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Which is better in a frying pan stainless steel or aluminum?

Views: 205     Author: China CHANGWEN Cookware      Publish Time: 07/12/2022      Origin:

Considering aluminum vs stainless steel frying pan, but not sure which to pick? No worries, I’ve got you covered!

We get this question weekly, “Is stainless steel or aluminum frying pan better?” Followed by, is it safe to cook in aluminum pots? How about stainless steel? What are the health risks, if any? My answer to all never changes… It depends on what you cook and how you cook it.

This post will compare aluminum and stainless steel frying pan – covering each material’s strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen, including health and safety. Then, eight crucial factors to consider before you buy, and which material shines for each. And finally, we’ll bring it home with a summary of who should pick what, my recommended frying pan combo, plus the best frying pan picks for each material. Let’s get started!

*Aluminum Frying Pan – What it is, Pros, & Cons

What is aluminum?

Aluminum is one of the most commonly used frying pan types in homes and restaurants. It’s lightweight, affordable, and has excellent heat conduction. Aluminum shines for simple, daily meals when you need a quick-heating and cooling pan with precise temperature control…Eggs and other delicate foods are its specialties. Available in the following three types:

Types of Aluminum Frying Pan:

1.Untreated Aluminum:

Which is raw, uncoated aluminum is often used for heat conduction inside frying pan, as it’s too reactive. Acidic foods will leach aluminum from the pan and alter food flavor. It scratches easily, as well. For these reasons, most aluminum frying pan sold today is either hard-anodized, nonstick-coated, or both.

2.Hard-Anodized Aluminum

Hard-anodized is simply untreated aluminum that undergoes anodization using electricity and a chemical bath. This process adds a thick, protective layer to the raw aluminum, making it corrosion-resistant, non-leaching, scratch-resistant, and slightly non-stick. Most hard-anodized is sold with a non-stick coating.

3.Nonstick- coated Aluminum:

Nonstick-coated aluminum is the standard non-stick pan you see online and in stores. Its simply aluminum frying pan (hard-anodized or non-anodized), coated with a PTFE (Teflon) or a ceramic-based non-stick coating.

Benefits of Aluminum Frying Pan

1.Excellent heat conduction:

It’s not even close when comparing aluminum vs steel for cooking foods quickly and evenly. Why? Aluminum dissipates heat 15x better than stainless, spreading it faster and more freely. This reduces hot spots and allows you to churn out quicker meals with less sticking.


Aluminum pans weigh ⅓ that of stainless steel (generally). So, maneuvering them while cooking and cleaning demands far less effort. Those with weak wrists or arthritis will find aluminum’s weight extra helpful.


Aluminum cooking pots (both hard-anodized & untreated) generally cost less than stainless steel. For example, high-end steel sets can reach $3000+. Yet, top-of-the-line hard-anodized sets rarely (if ever) surpass $1000.

4.Non-stick & easy to clean (when hard-anodized and/ or nonstick-coated):

Uncoated hard-anodized aluminum has a stick-resistant surface that’s easier to clean than steel. It’s also free from non-stick chemicals. But, nonstick-coated aluminum is the easiest to use and clean, by far. You’re able to cook sticky foods with little to no oil.

5.Durable (when hard-anodized):

Hard-anodized has 3x the strength of untreated aluminum yet weighs the same. It’s able to outlast its untreated counterpart as it’s far more warp and scratch-resistant.

6.Non-reactive – won’t alter flavor (when hard-anodized  &/ or nonstick-coated):

Hard-anodized aluminum does not chemically react with acidic foods. You can cook whatever you want without leaching metallic taste into your meal. But, you must take care not to damage the non-stick coating or anodized layer. Doing so may expose the reactive bare aluminum.

7.Resists rust & corrosion (when hard-anodized):

Hard-anodized has a thick oxide layer that protects the bare metal from corrosion. The same goes for nonstick-coated aluminum. But, untreated aluminum will corrode from moisture.

Drawbacks of Aluminum Frying Pan

1.Bare aluminum reacts with acidic food (*from untreated aluminum or the exposed core of scratched hard-anodized):

Acidic foods (tomatoes, citrus, onion, etc.) cause bare aluminum to react and leach into your meal. Now, aluminum frying pan poses no real health threat unless you have a kidney disorder. But, it can ruin your food’s flavor and frying pan’s appearance.

2.Not induction-compatible:

Induction stoves need magnetic metals to work. By itself, aluminum has virtually zero magnetism. So, it won’t work on induction stoves unless the pan has a magnetized base.

3.Cannot use high heat or the oven – limited to medium heat:

Aluminum melts at a relatively low temperature of 1,221℉, losing half its strength by 600℉. Too much heat can weaken, discolor, and warp aluminum frying pan, including hard-anodized. Nonstick-coated aluminum has the most heat limitations… Once you exceed 464℉, it can off-gas harmful fumes.

4.Not dishwasher-safe:

High heat, water, and harsh chemicals will corrode untreated aluminum. It’ll also ruin non-stick coatings. As for uncoated hard-anodized pans, moisture can bypass the anodized layer and corrode underneath if scratched.

