You’ve probably heard that stainless steel is an excellent material for your cookware because it is durable, lightweight, and easy to clean.
The primary benefit of stainless steel is that it will never corrode or rust (under normal conditions).
However, people often doubt the durability of their stainless steel cookware and wonder if ceramic coating them would make them even more durable.
So, can stainless steel be ceramic coated? Is it safe to cook with?
What is ceramic coating, and is it worth it?
Ceramic coating is a process that allows metallic cookware (usually aluminum or stainless steel) to be coated with a layer of what is called a “sol-gel mixture”.
This sol-gel mixture consists mainly of silicon and oxygen (silicon dioxide), with zero carbon content, giving it a ceramic appearance.
The process was initially designed to protect pottery but has been used by kitchenware manufacturers to add more durability to pots and pans.
Because of its inorganic nature (translation: no carbon), the production of ceramic-coated cookware is also environment-friendly.
But that’s not the only benefit of getting ceramic-coated cookware:
- They’re Non-Stick – Thanks to the sol-gel process applied to form that ceramic coating, ceramic-coated cookware are non-stick and would require very little oil to perform most frying tasks such as frying eggs or pancakes.
- They Retain Heat – Although pure stainless steel cookware retains heat longer than other metallic cookware, ceramic coated cookware kicks it up a notch by retaining much more heat, to ensure your food is cooked evenly across the entire cooking surface.
- They Aren’t Reactive – Because the coating is made from inorganic substances, it is non reactive to acidic foods. It will not turn black (like with pure stainless steel cookware) or leave awful metallic flavors in your food.
- They’re Easy To Clean – The non-stick properties of ceramic-coated cookware make them easy to clean, unlike normal stainless steel pans if you didn’t time things quite right.
A quick check on Amazon shows that the price range for pure stainless steel cookware and ceramic coated cookware is generally between $17-$100.
Coupled with the extra benefits ceramic-coated cookware provides, it is worth it.
What is the difference between ceramic-coated cookware and 100% ceramic cookware?
Ceramic coated cookware is any cookware with a thin ceramic covering on top, with a metal middle core. The metal base is usually anodized aluminum, iron, copper, or stainless steel.
100% ceramic cookware is made from clay, quartz, and other minerals mixed with water, that’s then molded, glazed, and baked to give it its characteristic shine and non-stick properties.
The difference in their materials creates distinct differences in their properties, as shown in the table below.
|100% Ceramic Cookware||Ceramic-Coated Cookware|
|Microwave Use||It’s completely safe to use in a microwave.||Should not be used in a microwave as stainless steel (the base metal) reflects heat waves, which may cause a fire.|
|Temperature||Can withstand extreme temperatures of a microwave, up to 2500°F||Cannot sustain extremely high temperatures because of the metal base. Typically ranges between 350°F-600°F|
|Heat retention||Will retain heat for long even after removing it from the heat source.||Will not retain heat after removing it from the heat source.|
|Metal utensils||Metal utensils can be used without fear of damage to the cookware.||Using metal utensils while searing will cause scratches on the coat, and destroy its nonstick ability.|
|Washing||Has a vitreous surface which is impervious to liquids and is dishwasher safe.||Dishwashing detergents can cause wear of the ceramic coating layer.|
|Ergonomics||Classic ceramic cookware are heavy and difficult to handle because the cooking surface and handle are one piece.||Because of its lightweight metal base e.g. stainless steel, ceramic-coated cookware are much lighter and easier to handle.|
Can stainless steel be ceramic coated?
Yes, stainless steel can be ceramic coated.
The process is relatively straightforward.
Ceramic cookware is coated in the Sol-gel process, mainly consisting of silicon dioxide.
The sol-gel process converts the sand-liquid solution known as silica (sand) into a gel that can be applied to any metallic object.
Then, the cookware is sprayed or dipped into the mineral gel, which is hardened through a high heat process known as curing.
