Are you ready to buy new cookware but can’t decide between ceramic and stainless steel?
In this comparison of ceramic vs. stainless steel cookware, you’ll learn how they differ in construction, design, performance, weight, price, and more.
By the end, you’ll be able to confidently decide which cookware is right for your kitchen.
Use the links below to navigate the comparison:
- Ceramic vs. Stainless Steel Cookware: Comparison Chart
- Difference 1: Materials and Construction
- Difference 2: Design
- Difference 3: Food Release
- Difference 4: Searing and Browning
- Difference 5: Versatility
- Difference 6: Durability
- Difference 7: Weight and Maneuverability
- Difference 8: Price
- Bottom Line: Is Stainless Steel Cookware Better than Ceramic?
If you’re in a hurry, the following chart provides a quick comparison of ceramic vs. stainless steel cookware.
|Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware||Stainless Steel Cookware|
|Construction||Aluminum with ceramic non-stick coating||Stainless steel with aluminum or copper core|
|Design||Modern and colorful||Traditional and sleek|
|Food Release||Food doesn’t stick (initially)||Without proper techniques, food may stick|
|Searing and Browning||Not ideal for searing||Best for searing and browning|
|Versatility||Primarily used for preparing delicate dishes like eggs||Versatile – frying, searing, browning, braising|
|Induction Compatibile||Only if the bottom is steel||Yes|
|Oven Safe||450°F on average||500°F on average|
|Lifetime||1-3 years||5-30 years|
|Average Weight (fry pan)||2-3 pounds||4-5 pounds|
Difference 1: Materials and Construction
There are two types of ceramic cookware.
The first is 100% ceramic cookware made from natural minerals such as clay and quartz sand. These are kiln baked and glazed. Pie dishes, casserole pans, and other bakeware are often ceramic.
The second is ceramic-coated non-stick cookware. This type of cookware, which is the subject of this comparison, isn’t made of actual ceramic.
Typically, it’s made with an aluminum, hard-anodized aluminum, or stainless steel base with a natural coating applied to the cooking surface.
That coating is made from silicone, a byproduct of sand. During manufacturing, a process called sol-gel transforms the silicone into a gel that gives the coating its non-stick properties.
Although it’s not made of actual ceramic, it’s labeled as such because of its smooth glossy texture that mimics the look of ceramic.
While ceramic coating varies by brand, high-quality brands include additives to increase durability. For example, GreenPan and GreenLife cookware use a ceramic coating infused with specks of diamonds.
Alternatively, stainless steel cookware is exactly what it claims. The type of stainless steel may vary, as brands use proprietary alloys (a blend of metals). However, most high-quality cookware brands use 18/10 stainless steel.
Most quality stainless cookware brands are fully-clad, which means the cookware is made of multiple layers of meta bonded together.
Steel is durable and non-reactive, but it’s not a great conductor of heat. Because of that, most stainless steel cookware is made with a thick aluminum core sandwiched between two outer layers of steel.
Difference 2: Design
Ceramic non-stick cookware exteriors feature various colors and finishes, from matte to shiny.
For example, GreenPan is one of the most versatile ceramic non-stick cookware brands. The company offers slim stackable cookware, wide-bodied pots, and pans with options like gold-toned handles. The exteriors range from color-rich, hard-anodized aluminum to polished or brushed stainless steel.
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Alternatively, Caraway offers a single style of cookware in multiple colors like cream, red, and marigold. The lid handles are slender and long with a low profile. The pots and pans have rounded bases and straight walls.
But the paint on colorful ceramic cookware like Caraway will eventually chip — a downside to any painted or coated cookware.
The handles on ceramic non-stick cookware are usually steel, but some are wrapped in silicone or plastic. These materials provide better grip but lower the oven-safe temperature of the cookware.
Stainless steel cookware has a traditional appearance without all the color. Most pots and pans feature a brushed (matte) or polished (shiny) finish; however, designs vary slightly by brand and collection.
For example, All-Clad D3 and D5 stainless steel cookware collections are as traditional as it gets. They have uniform exteriors with stainless steel riveted handles. The only major difference in design is that the D3 collection has a polished finish while the D5 is brushed.
However, the All-Clad Copper Core collection features a copper accent near the base and rim to show off the fact that beneath the stainless steel is a thick copper core layer.
