Best Cookware Material For Pots & Pans (Buyer’s Guide)

A full set of cookware can be a large investment, and often requires you to choose just one format of pots and pans for the long term.

While this is a nice way to make sure your kitchen matches, there are some cookware materials that work better than others.

In this guide, we will go over the best types of cookware available and how their materials and coatings stack up against each other.

Best Cookware Material

NonStick Cookware

nonstick cookware

Pros

  • You can reduce your fat intake and cook healthier on nonstick cookware. Be aware that your taste buds may take some time to adjust!
  • Nonstick is non-reactive, so if you like to cook with acidic foods such as tomatoes, citrus or wine, you’re all set.

Cons

  • If your nonstick pan starts to lose its coating (thus becoming “stick” cookware), it will need to be replaced.
  • Even with the most tender care, Teflon will age and flake away. New ceramic coatings appear to be more durable but have not had the chance to stand the test of time.​ (Teflon vs Ceramic)

See our full guide on the best nonstick cookware and best nonstick frying pans for more details and buying options.

Cast Iron Cookware

cast iron skillet with chicken

Pros

  • Cast iron cookware holds its heat and transfers easily from stovetop to oven. Properly seasoned, cast iron cookware can last for generations (Griswold Cast Iron).
  • Enameled cast iron is available in a wide array of colors and offers a non-reactive and beautiful way to make stews, roasts, and casseroles.

Cons

  • This cookware is extremely heavy, and re-seasoning it can take time and make a smelly mess of your oven.
  • It’s reactive, so one batch of tomato based stew or soup will require you to re-season the pot.
  • Also, it must be cleaned up and dried thoroughly shortly after use, or it will rust and require a deep cleaning and thorough re-seasoning.​

See our full guide on the best cast iron cookware and best cast iron skillets for more details and buying options.

Ceramic Cookware

Ceramic Cookware

Pros

  • Ceramic cookware is nonstick featuring Thermalon coating, which does not include the risks found in Teflon (Is Teflon safe? and is ceramic cookware toxic?).
  • As a general rule, this cookware is dishwasher safe, but we don’t recommend it.
  • These sets are often available in a wide variety of colors for fun and easy decorating.
  • They’re also built on an anodized aluminum base, so they’re durable and lightweight.

Cons

  • Most ceramic sets have rubberized plastic in the handles and matching lids, which limits their temperature tolerance when moving from stovetop to oven.
  • The nonstick coating used in ceramic cookware is fairly new and seems to have staying power, but only time will tell.​

See our full guide on the best ceramic cookware for more details and buying options.

Induction Cookware

induction cookware and cooktop

Pros

  • Induction cookware is built to sit on an induction cooktop and heat foods by magnetic pull.
  • This cookware can move easily to a traditional cooktop, but not all traditional cookware will work on an induction stove.
  • This cookware is generally quite durable and features plenty of food grade stainless steel or cast iron in the construction.

Cons

  • Induction cookware is not cheap.
  • The best metals to use when making induction cookware are cast iron and carbon steel, which are both quite heavy.
  • They may last for years, but as cooks age, the weight and labor of working with heavy pots and pans can make cooking hazardous.​

See our full guide on the best induction cookware for more details and buying options.

Copper Cookware

copper cookware skillet

Pros

  • It’s beautiful! Copper cookware can be polished to a gorgeous, warm shimmer of color and shine.
  • This metal conducts heat extremely well, moves easily from stovetop to oven, and presents beautifully on the table.
  • When used in a more utilitarian fashion, copper inserts in stainless steel cooking pots offer great heat conductivity to that durable metal.

Cons

  • Copper is rather fussy. The metal is soft and will show any scratches or dings. To keep it beautiful, you’ll need to do some regular polishing.
  • 100% copper pots do not work on an induction cooktop.
  • They are reactive; your eggs will be green or gray instead of yellow, and any tomato-based dish will likely taste odd.​

See our full guide on the best copper cookware for more details and buying options.

Titanium & Diamond Cookware

titanium nonstick pan

Pros

  • Titanium cookware is extremely hard and conducts heat fairly well, on par with aluminum.
  • It’s also extremely lightweight.
  • The diamond nonstick coating is extremely durable and is getting excellent reviews over time.

Cons

  • It’s important to point out that many makers of Diamond nonstick cookware are not using titanium in the creation of their pots, but anodized aluminum.
  • The advertising claims on many brands to the word “titanium” are used to refer to strength, not the metal used in the pot. While anodized aluminum is a perfectly usable metal in the creation of nonstick cookware, if you want titanium cookware, shop with care.​

See our full guide on the best titanium cookware for more details and buying options.

