Cooking delicious food doesn’t require only quality ingredients and careful preparation. The equipment you use can also make a difference. Let’s dive into a comprehensive ceramic vs stainless steel cookware comparison so you’ll be able to purchase the perfect pots and pans for your needs!
What Is Ceramic Cookware?
Ceramic cookware comprises two types: classic ceramic vessels made from a baked mixture of clay, minerals, and quartz sand.
The second variety is known as glazed ceramic cookware. These are metal-based pots and pans coated with a polymer material that has non-stick properties, looks like classic ceramic, and can contain color pigments to offer various attractive designs.
Throughout this post, we’ll be discussing glazed ceramic cookware, unless otherwise specified.
What Is Stainless Steel Cookware?
Stainless steel cookware is made from an alloy containing iron, carbon, chromium, silicon, and manganese. This blend is highly durable and an excellent heat conductor, and professional chefs heavily rely on this type of cookware.
A well-known variant is the cladded cookware which is coated in layers of different metals for optimal performance, versatility, and heat distribution.
Ceramic Vs Stainless Steel Cookware
A general idea of what ceramic and stainless steel pots and pans are made from is useful but it doesn’t solve the ceramic vs stainless steel cookware debate.
What are the pros and cons of ceramic and stainless steel cookware? Which is better?
Short answer: Stainless steel cookware is versatile and durable. Ceramic-coated cookware is non-stick and comes in many colors. The first is more difficult to clean than the ceramic vessels but also less pretentious. Use ceramic pots and pans for low and medium-heat cooking methods and rely on stainless steel dishes for high-heat cooking techniques such as searing.
The materials and manufacturing processes for ceramic and stainless steel dishes are different. This means both have some pros and cons and we’ll highlight their characteristics below.
|Stainless Steel Cookware||Ceramic Coated Cookware||Ceramic Cookware|
|Shape & Design||Frying pans, pots, saucepans, baking trays||Pots, pans, roasting trays, Dutch ovens||Pots, pans, roasting trays, Dutch ovens|
|Materials||Stainless steel with aluminum or copper core||Aluminum with ceramic non-stick coating||Baked clay|
|Heat Distribution||Poor (single layer)|
Very good (triple layer)
|Safety||Very good||Can potentially release harmful substances into food if the coating is chipped or damaged||Very good|
|Ease Of Use||Good (can be difficult to clean)||Very good||Good|
|Heat Tolerance||Very good||Good||Very good|
|Durability||Very durable (single layer)|
Extremely durable (triple layer)
|1-3 years||Very durable|
|Versatility||Oven: Depends on materials used for the lid and handles|
Induction: Only if magnetized
|Oven: Depends on materials used for the lid and handles|
Induction: Only if magnetized
|Best For||Frying, searing, browning, braising||Medium-heat cooking||Roasting, baking|
Shape & Design
Stainless steel cookware typically has a sleek, classic look and it’s available as pots, pans, and sometimes baking trays. Shallow frying pans, pots with two handles, and saucepans are among the most popular stainless steel products
If you’re looking to pretty up your kitchen the ceramic pots and pans will be more display-worthy as it comes in a varied color range. Both coated and classic ceramic cookware come as pots, pans, and roasting trays, as well as Dutch ovens.
For the sake of functionality, you should consider how each is best used not just their appearance.
If you have an induction stove, there are more compatible options to choose from in the stainless steel category. The same applies for use in the oven.
Ceramic cookware is either a baked clay vessel (classic) or a metal dish with a ceramic-like polymer coating with non-stick properties.
Both have superior heat retention and distribution compared to stainless steel cookware with the exception of cladded tri-ply stainless steel cooking vessels. This type of cookware has an aluminum core with very high heat conduction.
Classic ceramic cookware is suitable for stovetops, ovens, and microwaves. Glazed ceramic vessels can be used in ovens and on induction stovetops but not in microwaves, or gas stovetops.
Ceramic non-stick cookware has an aluminum or stainless steel base coated with silicone material. Through a process known as sol-gel, the silicone is turned into a gel that makes the surface of these dishes non-stick.
The ceramic coating is also free of PFOA and PTFE, two artificial chemicals that were used to produce Teflon. Due to health concerns over these two substances, manufacturers have found ways to create better coatings without them.
Ironically, this coating isn’t even ceramic. It’s labeled as such, though, since its texture looks similar. Keep in mind that over time, the coating can lose its non-stick properties at which point you should replace it with new cookware.
Tri-ply stainless steel cookware is magnetized, so it works for both induction and gas stovetops. However, they are metal vessels and that means you can’t use them in the microwave.
Stainless steel doesn’t react to acidic or alkaline foods.
Glazed ceramic cookware is also nonreactive, but depending on the color of the coating it can stain from strong-colored ingredients like turmeric or beets.
Both stainless steel and ceramic vessels are technically safe. There’s always a usage guide included with commercial pots and pans and as long as you stick to a few common-sense rules, there shouldn’t be any mishaps in the kitchen.
For most modern ceramic cookware, the coating is not resistant to high heat. High temperatures can damage the non-stick material which might end up in your food.
Once damaged, the coating will deteriorate faster and can pose a health risk. These pots and pans are best used for gentler cooking methods such as sauteing.
In general, the lids for ceramic pots and pans are not safe to use in the oven. More often than not, they contain materials designed only for stovetop cooking.
You’ll have an easier time finding stainless steel cookware made only of metal that’s safe to use for both the stovetop and the oven.
With stainless steel, there’s no risk of chemicals leeching into your food as long as you purchase from a trusted brand. The only thing that could be a drawback is a metal allergy, in which case you’ll need to check if your cookware has it.
