Types of Cookware
The first thing you should look for when looking for new cookware is the different types of pieces that are available. If you are a beginner you will most likely need efficient and cost-effective solutions for your cookware needs. So let's start out with the basics, when selecting new cookware there are four major pieces to consider: a stockpot, a fry pan, a sauté pan, and last but not least, a saucepan.
The Stockpot is a large, deep pot with a flat bottom. It is used to cook liquid foods that do not need to be extremely close to the heat source. Stockpots let you sauté or brown, and then add liquids when making stocks, soups, or stews. Their tall profiles are great for keeping pasta submerged during boiling. This particular pot comes in a variety of sizes and it's smart to keep in mind that having multiple sizes comes in handy when one has to cook for either a small or large group.
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Fry Pan / Skillet
A Fry Pan or Skillet is an essential workhorse in the kitchen. These pans are designed with a flat bottom and rounded sides, which makes them perfect for fast cooking with oils over very high heat. Fry pans and skillets come in a variety of sizes, however, typically fry pans and skillets do not come with a lid.
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Cast Iron Skillet
Another form of skillets are Cast Iron Skillets. Cast Iron Skillets are similar to fry pans, however the main difference is the care and the material they are made out of. Seeing as these skillets are made of cast iron they can be pretty heavy. The best advice, if you haven't ever used a skillet, would be to come in and hold a skillet prior to purchase. When selecting a Cast Iron Skillet, be sure that it is preseasoned. The issue with skillets that are not pre-seasoned is that food will stick to it. To properly care and clean a cast iron skillet follow the instructions below
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The Sauté Pan is meant for sautéing, which translates into being able to fry food while moving it around quickly in the pan, all while covered with a lid. Sauté pans are similar to fry pans when it comes to the design, they too have a flat bottom, however the main difference between fry and sauté pans is that instead of having rounded sides, sauté pans have straight sides. Seeing as they are deeper than a fry pan, sauté pans can be used for multiple uses in addition to sautéing. Some of these uses are deep-frying, searing, and preparing certain sauces such as marinara.
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The Sauce Pan has a rounded bottom and tall, straight sides. This means that they are a very versatile cookware choice, and can be used when making all kinds of sauces and soups. These pans can be used with or without a lid to control evaporation, which is why sauce pans are a go-to in any kitchen. A sauce pan is also ideal for many other uses - from reheating leftovers and preparing grains, to boiling eggs or noodles.
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Ready to Add More to Your Collection?
If you are ready to start adding to your collection cookware you should think about pieces such as - a braiser pan, a griddle, or a wok. These pieces should be added depending on your lifestyle and your cooking preferences. Don't be afraid to mix and match pieces made of different materials.
Braiser pans or Braisers are a large, flat bottom pan with a moisture-locking lid. This design makes the Braiser Pan a multitasker as well as a great addition to any collection. They can be used to brown food on the stovetop and/or slow-cook food in the oven. Some braiser pans are even designed to be served from right at the table, when everything has finished cooking of course!
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Griddle / Grill Pan
A Griddle is a piece of cookware that has a large, flat or ridged surface. With a fairly small amount of oil it can be used to cook breakfast foods such as pancakes, hash browns, and eggs. It can be square or round, but usually does not have the longer handle of a fry pan. Griddles or Grill Pans that offer a small ridged surface are perfect when you are trying to create those perfect grill marks.
Woks have high, sloping sides, and are a popular all-purpose Asian pan. They are traditionally 14 inches in diameter and made of carbon steel. These pans have a hot cooking surface on the bottom, while being cooler up the sides. On top of that, being able to move the ingredients around the pan gives one great control and versatility over the temperature. Woks are perfect for stir frying, steaming, and deep frying.
Ready to Round Off Your Collection?
Considering that now you have developed the passion for great food and great cookware, it is time to add some more specialty pieces to your collection. You can create tons of fun dishes and recipes with specialty items such as pressure cookers, roasters, Dutch / French ovens and more. The possibilities are endless!
Pressure Cookers give you the choice of having a quick-release option, taking even less time to finish a meal and without wasting water to cool things down. Their lids completely seal the pot, while the liquid is boiling inside. Steam then builds the pressure, which results in higher cooking temperatures and shorter cooking times. Most Pressure Cookers come in sizes that vary from 3 Quarts to 8.5 Quarts. A Pressure Cooker with a detachable pressure regulator can adjust the pressure to low, medium or high. The higher the pressure, the higher the internal temperature and the less cooking time you will need. The safety valve will automatically vent the steam. One of the most important accessories you will need is a timer. A couple of extra minutes of cooking probably won't harm a pot roast, but it could ruin a more delicate dish or any accompanying veggies.
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A Roaster is a large rectangular pan with low sides that allows the oven's heat to reach as much of the food as possible. Roasting pans are often used with a roasting rack, which helps elevate food above the cooking surface. It's best used for cooking in the dry heat of the oven at relatively high temperatures. This is an essential pan for roasting turkeys, chickens, and other roasts.
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The Dutch Oven is a larger vessel designed for slow-cooking generous volumes of stews, braised meats or pot roast. Dutch Ovens are usually round in shape and are made out of cast iron. Most Dutch Ovens have a pair of short handles, in order to make lifting safe and easy.
Dutch Ovens come in a variety of colors, which many Chef's like because they add a splash of color to any cookware set!
