This article may contain links from our affiliate partners. Please read how we make money!
Looking for the best cookware for your kitchen? As a professional chef, I understand the importance of selecting safe and effective cookware. I’ll give you a feature breakdown of each type of cookware so you can decide and find the right cookware for your needs.
- Comparing Stainless Steel vs. Nonstick vs. Ceramic Cookware
- Health and Eco-Friendliness
- Performance and Longevity
- Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel, Nonstick, and Ceramic Cookware
- Stainless Steel Cookware
- Non-Stick Cookware
- Ceramic Cookware
- How to Ensure You’re Using Non-Toxic Cookware
- Related Questions
- Final Thoughts
Comparing Stainless Steel vs. Nonstick vs. Ceramic Cookware
Stainless steel, nonstick, and ceramic are the most popular types of cookware. If you’re kitting out a new kitchen or just need to replace your worn-out pots and pan, it’s a good idea to do your research to understand which type of cookware suits your needs.
Construction and Durability
Stainless steel has better durability than ceramic and nonstick cookware because of its construction and material. Durability also entails your ability to cook at high heat without contaminating your food or damaging the cookware.
- Stainless steel: Most stainless steel cookware consists of 18/10 stainless steel or proprietary alloys, which have high heat retention capacities. The material also brags remarkable resistance to corrosion and heat.
- Nonstick: Nonstick cookware mostly uses polytetrafluoroethylene, which has a high resistance to high temperatures.
- Ceramic: Some are made entirely of ceramic, which has better durability. Meanwhile, others only use a ceramic coating.
When it comes to capacity, stainless steel, ceramic, and nonstick are generally good options. However, their main difference lies in how food sticks to them as you cook.
- Stainless steel: Stainless steel is notorious for food sticking, which is a hassle, especially for first-time cooks. However, it offers excellent heat distribution and even cooking
- Nonstick: It’s easy to cook using nonstick pans because of their high heat retention.
- Ceramic: Ceramic uses a natural, gel-based non-stick layer, allowing food to slide down easily. While it takes longer to heat up, this lets you save on oil and butter while keeping the food safe under high heat.
Safe and non-toxic cookware contributes to the preservation of the nutritional benefits of foods.
- Stainless steel: Most stainless steel cookware is generally safe to use because they aren’t reactive to ingredients, ensuring there are no emitted toxins. It’s also generally safe to use in an oven on high heat.
- Nonstick: Nonstick pans are fairly safe, even when used in an oven with high heat temperatures. However, they are prone to wear and tear, increasing the risk of exposure to metals due to heat.
- Ceramic: Ceramic cookware is the safest because it uses inorganic materials instead of metals or toxic chemicals. You can also safely use a ceramic pan in an oven from medium to high heat.
The ability to clean cookware and kitchen utensils right away prevents bacteria from growing, ensuring safety when cooking. Likewise, this can lengthen the lifespan of your ceramic, nonstick, or stainless steel cookware.
- Stainless steel: Stainless steel cookware is harder to clean compared to the others because it doesn’t have a nonstick surface.
- Nonstick: Nonstick coating outshines other cookware because its surface is the easiest to clean.
- Ceramic: Ceramic pots and pans are also fairly easy to clean because of their non-porous and nonstick surface.
Weight and Maneuverability
While high-end constructions are heavier, they also tend to be harder to maneuver. However, if maneuverability isn’t an issue for you, then the weight of such cookware won’t be a deal-breaker.
- Stainless steel: Stainless steel pots and pans with multi-ply construction are heavier than nonstick coating and ceramic cookware. This makes stainless steel typically thicker, although with better heat retention.
- Nonstick: Nonstick pots and pans are usually the most lightweight because they don’t have layers of metal.
- Ceramic: Ceramic is typically heavier than nonstick coating because of its thick material.
Pricing will depend on the brand, collection, and construction. Some could be expensive yet lacks durability and functionality, while others balance a low price without sacrificing quality.
- Stainless steel: This type of cookware is the most expensive option, particularly those made with top-notch stainless steel.
- Nonstick: Nonstick is the cheapest option due to its thinner surface.
- Ceramic: A ceramic pan is more expensive than nonstick, yet cheaper than stainless steel.
Health and Eco-Friendliness
We reviewed the different cookware materials to reveal the most eco-friendly and toxic-free.
- Stainless Steel: Many consider stainless steel safe and healthy because of its durability, longevity, and nonreactive qualities. In terms of eco-friendliness, the stainless steel production process leaves a significant carbon footprint.
- Nonstick: Non-stick (Teflon) is made of various perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which are linked to cancer and can persist in the body for decades. Healthline claims that non-stick cookware is safe for cooking if you don’t heat it to over 570 degrees Fahrenheit. Teflon-coated cookware has a bad rap for its inability to be disposed of in an environmentally safe way once it attains its lifespan, ranging from 1 to 5 years. Once they end up in a landfill, the earth absorbs these harmful chemicals in the soil or a nearby water body.
