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I still remember how stressful it was trying to find the perfect set of kitchen cookware when my wife and I got married. Cookware is expensive so we wanted to make sure we made the right choice.
There’s so many different sizes, shapes, brands, and all the different types of cookware coatings to pick from.
If you’re trying to pick between stainless steel vs hard anodized cookware, we’re here to help.
We actually own a small set of each kind so I promise you I’ve got the experience to help you find the right cookware for you.
Stainless steel is sleek looking and fun to cook with for certain foods, but hard anodized is more versatile and has a nonstick coating which is a massive advantage. There are some other pros and cons of hard anodized cookware that could make it a better option for most people.
We’ve put together a massive FAQ at the end that will really help you make your decision. We’ll cover questions like:
- How long does hard anodized cookware last
- Is hard anodized cookware safe?
- Which is better for health, hard anodized or stainless steel?
- And about 10 more
If you’re in a hurry, check out our quick breakdown of the differences between hard anodized and stainless steel cookware.
Quick Comparison: Stainless Steel vs Hard Anodized Cookware
Every cookware material has their own list of pros and cons. We’ve identified 7 key criteria for comparing stainless vs hard anodized cookware. Decide which of these criteria matter most to you and make your pick accordingly.
|Criteria||Stainless Steel||Hard Anodized|
Stainless Steel Cookware Overview
Stainless steel is a popular material used as a finish for cookware, knives, kitchen appliances, and all your kitchen needs.
Stainless steel is known for its durability and sleek appearance. It’s sharp, clean, and looks fantastic.
If you buy the best stainless steel cookware, it is guaranteed to last forever.
- Stainless steel is made of iron and chromium, which makes it resistant to corrosion and extends its useful life.
- Cookware labeled stainless steel 304 or 18/10 or 18/8 are the highest quality breakdowns. These numbers reflect the composition of stainless steel and chromium.
One important disadvantage is that stainless steel are not non-stick. Food is more likely to get stuck to the pan, which makes it difficult to cook certain foods like eggs or fish.
One less important drawback is heat conductivity. Stainless steel isn’t as good at conducting heat, which just means it takes a bit longer for it to heat up. Honestly, this doesn’t make much difference to us.
Our favorite stainless steel cookware is made by All-Clad. This is the top of the line option for cookware and the price reflects that. It ain’t cheap.
We’ve had our set of all clad cookware for 6.5 years and it’s still holding up perfectly well. I recommend buying 1-2 pieces at a time and building out the whole set with future gifts for birthdays or Christmas.
Pros | Stainless steel cookware advantages
- Durable – Stainless steel cookware is truly built to last. They don’t have a coating that will eventually wear off so with proper maintenance, these pans will last forever.
- Easy Maintenance – Maintaining stainless steel cookware is super easy. You don’t have to worry about seasoning it like cast iron or worry about the nonstick coating chipping like other cookware types.
- Safe – With stainless steel, there’s no risk of a chemical coating chipping or getting leaked into your food. It’s one of the safest options.
- Appearance – Stainless steel is just sleek and iconic looking.
- Less space – Most cookware with nonstick coatings will get chipped when you stack them in your cabinets. Stainless steel cookware can take up less space since you’re able to stack them all up together.
Cons | Stainless steel cookware disadvantages
- Expensive – Stainless steel tends to be the most expensive type of cookware. You’re paying for quality and durability.
- Not a good heat conductor – It will take longer for your cookware to heat up and it may not cook as evenly.
- Not nonstick – Stainless steel pans don’t have a nonstick coating applied, which is partially why they are so durable. This does mean that cooking certain foods can be difficult, but not impossible.
Is stainless steel safe?
Stainless steel cookware is one of the safest types of cookware on the market. It’s highly durable and doesn’t corrode, which makes it hard for chemicals from the material to get into your food. Cooking with stainless steel cookware poses no health issues, unlike copper and some aluminum.