Stone Cookware

stone cookware

Pros

  • Stone brand frying pans feature a diamond coating for an extremely durable nonstick coating.
  • This cookware is induction ready and is available in a wide variety of sizes and colors, many with matching handles and lids.
  • They’re dishwasher safe and can tolerate metal utensils.

Cons

  • This is another new nonstick technology that has not had time to prove itself.
  • Additionally, these pans feature handles with a rubberized plastic coating, so there may be temperature restrictions when moving from stovetop to oven.​

Important Features

It’s important to consider your daily cooking habits when deciding what cookware to invest in. For example, vegetarians will probably want to avoid a complete set of cast iron cookware as low-fat cooking is hard on the seasoning and finish of cast iron.

Other considerations for your daily use cookware include:

Heat Conductivity

Cast iron takes a while to heat but stays hot regardless of what you put in the pot, so it’s excellent for searing and browning meat and can work for deep frying if the pot is deep enough.

Aluminum conducts heat well but can warp over time. Anodized aluminum is stronger and more heat tolerant. Most nonstick cookware is built of anodized aluminum.

Stainless steel won’t rust or warp but offers poor heat conductivity. Many lines of cookware combine copper and stainless for excellent heat conductivity and durability. Induction ready cookware includes combination layers of metal but must have a low nickel content to work properly.

Copper pots are beautiful and conduct heat extremely well, but are easily dinged and scratched. They also require regular maintenance to keep their glow.​

Durability & Longevity

Most anodized aluminum pots feature a nonstick coating. Over time, this coating can be damaged by metal utensils on the cooktop or rough handling off the cooktop.

It’s important to never stack or nest nonstick cookware; i.e., smaller pots inside larger pots.

If possible, store them stacked from smaller to larger, so no metal contacts the inside of the pot, or hang them.

Stainless steel keeps its shine and will last for years. Quality construction featuring riveted handles will help your stainless to last. Stainless steel pots with copper inserts may have a section of visible copper on the bottom and will look better with a bit of polishing.

Copper pots often lose their luster over time and can show scratches. If you truly love the look of copper, be prepared to put in some polishing time.

Cast iron pots offer great longevity; in fact, new methods of casting iron now lead to a pebbly finish instead of the smooth finish found in older pots, making older pots more desirable amongst cast iron aficionados.​

Reactivity

Copper, cast iron, and aluminum are all reactive with acidic foods. If you like to cook with tomato sauce or wine, you need to take care when selecting your cooking pot.

One batch of a tomato based stew can do a lot of damage to a well-seasoned cast iron pot, and leave you with an odd-tasting batch of chili.

Stainless steel is a non-reactive metal and can handle anything you want to cook. When combined with a copper insert incorporated into the lining of the pan, you can enjoy the best of both of those metals.

However, there are ways around this. If you like the heft of cast iron, consider investing in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. That will give you the heat-retaining characteristics of cast iron with a non-reactive cooking surface.

Many lines of aluminum cookware feature an anodizing treatment that lessens the reaction of this metal to acidic foods. Additionally, a quality coating of nonstick materials such as ceramic will negate the risk of adverse chemical reaction.​

SEE ALSO: Ceramic vs Stainless Steel

Maintenance

Stainless steel requires a little maintenance. You’ll need to learn how to clean stainless steel and how to season a stainless steel pan.

Cast iron should not be cleaned with soap and can lose the nonstick seasoning if left dirty or used to cook acidic foods. Clean your seasoned cast iron pan with a mixture of oil and kosher salt, and re-season it if you notice scratches in the finish.

Aluminum nonstick cookware should not be used with metal utensils or at extremely high heats. If you notice scratches or flaking with your nonstick coating, you should replace your pan as soon as possible.

Copper cookware will need regular maintenance to keep the warm glow. Also, copper cookware should be stored, so it doesn’t come in contact with other metals, to avoid scratches and dings. There are many display options for copper cookware that can show off the beauty of this versatile metal.​

Prices

While your initial investment may be less with a set of aluminum cookware, you’ll need to replace it sooner than you would a quality set of stainless.

Copper pots are generally quite expensive, but if you love the look of copper, they’re well worth the money.

Cast iron pots and pans can be purchased new in hardware stores and camping supply places, or you may find good cast iron in a thrift store or second-hand shop. Do not pass up such an opportunity!​

Final Thoughts Before You Buy

There are a wide array of cookware sets in a myriad of colors and finishes. If cooking on a matching set is of critical importance to you, by all means, buy the set and enjoy it!

However, you may be better served with a variety of cookware that fulfills several different purposes in your kitchen.​

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