When it comes to pots, pans, skillets, and other cookware, a big question people always have regards stainless steel vs nonstick options. They want to know which one is better.
In truth, though, there really is not an easy answer to that question. Both materials have their pros and cons. Plus, there is a time and a situation to use each type of material. To help you better understand this conundrum, we’ve provided some basic information pertaining to using either stainless steel or nonstick cookware. Hopefully, after reading it, you will have a better understanding of where you personally stand on the stainless steel vs nonstick debate.
Why the Stainless Steel vs Nonstick Debate Exists
One of the first things to understand in the stainless steel vs nonstick debate is that what you are cooking actually determines which type of material you should use.
Nonstick is obviously a good choice when you are dealing with foods that stick to the pan easily or that are likely to come apart or break if they experience even the slightest stick. This is because nonstick cookware has a Teflon coating that keeps food from sticking.
Eggs and pancakes are perfect examples of foods that you will almost always need to cook in nonstick cookware for good results.
However, stainless steel is sometimes a must too. If you are searing meat, for example, stainless steel is the right choice since it gets so very hot. This is because this material is an excellent heat conductor and has no issue cooking foods evenly.
Some people also swear by cast iron, but some of the most common cookware comparisons take the stainless steel vs nonstick route. If you want to learn more about cast iron, there are great articles available to you.
Anyway, there are some cases where it is really just a matter of preference which option you use. In others, though, there is a clear winner in the stainless steel vs nonstick debate.
Circumstances When One Material Is Better Than the Other
As previously stated, the stainless steel vs nonstick cookware debate came to be because each material is better with different foods. While this makes sense, it is always better to have examples to help you. This will make it easier to discern whether you ought to use a nonstick or stainless steel pan for your next meal.
When You Want an Easy Clean Up
Sometimes, it isn’t just the cooking process itself that you have to think about. You also have to think about what comes after—cleanup time.
If you are worried about cleanup and want it to be as easy as possible, nonstick cookware is always going to be your best choice. As the name implies, it is made specifically not to let food, grease, and other cooking byproducts stick to it. Thus, you won’t have to deal with stuck on food and general grime during cleanup.
For example, think of if you are cooking a dish that leaves your pans and pots notoriously messy, or if you are going to be in a hurry and won’t have time for extensive cleanup. In these cases, you will probably want to choose to cook with nonstick cookware.
Stainless steel, on the other hand, can be more difficult when the time comes to clean. You always need to use oil or butter when cooking with these, and even then, food can still stick to it.
When You Are Cooking at Very High Temperatures
While nonstick cookware is super easy to cook with and super easy to clean up after, it is certainly not perfect. In fact, a lot of people worry about the fumes that nonstick cookware can give off during cooking as the burner heats its nonstick layer.
While there is no way to completely eliminate these fumes, you should know that the pot releases the vast majority of fumes when cooking at very high temperatures. This means that if you are cooking something on very high heat, then you will probably want to go with stainless steel to stay on the safe side.
This includes activities like searing meat and deep frying. (Others say that cast iron is better for deep frying, but stainless steel is another perfectly safe option.)
When You Want to Cut Back on Calories
Watching your weight can be tough, especially when you have to cook with oil. Oil has a lot of calories, often around 160 for just one small tablespoon.
Unfortunately, when you use a lot of oil to cook, your food absorbs that oil. This means that when you eat the food, your body, in turn, absorbs those calories.
If you want to eat fewer calories and ingest less oil, the only option is to cook with less oil. Fortunately, nonstick cookware makes that easy. It does its own lubricating, so you only need a small dab of oil as compared to the panful that you will need with a stainless steel cooking ware.
In this instance pertaining to the stainless steel vs nonstick debate, Teflon-coated cookware is better.
Stainless Steel: Pros and Cons
As you can see, there are some situations in which you can and should use stainless steel cookware and others in which you are better off using nonstick cookware.
However, perhaps you’re not content with a “middle of the road” answer and want to choose one option over the other in the stainless steel vs nonstick cookware debate. If this is the case, we’ll give you a quick rundown of the basic pros and cons of each option, starting with stainless steel.
