The Best Utensils to Use With Stainless Steel Cookware

Published on 10/28/2023 · 10 min readFrom spatulas to spoons, our guide helps you choose materials and designs that enhance your cooking while protecting the surface of your stainless steel cookware!
Helena Nichols, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Helena Nichols

Photo by Andrey Popov

Getting a nice set of stainless steel pans is a kitchen investment you will not regret. Growing up, I cooked on a cheap, mismatched set of predominantly non-stick cookware. This continued into college. But that all changed when I worked in my first commercial kitchen and was introduced to my first set of solid stainless steel pans. This experience opened the world to me, and I soon prioritized revamping my home kitchen set. If you’re wondering, I opted for the All-Clad 5-ply Bonded 10-piece set.

Switching to stainless steel pots and pans was a big change. At home, I had always been told never to use metal utensils with pans. However, I learned during my schooling and professional kitchen work that this is not the case for stainless steel pans.

There are multiple materials that can be used with stainless steel cookware, each of which has its own pros and cons. So, if you are like young me and find yourself at a crossroads with utensils and don’t want to make a mistake that could cost you your pots and pans, I have some advice for you, as well as a few of the best utensil sets.

What Are the Different Types of Utensil Materials?

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Metal

There are multiple types of metal utensils; the most popular are aluminum and stainless steel. Many of us grew up under the impression you can’t use metal utensils in pans, but this really applies to non-stick coated pans, as the metal spoon will start to scratch off the coating.

Now, that isn’t to say that metal spoons won’t scratch stainless steel pans. They likely will, but the scratch will be purely superficial and will not affect the pan's usability.

There are a few reasons that I prefer stainless steel utensils over other metals. Stainless steel is what is called “non-reactive,” which means it can be used with any food you want to cook. Materials such as aluminum are reactive. This means that when aluminum comes in contact with acidic foods, the metal can leach into food. Uncoated copper has the same effect.

Stainless steel is also highly durable, rust-resistant, and dishwasher-safe. Stainless steel utensils are also heat resistant, meaning they won’t burn or melt when exposed to high temperatures, and stainless steel stays hot longer than aluminum. It also tends to be a more expensive option than other materials.

Wooden

Wooden utensils are another great option. Wood tends to be a more environmentally friendly option, particularly if you opt for bamboo. The advantages of wooden spoons are that they last a long time when cared for correctly. Wood does not conduct heat well, so the handle will never get too hot to hold. And perhaps most importantly, the soft edges of wood will not leave a single scratch on your pots or pans. However, remember, they are wood, so they will burn when exposed to direct heat.

Of course, no material is perfect. Wooden spoons are more labor-intensive to care for and should not be put into a dishwasher. Additionally, they tend to stain more easily than other materials and can absorb strong flavors, requiring extra care when cleaning. Bamboo utensils have natural anti-microbial properties and tend to be more resistant to absorbing smells and tastes than some other wood.

Silicone

Silicone is a great option because it comes with a lot of flexibility, literally. Silicone utensils are highly flexible and can easily scrape the bottom or sides of a pan without damaging them while also removing all the food from them. This is great for preventing burning food on the bottom of a pan and for control.

But that isn’t all; silicone utensils also come in a number of colors, handle styles, and materials. Often, they are paired with a wooden or plastic handle, which can make the grips more comfortable than a metal utensil. Additionally, food tends not to stick to silicone the way it sticks to other materials.

The major downside is that with the flexibility comes more risk of damage. Silicone is particularly susceptible to sharp edges and can get cut or have the edges break away over time. They also may not be dishwasher safe, depending on the material used for the handle.

Nylon

Nylon is a plastic. Some people may shy away from nylon utensils as it does not look as classic as wooden or metal, but it is absolutely worth considering. First of all, nylon is dishwasher safe. Nylon also tends to be affordable. And nylon, like silicon, also comes in a host of lovely colors.

Nylon does not have the flexibility of silicon, but it is more flexible than metal or wood, which can be helpful at times. Nylon will also not scratch your pots and pans. That being said, nylon is less durable than metal. It is prone to chipping and cracking and can melt when exposed to direct heat. However, it should be noted that nylon has a much higher melting point than typical plastic.

Choosing the Best Utensils for You

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Here are some questions to consider before settling on a new utensil set:

  • Is it machine washable?
  • Will it scratch my pans?
  • What is my budget?
  • What kind of grip do I like?
  • How much space does it take up?
  • What look am I trying to achieve?

The Best Utensil Sets to Use With Stainless Steel

1. Anolon Teak Wood 13-Inch Tool Set, 3-Piece

If you want the soft yet classic look of wooden utensils, the Anolon Teak Wood Tool Set is the way to go. This is a perfect, affordable starter set for someone who is looking to test the waters with wooden utensils. This set comes with everything you need to get started: a slotted spoon, a solid spoon, and a turner. Treated well, this set will last a long time and will not scratch or scuff stainless steel pans. The Anolon Teak Wood Tool Set is an excellent basic set. But keep in mind wood turners tend to be thicker than their metal counterparts, which makes using them less desirable for more delicate cooking, such as pancakes. Additionally, these utensils are not dishwasher safe.

