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Cooking is a daily activity for billions across the globe – and in the modern age, food preparation has become an entire industry in itself. Today, people cook not just out of necessity, but as a past-time.
For many, it’s a mindfulness practice, while others strive for culinary perfection, challenging themselves to create impressive and delicious dishes from scratch.
The average American spends between 30 and 60 minutes every day cooking. This means that we are in the kitchen for as many as 365 hours every year!
Like any skill, the tools you use are crucially important. Many people buy kitchenware without considering materials, though, instead grabbing whatever is cheapest or the most readily available. Most kitchens will have a combination of ceramic and stainless steel cookware, in addition to a few Teflon-coated non-stick pans.
Whatever your kitchen preferences, I’m here to help you find the perfect cookware to suit your needs! Read on for a breakdown of all three cookware types, as well as a comparison of ceramic vs. stainless steel cookware and some handy FAQs.
Ceramic cookware is a newer addition to the nonstick cookware market. Compared to Teflon, it is more environmentally friendly. It is durable, though not as tough as stainless steel.
There are two kinds of ceramic cookware;
- Pure ceramic: This is made from durable kiln-baked clay.
- Ceramic coated: Metallic cookware that has a layer or multiple layers of a non-stick ceramic coating.
Pros of Ceramic Cookware
Ceramic cookware is a popular choice for many reasons. Manufacturers claim that ceramic cookware construction is more eco-friendly than the Teflon production process- GreenPan claims their production releases around 60% less carbon dioxide than the creation of traditional non-stick cookware.
Ceramic kitchenware has more advantages, however. Here are just some of them:
Safe To Use
The biggest selling point of ceramic vs. stainless steel is that it’s completely non-toxic. The material is all-natural, meaning that it is safe to use without foreign or harmful substances leaching into your food.
Ceramic coating is made from natural minerals, meaning they won’t contain toxins like lead and cadmium.
Ceramic is your best bet when it comes to safe, non-stick cookware. As a material, it has a natural non-stick property, meaning you don’t need to worry about harmful chemicals as you do with Teflon (artificial non-stick).
Even Heat Distribution
Ceramic heats up more evenly than stainless steel or non-stick metal pans. Its even heating ensures that your food is always cooked consistently. You can be assured that ceramic cookware won’t have any hot or cold spots and won’t cook your dishes unevenly.
Cons of Ceramic Cookware
Depending on your requirements, ceramic cookware also has some disadvantages. You should consider these factors before purchasing ceramic kitchen goods:
Ceramic cookware is comparatively higher maintenance than its metal equivalent. You must only use safe utensils- made of wood or plastic- because metal cooking utensils will damage the ceramic surface. You should also be careful when using cooking oils like olive oil because these can form a greasy film that damages the ceramic’s naturally smooth surface.
You must also be careful not to let your pans go from cold to hot or vice versa too quickly because it risks them smashing. After use, your dish should be left to cool before being washed up.
Treated properly, ceramic cookware only lasts around 6 to 9 months without losing its non-stick property. If used with metal utensils, the non-stick surface can be ruined after only a few uses.
As ceramic is more delicate than metal, cooking with it is less controlled. Though this is fine for some dishes, you won’t be able to fry properly with a ceramic vessel.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is a durable steel alloy made of steel mixed with chromium. It is resistant to rust and corrosion, making it a useful material for kitchenware. Like other materials, it has its advantages as well as its drawbacks.
Pros of Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is another popular choice. It is commonly found in both professional and home kitchens. Here are some of the benefits that stainless steel cookware offers:
There’s a reason why stainless steel is the favorite of chefs and culinary professionals. It provides rapid and uniform heating, giving you control over every cooking process. It is also low maintenance and easy to care for. When you invest in a piece of stainless steel cookware, you can expect excellent quality.
Stainless steel cookware is durable; it maintains its good-as-new appearance for as long as you own it. It can withstand drops, making it perfect for accident-prone cooks.
It is also scratch-resistant, making it perfect for browning, searing or stir-frying. This also means you can clean it with steel wool to get get to those tough spots. With stainless steel, you can cook at a very high heat without the risk of damage.
Unlike ceramic pots and pans, stainless steel cookware is dishwasher safe. This makes it easier to clean, cutting down your washing-up time. Stainless steel is the perfect choice for anyone who hates the post-meal cleanup.