This entire process creates the nonstick property that we all love.
Are ceramic coatings nonstick?
To understand whether ceramic coatings are nonstick, we need to understand why metallic cookware sticks.
The cooking surface of a stainless steel skillet may appear smooth. Still, under a microscope, you would see that it is ragged and covered with thousands of microscopic nooks and crannies.
When you heat the pan, the steel expands, and these pores enlarge, allowing food to seep in, solidify, and stick to the pan.
Seasoning could minimize sticking, but it isn’t very efficient.
The ceramic coating eliminates the chances of sticking as the sol-gel mixture fills up the pores on the pan, making its surface smooth and practically nonstick.
Is ceramic nonstick cookware safer than other nonstick cookware?
There are two types of nonstick cookware: ceramic nonstick cookware and regular nonstick cookware containing polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), such as Teflon.
The only danger of using the ceramic type is that the ceramic surface could crack and flake off into your food, revealing the underlying metal in the process, which could leach toxins into the food.
Meanwhile, PTFE dissociates when overheated (higher than 500°F) to release PFOA into the air.
PFOA is a toxic fume that, when inhaled, can lead to polymer fume fever that causes chills, fever, headache, body aches, and in some cases, lung damage.
Therefore, ceramic nonstick cookware is safer than other nonstick cookware.
Is it safe to use metal utensils with ceramic-coated stainless steel?
Avoid using metal utensils with ceramic-coated stainless steel.
The ceramic coating may be corrosion-resistant, but it is not immune to brute force or scratches.
Metal utensils like forks and knives can cause scratches when used on ceramic cookware.
These items eat at the coating, causing irregularities to the surface, exposing the pores on the surface of the underlying steel, thereby reducing its nonstick ability.
Instead, use plastic, silicone, or wooden utensils as they are easier on the ceramic surface.
Can ceramic-coated stainless steel be used in the oven?
Yes, ceramic-coated stainless steel is oven safe (ensure the lid and handle are safe, too), but only for temperatures lower than 500°F.
The ceramic coating acts like pure ceramic – it can withstand extreme temperatures upwards of 2500°F.
However, the problem lies with the metal base. Very high temperatures (above 500°F) can compromise the oxidation resistance of stainless steel and speed up the rusting process. It also affects the molecular structure of stainless steel, which can reduce its flexibility and cause warping.
When that happens, the ceramic coat will begin to crack, which would cause the leaching of chemicals that could contaminate the food.
To be safe, don’t use ceramic-coated stainless steel in an oven heated above 500°F.
Are ceramic-coated stainless steel pans safe in the dishwasher?
Ceramic-coated stainless steel pans are safe in the dishwasher if no dishwasher detergents are involved.
You can put ceramic-coated pans in a dishwasher that uses only water to wash cookware because water doesn’t harm the ceramic coat.
However, dishwasher detergents can ruin the ceramic coat because they contain bleach and citric acids that are too harsh on the finish of the pan.
Even on the labels, manufacturers generally advise not to put ceramic-coated cookware in a dishwasher.
Instead, they recommend washing them by hand with a soft, non-abrasive sponge, soap, and warm water.
Never use steel wool, abrasive nylons, or metal pads because they can cause tiny scratches, pitting and reduce the quality of the finish.
Is a scratched or chipped ceramic pan safe to use?
When ceramic-coated pans or pots get significantly scratched or chipped, the underlying metal could leach chemicals such as cadmium, nickel and chromium into your food that can cause serious health concerns.
You could try to manage the damage, but the issue with scratched or chipped pans is that they won’t stop falling apart.
Discard that pan immediately when the coating starts to come off in flakes and the cooking surface becomes stained or black.
Summary: Can stainless steel be ceramic coated?
Yes, stainless steel can be ceramic coated and safe to cook.
It can also last for many years if you care for it properly, even longer than tri-ply stainless steel pans which are great for cookware.