The time has come for you to buy a new cookware set, but which one would be the best choice with so many options like cast iron, ceramic, and stainless steel available? Since you don’t want something that weighs a ton, you are left with ceramic and stainless steel cookware.
Ceramic cookware has a metal or clay core that is coated with a nonstick coating. Its surface needs protection from damaging utensils, it is not dishwasher-safe and has a short lifespan. Stainless steel cookware has a heat-conductive core that is coated with durable nonreactive stainless steel that will last a lifetime.
Let’s review some of the considerations and weigh the pros and cons of comparing a ceramic pan to a stainless steel pan to find the best type of cookware for you!
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Ceramic vs Stainless Steel Comparison Table
Quickly compare ceramic vs stainless steel and take note of the key differences before you read the in-depth comparison.
|Materials||Aluminum or hard-anodized aluminum CORE. Non-stick exterior coating||Aluminum, hard-anodized aluminum or copper CORE with stainless steel exterior|
|Design||Round Dutch ovens, iron skillets, griddles. A large choice of sizes and shapes||Round Dutch ovens and oval Dutch ovens, French ovens, Cocotte, skillets, griddles, Braisers, and bakeware. A large choice of sizes and shapes|
|Finish||All colors and textures available||Exterior shiny in a wide variety of colors, interior light or dark|
|Weight (12-inch fry pan example)||3 pounds||5 pounds|
|Uses/Versatility||Delicate dishes pancakes, eggs||Initial high-heat cooking browning & searing then transition into braising, stewing, or slow cooking. Roasting and baking.|
|Heat Sources||Cooktops – All|
Oven-safe – YES
Broiler safe – NO
Induction ready – the base plate must have the steel to be induction ready
|No open fires, naturally induction ready, ceramic, glass stovetop, gas, electric.|
Oven-safe – YES
Broiler safe – NO
|Temperature||Will withstand temperatures in excess of 450 °F||Temperatures up to 500 °F depending upon the cookware quality and design (knobs and handles should be oven safe)|
|Heat Distribution||Good||Not as good|
|Heat Retention||Low – is heat reactive||Medium – is heat reactive|
|Performance||If the surface is maintained non-stick properties are excellent – DO NOT use metal utensils||Not non-stick when searing oils or liquid required|
|Durability||Maximum 3 years||High-quality stainless steel will last 25 years or more|
|Clean Up||No dishwasher, hand wash in dish soap||No dishwasher, warm soapy water, soaking then nylon scourers, dry thoroughly|
|Price||Less expensive||More expensive|
What Is Ceramic Cookware?
First up it is important to recognize that there are two types of ceramic cookware.
100% Pure Ceramic Cookware
This type of cookwares core is made entirely from clay that’s been fired at high temperatures until it becomes hard and durable. The clay used in these pieces can vary from white stoneware to red earthenware depending on the manufacturer’s preference.
Generally speaking, 100% ceramic cookware is known for its even heating capabilities and heat retention that makes slow cooking easy. The cookware does not contain any toxins or chemicals like some other materials may have. So it’s safe for food contact without fear of contamination or toxins leaching into your food.
Non-Stick Ceramic Cookware
Non-stick ceramic cookware features an aluminum metal core (other metals can be used). It’s coated with a non-stick ceramic coating (sol-gel) made from materials such as silicone resin or fluoropolymer-based coatings (Teflon).
Cleanup is easier as this layer prevents your food from sticking like with traditional pots and pans.
Heat sources could be limited depending on the brand, its handles and rivets, and lids.
Non-stick ceramics are lighter than their all-ceramic counterparts but still offer excellent heat conduction properties for evenly cooked meals.
The shapes and sizes available are large and varied from the single saucepan, skillet, frying pans, and grill pans to full cookware sets.
Both types of ceramics come in a large range of hues and designs to fit any kitchen style.
What is Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel cookware is a type of cooking pot, pan, or dish made from a metal called stainless steel. The metal mixture varies between manufacturers but will generally include steel, chromium, and nickel.
The best thing about using stainless steel cookware is its availability, variety, durability, and large price range (affordable to expensive).