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The French Oven is very similar to a Dutch Oven; however the main differences are that they can be either round or oval, and are made from a range of different materials. French ovens are perfect for cooking a variety of dishes, which include beef, pork, roasts, briskets, and poultry.
French Ovens, like Dutch Ovens, come in a variety of colors, in order to add a splash of color to any cookware set!
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There is always the option of buying Cookware in a bundle. It's usually great for saving money and in return having matching pieces. This is an option for those who know exactly what they are looking, which makes for an easier purchase. Cookware Sets can range anywhere from 10-18 pieces, with different variations in each set tailored to what you need.
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Cookware Material Types
Now that you know all about the different kinds of cookware pieces you can choose from, it's time to decide which material will work best for you. An essential quality to look for in all cookware is the weight. A heavy pot or pan will sit securely on the burner, however be sure that it is light enough for you to lift easily.
Aluminum is probably the most popular material in cookware. It's an excellent heat conductor and spreads heat evenly throughout the pan. Even better heat distribution is if aluminum is ticker. Aluminum can be anodized to harden the surface. Hard-anodized cookware is harder then steel and is extremely durable. Plus, it's dishwasher safe. This type of cookware is also very inexpensive compared to other materials. The drawback of it is if the aluminum is untreated, it's more prone to staining and reacting with foods. For this reason, we recommend aluminum with nonstick interior because it's much less likely to discolor or react with foods.
Carbon steel is used in very expensive cookware as well as some of the least expensive cookware. It's maintained like cast iron, but it's much lighter in weight. It's works well for cooking that requires quick heat changes because it maintains its temperature well. The most common pans made out of this material are Woks and Stir-Fry Pans.
Cast iron is very thick and heavy duty. Even though it takes a little bit longer to heat up, it retains and distributes heat evenly. If you are into browning, braising, stewing, slow cooking and baking, this would be the best choice for you. Cast iron comes in Bare Iron or with an Enamel-Coating.
When it comes to the care required for a Cast Iron skillet there are a few things to keep in mind. To start, cast iron skillets should never soak in water, or be unable to dry after washing. This is because cast iron skillets can rust if they are exposed to water for an extended period of time.
To clean a cast iron skillet, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to properly clean it. To start, pour a half cup of kosher salt onto the skillet and then rub it with a paper towel; this removes any dust, or impurities. Once this is done, wash it with hot, soapy water and then dry it immediately. After much use, you may need to oil the pan with vegetable or canola oil, and you may even need to heat the pan in an oven at 450° for 30 minutes until the surface is darker than when it started.
Bare Cast Iron
Bare Cast Iron needs to be seasoned before it is used. The seasoning process will give your pots and pans a nonstick surface that lasts forever. Once they are seasoned you should avoid soaking and washing them with soap. The best way to clean them is just to wipe them with cloth.
Enamel-Coated Cast Iron
Enamel-Coated Cast Iron provides all the benefits of the cast iron. The advantage of this type of cast iron is it requires less maintenance and cleaning. However, some foods do not cook well in the cast iron. Acidic foods will react with it and will strip off the coating. In that case you just have to season your pan again.
Ceramic cookware is a great insulator, so it does not react quickly to heat. It can usually be found in the form of casserole dish or other shapes that are great for cooking slowly at the constant temperature. It's lighter then cast iron, but it's also more fragile. There are three categories: Porcelain, Stoneware and Earthenware.
Porcelain is fired to become very hard. Though typically porcelain is considered delicate, it actually can be quite durable. It also can usually be used on the stove, in the oven and in microwaves. Porcelain is typically white, due to the fact that it helps show more prominence.
Stoneware is also fired to become hard similar to Porcelain. The main differences between the two are that Stoneware uses a different type of clay, and comes in other colors besides white. Stoneware also can come in multiple finishes.
Earthenware is less strong and prone to chipping and scratching. This type is usually used as a serveware instead of a cookware.
Using two types of cookware materials together to get all the benefits of both materials develops clad cookware. Most of the time, stainless steel is clad with aluminum. Aluminum gives you the thickness and excellent heat conductivity and stainless steel prevents it from corrosion and it's easy to maintain. This type of cookware will last you a lifetime. Only downsize of this type of cookware is that is generally heavy and very expensive. If money is no object and you want the best of the best, we would definitely recommend clad cookware.
Copper is the best conductor of heat. It's the best if you are cooking on top of the stove where you have to control the temperature. Copper, however, can react with foods and can be toxic. Therefore, copper pots and pans are usually lined with another material, which is usually stainless steel. The biggest disadvantage of using copper is maintenance. Copper can discolor, so once in a while you need to polish it to remove discoloration. Also, copper tends to dent and scratch easily.
Stainless steel is a very good all around general-purpose cookware. It's lightweight, durable and easy to clean. It is, however, poor conductor of heat so usually many stainless steel pieces are made of the copper or aluminum disc in the bottom to help distribute heat more evenly. Because of its smooth surface, stainless steel is easy to clean and it's dishwasher safe. If you notice some kind of discoloration, you can use stainless steel cleanser that restores natural luster. Metal utensil can be used on stainless steel or aluminum surface.
Nonstick cookware has a coating inside the pan that makes it difficult for food to stick to it. This makes it very easy to cook healthy, non-fat foods. Because food doesn't stick, it's very easy to clean. It can be found in combination with many metals that produce cookware. The disadvantage of this type of cookware is that it can be easily scratched. Stainless steel or other utensil can scratch the pan so it's highly recommended to use nylon silicone utensils.