Aluminium cookware vs stainless steel cookware

Aluminium cookware is often touted as a lightweight and cheap alternative to stainless steel – but with an aluminium pan, you’re likely trading off durability and quality. This article explores the key differences between the two types of cookware, and will hopefully help you make a more informed decision on what type of cookware to buy for your own kitchen.

  1. The History Of Aluminium Cookware and Stainless steel


Cooking pots were invented in the 15th century by the Chinese. Within a few hundred years, people had started using iron or cast iron pots for cooking food (notice I said “cooking” instead of “heating” food). Eventually, cast aluminium became popular for cooking pots because of its low cost and its long-lasting, non-rusting properties. However, it wasn’t until the industrial revolution that we started to produce larger amounts of aluminium. This made aluminium pots and pans widely available, and it wasn’t long before the pots and pans started to take over from iron pots.


The introduction of stainless steel cookware was a relatively new idea in the 1950s, when a Swedish businessman named Harry Sorensen decided to create a cooking pot that had a thick layer of chromium oxide on its exterior. The idea was that cooking pots would be able to withstand more heat without warping, burning or reacting with acidic foods. Solid stainless steel cookware became popular during the 1960s because of their durability and design features.


Composition of aluminium cookware.

Aluminium is a very light metal (like steel), and it’s usually associated with anodising – a process that applies a tough, scratch-resistant finish to aluminium. This means that all non-stick and non-reactive materials (like Teflon and ceramic nonstick) can be used with aluminium cookware, unlike stainless steel.


Composition of stainless steel cookware.

Stainless steel is a very hard metal, and it would be extremely difficult to scratch the surface of stainless steel. This means that it’s much more durable than aluminium cookware. However, because stainless steel is very hard, it doesn’t have the same nonstick properties as Teflon or ceramic nonstick.


Differences  between aluminium cookware and stainless steel cookware.

If you’re interested in an in depth look at the differences between aluminium and stainless steel cookware, then below is a comparison to help you make a more informed decision.


I’m sure that you already know that stainless steel cookware is more expensive in Australia, but you might be surprised to know that the price of aluminium cookware has dropped significantly in recent years. For example, an aluminium frypan from an Australian brand will cost less than $100.


Aluminium is a light metal, so it’s often used in kitchenware that needs to be lightweight. For example, you see many different types of aluminium kitchenware because they are easy to transport and convenient to use. However, if you’re looking for long-lasting cookware that can withstand high temperatures without warping or reacting with acidic foods, then stainless steel is the better option. The surface of stainless steel can withstand more scratches than aluminium, but it’s still not as resilient as carbon steel.

Ease in cleaning

Aluminium is often associated with non-stick cookware, although the quality of the non-stick coating on aluminium pans varies greatly. The good news is that many aluminium pans can be cleaned with ease; however, I’ve found that stainless steel is the best option for food that has cooked onto the frying pan, because you can use a scouring pad to clean it more effectively than you can on an aluminium pan.

Ability to retain heat

Because aluminium is a lightweight metal, it’s not as heat resistant as stainless steel. This means that aluminium-based cookware can lose heat more quickly than stainless steel. This is why many people advise against using aluminium pots and pans for cooking at high temperatures. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use aluminium cookware; it’s just important to take into account that its heat-retention capability can vary depending on the type of material and the quality of the nonstick coating.

Heat conductivity

Although aluminium is a lightweight metal, it has a noticeable heat conductivity. This means that there’s a difference in how evenly and quickly the temperature across the surface of your pan will rise. If you’re cooking at high temperatures, then I would recommend stainless steel cookware because its surface can retain heat better than aluminium.


Can one use Aluminium cookware rather than stainless steel?

It is important to note that because aluminium is a good conductor of heat, it’s usually the best choice if the quantity of food needs to be kept hot. In general, you shouldn’t use aluminium as a frying pan as you run the risk of burning your food. You can, however, use aluminium cookware with a stainless steel frying pan to make the best of both materials.


Is it safe to use  Aluminium cookware?

Yes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using aluminium cookware. Aluminium is an inorganic and abundant element and is considered safe by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). However, if you have an allergy or sensitivity to aluminium, it’s best to avoid using aluminium-based materials. This issue can also arise if you have kidney problems or are undergoing dialysis due to exposure to high levels of aluminium. It’s important for you to get advice from your doctor before using any kind of material that contains aluminium.Aluminium is considered healthier than stainless steel due to its higher tolerable limits of the amount of aluminum contained in food. Aluminium is not toxic, but it can corrode when exposed to acidic or alkaline substances. Stainless steel, on the other hand, contains no dangerous compounds. It is difficult for iron to enter aluminium and cause damage due to low atomic numbers. When the cooking pots are made of aluminium, it is safe to say that foods which are acidic or alkaline are not harmful at all. As you know, oranges are acidic and lemon is alkaline. If you have aluminium pans, no problem! It is safe to cook your favourite dishes with them because of the low amount of aluminum contained in the food. However, if you use stainless steel pans, do be careful in choosing your ingredients (acidic or alkaline).


What are some of the best Aluminium cookware?

There are plenty of great aluminium pans on the market, but it’s important to know that the quality of many of these products will vary depending on where you buy them from. For example, some brands will have a non-stick coating on their aluminum cookware that is made from Teflon, while other brands will have a ceramic nonstick coating that will scratch easily with metal utensils.

How to easily differentiate between aluminium and stainless steel cookware by the feel of hand

Aluminium cookware is often cheaper, lighter, and more suited to high-heat cooking. Stainless steel cookware is heavier, but it’s also non-toxic, easier to clean, and lasts for many years.


What you’ll need: one aluminum pan and one stainless steel pan of the same size


Step 1: Hold both pans with your thumbs on the lip of the handle while your fingers are on the inside of the pan near where it meets with the base. Now try to shake each pan while keeping it level by keeping your fingers flat against what would be considered “the bottom” of that particular type of pot or pan. If the pans rattle like a maraca, then it’s likely an aluminium cooking vessel. If your pan is solid and there is no free play, then it’s probably stainless steel.


Step 2: Now tip each pan over so that it is upside-down in front of your body. If the handles feel similar and the pot itself feels heavy, there is a good chance that you have a stainless steel cookware. If both of these characteristics are matched by the aluminium pot or pan, then you should proceed to Step 3


Step 3: Shake the pans from side to side with some force while listening for any change in tone depending on if the material used to make it is aluminum or stainless steel. If the material is indeed aluminum, then you will hear a hollow or empty-sounding tone when shaken. If the material is stainless steel, then you will hear a dull or full sounding ring when shaken.


Tip: You can also differentiate between anodized aluminum and the typical “unfinished” type of aluminum by applying a drop of water to both handles. Anodized aluminum will not absorb the water while unfinished aluminum allows it to be absorbed.