Stainless Steel vs Non-Stick Cookware

stainless steel vs non-stick cookware featured image

During quarantine, I’ve personally learned the differences between stainless steel vs non-stick cookware. I was already a decent cook before COVID-19 hit, but being laid off from my job and stuck in the house gave me even more time to cook and obsess over getting a new cookware set.

Which I did.

Unfortunately, after using non-stick cookware literally every single day to cook my eggs for breakfast I decided I wanted to get a stainless steel cookware set.

I even threw out my non-stick pans, I was so excited to cook with stainless.

You can probably guess what happened next. Yep, I tried to cook my morning fried egg in my beautiful new stainless steel pan and burnt it onto the surface.

I was stunned – how could this happen?

The reality is that stainless steel cookware doesn’t behave the same as non-stick.

So, what are the differences between stainless steel vs non-stick cookware, and which is better?

A Quick Comparison of Stainless Steel vs Non-Stick Cookware

We’ve quickly compared stainless steel vs non-stick cookware below.

Stainless Steel Cookware

Non-Stick Cookware

The Main Differences Between Stainless Steel vs Non-Stick Cookware

Longevity

When properly cared for a good stainless steel cookware set can last a lifetime. In fact, some cookware manufacturers like All-Clad offer a lifetime warranty on their stainless steel cookware sets that covers normal use.

In comparison, the coating on non-stick cookware degrades over the course of several years, even with perfect use. While the makers of Teflon argue that the coating will last the “lifetime of the pan,” there are just too many consumer reviews that contradict that information to take it seriously.

If you want a cookware set that you can pass down to your children and grandchildren you are better off choosing stainless steel.

Versatility

If you want a cookware set that can be used in the oven to broil, braise, and roast you’re better off sticking with stainless.

Most non-stick cookware sets are only oven safe up to certain temperatures. This is because Teflon-based non-stick coatings begin to degrade at around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The coating also gives off harmful fumes when it’s overheated.

Ceramic-based non-stick coatings don’t give off harmful fumes when they’re overheated, and they can handle a higher temperature before they begin to degrade, but they still degrade.

Most stainless steel cookware is oven-safe. The only time to exercise caution is if the handles or lids are coated with silicone – if that’s the case you’ll need to reference the manufacturer’s instructions to determine whether or not the cookware is oven-safe.

Durability

Stainless steel cookware is the most durable cookware on the market. Stainless steel won’t:

  • Rust
  • Stain
  • Crack
  • Chip

Like to use metal utensils? It’s perfectly fine to use them in stainless steel cookware.

Non-stick cookware lacks the durability of stainless steel, primarily because of the non-stick coatings, which can crack, chip, or get scratched by the use of metal utensils. Also, once the non-stick coating has been damaged the pan is essentially useless.

High-Temperature Cooking

Spoiler alert – you’ll never be able to sear food in a non-stick pan.

This is because non-stick pans are only intended to be used at low or medium heat, and a good sear requires exposing a piece of food to high temperatures.

Stainless steel cookware is perfect for searing because it can withstand the high temperatures required for this cooking technique.

Care and Maintenance

How does the battle between stainless steel vs non-stick cookware look when it comes to overall care and maintenance?

Honestly, not so great for non-stick.

Non-stick cookware generally requires a greater level of maintenance than stainless steel. This is because the non-stick coatings are more delicate than the surface of stainless steel.

Even though some manufacturers say their non-stick cookware is dishwasher safe the coating will hold up better by washing the cookware by hand.

In comparison, most experts agree that it’s safe to wash your stainless steel cookware in the dishwasher. In fact, one of the reasons stainless steel cookware is a staple in commercial kitchens is because it can be thrown into a dishwasher instead of hand washed.

User Friendliness

Speaking from personal experience – if you try to scramble eggs in a stainless steel pan without using oil you’re going to have a bad day.

Stainless steel cookware is a poor choice if you’re the type of chef who forgets things like butter, oil, or cooking spray.

The beauty of non-stick cookware is that food releases easily from the surface even without the help of oil or butter, which means it’s no big deal if you forget to grease the pan.

Our Verdict on Stainless Steel vs Non-Stick Cookware

If you’re a novice chef, start with a few good non-stick pans or a cheap non-stick set before you work up to stainless steel.

But once you know your way around the kitchen do yourself a favor and graduate to a high-quality stainless steel set. A good stainless steel cookware set will provide more value over time and allow you to try and more advanced cooking techniques that are out of reach of non-stick cookware.

Two stainless steel pots sitting on a stainless counter
Stainless steel cookware is a must-have in professional kitchens

Frequently Asked Questions About Stainless Steel vs Non-Stick Cookware

Why Do Chefs Prefer Stainless Steel Cookware?

Professional chefs and restaurants prefer stainless steel cookware because it is practically indestructible and when appropriately used food does not stick to the surface.

Is Stainless Steel Better Than Non-Stick?

It’s really a matter of opinion. Non-stick cookware is easier to use for most novice cooks but stainless steel cookware is more durable and versatile.

How do You Keep Food From Sticking to Stainless Steel?

To prevent food from sticking to stainless steel cookware you should coat the pan with butter, oil, or cooking spray before adding the food.

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