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Claire - Chef's Cookware

Why are Stainless Steel Saucepans so Popular?

10th October 2007 17:08

Stainless steel has become THE standard material for cookware varying in quality from the very cheap, made with thin, cheap steel, to top quality, professional pans used by Master Chefs - like Paderno or Demeyere..

Why Stainless Steel Cookware?

  • Nice, shiny attractive surface
  • Can be put in the dishwasher
  • Can use on all hob surfaces
  • Easy to clean - it has no pores or cracks in the surface
  • Hygienic - the lack of pores or cracks means there is less chance of bacteria collecting
  • Minimal care required - it does not rust or chip and takes far less seasoning of the pan than traditional cast iron
  • Leaves no "metallic" taste as it does not react with acids in food

What Makes a Good Quality Stainless Steel Pan?

Skimping on the quality of the stainless steel is less problematic for oven based cooking, but we would not advise it for hob cooking . This is because of the direct high heat put on the pans and the need to retain a flat pan base. Cheap steel just does not withstand the wear and tear.

Top quality stainless steel (18/10 stainless steel has18% chromium, 10% nickel) is far better because:

  • the higher chromium content prevents rust
  • the higher nickel content increases corrosion resistance when using at high temperature or with heavy usage
  • it resists scaling

A good thickness or "gauge" of stainless steel is also advised to ensure that the pan is strong enough not to warp, dent or develop weak spots.

What are Tri-Ply or 3 Ply Stainless Steel Pans?

Stainless steel has all the practical qualities listed above, but its heat distributive and conducting properties are not as good as other metals. To improve cooking performance, an aluminium layer is frequently added, either just for the base or throughout the pan. This aluminium is sandwiched between 2 layers of outer stainless steel. "3 ply" is thus created!!.

The aluminium layer acts as a very good conductor of heat, but cannot be used as the direct cooking surface, nor can you use it on all hob surfaces. So the sandwich solution is ideal.

More than 3 Ply!

Some stainless steel pans have 5 ply or even 7ply (see Mauviel M'Cook formerly Cook'Style). These have several layers of aluminium, and stainless steel. Indeed, M'Cook includes a magnetic stainless steel layer to allow the pans to be used well on induction hobs. Obviously, the more aluminium you have, the better the heat conductivity.

Which Brands are Good?

There are now hundreds of different stainless steel brands on the market. The cheap ones really are very poor from a cook's point of view. Watch out for rivets or screws that undo, thin sides that dent, bases that warp. We don't yet have all the quality brands, but those we do have like Paderno Grand Gourmet or Kuchenprofi we know have been tried and tested for decades and have an excellent reputation.

Remember to follow the Care and Use Instructions provided with the pans..

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