February 12th, 2013 posted by Cheri Sicard
So you want to invest in cookware — or perhaps you just want to buy something to get by with for now–but the endless array of choices out there makes it seem like a daunting task. If cooking is new to you, the following cookware primer should help you navigate the waters of what to put on your stove or in your oven. Overall, you should look for sturdy construction, a piece of cookware that sits level and one in which the handles are firmly attached. In general the heavier the bottom of the cookware the better, although this isn’t a hard and fast rule. For instance, if you are buying a wok, you would want the metal to be thin. The following are some different types of cookware you are likely to come across and the overall advantages or limitations of each type.
ALUMINUM/Non-Stick Coated Aluminum
Aluminum cookware is the most economical, but I don’t recommend it unless it is coated with a non-stick coating, which it almost always is these days. I use coated aluminum sauté pans nearly every day in my kitchen. Cookware of this type allows you to cook with less oil or fat and makes clean up a snap. When buying non-stick coated aluminum pans, buy the one with the heaviest bottom that you can afford. This helps to keep the bottom of the pan, and likewise the food in the bottom of the pan, from scorching. The downside to coated cookware is, regardless of what the salesman or the text on the box tells you, it scratches fairly easily. Always use wooden or plastic spoons and spatulas when cooking with non-stick coated cookware and never use steel wool or abrasive cleaners or your non-stick cookware will indeed, start to stick.
Stainless steel makes excellent cookware and it’s most often used by professional chefs. However, it is quite pricey. Even though it is called “stainless” steel can in fact be stained by allowing pots to burn dry or by excessive burning of food. But you wouldn’t do that, would you?
This cookware is gorgeous to look at — in fact many people collect copper cookware– and is a wonderful heat conductor. Buy heavy gauge copper cookware as the thinner pans don’t heat as evenly. The downside is copper is VERY expensive and it must be cleaned and polished frequently to keep it looking gorgeous. In other words, it is HIGH MAINTENANCE, not something I particularly look for in a kitchen utensil, but to each his own. Copper cookware usually has a tin lining which can become scratched or worn. When this happens, you will need to get your cookware re-lined. Again HIGH maintenance, but people who like copper cookware swear by it.
Cast iron can be a great cookware choice. It’s inexpensive, heats slowly and evenly and maintains its heat well. The down side of cast iron is that it must be washed and promptly dried or it can rust. It is also rather heavy to lug around.
Enamel covered iron based cookware is great for casseroles, but not for frying or sautéing. Thinner metals and thinly coated metals tend to chip easily and don’t heat all that evenly.
Ovenproof glass is inexpensive, relatively easy to clean and a good heat conductor. This cookware is perfect for casseroles and pies. Corning’s “Visions” line of cookware is probably the best of this sort. Extremely versatile, it can go from freezer to stovetop to oven to your table! The same can be said of ceramic cookware — what most of us know as the white corning ware with the little blue flowers on them.