stainless steel vs ceramic vs nonstick

Non Stick vs. Stainless Steel vs. Ceramic Cookware | Which Pots and Pans are Best?

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We often get asked the question of what type of cookware one should get: plain non-stick, stainless steel, or ceramic. Having experimented with multiple types of cookware over the years, we've come up with an answer! All of these coatings have their advantages and disadvantages, so lets do a little bit of exploring.

Stainless Steel Cookware

What We Love About Stainless Steel Cookware

The attribute that makes stainless steel shine is its durability. No other cookware besides for cast iron is going to offer the amount of durability that stainless steel does. The main reason for this is because there's no coating to scratch off. This means that you don't have to worry about the types of cooking utensils that you use or worry about improper stacking or storage of most stainless steel cookware. You'd almost have to go out of your way to ruin properly built stainless steel cookware.

Cons of Stainless Steel Cookware

With great durability comes great stick-ability. Trying to make something like a pancake on a stainless steel cook surface without a lot of oil is going to be a recipe for disaster. However, if you're using other liquids to cook with such as vegetable broth or even water, using stainless steel is going to be just fine. For this purpose, we actually recommend keeping some stainless steel cookware on hand for meals which require some heavy mixing.  A perfect example is a pot of soup where you're going to dip an immersion blender to get it to be smooth. Banging a stainless steel immersion blender around within the cookware is likely to scratch any sort of delicate surface.

Stainless Steel Sets We Recommend

This Ceramic set by GreenLife has all of the pieces you'll need to cook almost anything. It comes with a bunch of different sized sauce pans, frying pans, and pots. For those who don't have any nonmetal utensils, it will come with those as well. This means that there's no guesswork as to what's going to scratch it and what won't.

Ceramic Cookware

What We Love About Ceramic Cookware

We're huge fans of ceramic cookware (specifically pans), because it truly is a wonderful nonstick surface. We regularly use our deep ceramic pan to make things like stir fries or pancakes without any oil. In fact, it's probably our most used piece of cookware that we own.

Cleaning it is also relatively easy and doesn't require heavy soaking or an abrasive sponge (which you should not use). Because the food doesn't stick in the first place, it's pretty easy to wipe away any residue with a soft sponge, soft rag, or paper towel.

Cons of Ceramic Cookware

Ceramic cookware unfortuantely requires a bit more careful care than stainless steel or cast iron pans do.

Despite what some brands will advertise for their products, even the toughest ceramic cookware has the potential to chip, scratch, etc. With proper care this shouldn't be an issue​, but many people don't realize that you shouldn't use metal utensils on ceramic nor should you stack the cookware in your cabinet.

Ceramic Set We Recommend

This Ceramic set by GreenLife has all of the pieces you'll need to cook almost anything. It comes with a bunch of different sized sauce pans, frying pans, and pots. For those who don't have any nonmetal utensils, it will come with those as well. This means that there's no guesswork as to what's going to scratch it and what won't.

Traditional Nonstick Cookware (sometimes called Teflon)

Traditional nonstick cookware falls into a bit of a different category because it has evolved a lot over the past few years. Research such as this piece by John Hopkins which associated PFOA and PFOS exposure with decreased birth weight was a bit of a scare for consumers which most likely caused the increase of popularity in nonstick surfaces such as ceramic.

The Upside to Traditional Nonstick Cookware

However, there have been many advancements over the years for nonstick cookware and a lot of the new stuff from big brands (such as Tfal) doesn't contain any PFOA, Lead, or Cadmium.​ If you decide that ceramic coating isn't for you for whatever reason then we recommend buying a higher quality set and not just picking up a random pan from your local bargain store. 

The Downside to Nonstick Cookware

Some say that traditional nonstick is more durable than ceramic, but the fact is you still have to take care of it the same way. It still has the potential to scratch and just like ceramic, scratching is the most common complaint for users of any nonstick cookware. 

This set by Tfal which includes utensils will have everything you need to make a complete set of nonstick cookware. Their "Thermo-spot" technology lets you know when a pan is adequately preheated. This function could be especially useful for making things like pancakes or other batter-based creations where time and temperature is crucial to the final product.

Final Recommendations

When it comes to ceramic vs. regular nonstick, we like to lean more towards the ceramic based on our personal experiences. However, given that ceramic cookware and stainless steel have different applications we actually recommend picking up both types if your budget and storage allows.

If this is the route you're going to go down, you have the option of buying individual pots and pans rather than entire cookware sets. We've all seen cabinets cluttered with unused cookware, so for room and budget sake, this will be the best option.

If we had to narrow it down to three pieces of cookware we recommend the following:

  • One large and deep ceramic pan for regular cooking and stir frying.
  • One large stainless steel pot for soups, sauces, and boiling water.
  • One small stainless steel pot for smaller water boiling jobs.

The other option is to go for the all stainless steel set. You actually don't have to use any added fat in most instances as water frying  is a great alternative and just as tasty once you're accustomed to it.

Individual Pot and Pan Recommendations

The crockpot linked below is the perfect for making pasta, rice, grains, or large pots of soup for an entire family. If you have this crockpot plus the sauce pan below (our second recommendations) preparing full course meals shouldn't be an issue. These two pieces of cookware are really all you need at the end of the day if you want to keep things simple.

The ceramic pan linked below is enough to handle all of your stove-top cooking needs including stir fry. It's big and deep enough to handle both big and large jobs for a small family. That being said, this ceramic pan is the perfect go to piece of cookware for 90% of the stovetop items you'll cook.

Finally, this smaller sauce pan/pot can work as the final piece of the puzzle in your kitchen arsenal. Although its not 100% necessary, it can be useful for preparing small batches of rice, pasta, etc. It will make things a bit less overwhelming if you don't have to take out a gigantic pot every time.

About the Author Michelle B

Hey! I’m Michelle and I write product reviews for ThriveCuisine.com. I’m always preparing healthy / plant based foods and I’ve developed a knack for helping people get the best bang for their buck.

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