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HexClad vs. Stainless Steel Cookware: 7 Key Differences

Are you shopping for cookware but can’t decide whether to buy HexClad or a traditional stainless steel brand like All-Clad, Made In, or Demeyere?

HexClad features a unique hybrid cooking surface that combines the durability of steel and the convenience of non-stick. Traditional stainless steel cookware has a smooth, durable surface ideal for searing, browning, and pan sauces.

So, which is better for your kitchen? What are the key differences?

In this comparison of HexClad vs. stainless steel cookware, you’ll learn how these options differ in durability, performance, maintenance, and more.

Use the links below to navigate the comparison:

HexClad vs. Stainless Steel: Key Takeaways

If you only have a minute, here are the key differences between HexClad and stainless steel cookware. Throughout the full comparison, I provide a much more detailed analysis and share photos I captured during testing.

Construction: HexClad features a patented design with non-stick valleys fused between stainless steel peaks. This hybrid surface enhances durability and scratch resistance. Stainless steel cookware contains no non-stick coating; it’s simply aluminum sandwiched between two layers of steel.

Durability: HexClad’s hybrid design prolongs the life of its non-stick surface, but it can still wear out in 3-8 years. Stainless steel pans can last a lifetime with proper care.

Non-Stick Properties: HexClad’s PTFE non-stick coating easily releases foods like eggs and fish. Stainless steel is naturally prone to sticking, requiring extra oil/butter and proper preheating techniques.

Heat Conduction and Retention: Based on my tests, HexClad conducts and retains heat better than the average stainless steel pan. Made In and Misen stainless steel pans heat faster, and Made In, Demeyere Atlantis, and Goldilocks pans have superior heat retention.

Cooking Performance: HexClad excels at cooking delicate foods due to its non-stick surface, while stainless steel is better for creating fond, crucial for flavorful pan sauces. According to my testing, HexClad sears meat as well as stainless steel.

Oven-Safe Temperature: HexClad pans are oven-safe up to 500°F but are not broiler-safe due to the PTFE coating. Stainless steel cookware generally has a higher oven-safe temperature range, and most pans are broiler-safe.

Price: The price of stainless steel cookware varies widely by brand. Some cost nearly twice as much as HexClad, while others are less than half the price. Despite its shorter lifespan, HexClad costs about the same as high-end stainless steel brands like All-Clad and Demeyere.

Bottom Line: HexClad wins on convenience; food doesn’t stick and it cleans up quickly. But stainless steel can handle higher heat and lasts significantly longer. If you can afford it, buy both. But if you only have the space and budget for one pan, stainless steel’s durability and versatility make it the better overall choice.

Read reviews and compare HexClad’s current price against the top-rated stainless steel cookware brands at the links below:

Comparison Chart

HexCladStainless Steel
Base ConstructionStainless steel with an aluminum coreStainless steel with an aluminum core
Cooking SurfaceHybrid of stainless steel peaks and non-stick valleys in a hexagonal patternStainless steel (smooth)
Induction CompatibleYesYes
Oven-Safe500°FUp to 800°F (varies by brand)
CleaningCleans up easilyRequires extra scrubbing and cleansers like Bar Keepers Friend
Where It’s MadeChinaUSA, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, China (varies by brand)
Company HistoryTrademark registered in 2016All-Clad invented fully-clad stainless steel cookware in 1971
Price$$$$ (Amazon or HexClad.com)$$ – $$$$$ (Amazon)
Top Reason to BuyVersatility (performs well with all tasks)Lasts forever; ideal for creating fond and pan sauces
Top Reason to NOT BuyNon-stick coating degrades over time; expensiveFood sticks

Difference 1: Construction

Stainless steel cookware is made of bonded layers of metal. Typically, it’s made with durable, non-reactive steel on the top and bottom and a heat-conductive aluminum sandwiched in the middle. All-Clad D3 cookware is an excellent example of this type of 3-ply construction.

All-Clad D3 Stainless Pots and Pans
All-Clad D3 Stainless Pots and Pans

Stainless steel cookware doesn’t have any non-stick or enamel coatings. So you never have to worry about it chipping, and it can handle high heat without becoming damaged.

HexClad, though similar in its basic structure to stainless steel cookware, introduces a significant twist.

