Is a nonstick pan or stainless steel pan better?
No kitchen is complete without a good set of cookware. Among the most popular options to choose from are stainless steel pans and nonstick pans. A reliable, easy-to-use pan is a must-have for any home cook.
But if you’ve never bought pans before, or if you’re new to cooking, you may be unsure of which type of pan to use. Some pans, like stainless steel pans, are versatile and great for cooking food at high temperatures. Others, like nonstick pans, are great for delicate foods, like eggs.
Each type of pan has its own special uses, advantages and drawbacks.
What to know about nonstick pans
Nonstick pans are popular choices for cookware, since they’re easy to clean and maintain. They’re also a great option for those who want to cut back on oil or grease when cooking.
Originally, most nonstick pans had a slick, synthetic coating called Polytetrafluorethylene (more commonly known as Teflon). This coating allows you to cook food that doesn’t stick to the surface of the pan without the need for butter or oil.
Nowadays, many nonstick pans are made from ceramic, silicone or enameled cast iron instead. Although the material is different, the nonstick quality is the same.
Nonstick pans range in price from around $25 for a basic frying pan to upwards of $100.
Nonstick pan pros
- Ideal for preparing food that tends to stick easily to the surface of the pan, such as eggs or pancakes.
- Useful when cooking on low or medium heat.
- Minimal or no added oil, fat or butter required.
- Many nonstick pans are long-lasting and inexpensive, like those made from aluminum.
- Great option if you are new to cooking.
- Easier to clean than other pans.
- Some nonstick pans, including Teflon nonstick pans, are safe to use in the dishwasher on gentle cycles.
Nonstick pan cons
- Easily scratched or damaged when using metal utensils.
- If put in the dishwasher regularly or on a stronger setting, the coating may break down over time.
- The nonstick coating may melt or release toxic chemicals when used at very high temperatures (570 degrees and up), thus rendering the pan unusable.
- If the nonstick coating is damaged or starting to flake off, you will need to replace the pan.
- Older Teflon pans from before 2013 contained a harmful pollutant called PFOA, which is linked to certain diseases (ex. liver and kidney disease). Teflon nonstick pans from 2013 onwards are generally considered safe to use.
Best nonstick pans
This 11-inch pan with durable nonstick coating and top-of-the-line technology ensures even heating. It has a heat-resistant silicone handle and is deep enough for a variety of foods. Plus, it works on induction stoves. Free from harmful chemicals like PFOA.
Sold by Amazon
This set comes with an 8-inch and 10-inch pan, each with three layers of non-stick coating for easy cooking and cleaning. The handle has a secure, comfortable grip and is heat resistant. The unique rolled edges prevent liquids from spilling when pouring directly from the pan. It works across most stoves, but not on induction stoves.
This set comes with a 10-inch and 12-inch pan, both of which have an eco-friendly, stone-derived coating. The pans themselves are made of hard anodized aluminum, which is free of toxins, scratch resistant and heats quickly and evenly. The handles are made of silicone, allowing for a comfortable hold without the worries of slipping or overheating.
Sold by Amazon
What to know about stainless steel pans
Stainless steel pans are a staple in many kitchens because of their durability and versatility. Although nonstick pans excel when it comes to preparing sticky foods or cooking at lower temperatures, stainless steel pans have their own advantages.
Unlike nonstick pans, you can use stainless steel pans for nearly any type of food. This is because the material in these pans does not react to even more corrosive, alkaline or acidic foods, like vinegar or tomatoes.
A standard stainless steel pan costs between $25-$50, but high-end options can cost nearly $300.
Stainless steel pan pros
- Resistant to corrosion caused by chemical reactions in food, meaning they are great for preparing nearly any type of stovetop meal.
- Perfect for browning or sauteing meat.
- Some are made from entirely heat-resistant materials and can be used on the stove or in the oven.
- Generally more durable than nonstick pans.
- Less likely to be scratched up if using metal utensils.
- Dishwasher safe.
- Requires no seasoning to prevent rust but can be seasoned for a nonstick effect.
Stainless steel pan cons
- The material is a poor heat conductor, which may result in food heating up fast or unevenly. Newer models use different materials to negate this problem.
- Food sticks more easily without oil or grease.
- May be difficult to clean off stuck or burnt food.
- High temperatures or long dishwasher cycles may damage the pan.
- May stain from frequent overheating.
Best stainless steel pans
This 10-inch skillet is great for rolling boils, liquid reduction and slow simmers. It has a cool grip handle, drip-free rim and aluminum base for even heat distribution. This is a classic, dishwasher safe pan at an affordable price.
All-Clad’s highly durable, professional-grade frying pan is constructed with an aluminum core and two layers of stainless steel. At 12 inches, it’s a breeze to cook any dish, no matter the size. While on the pricier side, it is safe for the oven or broiler up to 600 degrees.
Sold by Amazon
This small, 10-inch pan is versatile enough to be used for sauteing, searing or pan frying any food. It offers great heat distribution for even cooking.
Sold by Amazon
Should you get a nonstick pan or a stainless steel pan?
Nonstick pans and stainless steel pans have come a long way since their initial invention. For many casual cooks, both are convenient, useful pieces of cookware to have in the kitchen.
Stainless steel pans are ideal if you want something that’s versatile, holds up against heavy use and doesn’t rely on synthetic coating. On the other hand, a nonstick pan is better if you’re looking for something that heats evenly and is easy to clean.
When in doubt, consider getting one of each. Doing so will make it so you have the appropriate cookware for any occasion.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.