With so many options of stainless steel cookware, which are the safest and most durable? Mamavation investigated over 100 different stainless steel cookware products and evaluated the materials they used to bring you the best selections for your family. We found a potential nano issue in certain types of stainless steel cookware sets that we are also recommending you avoid. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best & worst non-toxic cookware, best & worst non-toxic air fryers, & best & worst organic mattresses, now join us for the best healthiest non-toxic stainless steel cookware without nano. Scroll down to the bottom if you want to see our ranked list of all the most popular brands.
Disclosure: This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. This post also contains affiliate links.
Table of Contents
What Is Stainless Steel Cookware?
Stainless steel is a type of iron-based alloy containing a minimum of 11% chromium. This exact minimum of chromium is important because that’s the level by which iron has sturdiness & is prevented from rusting. This level also provides heat-resistant properties, which are needed for cooking in high heat and high temperatures or medium heat.
Here are some additional considerations in terms of stainless steel cookware purchases:
- Durability: The more layers of stainless steel, the stronger and more durable the stainless steel cookware is going to be. Good quality stainless steel cookware should last a very long time. Therefore, the more plys the better. This durability demonstrates quality cookware also protects the aluminum core from leaching into your food.
- Even-Heat Distribution: Stainless steel cookware is easier to keep cooking at the same temperature vs. cast iron, ceramic, or copper cookware. The reason for this is its aluminum core, which evenly distributes the heat. Some stainless steel will have a “copper core” but it typically also has aluminum in there somewhere as well.
- Versatility: Stainless steel cookware has endless products you can find and assemble into a basic cookware set like a dutch oven, 12-inch skillet, 10-inch skillet, 3-quart saute pan, 2-quart saucepan, saucier, stock pots for soups, and much more.
- Cleaning: Stainless steel cleaning is in the middle of the road. Compared to a cast-iron skillet that can rust, it’s far easier to clean. However, if we are talking about toxic PTFE or ceramic nonstick cookware, it’s harder to clean. But with some scrubbing, you can have your cookware looking shiny again. In addition, most stainless steel cookware is also dishwasher safe.
- Leaching: For lifetime quality purchases, avoid these three things: (1) Avoid the 200 series of stainless steel. It’s more likely to leach aluminum into your food over time because it corrodes easily, is not durable, and contains manganese which can be extremely toxic. To avoid leaching over time, choose 3-ply or above. Luckily, most cookware produced in the United States is 300 and above. (2) Avoid cookware with an aluminum base. Instead, look for 3-ply or 5-ply. And finally (3) If you are allergic or sensitive to nickel, look for “430 stainless steel” also known as “18/0” which does not contain nickel. If you are not allergic or sensitive to nickel, look for the 5-ply 304 stainless steel. (Both are listed in the “best” section.)
Pros & Cons of Stainless Steel Cookware
When you are using your stainless steel frying pan to fry eggs or a steak, the best stainless steel cookware sets have pros and cons. Here’s a candid retelling of the pros and cons.
- The Pros: Stainless steel can handle very hot temperatures and conducts heat evenly. 99% of stainless steel cookware has a core or interior made from aluminum for even heating. Most stainless steel cookware also lacks nonstick PFAS type coating, which makes it mostly non-toxic. Most of the time they are dishwasher safe and oven-safe and come with a lifetime warranty. You can also find them in a large variety of cookware types with many varieties. Look for cookware manufactured in the United State or parts of Europe for superior quality.
- The Cons: Cleaning can become a hassle, especially if you burn your pans. At that point, special care must be taken to clean. If you have a nickel sensitivity or allergy, you need to purchase 430 or 18/0 type cookware, which does not have nickel. The vast majority of stainless steel has nickel but we haven’t separated those brands out for you in our “best” list.
Types of Stainless Steel Cookware
304 Stainless Steel Cookware (Added Nickel for Durability)
304 stainless steel is also referred to as 18/10 or 18/8 stainless steel.
- 18/10 means there is 18% chromium and 10% nickel
- 18/8 means there is 18% chromium and 8% nickel
This cookware is considered austenitic stainless steel because nickel is added to the chromium-iron alloy to produce a steel that is austenitic at room temperature. It has a face-centered structure that resists corrosion and is stronger and more resistant to corrosion. It also is less likely to warp or leach from the aluminum core over time. These steels have relatively low carbon content, which makes them weldable.
