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The 10 Best Cookware Materials: How Do They Compare?

Views: 300     Author: China CHANGWEN Cookware      Publish Time: 07/08/2022      Origin:

Are you ready to buy new cookware but don’t know which material to buy?

There are so many types of cookware. Unless you’re a professional chef, it’s a challenge to make sense of it all.

In this comprehensive guide, I break down the 10 best cookware materials.

You’ll learn:

Let’s get started!

Materials Comparison Chart

If you’re in a hurry, here’s a list of all the materials.

Cookware Type Pros Cons Best For… Price


Fully-Clad Stainless Steel Excellent heat conductivity, compatible with all cooktops, durable Expensive, food sticks, difficult to clean All-purpose cooking, searing, browning $$$$
Impact-Bonded Base Stainless Steel Budget-friendly, conducts heat quickly Uneven heating, the disc may separate from the pan All-purpose cooking, browning — not ideal for sauces $$$
Cast Iron Versatile, durable, heat retention, affordable Heavy, needs seasoned, reactive to acidic foods Roasting, sautéing, braising, frying and simmering (not acidic foods) $$
Enameled Cast Iron Minimizes sticking, retains heat well, non-reactive Expensive, heats slowly Braising, frying, sauces, slow-cooking $$$$
Carbon Steel Lightweight, versatile, durable, affordable, responsive to heat Requires seasoning, may rust or discolor, reacts with acidic foods All purpose, high-heat cooking $$
Copper Heats quickly and evenly, responsive to heat changes, beautiful Expensive, requires polishing Precision cooking (fish, sauces, caramels) $$$$$
Non-Stick (PTFE-Coated) Food doesn’t stick, easy to clean, affordable, versatile Not durable, prone to warping, synthetic materials Delicate foods (such as eggs, pancakes, fish). Cooking under 500°F $$
Non-Stick (Ceramic-Coated) Natural, food doesn’t stick, easy to clean Not durable, surface scratches easily Delicate foods (such as eggs, pancakes, fish) $$
Aluminum Good conductivity, lightweight, affordable Reacts to acidic foods, not durable, easily warps Delicate foods (such as eggs, pancakes, fish) $$
Hard-Anodized Aluminum Durable, heat conductive, scratch-resistant More expensive than regular aluminum, heavy Delicate foods (such as eggs, pancakes, fish) $$$


Fully-Clad Stainless Steel 

Fully Clad Stainless Steel Cookware

Fully-clad stainless steel cookware is made by bonding (or cladding) layers of metals together. The bonded layers extend throughout the pan, hence the name fully-clad.

This type of cookware is also referred to as multi-clad, clad, or bonded.

Typically, fully-clad stainless steel cookware has three layers (also referred to as tri-ply or 3-ply): a stainless steel cooking surface, aluminum core, and stainless steel exterior.

All-Clad D3 Cookware Bonded Layers

What’s the purpose of this layered construction?

Stainless steel, while durable, is a poor heat conductor. It needs to be combined with other highly conductive materials, such as aluminum or copper (both conduct heat quickly and evenly).

Some brands make cookware with five or even seven layers. While the interior and exterior are always stainless steel, the core materials vary. The number of layers and the type of core materials impact the performance.

For example, cookware with a copper core (like the All-Clad Copper Core collection) heats up and cools down faster than cookware with an aluminum core because copper has higher thermal conductivity.



Fully-Clad Stainless Steel Cookware Is Best For…

Fully-clad stainless steel cookware is incredibly versatile; you can use it for all types of recipes.

Although you may find it frustrating for foods like eggs and pancakes, even delicate foods can be cooked on fully-clad stainless steel with the right techniques.

This cookware is best for searing and browning meat. The combination of its highly conductive core and non-reactive surface makes fully-clad stainless steel cookware perfect for steak, chicken, and other meats. Since it can handle high temperatures, you can use it to brown on the stove and then finish in the oven.

Impact-Bonded Base Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel Cookware with an Impact-Bonded Base

Impact-bonded base stainless steel is the same as fully-clad stainless steel with one major difference: the conductive core material is bonded to the pan’s base, not up the sides too.