It can resist rust and corrosion while withstanding high temperatures, making it a dependable kitchen tool for years to come.
Stainless steel cookware is extremely for most cooking methods, in fact, there is not much you can’t cook in a stainless steel pot or pan.
Cleaning is relatively easy just use soap and water and remove burnt stains quickly.
Stainless steel doesn’t heat up as quickly as some other materials but clad stainless steel heats up quickly thanks to a core made from copper or aluminum.
Stainless steel cookware is probably the first cookware most of us ever cook with and professional chefs love it because of its durability, versatility, and ease of use.
Ceramic vs Stainless Steel
Both ceramic cookware and stainless steel cookware are good, but your choice will greatly depend on a few factors such as the type of foods you cook, what you are willing to spend, what style of cookware you want, and the kind of durability you are looking for.
The first nonstick cookware was Teflon pans. While this was popular initially, it became evident that Teflon cookware became a health hazard when the cooking surface was overheated and worn, so ceramic cookware and ceramic nonstick coating on pans were introduced.
Many ceramic pans are aluminum bases with a ceramic coating applied over them to make them non-stick. The critical part of any coating is that it does not emit any toxic chemicals into the food while cooking.
Pure ceramic cookware is made and baked in a kiln, and these dishes are superb for oven-cooked dishes as they are safe.
The non-stick coating is silica dioxide and is completely non-toxic and non-reactive, so it will not leak any unwanted compounds into your food. In early ceramic coatings, health concerns were raised about PTFE and PFOA being used in manufacturing non-stick coatings.
As of 2015, neither PTFE nor PFOA has been used for non-stick, making ceramic cookware 100% safe.
A stainless steel pan is made of stainless steel and, by default, is 100% safe as its construction does not leak any compounds into food at all.
For safety, both ceramic and stainless steel cookware score equally high.
2. Which Is Healthier – Stainless or Ceramic?
While ceramic is touted as healthier to cook with because you don’t need fat, oil, or butter, this is not entirely true. While it is true that you can cook without oil as the ceramic is a non-stick surface, you would add just a smidgen of either for better cooking.
That little bit of butter or fat helps the food while cooking and reduces calorie intake, so if you are looking to shed a few pounds, the lower cooking oil content would be a consideration.
With stainless steel, you will need to add an oil of some kind as these are not non-stick surfaces. So that little extra cooking oil will go a long way to keeping your food from sticking.
Stainless steel is as healthy as ceramic and provided you aren’t cooking in 3 inches of oil, the weight loss aspect would be negligible.
By adding cooking oils to the stainless steel surface and letting it heat up
In the health comparison, stainless cookware and ceramic non-stick cookware types are even.
3. Temperature Tolerance
Here is where stainless steel cookware takes an edge over ceramic cookware. While it is highly unlikely that you would ever get your oven or stovetop to 800°F, which is the temperature needed to melt non-stick ceramic, ceramic is susceptible to searing high heat.
Non-stick ceramic pans conduct heat better than stainless steel, and this is due to the aluminum base that many of them are made from.
Stainless steel pans do not have the best heat distribution, where the heat hits the surface is where it is the hottest. Good for searing, sauteing, browning, and frying but could be difficult for other dishes, cooking unevenly.
One of the other drawbacks of ceramic-coated cookware is that it is not recommended for dishwashers.
Pure ceramic cookware can handle temperatures up to 2500°F, so there is zero chance of you melting that in your oven.
Stainless steel loves high heat and is highly durable under high temperatures. It will not suffer any after-effects from either oven or stovetop and is 100% dishwasher safe.
Stainless Steel wins this round for total temperature tolerances.
Well, this is another factor where stainless trumps ceramic. Stainless is virtually indestructible, and falling off counters won’t damage them at all. Ceramic non-stick, on the other hand, is not quite as tough.
The lifespan of ceramics is also not nearly as long as stainless steel, averaging only about 3-5 years even when well looked after and used for delicate low-heat cooking. If looked after and cared for properly, stainless can last a lifetime.
