Stainless steel cookware has prospered through generations of change, and today’s stainless steel cookware is better than ever. It is durable, attractive, dishwasher safe, and healthy. Many like stainless steel because it is considered a healthy cookware material. Stainless steel pots and pans give off a nice shine that is considered attractive. Because of its versatility, stainless steel cookware is used in restaurants around the world.
As with most cookware, there are a lot of choices available, and the prices reflect the quality. When it comes to stainless steel, the better choice is 18/10 chromium/nickel alloy on the inside and clad with aluminum and/or copper.
18/10, 18/0, or Magnetic Stainless Steel Cookware
Making up over 70% of all stainless steel production, 18% chromium and 10% nickel adds to the cookware’s strength, corrosion resistance, and shiny appearance. Stainless steel labeled as 18/10 or “surgical stainless steel” needs to be on the inside of cookware. 18/10 stainless steel is not very magnetic, so it is not good for induction cooking, if on the outside of the cookware. Because of this, brands like All-Clad and others will place magnetic 18/0 stainless steel or alloy on the outside of their cookware. If you plan to introduce induction cooking to your kitchen, look for cookware advertising 18/0 or magnetic stainless steel on the outside of the cookware.
Aluminum or Copper Clad Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel by itself is not a good conductor of heat. What this means is that when cooking, parts of your pan or skillet will be hotter than other parts, causing uneven cooking. For a cook, that means more time-consuming attention at the stove moving food around or flipping the food often so it cooks more evenly. Non-clad cookware will be less expensive than clad cookware.
Copper is the best heat conductor. It is 9 times better a conductor of heat than stainless steel alone and why copper is used for electrical wiring. Aluminum is another great conductor of heat, and roughly 5 times better than stainless steel. Consequently, cookware manufacturers clad, or layer, stainless steel with copper and/or aluminum to give it better heating properties. Since copper is a more expensive material, copper clad stainless steel cookware will be more expensive than aluminum clad cookware.
Not being chemically treated or having non stick surfaces that can flake into the food, stainless steel cookware is considered a healthy material. It is still a metal, and like all cookware, trace amounts of the cookware does react with the food. From a health perspective, some people are allergic to nickel. 18/10 stainless steel may not be appropriate if one is allergic to nickel. Some manufacturers also offer nonstick frying pan versions where they coat the inside with a nonstick surface. These frying pans would generally NOT be considered healthy, although there are exceptions like Scanpan CTX.
Less Heat Required
Quality stainless steel cookware requires much less heat to cook. Recommended heat levels is low to medium.
Cleaning Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is dishwasher safe. Most manufacturers still recommend hand washing in warm sudsy water with a fine powder cleanser. Dry immediately.
The Future of Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless Steel cookware has a very bright future. As induction cooking becomes more mainstream in America, the magnetic properties of quality stainless steel make it a natural choice. Today stainless steel is seen with both shiny and designer finishes. Some manufacturers are coating their stainless steel cookware with enamel on the outside and nonstick surfaces on the inside. Stainless steel is a difficult material to bond these products to, but progress is being made.
If you take note of your friends and neighbors cookware, you will likely see some stainless steel. I have a couple old Farberware stainless steel pots that are nearly 35 years old, and still doing very well.
Be sure to check out the article on Choosing a Stainless Steel Frying Pan. The information applies to all stainless steel pots and pans.