The Best Stainless Steel Cookware:
Advice and Comparisons

best stainless steel cookware

The best stainless steel cookware will cook everything evenly and won't leach dangerous metals or chemicals into your food under normal wear and tear. Cuisinart, Emeril, All-Clad and Calphalon (sometimes misspelled as Caphalon) cookware are among the best-known brands of healthy cookware, though the cost and quality vary widely.

Stainless steel is useful for a wide range of cooking techniques. While castiron cookware is best for searing and frying, you should not use it for cooking acidic foods or large amounts of liquids, such as soups, which is where the best stainless steel cookware excels. It is good for browning food and is excellent to use for making sauces where the pan needs to be "deglazed".

The best stainless steel cookware heats evenly either on a gas or electric cooktop and should also be safe to use in the oven or under a broiler at up to 500°F. They are also dishwasher-safe, which cannot be said of cast iron cookware (though with the proper cast iron seasoning, cleaning it is a breeze!).

The downside to stainless steel is that food tends to stick to it, and the surface can be scratched from using metal cooking utensils or too-vigorous scrubbing with a scouring pad. This can allow some metal ions to leach into your food, giving it something of a metallic taste. It also may not be suitable for those with nickel allergies. It's advised that you only use stainless steel cookware on low to medium heat. For high-heat cooking it's better to use cast iron.

The things to look for when shopping for the best stainless steel cookware are:

  • 18/10 Stainless Steel: This indicates that the stainless steel is 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel. The higher the numbers, the greater the strength, resistance to corrosion, and shine. If you will be using induction cooking however, look for stainless steel that is 18/10 on the inside, but 18/0 or "magnetic stainless steel" on the outside so it will work with your induction cooktop.
  • Copper or aluminum core: Since stainless steel is not a great conductor of heat, the best stainless steel cookware has a core sandwiched between the outside and inside layers of stainless steel that is made of copper or aluminum, which are excellent conductors of heat and will ensure that your food cooks evenly, without hot spots. Though copper is a somewhat better heat conductor than aluminum, it is also considerably more expensive.
  • Core should extend up the sides: Though better cookware sets have the above mentioned copper or aluminum core in the base of the cookware, the best stainless steel cookware has the core extend up the sides of the pan as well. It's also the best for those who use a gas cooktop, as sometimes the flames lick the sides of the pot, which can cause hot spots in cookware without this feature.

Stainless Steel Cookware Ratings

Choosing the best stainless steel cookware for your needs depends both on your budget and the features that are important to you. Buying a set is considerably less expensive than buying individual pieces unless you are really only looking to buy one piece of cookware. We will compare a few of the more popular brands here and include prices for comparison that you can find from sources on the internet.

All-Clad Stainless Cookware has long been considered the cream of the crop of stainless steel cookware. For the cost, it should be! You can choose either a copper or aluminum core, depending on how much you're willing to spend. They are very durable and have excellent heat conduction. The interior is 18/10 stainless steel, and has a magnetic exterior stainless steel surface so it works well with induction cooking as well as conventional cooktops.

People have reported that it cooks very evenly and the handles generally stay cool. Because the rims are so square, however, they are not great for pouring. The cost is prohibitive for a lot of people unless you are being given them as a gift, and there are less expensive alternatives that are just as good.

All-Clad Copper core 10-piece set $1,300 / Aluminum core 10 piece set $700

Emeril Cookware is the popular lower-end stainless steel cookware product line of All-Clad's. It has an aluminum core sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel, but this is only on the bottom of the pan. The sides are stainless steel only, which can lead to hot spots developing. Lids are made of tempered glass so you can see what's cooking, though the quality gets mixed reviews. Some people have reported that they are not as durable as the Calphalon or Cuisinart brands.

Emerilware Pro-Clad Stainless 12-piece set $268

Calphalon is also thought of as among the best stainless steel cookware. It is very similar to the Cuisinart Multiclad Pro line of cookware (which we discuss below), but come with glass lids instead of all stainless ones. They are solid and durable and have curved rims for easy pouring. A number of people say the handles are not very comfortable, being too narrow, especially when lifting pots of heavy food, and they do get hot when cooking. The set comes with a pasta insert.

Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless 13-piece set $400

And last but not least...

Cuisinart cookware, particularly their Multiclad Pro line, is probably the best stainless steel cookware you can get for the price. It comes with an 18/10 polished stainless steel interior, aluminum core that extends up the sides, and a brushed finish on the outside. It is also suitable for induction cooking and is oven-safe to 500°F. The rims are rounded to make pouring easier, and the lids form a good seal, but allow for enough room to let a little steam escape. Handles are riveted solid stainless steel and are more comfortable to hold than those of the All-Clad line, especially when filled with food. They generally stay cool, but do get hot after a while, so you'll want to use a pot holder if they are on the stove for any length of time. The set comes with steamer insert.

At a list price from a quarter to a tenth of the All-Clad, it is definitely the best stainless steel cookware for the price. It gets consistently good reviews from consumers who have a hard time coming up with anything bad to say about it.

Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless 12-piece set $245

Useful tips when using stainless steel cookware

best stainless steel cookware 2

Since you have likely spent a lot of money on buying the best stainless steel cookware you could find, you should keep a few of the following tips in mind so it enjoys a long life:

  • Preheat your stainless steel cookware on a low setting for one or two minutes before beginning cooking, and be sure to add butter or oil to keep your food from sticking.
  • When using salt, wait until the water is simmering or the food has begun to cook before you add any so it doesn't cause pitting in the cookware.
  • Though the manufacturers say you can put stainless steel cookware in the dishwasher, it's advisable to wash it by hand when it is only lightly soiled if you want it to keep looking its best. Try to avoid scouring your healthy gourmet cookware. Any stuck-on food can be removed by filling the cookware with an inch or so of water and heating it until it simmers on the stove. The food can then be gently scraped off with a wooden or plastic spatula.

The best stainless steel cookware will hold up well for many years and provide you with a pleasant and healthy cooking experience. If you dump the Teflon and invest in some of these pieces and a few cast iron skillets, you will be able to cook just about anything!

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