In other words, the cooking surface and exterior are stainless steel, and aluminum or copper is bonded to the base.

Impact-Bonded Base

In some cases, the conductive base materials are sandwiched between the stainless steel, and in other cases, the manufacturers bond a plate to the bottom.

The main advantage of impact-bonded stainless steel cookware is that it’s cheaper than fully-clad. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t conduct heat evenly because the cookware’s sides don’t contain an aluminum or copper layer.



Impact-Bonded Base Stainless Steel Is Best For…

Like fully-clad stainless steel cookware, impact-bonded cookware is an all-purpose workhorse. It’s especially good for browning, searing, and frying since the construction can handle high heats.

It’s not ideal for sauces or liquids since the sides won’t provide even heat — only the bottom. So you may find a bit of uneven heating if you are making a sauce, glaze, or soup.

Cast Iron

Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware is heavy-duty, made from one single piece of metal, including the handle. The material is technically an alloy of approximately 98% iron and 2% carbon.

Most people don’t know this since cast iron cookware is so rugged, but the carbon content makes it less malleable and quite brittle. Therefore, to make it more durable, cast iron cookware is made with thick, heavy walls.

The thick walls not only increase cast iron cookware’s durability, but they allow it to absorb and retain heat exceptionally well.



Cast Iron Is Best For…

Cast iron is praised for its versatility. You can use it for roasting, sauteing, braising, frying, and simmering.

Like stainless steel, it can handle high temperatures. You can use it in the oven, under the broiler, and on the grill. Unlike stainless steel, it’s natural non-stick layer allows you to cook eggs and bake with ease.

It’s perfect for cooking steaks and burgers. Since it retains heat well, the meat doesn’t impact the cookware’s temperature, so you get a perfect crust every time.

While you can cook acidic foods with caution, it’s best to avoid prolonged exposure.

Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled Cast Iron Cookware

Want cast iron but don’t want to deal with the seasoning process and maintenance? Enameled cast iron is the answer.

This type of cookware is similar to cast iron, but it has an enameled coating to prevent rusting, eliminate the need for seasoning, and make it easier to clean.



Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Is Best For…

Enameled cast iron has many uses, but it’s especially popular as a Dutch oven, which is ideal for slow-cooking. You can use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven for braising, stews, chilis, and much more. Other types of enameled cast iron cookware are suitable for braising, baking and frying.

Carbon Steel

Carbon Steel Cookware

Carbon steel, made from 99% iron and 1% carbon, is similar to cast iron but lighter, easier to maneuver, and thinner. You’ll find skillets, woks, pots, roasters, and pans made from carbon steel.

While it’s beloved by professionals due to its high heat tolerance, it’s gaining popularity among home cooks as well.



Carbon Steel Cookware Is Best For…

Carbon steel cookware is best for most recipes due to its versatility. It’s excellent for searing, browning, and broiling since it can handle extremely high temperatures. For instance, the Made In carbon steel can handle up to 1200°F.

However, don’t use it for acidic foods—tomatoes, lemon juice, and wine strip the seasoning. Instead, grab stainless steel or enameled cast iron for those ingredients.


Copper Cookware

Copper cookware can be intimidating. Not only is it the most expensive cookware, but it also heats up incredibly fast, requiring you to pay close attention while cooking.

What’s so special about copper cookware? Copper has high thermal conductivity, much higher than aluminum. But it also cools down quickly. Because of that, copper cookware requires a bit of skill.

While some brands use copper as the exterior, others use it as the core material for fully-clad stainless steel cookware.

Copper is rarely used for the cooking surface because it reacts with acidic foods. Instead, most copper cookware utilizes stainless steel or tin on the cooking surface.



Copper Cookware Is Best For…

Copper cookware is suitable for frying, sauteing, and simmering. You’ll find it’s especially useful for meals that benefit from precise temperature control, such as fish, sauces, caramels, and fruit flambe. However, you should avoid acidic foods if the cooking surface is copper.

Non-Stick (PTFE-Coated)

PTFE-Coated Non-Stick Cookware

Non-stick cookware with PTFE (short for polytetrafluoroethylene) coating is made with synthetic materials to prevent food from sticking and make cleanup easy.