Unlike aluminum and cast iron cookware, stainless steel cookware is typically non-reactive. This means that it won’t react with acidic ingredients and won’t discolor when cooking acidic foods.
Unlike Teflon pans, you can cook at temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit with stainless steel kitchenware, making it versatile. It’s suitable whether you want to grill, sautee or sear.
Cons of Stainless Steel Cookware
Though it’s the industry favorite, stainless steel isn’t without its downsides. Here are some of the disadvantages of the material:
Unlike ceramic cookware, stainless steel is not naturally non-stick. This means that delicate foods stick to their surface more, making it more difficult to cook some dishes. It also requires slightly more effort to clean because of this.
Poor Heat Conductor
Stainless steel, by itself, is a material that conducts heat poorly. Your stainless steel cookware may have hot and cold spots, leading to uneven heat distribution and inconsistently cooked food. For even heating, you’ll need to purchase stainless steel cookware that’s mixed with aluminum or copper core.
High Price Point
Compared to other cookware, stainless steel comes in at a high price point, reflecting its good quality. Because of its durability, however, you’re still getting a good deal when you purchase a piece of stainless steel cookware.
Teflon is a synthetic resin, which is used to coat non-stick cookware. Though it used to contain harmful chemicals, these have not been used since 2013, and it is now considered completely safe to cook with. Used correctly, it is just as safe as ceramic and stainless steel cookware.
Pros of Teflon
Teflon has its benefits, making it a major competitor of stainless steel and ceramic cookware. Here are some of the advantages of Teflon’s non-stick pots and pans:
Above all, people opt for Teflon-coated pans because they are non-stick. This makes the cooking process easier and clean-up quick and easy. It also helps to avoid stainless steel rust.
You can guarantee that delicate dishes will not stick to Teflon’s smooth cooking surface, so these pans are perfect for anyone who hates it when their food sticks in the cooking process.
Metal Utensil Safe
Unlike ceramic cookware, Teflon-coated pans are safe for use with metal utensils. Unlike other non-stick pans, the tough surface of Teflon won’t scratch if you use metal implements or cutlery with it. If you prefer to use a metal spoon over a wooden or plastic alternative, a Teflon pan is for you.
As long as your Teflon kitchenware doesn’t have a plastic or wooden handle, it’s completely safe to go in the oven below 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it perfect for stews and all manner of slow-cooked dishes.
Cons of Teflon
Teflon has come under fire in recent years due to the release of toxic fumes at temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit and the use of PFOA before 2013. It has some disadvantages, which you may want to consider before purchasing a piece of Teflon cookware:
Unlike stainless steel, Teflon has a reactive coating, meaning it reacts with anything that comes into contact with it if it reaches a very high heat (above 500 degrees Fahrenheit).
If your Teflon pan’s surface gets scratched, you’ll need to replace it or recoat it using a non-stick spray because flakes of the coating may get into your food.
High Price Point
Like stainless steel cookware, a Teflon non-stick pan has a high price point, though this reflects its long lifespan if cared for correctly. If you’re shopping for a non-stick pan that is also oven safe, a Teflon pan is a worthwhile investment.
Clearly, all three materials- ceramic, stainless steel, and Teflon- have their pros and cons. Though you probably already have a personal preference, it’s important to know the ins and outs of each.
This will help you to buy the correct cookware for your kitchen in the future. The right tools and utensils will allow you to unlock your culinary potential to the fullest!
If you prefer a natural lifestyle, opt for ceramic or stainless steel pans to avoid the chemical compounds found in Teflon’s non-stick cookware. Though Teflon states that the chemicals it uses are no longer harmful, you must still exercise caution when using at high temperatures and if the coating gets chipped or scratched.
If you don’t mind giving your pans a bit of extra TLC, go for ceramic kitchenware. It is slightly more delicate- requiring low to medium heat and careful cleaning- but you’ll reap the benefits of its even heat distribution and naturally non-stick surface.
You’ll find everything your kitchen could need available in pure ceramic or ceramic-coated metal, from baking trays to casserole dishes.
If you’ve got less time on your hands, opt instead for a dishwasher-safe and durable stainless steel alternative. Though these are not non-stick, the surface is non-reactive, so you don’t need to worry about compromising the quality of your food.
If you don’t mind paying a slightly higher price, you can kit your kitchen out like a professional one and cook dishes of a professional standard!
Still got questions about the difference between Teflon, ceramic and stainless steel cookware? Do not fear! Here are some frequently asked questions to clear up any unresolved inquiries, answered by an industry expert.
