Stainless steel cookware is the shiniest, prettiest, most luxe-looking cookware you can get (equal only to copper in aesthetics). But more than just a pretty face, stainless steel is a great material for cookware as it is durable, easy to clean and won’t leach nasty metals into your food. To best preserve your stainless steel cookware, you need to use the best possible utensils…which we have narrowed down for you below.

Let’s find out what utensils to use with stainless steel cookware, then get into a little more detail about the many benefits of stainless steel.

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What Utensils to use with stainless steel cookware

Wood

Who doesn’t own a good old wooden spoon? Wooden spoons and spatulas are gentle yet easy to wield, especially for stirring liquids in pots or tossing food in pans. They are stiff and sturdy so you can have full control, but they’re not abrasive or scratching by any means.

Silicone

Silicone spoons and spatulas are great because they have a soft flexibility to them which means you can get into the nooks and crannies of your cookware. This is great for ensuring no morsels are left behind, and everything is fully incorporated when stirring. They’re so soft that there’s zero risk of scratching your stainless steel cookware. 

Coated metal

The issue arises when you have a cooking duty which requires harder treatment from your utensil than silicone or wood may offer. For example, flipping fish or giving potatoes a good scrape off the pan’s surface needs a hard tool as opposed to a flimsier tool such as a silicone spatula.

For these purposes, metal tools which have been coated in a silicone or plastic layer are ideal for people who want the sturdiness but want to avoid scratches.

What about uncoated metal utensils?

You can use metal utensils with your stainless steel cookware if that’s your preferred way. However, you do pose the risk of causing small marks and scratches over time. The odd probe with metal tongs or quick dip with a metal ladle is absolutely not going to damage your stainless steel cookware whatsoever.

But if you are constantly stirring vigorously with metal spoons or poking around with fish slices you might see some wear and tear. It’s not going to be a drastic change in the surface, but enough to be aware of.

It depends on what your thoughts are when it comes to wear and tear of your stainless steel cookware. If you don’t mind a few battle scars then go ahead and use metal utensils. If you’re very particular and prefer to keep them good-as-new, stick with the softer materials.

For fast and furious cooking with very high heats and lots of rigorous tossing and turning, metal utensils are best. Metal utensils are durable themselves (i.e. won’t burn or chip) and offer strong control to the cook.

If you peeked into a high turnover, hot and heavy commercial kitchen you would surely see pro chefs using stainless steel pots and pans with metal utensils.

Note: it also depends on the finish of your cookware. If you’re dealing with stainless steel cookware with a non-stick coating then absolutely stick with wood, plastic or silicone utensils.

What exactly is stainless steel? 

Stainless steel is steel which contains chromium. It’s the chromium which makes stainless steel a special metal for cookware and other practical uses. When the metal is exposed to the air, the chromium oxidizes and forms a tough layer on the outside. This oxide layer stops the stainless steel from rusting, corroding or leaching…making it a great material for cookware as it’s safe and durable.

The thing about stainless steel is that on its own, it’s a little sad when it comes to conducting heat. This is part of the reason why many cookware handles are made from silicone-covered stainless steel, as it doesn’t heat up as much as other metals.

Metals such as aluminum and copper, however, are great heat conductors so they are often layered with stainless steel to get the best of both worlds. You’ll often find a layer of copper or aluminum inside stainless steel cookware.

Why is stainless steel great for cookware?

Looks great: this is important if you’re shelling out a good chunk of money for cookware…you don’t want a set which looks clunky or unstylish, clogging up the kitchen. Stainless steel cookware generally has a classy, restaurant-grade appearance which brings reflective shine and sophistication to any home kitchen.

Durable: stainless steel is by nature a hardy material, thanks to that oxidized chromium layer. Stainless steel is a durable material with no risk of chipping, peeling or serious scratching. You might inflict a few visible marks and scratches over time, but you’d have to be pressing pretty hard with metal utensils to cause any worrisome damage.

Doesn’t leach: some cookware materials such as untreated aluminum can leach metals into your food if you are using very acidic ingredients. Stainless steel doesn’t have this issue, as it is non-reactive and totally immune to leaching.

Oven-safe: stainless steel cookware is really versatile thanks to being oven safe. You can cook with your pots and pans on the stove before popping them straight into a hot oven (generally up to around 500 degrees Fahrenheit).

Easy to clean: most stainless steel cookware is dishwasher-safe…not that we recommend doing that regularly. But hand washing stainless steel cookware is easy as you don’t need to be too precious about the tools you use. You can use any brush or scrubbing cloth on stainless steel without worry of chipping or scratching. For cooked-on or burnt food, just leave it to soak then easily remove the softened mess.

Lightweight: compared to other cookware materials such as cast iron, stainless steel cookware is generally pretty lightweight. This makes tossing, shaking and transporting food far easier and safer. 

Conclusion

Stainless steel is a forgiving material for cookware. You can go ahead and use metal utensils when need be, but when possible, stick to wood or silicone. There’s no great risk of damaging your stainless steel pots and pans, but you will preserve the shiny, as-new surface with a few careful utensil choices over time.

Make sure to choose the best stainless steel cookware for your budget, preferably with a copper or aluminum layer for heat conduction.