How to Tell Aluminum from Stainless Steel Cookware? Best Guide

(Last Updated On: September 4, 2023)

How to Tell Aluminum from Stainless Steel Cookware? The two metals, stainless steel, and aluminum, are present in almost every kitchen and everything we use, such as pots, pans, cars, etc.

These two metals have similarities in appearance, so many people need clarification and help to differentiate them.

Similarity does not mean they have the same characteristics. Their properties and features vary from each other.

Stainless steel and aluminum cookware are famous for their durability, better heat conductivity, and stovetop compatibility.

If you desire to purchase cookware but need more confidence to choose and want the best guide to distinguish between aluminum and stainless steel, then you are at the right place.

This article will deliver accurate, detailed information and valuable tips about how to tell aluminum from stainless steel.

We will compare these two materials and discuss their strengths, weaknesses, pros, and cons. So, let’s start!!

Tips to Distinguish Between Aluminum and Stainless Steel: 

These beneficial tips help you distinguish and purchase stainless steel or aluminum cookware.

  • Stainless steel warms less at room temperature as compared to aluminum.
  • Stainless steel makes more sound than aluminum when you hit the pot or pan with a wooden spoon or rap your fingers at the edge of the cookware.
  • Stainless steel cookware is not scratched as early as aluminum cookware because stainless steel is tough, but aluminum is soft.
  • Aluminum cookware loses its shine when you wash them, but stainless steel stays shiny.
  • If a magnet sticks to the cookware, then the pans and pots have stainless steel; if it does not stick to the pans and pots, then you cannot identify its material.
  • When you cook a meal, aluminum cookware may stain, but stainless steel does not stain; this is another simple way to differentiate between aluminum and stainless steel cookware.
  • You can check which material is used to make cookware by reading the indications related to which material is used in it. 

Aluminum Reactivity with Acidic Meals:

How to Tell Aluminum from Stainless Steel Cookware?

When discussing how to tell aluminum from stainless steel, it is essential to discuss aluminum reactivity with acidic meals.

It is a reactive metal, so it reacts with the acids of the meals. When you cook meals such as tomatoes, chili, barbecue sauce, etc., it reacts with aluminum metal and converts the meal’s flavor into the bitter one.

The aluminum reactivity with acidic meals may damage the aluminum and cause discoloration. It is also useless to make cheese and home brewing.

But it does not mean that aluminum cookware is useless. It is easy to clean, inexpensive, lightweight, and a good heat conductor. It is a fantastic choice for various cooking processes.

Stainless steel is good to select compared to aluminum; it does not react with acids because it is chemically inactive.

But stainless steel is not a good heat conductor and is also expensive. Manufacturers coat the cookware with aluminum or copper to make it a good heat conductor.

Comparison Table of Aluminum and Stainless-Steel Cookware:

It is a comparison table to differentiate between aluminum and stainless steel.

Non-stickNot non-stick
Easily dented or scratchedDoes not get scratches
It is a soft materialIt is a hard material
Usually not a dishwasher safeDishwasher safe
Reacts to acidic mealsDo not react to acidic meals
Cookware may discolorIts shine and bright do not damage
Easy to cleanHarder to clean
Good heat conductorPoor heat conductor if it has not a copper or aluminum coating
Safe to use in microwaveNot a microwave safe
Requires high maintenanceRequires less maintenance
Less durable than stainless steelHighly Durable
Take some time to heat upHeats up fast
Rust and heat resistant Poor rust and heat resistant

Ways to Test Whether the Cookware Is of Aluminum or Stainless Steel

How to Tell Aluminum from Stainless Steel Cookware?

These are the simple and better ways to determine how to tell aluminum from stainless steel. Let’s have a look at these tests.

Check the weight:

To check the weight is subjective; you can check the importance of the aluminum and stainless cookware. Stainless steel has two times more than aluminum, which means aluminum cookware is lightweight.  

Check Through Blaze:

The blaze test is an efficient, fast, and convenient way to distinguish between stainless steel and aluminum.

When you put the cookware on the stovetop, the aluminum produces no sparks or blazes, but stainless steel has an orange blaze. The orange blaze is caused due to burning of carbon which exists in metal “stainless steel.”  

Check the Appearance:

You can also check through the appearance of the metal. Most aluminum cookware is available in grey color with a dull texture, but stainless-steel cookware has a shiny silver color.

Stainless steel looks bright than aluminum.

Check by Using Magnet:

It is another simple way to test whether cookware is made of aluminum or stainless steel. You require a solid magnet to test.

If you keep the magnet near the aluminum, it does not attract aluminum because aluminum is non-magnetic.

On the other hand, keeping the magnet near stainless steel will attract the stainless steel a little bit.

Remember that some stainless-steel cookware has no iron, so it is non-magnetic and does not attract a magnet.

Check by Using the Key:

It is another way to distinguish between aluminum and stainless-steel cookware. Still, it is recommended to use a different method than this method because it damages the cookware.

Take a key and pull it slightly on the flat surface of the pans or pots. The aluminum cookware will get a deep scratch compared to stainless steel, even if you do not exert much effort while dragging the key.

It happens because aluminum is soft, but stainless steel is tough. The toughness of stainless steel protects it from scratches and requires more effort to get scratches.

RelatedBest Non-Stick Cookware for Glass Top Stoves

Stainless-Steel or Aluminum, Which Is Preferable:

A few things are crucial when discussing how to differentiate aluminum from stainless steel and what is preferable.

There is no doubt that stainless steel is best and preferable because it is more affordable than aluminum.

It is also good to cook healthier food because it does not react with chemicals like aluminum. Cooking the meal in aluminum pots and pans causes health issues, but this does not happen in stainless steel.

Aluminum cookware has protective coatings, but stainless steel requires no protective coatings.

Stainless steel is preferable because its durable coating does not peel off or stain. Aluminum absorbs food flavors, but stainless steel does not.

Related: How To Restore Magnalite Cookware?


This article will provide excellent guidance about how to tell aluminum from stainless steel. Both metals have various benefits, features, and properties.

Stainless steel and aluminum, no doubt, both fulfill your cooking requirements and fit best in your kitchen, but the cookware selection depends on your needs, expertise, and styles.

Stainless steel and aluminum almost look the same; there are some ways to distinguish between them, such as by looking at the color or estimating the weight.

You can also check the metal by the tests discussed in this article, and you can conveniently decide which cookware is best to use in your kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How can we differentiate between aluminum and stainless-steel utensils? 

First, aluminum is lightweight and a better heat conductor than stainless steel. Aluminum has a high heat capacity, so it heats up quickly. Stainless steel is also heavy.

How to tell if cookware is aluminum?

Aluminum is lightweight and non-magnetic, so even strong magnets do not stick to it. Aluminum is not affected by rust and is of the best quality.

Does aluminum rust?

Aluminum does not effect by rust, but it oxidizes. The aluminum oxide coating is rust-resistant and keeps the metal secure from corrosion.  

Which metal is more durable, stainless steel or aluminum?

Stainless steel is tough metal than aluminum, so it is more durable.

Can aluminum react with water? 

Aluminum reacts with water at room temperature to make hydrogen and aluminum hydroxide, but aluminum oxide coating prevents the metal from reacting with water.

Which metal, stainless steel or aluminum, heats up fast?

Aluminum heats up fast because it is a better heat conductor, but stainless steel has high heat resistance.