Stainless steel cookware is the choice of the professional chefs as well as many a home cook. Stainless steel is durable, non-reactive, looks good and allows you to use any utensils. It’s easy to clean and lasts for years with just a little care.
The choice of stainless steel cookware is huge: from cheap pans that cost a few dollars each to the top-of the range brands that would est you back hundreds of dollars plus per set.
== Which type of stainless steel cookware to go for? ==
Stainless steel has excellent qualities as a cookware material, but one that it lacks is heat conductivity. Both copper and aluminum are better heat conductors (but both are reactive and not as durable). A compromise is achieved in modern cookware by including other metals in the construction.
The best cookware has a copper or aluminum core clad in stainless steel covering on the outside and inside of the pan. All Clad is the top brand, and if you can afford it, go for it without a doubt.
Cheaper pans have a sandwich base which is thicker for more even heat distribution and includes disks of copper or aluminum for conductivity. Copper has excellent conductivity and thus heats up and cools down faster, affording better control. Aluminum takes longer to heat up, but also retains heat for longer. Look out for as thick a bottom plate as you can afford and make sure it extends across the whole are of the pan bottom, not just a small disc in the middle.
== Other considerations ==
In cookware you pretty much get what you pay for. In most cases, the more expensive the better. Online stores can have brilliant bargains, in which you can sometimes save up to half of a RRP – well worth looking out for.
Apart from the basic construction of your pots, there are other considerations in choosing cookware (stainless steel and other). Make sure that the cookware you are buying is suitable for your type of hob (not all cookware is suitable for induction hobs, for example).
Two of the most important additional considerations are lids and handles.
Lids should fit well and have knobs that you are comfortable using. If you are used to handling your cookware bare-handed, choose knobs made of a different material (Bakelite, or even wood). Stainless steel knobs are better, though, as they are as heat resistant as the pan itself.
The same applies to handles. If you ever intend to use your cookware in the oven, you need handles that will withstand the heat: steel ones are best. Go for handles that feel solid and heavy and learn to use an oven glove or a cloth when moving your pots.
==Whole set or individual pots ==
If you are equipping your kitchen from scratch, and you can afford good (and good means expensive) cookware, do a bit of research, go and see the pots in stores, maybe even ask friends and family and buy that set: it’s likely to offer the best value for money and will last you a lifetime.
Otherwise, buy them one by one, possibly replacing your old pans. This way, you can spread your expense and will be less tempted to go for a cheaper brand. You can also test certain designs and brands before committing to more items or bigger ones. There is really no need to have a matching set of pans in your kitchen: it’s better to have the best tools for the job, not the best for the look. Buying pans individually will allow you to buy exactly what you need for your style and range of cooking and this way you will not end yearning for another stockpot or realizing that you actually never use this small frying pan that came in a set.