Hard Anodized Cookware Overview
Be sure to check out our favorite set of hard anodized cookware by Calphalon. This set is super affordable and is best hard anodized cookware on the market.
What is hard anodized cookware?
Hard anodized cookware is made of aluminum pans that have a nonstick coating applied to them.
Strictly aluminum pans have some great qualities: lightweight, cheap to produce, and they are one of the best conductors of heat.
The problem though is that aluminum is a softer metal, which means that its metal particles can leak into your food.
Calphalon is a popular cookware brand that invented hard anodized cookware by applying a nonstick coating to standard aluminum cookware.
The end result is “hard anodized aluminum” cookware.
Let’s identify some of the pros and cons of hard anodized cookware.
Pros | Hard anodized cookware advantages
- Excellent heat conductor – Hard anodized cookware heat quickly and evenly, which gives you the ability to evenly cook your food. Lower conductive cookware will have “hot spots” or only cook well in the center of the pan.
- Affordable – Aluminum is a cheaper material to source, which makes these pans more affordable than stainless steel.
- Non-toxic non-stick – The nonstick coating means that your food won’t stick! This makes these pans easier to cook with and 10x easier to clean afterwards. Half the time, we’ll just use hot water to clean them off when we’re done cooking.
Cons | Hard anodized cookware disadvantages
- Manual washing – Hard anodized cookware should not be put in the dishwasher if you want them to last longer. They’ll need to be washed by hand.
- Not compatible with induction cooktops – Induction cooktops are a fancy way of transferring heat. Hard anodized cookware doesn’t work with this type of cooktop.
- Reactive to acid and basic food – We don’t recommend cooking highly acidic foods on nonstick coatings because the acidity can wear out the cookware.
Is hard anodized cookware safe?
Hard anodized cookware is safe to use because the anodization process reduces the chances of the aluminum leaching into your food. As long as you maintain your cookware, the nonstick coating seals the aluminum perfectly and it can’t react with the food. If the pan begins to chip too much, they are no longer safe to use.
Does hard anodized cookware scratch?
Hard anodized is a very durable material, but it can scratch or chip over time. The biggest risk of scratching is not while cooking with them, but how you store the pans. If you stack them, they are likely to chip away at each other.
A standard cookware rack will solve this risk almost entirely.
Hard Anodized vs Stainless Steel Cookware Comparison
Cooking performance & Heat Conductivity
Winner: Hard anodized
Anodized aluminum cookware is a much better conductor of heat. This means that the pan will heat up quickly and evenly because of how heat transfers from molecule to molecule in the aluminum.
Stainless steel isn’t as good of a conductor, which means that there will be hot spots on the pan while you’re cooking. This can result in uneven cooking.
Nowadays, stainless steel is sometimes bonded with better conductors like copper or aluminum metals.
If you’re looking to buy stainless steel cookware, it’s good to check whether it is truly stainless steel or if it is a multi-clad combo of stainless steel with other materials.
Winner: Hard anodized
Unless you buy a cheap set of cookware, you can expect to spend a decent amount of money to get cookware that will last.
Stainless steel and hard anodized are both great materials for cookware sets that will last a while. Stainless steel is a much more expensive material than aluminum, driving up the price.
There are some cheaper stainless steel cookware sets, but those tend to be made with low-quality nickel or they are a blend of other materials.
If you’re going to buy stainless steel, we don’t recommend buying a cheaper set. Either do it right or don’t do it at all.
Winner: Hard anodized
In a showdown of stainless steel vs hard anodized cookware, the hard anodized is the winner when it comes to non-stick.
Stainless steel cookware don’t come with any kind of non-stick coating, which means that food will definitely get stuck to the pan. There are ways to prevent this such as cooking with butter, moving your food around, and getting the pan hot enough.
The hard anodized on the aluminum pan is a stick-resistant coating. As long as your pan isn’t chipped or damaged, you’ll have no problem with food sticking to the pan.
