The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Stainless Steel Pan

Here’s everything you need to shop for your next Stainless Steel Pan with confidence.

Emily Borst|Aug 26, 2022
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When it comes to versatile pans that have unrivaled cooking performance, few are as great as our Stainless Clad Frying Pans. There’s a reason these pans are beloved in both home and professional kitchens across the globe. Our top-quality Stainless Clad Frying Pans are used in the best kitchens in the word, and it’s no wonder. From their unparalleled heat control to their long-lasting durability, our pans excel at all parts of the cooking process, from frying to finishing.

If you don’t have one already, this guide will walk you through every aspect of our Stainless Clad Pans so you know exactly what to expect before committing to the purchase. Follow along to find out why these pans are right for you.

What Is Stainless Steel?

Stainless Steel is an alloy composed of multiple metals, generally iron, nickel, and chromium. Chromium hardens steel and prevents corrosion, while nickel provides the signature polish and shine of Stainless Steel.

18/10 Stainless Steel

indicates it’s composed of 18% chromium and 10% nickel, while

18/8 Stainless

indicates 18% chromium, 8% nickel. The higher nickel content in Stainless Steel results in a more attractive, high-end grade of Stainless Steel that’s typically used for

Flatware

and Pans like ours.

What Is Stainless Clad Made of?

Stainless Clad

refers to  the “cladding” process, where different metals are layered and then bonded together to form a single, new sheet of metal. Our Stainless Clad Cookware is

5-ply

, meaning it’s composed of 5 sheets of 4 different metals. The four metals it contains are  304-grade 18/10 Stainless Steel, aluminum, aluminum alloy, and high-grade ferritic 403.

Our Stainless Clad starts with an aluminum and aluminum alloy core that provides excellent heat conduction capabilities and even heating across the surface of the pan. This core is then enveloped with the 5-ply of different metals. This all results in an attractive,

induction-compatible pan

that’s incredibly durable, corrosion- and

rust-resistant

, and responsive to heat.

Is Stainless Steel Safe?

Stainless Steel Pans are some of the safest on the market, especially when constructed of high-grade Stainless Steel like 18/10 or 304-grade. Since our Stainless Clad Cookware is

nonreactive

, this also means you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your food or the metal reacting to acidic ingredients.

If you have more questions or concerns about our Stainless Clad Cookware, we also have a

dedicated guide to whether Stainless Steel is safe

.

What Size Pan Do I Need?

Choosing the right size Stainless Steel Frying Pan comes down to what you need from it. Pan sizes vary across brands, but common sizes (from smallest to largest) include 8-, 10-, and 12-inches. We cover the differences and what each size is best suited for in our guide to

frying pan sizes

, but at a glance:

8-inch Pans

are the smallest and are designed for single servings of food. These are best suited for a small steak or sautéing vegetables for a side dish or appetizer.

10-inch Pans

are best suited for 2–3 servings of food, as these are a great middle ground for cooking without overcrowding the pan. These can comfortably fit 2 large or 3 small chicken breasts or sautéing about a pound of spinach.

12-inch Pans

are the largest size and are ideal for cooking large quantities of food for a crowd. These are excellent choices for cooking a Dutch Baby or a Porterhouse steak.

How to Cook With Stainless Steel Pans

The most important factor to keep in mind when cooking with Stainless Clad Pans is temperature. Getting these pans properly heated is key for a pleasant cooking experience free from stuck-on food. To make sure your pan is thoroughly preheated, heat it to your desired temperature, then add a few drops of water. If the water “dances” around the pan, it’s ready. If the water stays still it’s not heated enough yet, and if the water evaporates immediately it’s too hot and should be cooled a bit before adding oil and food.

Trusting your pan

is also essential when cooking with Stainless Steel—the beauty of these pans is that the food releases from the surface when it’s cooked, similar to what occurs during the

Maillard Reaction

. Once you’ve practiced a few times, you’ll easily be able to cook ingredients like

skin-on chicken

or more delicate cuts of fish.

For more advice, check out our guide to cooking with

Stainless Steel

.

How Do I Keep Food from Sticking?

One of the biggest concerns people have about using Stainless Clad Pans is their food sticking to the surface and burning. While it’s true these pans don’t have the coated, slick surface of our

Non Stick Pans

or the built-up seasoning of

Carbon Steel

, keeping food from sticking to the surface of a Stainless Steel isn’t as fussy as it may seem.