You may see the term PTFE listed in cookware’s specs, but most people refer to the coating as Teflon since that’s the most well-known maker of it.

The material used to make the base of PTFE-coated non-stick cookware varies by brand. The most common materials are aluminum, hard-anodized aluminum, and fully-clad stainless steel.



Non-Stick (PTFE-Coated) Cookware Is Best For…

PTFE-coated non-stick cookware is best for cooking delicate foods that could fall apart if they stick to the cooking surface, and for foods that don’t require high heat. It’s most suitable for vegetables, eggs, fish, sauces, pancakes and crepes, curries, stir fry, and much more. I don’t recommend it for searing or frying meat, broiling, or grilling as the high temperatures can ruin the non-stick coating.

Non-Stick (Ceramic-Coated)

Ceramic-Coated Non-Stick Cookware

Ceramic non-stick cookware has a cooking surface made of natural sand-derived silicon using a process called sol-gel. So it’s not technically made from ceramic, but it’s labeled as such because of its smooth glossy texture.

Like with PTFE-coated non-stick cookware, the base material varies, but it’s usually aluminum. It could also be steel or fully-clad stainless steel.



Ceramic-Coated Cookware Is Best For…

Like PTFE coated non-stick cookware, ceramic cookware is best for delicate foods that tend to stick such as eggs, pancakes, stir fry, vegetables, and other delicate, flakey foods. It doesn’t react to acidic foods; you can use it for tomato, lemon, and wine sauces.

It’s not the best cookware for searing and browning meat, since it’s more effective at low and medium temperatures. Plus, searing requires adhesion between the meat and the cookware, and, with non-stick, the food tends to slide around too much.


Most cookware utilizes aluminum in at least part of its production process. It’s often used as the core of stainless steel cookware and the base of non-stick cookware because it’s highly conductive.

Aluminum is not durable and reacts with acidic food, so most aluminum cookware is coated with non-stick material, or it’s been anodized (more on this in the next section).



Aluminum Cookware Is Best For…

Since most aluminum cookware has a non-stick coating, it’s best for vegetables, stir fry, curries, eggs, pancakes, and more. It’s not recommended for searing or browning meat or other recipes that require high heat.

Hard-Anodized Aluminum

Calphalon Hard-Anodized Aluminum Cookware Set

Hard-anodized aluminum is aluminum that’s undergone an electrolytic process to create an oxidized layer on the surface.

This process, which Calphalon borrowed from the aerospace industry in the 1960s, hardens the aluminum, making it more durable, resistant to corrosion, and heat conductive than standard aluminum.

Like aluminum cookware, hard-anodized aluminum is often coated with non-stick material or used as the core material for fully-clad stainless steel pans.

While hard-anodized aluminum cookware is more expensive, it lasts longer and performs better than standard aluminum.



Hard-Anodized Aluminum Cookware Is Best For…

Most hard-anodized aluminum cookware is coated with a PTFE non-stick surface, making it a top choice for cooking eggs, pancakes, grilled cheese, and other recipes that tend to stick.

It’s thick, durable, and can handle higher heat than standard aluminum. So you can use it for searing if you don’t want to break out the stainless steel or cast iron.

Go ahead and test out most recipes in this cookware, but be careful with acidic foods if the surface isn’t coated with non-stick materials or stainless steel.

Bottom Line: What Type of Cookware Is the Best?

Now that you know the pros and cons of the top 10 cookware materials, the question is:

Which type of cookware is the best?

As you probably guessed, there is no best cookware material; each serves a different purpose.

The best material for you depends on your existing collection and how you like to cook.

If you’re just getting started and are looking for the essentials, here’s what you need:

The Changwen Cookware company is established in one of the most famous stainelss steel production bases in China and has developed into a 20-year professional manufacturer specialing in cookware sets, kettles, cutlery, etc. that are made of medium and high quality stainless steel and aluminum with non-stick coating. Their products are broadly exported to many countries and regions in the world.

For more about The 10 Best Cookware Materials: How Do They Compare?, you can pay a visit to CHANGWEN COOKWAE China at for more info.

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