HexClad 3-ply base
HexClad 3-ply base

While it also features three bonded layers with steel and aluminum, HexClad stands out with its patented non-stick and steel hybrid interior and exterior.

HexClad pan interior
HexClad cooking surface

The cooking surface and the bottom of HexClad pans feature a series of laser-etched hexagons, creating a pattern of peaks and valleys. The peaks are stainless steel, while the valleys are non-stick coating.

HexClad hybrid cooking surface
HexClad hybrid cooking surface

This design isn’t just for looks; it has a practical purpose. The steel peaks prevent utensils from directly contacting and scratching the non-stick coating.

Difference 2: Durability

HexClad’s unique hybrid design protects its non-stick coating from scratches. While it certainly extends the life of the non-stick surface compared to traditional non-stick pans, it’s important to remember that even this advanced coating won’t last indefinitely.

Forks, knives, and other sharp or pointy utensils can get between the steel peaks and damage the non-stick coating. Even if you avoid metal utensils, heat, soap, and friction from sponges will eventually wear down the coating.

HexClad metal utensil safe
HexClad metal utensil safe

With daily use, expect a HexClad pan to serve you for about 3-8 years. But it can last longer with proper care and maintenance.

With proper care, stainless steel pans can last a lifetime. You might notice your stainless steel cookware darkening or developing a patina over time, but this won’t affect its cooking performance.

All-Clad pan after over 25 years of use
Stainless steel pan after over 25 years of use

Unless they warp, dent, or the handle breaks (all unlikely events), these pans will outlast HexClad by decades.

Difference 3: Non-Stick Properties

HexClad pans are coated with PTFE, commonly known as Teflon. This slippery coating releases food and makes cleanup easy. A bit of soap, warm water, and a gentle sponge or cloth are all you need to keep your HexClad pan in top shape.

Searing salmon in a HexClad pan
Searing salmon in a HexClad pan

I’ve cooked dozens of meals in my HexClad pans, and most foods do not stick. Eggs are the one exception; you need to grease the pan with a small amount of butter or oil to prevent them from sticking.

Egg not sticking to a greased HexClad pan
Egg not sticking to a greased HexClad pan

A major downside of stainless steel cookware is the tendency for food to stick. Proteins in foods like eggs and fish can form stubborn bonds with the steel surface, making it difficult to flip or move them without breaking.

Egg sticking to a stainless steel pan
Egg sticking to a stainless steel pan

However, there are ways to minimize sticking with stainless steel. The key is proper preparation.

First, preheat your pan. Then, add oil or butter and let it fully heat up before placing your food in the pan. Resist moving the food right away; instead, let it form a nice crust, naturally releasing itself from the pan when ready. If you move the food too early, it’s more likely to stick.

Read this guide for more tips on preventing food from sticking to stainless steel pans.

Difference 4: Heat Conduction and Retention

To see how fast an evenly HexClad heats, I poured 2 cups of cold (55°F) water into the pan, placed it on the stove, and turned the heat to high.

The water started bubbling after 1 minute and 40 seconds. The bubbles were evenly distributed across the cooking surface, which signifies that the pan heats evenly. The water started boiling at the 2-minute and 30-second mark.

HexClad heat conduction test
HexClad even heating

I conduct this test with every cookware brand I review. As you can see in the results below, HexClad heats slower than some stainless steel brands like Farberware and Made In but faster than most brands, including All-Clad, Viking, and Demeyere.