There are a few reasons food sticks to Stainless Steel Pans—and most of them have to do with heat. Too much heat, too little, or placing cold food into a hot pan can all cause the microscopic pores in the metal to expand and then shrink, which causes the food to stick.

To prevent this from happening, you need to regulate the heat as much as possible when cooking with Stainless Steel. Ensuring your food is at room temperature, pan is preheated with cooking fat, and not blasting or lowering the temperature drastically when food is added can all ensure properly cooked food instead of a sticky, burnt mess.

What Can I Use a Stainless Steel Pan to Cook?

Once you’ve perfected how to cook with Stainless Steel, the options of what to cook in it are nearly endless. You can sear a hearty protein like steak, sauté a delicate ingredient like

mushrooms

, or create a

tasty pan sauce

with any

leftover fond

—your options are endless.

There are only a few dishes you should stay away from cooking with Stainless Steel. Generally, the more delicate the ingredient, the more difficult it is to cook with Stainless Steel. While it’s entirely possible to cook dishes like scrambled eggs or flaky fish in Stainless Steel, you may have a better end result if you use a naturally non-stick pan like Carbon Steel or Non Stick.

Is Maintaining Stainless Steel Hard?

Compared to pans that require seasoning, caring for Stainless Steel Pans is much simpler. As with other materials, let your cookware cool completely before placing in the sink and clean with mild dish soap and the soft side of a sponge. If you have some tough debris,

a rainbow stain

, or just need some extra help, use our

Make It New Cleaner

or Bar Keepers Friend.

To maintain the shine of your Stainless Frying Pan for years to come, here are some additional maintenance tips:

Do not clean your Stainless Clad Pan in the

dishwasher

.

To avoid water spots, dry your Pan immediately after washing with a microfiber cloth.

If you stack your pans in a drawer or cupboard, place a dish towel or cloth napkin between each pan to prevent scratches.

Cook with

Wooden

, plastic, or silicone utensils only—metal could scratch the surface.

For more ways to keep your Pans and other Cookware shiny and at optimal performance for years to come, check out our complete guide to maintaining

Stainless Steel Cookware.

How Does Stainless Steel Compare to Other Cookware?

If you already have a variety of other pans, you may wonder what sets Stainless Steel apart from the others in your kitchen. Here’s how it stacks up, and why we think it’s a must-have.

Aluminum

From an aesthetic standpoint, it can be hard to discern between Stainless Steel and aluminum pans. Both are shiny, silver, metallic pans without a coating—but that’s about where their similarities end. While aluminum is a great heat conductor, pure aluminum pans are cheap to purchase and even cheaper to produce, which results in pans that wear out quickly and need to be replaced often.

Meanwhile, 18/10 Stainless Steel is extremely durable, and can last for years when properly maintained. We highly recommend Stainless Steel over aluminum—it may be more costly upfront, but you won’t have to replace your pan after 2 years. For more information on why we recommend one over the other, consult our guide to

Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel Cookware

.

Carbon Steel

Since Carbon Steel Pans are described as a combination of the best parts of Cast Iron and Stainless Steel, it’s worth wondering if these are both necessary to own. Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel are both

oven safe

, boast incredible heat retention, are

induction-compatible

, and can handle anything from slow sautés to high-heat sears.

These pans have similar advantages, but that doesn’t mean they can replace one another. We recommend using both these pans as building blocks of your cookware collection, and thinking of them like complements—not competitors. You can find out more about how these two compare in our guide to

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Cookware

.

Non Stick

Of the three materials that Stainless Steel is most-often compared to, Non Stick is the one with the least similarities. Non Stick has a coating of non-toxic

PTFE

to provide its signature slick surface, while Stainless Steel has no such coating and its cooking surface is the metal itself. Non Stick should be used for more delicate foods, like scrambled eggs or fish, while Stainless can handle just about anything else.

You shouldn’t feel like you have to choose between these pans—they serve vastly different purposes in the kitchen. We cover more of them in our guide to

Non Stick vs. Stainless Steel Cookware

.

How Much Is a  Stainless Steel Frying Pan?

Depending on the construction materials and quality, Stainless Steel Pans can range anywhere from $50 to upwards of $200 or more. All three sizes of our Stainless Clad Pans come in under $100, so you can have a restaurant-quality pan that will last for years at a reasonable price. 

Ready to Shop?

Now that you’re equipped with everything you need to know about buying a Stainless Steel Pan, all that’s left to do is actually purchase one. Our Stainless Clad Pans are what landed us in some of the world’s best kitchens, and once you join the over 16,000 home cooks who have added it to their cookware collection, you’re sure to see why.