The other issue with ceramic is the coating itself. You can’t use steel cooking implements on ceramics as you will scratch the coating off, plus you need to wash them carefully as well so no abrasive brushes or scourers.
On the other hand, Stainless doesn’t care what you wash it with and doesn’t have a coating to concern yourself with. It’s not advisable to use a steel scourer when washing stainless steel cookware as this can cause pitting, but other than that, you can wash it, however, you want – dishwashers included.
18″/10″ (chromium/nickel) stainless steel products are also rust and corrosion-resistant.
As far as cooking tools go, you can use metal spatulas on stainless as there is no coating but rather stick with materials that could never scratch steel, like wood, plastic, or silicone utensils.
And one last point, stainless steel is 100% recyclable, so if that is a consideration for your choice, stainless wins.
For durability and longevity, stainless steel wins this one, hands down.
5. Cooking Versatility
Pure ceramic dishes can do anything you can do in a dish without issues, while ceramic-coated cookware has some limitations. Due to the lower tolerances for heat, if you want to sear your sirloin, it would be better on stainless and best on a hot pan like cast iron!
Stainless gives you the option to cook anything from eggs and pancakes to perfectly cooked steak and everything in between.
Stainless steel can go in the oven without issues, while only certain ceramic-coated pans, usually the higher-end ranges, would be considered safe to go in the oven.
With both stainless and ceramic cookware, make sure your handles and lids are rated ovenproof, and check the users’ manual regarding the maximum temperatures they can be exposed to.
Both are non-reactive, so exposure to acidic foods won’t affect the coating or the surfaces, unlike cast iron cookware which is susceptible to acidic foods affecting the seasoning and, if left for a long time, can impart an acidic flavor to food.
For cooking versatility, stainless wins this round too.
Ceramic Cookware vs Stainless Steel Cookware – A Few Final Comparisons
Ceramics cook faster than stainless steel pans, saving time and effort, and they clean easier as well with their ceramic coating. Ceramic cookware also adds color to your kitchen, so if style and appearance are considered, then ceramic is the way to go.
Stainless has a sleek, almost surgical appearance and can cook an infinite variety of foods and be put in the dishwasher with no risk. Plus, you would save money on a replacement as it will last longer than ceramic, and you don’t have to be gentle with it.
Learn the differences between hard anodized cookware and ceramic cookware Hard Anodized vs Ceramic Cookware.
Pros and Cons of Ceramic Cookware
|Price||Affordable – cheaper than stainless steel cookware|
|Non-stick||Non stick coating makes cooking eggs and fish easy|
|Non-reactive||Does not react to acidic food|
|Safety||Enforced regulations ensure cookware contains no PFOAs|
|Heat Tolerance||Ceramic non stick pans may tolerate heat up to 800℉||Direct heat should be low to medium heat – check manufacturers instructions|
|Stovetop Compatibility||Check manufacturer’s instruction – varies from brand to brand – induction requires a magnetic base|
|Oven safe||Varies from brand to brand|
|Performance||Low heat for fast cooking with no cold spots||Ceramic pans need to be in contact with the heat for consistent cooking|
|Health||No lubrication is required (maybe a little) great for the waistline|
|Shapes & Sizes||Available in all shapes and sizes|
|Colors||Decor colors galore|
|Weight||1-2 pounds lighter than stainless steel|
|Cleaning||Easy hand wash with a non-abrasive sponge in dish soap and water (no burnt surfaces)|
|Maintenance||No ongoing maintenance||Extreme care should be used with utensils to avoid scraping the ceramic surface|
|Lifetime||Limited – less if uncared for|
Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel Cookware
|Cookware Range||Stainless steel interiors and exteriors are usually covering a heat conductor like aluminum or copper. Difference ranges have various layers of materials. Available in various shaped and sized pots, pans, fry pans, woks, stockpots, and skillets.|
|Design||Stainless steel compared to other cookware if cared for look good no matter its age (very masculine, sleek, and stylish)|
|Metal Base||No harmful chemicals|
|Non-reactive and healthy||The surface of stainless steel will not react to acidic foods or is even fragrant as other cookware does. It is also one of the healthiest cooking surfaces as it does not leach into ingredients|
