Last Updated Nov 2019 – The point of your cookware is to distribute heat to a food-safe cooking surface that’s easy to clean. Pots and pans that are made out of different materials will perform different parts of this operation differently.
Copper pans, for example, will heat up very quickly and distribute heat very evenly, but they’re difficult to clean and you can’t cook certain kinds of food directly on copper.
A stainless steel pan, by contrast, is much easier to clean. On the other hand, stainless steel doesn’t conduct heat anywhere near as well, so your cookware will take a bit of time to heat up and might have hot and cold spots.
Aluminum offers pretty good heat distribution while being incredibly light, but it’s soft and prone to being damaged during normal use.
The Multi-Ply Approach
In order to give you more benefits with fewer downsides, cookware manufacturers often use a layered approach and make pots and pans out of many different metals.
You might see a pan with a core of aluminum that’s protected on all sides by a thin layer of stainless steel, for example. This gives you something that’s durable, easy to clean, and still offers fantastic heat distribution.
With hard anodized aluminum, you can skip the stainless steel entirely and still get great results. Anodized aluminum has undergone a transformation that makes it rigid and strong. It’s still light, inexpensive, and a great conductor of heat, but it’s now much more likely to withstand the rigors of regular kitchen use.
Best of all, it’s completely food safe and slightly non-stick, although you can certainly get hard anodized cookware that has an additional non-stick coating on the interior.
An Aluminum Alternative
This means that hard anodized pans and pots are just as good as multi-ply pots of pans with layers of both stainless steel and aluminum. In many cases, they’re better.
Anodized cookware is often cheaper and slightly lighter while delivering practically identical cooking performance. This makes it a great choice for your kitchen.
A Review Of Hard Anodized Cookware’s Safety Concerns
There’s a lot of dissent about what’s good or bad for your body these days. Most health experts agree that eating aluminum isn’t great for you, although it’s unclear exactly how much aluminum you’d have to eat in order to suffer from ill effects. One question that’s still very much the topic of discussion is how much aluminum gets transferred from your pot or pan into the things you eat.
In practice, the answer should be “nearly none”. Anodized aluminum, on its own, has a thin layer of extremely hard, non-reactive material on its exterior. This means that it should leach in very small quantities, if at all. Be wary of any internet scientists whose hard anodized cookware reviews tell you that large amounts of aluminum end up in your food. They’re probably not testing with hard anodized cookware.
Additionally, most modern hard anodized cookware comes lined with a safe, PFOA free nonstick coating. In other words, your food never touches the aluminum at all. There’s a totally different (safe, non-reactive) material in between.
This means that hard anodized cookware is totally safe, as far as I can tell. Aluminum would have to somehow leach through a layer of aluminum oxide and your cookware’s non-stick interior in order for you to wind up eating it. All of the research I’ve done indicates that this means any extra aluminum you wind up eating will be totally trivial and safe.
In order to give you an idea of what to expect from hard anodized cookware, here are some of the best sets and pieces on the market today.
Best Hard Anodized Cookware Set
Anolon’s Advanced cookware line is available in a variety of colors. This 11 piece set beautifully showcases all of the perks of anodized cookware. It’s light, durable, and affordable while offering incredible performance and convenience.
First, the basics. This cookware set features rubberized handles, glass lids, and a DuPont nonstick coating that’s PFOA free. Anolon claims that these pots and pans are metal utensil safe. You still probably want to avoid using anything that could scratch or damage the non-stick coating, however.
As usual, this set of specifications comes with both upsides and downsides. This cookware set is only oven safe to 400 F, which is lower than the temperatures you might use to cook a frozen pizza.
Also, while the modern nonstick coating will stand up to some pretty serious abuse, it’s unlikely to last for a decade or more like a metal cooking surface might. You’ll probably replace this cookware set after three to five years of use.
But how does this set actually perform in the kitchen?
The answer is simple: it performs excellently. Each piece of this cookware set has excellent heat distribution while remaining light and strong. The glass lids help you stay informed about what’s going on in each pot and pan, while the grippy handles mean you don’t need to use a potholder to move things around.
The non-stick seems to be pretty effective, too. It’s not functionally any different from Teflon despite being a bit more durable and scratch resistant. It’s totally free of at least one chemical acronym, too, so there’s not anywhere near as much of a safety concern. Given how easy it is to flip eggs without any butter, you’ll really enjoy cooking with these pots and pans.
Anolon produces this line in a variety of colors and styles.
An 11-piece set includes the following:
- 1.5-quart saucepan with lid
- 3-quart saucepan with lid
- 3-quart saute pan with lid
- 8.5″ frying pan (no lid)
- 12″ saute pan with lid
Overall, this cookware line is an excellent choice if you’d like an affordable non-stick set that’s light, durable, and PFOA free. You’ll get to enjoy the superior heat distribution and light weight of hard anodized aluminum with lots of amenities like rubberized handles, glass lids, and a lifetime warranty.
The Anolon set above is pretty convenient to use. But what if you want a bit more flexibility from an even more reputable brand? All-Clad’s HA1 line is constructed of hard anodized aluminum and has excellent heat distribution while being light and strong. It’s got an especially durable non-stick coating too, and it even somehow manages to be dishwasher safe.
There are a couple big advantages of this All-Clad set over the Anolon set above when it comes to serious cooking. First, the All-Clad set is oven safe to a full 500 F. This is extremely rare for a non-stick cookware set. While it does mean that this set has metal handles that get hot while it’s in use, you can easily fix this problem with a potholder or two.