The Demeyere Atlantis collection offers a twist on traditional stainless steel. It’s one collection but offers two different designs:
The conical (rounded) cookware offers a brushed stainless steel body and 7-ply construction. It heats evenly from all sides because it is full-clad.
The straight-walled cookware features a two-tone finish of brushed and polished stainless steel. It features a 7-layer base that heats evenly from the bottom, and the side walls capture residual heat.
It’s some of the most well-designed stainless steel cookware I’ve ever tested. Watch my comparison video of Demeyere Atlantis vs. Industry to learn more.
Difference 3: Food Release
If you can’t stand food sticking to your pans, ceramic non-stick cookware comes out on top. The natural, gel-based non-stick layer reduces the need for oil or butter (you will need some, but not a lot). Yet, food slides around easily.
Conversely, stainless steel cookware is notorious for food sticking (especially if you’re not an experienced cook).
However, there are several ways to minimize sticking. Check out this guide and video tutorial for tips on avoiding sticking food when cooking with stainless steel.
Difference 4: Searing and Browning
Stainless steel cookware is significantly better than ceramic for searing and browning.
First, stainless steel cookware is typically thicker and has better heat retention. It won’t lose its temperature when you place cold or room temperature food on its surface. And since the pan stays hot, the Maillard Reaction will impart a delicious crust on the food.
I tested the heat retention of several stainless steel and ceramic non-stick pans by boiling two cups of water in each pan and measuring the water temperature five and ten minutes after removing the pans from the heat.
As you can see in the results below, stainless steel pans retain heat better than ceramic pans on average.
|Pan||Temperature After 5 Minutes||Temperature After 10 Minutes|
|Demeyere Atlantis fry pan (stainless steel)||122.0°F||106.3°F|
|Made In fry pan (stainless steel)||121.1°F||106.6°F|
|Rachael Ray fry pan (ceramic non-stick)||126.3°F||102.7°F|
|Demeyere Industry fry pan (stainless steel)||115.2°F||96.6°F|
|All-Clad skillet (stainless steel)||111.6°F||100.9°F|
|Hestan fry pan (stainless steel)||114°F||98°F|
|GreenLife fry pan (ceramic non-stick)||119°F||95°F|
|Gotham Steel fry pan (ceramic non-stick)||113°F||95°F|
Also, the instant bond between the surface of a stainless steel pan and the food is necessary to create a crust.
So, temporary sticking is the key during the searing process. And when the process is complete, meat naturally releases from the surface. Plus, The leftover brown bits from searing contribute to the flavor intensity of a sauce or gravy.
The non-stick nature of ceramic pans doesn’t allow tight enough contact between the cooking surface and the food to sear properly.
That said, it’s possible to sear and brown food in ceramic non-stick pans, but it’s much easier with stainless steel, and you’ll get better results (crispier crust).
Difference 5: Versatility
Another advantage of stainless steel is its versatility. You can use it to fry, sear, brown, or braise various dishes. Plus, with quality cookware, you can move from the cooktop to the oven to the broiler to the table in one pan.
And since steel is magnetic, stainless steel cookware is compatible with all cooktops, even induction.
Ceramic non-stick is better used for sautéing, pan frying, or preparing delicate dishes on the stove (like eggs). Most options are oven-safe but not broiler safe, as direct heat will damage the coating.
Most ceramic non-stick pans have an aluminum base. Aluminum is not magnetic; therefore, most ceramic non-stick cookware won’t work on induction cooktops.
That said, some brands bond a steel plate to the bottom of their pans so they work on all cooktops. For example, Caraway pots and pans have a steel induction plate bonded to the aluminum base.
Difference 6: Durability
Ceramic non-stick cookware is notorious for having a short lifespan. In fact, many home chefs report having to replace it after one year of regular use. You can extend the pan’s life by using non-abrasive cooking utensils and cleaning tools.
When ceramic non-stick cookware breaks down, food will stick, rendering the pan useless.
Most ceramic non-stick cookware comes with a lifetime warranty, which only covers materials and craftsmanship defects. It never covers misuse or normal wear-and-tear. So, you won’t be able to trade in your ceramic pan when the non-stick coating stops working.
Conversely, if you take good care of stainless steel cookware, you can use it for decades. It can last a lifetime if it is not warped, pitted, or rusted (even though you can often repair those issues).