2. Circulon Tools Stainless Steel Hollow Handle Kitchen Utensils Set 3-Piece

Circulon also makes a nice, small three-piece set, this time in stainless steel. These beautiful, sleek utensils look great and function even better. The set comes with a large spoon, a slotted turner, and a fish turner. The edges of both turners are nice and thin, making flipping easy. You may also notice that the handles are rounded and hollow. This gives a comfortable grip without weighing down the utensils. The downside is that since this set is entirely stainless steel, the handles can get hot and burn you if you’re not careful.

3. WÜSTHOF Chef’s Tools Five Piece Kitchen Tool Set

The Wüsthof name brings a note-worthy reputation. The company has been around since 1814 and is most famous for making quality knives. This set of stainless steel utensils is more expensive than others, but it comes with just about everything you could possibly need, including a skimmer, a slotted spoon, a solid spoon, a slotted spatula, and a ladle. You can see that knife design influenced the handle shape and material. The addition of the handle material also offers protection from overheating. This set is durable and gives a refined look. Based on the materials, this set will hold up well in a dishwasher. The downside is that this set will cost more than many other brands.

4. Le Creuset Craft Series 5-Piece Utensil Set with Crock

Le Creuset is typically known for its colorful and substantial Dutch Ovens. Since enameled cast iron is prone to chipping, it is unsurprising the company came out with a set of soft silicone utensils. Included in the set are two sizes of silicone spatulas, a basting brush, and a spoon spatula. All of this is artfully contained in a Le Creuset crock, which comes in a range of colors. While this set is on the pricier side for silicone, it is beautiful, functional, and dishwasher-safe. Additionally, the tapered round design of the handle makes it ergonomic and easy to use. With this set, you will need to buy some additional pieces, such as a turner. While it comes with silicon spatulas, the thickness and flexibility of these spatulas are not ideal for use as turners in most cases.

5. Joseph Joseph Nest Plus 5-Piece Kitchen Utensil Set - Stainless steel

If space-saving is a necessity for you, this nested stainless steel-nylon hybrid set is the one for you. The set is made from a base of stainless steel and is coated with heat-resistant nylon. It comes with a slotted spatula, a spaghetti server, a slotted spoon, a solid spoon, and a soup ladle. That may sound like a lot, but the whole set barely takes up any space as they fit into each other on the handy base. Each piece is held on with magnets in the handle, so they are easy to remove and replace. Because of the magnets, the utensils can get knocked off the stand more easily. Additionally, while the nylon is durable, it will still not hold up to high heat like stainless steel. While the nylon grips are fine, they do not have an ergonomic design like other sets.

6. Anolon Tools and Gadgets SureGrip Non-stick Kitchen Utensil Set, 10 Piece, Bronze

This set from Anolon has everything you could possibly need in one convenient set. There are three different turners: a silicone spatula, a slotted spoon, a solid spoon, a soup ladle, a meat fork, a balloon whisk, and tongs. With this set, you would likely not need to add any additional pieces to your kitchen armory.

The beauty of this set is that it melds together different materials to try and achieve the best result. The base of each piece is stainless steel, and the handles are made of silicone for a comfortable grip. The turners, spoons, and ladle are all made with nylon, and the tongs, fork, and whisk are stainless steel. This gives you a wonderful combination of materials and tools for every project.

Once again, though, the turners will be thicker on this set than on a stainless steel set, which can make them more complicated to use. Additionally, the non-stick base is safe to up to 400°F but has the potential to wear out quickly over time.

7. Meyer Silicone Kitchen Cooking Utensil and Tool Set, 4-Piece, Matte Black

If you want to lean into silicone with a more affordable option than Le Creuset, I highly recommend the Meyer silicone four-piece set. This set comes with a silicone spatula, a ladle, a flipper, and a wok. These four basic tools will take you through most of the cooking you will likely need to do without adding clutter to your kitchen. The handles offer a comfortable grip, and the quality materials will last if cared for well. Plus, they are dishwasher-safe. However, even high-quality silicone is more prone to cuts and breakage than other materials.

8. Meyer Everyday Nylon Kitchen Cooking Utensil and Tool Set

Finally, the Meyer Everyday Nylon set is excellent for those who want a bit more structure than the silicone options. This six-piece set offers a nice balance between the number of utensils and price. This set includes a slotted turner, a solid turner, a ladle, a slotted spoon, a solid spoon, and a skimmer. Meyer also includes a stainless steel ring on each utensil to keep the nylon from directly touching a hot pan and preventing burning. Even with the ring, though, I do not recommend leaving nylon utensils in a hot pot or pan, as there is always the risk of damage. Still, the attention to detail, affordable price, and whimsically designed slots make this a fantastic option for nylon cookware.

Find the Right Utensils for You

Photo by Arina P Habich

If, after reading all this, you need help finding the best utensils for your situation, connect with one of our talented Kitchen Experts here on Curated for free, personalized advice, and we will be happy to find you the perfect fit.

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