If you’re new to learning about cookware, you might be a little confused by all the different terms used to describe various types. There are a few key terms to know that can help you figure out which brand and set is right for you.
We’ve prepared this brief guide to introduce you to common terms related to the construction and design of cookware. You’ll see most of these when you’re looking at stainless steel cookware.
When you see something labeled “18/10 stainless steel,” this simply means the stainless includes 18% chromium and 10% nickel. A variation of those numbers -- 18/8 or 18/0 -- indicates that less nickel was used in the creation.
18/10 is the most common blend in premium stainless. The chromium/nickel addition ensures high rust resistance and shine. Lower quality stainless cookware might use 18/8. 18/0 is uncommon and not recommended unless you have a sensitivity to nickel.
“Cladding” or “fully clad” is a description of the construction of the pan. This means that the cookware is comprised of layers that extend all the way up the pan, offering the best in heat conductivity and retention.
Cookware that is not fully clad has a disk bottom, which isn’t ideal for everyday cooking. Some premium brands offer disked pieces that some cooks like, but in general this style isn’t recommended. Inexpensive designs that use disks have trouble with scorching and sometimes the entire bottom separates from the pan.
When we talk about the core of our cookware, we’re talking about the layers of aluminum in between the layers of stainless. This is a crucial component to stainless cookware, as stainless itself is a terrible conductor of heat and it needs the help of aluminum for fast, even heating.
All stainless cookware will have a core of some sort, with aluminum being the most common. The other option is copper, which is expensive and doesn’t make enough of a difference for most cooks.
This term is related to many of those we’ve discussed thus far. “Ply” is a layer, so the number-plus-ply will tell you how many layers of material make up a piece of cookware.
Tri-ply is the most common in stainless cookware, but premium brands often use 5-ply. Kitchara uses 5-ply construction with the layers consisting of a stainless-aluminum-stainless-aluminum-stainless order to maximize heat conductivity and durability.