What Is The Difference Between Ceramic And Stainless Steel?
Ceramic and stainless steel are completely different materials, which bring different pros and cons to your cooking experience.
Here are some main differences between the two cookware materials.
- Ceramic is non-stick; stainless steel is not. The surface of ceramic cookware is naturally non-stick, making it easier to both cook with and wash up. This is definitely something to remember if you’d like non-stick cookware in your kitchen.
- Stainless steel withstands more heat. If you regularly cook at high temperatures, a ceramic pan won’t do the job. If it changes temperature too rapidly, the ceramic will break or shatter, meaning pans must be left to cool before being cleaned with soapy water.
- Stainless steel is generally tougher. It can withstand drops, which ceramic pans can definitely not. This makes it a better choice for the clumsy cook. Steel is also dishwasher safe, whereas ceramic cookware is not. If you’re after durability and general hardiness, stainless steel is the way to go.
- Ceramic is easier for beginners. Ceramic is very easy to use, while cooking with stainless steel requires a bit of practice. Some delicate foods that are prone to sticking-such as a fried egg- can prove very difficult in a stainless steel pan. If you’re a cooking newbie and want to avoid mishaps, opt for ceramic over stainless steel (though some might see this as the perfect challenge!).
Because of these functional differences, the different materials suit different cooking methods and styles. Pure ceramic cookware is perfect if you’re cooking a casserole that requires hours on low to medium heat. It will cook your food evenly, and its non-stick surface will provide you with an easy clean-up.
If you’re cooking meat at a high temperature on the countertop, a stainless steel frying pan will provide the toughness you’re looking for.
You’ll need to use more oil when cooking with stainless steel, and there’s a higher chance your food will stick. For some dishes, though, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Is Ceramic Coated Cookware Safer Than Teflon Cookware?
Both ceramic coated and Teflon cookware is completely safe to cook with, given you follow safety advice and use them correctly.
Teflon safety risks
Though people often worry about the chemicals contained in Teflon’s non-stick coating, you don’t have anything to worry about. Since 2013, Teflon has stopped using the harmful compound PFOA in their manufacturing process after it was linked to environmental and health risks.
However, it is true that Teflon can emit toxic chemicals at the molecular level when overheated (to above 500 degrees Fahrenheit). Below this temperature, though, Teflon pans are completely safe.
Ceramic safety risks
Ceramic-coated cookware comes with its own safety risks. Though dishes made in the US are subject to strict food safety regulations, the same cannot be guaranteed with cookware from non-official sources like flea markets.
Ceramic and ceramic-coated vessels can also chip. As well as chipping into your food, this can leave inner layers of the cookware exposed that were not intended to come into direct contact with food. As soon as your cookware chips, you must stop using them for food preparation.
What is the Best Cookware?
This answer to this question is different for everyone! The best cookware depends on what and how you cook, as well as your personal preference. Have a look at our favourite cookware sets under 200 or best cookware for high heat cooking.
For more experienced home cooks, quality stainless steel provides durability and a premium cooking experience, though it lacks the non-stick property of ceramic and Teflon pans. Stainless steel is a hardy material, which can withstand being thrown around in a busy kitchen!
If you want to cook at high heat and don’t mind using cooking oil to prevent food sticking, stainless steel pots are for you.
If you’re less interested in frying and more interested in slow-roasting, I’d urge you to go for coated or pure ceramic cookware instead. Ceramic is a good heat conductor, ensuring good heat distribution to cook your food consistently and easily.
It’s naturally non-stick, meaning you don’t have to use oil if you’re a more health-conscious cook. However, the organic material is more delicate than steel, so you’ll have to avoid using metal implements and hand-wash more carefully with a non-abrasive sponge.
If you prefer non-stick cookware, go for a Teflon item, which will be metal utensil and oven safe. It offers some of the durability of stainless steel while preventing the possibility of your food getting stuck to the pan.
Though the manufacturers no longer use the harmful chemical PFOA, there’s still a chance of leaching toxic substances if the pan is overheated.
Also Read: Stainless Steel Vs Nonstick Vs Ceramic
Jack Slobodian is the Content Director at Mealprepify. He’s a Blogger and Professional Chef who has worked in many prestigious restaurants including luxurious 5-star hotels and James Beard award-winning restaurants. When he’s not cooking or writing you can find him travelling, exercising or spending time with family and friends.