice of cookware and your recipe is ruined!
For instance, nonstick cookware is best suited for lightweight cooking, like preparing omelets and delicately flavored foods. The stainless steel is the right choice for high heat cooking like searing or sautéing.
There are more differences between the two cookware types, and it is beneficial to know all the differences for you to make the right choice. Want to learn more? Our detailed and in-depth review provides you with everything there is to know concerning stainless steel vs. nonstick cookware.
Stainless Steel Cookware
To begin with, how is stainless steel made? It’s pretty much straightforward; add chromium and nickel to steel in controlled ratio amounts and voila! You get stainless steel! The two metals are added to make the steel highly anti-corrosive, hence the name.
Moreover, not all stainless steel is created equal. An “18/10” ratio of chromium to nickel is the most popular and used stainless steel type. This is a result of its excellent cooking characteristics. However, other stainless steel types are also known to produce outstanding results.
What is Stainless Steel Cookware
You might be thinking that since the cookware is named stainless steel, it’s entirely made of stainless steel, right? Well, that’s not the case! Stainless steel cookware encompasses a stainless steel layer with either aluminum or copper as the base material. The reason? Aluminum or copper enhances the heat conduction and heat transfer properties of stainless steel.
This is because stainless steel by itself poorly conducts heat. Stainless steel cookware, which has an aluminum or copper base, is thus termed as “fully-clad.” Think stainless steel is the right cookware option for you? Continue reading for more insight!
Stainless Steel Cookware Benefits
Stainless steel has a myriad of benefits. Here are some of the benefits you will be getting after making stainless steel your cooking companion!
- Nonreactive. Stainless steel, specifically “18/10”, is best suited for interior cooking surfaces because it’s nonreactive. Regardless of whether the food is acidic or alkaline, the cookware handles it pretty well. Moreover, the cookware surface is resistant to scratching or pitting. The upside? There will be no discoloration of your food or a metallic flavor-like taste imparted on your food as well. Despite the type of food, this ensures a beyond question level of purity and flavor preservation.
- Low Maintenance Level. The clean and bright look of stainless steel cookware translates to a low maintenance level. Cleaning the cookware requires only gentle rubbing, and you’re good to go! Besides, if you’re running out of time, get them into the dishwasher. They are dishwasher safe.
- Durable. Compared to any other type of cookware, stainless steel cookware is proven to be very durable. Why? Given that there’s an addition of nickel and chromium, this means the cookware doesn’t rust or stain easily. This makes it last you several decades! Moreover, the significant strength because of its weight makes it usable for a pretty much long time.
- Non-Porous. Stainless steel cookware doesn’t get porous, regardless of the time of use. This, therefore, means the cookware is less likely to have leaks, dents, or any cracks whatsoever. Moreover, the non-porous surface makes it very easy to clean, as well.
- Recyclable and Eco-Friendly. In rare cases that you have your stainless steel cookware damaged or destroyed, worry less! The cookware can easily be salvaged and recycled into other useful things. Besides, it’s also environmentally friendly, and this makes it the best alternative if you’re waste-conscious or after saving the planet.
Stainless Steel Cookware Drawbacks
Stainless steel also features some drawbacks despite its several benefits. These include:
- Poor Conductor of Heat. Alone by itself, stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat and would thus make a poor and sub-standard pan. This means there is no excellent heat conductivity and distribution as some other cookware materials. However, to curb this, stainless steel cookware employs an aluminum or copper core to improve the heat conductivity. This has thus led to the development of more versatile and helpful cookware on the market.
- Not Easy to Clean. Low-grade stainless steel cookware tends to cling to food. Also, burnt-on foods can strongly adhere to the surface. This makes it difficult to clean, as a severe scrubbing or elbow grease is required to get off the stains. Other drawbacks include: Expensive, especially with the copper ore. Nickel may pose issues for those with a nickel allergy. Oil is required. Generally unsuitable for gentle heating of food.
Stainless Steel Cookware Best Use For
For best results, stainless steel cookware is recommended for braising, searing, making sauces and sautéing. Besides, the cookware is also safe for use on ovens (provided the handles are heat-proof), stoves, and broilers.
