Skip to main content

Does expensive cookware really make a difference?

Everyone cooks. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a novice in the kitchen, at some point in life, you have to cook food for yourself or others. If boxed macaroni and cheese is your specialty, you may have never wondered if expensive cookware is a worthy investment. But if you enjoy cooking and spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you have probably wondered if you should invest in some higher-quality cookware. Many people who love to cook also love to visit cookware stores and websites and often find themselves feeling like a kid in a candy store. But is the expensive cookware worth it? Does it really make a difference when it comes to the home chef?

If you’ve shopped for cookware lately, you are probably aware that the price of pots and pans can be extremely steep. Of course, there are sets out there on the cheap side, but those are probably just that; cheap. So are the sets that cost hundreds of dollars worth it? What causes the dramatic difference in price between the $30 set and the $300 set? Does the average home cook need pots and pans that are hundreds of dollars? Ultimately a lot of prices when it comes to cookware comes down to aesthetics and marketing. Visually appealing, name-brand cookware tends to be more expensive than the alternatives. However, the main factor when considering cookware is the materials the pots and pans are made of and it mostly comes down to science.

Recommended Videos


The metal that a pot or pan is made of will determine its reactivity. Reactivity is whether a pot or pan will react chemically with the food that you are cooking in it. Reactivity, in this case, is a bad thing. You don’t want the food you are cooking to react with the metal of the pan because it will cause an undesirable change in the color or taste of the dish. Therefore, nonreactive materials are best when considering cookware. Nonreactive materials include stainless steel and ceramics. Reactive metals include copper, steel, iron, and aluminum.

Heat Conduction

Heat conduction refers to how well a pot or pan transfers heat from the heat source (usually the burner on your stove) to the food inside it. Copper, for example, is an excellent conductor, which means that when cooking in a copper pan, adjusting the burner’s temperature makes a temperature change inside the pan quickly. Aluminum and stainless steel are also excellent conductors. The other factor to consider regarding conduction is the pot or pan’s heating elements. The placement of heating elements contributes to the conductivity of the pan.

Different Types of Cookware

woman standing over stove cooking
Image used with permission by copyright holder


Copper is the most expensive metal of all of the materials that can be used to make cookware. Copper conducts heat the best but is very reactive. To reduce reactivity, many manufacturers coat the copper with tin or stainless steel. Ultimately, the cost of copper pots and pans will depend on the thickness of the cookware. As a general rule, you want to purchase cookware that is at least 2 mm thick.


Aluminum is a cheap metal and conducts heat very well, but it is reactive with acidic foods and is very lightweight. Lightweight cookware may feel good in your hands and be easier on your wrists while cooking, but it does nothing in terms of durability. Some manufacturers will clad the aluminum with stainless steel to add strength and reduce reactivity. However, cookware that has been clad with stainless steel on both the inside and outside tends to be on the expensive side when compared to aluminum cookware that has not been clad. Lower end aluminum cookware will have cladding on the bottom of the pan only, which is known as a disc bottom. This drives the cost of the pot down but leaves you susceptible to scorching on the sides of the pans and a difference in temperature between the bottom of the pan and the sides of the pan, which can lead to uneven cooking.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is the cheapest material of the bunch and is also the worst-performing. Cast iron cookware has been used for centuries, but it creates hot spots and takes a really long time to actually heat up. The good news is that once the pan comes to temperature, it will hold that heat for a really long time. This is why cast iron is often used to sear meats. You can find pretty cheap cast iron cookware, but there are overpriced pieces on the market too.


Non-stick cookware is usually just aluminum pans with non-stick coatings. These pans are generally the best value for your money, but they don’t store a ton of heat, and they won’t last very long. The reason for the short shelf life is that once the non-stick coating chips, scratches, or wears away, the pan is pretty much useless. Thus, you cannot use metal utensils in non-stick pans, which can be inconvenient at times.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the significant difference between expensive and cheap cookware comes down to many factors. Most of the time, high priced cookware is a result of branding and marketing. There is very expensive cookware that is not very durable and is constructed poorly. On the other hand, some inexpensive cookware can be reliable and very well made. So, you should look for cookware that is sturdy and is made of a metal that suits what you will be cooking most often. As a general rule, if you want a high-performance pot or pan, copper is the way to go in terms of durability and conductivity. If you cook a lot and enjoy investing in high-quality cookware, the price will be well worth it.

Editors' Recommendations

Kelly Kaliszewski
Kelly's work has appeared in blogs and on websites. When she's not writing, she is playing with her two dogs, cooking, or…
4 kitchen gadgets that make cooking Thanksgiving dinner a breeze
Kitchen appliances that'll save you cooking time on Thanksgiving
Cheese in food processor

For those hosting Thanksgiving this year, you're likely well into the planning phase. Timing is everything when it comes to the big meal, so finding kitchen appliances that can help things run smoothly makes the prep less of a hassle. Multi-use, easy-to-clean gadgets can alleviate the stress of getting all of those sides, breads, and of course, the turkey, ready to be served at the same time. You can have the most amazing recipes for the big day, but if they don't cook the right way, everyone will feel disappointed.

There are so many gadgets on the market that it can seem impossible to decide which ones you should spend your time and money buying. Here are four tried-and-true kitchen gadgets that will help you win on Thanksgiving day.

Read more
10 delicious, healthy chicken recipes you can make in 30 minutes or less
Sick of the same old chicken dishes? Check out these healthy and exciting alternatives
Raw chicken and other ingredients on a cutting board

Chicken is a dinnertime staple for a reason — it's healthy, it's delicious, and there are so many ways you can prepare it. It can also be used in so many dishes and can take on a wide range of flavors, from Indian and Chinese to Italian and more. While we love having a whole roasted chicken fresh from the oven, paired with a side of veggies and warm, crusty dinner rolls, some weeknights we don’t have time to devote to that kind of meal.

Luckily, there are plenty of healthy chicken recipes that have a super quick turnaround time. In less than half an hour, you can have these 10 healthy chicken recipes on the table and ready to serve. Who doesn't want something delicious in under 30 minutes that the whole family can enjoy any night of the week? If you're stuck in a chicken recipe rut and need some inspiration for meals, check out these ideas and see what you think!

Read more
Healthy ground beef recipes that are actually really tasty (we promise!)
Try these unique ground beef dishes for yummy, flavorful meals
Ground beef lettuce wrap

Coming up with new ways to feed your family can be challenging. Whether you're searching for new recipes, trying out the latest gadgets, or discovering innovative ways to incorporate common ingredients into your weekly meal plan, being open to new things in the kitchen will keep mealtime fun and satisfying. 

One ingredient that doesn’t get the respect it deserves is ground beef. A beloved meat for home chefs who want to make their own patties or create savory meals with some added protein, ground beef has a tendency to be used only in our tried-and-true recipes. Good for more than just hamburgers and meatloaf, ground beef can be used to create so many tasty, flavorful meals. From hearty ground beef recipes with rice to healthy ground beef skillet recipes, there are literally hundreds of ways to get the most out of a pound of ground beef. Let’s explore some! 

Read more