The key to longevity is keeping your stainless steel cookware clean and avoiding thermal shock. Read this article to learn how to make stainless steel pans last longer.
Difference 7: Weight and Maneuverability
High-end stainless steel cookware is fully-clad. The multiple layers of metal make it heavier than ceramic non-stick cookware.
Similarly, the weight of ceramic non-stick cookware depends on the base material — stainless steel, aluminum, or hard-anodized aluminum. Most ceramic non-stick cookware is made with a lighter aluminum base.
For comparison, the following table shows the weights of popular stainless steel and ceramic non-stick cookware fry pans.
|All-Clad Copper Core 12-inch fry pan (stainless steel)||3.75 pounds|
|All-Clad D5 12-inch fry pan (stainless steel)||3.25 pounds|
|Demeyere Atlantis 11-inch fry pan (stainless steel)||5.2 pounds|
|GreenPan Valencia Pro 11-inch fry pan (ceramic)||2.6 Pounds|
|GreenLife Soft Grip 12-inch fry pan (ceramic)||2.27 pounds|
|Caraway 10-inch fry pan (ceramic)||2.8 pounds|
Difference 8: Price
In general, stainless steel cookware is more expensive than ceramic non-stick cookware. But this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Some high-end ceramic cookware brands, like Caraway, are priced comparably to quality stainless steel cookware.
However, pricing will vary by brand, collection, materials, construction, where it’s made, and where you buy.
For example, a fully-clad stainless steel All-Clad pan made in the USA is more expensive than a Cuisinart pan made in China with an impact-bonded base.
The chart below shows the current prices of popular stainless steel and ceramic cookware sets on Amazon. Click or tap the prices to learn more about each item.
|All-Clad D3 10-Piece Set (Stainless Steel)||Amazon|
|All-Clad Brushed D5 10-Piece Set (Stainless Steel)||Amazon|
|Cuisinart 12-Piece Set (Stainless Steel)||Amazon|
|Demeyere Atlantis 10-Piece Set (Stainless Steel)||Amazon|
|Made In Cookware 10-Piece Set (Stainless Steel)||Amazon|
|GreenPan Rio 16-Piece Set (Ceramic Non-Stick)||Amazon|
|GreenPan Valencia Pro 11-Piece Set (Ceramic Non-Stick)||Amazon|
|GreenLife Soft Grip 16-Piece Set (Ceramic Non-Stick)||Amazon|
|Caraway 12-Piece Set (Ceramic Non-Stick)||Amazon|
|Gotham Steel 12-Piece Set (Ceramic Non-Stick)||Amazon|
Now that you know the major differences between stainless steel and ceramic non-stick cookware, it’s time to pick the right one for your kitchen.
Let’s quickly recap the key points before I offer my recommendation:
- Ceramic non-stick coating is made from a sand-derived gel that breaks down over time. When it fully breaks down, it loses its non-stick qualities. Stainless steel does not break down. The cooking surface is usually 18/10 steel and offers superior rust and corrosion resistance.
- Stainless steel cookware is either fully-clad or features a multi-clad base, making it heavier than ceramic non-stick cookware. Most ceramic cookware features an aluminum body.
- Ceramic non-stick comes in various colors and designs. Stainless steel cookware features a classic and traditional look.
- Stainless steel is notorious for food sticking, while ceramic cookware releases food easily (until the coating wears down).
- Stainless steel cookware is more versatile than ceramic non-stick. You can prepare just about any meal in it. Ceramic non-stick is better for sautéing and preparing delicate foods like eggs.
- Stainless steel has a higher heat tolerance than ceramic non-stick. Unlike ceramic, you can use it under a broiler.
- With proper care, stainless steel cookware can last a lifetime. Most ceramic non-stick cookware has a short life span of a few years or less.
- Stainless steel cookware is usually more expensive than ceramic non-stick cookware, but the prices can vary depending on the brand, collection, materials, and construction.
Bottom line — ceramic non-stick cookware won’t last forever, but it’s better than stainless steel for delicate foods prone to sticking. Stainless steel cookware can last forever and be your workhorse in the kitchen for complex meals and high-heat cooking, especially if you want a perfect sear.
If you’re leaning towards non-stick cookware over stainless steel, I recommend PTFE-based non-stick over ceramic non-stick. It’s more durable and lasts longer.
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