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Shopping for new cookware? Consider stainless steel.

by Karen on June 11, 2012

Tony and I have been married for four years (seriously? Only four?) In that time, we have bought three sets of nonstick cookware. Is it normal for cookware to last under two years? I don’t know. But as any cook will tell you, cheap cookware isn’t worth the cost of its excessive packaging, so replacing the good stuff every year and a half isn’t cheap.

Now before you send me all kinds of tips for how to extend the life of nonstick cookware, let me stop you right there. I cared for this stuff meticulously. Maybe not the first set so much, but the second two? Hand washed with mild detergent, metal utensils never touched it, nonstick safe sponges only, and I carefully stored each piece with a dishcloth in the bottom to keep them from scratching each other. Still, about a year and a half later, each pan started to chip, and I had to throw them away.

I’m not usually super paranoid about chemicals, but using chipped nonstick cookware is one area where I won’t negotiate. I don’t want to eat that stuff, and I certainly don’t want my baby eating it.

About a year ago, after our second set of cookware bit the dust, Tony and I started talking about how we could avoid replacing our cookware in another year. I looked up all kinds of tips for extending its life, and it turned out we were following all of them. We weren’t buying cheap cookware, so that wasn’t the problem. We came to a conclusion: we just don’t like nonstick cookware. It seems like no matter what we do, it doesn’t last long.

We decided it was time to invest in a set of stainless steel cookware. I was nervous. I envisioned stuck on messes that would take hours to scrub away and dinners scraped from the bottom of the pan, burned to bits.

My husband assured me that, as the primary cook in our house, he wasn’t intimidated by stainless steel. In fact, most of the chefs he admires recommend it over nonstick for most uses. Despite my nervousness, we ordered a set.

It’s been almost a year now, and we love our stainless cookware. Not only is it free of the crazy chemicals found in nonstick pans, but it’s surprisingly easier to clean — which I didn’t expect. I find myself scrubbing harder and longer on the nonstick pan we use occasionally, because I can only use those wimpy, nonstick safe sponges. If I’m scrubbing a stainless pan, I can use a steel scouring pad, and any gunk comes off much faster.

It’s also crazy durable. I love that we don’t have to worry about what kind of utensils we use with it, how we store it, how we clean it. A good set of stainless cookware can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.

If you’re going to take the leap, just make sure that you consider it an investment. It’s not necessary to get the top of the line, but you’ll get more mileage out of a good trustworthy brand like KitchenAid* or Calphalon* than you will from an off-brand. We went with the KitchenAid, because it’s very reasonably priced, and we’ve been happy with it.

As far as cooking goes, as long as you’re diligent about watching your stove as you cook (you should be anyway), refrain from turning up the heat too high, and use a nice oil when cooking things that stick (we like extra virgin olive oil), you’ll be fine. If you do burn something to the bottom of the pan? Just whip out your handy scouring pad, and with a little elbow grease, your pan will be good as new.

There are only a few things we cook that we don’t use the stainless. We have a nice nonstick pan that we use exclusively for scrambling or frying eggs. (My husband swears by keeping a special egg pan. He says it’s one of his secrets for perfect eggs, and I can’t argue with him, because the man can make a mean omelet.)

The other essential pan for your kitchen: a good cast iron skillet. We bought ours almost five years ago (for under $20, I believe), and it’s gotten better and better each year we use it. I’m told I’ll probably be able to pass that thing down to my grandchildren.

If you’re sick of replacing your nonstick cookware or wary of cooking with chemicals, give stainless a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

*Affiliate link. If you choose to purchase an item using this link, I receive a small commission for recommending it to you.

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{ 11 comments }

1 Erin June 11, 2012 at 9:43 am

We got a Calphalon pan for our wedding and I love it. It is the only non-stick pan I will ever use. It doesn’t scratch or chip and everything slides right off. I also love my cast iron pans!

2 Kasey June 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm

We have a set of All-Clad Copper core and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I think we will be able to pass that on to our grandchildren :) I do see the point of an egg pan though – cleaning egg from the stainless is kind of gross. What I really want to find are cookie sheets – I’m so tired of chipped cookie sheets and replacing them.
Kasey´s last blog post ..More new posts

3 Karen June 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I’m with you, Kasey. I’ve been wanting to replace my nonstick cookie sheets forever. My mother-in-law has some awesome stainless steel half-sheet pans. They’re about $15-$20 each, but so worth it. I’d love to get some of them and use silicon baking sheets or parchment paper to keep food from sticking. Honestly, though, I’ve used hers to make cookies and things at the holidays, and as long as they’re greased well, we don’t have a lot of trouble with things sticking.

4 Caitlin June 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm

We asked for the Tramontina stainless steel set from Wal-mart on our wedding registry and I am really pleased with it. It is tri-ply and was recommended by Cook’s Illustrated. It is also a really good deal for the price. Normally I would agree with you and go with a reliable brand, but since I trust Cook’s Illustrated and know that they put the cookware through its paces thoroughly, I figured it was worth a shot. I’m glad I did the research and discovered stainless steel–it’s been a good lesson for buying important items that I want to last a long time. I love cast iron as well.
Caitlin´s last blog post ..Shot of Spring Scarf

5 Kacie June 11, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I bought a Caphalon set in college. It was $50ish on super-sale at Macy’s and I still use the stuff daily. Love that stainless steel! I expect it to last me another decade if not more.

Eggs in them are terrible, though.
Kacie´s last blog post ..27 years

6 Kacie June 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Ok I lied. I THOUGHT mine was Caphalon when I commented here but I was just scrubbing a pan and it’s not. It’s Maitre Chef or something like that. No idea how I got that mixed up! I still like my set a lot :)
Kacie´s last blog post ..Do you use cash, or plastic when teaching children about money?

7 margot June 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Your reference to using “nice oil” – like extra virgin olive oil – makes no sense regarding stainless steel. The only reason to use “nice oil” is for health. But EVOO is actually the worst choice for frying. It has a very low “burn point.” That’s why it’s never used in Asian cooking or by chefs for stir frying. Peanut oil and lots of other oils have much, much higher burn points, so they are better for cooking. And any oil, including lard or cheap, gross oils, will work equally well on stainless.

8 Karen June 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I’m sorry my recommendation for extra virgin olive oil bothered you so much, but it’s only my recommendation. We have never used anything but extra virgin olive oil in cooking, and the relatively low smoke point has never been a problem for us. We even use it for stir frying, and have never had a problem.

9 Jennifer June 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I love stainless steel cookware, it works so great!

As for the olive oil – I don’t use it for frying things, but will use canola oil instead. As long as you like the flavor of what you use, then use whatever you want is my motto.
Jennifer´s last blog post ..Frugal Tuesday Tip | Week 72

10 Mimi Lou July 8, 2012 at 2:00 am

I love cooking with stainless steel cookware. It’s durable and versatile. Can be used on any cooktop and in the oven. Easy to clean. Doesn’t have chemical reaction with acidic food. Has good heat conduction. I always preheat my pan before putting in the oil and have no problem with food sticking in the pan. I’m not a chef but I cook every day and make good food. Love my stainless steel set.

11 Krisha July 29, 2012 at 10:20 pm

I have everything from cheapo tools of the trade sold at macys, to cuisnart, to all all clad. Browning & clean up are superior with all clad, but I love them all. After going through numerous nonstick and reading about the health hazards and such I made the switch. I use stainless now except for eggs & fish. As far as oil’s, I’ve used EVOO, safflower, canola, butter, coconut oil all no problem.

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