304 cookware is not considered magnetic but can be magnetized in an electric field, however, not permanently. Most food-grade applications use this type of stainless steel because of its general-purpose corrosion-resistant applications.
- Typical cooking applications: Food processors, utensils, baking trays, pans, bowls, cooking appliances.
- The Pros: The advantage of the added nickel is that it makes the stainless steel more corrosion resistant.
- The Cons: The disadvantage of the added nickel is the extra expense – 304 stainless steel is more expensive to produce thanks to the cost of the extra nickel. This type of cookware may be problematic to people with nickel sensitivity or allergies.
430 Stainless Steel Cookware (No Nickel)
430 stainless steel is also referred to as 18/0 stainless steel and is safe for people with nickel allergies or sensitivities.
- Composed of 18% chromium and 0% nickel
There is less nickel in 430 stainless steel which makes them more affordable but also less corrosion resistant and may be more likely to warp and leach over time.
430 is also considered ferritic stainless steel because the addition of chromium (>17%) to a steel alloy stabilizes the ferritic phase of the alloy and makes the material corrosion-resistant, but not as strong as 304 stainless steel. It is an inexpensive grade.
This type of stainless steel is also considered magnetic.
- Typical cooking applications: cookware, large induction pots, cutlery, cooling racks, pizza cutters
- The Pros: Preferable for people who have a nickel sensitivity or allergy.
- The Cons: Not as durable as 304 stainless steel and eventually you will need to replace it if it warps over time (as in decades).
Nano-Infused or “Titanium-Infused” Cookware (439 stainless steel & 316Ti stainless steel)
This category is very confusing and not transparent at all. We originally found Heston NanoBond Cookware when identifying the materials used by different cookware companies. This brand is very transparent about their use of nano titanium used in their cookware and this got us to wondering if other cookware products were also using nano titanium to increase strength and provide a more “non-stick” feel. Later, we found evidence of nano titanium being used in stainless steel here, and we wonder if this is the process used by NanoBond, but NanoBond will not answer any of our questions.
Then we started investigating further into each cookware brand and found two different types of “titanium-infused” stainless steel used specifically by cookware companies. We are wondering if nano could be present. After interviewing and emailing back and forth with several manufacturers, cookware brands, and the largest steel mills, we realized it’s impossible to find out whether your cookware is nano or not when marketed as “titanium-infused.” We are not even sure if the cookware brands know themselves. Why? We contacted four manufacturers selling stainless steel to cookware companies and they didn’t know, nor was it ever on the datasheets they provided the cookware companies. They told us the only way to find out is to contact the steel mills themselves. So we contacted the two most popular steel mills directly to find out from them. One of them was not able to answer our questions and the other was not willing to answer our questions. (The manufacturers warned us that the steel mills were very difficult to get questions answered and they were right.) So as of now, we are at a standstill being able to figure out which cookware is made from nano titanium and which is not. Therefore, we are taking precautionary measures in our investigation and recommending you avoid “titanium-infused” cookware altogether until the industry develops more transparency measures.
Do cookware companies know if their “titanium-infused” cookware is made from nano or not? Unlikely because it’s never on the datasheets presented to them at the time of sale. They would have to get confirmation from the steel mills themselves which is a couple of layers down the chain. Therefore, we are not confident in the answers from cookware companies at all on this matter.
Evidence of Health Problems with Nano Titanium
This issue is very problematic because recent evidence has suggested that TiO2 NPs may have different toxicity profiles than fine-sized TiO2 particles due to their different chemical, optical, magnetic, and structural properties. We first warned you about nano in cookware in our ceramic cookware investigation where we found most ceramic cookware brands are coated with problematic nano.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is moving to restrict the use of nano titanium as a food additive, so it may be that these manufacturers are “dumping” products on Americans as the European markets become hostile to the applications of nanomaterials in the food supply. Here are some studies underlining why EFSA is moving to ban and restrict TiO2 nanomaterials in food contact in this review:
- Most cells exposed to TiO2 NPs underwent a series of morphological changes, including decreased cell size, membrane blebbing, peripheral chromatin condensation, and apoptotic body formation was detected.