- Ceramic: Experts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agree that ceramic cookware purchased from reputable companies is completely safe. It is also recommended to buy ceramic cookware that is properly glazed using materials approved for use with food and that the glazing is undamaged. Ceramics is environmentally friendly because it requires less energy to produce and is made from sustainable materials like quartz, clay, and sand on top of an inner core of a metal plate aluminum.
Performance and Longevity
- Stainless Steel: When it comes to durability and sturdiness, stainless steel is the clear winner here. Its resistance to cracking, chipping, and wear is second to none. Furthermore, stainless steel is known as a home workhorse because it can last for several decades or longer.
- Nonstick: Non-stick coatings can wear off over time, especially if you use abrasive cleaning materials. Unless you use your Teflon kitchenware very sparingly, we advise against splashing a lot of money on this cookware because it won’t last more than a few years.
- Ceramic cookware has the least longevity in our comparison. This type of cookware tends to be more fragile than non-stick, breaking down faster and more susceptible to scratches.
Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel, Nonstick, and Ceramic Cookware
It’s a good idea to weigh up your needs and invest in a variety of different types of cookware to ensure you have all bases covered. Knowing the pros and cons of ceramic, nonstick, and stainless steel cookware will help balance your personal preferences, unique culinary needs, and budget.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel cookware is one of the most popular styles and has been used by chefs and amateur cooks alike for a long time. Stainless steel pots and pans are long-lasting and will become a crucial part of your kitchen when well looked after. It is made from a blend of various metals, including carbon, nickel, silicon, chromium, and iron resulting in a metal alloy that’s durable and safe for use in the kitchen.
Stainless steel has a stylish appearance that looks professional in any kitchen. Unlike ceramic and nonstick, it doesn’t leach harmful substances or toxins that can affect the safety of your food. Here’s a look at some stainless steel cookware pros and cons.
- Good heat retention: The material of stainless steel pans and pots provides excellent heat retention. This allows for excellent cooking performance, which is one of the key reasons it’s such a popular choice of cookware. High-quality stainless steel cookware heats more evenly than ceramic, making it a great choice for all types of cooking.
- Safe to use: One of the best things about stainless steel cookware is that it’s completely safe to use. A stainless steel pan is nonfood reactive, so it’s safe even when cooking with acidic foods and products. You don’t have to worry about the material affecting the taste of your food or leaching toxic chemicals into it. Moreover, all you need to do to prevent rusting is clean it regularly.
- Durable: You won’t have to worry about chipping or rusting on most stainless steel cookware because it offers more resistance to these common cookware detriments than other materials. What’s more, it won’t break if you accidentally drop it while removing it from the dishwasher, as ceramic cookware would. Moreover, stainless steel cookware lets you maximize high heat without worrying about destroying any coating.
- High price point: If you’re looking for budget cookware, you might want to consider other options, as stainless steel cookware tends to be more expensive than other materials. However, there are affordable stainless steel cookware options on the market if you know where to look.
- Difficult to Clean: This is the biggest drawback to stainless steel cookware. It’s not non-stick, which means food can easily become stuck on the stainless steel pot or pan while cooking. If you’re frying or sautéing food, you’ll need to use a lot more oil than you would with a non-stick pan to prevent tough food sticks. Although there are plenty of ways to restore the stainless steel to its original state, it means a lot of extra time spent cleaning than with other types of cookware.
Nonstick cookware is found in most kitchens. The cooking surface of nonstick cookware features a non-stick coating compound that prevents food from sticking. Compared to ceramic, nonstick can be made from metals like other types of cookware, like stainless steel or aluminum, but the difference lies in the non-stick coating on the surface.
The most common type of nonstick cookware surface compound is a Teflon coating made from food-grade PTFE; however, more eco-friendly options are available to those who are conscious of the effects of the compound on food quality and health.
- Budget-friendly: Teflon and other non-stick cookware is typically a budget-friendly option for amateur chefs or families looking to fill their kitchens. The price of non-stick cookware ranges, so it’s a good idea to be sure to check out your options to ensure you get the best deal. More expensive types of nonstick pans may feature better designs and higher-quality non-stick surfaces, so it’s worth investing in a good-quality option if you don’t want to have to replace it in a few years.
- Easy to Clean: The purpose of non-stick cookware is —you guessed it— to prevent food from sticking to the surface of the pot or pan. This means it’s much easier to clean than other types of cookware, as you won’t have to spend so much time scrubbing or soaking the pan to get it clean. It’s important to avoid using steel wool and other abrasive cleaning tools with non-stick pans, as this will wear down the Teflon coating over time.
- Easy to cook with: The best thing about non-stick pans is that they make cooking extremely easy. You don’t have to worry about flipping or stirring food as often as you would with other types of cookware, as the Teflon coating prevents food from getting stuck or burnt onto the pan. You also don’t have to use as much oil or fat when cooking, which contributes to healthier eating overall.
- Poor heat retention: Nonstick cookware typically can’t withstand extremely high temperatures like stainless steel or ceramic can. The non-stick compound coatings break down when exposed to medium heat, so it’s a good idea only to use nonstick cookware when cooking on low to medium heat.