Nonstick (Teflon) Cookware
Nonstick cookware is a beneficial cooking material despite its war of words for several years now. Nonstick coatings such as Teflon have controversies shrouding their safety. Is Teflon safe enough to cook with? That is the big question. Keep going to find out!
What is Nonstick Cookware?
Nonstick cookware is similar to other cookware as it can also be made from the same metal types – stainless steel, copper, and aluminum. But, the only difference is that nonstick cookware has a synthetic chemical coating made out of Teflon. Safety concerns regarding nonstick cookware, however, have risen over the past decade.
The major concern was centered around the use of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Although the chemical isn’t in use today, a lot of eyebrows were raised as it was previously being used to manufacture Teflon. The concern also led to investigations concerning the risks that bedevil overheating Teflon.
- The Dangers. PFOA has been associated with liver and kidney diseases, thus the safety concerns. Worry not, for, since 2013, all Teflon products have now been PFOA-free! Moreover, overheating Teflon has its dangers as well, despite it being a stable and safe compound. At elevated temperatures of above 300°C (570°F), nonstick cookware Teflon coatings start disintegrating, emitting toxic fumes into the environment. Once inhaled, these fumes can cause polymer fume fever, commonly known as the Teflon flu.
- The Remedies. To stay clear of the dangers of overheating your nonstick cookware, always cook within the manufacturer’s recommended temperature ranges. Do not exceed! Moreover, avoid heating an empty pan, always maintain your burner on medium or low, and discard your nonstick cookware at the slightest signs of chipping or flaking.
What is Teflon Made of?
Teflon is made out of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which comprises of fluorine and carbon atoms. It is known to provide a nonstick, nonreactive, and a not far off frictionless surface. It has been in use since the 1930s when it was first ever made. Not only is it used to make nonstick cookware coatings but also used for cable and wire coatings and waterproof clothing fabrics.
PTFE Vs. Teflon
By now, you’re probably wondering what’s the difference between PTFE and Teflon, if there exists any. Let’s do a little bit of exploration! Polytetrafluoroethylene (PFTE) is a synthetic polymer, and it consists of two elements; Carbon and Fluorine. Yes, you just guessed that right!
Teflon, on the other hand, is also a synthetic polymer and contains the same elements; Carbon and Fluorine, making up PTFE as well. That’s right, Teflon is PTFE but by a different name! The difference lies only in the name. In other words, Teflon serves as the trademarked brand name for PTFE.
Nonstick Cookware Benefits
- Less Cooking Oil. This is the main benefit that nonstick cookware has to offer. Nonstick saucepans and fry pans allow you to cook with less cooking oil and fat, as well as butter. If you are the health-conscious cook, then nonstick cookware is for you.
- Easy Cleaning. Nonstick cookware provides an easy-to-use way and cleaning as well. This is because of its smooth nonstick coating, which keeps food off from sticking hence making it easy to clean afterward.
Nonstick Cookware Drawbacks
- Not Suitable for High Temperatures<. Using nonstick cookware at high temperatures is a risk on its own. This is because at high temperatures, (above 300°C/570°F), Teflon starts to break down, thus releasing toxic fumes. These fumes are harmful to you as well as the environment. As such, nonstick cookware shouldn’t be pre-heated or used to cook using high heat.
- Prone to Chipping or Flaking. The nonstick coating tends to chip and/or flake as the cookware ages. These Teflon chips or flakes can end up in your food. This is unhealthy in so many ways!
- Reduced Lifespan. This, however, depends on the brand and how well your nonstick cookware is taken care of. While most companies claim them to last a lifetime, or at the very least 5 to 10 years, most cooks disagree. They are replaceable every 2 to 4 years. This is a short lifespan, as compared to their stainless steel counterparts
- Utensil-Specific. To avoid damage to your nonstick cookware and increase longevity, metallic utensils aren’t recommended for use. This is because they tend to scratch the nonstick surface hence causing damage. This, therefore, necessitates the use of plastic or wooden utensils.
Nonstick Cookware Best Used For
From their name, nonstick cookware serves as great companions for foods that tend to stick easily on the sauce or frying pans. For instance, crepes, eggs, and delicate fish. On matters safety, they are compatible with stovetops and are also oven-safe up to the manufacturer’s specified temperature range.
