One of the most important decisions made in a kitchen every day is which cooking vessel you are going to use. With so many different types available today, it’s easy to become confused in an ocean of choices.
Choosing the correct type of vessel (specifically the material it is made of) is crucial and can make or break a meal.
So, what’s the difference between ceramic and stainless steel cookware? Ceramic, made from clay, is non-toxic and great for heat distribution and non-reactivity but can scratch or chip easily. Stainless steel is more durable. Tri-ply stainless steel is great at heat conduction, non-reactive, and made to last a lifetime.
In today’s jam-packed article, we will break down every single property of both ceramic and stainless-steel cookware, including how they’re made, their level of durability, heat conductivity, uses, and more!
This will help us ultimately compare the two side-by-side to see the exact differences.
As always, before we compare these two cooking vessels side-by-side, we first have to look at them individually in order to see the differences later on.
One big misconception people have about ceramic cookware is exactly what it is and how it is made. There are two types of ceramic cooking vessels: pure ceramic vessels made from baked clay, and ceramic-coated cooking vessels.
We’ll discuss ceramic in depth below, and if you decide it’s the material for you, we suggest checking out our article for the 5 best ceramic cookware made in the USA.
How Ceramic Cookware Is Made
Pure ceramic cookware, also known as classic ceramic cookware, is commonly made using clay, minerals, and quartz sand. This mixture is shaped before being hardened using extreme heat.
Often the final product is glazed to give it a beautiful, smooth, waterproof surface. This is also where a producer can choose to color their ceramics using the glaze.
The other form of ceramic cookware is glazed ceramic cookware, also known as modern ceramic cookware or ceramic non-stick cookware.
These are metal-based cooking vessels (usually made from aluminum) that are coated with a polymer material that resembles the traditional ceramic appearance.
This material contains chemicals that act as binding agents, have non-stick properties, act as reinforcing agents, and contain color pigments to create visually appealing products.
Shape, Size, and Design
Both pure ceramic cookware and non-stick modern ceramic cookware can be found in virtually any form, including Dutch ovens, roasting trays, pots, frying pans, and much more.
You will see that the modern (coated) version usually has more sizes and shapes available. This is because it is easier to add a glaze to an already shaped vessel, compared to having to actually shape the material into one.
Like we’ve already mentioned, you can find a ton of shapes and sizes in any of these two types of ceramic. This means you can find almost any type of pot or pan you need with a non-stick ceramic coating.
So, if you need to make 2 large gammons, you can choose a 7-quart ceramic Dutch oven, but if you need to make a small casserole, you can choose a 2-quart Dutch oven. The same goes for any other cooking vessel.
No matter which type of ceramic vessel you choose, glazing is the step where the producers bring in beautiful colors and designs.
Ceramic cookware overall brings life to a cooking vessel and breaks the look of a cold industrial kitchen.
Ease of Use
Both these forms of ceramic cookware tend to become extremely hot. Pure ceramic cookware usually consists of a base and handles, all shaped from one piece of material. This means that the handles are also ceramic.
Luckily, many of these pure ceramic vessels come with a detachable silicone handle or handle cover that is more heatproof.
The ceramic-coated vessels are sometimes made using a different material handle, like wood or stainless steel. These handles don’t get as hot and allow for easier use.
They also have excellent heat retention, even long after they have been removed from their heat source. Pure ceramic cookware tends to have much better heat retention compared to its coated counterpart.
Like we’ve mentioned, these cooking vessels come in many shapes and sizes, making it possible to use them for thousands of different purposes.
You can also make use of many different cooking techniques such as roasting, baking, braising, sautéing, steaming, poaching, and deep-frying.
Pure ceramic cookware can be used in a microwave as well, but the coated versions cannot, due to their metal bases.
Inside ovens, pure ceramic cookware has the ability to reach unthinkable temperatures, up to 2000°F.