PanTime to First BubblesTime to Boil
Farberware1 minute and 2 seconds1 minute and 29 seconds
Made In stainless steel fry pan1 minute and 40 seconds2 minutes and 21 seconds
Anolon X pan1 minute and 35 seconds2 minutes and 22 seconds
Misen fry pan1 minute and 50 seconds2 minutes and 25 seconds
Caraway1 minute and 53 seconds2 minutes and 26 seconds
Anolon Advanced fry pan1 minute and 55 seconds2 minutes and 27 seconds
HexClad fry pan1 minute and 40 seconds2 minutes and 30 seconds
Made In non-stick fry pan1 minute and 53 seconds2 minutes and 31 seconds
Zwilling fry pan1 minute and 45 seconds2 minutes and 31 seconds
T-fal fry pan1 minute and 50 seconds2 minutes and 32 seconds
Gotham Steel fry pan1 minute and 58 seconds2 minutes and 32 seconds
Rachael Ray fry pan1 minute and 47 seconds2 minutes and 36 seconds
Viking fry pan1 minute and 42 seconds2 minutes and 39 seconds
Calphalon fry pan1 minute and 45 seconds2 minutes and 40 seconds
Sardel fry pan1 minute and 41 seconds2 minutes and 46 seconds
Pioneer Woman fry pan2 minutes and 2 seconds2 minutes and 46 seconds
Hestan fry pan1 minute and 52 seconds2 minutes and 47 seconds
GreenLife pan2 minutes and 11 seconds2 minutes and 47 seconds
Our Place Always Pan2 minutes and 2 seconds2 minutes and 48 seconds
Ninja NeverStick Pan2 minutes and 7 seconds2 minutes and 49 seconds
Tramontina fry pan1 minute and 53 seconds2 minutes and 52 seconds
Circulon fry pan2 minutes and 7 seconds2 minutes and 55 seconds
All-Clad D3 skillet1 minute and 55 seconds2 minutes and 55 seconds
All-Clad HA1 fry pan2 minutes and 12 seconds2 minutes and 58 seconds
Goldilocks fry pan2 minutes and 17 seconds3 minutes and 5 seconds
Demeyere Industry fry pan2 minutes and 3 seconds3 minutes and 10 seconds
Ballarini fry pan2 minutes and 15 seconds3 minutes and 12 seconds
Heritage Steel fry pan1 minute and 59 seconds3 minutes and 15 seconds
Demeyere Atlantis fry pan2 minutes and 11 seconds3 minutes and 25 seconds
Xtrema fry pan3 minutes and 41 seconds6 minutes and 7 seconds

After boiling the water, I removed the HexClad pan from the heat and set it on the counter. After 5 minutes, the water was 120.7°F. After 10 minutes, the water was 102.4°F.

As the results below show, HexClad’s heat retention is average. It holds a steady temperature better than several stainless steel pans, including All-Clad and Heritage Steel.

PanTemperature After 5 MinutesTemperature After 10 Minutes
Xtrema fry pan142°F113°F
Made In stainless steel fry pan121.1°F106.6°F
Demeyere Atlantis fry pan122.0°F106.3°F
Made In non-stick fry pan120.2°F105.8°F
Ninja NeverStick Pan130.5°F104.8°F
Misen fry pan118.6°F103.4°F
Zwilling fry pan121.1°F103.0°F
Rachael Ray fry pan126.3°F102.7°F
Goldilocks fry pan122.0°F102.5°F
HexClad fry pan120.7°F102.4°F
Circulon fry pan133.3°F102.0°F
Tramontina fry pan118.5°F101.3°F
Calphalon fry pan112.8°F101.1°F
All-Clad D3 skillet111.6°F100.9°F
Ballarini fry pan120°F99.9°F
Heritage Steel120.1°F98.2°F
All-Clad HA1 fry pan117.9°F98.1°F
Hestan fry pan114.4°F98.0°F
Sardel fry pan114.0°F97.8°F
Demeyere Industry fry pan115.2°F96.6°F
Our Place Always Pan118.0°F96.7°F
Caraway fry pan116.6°F96.4°F
Anolon X pan114.1°F96.0°F
Viking fry pan106.6°F95.9°F
Farberware fry pan112.0°F95.4°F
GreenLife fry pan119.0°F95.0°F
Gotham Steel fry pan113.0°F95.0°F
Anolon Advanced fry pan112.7°F90.9°F
Pioneer Woman fry pan104.3°F90.9°F
T-fal fry pan108.7°F88.0°F

Difference 5: Cooking Performance

I’ve tested HexClad and dozens of stainless steel cookware brands for several years. I’ve used them to cook eggs, steak, chicken, vegetables, pancakes, sauces, and much more.

Cooking chicken thighs in a HexClad pan
Cooking chicken thighs in a HexClad pan

The most significant difference is that HexClad releases delicate food better than stainless steel. If you grease the pan, eggs, pancakes, and flakey fish cook wonderfully in a HexClad pan without sticking. It’s possible to cook eggs in stainless steel, but it takes practice, and you might ruin a few eggs in the process.

