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Great cookware is one of the best investments you can make, but there are so many choices and picking the right product can be difficult. The first thing you should determine is what kind of cooking you want to do, how many people you are most likely to cook for and your level of expertise. You should build your selection by choosing basic pieces first and then adding specialty pans that you desire.
The first thing you should look at in the cookware is they type of material they are made from. You need to look at the construction of the cookware set. An essential quality you should look for in all cookware is a weight. A heavy pot or pan will sit securely on the burner. Just make sure it’s light enough for you to lift easily.
Types of cookware material:
Aluminum: 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: 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: 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 enamel coating.
Bare 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 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: 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 the strongest of all three and it’s fired to become very hard and durable. It can usually be used on the stove, in the oven and microwaves.
Earthenware is less strong and prone to chipping and scratching. This type is usually used as a serveware.
Clad: 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: 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: 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: 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.
Now that you know all about different kinds of materials it’s time for you to decide which pan to buy. If you are beginner you obviously have limited experience and you need efficient and cost-effective solutions for your cookware needs. When starting off it is important to buy the basics. You want to get the most use of the least amount of pieces. Look to invest in the three major pieces – a fry or sauté pan, a stockpot and a saucepan. We like the following products for a nice starter kit:
If you already experimented with cooking, discovered your needs and you have couple more mouths to feed, you can start adding to your collection. You should think about adding pieces like chef’s pan, a griddle or a wok. All other pieces you should add according to your lifestyle and your cooking preferences. Don’t be afraid to mix and match pieces of different materials.
Considering that now you developed the passion for great food and great cookware, you need to add some more specialty pieces to your collection. You can create tons of fun dishes and recipes with specialty items like a pressure cooker, a roaster, a fondue set and more. The possibilities are timeless!
There are couple more tips you should know once you decide which cookware set to buy: many cookware sets may be dishwasher safe, but we would highly recommend washing them by hand because it will add to their longevity. Also, if you want the best cookware set choose heavier pots and pans because they are made of better quality and are more secure. However, you do need to be able to lift it off the burner with ease. If it’s too heavy for you it could cause other hazards. Last, but not least, there is no one type of material better then the other. They are all equally beneficial depending on your specific cooking application. They all have advantages and disadvantages. Happy cooking!
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