If you’re on the hunt for new cookware, the range of options can be utterly overwhelming. From stainless steel pans to cast iron to ceramic-coated cookware, which one is the best for your family? Here’s everything you need to know about stainless steel vs ceramic cookware to simplify the process.
This post was sponsored by Caraway Home. All of the thoughts and opinions are entirely my own and based on my real experience using both ceramic and stainless steel cookware.
As someone who gladly wears the label “crunchy” and is working on running a zero waste kitchen, I’m pretty picky about any product I plan to use to hold food. We store our leftovers in glass and almost exclusively cook with stainless steel or cast iron.
For years, we’ve avoided non-stick pans to avoid forever chemicals and we’ve been removing PFAS from our lives completely.
Then, the folks at Caraway Home offered to send me a set of ceramic coated cookware. I’d admired these beautiful ceramic non-stick cookware sets on Instagram and heard rave reviews about this company from my friends in the sustainable living community.
I started to wonder…
Is there really such a thing as safe, eco-friendly non-stick cookware?
I decided to put Caraway to the test and requested their classic cookware set in Sage. While I waited to receive my set, I started reflecting on my relationship with stainless steel cookware.
Are stainless steel pans easy to use?
Yes and no.
My husband and I cook from scratch every single day. Over the past few months, I’ve been using my stainless steel pots and pans less simply because it’s tricky and inconsistent to get the pans to be non-stick every time.
I’d scramble eggs for breakfast with no problem yet have the protein for dinner get stuck to the pan.
The only foods that didn’t cause a problem were liquids like soups or sauces; anything that had to be sauteed or seared just stuck.
Over time, we’ve been relying more and more on cast iron and a nonstick electric griddle. I’m much more likely to throw dinner in the Instant Pot or set up the slow cooker than stand over the stove fighting with my stainless steel pans.
We’ve even found ourselves using our griddle every day. We don’t want to use any conventional nonstick, yet we reached a breaking point soaking our skillet after every round of scrambled eggs.
The trick to making stainless steel pans non-stick is to preheat the pans until a droplet of water skates across the pan. Then, add a dollop of oil or fat and let it heat up until it looks streaky before adding your food and cooking like normal.
Stainless steel pans pros & cons
If you’ve been toying with investing in a set of stainless steel pots and pans, these are the pros and cons my husband and I identified over our years of use.
Why do people love ceramic cookware?
For people who want the convenience of non-stick cookware without Teflon, ceramic feels like such a breath of fresh air. Every dish feels easier. You’ll use barely any oil or fat and clean-up takes just moments.
After my Caraway pans came in, I immediately tested them out. I couldn’t believe how perfectly everything cooked.
Although I’m an experienced home cook, I didn’t realize how much harder I was working fighting with stainless steel.
For example, I cooked pork tenderloin in new Caraway pans the other day. Part of the marinade started to burn slightly. The charred bits just floated on the surface, so I easily removed them with a silicone spatula.
If this happened in a stainless steel pan, the burned bits would have baked on and started smoking. The next thing you know, you’ve got a window open trying to keep the smoke detector from screaming and you’ve got to scrub and soak the pan to remove all the residue.
When you’re cooking, dealing with these little issues is expected. They happen, right? But when they don’t happen, you notice it. I am more likely to want to cook dinner instead of just having to do it.
We even put the non-stick griddle away and started cooking every item in our ceramic pots and pans.
Is ceramic cookware safe?
The tricky thing about working with ceramic cookware is the ceramic coating itself. From a non-toxic, eco-friendly perspective, I never trusted that ceramic pots could actually be safer than Teflon pans.
The skeptical, critical part of me assumed that we’d all get class action lawsuit notices two decades down the line telling us these “healthy cookware” options were dangerous.
Since some companies are replacing the forever chemicals we know with ones we haven’t heard of and calling their products “safe,” it’s reasonable to be skeptical.