Stainless steel has a lot of good aspects to it. For starters, it is nonreactive, which is a fancy term that means you can cook any type of food in it without issue. Stainless steel is also a super strong material, and a high quality stainless steel pot or pan should last for years.
You can even run these pans through the dishwasher, though you may have to soak them first to get a deep clean. The only downside to this type of cookware is that it can be hard to clean.
If you purchase a low quality stainless steel pan, it also may not be great at distributing heat evenly. This can sometimes result in partially cooked food, which can lead to food safety concerns, especially when cooking meat.
Despite the fact that it’s not perfect, stainless steel products can be useful in the kitchen. They also tend to be quite affordable, which makes them even more prevalent.
Nonstick Cookware: Pros and Cons
Just as stainless steel has its own pros and cons, the same is true for nonstick cookware.
One aspect that is really nice about it is that it is incredibly scratch-resistant, which can keep your cookware looking great for years to come. However, the scratch resistance only applies if you use the correct utensils with your cookware. This includes specially made non-stick spoons, forks, and other utensils that typically consist of nylon.
Buying special utensils to use with your nonstick cookware can be somewhat of a downside. This is especially true when you consider the fact that these utensils can sometimes be pricey.
However, nonstick cookware is attractive and looks nice. It comes in many different varieties and designs, and it is usually less “bland” and plain than stainless steel offerings.
It’s not all about looks either. Nonstick cookware is great at heating food evenly and thoroughly, which can make it a safer way to cook chicken and other potentially dangerous meats.
However, nonstick cookware can sometimes be unsafe for birds, depending on the exact type and make. Thus, if you have pet birds in the home, you will probably want to play it safe and not use nonstick cookware. Furthermore, you also should not use cookware if you are a woman who is pregnant or someone who is vulnerable to any fumes released during cooking.
Also, bear in mind that nonstick pans and pots will typically not last you as long as their stainless steel counterparts. That is because the Teflon layer will start to crack, chip, or peel, after an extended period of time. When you see this, you will need to toss the cookware in order to maintain safety.
General Cookware Tips You Should Know
Some of you may ultimately choose to go with stainless steel cookware, nonstick cookware, or, ideally, a combination of both. Whichever you decide is the best option for you, there are a few tips you should keep in mind for taking care of your cookware.
First of all, always make sure you wash your cookware immediately after cooking. Allowing food to sit can lead to mold growth, damage the protective layer on nonstick cookware, and cause other problems. Plus, it is just plain gross. Make sure you carefully follow any washing or cleaning instructions that come with your cookware.
In most cases, you can soak cookware in warm, soapy water to get rid of caked-on food and grime. In fact, an overnight soak will usually do the trick for even the most stubborn issues.
You should also be careful about cooking acidic foods in your cookware. This includes foods like tomatoes or pineapples. While these foods and others like them might taste delicious in a stir-fry or other dish, their acid can slowly eat through your cookware. Acidic foods can even cause stainless steel pots to leach trace amounts of heavy metals into the food, which is especially dangerous for those that are sensitive to it.
If you have to cook these acidic foods, try to do so sparingly. Acid is potent stuff and can really shorten the lifespan of your expensive cookware.
Also, be careful when putting away your cookware. Try not to stack pots and pans on top of or in each other. This can scratch and damage the surface, which severely shortens the life of your cookware. For this reason, you may want to consider hanging your cookware from hooks in your kitchen or at least giving each piece of cookware its own protective spot.
Finally, try and buy pots and pans that come with some kind of warranty or guarantee. A good cookware set can get costly. You will want to make sure that you protect your investment, whether that’s an investment in stainless steel cookware, nonstick cookware, or a little bit of both.
Stainless Steel vs Nonstick? You Decide!
Hopefully, this advice will help you enjoy your cookware and use it correctly for years to come. As you can see, both stainless steel and nonstick have great benefits that can make your cooking much easier. They are both good at different aspects of cooking too, which makes them great assets in the kitchen.
However, both types of cookware also have their own unique disadvantages. While this may deter you from using a particular material, you can have a good experience if you use it correctly.
When it comes down to it, the best cookware is your own decision. You have your own unique cooking needs and style, so you should choose the type (or both) that works for you.
Do you have a preference in the stainless steel vs nonstick debate? Let us know in the comments section.