- The small size and difficult clearance of TiO2 NPs make them cytotoxic and cause oxidative stress and tissue damage in vital organs: lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen, heart, & central nervous system.
- Some studies have seen the accumulation of absorbed TiO2 NPs in the lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen, heart, and central nervous system.
- In a study using cadaveric human liver samples, half of the subjects had TiO2 NPs accumulation above the level considered safe in the liver
- In mouse studies, TiO2 particles promote transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-1β . Pro-inflammatory cytokines are a well-known factor in inducing insulin resistance and linking to the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and obesity.
- In rats, acute and chronic dietary consumption of E 171 neither induced histologic changes in liver, spleen, small and large intestines, and lungs nor triggered blood inflammatory cytokine production.
- Zebrafish exposed to nano titanium nitride (another type of titanium nanomaterial) experienced oxidative stress and developmental toxicity.
Levels of Durability & Descriptions of Ply
“Ply” describes how many different layers of metal are bonded between the food and the aluminum base or disc inside the cookware. The more ply you have, the more durable the cookware, the longer it will last, the more consistent the heat, and the more assured you will be that the aluminum core will never leach into the food.
Three-ply cookware is three different layers of metal bonded together, most often stainless steel and either aluminum or copper. Other cookware brands, such as All-Clad cookware offer aluminum up the sides of the cookware as well in 3-ply.
5-ply means that cookware is constructed with 5 layers of metals. Manufacturers claim the thickness reduces the chances of the product warping over a long period of time. It can be heavier than 3-ply cookware because of the extra layers and usually more expensive. This is our recommended type of ply.
7-Ply Cookware–Buyer Beware
When doing your research for the right cookware, you may come across other types of “ply” cookware that touts 7-ply in its stainless line. The 7-ply consists of stainless steel and aluminum layers, including a magnetic layer for induction compatibility. Most of these brands we found were using titanium as a stabilizer, however, we are not sure if that “titanium-infused” cookware is made from nano titanium or elemental titanium.
BUYER BEWARE: One warning about most of the 7-ply cookware sets we found is they were possibly infused with nanomaterials. Nano titanium has been linked to decreased gut immunity and other problems. We are concerned this type of cookware is not being dumped on unsuspecting Americans who think “titanium” sounds great.
How to Clean Your Stainless Steel Cookware
Most of the time, your stainless steel cookware should be hand washed in warm water with a good natural dishwashing soap. If you’ve stained the pan or handles a dark color, don’t fret. You don’t need a special cleaner. You just need to select from one of these two options when cleaning.
- Use vinegar and baking soda to scrub the pan.
- Put a non-toxic dish soap in the pan and boil some water in the pan.
Here’s a list of some non-toxic dish soaps we recommend from our dish soap investigation:
- 9 Elements Dish Soap Lemon Scent
- 9 Elements Dish Soap Rosemary Scent
- 9 Elements Dish Soap Eucalyptus Scent
- Attitude Baby Bottle & Dishwashing Liquid Fragrance-Free
- Attitude Sensitive Skin Baby Bottle & Dishwashing Liquid Fragrance-Free
- Attitude Dishwashing Liquid Pear Nectar
- Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap Peppermint
- Dr. Bronner Castille Soap Baby Unscented
- Earthley Dish Soap BAR (Use discount code “MAMAVATION” for 10% off products!)
- Eco-Me Dish Soap Fragrance-Free
- Ecos Dish Soap Free & Clear
- Ecos Dish Soap Lavender
- Etee Plastic-Free Liquid Dish Soap Pods Unscented
- Mamaforest Natural Soap Dish Bar Pink Heaven
- Mamaforest Natural Soap Dish Bar Green Harmony
- Mamaforest Natural Soap Dish Bar Lemon Glory
- Meliora Dish Soap Puck Unscented
- Meliora Dish Soap Puck Lemon
- Molly’s Suds Dish Soap Bar
- No Tox Life Dish Block Dishwashing Soap
- Pure Haven Home Dish Soap Lemon Peel (16oz), 32oz refill also available
- rE: Dish Soap Bar Citrus
- Simplut Zero Waste Natural Solid Dish Soap Bars
- TOBY Natural Dish Soap
- Yaya Maria’s Natural Dish Soap Lavender
Why is Aluminum Such a Problem? Solutions
Aluminum is an established neurotoxin and should be avoided as much as possible. It can cause severe health problems in particular populations such as infants, elderly people, and patients with impaired renal functions.