Ceramic-coated vessels can still reach high temperatures, anywhere between 450-850°F. The older brands and vessels tend to reach lower temperatures.
Pure ceramic vessels cannot be used on induction stovetops.
The ceramic-coated vessels are made from stainless steel with an aluminum core, meaning they have much better heat distribution and are made to handle the instant heat from induction stovetops.
Pure ceramic cookware can be placed inside a dishwasher or washed by hand. Either way, its non-stick coating means that it is much easier to clean compared to vessels made from other materials.
Ceramic-coated cookware shouldn’t be placed in a dishwasher, as it tends to wear down the non-stick coating. You should always wash your coated cookware (including Tefal-coated pots and pans) by hand with a soft sponge.
Pure ceramic cooking vessels will last considerably longer compared to coated ceramic vessels. The coating tends to degrade over time which eventually exposes the metal base.
Coated ceramic cookware only tends to last around 5 years before becoming noticeably worn down. Pure ceramic cookware, on the other hand, can easily last you decades.
The way you handle and clean your cookware will have a massive and direct impact on its lifespan.
You should also avoid using metal utensils with any of these ceramic cooking vessels. Because of the coating, metal cookware can scratch it and/or remove it.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel cookware has been around for ages. It’s arguably the first commercialized cooking material and today can also be found in virtually any shape, size, and form.
Stainless steel cookware is made using a blend of nickel, carbon, silicon, chromium, iron, and manganese. Combining all of these materials creates a stable, durable alloy.
These shiny pots and pans give a beautiful, sleek, and classic look to any kitchen.
How Stainless Steel Cookware Is Made
There are also big misconceptions when it comes to stainless steel cookware. This material is used to make two types of cookware: pure stainless steel, or stainless steel cladding with an aluminum core.
Pure stainless-steel pots and pans are usually 1 thin layer of metal throughout the whole vessel. If you see a pot or pan with a thick base, those are the ones that have an aluminum or copper core inside.
Pure stainless-steel material isn’t a very good heat conductor. In some cases, it doesn’t matter, but this is the precise reason the other version was invented.
Most stainless-steel cookware today is made from an aluminum or copper core that helps with the even heat distribution, which is then surrounded with stainless steel.
The stainless steel in this case merely acts as a non-reactive and durable cooking surface. The aluminum core helps prevent hot-spots and uneven cooking.
You can also get tri-ply cookware which makes use of an aluminum core (for heat distribution), a non-magnetic interior layer of stainless steel, and a magnetic outer layer of stainless steel.
The magnetic layer of stainless steel allows the vessel to be used on induction plates. These plates require magnetic materials to work (this is the reason pure ceramic cookware doesn’t work on them).
All-in-all, the blend of materials used makes any stainless-steel cooking vessel non-reactive, gives it anti-corrosion properties, and makes it resistant to scratching and denting.
Shape, Size, and Design
You probably have a few stainless-steel cooking vessels already, so you might already know that the possibilities are endless when it comes to shapes, sizes, and designs.
Stainless steel cooking vessels are mostly made into pots and pans, sometimes baking trays. Vessels like Dutch ovens are rarely found in stainless steel though.
The most popular vessels for stainless steel materials (regardless if they are single-layered or tri-ply) are pots with two handles, shallow frying pans with two handles, pans with single handles, and saucepans with single handles.
Stainless-steel cookware isn’t covered with non-stick coatings. If they are, they’re automatically a different category of cookware. They are also silver and don’t come in other colors.
Many producers make the handles from stainless steel as well, but others choose to use wood, silicone, plastic, or a different type of metal for the handles.
Ease of Use
These vessels are generally very easy to use. Because they come in such a wide variety of shapes and sizes, it’s easier to get a vessel that fits its exact purpose.
The handles that are sometimes poor heat conductors make it easy to handle, and much like its ceramic counterpart, it’s stylish and low-maintenance.
Single-layered stainless-steel cookware has poor heat conduction, but the multi-layered ones are excellent!
