Stainless Steel vs Ceramic Cookware: Which to buy?
The battle between stainless steel vs ceramic cookware is ON and you’re at the right place and the right time! Choosing the right cookware material that gels with your way of life is a tough decision to make. It can make a world of difference in the quality and overall enjoyment of your meals.
So welcome to our heated guide on the two most popular cookware options in the market today, stainless steel cookware and ceramic cookware. Now before diving straight into their differences, let’s take a hot minute to know what exactly these two are.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Ah, good old classic stainless steel cookware. Regularly found in family homes, seen in restaurants and always within arm’s reach of a trained chef. Stainless steel cookware is forged from a combination of metals that typically include chromium, nickel, and at times copper.
True to its name, stainless steel cookware is resistant to corrosion, highly durable, and favoured for even heat distribution. What also makes it popular is its versatility to be used on gas, electric, and induction cooktops.
Noticed that cookware counters of kitchenware retailers are looking all the more colourful these days? It’s likely because ceramic cookware is now taking the modern cookware world by storm with its colourful exterior.
While there are two types of ceramic cookware - pure ceramic cookware, also known as stoneware, and the other made by coating a stainless steel or aluminum core in non-toxic and non-stick ceramic coating - our article will focus on the latter, non-stick ceramic coated cookware.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics of ceramic and stainless steel down, let’s dive deeper so you can make an informed decision when shopping for cookware that best suits your lifestyle.
15 Factors To Consider Before Buying Stainless Steel Cookware And Ceramic Cookware
Stainless steel cookware is generally more robust than ceramic cookware. Its construction of several metals, chromium in particular, gives it strong scratch and corrosion resistant properties. This also means it’s resistant to dents, allowing it to last years with proper care. Now you know why the stainless steel pots and stainless steel pans from your childhood home are probably still being used to date.
While the earlier batches of ceramic cookware were easily prone to chips and scratches, they’ve now come a long way and are more durable than ever. Swiss-made ceramic coating in particular gives ceramic cookware its strong durability that makes it less prone to chips and scratches. However between the two, stainless steel still takes the crown in terms of solid durability.
2. Heat Distribution & Heat Retention
If there’s one thing that can easily make or break your dish, it’s your cookware’s heat distribution and heat retention capabilities. Stainless steel cookware tends to heat up slowly because it’s not the best conductor of heat. While it does have excellent heat retention because it heats up and cools slowly, it brings on the downside of having hot spots with its slow heat distribution during the earlier cooking process. If you are familiar with cooking control, you’d have no problem using high heat to combat its slow heat distribution.
On the other hand, ceramic cookware is known for its excellent heat distribution and even cooking. This is because the ceramic coating on the cookware conducts heat evenly across the cookware’s surface, ensuring that your dish cooks evenly and beautifully on low to medium heat. This makes it an ideal choice to cook delicate ingredients like fish, poultry, eggs, and quick recipes like stir frys.
3. Non-Stick Properties
This is a popular factor that is often the deciding one for individuals who are shopping for new cookware. Stainless steel cookware is not non-stick, so you’ll need butter or oil to prevent ingredients from sticking on the cookware. Though if you’re a veteran cook and you know how to control the heat, you’ll benefit from the Maillard reaction that can easily occur on stainless steel.
Ceramic cookware has the main advantage here with its naturally non-stick properties. The ceramic coating that forms its glossy surface also makes it naturally non-stick. You can cook with little to no butter or oil and your ingredients won’t get stuck on the cookware. This makes ceramic cookware the ideal choice if you’re looking to cook healthier dishes while cutting back on butter and oil. Its non-stick properties also make it that much easier to clean.
Stainless steel cookware and ceramic cookware seems to be a somewhat even match when it comes to cleaning. Both have their advantages and differences. For instance, you can easily clean stainless steel cookware simply by popping it into the dishwasher. But if there are burnt bits on the stainless steel pan or pot, you’ll have to spend a few minutes scrubbing it off by hand.
It’s the other way around for ceramic cookware. Because it’s non-stick offers easy release, you’ll rarely find yourself scrubbing away by the sink. That said, it’s not recommended to use ceramic cookware in the dishwasher because the specific detergent commonly used in dishwashers can cause the non-stick coating to wear off in the long run.
5. Cooking Reactivity
Both stainless steel and ceramic cookware are non-reactive cookware. They won’t react when they come into contact with acidic foods and alkaline foods. Neither will they discolour or release a metallic taste. This makes it great for cooking a variety of food, especially if you love the occasional homemade tomato sauce!
Even though ceramic cookware is non-reactive, you’ll have to be careful if the coating has been damaged or scratched. If the inner metal core is made from anything but stainless steel, it may react with acidic and alkaline food. Other than that, you can rest assured that ceramic and stainless steel are typically non-reactive.
Stainless steel cookware is often heavier than their ceramic counterpart, which can make it difficult to handle and maneuver. This applies especially for the ones that are of higher quality due to its multi-ply construction. If you generally don’t fancy carrying heavy pots and pans, stainless steel might not be an ideal pick.
Those who prefer something lighter and easier to handle for everyday use will enjoy ceramic cookware’s lighter build. Especially if you enjoy getting creative in the kitchen with certain cooking techniques like pan tossing.
7. Cookware Thickness
Your cookware’s performance also typically relies on its thickness. The general rule of thumb is that if it’s thicker, it’ll retain heat better.
Thicker stainless steel cookware like those between 3 to 5 ply will come with better heat retention and distribution. The only downside is that not all stainless steel comes thick, and it is often the expensive ones that showcase such thickness. The same rule applies to ceramic cookware, only that its thickness is usually determined by the its coating.