Stainless Steel vs. Nonstick Cookware: The Full Comparison
Cooking Over High Heat
Stainless steel is a renowned option for high heat cooking. However, when it comes to high heat conductivity, pure stainless steel leaves a lot to be desired. It’s too slow for high heat cooking.
For maximum usage, stainless steel thus includes an aluminum or copper core. Both aluminum and copper aren’t great for high heat cooking on their own, as well. This is because they conduct heat very quickly, thus making them prone to burning and/or overcooking food. The combination of stainless steel, along with aluminum and copper makes the cookware ideal for uniform and safe, high heat cooking. Moreover, the price is also regulated as aluminum, and copper cookware tends to be high priced as compared to stainless steel.
Nonstick (Teflon) Cookware plays a different tune when it comes to high heat cooking altogether. Are you thinking about trying high heat cooking with your nonstick cookware? Then you need to consider a new set of cookware! Here’s why. At elevated temperatures, the Teflon nonstick coating starts to break down.
This breakdown process releases toxic fumes that are harmful to your health as well as the environment. Moreover, the toxic residues can contaminate your food, making it unsuitable for consumption.
The Bottom Line:
Stainless steel cookware performs well when used to cook on high heat as compared to their Nonstick (Teflon) counterparts. The cookware allows you to sauté, stir-fry, and sear in no time! Just turn up the heat! For the safety of your wellbeing and your food, using nonstick (Teflon) cookware for cooking on high heat should be avoided.
This is the ability of a material to absorb and transmit heat readily. It’s among the specific features of any cookware material. Cookware that conducts heat impressively cooks more uniformly, with less hot spots. For stainless steel, aluminum or copper core has to be incorporated to give it excellent heat conductivity.
Stainless steel on its own has very poor heat conductivity; thus, heat conduction to the food would be inadequate. As such, low-quality and cheaper stainless steel cookware tends to have poor heat transfer hence may not serve as an ideal option.
On the other hand, nonstick (Teflon) cookware heat conductivity varies greatly depending on the metal that’s been coated on. Teflon coatings on nonstick cookware are extremely thin. As a result, the temperature at the Teflon surface is close to the heat of the metal it has been coated on.
The Bottom Line:
Heat retention capacity is difficult to quantify for one reason. It’s a function of mass, which means that the thicker and heavier a pan is, the more its heat retention capacity. Fully Clad stainless steel cookware retains heat depending on the composition. For instance, a clad stainless steel pan with an aluminum core does not retain heat well. This is because the aluminum core has poor heat retention. Stainless steel, on its own, has excellent heat retention. Having a poor heat conductivity also translates to a superior heat retention capacity. The cookware will take a lot of time to lose the heat once it conducts. Teflon, on the contrary, has poor heat retention. This is because its extremely thin size makes it lose heat faster. This means that the pan will cool off quickly, hence makes it unideal for high heat cooking such as searing or sautéing. However, the overall heat retention capacity will depend on the material that the Teflon coating is adhering to.
Reactivity with Food
The difference lies in a simple chemistry lesson. You can stop scratching your head in dismay. We got you! In simple terms, a reactive pan is comprised of a material that chemically reacts with other foods and ingredients. Aluminum and copper are the two most common reactive materials used to make cookware.
When used with acidic foods or ingredients, lightweight aluminum initiates a chemical reaction. This imparts a metallic taste on your food and also discolors light-colored sauces and soups, especially when you stir with a metallic spoon. This is because it’s a very soft metal.
Nonreactive Pan is the exact opposite of its reactive companion. It doesn’t react chemically with the foods cooked on it. Nonreactive cookware doesn’t interfere with the chemical structure of the food in such a way that it completely changes the edibility or appearance of your food.
Stainless steel, ceramics, plastic, glass, or enamel make up the most common nonreactive materials. For enamelware, it ceases to be reactive once the enamel is chipped or scratched.
The Bottom Line:
Steel (not stainless) is reactive compared to stainless steel, which is nonreactive. For nonstick Teflon cookware, they are nonreactive as well. They don’t react with food at all. Some recipes are also specific to nonstick cookware because of its nonreactive nature. Compared to stainless steel, nonreactive cookware takes it home. They are more unlikely to react with your food. This makes it suitable for use when preparing meals with very delicate flavors.
