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What is the Best Cookware for High Heat?

What is the Best Cookware for High Heat?

What is the best cookware for high heat? What kind of cookware do professional chefs use?

Few things are more important when preparing quality food than choosing your cookware. Between stainless steel, non-stick, cast iron, stainless steel, ceramic, and the list goes on, what is the best cookware for high heat? 

You may be thinking, “Why do I need specific cookware when cooking at high heat?”

Cooking at high temperatures requires specific cookware to ensure food is prepared properly and minimize exposure to chemicals.

In this post, we will not only explain the best cookware for high-heat cooking, but also explain if you can use stainless steel on high heat, the crucial facts you need to know about using non-stick cookware with high heat, and the kinds of pans professional chefs use that you can purchase for use at home.

What Type of Pan is Best for High Heat?

The market is flooded with different types of pans and cookware these days, so when considering what is the best cookware for high heat, how are you to know?!

You may not even realize this, but not all pans are created equal. Whether you’re stir-frying some veggies, scrambling eggs, or using any form of high heat cooking, you want to make sure you have the BEST pan.

So, what is the best cookware for high heat?  

Cast Iron

We are fan favorites of using cast iron skillets for quality, non-toxic cooking because not only are they long-lasting, but they prepare your food without allowing potentially cancerous chemicals to seep into your fresh foods. 

We also love recommending the use of cast iron for individuals, athletes, and especially who have low iron levels. Studies have even demonstrated significant improvements in the amount of iron in food and iron bioavailability from food cooked using iron pots and pans.[1] 

Cast iron pan being used to cook with high heat

We love to be food first over supplements whenever possible, and cast iron use can be such an easy and effective way to bump iron levels when needed!

Now, one caveat to this would be if you have a history of iron overload or hemochromatosis, it would be recommended to avoid cast iron skillets for cooking so as not to throw fuel onto the fire of iron overload. 

But the real question we are here to answer is, what is the best cookware for high heat? Look no further than the cast iron pan.

These pans have extremely high heat retention and have the ability to keep oil at a constant temperature. Cast irons are also very versatile, they are cost-effective, very durable, and great for high heat cooking. Whether you’re looking to sear your salmon fillet or oven-finish your beef tenderloin, the cast iron has got you!

The Cast Iron Skillets We Recommend

There are many awesome cast iron skillets on the market, but we love:

1. The Lodge Cast Iron

Available in a variety of sizes, Lodge has been in business since 1900 and is the first company to pre-season its skillets before selling them. So, you can trust they have a high quality product.

Coming pre-seasoned means you can use it the second you receive it. However, many avid skillet users still season their skillets upon receiving them, as a few extra coats often work better for limiting food sticking to the pan.

2. Smithey Cookware No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet (NOT Pre-Seasoned 👍)

Smithey Cookware Cast Iron Skillet, he type of cookware professional chefs use. One of the best types of cookware for high heat cooking and Lodge skillet cookware.

This pain is an absolute beauty ❤️ with its shiny dark copper-ish appearance and an awesome size (12″), so it can handle all of your cooking needs. We like that it is unseasoned because we can then do it on our own with a healthy organic oil. You can learn about how to season your skillet and which oil to use here.

All in all, cast iron are top of the list for cookware that stands well with high heat cooking! 

Not a fan of cast iron? Let’s discuss more options…

Carbon Steel Frying Pans

Carbon steel pans have a long lifespan, they are versatile, and they only get better with time. They are similar to cast iron in that they are both best for high heat cooking, can be used anywhere (in the oven, on the grill, on the stovetop), and are cleaned similarly, but they do have a few differences. 

What is the difference between cast iron and carbon steel pans for high heat cooking?

Carbon steel frying pans are much lighter, and they also heat up and cool down quicker than cast iron. Both of these are significant pros and common reasons why some individuals prefer them over cast iron!

These pans also have a smooth surface, so for some forms of high heat cooking, they may be ideal. Think sauteing vegetables or preparing your favorite fish.

But even if you’re looking to sear a thick piece of meat, carbon steel will be your BFF and a viable contender when considering what is the best cookware for high heat. Plus, as mentioned, you can sear your meat and then move the frying pan into the oven to finish the cooking process.

Why Carbon Steel Frying Pans are a Healthy Option

Now, you know quality is EVERYTHING to us, so we would only recommend options that support systemic health by avoiding toxic coating.

Carbon steel has a natural non-stick nature to it once it has been seasoned properly, so seasoning your carbon steel pan is a great first step to avoid the toxic coating that many nonstick pans have added to them.

LIke cast iron, you can purchase carbon steel pans that are both pre-seasoned as well as unseasoned if you would like to do it on your own.

We’ve written a whole article on the best oil to season a cast iron skillet, which can be applied to your carbon steel frying pans, so be sure to check that out!

Once your carbon or cast iron skillet is seasoned, be sure to focus on preparing delicious anti-inflammatory recipes and cooking with the top anti-inflammatory foods whenever possible.

Carbon Steel Frying Pans- The Kind of Cookware Professional Chefs use

Consumer reports recently commented on their recommended carbon steel pans and recommended the following to stock your kitchen with!