8. Oven Safe & Cooking Versatility
Whether a cookware is oven safe or not will strongly matter to those who enjoy the versatility of cooking from stove to oven to table. Not all stainless steel cookware has the capability to withstand the oven’s heat. Same goes for ceramic cookware. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications before placing your cookware in the oven. Another point to note are the cookware’s handles. If they’re made from stainless steel as well, then that's a good but not sole indication that it may be oven safe.
Ceramic cookware with Swiss-made ceramic coating will typically be able to withstand the oven’s high heat. As with stainless steel cookware above, do check if the handles are made from stainless steel to confirm whether it is oven safe as there are those with plastic handles which are not heat safe.
9. Induction Compatibility
Think that stainless steel cookware is generally compatible with induction cooktops? Think again. Induction cooking works by sending electric currents through the cookware’s magnetic properties to directly heat pots and pans. For example, if the stainless steel pot doesn’t have enough magnetic hold, it simply won’t work.
You can check whether a particular stainless steel cookware you’re eyeing is induction-friendly or not by checking the manufacturer’s specifications, or simply by testing it with a magnet at the base to see if it sticks.
Same goes for ceramic cookware. Not all are made to be induction-friendly, but some manufacturers construct it with a magnetic base to allow for induction cooking. You can apply the same test used for stainless steel on ceramic cookware to test if it’s induction compatible.
The robust nature of stainless steel cookware makes it incredibly low maintenance. You can easily clean it in the dishwasher, or use a steel wool to scrub away stubborn stains with ease. The scratch-resistant nature of stainless steel also allows the use of various utensils from metal to silicone and wood.
However ceramic cookware needs a little more care as it is more delicate than its stainless steel counterpart. It is recommended to hand wash ceramic cookware with a non-abrasive sponge or cloth to avoid scratching the coating, unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer.
Some ceramic pots and pans do feature stronger abrasion resistance, but if you want to ensure its longevity, it’ll be best to care for it gently. Additionally, you’d like to avoid metal utensils like metal tongs and metal spatulas as it can lead to scratches on the ceramic. Simply stick to silicone utensils or wooden ones to be safe. Also do note never to place a hot pan immediately in cold water simply to cool it as thermal shock may occur.
Stainless steel and ceramic cookware both look visually attractive in their own ways. Stainless steel features a sleek, modern appearance with a shiny look that fits well in any modern kitchen.
If you’re looking for something to fit a particular aesthetic, you may enjoy the myriad of colours offered by ceramic cookware. Its glossy finish and vibrant colour choices make it a refreshing sight over the more traditional looking appearance of stainless steel. Think having a beautiful cream coloured ceramic pan in your minimalistic kitchen. What a sight to behold!
12. Environmental Impact
Another important fact to look into while shopping for your ideal cookware is how it impacts the environment. Stainless steel may be easier to recycle, but its manufacturing process leaves a larger carbon footprint due to how much energy it needs to be constructed.
A more environmentally friendly option to stainless steel is often ceramic cookware. It requires less energy to manufacture and they are often made with sustainable materials like sand, clay, quartz with an inner core of lighter metal like aluminium.
13. Cooking Style
Remember how we mentioned stainless steel’s lack of non-stick properties earlier? Cooking on stainless steel typically requires cooking with fat, either oil or butter, to ensure food does not stick. This is counter-productive to those seeking to make a lifestyle shift with healthier cooking due to the sheer amount of fat that will be regularly used to cook.
If you’re after healthier dishes at home without having to load up on cooking oils and butter, ceramic cookware will be your best bet. Its smooth surface and natural non-stick properties allow you to cook with little to no oil and butter without sacrificing the taste and visual appeal of your cooking.
14. Health Concerns
Ever wondered what gives stainless steel its shiny appearance? It’s the nickel used to forge stainless steel. Most stainless steel cookware come with a degree of nickel to give it its signature shine. This may be a deal-breaker for those who are sensitive to nickel.
Even so, not all stainless steel contains nickel. For instance, a higher end stainless steel pan that is listed as 18/0 would have little to no nickel content as it usually means 18% chromium and 0% nickel.
Nickel is not present in ceramic cookware. The only health concern you’d have to watch out for with ceramic cookware is the presence of lead in certain lower quality ceramic pans.
Having said that, both cookware types do not contain harmful chemicals like the controversial Teflon cookware. You can easily check the manufacturer’s specifications on whether it contains PFOA or PTFE; chemicals you don’t want on nonstick cookware.
Finally we’re at the last factor to be considered when deciding between ceramic vs stainless steel cookware. The price tag. Stainless steel cookware tends to be more expensive than ceramic cookware, especially multi-ply ones and those with high-end features. If budget is not a big concern, it’s important to keep in mind that high quality stainless steel often reflects the quality and durability of the cookware.
On the other hand, if affordability is a concern, ceramic cookware is often the more affordable one between the two because of what it offers and how it’s built. While there are pricier options available, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a ceramic pan as pricey as the highest quality stainless steel pan.
So Which Is Better For Me?
Now that we’re at the end of this heated debate, it’s time to decide whether your new cookware will be a stainless steel or ceramic piece.
If you have ample experience in the kitchen, are adventurous in cooking, and have more budget to spare, a high quality stainless steel cookware piece is certainly a great option for you. Its near-indestructible durability allows you to go wild with it on the journey to add more delicious meals to your home.
But if you’re fairly new to cooking with a preference for simple and healthy meals, and you don’t have a large budget to work with, ceramic cookware is a fantastic choice for you. It’s also perfect if you are particular about your kitchen’s overall aesthetics as your new ceramic piece will be a charming addition to your home.
Do check out Cosmic Cookware’s range of beautifully crafted ceramic cookware available in Pink Berry, Cream, Navy, and Green Bean if you’re interested in having a ceramic cookware piece for your home.