We all want cookware which would last us for several decades, maybe a lifetime. Don’t we? When it comes to these two, there is a huge difference in matters durability. Stainless steel cookware is more durable than nonstick cookware.
The reason? Given that there’s an addition of nickel and chromium, this means the cookware doesn’t rust or stain easily. This makes it last you several decades! Moreover, the significant strength because of its weight makes it usable for a pretty much long time.
For nonstick cookware, their durability is pretty much limited. This is because the Teflon coating starts chipping or flaking as the cookware ages. This thus makes them replaceable every 2 to 4 years. This is a short lifespan, as compared to their stainless steel counterparts, which last as long as 25 years!
Care and Maintenance
Stainless steel cookware is undemanding when it comes to cleaning. Before first time use, wash in hot soapy water, cleanse and then towel dry. After use, soak it in warm soapy water as well first. Then, wash, rinse, and hand dry. Immediately drying helps prevent water spots.
You can use the dishwasher if its marked dishwasher safe. But for best results, hand washing is recommended. Avoid washing using strong abrasive cleaners, bleach, scouring pads, or oven cleaners.
For nonstick cookware, hand-wash with hot soapy water and vinegar before first-time use as well. Then, rinse properly and dry thoroughly. After use, the cleaning procedure remains the same.
However, avoid dishwashing detergents as they are too harsh for the nonstick coatings. Always use a plastic scrub, dishcloth or sponge to clean nonstick pans. Scrubbers are a no go zone! For removal of water spots or minor stains, wipe with lemon juice or vinegar then rinse thoroughly with water and dry using a soft cloth. This works for both cookware types.
Type of Utensils to Use
Nonstick cookware isn’t safe with just any kind of cooking utensils. Avoid using metal utensils with rugged or serrated edges as this tends to scratch and remove the nonstick cookware coating. Always use wooden or plastic utensils, bearing no serrated or rough edges.
Heat-resistant silicone utensils are also recommended when using nonstick cookware. Stainless steel cookware, on the other hand, is not utensils-specific. Any utensil is compatible with them.<4>Seasoning
To prevent sticking when using stainless steel cookware, always spray the pan with a nonstick cooking spray or add a small amount of butter, oil or margarine to a cold pan. Heat on medium heat for one to two minutes before adding food.
High heat also causes sticking on stainless steel cookware. When your oils or fats start smoking, then the temperature is too high.
For nonstick surfaces, seasoning is done using one teaspoon of vegetable oil. The oil is gently wiped over the interior using a soft cloth. Nonstick sprays aren’t recommended with nonstick cookware as they tend to cause a buildup that interferes with the nonstick release system. This causes food to start sticking on the pan.
Other care and maintenance practices for nonstick cookware include:
- Cook on low to moderate heat.
- Avoid storing foods on the nonstick cooking pans.
- Avoid sudden temperature changes.
- Store nonstick pans properly by using a paper towel to prevent contact.
- Avoid adding salt to water until it’s boiling as this prevents pitting corrosion.
- Bring cold refrigerated foods to room temperature before adding to the pan as cold foods tend to stick to the pan.
Tips for stainless steel cookware:
If you’re planning to get an induction range, then your cookware should be induction-compatible. For your cookware to work on an induction cooktop, it just has to be magnetic! Stainless steel is magnetic; thus is induction compatible.
For nonstick cookware, they will be induction-compatible depending on the type of metal which the coating is stuck to. If it’s a magnetic material, then the cookware will be induction ready. If not, then it can’t be induction-compatible.
If you’re uncertain if your cookware is induction ready, it’s pretty much easy to know. Stick a magnet to the bottom of your cookware. If it sticks, then it’s induction-compatible. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t induction-compatible.
Which One is Safer for Health?
Why You Should Avoid Toxic Cookware
Choosing non-toxic cookware is a sure way of keeping you and your family safe. When it comes to nonstick cookware, the coating is usually made from poly and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). When heated beyond the required temperatures, these substances tend to disintegrate, releasing toxic fumes that are potentially harmful to you, as well as the environment.
Inhaling the fumes means you’re likely to experience flu-like symptoms, known as the Teflon flu. Avoiding toxic cookware lets, you stay clear of such potentially harmful fumes. Mind your health? Then avoid toxic cookware completely!