Winner: Stainless steel
Stainless steel pans are built for durability.
The hard anodized pans are a bit harder which means they are less likely to ding or dent.
The bigger killer though is the nonstick coating.
The main difference is that stainless steel pans don’t have a non-stick coating. The coatings can chip and get damaged over time, which can ruin the pans.
This means that stainless steel cookware is more durable than it’s hard anodized competitor. The nonstick coating on one of our hard anodized pans has become chipped after stacking the pans in our cabinet.
Winner: Stainless steel
Stainless steel cookware is safer than hard anodized cookware in terms of potential toxicity.
Aluminum pans on their own are not considered safe because the aluminum metals will leach into your food. This has been known to cause a variety of issues.
The hard anodized coating not only makes the pans harder and non-stick, but it actually prevents the aluminum from reacting with food while cooking.
The big risk is if your hard anodized pans lose their coating. If they get chipped, dented, or damaged, then it can expose the aluminum underneath.
Winner: Hard anodized
Both types of cookware are easy to maintain. not a hard task with both cookware having simple maintenance routines. For instance, the cleaning of stainless steel is easier due to it being dishwasher safe.
Cleaning stainless steel cookware by handwashing needs a metal scrubber to remove the sticking food.
On the other hand, hard-anodized aluminum cookware has a nonstick coating that is easy to clean. A sponge cleaner and warm water with dish soap clean the cookware safely and easily. Nonstick cookware is not dishwasher safe.
Stainless Steel vs. Hard Anodized Cookware – FAQ
The majority of hard anodized cookware sets come with multiple layers of nonstick coating that is PFOA-free.
Stainless steel cookware is more durable and safer than hard anodized cookware, but is worse at head conductivity and isn’t nonstick. We recommend hard anodized cookware for most home chef’s first cookware set.
Hard anodized is manufactured using lower temperatures and higher density to accomplish a thickness of 25+ microns. This thicker surface results in hard anodized aluminum having a more abrasion-resistant surface.
Anodized aluminum cookware isn’t bad for you and is safe to use as long as it remains scratch free. The anodized coating on anodized aluminum cookware seals in the metals from the aluminum pans and will prevent it from leaching bad particles into your food.
Hard anodized cookware usually remains safe to use for two to five years. If properly cleaned, stored, and maintained, you could extend the usable life of your cookware. The biggest issue is avoiding scratches that damage the anodized coating. If you purchase higher-quality cookware, you can expect it to last longer.
Stainless steel cookware is known for its durability and can easily last a decade or longer. They are very scratch resistant and there’s no non-stick coating that you have to be concerned with becoming damaged and ruining your pan’s safety. We recommend buying the highest quality stainless steel cookware you can afford so that you never have to replace it.
Hard anodized cookware is definitely worth it. It’s more durable than most nonstick pans and for the price, you’re getting some of the best cookware on the market. If you take good care of your cookware, these pans will last a while in your kitchen.
Hard anodized cookware is manufactured to be scratch-resistant, but it is not perfectly scratch-proof. The nonstick material can chip away if damaged or improperly stored. If you handwash your pans and store them without stacking them, you can expect them to last significantly longer.
We know buying a cookware set is a big decision! They’re expensive so it’s totally normal to want to be sure you’ve made the right decision.
Making the choice between stainless steel vs hard anodized cookware really comes down to what you care about most.
If you can maintain your cookware well and avoid stacking them in your cabinets, buy a set of hard anodized cookware. The hard anodized cookware is cheaper than stainless steel. They’ll last for a long time, they cook well, and they’re non-stick which makes them 10x easier to clean.
Richmond Howard started Meal Prepify in 2019 and has helped over a million people learn how to meal prep, get better at meal planning, and create a kitchen they love to use. He’s an avid home chef and loves to bbq, grill out, and make awesome food for family and friends. He’s been featured on MSN, Renaissance Periodization, and Good Financial Cents.