Advantages & Disadvantages of Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless Steel Cookware – The Good News…And The Bad News!
Stainless Steel is the most popular type of cookware available – and with good reason BUT knowing the pros as well as the cons will help you to make a more informed decision when choosing your next cookware set.
- Long lasting – The physical properties of stainless steel makes it resistant to scratches, cracks, dings, and dents. This means that your cookware will last for many years to come. It won’t corrode, chip, rust or tarnish – keeping its good-looking shine for many years. In fact, if you have invested in a quality brand of cookware, it could potentially last you a lifetime.
- Appearance – Stainless steel cookware just looks good. If you’ve ever browsed the stores looking for a cookware set, you will know how appealing they look with their glossy shine. This is due to the nickel in the stainless steel alloy that is used to manufacture the cookware. The beauty of stainless steel cookware however is that even when you bring it home and use it, the shine remains with a minimum of cleaning, keeping it bright and sparkling through years of use. Even if it starts to dull a little, you can use a product like Barkeepers Friend to bring it back to life again.
- Versatility – Because stainless steel cookware does not react with acids or with alkaline foods, it means that it can be used for all sorts of cooking without fear that the metal will pit or corrode. However, ensure that you don’t leave acidic foods for long periods in stainless steel pans as there is still the potential for damage to occur. If you do cook with a lot of salty or acidic foods then you might want to consider purchasing 316 surgical steel graded cookware.
- Affordable – For all of its advantages, it is still reasonably priced and in a price range to suit all budgets. A complete set can be bought for under $100 and range all the way up to thousands of dollars.
- Easy to clean – I think most people agree that stainless steel is super easy to clean compared to other types of cookware like copper or bare cast iron for instance. Even if you have stuck on food, you can use a nylon scourer to scrub the surface clean without creating damage. (Avoid using coarse metal scourers as it could damage the surface.) You can also put it into the dishwasher but be aware that although it is considered safe to put stainless steel into a dishwasher, it still has the potential to dull over time. Check with the manual or contact the manufacturer of the cookware you have purchased to ensure that your set is dishwasher safe.
- Easy care – Unlike copper cookware and bare cast iron, stainless steel cookware is so much easier to look after. It doesn’t require polishing (although you can do so if you wish) as it tends to maintain it’s shine and you don’t have to season it like you would cast iron cookware.
- It’s non-reactive – The beauty of stainless steel is that it is non-reactive. This means that when you cook your food, you won’t get a metallic taste nor will your food change color which could potentially happen with cast iron, aluminum or copper cookware.
- Nice weight – Most cookware is heavy. That’s usually a sign of quality cookware but stainless steel is relatively compared compared to say cast iron cookware. This makes it easy to work with and maneuver around the kitchen.
- Eco-friendly – It’s even eco-friendly – over half of all new stainless steel is made from scrap metal that has been melted down and recycled.
- Self healing – In most cases, stainless steel cookware contains chromium which provides self-healing properties. When the stainless steel is scratched, the chromium oxide forms a new layer and thus protects the layer beneath. Even so, you should still avoid using metallic scourers on your stainless steel as there is the potential to create deep scratches that cannot be repaired.
- Great for creating sauces – Stainless steel is great for sauteing in order to create caramelization which makes for some great sauces and gravies.
- It’s a poor conductor of heat – Stainless steel on it’s own is a very poor conductor of heat. This means that it doesn’t heat up a fast as say aluminum or copper. Now before you turn off and think that you won’t be buying stainless steel now, keep reading as although this is a disadvantage, pretty much most cookware companies have gotten around this by adding other metals in the manufacturing process.
- It doesn’t distribute heat evenly – Even heat distribution is extremely important when it comes to cookware. You don’t want part of your steak cooked well and the other half under done. But again, like with the previous disadvantage, cookware companies have gotten around this one as well as we will find out below.
- Food can stick – Unlike non-stick cookware, stainless steel cookware can cause food to stick. It’s a bit of an art to avoid that from happening but most people want something that they don’t have to fuss about hence the popularity of non-stick cookware.
Why Is It So Popular If It’s Bad At Conducting Heat?
Even though stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat and has very little heat distribution, this problem is surmounted by giving stainless steel cookware an inner core of either copper or aluminum. So it’s usually a layer of stainless steel, then a layer of aluminum or copper and then another layer of stainless steel. This means that the copper or aluminum don’t come into contact with your food, they are just there to provide better heat distribution and conductivity.
Here's a Tip!
Here’s an example of a cookware set that we both use that has an aluminum core but not only that, it has the aluminum running up the sides of the pans. You can read our cookware review for it here.
Be aware, that not all stainless steel cookware has an inner core which is why heat distribution can be so poor and food burns easily in it. The more expensive ranges have added cores in their sides, halfway or the full height of the cookware.
So, as with most things, you get what you pay for. How many of us have ‘made do’ with a succession of cheap cookware that doesn’t seem to last five minutes?
Where cookware is concerned, it really does make sense to buy the very best that you can afford. The more expensive cookware comes with a lifetime guarantee – so although it probably hurts to part with so much cash, you only have to do it once.