Non-Stick Vs. Stainless Steel Pans | Which and When to Use

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The main difference between non-stick and stainless steel is that stainless steel doesn’t have any coating on it. It is usually layered or bonded with aluminum to increase heat conductivity. You will have to replace non-stick after a couple of years, whereas stainless steel will remain your companion in the kitchen for years.

Your favorite dish prepared in the right cookware can do wonders! No one disagrees with the fact that the wrong cookware for a particular dish can ruin the aromatic flavor and nutritional value of the food.

The old-world and mainstream choice of stainless steel cookware and the alternative option of the added convenience of non-stick cookware – these two types of cookware are ruling the kitchen arsenal.

Yet, people get frustrated from choosing between them when either updating their kitchen cookware inventory or setting the kitchen for the first time. The truth is both stainless steel and non-stick pans are essential for the kitchen. And both have their unique characteristics, pros, and cons.

However, one should know their culinary goals, the frequency of usage, and the dishes they are going to cook frequently. Along with that, one should also be aware of when to swap their skillet for the other, which recipes are better cooked in both types of cookware.

You shouldn’t miss our tested recommendations for the best Teflon-free non stick pans and top ceramic nonstick pans for all cooktops.

A Quick Glance of Stainless Steel Vs. Non-Stick Pans

Before digging deep into their details, let’s have a brief comparison of both types of cookware.

Characteristics Non-Stick Stainless Steel
Durability Can last only 2-3 years. Highly durable
Coating They either have PTFE (Teflon) coating or Ceramics coating. Stainless steel cookware is cladded with other minerals; they don’t have any coating.
Safety Issues PTFE coating may have carcinogenic properties, and also release toxins at high temperatures. Ceramic coating is comparatively safer. Non-reactive surface with no safety concerns.
Oil for cooking Non-stick pans are smooth and don’t require too much oil. Stainless steel cookware is stickier and requires a lot of oil so the food doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Dishwasher safe Non-stick pans are not recommended to be washed in the dishwasher even if they are marked “dishwasher safe.” Dishwasher safe
Ease of cleaning It’s a lot easier to clean. May require elbow grease to clean.
Pre-heating requirement It doesn’t need pre-heating Pre-heating of stainless steel pan is required to minimize the pores on stainless steel and to make it a more smooth surface.
Heat Conductivity Non-stick pans use aluminum in their construction, making it more heat conductive. Stainless steel in itself is a poor heat conductor that’s why multi-layered stainless steel is preferred to improve heat conductivity.
PRICE Check Best Non-Stick Pans Check Best Stainless Steel Pans

Stainless Steel PansStainless Steel Pans – The Basics

Stainless steel pans are around for centuries and are known for their versatility, durability, rust-resistance, and non-reactive surface.

Since stainless steel pans are poor heat conductors, they are made from various other materials such as aluminum or carbon. A smaller percentage of nickel, copper, titanium is also included to increase heat conductivity. Three-ply stainless steel such as All-Clad is considered the premium choice as these multi-clad pots and pans have an inside core of conductive material to heat rapidly and evenly.

Non Stick PansNon-Stick Pans – The Basics

Non-Stick pans bring ease of cleaning and convenience to the kitchen. As the name suggests, non-stick pans are constructed to repel the food and prevent it from sticking. It doesn’t require too much oil for cooking. Such non-stick pans usually have a metal core on which a non-stick coating of Teflon or Ceramics is applied.

Temperature Endurance

Frying Pan Temperature EnduranceNon-stick pans can’t withstand higher temperatures. If the pans have Teflon coating, they will start disintegrating at 500 F. Ceramic non-stick coating can take a bit more heat. Yet, the ceramic coating will start degrading and chipping at higher temperatures and are better used to cook at low to moderate temperatures.

In contrast, stainless steel frying pan can take a high-burning temperature. High temperature won’t change its composition, nor would it release toxins. High-heat searing or browning of the meat, stir-frying vegetables, or boiling liquids are suitable only in stainless steel.


Frying Pan DurabilityStainless steel cookware can last a lifetime and can withstand any impact, temperature changes, freezing temperature. It doesn’t break, and as long as it is appropriately maintained, it remains durable.

Non-stick pans coating gets scratched or chips and loses its non-stick quality, no matter how expensive. Depending on non-stick care, you will eventually have to replace it after a few years.

To make a non-stick pan last longer, take the following precautions.

  • Don’t cook on high heat.
  • Don’t wash the pan in the dishwasher.
  • Don’t use metal spatulas or scrubbers when cleaning.
  • Don’t heat the empty pan.
  • Replace the pan when the coating starts coming off.

Frying Pan in OvenOven-Safe

Stainless steel pans are oven and broiler safe even at high heat due to their high-temperature endurance. In contrast, non-stick pans are not broiler-safe, and non-stick pans for high-heat have the maximum temperature endurance of up to 550° F, depending on the coating and construction. Each manufacturer mentions oven-safe temperature, and you can’t use it at higher temperatures of the oven.