The only reason I even entertained the idea was because of this statement from Caraway on their page Is Ceramic Cookware Safe?:
Although some people have claimed Caraway’s products are unsafe, this post makes it clear that Caraway is truly safe and will not leach heavy metals or harmful forever chemicals into your foods.
Is ceramic cookware eco-friendly?
Caraway says their mineral-based ceramic coating releases up to 60% less CO2 into the environment than traditional non-stick surfaces.
If you need non-stick pans, ceramic is a more eco-friendly option than regular Teflon-based nonstick.
Caraway also packages in compostable cardboard and the only plastic I found unboxing my set were little protectors on the handles of the lids. They use low-impact dyes and sent real cork hot pads to extend the life of the pans.
However, it’s imperative to understand the longevity of ceramic cookware. Unlike cast iron or stainless steel which can last for decades, the ceramic coating can begin to chip or break down over time. You’ll need to replace low-quality ceramic cookware in 1 year while high-quality brands last 2-3 years.
Yep, you’ll need to replace your ceramic cookware after a few years of scrambled eggs and pancakes. To make the most of your pans, invest in a high-quality brand that will last as long as possible.
When your pans need to be tossed, Caraway makes it easy to find a recycling center in any area.
I always recommend buying the best quality products you can afford to make them last as long as possible and to pay for better labor practices and ethical production.
Ceramic Cookware Pros and Cons
Before you push “buy” on that order of ceramic pans, take a minute to understand exactly what you’re ordering.
Stainless Steel vs. Ceramic Cookware: Side-by-Side Test
Clearly, there are pros and cons to each of these types of cookware. I decided to cook scrambled eggs in both stainless steel and ceramic pans to compare the results.
Ceramic Pan Egg Test
I placed the pan over medium heat and let it warm up for a couple of minutes before adding oil. Since the pan is nonstick, I only added 1/4 tsp of coconut oil. I let it melt completely, then added the eggs. I was able to scramble them with a spatula easily with no sticking. They were done quickly so I turned off the heat.
The eggs had a light color. Although they didn’t stick, I think I should have added slightly more oil and used a rubber spatula. I used a wooden spatula and it just couldn’t hug the pan the same way. I promise *nothing* stuck to these pans!
Stainless Steel Pan Egg Test
I placed the pan over medium-high heat for probably 3-5 minutes. I tested the pan by adding a droplet of water. It evaporated quickly, so I knew it wasn’t ready and let it keep warming up. The eggs in the ceramic pan were done at this point. I added another drop of water and saw it skate around the surface, so I knew the pan was ready.
Next, I added 1/2 tbs of coconut oil and let it melt and look streaky before adding the eggs. I cut the heat immediately since I knew the pan was plenty hot enough. The eggs cooked in about 30 seconds and absorbed all of the oil.
- Both pans were completely non-stick
- The eggs in the ceramic pan were done before the stainless pan was even ready.
- I needed significantly more oil in the stainless pan to prevent sticking.
I know that if I hadn’t been patient with the stainless pan, the eggs would have stuck and become a mess. If you’re trying to cook quickly and don’t want to babysit a pan, ceramic is going to be a better fit, especially for delicate foods like eggs.
Comparing Stainless Steel vs. Ceramic Cookware
After testing these products, these are the main differences my husband and I found between these two types of cookware.
- Low-quality ceramic cookware typically lasts one year, while high-quality products like Caraway should last 2-3 years.
- Stainless steel cookware is very durable, although cheaper products can warp, rust, or weaken over time. The best brands, like All Clad or 360 Cookware, are built to last a lifetime and even have a lifetime warranty.
- Ceramic nonstick coating is truly nonstick, making it easy to cook and clean.
- Stainless steel cookware can be nonstick when appropriately used, but this can be tricky even for experienced home cooks. Plus, some foods like eggs are hard to ever cook in a stainless steel pan.