Unfortunately, while this material is versatile, it’s not as versatile as ceramic because it mainly comes in the form of pots and pans.
Stainless steel is oven-proof, but other vessels, such as a Dutch oven or braiser, that work much better for the oven.
Stainless steel cookware cannot be used in a microwave because it is a metal blend and will reflect the microwaves, leading to sparking.
On top of stovetops or inside ovens these materials are heat resistant up to 500°F. Only magnetic (or tri-ply) stainless steel cookware can be used on top of induction stovetops.
Because of its non-reactivity, this material can be used to make any type of food, be it alkaline or acid, without reacting with it. It will not give off any colors, odors, or tastes, unlike other materials such as cast iron.
This type of cookware is not non-stick, so it does limit the use in another way, especially if you are making foods that burn easily.
These vessels, although easy to clean, can be a nightmare if they burn. Because they are not non-stick, some food will inevitably burn and stick to the bottom and sides.
Removing the charred remains of your food from the sides of these pots and pans isn’t as easy as it may look and sometimes requires a bit of elbow grease.
Luckily, because the material has anti-scratch and dent properties, you can go to town on it with a pot scour without worrying about damaging it or reducing its lifespan.
These vessels are extremely durable and if looked after well, can be passed on through generations.
They won’t rust, don’t scratch or dent, and shouldn’t discolor if cleaned properly. So, if you are looking for an everyday vessel that isn’t non-stick, definitely invest in a tri-ply stainless steel one.
What’s the Difference Between Ceramic and Stainless-Steel Cookware?
So, now that we have looked at all the different forms and characteristics of both ceramic and stainless-steel cookware, it is much easier to compare them side-by-side.
Please do keep in mind that although on paper it might look like there is a stronger and weaker option, each of these has its own purposes and wouldn’t still be around if they didn’t.
The most obvious difference between the two cookware types is the material, which directly affects their properties and uses.
Ceramic cookware is either made from 100% clay or a ceramic-like coating over a metal vessel. Stainless steel cookware is made from different metals to produce one strong, durable material.
Both of these come in many different shapes, sizes, and designs, automatically making them very versatile compared to other materials such as cast iron, which only has a few uses.
Ceramic vessels have better heat distribution and retention properties compared to stainless steel cookware. The exception is tri-ply stainless steel cooking vessels, which contain an aluminum core which is an excellent heat conductor.
Pure ceramic vessels can be used on stovetops, microwaves, and ovens. Ceramic-coated vessels can be used on induction stovetops and in ovens, but not in microwaves.
Because stainless steel vessels are mainly made to be pots and pans, these vessels are more often than not used on stovetops.
Magnetized stainless steel vessels (usually tri-ply) can be used on induction plates. None of these stainless steel vessels can be used in a microwave.
Neither of these materials are reactive to food in any way, meaning you can use acidic or alkaline food inside them.
They don’t give off any color, odor, texture, or taste. Ceramic vessels might stain after a while, and if ingredients like turmeric or curry powder are used inside them, especially if the coating is light in color.
Ceramic vessels and single-layered stainless-steel vessels have a long shelf life, but nothing compared to tri-ply stainless steel cooking vessels, which can last through generations.
|Ceramic||Coated Ceramic||Stainless Steel||Tri-Ply Stainless Steel|
|Shape||Pots, pans, roasting trays, Dutch ovens||Pots, pans, roasting trays, Dutch ovens||Pots, pans, roasting trays||Pots, pans, roasting trays|
|Heat Distribution||Very good||Good||Poor||Very good|
|Oven Use||Yes||Yes||No||Depends on materials and lid|
|Induction Use||No||Yes||Only if magnetized||Only if magnetized|
|Durability||Very durable||5-year lifespan||Very durable||Extremely durable|
|Ease of Cleaning||Easy||Easy||Difficult due to hot spots||Difficult|
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