- Risk of exposure to toxic chemicals: When exposed to extremely high temperatures (above 350°C), nonstick cookware can emit strong fumes that can cause polymer-fume fever. This is a flu-like condition that can cause fever, headache, and chills. These fumes leach into the food being cooked and can cause harm to those who end up eating it. For this reason, it’s best to avoid using non-stick pans at high temperatures and opt for stainless steel pans or pots with a ceramic coating instead.
Ceramic cookware is the newest player in the non-stick cookware market. It’s considered a more environmentally friendly and safer option than Teflon cookware; however, it’s not quite as durable as stainless steel.
The two types of ceramic cookware are pure ceramic cookware and cookware with a ceramic coating. The latter involves spraying stainless steel, aluminum, or other types of cookware with a ceramic coating that prevents sticking.
- Easy to clean: Ceramic pans feature natural non-stick properties, meaning you don’t have to worry about harmful compound coatings and their damaging health effects. The non-stick properties of ceramic cookware mean it’s extremely easy to clean, so there’s no need to worry about soaking and scrubbing after you’ve cooked a meal. Simply use soap and a soft sponge to remove food from the pot or pan. Once you are done, dry it and put it away, ready for next time!
- Safe to use: If you’re looking for 100% safe nonstick cookware, then ceramic is a great option. Ceramic pans are toxic-free, and the ceramic material won’t leach any toxic fumes into the air and food while you’re cooking. Ceramic is made from natural minerals that don’t contain potentially dangerous substances, so you can rest assured that you’ll get all the benefits of non-stick surfaces without any safety concerns.
- Durable: When looked after properly, pure ceramic cookware is extremely durable. Although ceramic is made from more fragile material than stainless steel, it can withstand high temperatures, and the material won’t warp or bend like nonstick pans. It’s also oven safe, so it can be used for baking and roasting as well as cooking on the stovetop.
- Not scratch-resistant: Ceramic pots and pans are more delicate than stainless steel and can scratch easier. It’s recommended to avoid using metal utensils with a ceramic pan, as this can scratch the surface and reduce the non-stick effect over time. When it comes to comparing ceramic vs stainless steel cookware, stainless steel is a more durable option that won’t scratch when used with metal utensils.
- High price point: Ceramic cookware is on the more expensive end of the spectrum. If you’re considering investing in ceramic cookware, take this into account, as you don’t want to opt for a cheap version that will scratch and chip easily, meaning you need to replace it every year or two.
|Best Used For
|Safe to Use?
|All types of cooking
|All types of cooking
|There is a risk of toxic exposure
How to Ensure You’re Using Non-Toxic Cookware
The only way to ensure that your cookware is toxic-free is to use non-Teflon-coated material. Materials like ceramic, stainless steel, and cast iron are your best bet because they can resist high temperatures and do not release harmful toxins into your food. These materials have both a positive rating from chefs and a clean bill of health.
Once you’ve bought these cookware, take good care of them. Most just need some little soap and TLC. Remember that your carbon steel and cast iron don’t go hand-in-hand with moisture. So, dry them quickly, and they’ll be ready for your next cooking adventure.
Now, I get it. We want to keep our good old non-stick pans. But unfortunately, not all non-sticks are made equal. Look for the ones labeled PFOA-free or ceramic non-stick. It will save you from unwanted drama in the kitchen later.
Is Ceramic Coated Cookware Safer to Use Than Nonstick Cookware?
Cookware with a ceramic coating is typically considered safer to use than non-stick cookware (Teflon) because it doesn’t use the same potentially harmful substances that can be found in some non-stick cookware options. That being said, most non-stick cookware is safe to use nowadays, and the materials used to make them are fully regulated so as not to cause harm to users.
What Is The Best Type of Cookware?
Ceramic cookware is the best type of cookware as it can withstand high temperatures, its non-stick qualities, and is safe to use for all types of cooking. It is an eco-friendly option that doesn’t leach harmful substances into food while cooking. When maintained well, it can also remain a staple in your kitchen for decades!
What Are The Risks Associated With Teflon Cookware?
The harmful substances that were previously used when manufacturing Teflon pots and pans haven’t been in use since 2013, which is where a lot of the myths surrounding the safety of Teflon originated. The only important thing to note is that it shouldn’t be used at extremely high temperatures (above 300°C – 350°C) as this can cause the compound to break down and release toxic chemicals into the air and the food being cooked.
Is Stainless Steel Better Than Ceramic Coating for Cookware?
Ceramic-coated cookware is a better option due to its non-stick properties; however, ceramic is more prone to scrapes, reducing this quality over time. Stainless steel cookware is one of the most durable options on the market, making ceramic a great all-around cookware option that can be used for a variety of types of cooking. However, some ceramic pots are not non-stick, so they require more attention when cooking and more cleaning.
If you’re looking for budget-friendly options, non-stick cookware suits most simple cooking tasks. Meanwhile, stainless steel cookware is a great option for long-lasting, robust cookware. Lastly, ceramic cookware is durable when looked after properly, and its natural non-stick surface means little clean-up time after cooking.
Also Read: Ceramic vs Stainless Steel vs Teflon
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.