1. Made In Cookware Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan (👉Seasoned )

Picture of Made in Cookware Seasoned Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan demonstrating What kind of cookware do professional chefs use.

So you really want to know – what kind of cookware do professional chefs use? Here is your answer.

Made in Sweden and oven safe up to 1,200°F, these are the kind of pans professional chefs use.

The Made In Cookware Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan comes seasoned so it is ready to use the second you receive it. The seasoning process is partially why this pan is a bit more expensive than our runner-up choice.

This professional frying pan is induction compatible if that is the type of stove you’re using. Basically, a high-quality carbon steel frying pan is like a Swiss Army Knife as it can be used on just about any surface, in the oven, on the grill, you name it!

2. Matfer Bourgeat Black Carbon Steel Fry Pan (👉Unseasoned)

The runner-up to answering – what kind of pans do professional chefs use is the Matfer Bourgeat Black Carbon Steel Fry Pan.

Made in France and a top recommendation by America’s Test Kitchen, this pan has over 7,000 reviews with 86% of them being 4 or 5 stars!

Why does it matter that this pan is made in France or our top pick is made in Sweden? It matters because they use fewer chemicals in Europe in manufacturing and production. When you’re looking to be healthy and avoid toxins, its not a bad idea to buy your cookware and wine from Europe.

Similar to the Made in Cookware Blue Carbon Steel Frying pan, this pan is versatile due to being able to withstand high temperatures as well as being light weight so you can easily handle and maneuver the pan.

We love that carbon steel frying pans are naturally non-stick once seasoned but keep in mind that this pan does need to be seasoned before use.

This amazing pan has sizes to meet any needs, with options ranging from 8 5/8″ all the way to 17 3/4″. So, its time to ditch the Teflon and get yourself a high-quality Matfer Bourgeat Black Carbon Steel Fry Pan! 💪

Stainless Steel

Alrighty, moving onto a crowd favorite for food prep, and that is the stainless steel pan. Stainless steel is great because it can handle the harsh treatment that high heat cooking can often bring and heats quickly.

Whether you need to fry, sear, brown, or simmer your food, stainless steel can handle the task, as it can handle temperatures over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit!

Now there are some caveats with stainless steel when it comes to certain types of high-heat cooking. 

These pans do not evenly distribute heat as well as cast iron and carbon steel, so while they CAN handle the task for high temperatures, we would still rank cast iron and carbon steel pans when considering what is the BEST cookware for high heat.

This inefficiency with heat distribution can be a challenge if you aren’t paying attention while cooking. 

I have personally experienced these frustrations when cooking with stainless steel, where food may not cook evenly if the pan is sitting off-center from the flame. For this reason, stainless steel, while it can handle the heat, may present some issues when using this cooking method for larger pieces of meat.

Word of advice, pay close attention to whether your pan is centered above the flame! If you do that, you should be good to go. 

Chef cooking with a flame demonstrating what kind of cookware do professional chefs use.

What Kind of Pans Do Professional Chefs Use?

Ready to take your skills to the next level? Maybe you’re addicted to watching the cooking channel and feel like something is missing in your cookware arsenal to get one step closer to the pros. We’ve got you!

So what kind of cookware do professional chefs use?

Some of the most common pans used by professional chefs are 

  • Aluminum
  • Stainless steel
  • Copper 
  • Cast iron 

…aka most of the high heat cooking pans we’ve discussed so far in today’s article! 

There are pros and cons to each pan, of course. This is why you may want to have multiple pans at home for different food preparations or try each of them out and see what you prefer. 

Aluminum

Aluminum is a common pan used by professional chefs as it distributes heat well and is cost-effective. When you’re professionally cooking all day, every day, you’re going to go through many pans, so having an option that’s affordable is continuously replaced is common.

Now, is it safe to use aluminum cookware?

We would not recommend purchasing aluminum cookware to use frequently at home. Aluminum exposure can accumulate in the body through diet, food additives, water, and potentially leech from aluminum equipment into food. 

Aluminum has been associated with brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. While the occasional meal consume out at a restaurant is likely not a concern, using this pan for your daily cookware wouldn’t be recommended.[2] 

Stainless Steel

Because stainless steel handles high heat and it’s durable, it’s popular among professionals but may present some issues with cooking food timely because of issues with heat distribution. 

We all hate waiting a long time for our food at a restaurant, am I right?!

Nevertheless, it is a common piece of cooking equipment used by professional chefs.

Copper and Cast Iron

Chefs love copper pans and cast iron for even heat distribution and the fact that they get even better over time. Of course, professional chefs are going to ask the question, what is the best cookware for high heat? and no better options exist than copper and cast iron. 

So while they are heavy, they are an everyday favorite in most professional kitchens. 

Can You Use Stainless Steel on High Heat?

When asking the question, what is the best cookware for high heat, you may be thinking stainless steel based on the discussion earlier in this post, but is it? 

It can withstand high heat when treated properly, but as mentioned, we would still rank your highest heat cooking with copper and cast iron for efficiency. Stainless steel is going to be best used at moderate temperatures, or you will be cleaning that pan for hours! 

