Last Updated on December 18, 2023 by David Michael
Stainless Steel Cookware Buying Guide
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Properties of Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless cookware offers several advantages over other types of cookware.
It’s lighter in weight than cast iron, an advantage in larger pieces and for those who find cast iron too heavy.
Stainless is durable too. It’s nearly indestructible and can stand up to aggressive scouring in case of burned on foods.
Stainless steel cookware is easy to clean and is low maintenance. You don’t need to polish stainless to keep it looking great.
There’s no risk of breaking as with ceramic or glass cookware.
Stainless cookware won’t rust – another advantage over unseasoned cast iron and carbon steel.
Stainless steel is very responsive to heat – turn down the flame and the stainless pan reacts right away.
•Easy to clean
Ply Construction in Stainless Steel Cookware
Ply construction refers to how many layers are bonded together in the cookware.
Most common are three ply, also called tri ply; made of three layers of metal. Aluminum is the most common metal in the three ply sandwich. Copper can also be used. Both are used for their excellent heat conductivity.
Five ply is five layers of metal bonded together. Stainless steel is often used as the middle layer in five ply. It slows down the heat reactivity of the pan, but allows for a more even preheat and sustained heat.
Some stainless cookware has a bonded base only, with the walls of the cookware being one layer of stainless. This makes for an economical cookware, with only the bottom of the cookware getting the advantage of a multi ply construction.
Grades of Stainless Steel in Cookware
Stainless steel is described as 18/10 or 18/8 etc. What do these numbers mean?
The first number refers to the percentage of chromium in the steel. Chromium gives the stainless its rust resistant qualities. 18/10 stainless steel is 18% chromium.
The second number is the percentage of nickel. 18/10 stainless steel is 10% nickel. Nickel is what gives the stainless the shiny and high polished look and adds strength. 18/10 stainless is used for high quality cookware. 18/8 stainless doesn’t polish up as nicely and is best suited for more utilitarian pieces like pot racks.
Our Top Picks for Best Stainless Steel Cookware
These are our recommended stainless steel cookware. All of our picks are from high quality cookware makers and are trusted brands. I personally own and use these brands of stainless steel cookware and use them all the time. These are some of the best stainless steel cookware sets that are readily available.
Classic three ply stainless cookware by All Clad. The All Clad is also compatible with induction cooktops. Although the manufacturer says this is dishwasher safe, I hand wash mine because the aluminum core is visible and may react with dishwasher cleansers.
All-Clad also makes a five ply set with an extra layer of stainless between two aluminum cores. See the All-Clad D5 Set
Calphalon’s classic series of stainless is a single layer construction with a bonded base. This is induction compatible and also dishwasher safe. All metal construction makes these oven safe as well – great for finishing a dish after searing.
The Viking three ply cookware is a layer of magnetic stainless, aluminum, and 18 10 stainless. This is a heavy duty set that is built well and induction compatible. The unique feature is the aluminum layer is completely enclosed in stainless, making this dishwasher safe. There is no exposed aluminum at all. I love the flared windsor shape – it’s perfect for quickly reducing a sauce. In my opinion this is some of the best 18 10 stainless steel cookware available.
Zwilling’s Spirit line is a heavy duty three ply set. The exterior is a brushed stainless that hides minor scratches beautifully. This set also has glass lids that let you monitor cooking without having to lift the lid. Induction compatible. This set is also oven safe, with the lids oven safe to 400°F.
Cuisinart’s three ply cookware is bonded with an aluminum core. It’s lighter than the other three ply cookware, but performs well. My Cuisinart is really drip free, both the pro three ply and the classic single ply. It’s induction compatible and oven safe.
The Classic line is a single layer stainless construction with an aluminum encapsulated base. This is a great line for a starter collection as it’s more economical than a full ply set. The Classic collection is not induction compatible, which is its major shortcoming for me. This is a great value for those wanting to try stainless at a easy price point.
The world renowned maker of top quality enameled cast iron also makes top quality stainless steel cookware. The Le Creuset stainless is a three ply bond with a highly magnetic outer layer. This makes it induction compatible and very responsive. Their stainless steel also incorporates titanium in the mix which adds strength and helps keep this cookware light in weight – but maintains heavy duty performance.
Stainless steel is a great material for high quality cookware. I hope you find the perfect set from our recommendations to fit your needs. Happy cooking!
For a more in depth look at stainless steel please see our post Ultimate Guide to Stainless Steel Cookware
For more of our favorite cookware please check out our posts:
Best Induction Cookware: Our Favorites
Best Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
Best Cast Iron Cookware
Best Stove Top Grill Pans
Best Hard Anodized Cookware Sets
Best Copper Cookware
Best Carbon Steel Cookware
Be sure to check out our post Cookware – The Kitchen Cornerstone for quick access to all of our cookware posts.