- Low-quality ceramic cookware is inexpensive to match its short lifespan. High-quality cookware sets like Caraway start at $95 or you can order the full 8-piece set for $395.
- High-quality, durable stainless steel pans often cost $500-$1,000.
- Ceramic cookware’s non-stick properties make it incredibly convenient to use. It requires minimal oil or fat. You have to remember to cook at medium heat and use only wooden or silicone utensils.
- Stainless steel cookware can be used at various temperatures and with any tools, including metal utensils.
- Ceramic cookware is easy to clean since foods won’t stick to it. Wash it with warm soapy water in the sink and dry. Skip the dishwasher to avoid damaging the ceramic coating.
- Stainless steel can be hand washed, run in the dishwasher, or scrubbed with a gentle abrasive to remove build-up.
- Pure ceramic cookware is safe to use and will not release forever chemicals or any harmful gases into your home. Lower-quality ceramic pans may require more research to ensure the brand uses proper manufacturing methods.
- Stainless steel cookware and does not contain any PFAS. However, even stainless steel can leach nickel and chromium over time. Inferior quality pans will break down faster, thus affirming the need to invest in the best quality you can afford.
- Compared to cast iron or enameled cast iron like Le Creuset, both types of cookware are lightweight and easy to use.
The final verdict: Which is better: stainless steel vs ceramic?
After comparing all of these features, the answer is both. It’s really about personal preference, your budget, and understanding how you cook.
For many recipes, stainless steel is incredibly convenient and easy to use. It’s perfect for making soups or stews, preparing gravies or sauces, or sauteeing veggies.
I haven’t noticed much difference between my stainless steel and ceramic soup pans and dutch ovens. They seem about the same, although the ceramic pans clean up faster.
The main difference is the frying pan and the sautee pan. I love that I can fry eggs, knowing not even a speck of egg will stick to the pan. Sauces in my Caraway pans whisk together so smoothly. It really feels luxurious cooking with nonstick again after so many years!
Does this mean I will never use my stainless steel skillets again? No, I’ll continue using my stainless steel pans, but I’ll definitely grab the ceramic pans first.
My ideal pan situation is:
- Ceramic fry pan and sautee pan
- High-quality stainless steel pots
- A solid cast iron skillet for cornbread and steaks
Would I purchase ceramic pans again?
When my Caraway pans eventually wear out, I’ll likely replace the skillets and continue using my stainless pots.
This option also makes it more affordable to buy high-quality ceramic cookware. Plus, you’ll only buy what you need without unnecessarily replacing perfectly functional products.
Learn more about Caraway Home
If you have specific questions about my Caraway set, feel free to add them in the comments! I’ll break down a few of the most common questions I’ve received.
Which color set do you have?
My set is Sage. I love this mellow green color and it pairs perfectly with all the green accents and vintage finds I already have in my kitchen.
Does Caraway cookware stain?
I’ve been putting these pans through the wringer and cooking sauces with tomatoes or turmeric. I’ve had 0 stains or damage.
Do you really recommend Caraway?
Yes! I know it might sound silly to say these pans actually made a difference, but they did. My husband and I had a long chat comparing all the different pans we had and we both appreciated how well the Caraway pans did their job.
Literally nothing sticks, even if you try to make a mess. They clean up so well and I actually love storing the pans on the counter.
I use the pan holders as a drying rack, so I don’t have to go digging around a pile of pans to find what I need.
We hung the lid holder in one of our upper cupboards and it’s just so efficient.
Because it’s so much easier to cook and clean, we’ve been cooking more than normal. We cook a lot, but sometimes we order pizza just like everyone else.
Since we got our pans, we’ve stopped ordering out completely. It’s just easy to whip up something quickly and know that we won’t have a big mess to clean up later.
We really couldn’t be happier with these products and just wish they were a little cheaper! Fortunately, you can get 10% off your order when you shop using my link.
Happy cooking, friends!
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Which do you prefer: Ceramic vs Stainless Steel Cookware?
Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!