5.Can’t use metal utensils:

Metal utensils scratch untreated aluminum pretty easily and destroy non-stick coatings. Uncoated hard-anodized better withstands metal, but deep scratches can expose the reactive aluminum. Use wood or silicone utensils only.

6.Poor browning & searing:

Aluminum is not good for cooking at high temperatures as it cannot hold heat well. For example, when you drop cold food on a hot aluminum frying pan, the pan cools too much for a proper sear.

Stainless Steel Frying Pan – What it is, Pros, & Cons

Stainless steel is a corrosion-resistant workhorse made from iron, carbon, chromium, and sometimes nickel or other alloys.

Professional chefs and home cooks alike love stainless steel frying pan for its ability to withstand vigorous use, its high-heat browning and searing ability, and its non-reactive, low-maintenance surface. It’s available in the following three types:


Single-ply (single-layer) is the lowest cost, worst-performing type of stainless steel frying pan. You’ll find it in budget pans, usually in the kitchenware aisle at grocery strores, Single-ply heats poorly, often causing hot spots, burns, and sticking. Its flimsy design warps easily, too, so i don’t recommend this option.


Bottom-clad (second-best) is single-ply with an added layer of copper or aluminum within the pan’s base. This layer spreads heat evenly across the bottom, reducing hot spots and burns. It’s a good budget pick for stockpots as an even-heating bottom is most important there. For most pots and pans, however, you’ll want fully clad.


Fully-clad is the best overall and priced accordingly. Rather than a clad bottom only, fully-clad has conductive layers sandwiched within the entire pan, including the walls. This type provides the best heating of all three and shines for skillets, fry pans, and saute pans-especially when used over gas burners where heat licks up the sides.

Benefits of Stainless Steel Frying Pan

1.Great for high-heat cooking, searing, & browning:

Stainless steel has 3x the density of aluminum. So although it takes longer to heat, once it gets hot, it  stays hot. When you drop cold food onto hot steel, the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as much as aluminum. So, food sears and browns are like a dream.

2.Durable, metal utensil-safe cooking surface:

Due to its higher density, stainless steel resists damage to its surface better than aluminum… There’s no anodized layer or coating to worry about, either. So, you can use metal utensils (gently). For stuck-on food, you can get away with abrasive cleaners here and there without terminal damage.

3.Non-reactive & corrosion-resistant:

Stainless steel does not chemically react with acidic foods. So, food flavor never changes, regardless of ingredients! It shines for anything from hearty steaks to acidic tomato or lemon dishes.

4.Oven-safe (dependent upon lids & handles):

You can safely braise and broil food at high temperatures with stainless steel. Unlike aluminum, stainless doesn’t weaken until 900-1200℉ (instead of 600℉). So, it’s far more able to withstand frequent oven use and thermal shock without damage.


Stainless steel’s sleek, stylish finish looks great in any kitchen, regardless of decor. So you’ll never have a problem matching it to your home.


Have to work late some nights? Don’t want to deal with scrubbing pans afterward? With stainless steel, you can get away with a dishwasher cycle here and there (with mild detergent). But, hand-wash most of the time to maintain stainless steel’s shine.

7.Works on all stovetops, including induction:

Most stainless steel frying pan works on induction. But, always check for the “induction-ready” badge as higher nickel steel (18/8, 18/10) has weak magnetism. Induction-ready frying pan often has a 400-series stainless steel disk on the bottom. 400-series contains lower nickel, boosting induction performance.

Drawbacks of Stainless Steel Frying Pan

1.Food sticks easier, harder to clean:

Cooking delicate foods without sticking proves challenging with stainless steel. Even non-sticky foods can stick without proper heating and oiling. Now, it’s relatively easy to prevent sticking with stainless steel, but it takes more effort than aluminum.

2.Can be expensive:

One of the main disadvantages of stainless steel is its high upfront cost. Now, you can find inexpensive sets, but they’re likely single-ply or bottom-clad. Fully-clad has a higher price, yet a good set can easily last a lifetime, making for an intelligent investment.

3.Can stain or lose its polish:

Stainless steel can discolor from hard water (calcium), burning food, and chlorine-based detergents. But it’s easy to prevent… Use mild detergent and avoid using too much heat. To rid stains, follow these simple tips.

4.Poor heat conduction (if no conductive layers):

Comparing heat conduction in aluminum vs stainless steel pots, aluminum wins by a landslide… That’s why I’m pushing fully-clad stainless steel frying pan with an aluminum core. Non-clad, single-ply steel will cause nothing but hot spots, burning, sticking, and frustration.

5.Can feel heavy to some:

Although not as heavy as cast iron, stainless steel weighs about 3x more than aluminum. Add in 3, 5, or 7-layer cladding; the weight rises even more. But remember, steel’s density helps it hold heat and sear food better.

6.Can leach nickel & chromium into acidic food (mainly when scratched):

Studies using tomato sauce show acidic foods can absorb nickel and chromium. Now, it’s unlikely you’ll ever consume enough to impact health… But, those with nickel sensitivities may experience dermatitis. Steel frying pan with deep scratches leaches most abundantly.

For personally opinion, generally we use stainless steel more for kitchen; it is more durable and can last for a very long time. For more about Which is better in a frying pan stainless steel or aluminum?, you can pay a visit to CHANGWEN COOKWAE China at for more info.


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