Which Cookware is Safer?
PFOA, which was associated with the disintegration of Teflon at high temperatures, has been associated with liver and kidney diseases, thus the safety concerns. However, since 2013, all Teflon products have now been PFOA-free! Hence, all Teflon cookware is safe for use, so long as you use the pan within the required temperature ranges (300°C/570°F).
There are no safety concerns for most stainless steel cookware whatsoever. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies stainless steel with at least 16% chromium safe for food contact.
However, low-quality and poorly constructed stainless steel cookware can leach small amounts of nickel and chromium into food. Nickel possesses a potential health risk to those with a nickel allergy. Besides, it might also lead to heavy metal poisoning when consumed in large amounts.
On the contrary, high-quality stainless steel features safer materials hence will resist heat, not flake or leach harmful chemicals into the food, and won’t react with food as well.
Proper care and maintenance of your cookware, be it stainless steel or nonstick Teflon is also key in making certain the safety of the food you consume. This has been explained above in detail.
Cost is the ultimate factor to consider while purchasing kitchen cookware. You don’t have to go beyond your budget. But, you should aim at investing in high-quality kitchenware sets.
High-quality stainless steel cookware sets are costlier. While you might stumble across some low-cost and cheap sets, it’s always advisable you save and invest in your cookware. This means you will be getting your food prepared in the best possible way!
Nonstick Teflon cookware is usually cheaper when compared to stainless steel cookware. However, with other advanced nonstick coatings, the price is slightly higher, though they are more durable than Teflon.
Q. Why is Teflon used in nonstick cookware?
A. Teflon is used in nonstick cookware because of its nonstick properties. It doesn’t allow foods to stick on the pan while cooking. Moreover, it is highly inert; hence, it doesn’t react with foods easily. It also has a high melting point, which means it only disintegrates at elevated temperatures. Also, it has excellent heat conductivity because of its thin size.
Q. Are scratched Teflon pans dangerous?
A. Yes. This is because a simple scratch will lead to your pan flaking. This means you might end up eating a part of your pan. These Teflon flakes, when consumed, can be potentially dangerous. The flakes are also likely to produce hazardous harmful toxins. Besides, a scratched surface might expose the metal which the pan is made from. If the metal is reactive, then it will chemically react with your food hence imparting a metallic-like taste to your food.
. Q. Is ceramic coating better than nonstick?
A. Yes. Regarding the nonstick coating composition. Teflon is already known to emit toxic fumes when heated up to a specific temperature. With ceramic cookware, the coating is PTFE, PFOA, cadmium and lead-free! For instance, Thermolon is a ceramic coating comprising of only natural minerals. This means there is no danger of it leaching toxic substances into your food and the environment.
Q. Why do chefs use stainless steel pans?
A. This is because stainless steel is rust-resistant and not prone to dents. This makes it durable. Moreover, cladding stainless steel with an aluminum or copper base improves its heat transfer. This ensures uniform cooking of foods. Generally, high-quality stainless steel cookware possesses excellent cooking properties that other cookware cannot beat or match!
Q. How do you keep food from sticking to stainless steel pans?
A. It’s recommended to spray the pan with a nonstick cooking spray or add a small amount of butter, oil or margarine to a cold pan. Heat on medium heat for one to two minutes before adding food.
Q. What is the best nonstick cookware material?
A. Despite requiring strict care and maintenance, the ceramic coating is widely regarded as the best nonstick cookware material. This is because it’s free of PTFE, PFOA, lead, and cadmium, hence making it a safer and environmentally friendly alternative. High heat with ceramic is also not recommended as the heat affects its nonstick properties. Moreover, after each use, it’s required to get rid of the cooking oil completely. This is because the layers of oil tend to build up, thus degrading the nonstick properties of the cookware.
Conclusion: Which Cookware Material is Right for You?
Your needs are what determines the decision of stainless steel vs. nonstick cookware that you make. You can have your stainless steel cookware for high heat cooking like searing meat. Also, use one or two nonstick pans or pots for preparing your foods with delicate flavors and foods that tend to stick on the pan. While each one of the cookware sets comes with its benefits and drawbacks, the final decision should always be aligned with your needs!