Health Risks Linked with Aluminum Exposure
- Studies studying neuropsychological performance found declining performance in neuropsychological tests (attention, learning, memory) found with aluminum exposure at concentrations exceeding 100 μg/g creatinine in the urine.
- Studies looking at cooking white fish with lemon in aluminum foil found levels of aluminum above recommended levels during normal cooking
- Studies link aluminum with neurodegenerative diseases: dialysis encephalopathy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinsonism dementia in the Kii Peninsula and Guam, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). (This research is controversial.)
- Aluminum has demonstrated that a small, but a considerable amount of Al can crosse the blood-brain barrier and enter into the brain, and accumulates in a semi-permanent manner.
- Mounting evidence has suggested the significance of oligomerization of β-amyloid protein and neurotoxicity in the molecular mechanism of AD pathogenesis. Aluminum may play a crucial role as a cross-linker in β-amyloid oligomerization.
We wanted to clear up some misrepresentations you may have found online about “aluminum-free” cookware. I’m sorry to tell you that technically “aluminum-free” isn’t a real thing. The vast majority of cookware out there aluminum. When it comes to stainless steel cookware, they all have an aluminum core. When you see “aluminum-free” cookware recommended, they are actually talking about stainless steel cookware with additional metals covering the aluminum core. This protects you from the aluminum leaching out of the core and into your food over time.
But it’s important to know that most restaurants are using aluminum cookware, and there are other types of aluminum cookware–anodized aluminum cookware. This type of aluminum cookware is dipped in a hot acidic solution. The process modifies the molecular structure so that aluminum is supposedly not released into food. Anodization seals aluminum making it scratch-resistant and easy to clean. Acidic foods cooked in anodized aluminum do not react with the cookware, and most authorities believe that anodized aluminum cookware is safe. At this time, there is no evidence to the contrary, but be careful because some anodized are coated with PFAS “forever chemicals.”
Foods High in Aluminum
If you would like to reduce aluminum in your life in other ways, here are some common foods to look out for:
- some pickling agents (alum)
- anti-caking agents (aluminum silicates)
- baking powders (sodium aluminum sulfate)
- baking mixes (sodium aluminum phosphate)
- Nondairy creamers
- self-rising flour
- processed cheeses
- cheese spreads
- conventional aspirin and antacids
- cooking food with aluminum foil, especially acidic foods (check out our investigation on parchment paper instead)
- stop storing food in aluminum foil packaging, especially acidic foods with tomatoes or rhubarb
Mamavation’s Investigation on Stainless Steel Cookware
Mamavation evaluated over 100 different cookware sets from the most popular brands available to Americans. We took a close look at what materials were used, how transparent the brands were in being forthcoming with their materials, and which materials used are linked to health problems. What we found has not been reported on by other reviews we found online, especially in terms of potential nanomaterials in stainless steel cookware. Please also note that some brands have product lines in different categories.
Not Our Favorite Stainless Steel Cookware
This category of stainless steel cookware is not our favorite. There are several possibilities that could have brought a cookware set into this category. It may have some type of “non-stick” coating on either one nonstick skillet or the entire set. Problematic coatings & materials used can be made of PFAS “forever chemicals,” nano titanium (referred to as “titanium-infused”), or silica. (Again, because we were not able to confirm with the two most popular steel mills in the US if nano titanium is used in specialty stainless steel like stainless steel 439, we are being precautionary and recommending you avoid it in general until we get to the bottom of this mystery.) This category can also contain cookware that has an aluminum bottom layer without added layers of stainless steel for protection OR they may also not be disclosing what type of stainless steel they are using or how many plys (or layers) they contain. In short, we are not confident about the quality of these products either because of the coatings they are using, a lack of transparency on the materials used, or because it has an aluminum bottom. If anything changes on these brands or if any of these brands become more transparent in describing their materials, we will update this list.
