Choosing the best cookware for your home can be a daunting task.
Not only do you have dozens of brand names to choose from, with each claiming to be exactly what you need, you also need to think about the cost, which can be intimidating as well.
A full set of cookware can cost in the hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.
Then comes choosing the right material – copper, stainless steel, cast iron – it’s like being asked to choose the right surgical instrument for an operation.
This article will present the basic variations of cookware, breaking down their pros and cons, to give you the confidence in making that all important decision.
Your cooking habits
The first thing to consider, before getting into the science of cookware, is your personal cooking habits.
If you consider the microwave oven an integral part of your kitchen, then you probably won’t need to spend large sums of money on cookware.
If you do very little cooking, then avoid the big, expensive sets of cookware, as you won’t use most of the items.
Instead, purchase individual items as and when you need them.
Conversely, if you love to cook, and you feel you are ready to take it to the next level, then a larger, pricier set may well be what you are looking for.
Cookware comes in many names, shapes and sizes, but ultimately, it can all be broken down, based on materials used in its construction.
Here is a list of the 4 most common materials used, along with their benefits and potential drawbacks.
- Aluminum: Most cheap cookware sets that you can buy in your local pharmacy will doubtlessly be aluminum. Aluminum has the advantage of being very lightweight, as well as being a terrific conductor for heat. You won’t need to wait long before your pan is hot. Unfortunately, these sets usually burn food, and they don’t tend to last very long, making them hardly worth the savings.
- Stainless steel: Stainless steel is one of the most common materials used in good quality cookware. On its own, stainless steel is a terrible conductor of heat. However, most of the time it is used to ‘sandwich’ a core of aluminum or copper – thus creating a piece that is durable and a good heat conductor. This sandwiching is often referred to as cladding, so cookware that uses ‘clad’ in its name will use this technique. Clad cookware can be more expensive, but it is also the most versatile and long lasting. These are the best pieces for the average cook.
- Copper: Copper is a material used in high-end cookware pieces. It is the perfect metal for even heat distribution, as well as quick heat conduction. The biggest disadvantage is that copper reacts with many foods, causing discoloration and a potentially metallic influence on the flavor of the food cooked. These pieces are usually very pricey, and are best left for the professional chefs.
- Cast Iron: Cast iron is the oldest material used in cookware (if you discount bronze from the Roman era), and it is one of the most durable as well. Properly cared for, cast iron pieces can last for generations. They do require a little extra care, as iron will rust easily, but the overall durability and conductive properties make it a good choice for someone who loves to cook, but needs cookware that can take abuse. The cost of cast iron can range from cheap to fairly pricy, depending on the manufacturer and style.
Like with most things, price will indicate how well a piece of cookware is made.
Cheap non-stick sets will eventually flake off into your food.
The best rule of thumb is to avoid cheap cookware.
Instead, make the extra investment for the pieces that you can use and enjoy for many years to come.
Just like with clothing, choose pieces that suit your style and function.
The right cookware will transform cooking from a chore to a joy.