Share useful tips on home improvement.

Hard-anodized Aluminum Vs. Stainless Steel Cookware: A Face-off

Hard-anodized Aluminum Vs. Stainless Steel Cookware
While some tout about the kitchen-friendly characteristics of stainless steel cookware, others claim that the hard-anodized version is much better. So, which one should you pick? Let's find out what's the difference between aluminum and steel cookware.
Priya Johnson
Last Updated: Jun 1, 2018
Safest Cookware Option
In terms of least toxicity, cast iron and stainless steel cookware are deemed to be the safest kind, as compared to the hard-anodized aluminum, copper, or non-stick variety.
The kind of cookware you purchase and use on a daily basis plays a very significant role. While some materials can be toxic, others cannot handle the wear and tear of daily life. Stainless steel and aluminum are two popularly used cookware materials, wherein the former is an alloy of metals like chromium, carbon, steel, nickel, molybdenum, etc., while the latter is made of a single metal. Both materials have been commonly found in kitchens across the globe.

However, aluminum cookware has lost its place among home cooks and chefs due to its reactive nature. The aluminum metal in the cookware reacts with acidic or alkaline foods and leaches into them, thereby, making them toxic. To solve this major problem, cookware manufacturers are doling out hard-anodized aluminum utensils, which are safe and convenient to use. In the anodized kind, the porous aluminum surface is transformed into a non-porous, smooth, and non-stick surface that is ideal for everyday cooking. However, does it stand up to our good ol' stainless steel cookware. Let's find out.
Aluminum Vs. Steel Cookware
While both materials are durable, non-reactive, inexpensive, and scratch-resistant, they do have their differences. Let's take a look at what these differences are from the simple table provided below.
Parameters Hard-anodized Aluminum Stainless Steel
Heat Conductivity Excellent Fair
Non-stick Feature Present Absent
Maintenance Requires careful cleaning Easy to clean
Durability Tough and extremely durable Resistant to rust, stain, and corrosion; highly durable
Dishwasher Compatibility Not dishwasher safe Dishwasher safe
Price Moderately priced Good quality ones are expensive
Difference Explained
Heat Conductivity
We're all aware of aluminum's heat conducting capacity, which extends to the anodized form as well. Due to its excellent heat conductivity, food gets cooked evenly at a shorter time. Stainless steel, on the other hand, does not conduct heat evenly, thereby, resulting in hot spots that result in uneven cooking and searing. However, these days, stainless steel pots and pans come with copper or aluminum coatings at the bottom, so as to improve the overall conductivity of the material.
Non-stick Coating
The anodized aluminum utensils have undergone an electrochemical process that results in a layer of aluminum oxide on the surface. These dark gray-colored pots and pans come with a non-stick coating characteristic―the coating is stick-resistant, which causes the cookware to repel the food and cause minimal sticking. Since this material is also scratch-resistant, it makes it a very friendly cooking tool. Stainless steel utensils, on the other hand, don't come with a non-stick coating, and thus, do not provide the stick-free cooking facility.
Because the anodized kind has an additional coating, the base metal gets additional strength, thereby, making the pots and pans more sturdy and durable. In fact, hard-anodized aluminum cookware is known to be the most durable kind of cookware available today, and twice as sturdy as stainless steel ones. Then again, there is the risk of the anodized coating wearing off with time, which can be dangerous due to the aluminum metal being revealed. The stainless steel ones don't come with a potential risk of toxicity. Moreover, the alloyed cookware are rust and corrosion-resistant as well.
The anodized version cannot be washed in a dishwasher because its coating can get discolored and damaged. It must be hand washed; however, metal scrubbers mustn't be used on them. They must be washed gently with sponges to protect the non-stick surface. The stainless steel version can handle the wear and tear of daily life, and is also dishwasher-friendly. You can also use metal scrubbers without the fear of eroding the metal surface. Moreover, they can also be used safely in the oven or broiler.
Stainless steel pots and pans vary from inexpensive to expensive. The higher the nickel content in the alloyed cookware, the better the quality, and the more expensive it will be. Although expensive, these good quality ones are sure to last for a very long time. The anodized ones, on the other hand, are moderately priced and pretty affordable.
While both aluminum and stainless steel materials have their pros and cons, both make wonderful cookware options. For better understanding, purchase one of each material and test it out for yourself. Once you know which material you're comfortable with, you can go ahead and enlarge your cookware collection.