- Amazon Commercial Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan, 12 Inch
- Amazon Commercial 60 Qt. Stainless Steel Aluminum-Clad Stock Pot with Cover
- Amazon Commercial 3-Piece Stainless Steel Aluminum-Clad Fry Pan Set (8″, 9 1/2″, & 12″ Pan)
- Amazon Commercial 4 Qt. Stainless Steel Aluminum-Clad Straight Sided Sauce Pan with Cover
- Belkraft Stainless Steel Cookware
- Chantal Induction 21 Cookware (Note: 18/0 nickel-free)
- Cook N Home Stainless Steel Cookware
- Cooks Standard Professional Stainless Steel Cookware
- Demeyere Resto Stainless Steel Cookware
- Faberware Millennium Stainless Steel Cookware Pots & Pans Set
- Fissler Bonn Stainless Steel Cookware
- Fissler Hamburg Stainless Steel Cookware
- Fleischer & Wolf London Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware
- Great Jones Family Cookware Set
- Green Pan Venice Pro Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Healthy Ceramic Nonstick 7 Piece Cookware
- Healthcraft Ultra-Tech II Stainless Steel Cookware
- Hestan Nanobond 10-Piece Cookware Set
- Hexclad Hybrid Stainless Steel Cookware
- Kitchenaid 3 Ply Stainless Steel 10 Piece Cookware Set
- Le Creuset 7 Piece Stainless Steel
- Le Creuset Non-Stick Stainless Steel Fry Pans
- Pampered Chef Stainless Steel Non-Stick Cookware
- Salad Master 316Ti Stainless Steel Cookware
- Sardel Stainless Steel Cookware Full Set
- TeamFar Stockpot
- Tools of the Trade Stainless Steel 13-pc Cookware Set
- Viking 7Ply Titanium 10 Piece Cookware Set
Better Stainless Steel Cookware
This category of stainless steel is completely fine for most people. These pans are not likely to leach aluminum from the core over time because they are 3-ply and above. They are also more durable because they are made with mostly 304 stainless steel (also referred to as 18/10 or 18/8 stainless steel). The 18/10 means there is 18% chromium and 10% nickel and the 18/8 refers to 18% chromium and 8% nickel. This category is for people without nickel sensitivities.
- All-Clad D3 Stainless Steel Cookware
- Anolon Nouvelle Stainless Steel Cookware
- BergHOFF Ouro Gold 11 piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set with Rose Gold Handle
- Caphalon Classic Stainless Steel Cookware
- Caphalon Premier Stainless Steel Cookware
- Cuisinart French Classic Stainless Steel Cookware
- Cuisinart MCP Stainless Steel Cookware
- Fissler Original-Profi Stainless Steel Cookware Collection
- Goldilocks Stainless Steel Cookware
- Henckels Clad Impulse 10-pc Stainless Steel Cookware Set
- J.A. Henckels International 10-piece Tri-ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set
- IKEA 365+ Cookware
- Kenmore Elite Devon Tri-Ply Cookware
- Kirkland Signature 5-Ply Clad Cookware
- Made by Design (Sold in Target) Stainless Steel Cookware
- MAGMA Stainless Steel Cookware Nesting Set
- Martha Stewart Stainless Steel 10-Pc Cookware Set
- Member’s Mark Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware
- Open Kitchen (Sold at Williams Sonoma) Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set
- Princess House Essentials Cookware Set
- Princess House Classic Stockpot
- Rachael Ray Create Delicious Stainless Steel Cookware
- T-Fal Performa Cookware 13 pc set
- Viking 12 Quart Stock Pot
- Viking 13-Piece Tri-Ply Cookware Set
- Williams Sonoma Thermo Clad Stainless Steel Cookware
- Zwilling Spirit 3-ply 10-inch & 8-inch, 18/10 Stainless Steel Frying Pans
- Zwilling Cookware Sets
Best Stainless Steel Cookware
This category is for people with nickel sensitivities and people without nickel sensitivities so please pay attention to the subcategories: 304 stainless steel pans (with nickel) and 430 stainless steel pans (without nickel).
