If you love to cook, or you simply prepare dinner in your home from time to time, you will do well with an excellent set of cookware. The thing is the range of options have greatly expanded over the years that the selection process became quite hard. There is a host of cookware brands in the market showcasing the many features of their products from the material used to make the pots and pans to the various cookware parts that make up a set.
To add to the confusion, cookware today is not only made out of a single material such as copper, aluminum but also cast iron or stainless steel. Sometimes, it's a synthesis of two or more types.
So how do you reach a point of decision? How can you ensure that you pick the perfect cookware for you and stick within your budget at the same time?
The key is to know what you want to buy before you go out and search. Going blindly in your quest is never an option and will most likely lead to a confused and regretful purchase.
The information below will teach you what you need to know about cookware so you can get to an educated decision.
Even if you are not a professional cook, you still need to know the basics to avoid accidents in the kitchen and to make sure you prepare a sumptuous dish every time.
Manufacturers make your cookware out of materials depending on your cooking technique. For instance, if you mostly sauté your food, you must choose pans that are good heat conductors. On the other hand, if you usually cook braised meat, you need pots that retain heat for much more extended periods.
There may also be safety considerations such as the restriction on preparing white sauce or tomato-based dishes on unlined cookware made out of aluminum or copper because these ingredients react with the metal type.
The following are the different types of materials used to produce your cookware.
If you want to cook with minimal oil and less fat, and you want your dishes not to stick onto the surface of your cookware and destroy your presentation, you will do well with a non-stick pot or pan.
You can opt to buy a $20 frying pan in this category and just replace it as necessary. This affordability is due to the nature of non-stick cookware to lose their feature of releasing food in the long-run. They make the coating not really to last you a considerable amount of time.
You can also choose to buy ceramic non-stick cookware for an eco-friendlier option. It works the same way as your regular non-stick pan.
Make sure that you check the flat base of the pan as cheaper alternatives can sometimes distort and have hot spots that will make your cooking uneven. It must be sturdy and smooth.
Today, aluminum is the most reliable but affordable option for non-stick cookware.
Cookware made of copper fuses with other materials like nickel, silver, or stainless steel to improve its performance and expand its purpose. As copper-made cookware is high maintenance, lining them with these metals will make them less so and gives better control with temperature and conductivity.
Remember that lined copper can also wear down after a while, but those reinforced with stainless steel won't. They are even safe to use, even in high heat.
Among all the other materials, copper is the most efficient conductor of heat. It is very responsive to temperature changes to give you better control of your cooking. This feature made it one of the expensive ones, but your copper cookware will stay with you for a long time if you give it utmost care.
This type is excellent for preparing food with high levels of sugar, which are the ones that are least reactive to the cookware. As mentioned earlier, copper is high maintenance. It requires a unique cleaning regimen to make sure that it's polished to maintain its luster, and you avoid oxidation, which may result in uneven heating. Copper cookware cannot be exposed to extremely high heat as well, such as that of a turbo broiler because it can damage the material.
This type is a variant of the aluminum kind where layers of metal are pressed together and treated with chemicals to produce a smooth, sturdy, and non-reactive surface. This type of cookware is the most practical and versatile in the kitchen. It's excellent for roasting pans, stockpots, sauté pans and skillets.
This kind is a variation of the metal type and is created by casting melted aluminum into a mold to produce a thick and robust material. This type of cookware is excellent at heat retention and mostly used for dishes that need more massive cooking apparatus such as springform pans and Bundt.
Please remember that cast aluminum can leak into sulfuric or acidic dishes, so take note of this and avoid preparing these types of food with this type of cookware.
Pressed aluminum makes this type of cookware very light and heat conducive. It is also an affordable option and simple to maintain if you just take time to clean it properly.
Bear in mind that aluminum is a soft metal and subject to denting and distorting. Do not use metal implements on them to avoid scratching their surface and causing damage on the inside. You can use plastic, nylon, or wooden utensils instead.
Remember not to prepare sulfuric, alkaline, or acidic dishes on them because aluminum reacts with these chemicals. Just to be extra safe, transfer your dish to another container after cooking to avoid absorption.
Aluminum cookware is also not safe in the dishwasher, so take extra effort to wash them by hand.
If you want cookware that is extremely durable, excellent at heat conduction, and overshadowing the others as far as retaining temperature is concerned, you can go for cast iron cookware.
It is the most dependable, adaptable, and long-lasting type of cookware. It is a thick and heavy metal perfect for slow cooking, holding and keeping heat, even as you add more food onto the pan. It also works well with fast searing.