Stainless Steel and Non-stick – Which Cooktop to Use

Stainless steel works on types of cooktops, whether it is a gas stove, electric stove, oven, or induction burner. Non-stick pans are also compatible with all cooktops except induction stoves. Induction safe non-stick pans have a bonded stainless steel plate at the bottom of cookware to make it compatible with induction burners. You may like to check the following non-stick pans:


Stainless steel sets can be more expensive than non-stick pans as multi-layered construction increases the cost of manufacturing and stainless steel is more costly than aluminum.

Non-stick pans are relatively cheaper; however, when you move up to the top brands, the price gets higher for enhanced non-stick quality and better design.

Non-Stick Vs. Stainless Steel Pans – When To Use

Non-Stick Pans Stainless Steel Pans
It’s better for cooking sticky proteins such as eggs and fish fillets. For browning and crisping meat
For cooking with fewer fats and oils. For deglazing
For low to medium heat cooking For high-heat searing of meat
For pancakes, crepes, omelets For cooking acidic foods

Which is Safer: Stainless Steel or Nonstick Cookware?

The non-stick coating of Teflon has been under a lot of criticism and has generated contrasted arguments. It’s linked with cancer and Teflon flu that is deadly enough to kill birds and cause various diseases in humans.

Following the criticism and research on Teflon coating, which is made of PTFE, a chemical PFOA used in the making of PTFE is found to be the root of evil diseases. This harmful chemical PFOA has been phased out by industry manufacturers voluntarily.

So, all new non-stick pans are mostly PFOA-free, but the primary coating still consists of PTFE.

Ceramic coating has emerged in the scenario as a healthy alternative. Ceramic pans are non-stick pans without Teflon in its true sense. Ceramic coating in the form of sol-gel is applied over an aluminum layer and is generally free of toxins. Read more about Ceramic non-stick pans safety in the article in detail here.

On the other hand, stainless steel pots and pans aren’t made of 100% steel. Instead, some metals are used in the form of either layering or mixed with steel to improve their stability, heat conductivity, and safety.

According to NSF National Standard, all stainless steel cookware should have a minimum of 16% chromium to make it corrosion resistant. Fortunately, all stainless steel cookware meets this bare minimum requirement, and hence they are safe to use in cooking.

Did you know that you can turn a stainless steel pan into non-stick temporarily by seasoning? Want to know how to season a stainless steel pan? Read here!

What to Keep in Mind When Buying Stainless Steel

  • Buy tri-ply stainless steel where the inner high-conductive metal core extends to the wall and improves the heat transference, retention, and even cooking.
  • Another rule of thumb: the heavier the pot, the better it performs. High-gauged stainless steel is a lot better than flimsy and thin-bottomed cookware.
  • Ensure that the stainless steel pan has a composition of 18/10, which is the industry standard for quality cookware. Here 18 means 18% chromium and 10% nickel to make it rust-resistant.

What to Keep in Mind When buying Non-Stick Pans

  • Check that the non-stick pan coating is PFOA and PFAS free. The rule of heavy gauged bottom applies here too, don’t buy a thin or flimsy non-stick pan.
  • Check the non-stick pan’s handles, its maximum oven temperature, and the balance of the pan before buying it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it harder to cook with stainless steel or nonstick?

Stainless steel pans are hard to cook with, especially for the novice cook who has just entered the culinary world and started experimenting on various dishes. The reason is that the food can stick to the bottom and get burned, thus making cleaning an arduous task.

Non-stick pans bring the convenience of cooking and cleaning both. Sticker foods release the surface with ease; flipping the pancakes and crepes doesn’t require forceful scratching either. Cleaning is also a breeze as there is no stuck food on the non-stick surface.

Why are non-stick pans bad?

Non-stick pans aren’t bad; the bad reputation was due to non-stick coating Teflon (PTFE). However, the harmful chemicals (PFOA and PFAS) in the non-stick coating are now banned. Thus, non-stick cookware is now free of these toxic chemicals.

To remove the Teflon or PTFE doubts altogether, new ceramic coatings are also being produced, which are safer and eco-friendly. The only scare regarding non-stick pan is the high-temperature as it can impact non-stick coating or emit toxic fumes.

What is the least toxic cookware?

The least toxic cookware between stainless steel and non-stick is stainless steel, hands down. We don’t take the temperature of the pot’s surface when cooking, and we never know how hot the pan has become and exceeded the safe limit of non-stick pots and pans. As A result, the coating starts deteriorating, and Teflon may emit toxic fumes too, which can be harmful to health.

Wrapping Up! Stainless Steel or Non-Stick: What Should I get?

For daily cooking, you should have pots and pans of stainless steel in the kitchen that can cook almost all types of food, especially when high-heat cooking is the main requisite. However, you should have at least a set of different sizes of non-stick frying pans in your kitchen to make crepes, pancakes, eggs, and fish fillets which you don’t want to stick to the pan’s bottom.

About Amelia

Hello, I’m Amelia. Welcome to my blog KitchenUnder100.Com. Over here I regularly post kitchen hacks, reviews of kitchen tools, utensils and related articles. My mission is to search and recommend the best kitchen products, so you don't waste your precious time and money on anything that is not worth it.

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