The 304 stainless steel pans are for people who are not sensitive to nickel. These pans are 5-ply or above and made from the best quality stainless steel. This makes them more durable and less likely to leach aluminum from the core over time. You should not have to replace them. I’ve also included companies here that are manufacturing steel in the United States with safe materials. (Most stainless steel still comes from China.)
The 430 pans are for people with nickel allergies and sensitivities. However, because of the lack of nickel, they are less durable than the “better” category. This is the tradeoff. Eventually, you will need to replace them. These pans are considered 430 stainless steel (also referred to as 18/0 stainless steel because it is composed of 18% chromium and 0% nickel).
Best 304 Stainless Steel (with Nickel)
- 360 Stainless Steel Cookware (Made in the USA from safe materials. Use discount code “MAMAVATION” for 20% off products!)
- All Clad D5 Brushed Stainless Steel Cookware
- All Clad D5 Brushed Stainless Steel 4 Quart Pot
- All Clad D5 Polished Stainless Steel Cookware
- All Clad Copper Core Stainless Steel Cookware
- Anyfish Stainless Steel Cookware Set
- Demeyere Atlantis with Silvinox Stainless Steel Cookware
- Demeyere Intense 5-ply with Silvinox Stainless Steel Cookware
- Demeyere Industry Stainless Steel Cookware
- Healthcraft 7-Ply 4-SQUARE DELUXE Waterless Cookware Set 17 Pcs Magnetic T304s
- Henckels RealClad Stainless Steel 5-ply 10-piece Cookware Set
- Legends 5 Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set
- Made In Stainless Steel Cookware (NOT one in TARGET store. Brand in Target store are made of lower quality stainless steel.)
- Misen 5-Ply Stainless Steel Pans & Cookware Sets
- Viking 2 Quart Sauce Pan, 5 Ply
- Viking 5 Ply Stainless Steel Cookware
Best 430 Stainless Steel (without Nickel)
- HOMI CHEF 5 Quart Stock Pot (18/0 nickel free)
- HOMI CHEF 8 Quart Extra Large Stock Pot (18/0 nickel free)
- HOMI CHEF 10-Piece Nickel Free Stainless Steel Cookware Set Copper Band (18/0 nickel free)
- HOMI CHEF 14-Piece Nickel Free Stainless Steel Cookware Set (18/0 nickel free)
- Solidteknics nöni™ Stainless Steel Cookware (18/0 nickel free)(Use code “MAMAVATION170″ for a free gift of a 7.5” US-ION Lightening Skillet for any order over $170)
- Solidteknics nöni™ Stainless Steel 3 Saute Pans (18/0 nickel free)(Use code “MAMAVATION170″ for a free gift of a 7.5” US-ION Lightening Skillet for any order over $170)
- Solidteknics Stainless Steel Dutch Oven (18/0 nickel free)(Use code “MAMAVATION170″ for a free gift of a 7.5” US-ION Lightening Skillet for any order over $170)
Mamavation’s Additional Cookware Investigations
Mamavation has also investigated additional cookware sets: ceramic cookware and ceramic coatings like nano titanium and silicon, aluminum cookware, cast iron cookware, non-stick pans with non-stick coatings like Teflon or PFOA, and now stainless steel pots. Here is a list of our other cookware investigations:
- All Cookware (including non-stick, ceramic, cast iron, glass, etc.)
- Ceramic Cookware
- Non-stick Cookware
It’s important to remember there is no such thing as perfect cookware. Every option has it’s pros and cons. Therefore, care must be taken especially when cooking with acidic foods like tomato sauces, to ensure leaching doesn’t happen with any safe cookware. This is why our advisors say the safest cookware is actually rotating cookware between stainless steel, cast iron, glass, & pure ceramic cookware to decrease your exposure to problematic materials.
These cookware options are the least problematic in general to avoid heavy metals like cadmium, or the toxic fumes coming from other coated cookware sets with non-stick surfaces. Health effects of toxic cookware (like aluminum cookware) include an increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and many other types of issues so we hope you are able to pick up safer cookware from our most popular cookware investigation.