While food sticking to stainless steel pans can be frustrating, it’s not entirely bad. Some sticking is actually helpful for creating fond, the crusty browned bits that form the flavor base for tasty pan sauces.

For example, when searing a steak in a stainless steel skillet, a savory layer of browned meat juices will adhere to the cooking surface. After removing your steak, those flavorful stuck-on bits (the fond) can be deglazed with wine or broth, scraped up, and reduced into a rich, delicious pan sauce full of meaty flavor.

Making a pan sauce in a Sardel stainless steel pan
Making a pan sauce in a Sardel stainless steel pan

So, while HexClad’s non-stick surface may be convenient, the tendency for stainless steel to allow just a bit of sticking means more fond can form, leading to more flavorful sauces.

HexClad sears and browns similarly to a stainless steel pan. In some cases, like with steak and burgers, I’ve gotten a better crust with stainless steel because the meat sticks to the surface and maintains closer contact with the heat. But the difference is subtle, and the average home cook wouldn’t notice.

I recently conducted a head-to-head test between HexClad and All-Clad stainless steel. I prepared two pieces of salmon exactly the same and cooked them on the same heat settings. As you can see, both pieces seared incredibly well and cooked evenly.

Salmon seared in an All-Clad pan
Salmon seared in a stainless steel pan
Salmon seared in a HexClad pan
Salmon seared in a HexClad pan

The only difference was that the All-Clad pan was more difficult and took longer to clean because the salmon stuck slightly.

HexClad and All-Clad pans after cooking salmon
HexClad and stainless steel pans after cooking salmon

Difference 6: Oven-Safe Temperature

HexClad is oven-safe up to 500°F, accommodating most baking and roasting needs. However, it has a significant limitation: it’s not broiler-safe.

The PTFE (Teflon) non-stick coating in HexClad pans can release fumes when exposed to temperatures above 500°F. Since most broilers operate at temperatures higher than this limit, HexClad is unsuitable for broiling.

Stainless steel cookware doesn’t have such limitations. It’s not only oven-safe but also broiler-safe. The maximum oven-safe temperature for stainless steel varies among brands and collections, typically ranging from 400-800°F.

The table below shows the maximum oven-safe temperatures for top-selling stainless steel cookware brands and collections.

Brand/CollectionOven-Safe Temperature
All-Clad D3600°F
All-Clad D5600°F
Made In Stainless Steel800°F
Misen Stainless Steel500°F
Heritage Steel800°F
Tramontina Tri-Ply350°F
Farberware Classic350°F
Hestan ProBond600°F
Demeyere Atlantis500°F

Difference 7: Price

HexClad is priced at the higher end of the cookware market, comparable to premium brands like All-Clad, Demeyere, and Hestan.

Many home cooks find it tough to justify HexClad’s high price, especially considering these pans eventually need to be replaced.

Stainless steel cookware is available at a wide range of prices. Brands like Made In, Heritage Steel, and Calphalon offer excellent performance and durability at a slightly lower price than HexClad.

And brands like Goldilocks, Misen, and Tramontina provide cost-effective alternatives without significantly compromising quality.

Compare the current prices of HexClad versus my top-rated stainless steel brands at the links below:

Bottom Line: Should You Buy HexClad or Stainless Steel Cookware?

So, should you buy HexClad or stainless steel pans?

If you can afford to, buy both. Get a 10- or 12-inch HexClad fry pan for eggs, fish, and other delicate foods and stainless steel pans for high-heat cooking, pan sauces, and everything else.

But if you only have the space or budget for one, stainless steel is the better overall option. Stainless steel lasts longer and can handle higher heat, making it the more versatile choice.

Ultimately, the right cookware depends on your budget and personal preferences. If you value convenience, HexClad is the better option because it releases food and cleans up fast. But if you want the ultimate all-purpose cookware with long-lasting durability, stainless steel is the clear winner.

You can read more reviews and check the current prices of HexClad on HexClad.com and Amazon. My top picks for stainless steel are All-Clad, Made In, and Demeyere.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He began his career in marketing, managing campaigns for dozens of Fortune 500 brands. In 2018, Andrew founded Prudent Reviews and has since reviewed 600+ products. When he’s not testing the latest cookware, kitchen knives, and appliances, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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