Best Cookware Materials
Pots and pans are available in all kinds of different materials, but which should you choose? When it comes to selecting cookware, one of the most important aspects is deciding what material to go for.
From stainless steel to cast iron, kitchen cookware comes in a multitude of materials and each is best suited for specific cooking styles. Being aware of the pros and cons of the most common cookware materials available can help you make an informed decision as to what might suit your needs best.
If youve been in the market for cookware, youre probably familiar with seeing stainless steel. Stainless steel is known to be long-lasting and can be found in many households as well as commercial kitchens.
It is often sold in sets and is a great all-around choice for taking on many types of dishes. Aesthetically, stainless steel pots and pans look great in the kitchen because of their polished surfaces.
Other benefits include:
- Non-reactive to food
- Awesome to use when browning or braising
- Easy to clean and does not require special maintenance
- Usually quite affordable
- Dishwasher, oven and broiler safe
- Pairs well with induction cooktops
- One of the safest cookware options on the market
Some drawbacks of stainless steel cookware is its not a great heat conductor, meaning it takes longer to heat up compared to other cookware types. Additionally, stainless steel is considered a stick cookware so you may have to learn new techniques when cooking with it. For example, you must ensure your stainless steel pan is well oiled before attempting to make scrambled eggs.
When you are looking to buy stainless steel cookware be sure to check for the grade of stainless steel (18/8 or 18/10). You can find these numbers on the bottom of the pot or on the box. These numbers represent the amount of chromium and nickel present in stainless steel cookware, respectively.
This is important because these numbers indicate that the pot or pan is made from food grade stainless steel.
Chromium is the material which gives stainless steel pots and pans their glisten and gleam. It is responsible for that mirror-like finish that is so attractive. Nickel is what makes stainless steel stronger and allows it to be resistant to oxidation and corrosion from acidic foods.
The weight of the pot itself can also tell you the quality at which it was made. The heftier the pot, the more material was used to make it and the more expensive it will be. The lighter the pot, the flimsier and the more likely it will be to have hot spots.
Cast iron is exactly what it sounds like. It is iron poured into a cast or mold which is then cooled. Cast iron is made out of a mixture of iron, steel railroad ties, castings and crude iron.
Cast iron cookware is available in all shapes and sizes. You can find cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, pots, woks, pizza pans and even muffin tins. It is a great option for frying and baking foods, and once seasoned properly cast iron provides an awesome non-stick surface for cooking a variety of things.
Along with being the best nonstick pan material, cast iron is also the most durable cookware material out there. It is a challenge to ruin them entirely, even if you arent great in the kitchen, or tend to be a bit of a clutz. They are virtually indestructible which is why you so often see them for sale at vintage stores because they can be kept in the family for generations.
They are also able to retain heat evenly and for longer periods of time making them a great option for searing the perfect steak or simering a hearty stew. Not only that, but they are an excellent choice for many other types of dishes, whether that be on the stovetop or in the oven.
And, if you want to add a little touch of rustic aesthetic to your kitchen, the look of cast iron cookware cant be beat. They are also pretty photogenic and can add that picture-perfect flare to your Instagram posts that will leave your followers drooling!
Disadvantages of cast iron cookware:
- Very heavy, making them awkward to move around;
- The handles can get extremely hot because it is cast from a single piece of metal, so handle with care;
- Susceptible to getting damaged from acidic foods like tomatoes; so if you plan to whip up some pasta sauce be sure not to leave it in your cast iron pot for too long as it can strip off layers of seasoning;
- Cast iron pans require seasoning and other unconventional methods of maintenance.
Copper is one of the more expensive options of cookware available. It is prominently used in high-end French restaurants if that gives any indication of its rich culinary history.
The most important characteristic when looking to purchase copper cookware is its thickness. Anything from 2.5mm to 3mm is ideal, any thicker and it will compromise its ability to heat. Any less than 2mm thickness will make it more of a decorative item in your kitchen and results in decreased performance.
Copper pots and pans heat quickly and evenly, giving it a big advantage over other materials. Its great for cooking fish and seafood, or whipping up delicate sauces like chocolate and caramel as it will allow them to melt evenly, without clumping or sticking.
One disadvantage of copper cookware is that it needs to be polished frequently, or else it can become damaged by corrosion. Plus, copper pots and pans must be washed and dried by hand and never placed in the dishwasher.
Aluminum is another common cmaterial found in many homes because of its affordability and versatility in the kitchen. Aluminum cookware has excellent heat conducting properties and it is often used along with other metals so that it is less reactive to food and more resistant to scratches and dents.
Aluminum cookware can be prone to discolouring when washed in the dishwasher or if cooking a lot of acidic foods, however, this will not affect the food prepared in it.
Ceramic cookware is made from clay-based materials. Ceramic-coated cookware is also availableit is made from metals like aluminum and then coated with ceramic. Both types of ceramic cookware are considered to be some of the best nonstick pan material available, similarly to cast iron.
Ceramic cookware has two big advantages over other types of cookware. It is very easy to clean because of its nonstick nature, and it is easy to maintain. It is also non-reactive, and if taken care of properly it will never degrade. This is why ceramic cookware is often regarded as the safest cookware material.
When using ceramic, make sure not to use any metal utensils which can scratch and damage its surface.
Carbon steel is very similar to cast iron cookware as they are both made from similar materials. Carbon steel cookware is durable and is relatively inexpensive. It is also not as heavy as cast iron tends to be.
Carbon steel heats fast, and the sides of a carbon steel skillet tend to be angled making them a great choice for sauteing foods. But like cast iron, carbon steel requires seasoning and without it is susceptible to rusting and discoloration. It requires similar maintenance to cast iron pans which requires extra time and you should avoid cooking acidic foods with it.
Clay and Stoneware
Clay and stoneware, also known as earthenware, provides a sustainable and non-toxic material for cooking. Earthenware is known for its ability to keep liquids in so that food can be cooked in its natural juices giving it more flavor and nutrients.
Some downsides to clay and stoneware are its fragility. If dropped they can both break easily. They are also difficult to handle when they are hot.
Non-stick cookware can refer to two different types of coatings: PTFE (or teflon) and ceramic. PTFE coatings are reported to last longer than ceramic if properly cared for. Non-stick cookware is a great and versatile option.
While relatively inexpensive, dont spend too much on non-stick pans as the coating will wear off eventually and the pan itself will need to be replaced. On top of this, keep in mind that non-stick pans have been found to be related to cancer-causing chemicals after being heated above a certain degree.
In the market for new pots and pans?
Understanding the different types of cookware materials on the market will help you gain a better understanding of which ones you should purchase for your kitchen. Take a look at our extensive collection of pots and pans here.
If you have any questions about the different types of materials used, please contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (1-877-819-6857).