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Made In Investigation: What’s the Best Cookware Material?

By Team Made In
Mar 10, 2021
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Cookware can be confusing. That's why we're here to help you determine the best cookware material for you.

Stainless steel. Carbon steel. Non stick. While shopping for pots and pans, you've probably seen all of these cookware options. But what are the strengths of each? How are you supposed to decide between them? And what is the best cookware material on the market? If you're trying to figure out what the best cookware material for you is, use our handy guide that contains cookware material similarities and differences.

While general properties and characteristics of each material are typically similar across brands, some specific qualities (such as durability and heat tolerance) do vary by brand. So it's easy to follow along, all cookware material information listed in this article refers specifically to Made In's version of these cookware sets and material.

Stainless Steel Cookware

  • Heat conductivity: Stainless steel cookware conducts heat like a champ. With a quality 5-ply stainless steel pot, you'll be surprised at how quickly water boils when compared to anodized aluminum and aluminum cookware.
  • Heat retention: Stainless steel cookware retains heat incredibly well. Much like cast iron cookware, stainless steel pans can continue cooking your food after the burner has been turned off because of how well they hold the heat applied to them. Unlike cast iron pans, they're much lighter.
  • Heat tolerance: A quality stainless steel saute pan can tolerate high heats of up to 800F.
  • Durability: With proper care, a stainless steel pot or pan will stay looking and performing as if it were brand new forever. Stainless steel is nonreactive, meaning acidic foods will have no effect on it. In order to avoid nicks and dents, we don't recommend using metal utensils in stainless steel pots and pans.
  • Ease of care: If you use a quality stainless steel cleaner like Made In's Make It Like New Cleaner, cleaning stainless steel is a breeze. You can go from a caked on mess to a sparkling clean finish in under one minute.
  • Stick resistance: When properly preheated, stainless steel cookware sticks much less than it does otherwise. Unlike carbon steel and non stick cookware, though, stainless steel cookware doesn't boast stick resistant properties.
  • Additional notes: Many people use stainless steel saute pans, saucepans, and stock pots as replacements for Dutch ovens. Made In stainless steel products are all uncoated and feature a brushed finish.
  • You should use this cookware material if: You're after an all around workhorse pot or saute pan that takes heat incredibly well, looks and performs like new for a lifetime, and is nonreactive.

Carbon Steel Cookware

  • Heat conductivity: Carbon steel cookware is an incredible conductor of heat. It can get very hot, very fast.
  • Heat retention: As far as retaining heat after being removed from the heating element goes, carbon steel isn't as good as stainless. However, carbon steel cookware is amazing at maintaining a consistent heat level while heat is being applied to it. This gives carbon steel unparalleled heat control.
  • Heat tolerance: A quality carbon steel fry pan can tolerate heats of up to 1200F. It's a cookware material that can handle an incredibly high heat!
  • Durability: If properly cared for, carbon steel cookware lasts forever and only gets better with age as it seasons. Any scratches in carbon steel pans fill in and season over time, so metal utensils are fine to use with them. Whether you're looking for a frying pan, wok, or roasting pan, going with a carbon steel variety is a great option if you want it to be highly durable.
  • Ease of care: Carbon steel cookware is a little trickier to care for than stainless steel and non stick cookware. Carbon steel is reactive, which means cooking acidic foods such as tomatoes in a carbon steel fry pan isn't recommended because it can strip away your pan's seasoning. Carbon steel cookware is also not dishwasher safe, as it can rust in moist environments.
  • Stick resistance: Carbon steel acquires non stick properties through seasoning and use.
  • Additional notes: Many people replace cast iron cookware with carbon steel because it's so much lighter and conducts heat so much faster. Unlike stainless steel, carbon steel may change color with use (this is totally normal). All Made In carbon steel pans come unseasoned and without any sort of coating. Carbon steel's composition is similar to that of cast iron skillet but with, ironically, a lower carbon content (99% iron, 1% carbon) — this means those who have been advised to avoid cast iron for medical reasons should also avoid carbon steel.
  • You should use this cookware material if: you want to cook at a very high heat and have total control over what you cook while having less cleanup to do afterwards.

Non Stick Cookware

  • Heat conductivity and retention: This depends on the cookware material beneath the non stick surface layer. Beneath the coating of Made In non stick frying pans is 5-ply stainless steel, meaning superior heat conductivity and retention.
  • Heat tolerance: Non stick cookware should never be used above medium-high heat to protect the coating from overheating. Made In non stick pans are oven safe up to 500F. If you are using a non stick cookware set, be careful to not use too high of heat so you don't damage the non stick coating. 
  • Durability: Made In non sticks are made of nonreactive all American PTFE and are coated multiple times to ensure durability. Non sticks with lower quality coating processes will be much less durable. Make sure you don't place other pans or a metal utensil in your non stick cookware to avoid damaging the coating.
  • Ease of care: Non stick pans are as easy to care for as they come. A quick, gentle scrub will have your non stick frying pan looking good as new. Follow some simple non stick care guidelines when cleaning your cookware set and you're good to go.
  • Stick resistance: It's in the name: non stick!
  • Additional notes: Many people like to use non stick surface to cut down on their oil intake. However, to prevent the coating from overheating, never preheat your non stick without at least some oil or food inside.
  • You should use this cookware material if: you want something that is easy to clean, can cook delicate foods with ease, and is nonreactive.

Made up your mind on what the best type of cookware material suits you? Shop Made In's award-winning lines of stainless steel cookware, carbon steel cookware, and non stick cookware now!