Which are better to own, stainless steel mixing bowls or glass bowls? If you don’t have a lot of room for both types or you really just want to decide once and for all what material is best, it may be an important question to you. Both types come in different sizes and shapes. Both will absolutely serve their purpose. But if you can only buy one type, which should it be? I’ll give you my opinion.
The first thing to understand is that, while glass bowls may seem too fragile, most of them are Pyrex, the same as the familiar glass baking dishes, or are made of some other type of tempered glass so you don’t really have to be concerned about their strength. They have other disadvantages, though. But let’s start with stainless steel.
Recommended: Finedine Set of 8 Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
Advantages of Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
Stainless steel is very strong and durable so bowls made from it do not have to be thick, making stainless steel bowls lightweight. This makes them easier to store and move around. It also makes them easier to pour from. If you have to scrape heavy batter from a stainless steel bowl, you’ll find the bowl much easier to hold on to than a glass bowl. This also gives advantages is size. You can have an absolutely huge stainless steel bowl without it being too heavy. The weight advantage also makes them easier to clean.
Bowls made from stainless steel are better for whipping egg whites or cream than glass or plastic bowls. Glass bowls have slicker sides meaning the foam you are whipping is not able to cling to the sides as easily. Plastic bowls pick up a layer of oil from use that causes the same problem. Steel bowls usually come in sets that nest for storage perfectly. They can also be used as cooking vessels over a makeshift double boiler – a water bath or a ‘bain marie’ – for Hollandaise, beurre blanc, and custards. While stainless steel may not be the best heat conductor among metals it conducts faster than glass. The same advantage is true in reverse. If you need to cool something down or keep it cool, a stainless steel bowl on ice water will chill down very quickly.
Something that many people neglect about bowls is that they are not always for mixing. We use them for marinading meats or for carrying ingredients to the grill and all sorts of other tasks. If you’re a Rachael Ray fan, you may be familiar with the ‘garbage bowl’ used to keep your cooking area clean without having to traipse back and forth to the trash can. Stainless steel bowls will be better for all these tasks and more.
Disadvantages of Stainless Steel Bowls
Stainless steel bowls don’t have too many disadvantages, to my mind. One problem is that they cannot go into the microwave which may be a turnoff to some cooks. And, while they are very durable, they can end up with dents and dings after long use, especially if you are rough on them. But, on the other hand, you can drop one on the floor several times a day with no problem. Try that with a glass bowl. Even some plastic bowls made with brittle plastics can’t take that kind of abuse.
I have noticed a supposed disadvantage being mentioned on other sites: stability, or lack thereof. The assumption seems to be that since stainless steel bowls are lighter than glass bowls, they are less stable and will move around more on your counter when you are mixing vigorously. I’ve used both types of bowls and I’ve never found this to be the case. We are often instructed to put a damp towel under the bowls to keep them from moving but I never really need to do this. And when I’m beating eggs or mixing a quick batter, I’m often holding onto the bowl anyway.
Advantages of Glass Bowls
About the only true advantage I see for glass mixing bowls is that they can be put in the microwave. Both glass and stainless steel bowls can usually be placed in the dishwasher so ease of cleaning is not an issue unless you are washing by hand, where stainless steel bowls are clearly the winner.
Glass bowls are durable and come in many vibrant colors although if you choose a colored bowl you lose one of the advantages of glass bowls, their transparency. At the least, when using a clear glass bowl you can see if some of the ingredients are not mixed. As a serving vessel or to display fruit, etc. transparent glass mixing bowls are more attractive than metal ones. But I have a few decorative glass bowls for those purposes so I do not think this is a reason to buy glass mixing bowls. You can find very nice decorative bowls, often, at thrift shops and garage sales. The bowl below is an example of the types of bowls I’m referring to:
Disadvantages of Glass Bowls
I’ve already mentioned some of the disadvantages of glass bowls. They are heavy, heavy! When transferring batter from a glass bowl to a baking pan, holding on can be difficult. And when washing by hand they are slippery, which, combined with their weight, can make them harder to wash than stainless steel bowls. Their weight is a disadvantage in storage because even when all your glass bowls next into each other, the stack is very heavy and cumbersome. If you have to move a stack of stainless steel bowls, no problem. A stack of glass bowls is a different story, though.
Which Type of Bowl is Best?
I think its fairly clear that I don’t like glass bowls. Although some outfits, like America’s Test Kitchen, try to make a case for glass bowls and stainless steel ones, there are not many clear advantages to glass, in my opinion. If you absolutely have to have bowls that will go in the microwave, then one or two glass bowls of the appropriate size for you may be a good idea, but if you are choosing a set of mixing bowls and want to pick just one material, go with stainless steel. Plastic bowls can be OK but they are problematic in terms of cleanliness and you can’t use them for cooking at all.
When buying stainless steel bowls look for bowls with lips around the edges. Glass bowls should have lips as well. These make the bowl easier to hold onto. Check out the set of six Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls by Finedine, with 3/4, 1.5, 3, 4, 5, and 8-quart bowls. For one low price, you’ll have all the mixing bowls you need, I’ll bet.
It is possible to find stainless steel and glass bowls with lids. For instance, these FineDine Premium Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl With Airtight Lids or these Pyrex Smart Essentials Mixing Bowls with Locking Lids. The last thing I want is more lids to store but lids can make it easier to use your bowls in the refrigerator or freezer. Plastic wrap or Covermate Stretch-to-fit Food Covers may be an alternative when needed.