How to select the right cookware?
There are several factors you have to take into consideration when buying cookware.
The right shape and the material are definitely something to consider before buying a piece of cookware.
What material is best for me?
First of all you must select the type of material you want your cookware to be made of. The most common materials for cookware are:
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Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is certainly the most popular material for cookware. Therefore the choices in the stainless steel section are quite numerous. The reason for its popularity lays in the fact that stainless steel is a strong and durable material that is easy to clean. On the other hand it‘s not a very good heat conductor and it’s not nonstick. Be sure to buy cookware that has the label 18/10, because it denotes the best quality of stainless steel.
- It’s durable: stainless steel is a very strong material, so cookware made with this material usually doesn’t rust, stain or chip. Moreover it’s scratch resistant and it doesn’t dent. Quality stainless steel cookware will probably last for generation.
- It’s easy to clean: stainless steel cookware is easy to clean. Most stainless steel cookware is dishwasher safe and can be stored in refrigerators.
- It’s excellent for flavor preservation: this type of material doesn’t impact the flavor of the food you are cooking, because it doesn’t leach off its properties into food.
- It’s nice looking: the material is aesthetically appealing because of its mirror finish. If you store it properly and maintain it regularly (by gently rubbing or wiping with a cloth) you will preserve its original look.
- It’s moderately priced: you can buy stainless steel cookware for moderate prices and this is certainly the material where the choices are the most numerous. Even though I don’t recommend buying cookware that is too cheap because you won’t get the adequate quality.
- It’s not a very good conductor of heat: stainless steel is certainly not a very good thermal conductor which can result in uneven cooking of the food. But this downside can be compensated by buying stainless steel cookware with a copper or aluminum core to improve heat transfer because these two materials are excellent heat conductors. In these cases the cooking proprieties of a stainless steel cookware are hard to match.
- It’s not nonstick: even though most stainless steel cookware has a protective coating that prevents the material from coming off, stainless steel cookware is not non-sticky, meaning you’ll have to scrub the food residuals once in a while to be able to maintain its original look.
- It’s quite heavy: stainless steel cookware can be quite heavy when compared to other materials. On the other hand the material is strong and durable.
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Hard Anodized Cookware
Hard anodizing is a process in which aluminum cookware undergoes in order to produce a ticker coating of aluminum oxide resulting in a stronger, harder and more durable material that is resistant to corrosion and abrasion. The process of hard anodizing produces extremely durable cookware that is twice the hardness of stainless steel.
The cookware’s surface doesn’t chip or peel and it can handle extremely high temperature levels without damage to the finish. This cookware has a very long lifespan.
- It’s a good conductor of heat: hard anodizes cookware heats evenly and quickly, even on lower heat. This is very important if you are cooking on an electric stove. With hard anodized cookware you won’t get the hot spots on the bottom of your pans and the ugly outlines showing where your previous meals have burned.
- It’s durable and strong: because it has undergone a process of hard anodizing it’s hard, so you can use all sorts of utensils when you cook, even metal ones. The material is so hard that the food doesn’t stick to it. Another thing is that is lighter that stainless steel.
- It’s not stick: even though it’s not so non-sticky like coated cookware, food is much less likely to stick in a hard anodized pan than with some other types of cookware.
- It’s easy to clean: because the surface is hard you can really scrub it without scratching it, but usually it’s not dishwasher safe.
- It’s moderately priced: it’s usually cheaper than stainless steel.
- It’s not dishwasher safe: with hard anodized cookware you cannot use any kind of cleanser or bleach. So this type of cookware is usually not dishwasher safe because most dishwashing detergents contain bleach. There are dishwasher safe options but quite rare and more expensive.
- It discolors and stains with time: hard anodized cookware discolors and stains from cooking certain foods especially the acidic ones (like tomatoes). So, even with meticulous maintenance, over time it loses much of its appearance.
- It’s has a dark colored: hard anodized cookware has a typical dark brown or black color. Even though some people find the dark appearance aesthetically appealing many don’t like cooking in a dark pan because they feel they don’t see exactly what are they cooking.
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Cast Iron and Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware has excellent heat retention and diffusion properties. Seasoning is needed to protect cast iron from rust and to create a non-stick surface. Cast iron has the ability to maintain very high cooking temperatures so is commonly used for searing and frying. On the other hand because of its property to retain heat is an excellent option for cooking stews and braised dishes.
If you are anemic cast iron cookware might be good for you because it leaches small amounts of iron into the food.
Enameled cast iron is the cast iron that has a porcelain enamel glaze. The enamel coating has several benefits: rust is prevented, there is no need for seasoning and the cleaning can be more thorough. Enameled cast iron comes in beautiful vibrant colors. Still, it has some downsides too. Because of the coating, it’s more expensive than bare cast iron and it isn’t good for searing. Furthermore, it has no non-stick properties. Enameled cast iron is a popular material for Dutch ovens.
- It’s exceptional in heat capacity: this type of cookware retains heat exceptionally well because cast-iron is very dense. The density results in even heating of the food. Cast iron cookware is capable of maintaining very high temperatures.
- It’s retains flavors and nutrients: because it retains heat well cast-iron cookware is great for slow cooking as well. In this way flavors and nutrients are well preserved.
- It’s solid and durable: cats iron is a very dense and strong material that can last very long.
- It’s moderately priced: you can get a cast iron vessel for a very moderate price.
- It can have excellent nonstick properties: when seasoned correctly cast iron cookware can develop exceptional nonstick properties, making it a great choice for searing and even egg dishes.
- It requires seasoning: regular seasoning will prevent rusting. On the other hand you can choose cast iron that is already pre-seasoned or enameled cast iron cookware that requires no seasoning.
- It’s not very good for acidic foods: cooking food with high acidity can cause the seasoning to break down. The result can be metal tasting food.