How to Care for Your Stainless Steel Cookware 

While we have mentioned that stainless steel is pretty much indestructible, treating it improperly can damage it. Nobody wants to throw well-spent money away, so let’s discuss what to do with your stainless steel pan to keep too high of heat from ruining your cookware! 

  1. Avoid letting the pan sit empty at high heat for a long time, as the prolonged high heat may discolor the pan. These stains are not attractive and can be hard to remove.
  1. Don’t use it on a grill. Unlike cast iron, which thrives on the grill, it can wrap the metal of stainless steel when the temperature gets too high!
  1. Avoid letting fats heat past their smoke point. Unlike cast iron pans that benefit from fat burrowing into their surface during the seasoning process, heating fats too high in a stainless steel pan can cause the fatty acids to break down in a way that causes a yellow, sticky surface.
Chef using nonstick cookware on high heat.

Can You Use Nonstick on High Heat?

When considering what is the best cookware for high heat, do not think of non-stick. 

While we are at it, let’s discuss why we don’t recommend nonstick pans in general. 

Nonstick pans (think Teflon!) are made with Perfluorocarbon (PFC), and according to the Environmental Working Group, PFC exposure has been associated with high cholesterol, cancer, thyroid disease, and other health conditions.[3] 

It’s safe to say that we do not recommend using nonstick pans because of how the junk used to coat them may drive inflammation and hormonal imbalance, but if you choose to use them, stick with the basics for cooking. Avoid high heat cooking methods since the toxic chemicals used to coat the pans can be further released into your food at high temperatures. 

Stick to scrambling eggs or lightly sauteeing veggies or fish because, again, your food and pans will be damaged by high temperatures. 

The moral of the story, stay away from nonstick pans and sear your steak with other pans that are able to handle high heat, not nonstick! 

Can Ceramic Pans Handle High Heat?

How could we forget about ceramic pans when considering what is the best cookware for high heat?! Ceramic skillets are not only lightweight but comparable to nonstick quality without the chemical-laden coating. Win-win! 

Now, the caveat with ceramic pans is that they wear and tear easily without the proper treatment. 

Ceramic is oven safe and has a max temperature of 500°F; however, it’s recommended to stick to low or medium heat when cooking to keep the integrity of the ceramic coating. Using high heat, such as for frying, will wear out the coating. The good thing is that ceramic distributes heat efficiently, so super high temperatures typically aren’t needed. We have other options to tackle those tasks! 

The moral of the story when asking the question, what is the best cookware for high heat?… Don’t think ceramic. 

Why You Shouldn’t Cook on High Heat?

We’ve spent a lot of time in this article discussing what is the best cookware for high heat, but should we be consuming charred meats or fried foods that have been cooked at high temperatures frequently?

The short answer is no. 

While we all love the occasional burger and toasted bun hot off the grill, the chemical reactions happening in return for that mouth-watering taste is a chemical reaction that not only depletes the nutritional value of the food but can also create toxic by-products called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), 

AGEs are known to contribute to increased oxidant stress and inflammation, which are linked to the recent epidemics of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.[4] 

The bottom line is that cooking at very high temperatures or intentionally browning/charring your food is not recommended for daily intake to support long-term health and should instead be consumed on occasion. The most health-focused forms of cooking would include boiling, sauteeing, baking, or braising!

Our Final Thoughts on What is the Best Cookware for High Heat?

There it is, folks! Everything you need to know about cookware for high heat. We hope after today, you feel much more confident in answering the question, what is the best cookware for high heat? 

While some options, such as cast iron, are fan favorites and highly ranked for high heat cooking, you will find what works for you by reading through all this great information and trying them out when cooking your favorite dishes. Hopefully, you have a starting place to take your cooking to the next level, but we are here to answer your questions as they may come up!

Lastly, if you’re looking to learn more about how to optimize your health, be sure to download our free 3-day anti-inflammatory meal plan.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8266402/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6040147/#ref1
  3. https://static.ewg.org/reports/2015/poisoned_legacy/Poisoned_Legacy.pdf?_gl=1*1x4n2e7*_ga*MTM4NTI5MjQzLjE2Nzk5Mzk3NDA.*_ga_CS21GC49KT*MTY3OTkzOTc0MC4xLjAuMTY3OTkzOTc0MC4wLjAuMA..&_ga=2.134890993.1847069659.1679939740-138529243.1679939740
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3704564/

About The Author

Abby Grimm

Abby is a functionally trained Registered Dietitian. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Dayton and completed her Master of Science in Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University, where she is an adjunct instructor. Abby has been an athlete her entire life, but never truly discovered her potential until she dialed in her nutrition from a whole-foods approach. As a high school athlete and into her college career often experienced fatigue, discomfort, and nagging injuries that held her back from excelling despite trying to eat properly. Throughout her functional nutrition education and competitive involvement in the sport of Crossfit, Abby began a more holistic lifestyle, which has significantly improved her performance and overall well-being. Abby enjoys sharing her knowledge of functional sports nutrition to help improve the lives of active individuals.

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