Your Guide to Stainless Steel Pots & Pans
First, what is stainless steel?
Stainless steel cookware is made from iron, chromium and other metals. There are almost 60 types of it and not all of them are used for cookware. Buildings, cars, and heavy equipment, knives and cutlery are just a few other things containing this material.
Nickel and chromium are the most common metals found in stainless steel cookware, in fact the more your pot has the better it will perform. The percentage of each metal depends on the brand. You can clearly tell what an item is made from by viewing the bottom and looking for 18/0 18/8 or 18/10.The first number represents the amount of chromium and the second stands for the amount of nickel. Pots and pans rated 18/0 have absolutely no nickel, which means it will not conduct heat, prevent rust or last as well as the others. 18/8 contains 8% of nickel and is rated average.18/10 has 10% of nickel.
These types of cookware may be more pleasing to the eye because they contain more shine. They are also easier to use and are more durable than the others! Some of the best stainless steel products contain large amounts of nickel.
Check out our guide: Stainless steel vs nonstick
How is stainless steel cookware created?
First, the steel is melted into slabs, perfected and sent out to cookware manufactures. Companies then let the steel sit in a furnace until it resembles molten lava. It is then put into a mold, clean, smoothed, polished and shipped out to retail businesses.
I’ve heard a few stories about stainless steel, can you help clarify?
They say one of the best forms of marketing is word of mouth, and that is one hundred percent true. The issue with this type of advertising is miscommunication. If you’ve ever played the game telephone you know that by the end of the game the message is never the same and can sometimes create rumors. There are two popular myths floating around about stainless steel cookware and you should know if they are
- 1 – If I place a beverage in a stainless steel cup it will taste like metal?
The metal taste you are referring to actually comes from aluminum. If you stop and think, many eating utensils are made from stainless steel and your meals never have a metallic taste!
When using pots with a non-stick coating you run the risk of scraping the coating into your food. This can cause severe health issues overtime so people are typically cautious when using those type of dishes. Stainless pots and pans do not come with a non-stick coating so there is no need to worry. Some stainless steel pieces are created with aluminum, but it is normally found in the bottom layer.
What’s so great about stainless steel?
Your stainless steel cookware will probably outlive all of your others. It doesn’t chip or peel like pots with nonstick coating. They will not rust unlike other steel products, due to the power of chromium and nickel. Acidic foods will be no match for your cookware so there is no need to cut back on consuming them.
This cookware may not be the best heat conductors but they work great for items that need to be cooked for long periods of time. If you use stainless steel items properly you can create almost anything without chemicals compromising your food.
Those with elevated burners are going to love the weight of steel pots because it assists with balance. Lightweight pans can easily fly from the stove! The handles are also stronger so it is simple to carry large quantities of food.
If you are a meat eater you may notice a black or brown residue in the pan after cooking, these remnants can be used to make gravy, here’s how:
- After you’ve removed your meat place a bit of wine, or water in it so that it covers the bottom./li>
- Scrape the bits from the bottom of the pot then add 1 cup of stock and a tablespoon of butter; season it to your liking!
All stainless steel can also be recycled.
Is there anything bad about stainless steel cookware?
The biggest debate on using stainless pieces is their effect on your health. The pots and pans contain nickel and chromium which have the ability to fuse into your meal. If you’d like to avoid contaminating your food, be sure to purchase a high end brand of stainless steel cookware and monitor how long you have food in the pan.
If you are accustomed to using ceramic pots and pans, your love for stainless steel may not come easily. They aren’t accompanied with a non-stick coating so food may get stuck; this may also be unattractive to those without a dishwasher.
These types of pots and pans aren’t the best heat conductors. To fix this many companies add copper or aluminum to the bottoms, but the more layers your pan has the more it will weigh. Don’t worry, these metals cannot get into your food unless your piece gets punctured (which is highly unlikely).
Other drawbacks of using stainless steel include:
- It is not microwave safe.
- Bowls and products that are less durable may dent if they undergoes trauma.
- They can be pricey.
Not what you are looking for? Check out our guide on the best nonstick pans
Cooking with stainless steel cookware: Caring for your pots & pans
Some stainless steel pieces can be pricey so it is important to make them last. If you own any steel dishes there are a few rituals you should adopt to promote longevity.
- Before you sit down to eat soak your pan in warm water filled with soap, it will be much easier to clean.
- If food sticks to the pan while you are cooking give it time to develop a crisp coating then it will detach from the pan.
- Stick to medium high heat while cooking.
- Let your cooking oil heat up before adding the food to avoid getting things stuck to the pan.
- Never use cooking sprays like Pam on your steel dishes because they make the pan sticky./li>
- Always use oil or butter before cooking.
- Preheat your pan before adding cooking fat.
Who makes the best stainless steel products?
- Comes with measuring marks
- Works with all cooktops
- Easy to maneuver
- Can be used in the dishwasher
- 18/10 stainless steel
- Lifetime warranty
Cooks 12 piece Multi Ply Set
- 18/10 stainless steel
- Handles do not heat up
- Comfortable to hold
- Can be used on all stovetops
T-fal Copper bottom set
- Design allows it to evenly heat
- Comes with glass lids
- The handle design provides comfort
Cusinart 12 piece set
- 18/10 stainless steel
- Can be used in the oven for up to 500 degrees
- Created using three layers
- Handles will stay cool
- Tight fitting lids
Cook N home 12 piece set
- Mirror polished design
- Provides even heat distribution
- Glass lids
- Very Affordable
- Durable handles
What do we think of stainless steel cookware?
Those who aren’t up for learning a new set of cooking skills should refrain from purchasing stainless steel pans. They require lots of tender love and care and you don’t want to waste hundreds of bucks. Due to their tendency to be high maintenance people often switch back to non-stick pieces. Before you dive in try purchasing one piece and see if you are up for the challenge. The average kitchen contains a mixture of cookware, so you don’t need an entire set.
If you’re interested in purchasing stainless steel cookware there are several things you should consider:
- How thick is your piece? If you want a lightweight pan go for those made solely of stainless steel. Remember this product will conduct heat slowly so you may have to adjust. If you don’t mind the extra weight go for one with 3 layers, or ply (just like tissue). A good way to judge is to hold the pot in your hand.
- Be sure your dishes are accompanied with a warranty just in case they are damaged.
- Take a peek at the bottom of the pan to view the grade of your stainless steel piece; it will either be in the 300 or 400 series. Numbers 304 and 316 are found in the 300 series. 316 is high quality, it is also known as surgical steel which is insanely durable. A piece graded 316 will also prevent nickel from leaking into your food. The 400 series is nickel free and may not last as long as those from the 300 series; mixing bowls and kitchen utensils are often graded 400.
- The size of your dishes should be fit comfortably on your burners. Purchasing ones that are the wrong size will compromise the results of your food.
If you are thinking of investing in some new cookware you should start with these stainless steel staples:
- 10 inch skillet
- 1, 2 and 4 quart saucepans
- 10 inch sauté pan
- 2 gallon stockpot