However, cast iron requires special maintenance. The metal is lined with a fat layer that is polymerized to create the non-stick surface. You cannot use any type of dishwashing liquid in cleaning it because you will remove its seasoning in the process. Google up on ways to season cast iron cookware to be guided. It is also subject to rusting, so make sure that you keep it dry after use.
There is a variation to cast iron today, which is the enameled type. It is better because it doesn't react to highly-acidic dishes, and there is no need to season it. However, it's a delicate material and is prone to cracking and chipping when subjected to heat or you mishandle it.
This type is strong, durable, and is exceptional at high-heat cooking, making it great for crepe pans and woks. It requires initial and successive seasoning like the cast iron type, and you cannot expose it to coarse scouring pads. You can choose to just wipe them clean after use, but if it needs some cleaning, you can run warm and soapy water on it, dry thoroughly afterward, and re-season before you use it again.
This type is the most preferred of all cookware materials because of all its beautiful features. It's resistant to warping, corrosion, stains, and rust. It doesn't react to any food that you prepare in it, and it's easy to clean. It's not the best heat conductor, but if paired with some other metals, it can be.
It is also dishwasher safe but will be able to maintain its shine if you opt to handwash. It can get discolored if you subject it to extreme heat. Should you encounter stubborn stains, use gentle cleaners and nylon scrubber to avoid damaging it.
A variant to this is the encapsulated stainless steel. You take advantage of various metals when you combine stainless steel with aluminum and copper. This fusion guarantees enhanced conductivity and a balanced distribution of heat. It's perfect for sauté pans, pressure cookers, soup pots, and other stovetop cookware.
Again, when you select among several cookware types, you have to know what you will use them for. Whether you are a seasoned chef or a newbie to cooking, several types will fit your cooking methods.
Although they come in different sizes, all of them are wide and tall, ideal cookware for your stews, stocks, and gently simmered soups.
You use them for some quick frying. It has slanted sides to make your stirring and tossing easier and will ensure that your dish will not spill over.
Tagines are suitable for preparing pasta dishes, couscous, stews, or cooking rice. They have a unique design that will catch your eye because it's unusual for cookware. It's cone-shaped and tall, to simulate cooking in a Dutch oven or a slow cooker where the steam from your food goes out of the cone but condenses and flows back to your dish.
It's comparable to a frying pan but with parallel ridges for grilling. The ribs act to provide real flavor to the meat as the juices accumulate on the seams. It's fitting for grilling fish, vegetables, and meat.
It's also the cousin of the ordinary frying pan but with taller sides to avoid spilling liquid out of the pan. It's perfect for cooking vegetables that produce sweat and for preparing food that requires frequent turning and stirring.
This kind is the most common type of pan. It's large, with a flat surface and low sides. You use it to achieve efficient air circulation and to make flipping or turning food easy. You can use it in frying, browning or searing.
This type is like a standard pan but with a lid. It comes in various sizes, but you use it mainly for preparing high-volume dishes, pasta, rice, or liquids.
There are several trustworthy manufacturers in the market, and they produce several of the more famous brands. For instance, Rachael Ray, Farberware, Circulon, and Anolon are brands under the Meyer umbrella. There have also been mergers among the companies that make cookware such that brands like WearEver, Regal, and Mirro of Global Home Products became part of Groupe SEB with T-Fal and All-Clad.
Now that you are ready to make an informed purchase of your cookware, here are the most important considerations.
Evaluate how much time you have in your day to day that you can devote to cleaning and maintaining your cookware. The cast iron and copper types need quite a bit of effort in maintenance to keep them in excellent condition, but the stainless steel type is so much easier to care for. Pick the ones that will be appropriate for the extra time that you have in cleaning.
As mentioned earlier, some materials react with individual dishes. For instance, aluminum is reactive to tomato-based and other acidic foods. It can leak into your cuisines, which you might ingest and have an adverse reaction to. Be very wary of this consideration.
Different cookware types have varied abilities to conduct heat. Copper is on the other end as far as excellent heat conductivity is concerned, while stainless steel is on the other side. Excellent heat conduction translates to even cooking and can also mean that as you change the temperature of your stove, your cookware will quickly adjust to it.
Lastly, you have to consider the cost of your cookware, especially if you're buying a set. All other factors to your purchase decision will be dictated by what you can afford. If you want to save money, buy stainless steel as it is the most durable among the other types.
Your purchase can go various ways depending on your cooking methods, the types of dishes that you want to serve, the amount of time that you can devote to cleaning and maintenance, and, ultimately, the budget that you have set aside for your cookware. Keep the above information in mind to guide you in buying the type of cookware that will perfectly suit your needs.