|Heat Source||As long as there is aluminum or copper in the base of the cookware it will work on all cooking surfaces. Oven and broiler safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Heat Conductivity & Responsiveness||Stainless steel tolerates high heat and heats up quickly thanks to its aluminum core. It cools down just as quickly when heat is reduced.|
|Versatility||All-purpose cookware. Meaning that depending upon the shape or size of your pot you can prepare any meal. From meat to sauces. From stir fry to stew, casseroles, and soup.|
|Durability||Even though stainless steel is metal it will not rust or corrode. It is resistant to scratching, chipping, and staining.|
|Dishwasher||Yes, a better result is gained from handwashing|
|Maintenance||No real maintenance is required, just clean it thoroughly as per the manufacturer’s instructions after every use|
|Life||High-quality products will last your lifetime|
|Who loves stainless steel cookware?||Chefs love stainless steel cookware for its responsiveness|
|Expensive||The biggest con is the expense of good quality non-reactive stainless steel|
|Heavy||1-2 pounds heavier than ceramic-coated cookware. Not as heavy as a cast-iron skillet, but 5-ply a stainless-steel skillet is heavy. For lifting, issues choose pots and pans with helper handles|
|Performance||Not all stainless steel is equal. Inconsistencies occur between brands, inferior materials, and heavy metals|
|Not a true non-stick surface||Food sticks if not used correctly, usually because their aluminum or copper core are great heat conductors. You need to watch your heat and the amount of oil you use, especially for delicate foods like fish and eggs.|
|Food preparation abilities||Stainless steel is not easy to cook with. It comes down to the heat conduction and the skill level of the person operating it. Even the most experienced cook has their “stainless steel” cooking disaster story|
|Cleaning||Stainless steel classicly gathers brown bits and sticky blotches in the corners of the pot or pan on the underside and around handles and rivets. This makes cleaning difficult so avoid using steel wool or a little Bar Keepers Friend in the difficult-to-reach areas for cleaning.|
Learn the differences between granite cookware and ceramic cookware in Granite vs Ceramic Cookware.
What is better for cooking stainless steel or ceramic?
Clad stainless steel fry pan for everyday use like cooking a steak, eggs, or bacon. Searing meat, browning, or sauteing before tossing them into a deeper stainless steel pot or cast iron Dutch oven for stewing or slow cooking.
What is easier to clean stainless steel or ceramic?
Ceramic pots and pans are generally easier to clean provided the cooking surface is not damaged. The high temperatures lend stainless steel cookware to end up with burnt-on particles, oil, and fat. These can make the surface harder to clean.
When should you throw away stainless steel pans?
Stainless steel pans should be disposed of when the cooking surface is damaged. At this time the dishes you cook will be sticking to their surface no matter how much oil or heat is applied.
Learn how to dispose of old cooking pots and pans when they are no longer safe to cook with.
What cookware lasts the longest?
Seasoned cast iron cookware lasts the longest followed by stainless steel and copper.
Is nonstick cookware safe to use?
Yes if the ceramic non-stick cookware has a coating made from PTFE. Early versions of nonstick ceramic cookware earned their bad wrap when it was discovered that the Teflon cookware was detrimental to one’s health.
Should I throw away my scratched non-stick pan?
Yes, chemicals will be leaching into your food. To avoid scratching use cooking utensils made that are wooden, plastic, or silicone utensils.
Conclusion: Ceramic vs Stainless Steel
Finally, let’s consider the cost of both options. The decision comes down to personal preference for a good ceramic cookware set, you could get one for around $100 an equivalent quality set in stainless steel could set you back a few hundred dollars.
Considering the life spans of each and having to replace ceramic within 3-5 years potentially, it may be a better investment to opt for stainless steel.
Or you could take decide to opt for nonstick pans made from natural materials like clay pots covered with ceramic/porcelain glaze which is the safer option.
Home cooks! No one says you need to have a complete set of stainless steel and ceramic mix-and-match to suit your budget and cooking style, and the real winner will be you!
Deep dive into my article to learn more about stainless steel pots
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