Second, it’s induction compatible. The pots and pans each have a disc of magnetic material in the base that allows you to use them on an induction range directly. Using aluminum or copper pots and pans on an induction range is an incredible experience.
You get to take advantage of the double whammy of responsive induction heat and a thermally conductive pan. This gives you unparalleled control and minimizes the amount of time you spend waiting for your cookware to heat up.
All-Clad is a highly reputable American cookware manufacturer.
Not only does this mean that you’re getting durable cookware that’s backed by a lifetime warranty, you’ll also impress any dinner guests who examine your pots and pans. Anodized aluminum isn’t the most attractive metal, but this set still manages to be beautiful with its glass lids and shiny steel handles.
When you actually cook with this set, you’ll be impressed with how well it performs. The scratch resistant non-stick allows normally sticky foods to slide around with no fat whatsoever, while the aluminum pots and pans heat up very quickly and evenly throughout. All-Clad says that this cookware set is dishwasher safe, although it’s easy enough to clean them by hand. After all, nothing really sticks to the cooking surface.
All-Clad offers their hard anodized sets in a couple of different sizes.
A 10-piece set includes:
- 8″ frying pan
- 10″ frying pan
- 2-quart saucepan with lid
- 3-quart saucepan with lid
- 4-quart saute pan with lid
- 8-quart stockpot with lid
Overall, if you want a high-quality non-stick cookware set, All-Clad’s hard anodized line is a great choice. While it’s geared a bit more towards serious cooks than kitchen enthusiasts, it’s still got lots of user-friendly features like dishwasher safety.
Sometimes, you just want a basic cookware set. If you’re not interested in the reliability of the All-Clad name and you’re more interested in frustration-free packaging than rubberized handles, this Cuisinart set is a great option. Available in both 10 and 13-piece variants, this hard anodized set comes with a modern non-stick coating to make cooking easy and fun.
While this Cuisinart set isn’t induction compatible, it’s perfect for use on other types of ranges. The aluminum construction means it’s light and strong. Each piece of the set comes up to temperature very fast and evenly. The pots and pans all have slightly tapered rims to help avoid accidental spills and make pouring liquids a bit safer and easier.
I’m a big fan of glass lids, so I like that this Cuisinart set is equipped with well-fitting glass lids that allow you to monitor your cooking. The handles are made of metal, which means that they get hot, but it also means that this cookware set is oven safe to 500 degrees. This is well above the maximum temperature of some cheaper non-stick variants.
It’s worth noting that Cuisinart actually sells every piece of this set separately on the web. This means that you can pick up a single stockpot, saucepan or skillet without having to purchase a whole set or wade through individual listings.
Like the other options we’ve gone over so far, this Cuisinart set has a limited lifetime warranty. Also like the other options, you should expect that the non-stick coating will have a finite working life of three to five years.
Should you choose the full 13-piece set, however, here’s what you’ll get:
- 1.5-quart saucepan with lid
- 2.5-quart saucepan with lid
- 8″ frying pan
- 10″ frying pan
- 3-quart saute pan with lid
- 4-quart dutch oven with lid
- 9-quart stockpot with lid
- 24 cm pasta insert
If you want a high-quality basic cookware set that’s made of hard anodized aluminum, this Cuisinart set is a great choice. It’s not as convenient as the Anolon and you don’t get the All-Clad name, but you still get great pots and pans at a reasonable price.
When you use a frying pan, you’re usually frying something in a thin layer of oil. That’s why I really like griddle pans like this one. They’re not as deep as a traditional frying pan, sure, but they give you more working surface for cooking things like eggs, pancakes and ground beef. You can even make a stir-fry in one if you’re careful.
This OXO griddle pan is non-stick, dishwasher safe, and made of hard anodized aluminum. Like other modern non-stick coatings, this one is PFOA free, scratch resistant, and incredibly effective. You’ll be able to cook all of your favorite foods with no oil or butter in this griddle.
Despite having a metal handle, this griddle pan is only oven safe to 430 degrees. While this means you probably shouldn’t use it as a pizza stone, it does mean that you can sear a steak on it and then throw the whole pan in the oven afterward.
There is one downside to this big griddle pan, and that’s that it’s difficult to store. Because of the slightly unusual size and shape, it won’t necessarily stack with other pans in the cupboard. You’ll definitely want to hang it up or store it on its side somewhere.
If you want a piece of cookware for frying eggs, browning meat, and cooking pancakes, this hard-anodized griddle pan will outperform most traditional frying pans. The modern non-stick coating and excellent thermal conductivity mean that cooking is easy and fun. Best of all, since it’s dishwasher safe, you don’t need to worry about cleanup.
Anodized aluminum offers a unique set of advantages to cookware. It’s an excellent choice if you want affordable, lightweight pots and pans that conduct heat very well. It’s also durable, safe, and fairly inexpensive, so you can afford to get an extra copper pot or other specialty kitchen gadget in addition to your hard anodized cookware set.
But which set is best?
All three of the sets reviewed above have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. The All-Clad set carries the weight of a legendary brand and is induction compatible, while the Anolon set has rubber handles that make it easier to use at the expense of oven safety.
Finally, the Cuisinart set is a reasonable option with similar features. If you want a basic cookware set with metal handles, it’s a solid choice.