What you need to know about the different types of cookware materials.
Understanding the differences in cookware materials will help you make the best selection to match your cooking needs and stovetop. From affordable, lightweight choices like aluminum cookware to classic cast iron, this buying guide provides all you need to know to find the perfect type of cookware.
Stainless Steel Cookware
This is a versatile material that will keep its shine and won't dent easily. Stainless steel has poor heat transfer and distribution on its own, so look for a set that has an inner core made of copper or aluminum to help with conducting heat.
Sturdy, non-reactive materialDishwasher-safe Requires cooking spray or oil
This material is known for its heat conducting qualities. For an ideal option that still maintains the heat responsiveness of aluminum, look for cookware that has an aluminum core or anodized aluminum, which has been treated to prevent the material from reacting with food.
Lightweight and affordableHighly reactive to alkaline or acidic foodsGreat option for sauteing and frying
Of all the metals, copper is the most efficient heat conductor, making it the gold-standard when it comes to gourmet cooking. Most copper cookware is lined with tin or stainless steel to prevent reactions with acidic food.
Requires more upkeep and polishingHigh-quality heat conductor
Can be more expensive
Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron heats slowly, but once heated, it retains and distributes the heat evenly. Traditionally, cast iron cookware requires seasoning before using for the first time, but you can also purchase pre-seasoned skillets. Look for cast iron with an enamel or porcelain coating for easier cleaning and maintenance.
Oven-safe for versatile cooking Conserves and retains heat
Induction-safe: If you have an induction stovetop, look for this feature in your cookware to ensure it is compatible; many options and materials are constructed with induction capabilities.
Eco-friendly: For an environmentally-friendly option, many cookware sets are made with renewable, lead-free materials and constructed to conserve heat and energy.
Enameled: This feature is two-fold; it helps conserve heat even when the pan is off the stove and often comes in several stylish color options.
This cookware type combines several metals bonded together for a versatile, everyday type of cookware. It usually has a stainless steel or non-stick interior won't react with food and the core is usually aluminum or copper to help distribute heat evenly and quickly.
Look for a copper or aluminum core for even heat distributionStainless steel or non-stick interior won't have any reaction with foods. Can be more expensive
This type of cookware has been given a special treatment to protect from corrosion as a result of cooking acidic and alkaline foods. This coating is most commonly used for aluminum cookware.
Optimal heat-conductionStick-resistantNot dishwasher-safe
This cookware has been treated with a coating that prevents food from sticking and makes for much easier clean up. Non-stick cookware can be constructed with a variety of materials. traditionally come in a variety of metals.
Ideal for everyday cooking tasksRequires less cooking oilNonstick coating can be easily scratched; use non-abrasive sponge when cleaning