Buyer’s Guide To Stainless Steel Pan

Select the right stainless steel pan for your kitchen in our extensive guide to stainless steel. Whether you're a seasoned home chef or starting your first collection of kitchen pans, understanding what makes a good stainless steel pan is crucial. This buyer’s guide highlights practical features that can instantly improve your cooking experience.

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What makes a good stainless steel pan?

Start with the material. 18/10 stainless steel is a type of stainless steel cast with 18% chromium and 10% nickel. It is some of the very best steel composition for kitchen pans, as it resists rust and keeps its shine. 

Plus, look for a stainless steel pan with a core of aluminium or copper. This combination ensures even heat distribution, essential for cooking without hot spots.

You might see stainless steel pans with 3-ply or 5-ply thickness for instance. Which refers to the layers of metal in the pan.

For instance, De Buyer’s Affinity 5-ply range has three layers of conductive aluminium sandwiched between two layers of high-quality stainless steel.

While De Buyer’s Alchimy range is a 3-ply constriction of 18/10 stainless steel, an aluminium core, and a durable and induction-compatible exterior

All stainless steel pans are induction compatible. If you are ever unsure: If your pan is magnetic, it works on induction.

Lastly, consider the handle’s material. Most stainless steel pans feature a riveted stainless steel handle, which should stay relatively cool on the hob (although not of course, if you put the entire pan in the oven). You may also see some wooden handles, such as this Aikata stainless steel pan.

What stainless steel pans do chefs use?

When it comes to the stainless steel pans professional chefs and restaurants use, durability and performance are key. Many prefer using 18/10 stainless steel pans, for better durability and a lasting shine.

Chefs also value pans that can handle the rigours of a busy kitchen, including various heat sources like gas, electric, and induction. They look for features such as flared rims for easy pouring and riveted handles that are secure and don't conduct heat.

What is stainless steel pan good for?

Stainless steel pans are highly versatile and a great choice for various cooking tasks. 

  • They can handle very high heat
  • When the stainless steel pan is a 3-ply/5-ply/multiply pan, they conduct quickly and evenly.
  • Easy and simple to clean
  • Robust and resilient to busy kitchen use
  • Doesn’t react to food, or tarnish easily

What stainless steel cookware is best

When selecting the best stainless steel cookware, consider both composition and construction.

A minimum of 3-ply cookware is a good place to start. These pans often have a core of aluminium sandwiched between layers of stainless steel, which helps distribute heat evenly, reducing hot spots. This makes it excellent for everything from searing meat to simmering delicate sauces.

Also, consider features that enhance usability, such a pouring lips or internal measurement lines. Pans with curved rims can be better beneficial for mess-free pouring. Or you might prefer straight rims, for shallow frying, for example. 

‘Lyonnaise’ stainless steel pans have high, flared sides, called the "Lyonnaise cut". This particular shape, without any sharp angle, allows to easily slide food from the pan into a plate or a dish.

Handles that are welded or riveted and stay cool on the stovetop improve handling and safety.

Is it better to use stainless steel pans?

Using stainless steel pans offers several advantages. They are known for their durability and resistance to scratches, which allows for the use of metal utensils without damage. Stainless steel also maintains its appearance over time, resisting rust and discoloration.

One of the key benefits is their versatility in cooking. Stainless steel can go from hob to oven (as long as the handle is oven-safe). And can also normally be washed in the dishwasher. (Again, as long as the handle is appropriate).

Stainless steel pans are non-reactive. This means they don’t impart any metallic taste to acidic foods, such as tomato sauce or lemon-based dishes. This feature helps maintain the original flavours of your ingredients.

However, they do require a bit of technique to master, to prevent food from sticking. Essentially, you simply need to check your pan is searing hot enough - with sufficient oil, before cooking something that might otherwise stick. Such as fried egg, or chicken breast for searing.

How do you keep a stainless steel frying pan from sticking?

Preventing food from sticking in a stainless steel frying pan is simple with the right technique. 

  • First, preheat the pan before adding oil. You can test the pan's readiness by sprinkling a few drops of water into it. You want the water drops to ‘dance’.
  • Next, add oil to the heated pan and ensure it coats the entire surface. The oil acts as a barrier between the food and the pan, helping prevent sticking. Use oils with a high smoke point, like rapeseed or vegetable oil, for best results.
  • Once the oil is shimmering, it's ready for food to be added. You can test this, by dropping a tiny fragment of food into the pan and seeing if it immediately sizzles and starts to brown.
  • When you add your food, let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes. This allows the food to develop a crust (the maillard reaction), making it easier to flip or stir without sticking. For example, when cooking a steak, place it in the pan and don't move it until it's time to flip.
  • If the pan is hot enough, and there is sufficient oil, your food will lift itself off the pan’s base as soon as the Maillard reaction has occurred. Be patient!

Do you need to season a stainless steel pan

Unlike cast iron or carbon steel, you do not need to season a stainless steel pan. Stainless steel cookware does not have a porous surface, so there's no need to build up a layer of oil for a non-stick effect. This makes stainless steel pans easier to maintain in terms of seasoning.

However, some cooks like to perform a minimal seasoning to create a temporary non-stick surface. This involves heating a small amount of oil in the pan until it smokes and then letting it cool and wiping it out. This method can help reduce sticking problems with certain foods temporarily but is not necessary for general stainless steel pan care.

Overall, regular cleaning is sufficient for stainless steel pans, and they are ready to use without the need for ongoing seasoning. 

What stainless steel pan is best

Choosing the best stainless steel pan depends on quality and features that enhance cooking performance. For proper heat distribution, opt for pans with an aluminium or copper core, like those in the De Buyer Affinity or Alchimy. In fact, it’s hard to find pans that don’t have a conductive core these days!

Look for pans with a sturdy build. Pans with thick walls and a heavy base, such as the De Buyer Prim Appety range, have a sandwich base, prevent warping and maintain temperature well. These features are crucial for cooking at consistent high heat.

Compatibility with various stovetops, including induction, adds to a pan’s versatility. All  stainless steel cookware works on induction.

What stainless steel pan for frying

A pan with a wide, flat bottom offers more surface area, perfect for frying multiple items like eggs or pancakes without overcrowding. The De Buyer Alchimy Frying Pan is a great example, providing ample space and excellent heat distribution. 

You might consider a stainless steel pan with a non-stick coating, such as in De Buyer Affinity Non-Stick Frying Pan. A double non-stick coating means no or little oil needs to be added when cooking - food will naturally move without force, ideal when flipping pancakes and frying eggs. This also makes the pan easy to clean. 

Handles that stay cool are a bonus, making the cooking process safer and more comfortable. Look for pans with sturdy, riveted handles that are easy to grip, like the De Buyer Affinity or Alchimy ranges. 

Lastly, consider a pan that is dishwasher safe and easy to clean. All stainless steel pans are dishwasher safe (if they don't have a non-stick coating or a wooden handle).

Browse our Stainless Steel Pots & Pans collection here or read our guide on How To Use A Stainless Steel Pan.


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