Anyone looking to serve up a good meal knows to choose their cookware carefully. Where ceramic and earthenware may break and the coating on non-stick or Teflon pots eventually scratch, peel or chip, stainless steel versions are more durable. They are also rust-proof, free from resins linked to health concerns, attractive to look at and comfortable to lift and hold. Although the best stainless steel pans will not need frequent replacing, the would-be buyer may benefit from a little help in identifying the right pans for the job.
Things to consider when purchasing
- Many stainless steel cooking pots are made from a number of layers, known as “ply”. Three-ply, where a sheet of aluminium or copper is sandwiched between layers of stainless steel or forms the pot’s bottom layer, is the most common and suits most household cookery needs.
- A stainless steel pot’s grade is stamped on its base. Most quality items belong to the 300 series. The grade consists of two numbers and indicates the levels of chromium and nickel in the product. A typical good quality pot might be stamped 18/10, indicating that it is 18 per cent chromium and 10 per cent nickel.
- Construction of stainless steel cookware varies, particularly where handles are concerned. Some are riveted or screwed; others are welded. Screws are cheap but often made using inferior stainless steel and consequently prone to rusting. Like rivets, screws can be difficult to clean around. Welded handles, made by melting two pieces of metal together, are more expensive but usually ergonomically pleasing and, unlike handles formed as an extension of the pan itself, they do not tend to get too hot to hold comfortably.
Top Ten Stainless Steel Pan Reviews
Tefal Jamie Oliver Stainless Steel Classic Series Cookware Set, 3 Pieces – Silver
This 3-piece pan set is compatible with induction hobs and wins praise for its heavy base, comfortable handles, flared lips for easy pouring and competitive price, particularly when available at a good discount. However, some users have been confused over whether or not the pans are non-stick, as their Tefal name implies. The small print explains that only the frying pan is non-stick; the saucepans are not. Other users have found the pans difficult to clean and the rivets on the handles prone to wearing loose.
Swan Products 5-Piece Stainless Steel Saucepan Set with Silicone Handles
This 5-piece set receives almost universally positive reviews, particularly with regard to its price. Its silicone handles are comfortable, if prone to getting a little warm during cooking. The pans themselves are lightweight, stack for easy storage and are suitable for all hob types, including induction. A minor gripe with some is that the frying pan does not come with a lid but this is an all-round set, suitable for a small family or perhaps a student.
Prestige Everyday Stainless Steel Cookware Set, 5-Piece – Silver
The most expensive pan set on the list, it is nonetheless often available at a hefty discount. It comprises three saucepans, a frying pan and a milk pan, all of which are suitable for use on all types of hob. Both frying pan and milk pan have non-stick interiors. All the pans are solidly-constructed and deep-bodied, reducing the risk of the contents boiling over the sides. Users report that they are easy to clean, although some pans have been left with water staining on the interiors. This is a common “fault” with stainless steel cookware but, as several reviewers state, the discolouration is easy to remove with lemon juice.
Prestige Everyday Straining Stainless Steel Cookware Set, 3-Piece – Silver
Like its 5-piece counterpart, this is another fairly expensive set, although also frequently available at discounted prices. Unlike the larger Prestige set, it does not include either a frying pan or a milk pan, and the biggest pan has a diameter of 18cm, compared with 20cm in the 5-piece set. Suitable for any type of hob, these pans are reportedly as durable and as easy to stack and keep clean as those in the 5-piece set.
Morphy Richards Equip 3 Piece Pan Set – Stainless Steel
Coming in at less than half the price of the Prestige 3-piece set, these pans find particular favour with left-handed users due to their double pouring spouts, designed for either left or right-handed use. The largest pan has a diameter of 20cm, comparable to the Prestige 5-piece set. All three pans are suitable for use on any hob. There is a tendency for water to gather between the glass lid and its knob, which can be released only by unscrewing the knob and then cleaning the remaining deposits.
Genware 1520-00 Fry Pan, 20 cm Diameter
This frying pan works on all types of hobs and can safely be used under the grill. Although non-stick, it is praised for its ease of cleaning and its excellent conductivity of heat, resulting in well-cooked food. It is heavy so may not be suited to those with wrist or hand problems but if you can lift it without too much effort, this is an excellent addition to a kitchen. Lids to fit the pan are available separately.
Stainless Steel Frypan | 7.75 Inch Frying Pan | Cooking Pan | Professional Quality Stainless Steel Frying Pan
Another product suitable for use on any type of hob, this small pan has a heavy base and cooks evenly and well. Users report that, like the Genware frying pan, it can also go under the grill and is easy to keep clean without any need to scrub. Some people have found that the front part of the riveted handle gets hot with use. As with the Genware product, it comes without a lid but a 20cm lid reportedly fits it.
Woll 20cm Stainless Steel Sauce Pan With Glass Lid
This well-priced, sturdy pan has a tempered glass lid with small gaps ideal for pouring away excess liquid. At 0.7mm thick, the sides are 0.3mm thinner than the base, and food sometimes sticks and burns against them. However, the sides are marked with a useful measurement gauge, a feature more common to pricier sets, such as the Tefal Jamie Oliver 3-piece set.
Le Creuset 3-Ply Stainless Steel Uncoated Frying Pan, 28 cm
The most expensive single pan on the list, the reviews for this product are almost universally positive. Properly seasoned and when not used at excessively high temperatures, it cooks food well and without sticking, on any type of hob. As might be expected for a Le Creuset product, it is heavy, weighing in at 1.5kg but this is a quality item that should last many years. At 28cm diameter, it is larger than any of the other frying pans on the list.
Master Class Professional Stainless Steel Mini Saucepan / Sauce Serving Pot, 6.5 cm (2.5″)
Although not intended for use on a hob, this little pan is extremely reasonably priced. With its polished brass handle, it is popular with users for its attractiveness and novelty value. Intended as a means to serve sauces, it could also be used an unusual starter or pudding dish.
With almost as many pot choices as potential users, the best stainless steel pans will vary according to the cook. Cost and ease of use are important to many people, with family size and kitchen storage space often influencing the size and number of pans chosen. Once a buyer has decided on cost and size parameters, it will be easier to look at a list such as the one above and decide on which features, such as weight, glass lids, riveted handles and specially-designed pouring spouts, will ensure that a particular pot or set is the best choice.