Stainless Steel Cookware Guide
Stainless steel has become THE standard material for pots and pans, varying in quality from the very cheap, made with very cheap, thin steel, to top quality, professional pans used by Master Chefs.
Why Stainless Steel?
- Easy to clean - has no pores or cracks in the surface
- Hygienic - the lack of pores or cracks means there is less chance of bacteria accumulating
- Minimal care required - does not rust or chip, takes far less seasoning of the pan than cast iron
- Avoids any "metallic" taste because it does not react with acids in the food
- Nice, shiny attractive surface
- Can be put in the dishwasher
- Can use on all hob surfaces
What Makes a Good Quality Stainless Steel Pan?
Whilst skimping on the quality of the stainless steel for oven based cookware is probably OK, we would not advise it for hob cooking - as we would not advise it for kitchen knives. This is because of the direct high heat put on the pans and the need to retain a flat pan base. Cheap steel will just not withstand the wear in the same way.
Top quality stainless steel - like 18/10 stainless steel (18% chromium, 10% nickel) is better because:
- it resists scaling
- the higher chromium content prevents rust
- the higher nickel content increases corrosion resistance when using at high temperature or with heavy usage
A good thickness or "gauge" of stainless steel is also advised to ensure that the pan is strong enough not to deform its shape or to develop weak spots.
What is 3 Ply or Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware?
Stainless steel has all the qualities listed above, making is such a practical material to use. But its heat distributive and heat conducting properties are worse than other metals. To improve the cooking performance, an aluminium layer is created either for just the base or all throughout the pan. This aluminium is sandwiched between 2 layers of outer stainless steel. This is known as "3 ply".
The aluminium layer acts as a very good conductor of heat, but cannot be used as the direct cooking surface, nor can you use it on all hob surfaces. So the sandwich solution is ideal.
More than 3 Ply!
Some stainless steel cookware boasts 5 ply or even 7ply (see Mauviel M'Cook formerly Cook'Style or the Demeyere cookware ranges). These have several layers of aluminium, and stainless steel, some like M'Cook and Demeyere include a magnetic stainless steel layer to allow the pans to be used on induction hobs. Obviously, the more aluminium you have, the better the heat conductivity, as well.
Which Brand to Choose?
There is no doubt that there are now hundreds of different stainless steel brands to choose from. The cheap ones really are very poor from a cook's point of view. Watch out for handle rivets or screws that undo, thin sides that dent, bases that warp. We do not yet represent every quality brand, although we are working hard to do so! However, the brands that we do feature like Paderno Grand Gourmet, Demeyere Atlantis or Apollo an Mauviel M'Cook (Cookstyle) we know have been tried and tested for decades and have an excellent reputation.
NB - Do follow the Care and Use Instructions.