Ease Of Use
New ceramic cookware with intact non-stick properties is much easier to clean compared to stainless steel dishes. Thanks to the aluminum base, it’s also lighter.
Over time, ceramic-coated cookware will lose its non-stick capabilities, although it went through significant improvements. Still, it’s more susceptible to scratches and damage than stainless steel pots and pans.
Food easily sticks to stainless steel cookware but since this material is not pretentious you can deglaze the dishes, allow them to soak with warm water and detergent, or even scrub them.
All of the above will damage ceramic cookware.
Tip: Regardless of your preferred cookware use some fat or oil when cooking. This will minimize food sticking and burning.
Stainless steel cookware is very resistant to high heat. In fact, this is what makes it shine. Use it for broiling, searing, and other high-heat cooking methods for both oven and stovetop.
Cooking delicate foods at medium heat with a low amount of oil or fat works best on non-stick ceramic vessels. The coating on these pots and pans can become damaged at high temperatures and most are not oven-safe.
Coated ceramic cookware has improved over time but it’s still not even close to stainless steel vessels in terms of durability.
Stainless steel doesn’t scratch easily, and it would take some serious neglect to heat it up enough so it warps. You can also wash it with regular detergent and scrub it if needed.
When should you replace glazed ceramic cookware?
Using metal utensils on a ceramic-coated pan is a big no-no. Some brands claim their products are more resilient but once the surface is scratched, you should replace the vessel.
Warping is also a sign your ceramic-coated cookware is no longer usable. The deformation will also damage the coating at some point and it can end up in your food.
The lifespan of stainless steel cookware is a lot longer than ceramic pots and pans. It can last a lifetime if taken care of.
Even with the most careful handling, the ceramic coating will still degrade over time and lose its non-stick properties. In most cases, you can get up to 2 years of use from your ceramic-coated cookware.
If it loses the non-stick coating faster, replace it to avoid the risk of hazardous substances touching your food.
Single and multi-layer stainless steel cookware as well as ceramic-coated vessels work for different heating methods. Here are the best uses for each:
|Cooking Method||Stainless Steel Cookware||Ceramic Coated Cookware|
|Induction||✔️ *(only if magnetized)||❌ *(unless specifically mentioned by manufacturer)|
Stainless steel cookware is usually more expensive than ceramic cookware. The price differences can be significant, depending on the brand.
What makes stainless steel pots and pans worth the price is their unpretentious nature and durability.
Ceramic-coated cookware is still useful, especially if you rarely sear, broil, or roast food.
The convenience of cooking on a non-stick surface and all the varied looks you can choose from are other reasons to invest in ceramic vessels.
Ceramic Vs Stainless Steel Cookware – Pros And Cons
It’s much easier to decide which is right for you once you see all the pros and cons listed.
Also, don’t forget that both ceramic and stainless steel vessels have their best uses and you are not limited to a single choice. It’s actually great to have both, especially if you cook a lot!
|Stainless Steel Cookware||Ceramic Coated Cookware|
|Pros||Highly durable and non-toxic surface.|
Sleek, classic look.
Non-reactive with acidic and alkaline foods.
Safe to use metal utensils.
Oven safe (if the lid and handles are also oven-safe).
Versatile (great for both low and high-heat cooking methods).
|Available in many colors and patterns.|
Easy to clean.
Light and easy to handle.
Requires little to no oil.
Manufactured without harmful chemicals.
Non-reactive with acidic and alkaline foods.
Even heat distribution.
|Cons||Single-layer stainless steel can be a poor heat conductor.|
Food easily sticks making cleaning more difficult.
Requires using more fat or oil to minimize sticking.
Heavier than ceramic cookware.
Usually more expensive than ceramic cookware.
|Easy to scratch and damage.|
Not dishwasher safe.
May require extra care.
Avoid metal utensils.
Non-stick properties last up to 3-5 years.
Stainless steel, cast iron, and classic ceramic cookware are the safest option from a health standpoint.
Ceramic-coated pots and pans are also safe to use while the coating is not damaged and still has non-stick properties. Make sure to replace them as soon as the coating shows deterioration or the food starts to stick.
Yes! Ceramic coatings are free of PFOA and PTFE which are two potentially hazardous substances commonly used to make Teflon. Ceramic-coated cookware is also more durable than Teflon.
There’s no definitive winner in the ceramic vs stainless steel cookware debate. Choosing one or the other depends mostly on your preferred cooking methods.
I usually opt for a non-stick ceramic pan when cooking delicate foods like this honey teriyaki chicken.
It will usually work great for any recipe cooked on low to medium heat, including sauteing. Cauliflower fried rice, vegetable lo mein, and other sauteed veggie recipes will always turn out perfect in a ceramic pan with intact coating.
High-temperature cooking techniques such as searing, roasting, and broiling are best done with a stainless steel pan. Just make sure the handles and lid are also oven-safe if you want to broil or roast food.
For induction stovetops, you’ll find more options in the stainless steel category, especially the triple-layered cookware.
Even classic ceramic cookware made from baked clay is good to have. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and creates the most perfect baked goods!
I love my ceramic ramekins very much for making healthy delicious breakfasts like these air fryer egg cups.
With limited funds, you’ll have more affordable options in the ceramic-coated cookware category. If durability is your priority, the pricier stainless steel vessels will make it worth the investment.
Of course, if possible, I recommend you invest in all these types of dishes, even if it might take years to build the necessary arsenal for your kitchen. Going for reputable brands will ensure your pots and pans last a long time and make cooking a lot easier!