- It requires more time and energy to heat up: because cast-iron is a dense and tick material it take a little bit longer to heat, but once heated it retains heat very well.
- It can rust: if not looked after correctly it can rust. So, you have to keep your cast iron cookware well coated. For the purpose use unsalted cooking oil.
- It’s quite heavy: because of its density cast iron is one of the heaviest materials so it’s not easy to handle in the kitchen. Choose a cast iron piece with a helper handle so you can use two hands to lift it.
- It’s not dishwasher safe: You can’t wash cast iron in the dishwasher because it would remove the seasoning. The best way is to wash it with water and then wipe it dry immediately. Use detergents sparingly.
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Nonstick cookware is great for cooking your meal easily and quickly, which is why is so popular among those who don’t have much time to cook. Nonstick cookware heats up real quickly. The other thing that makes it so popular is that food doesn’t stick so it’s ideal for those who don’t like cleaning chores. You don’t need to buy all your cookware as non-stick, just a few pieces. It is common that skillets, fry pans and roasting pans are non stick.
- It’s nonstick: This is certainly the main advantage of this cookware. Because of the coating the food doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pots and pans.
- It’s easy to clean: even though you have to hand wash it, because they are nonstick they are very easy to clean.
- It’s ideal for low fat cooking: again because they heat up quickly and evenly and they are non-stick cooking in this type of cookware requires less or virtually no oil or fat. This is ideal if you must avoid greasy and fatty food.
- It’s ideal for quick cooking: the nonstick cookware is ideal for quick cooking chores, like pancakes, eggs and fish.
- It’s not dishwasher safe: most nonstick cookware is not dishwasher safe.
- It’s not scratch resistant: the surface of non stick cookware can scratch easily, and once that its scratch you must throw it away. You can use any type of utensil to cook especially not the metal ones. The non-stick coating like Teflon and Silverstone scratch easily and may release toxic fumes and small parts of plastic into the cooked food.
- It’s overall more expensive: even though they are moderately priced you have to change them often so, on the long run, they are more expensive.
- It’s not “green”: meaning that some coating like Teflon is considerated environmentally questionable. The other thing is that is not long lasting. So if you want to go “green” choose another type of cookware.
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Copper cookware is very popular among culinary experts and chefs. For example copper cookware is often use in France for their traditional dishes. Copper is an excellent heat conductor meaning that copper cookware heats quickly and adjusts well to temperature changes.
Copper cookware is often mostly lined or coated with other metals like tin, steel or silver (copper is used on the outside and the other materials on the cooking surface). In this way copper is prevented from reacting with the food you are cooking. In every case, the stainless steel/copper combinations is considered among the best and safest choices for your cooking. I would recommend not to use badly scratched or uncoated copper cookware because in this way you will avoid copper from coming into contact with food (it can be toxic).
- It’s an excellent heat conductor: copper is well now for its excellent heat conductivity. It even distributes heat better than aluminum and its conductivity is ten times higher than stainless steel. Copper quickly responds to temperature changes as well.
- It’s easy to maintain: copper cookware is easy to maintain and clean because of its smooth structure, which makes it easy to clean small residues of food from the surface.
- It’s very stylish: copper has a very elegant and particular look. The combination of the silvery white and pinkish exterior makes it very aesthetically appealing so you can use it as a stylish element to complement your kitchen decor.
- It’s durable: copper cookware is very long lasting since copper is an extremely resilient material.
- It’s not scratch resistant: copper cookware scratches easily because is a relatively soft material. So don’t use metal utensils when cooking. That’s why it dents easily as well. The combination with other materials makes it more durable.
- It changes in appearance: copper cookware may change in color, especially if you are preparing foods of specific colors (purple, orange, red ). Moreover, humidity and heat can alter its appearance. If your copper cookware develops dark spots it can cause uneven cooking and burning of the food. To avoid this proper cleaning and regular polishing is needed.
- It’s prone to tarnishing: copper is quite sensitive to acidic foods that’s why cooking acidic foods may lead to the tarnishing of your copper cookware. The other thing is that copper may leach into foods which can be toxic. Because of that don’t use copper cookware if the lining is scratched (the lining can be repaired).
- It’s heavy: copper cookware is quite heavy because it possesses the heaviest metal among all types of cookware.
- It’s expensive: copper cookware is quite expensive when compared to other materials. A copper cookware set can cost from a couple of hundreds to a couple thousands of dollars.
- It’s not dishwasher safe: some dishwasher detergents (especially the ones that have chlorine in it) are not good for your copper cookware. So avoid using the dishwasher and wash it by hand.
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Clad or bonded cookware is made of layers of different metals. In this way the cookware’s performance benefits from the different qualities of each metal. Stainless steel is usually the outer layer because it’s a strong and durable material that is easy to clean. Furthermore is a “neutral material” that doesn’t react with food.
The inner layers are often made of aluminum or copper, because these materials are excellent heat conductors.
Today you’ll find that most cookware has extra layers on the bottom of the pan, in contact with the heat source. But very few cookware lines have these additional layers on the sides of the pan as well. This type of cookware is known as Full Clad and it’s very expensive to make. That’s why Full Clad costs a little bit more.
- It provides the benefits of the qualities of different materials: in one piece of cookware you will get the benefits of different metals.
- It’s durable and easy to clean: the outer layer of stainless steel provides the durability of the cookware and the easy maintenance.
- It’s provides even heating: the copper or aluminum core will ensure an excellent heat transfer. Your food will be cooked evenly in this type of cookware.
- It doesn’t interfere with flavors: because of the stainless steel layer this type of cookware doesn’t interfere with the flavor of the food that is being prepared.
- It’s quite expensive: full clad cookware is very expensive to manufacture so the prices of the cookware are usually not very low.
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