Will Your Cookware Work for You?
TV and the internet are loaded with ads featuring all colors and types of cookware. With so many brands and types to choose from your not blame if you wind up totally confused! So, it’s time to answer some questions and by doing so it will help you in your final choice of cookware.
Choose cookware that works for you and also fits in with your kitchen and lifestyle. It’s really more than picking out a colorful skillet or a plain non-stick saucepan. Cookware, even moderately priced, can put a bit of a dent in your budget and it’s not something we want to replace often so it may be worthwhile to make a list of what you need and what cookware is appealing.
There are many good brands and most brands offer selections that can include cookware with different finishes. Shiny, matte, colorful? Hard-anodized, stainless steel, cast iron, enamel…? Non-stick finish? Is your stove gas or electric? If electric does it have a coil element or sealed burner? Does your stove have a smooth cooktop? Some cookware can’t be used on a smooth cooktop and a hot pan cannot be slid off the hot burner to a cold burner without possibly damaging the cooktop.
Buy Piece or Set
Should you buy one or two pieces or a set? If you already have cookware but need to add a skillet or replace a worn skillet then consider buying a skillet that you’ve may have admired or one that catches your eye. Read the information, including the warranty, and go for it. If it performs well you may decide to eventually add more pieces. If it doesn’t perform well you learned by trial and error. Each person cooks differently and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. Sometimes it does take a while to find the “perfect” cookware…
When you do find the cookware that meets your expectations consider buying a set. Most top brands have good sales and you can save quite a bit of money. Just make sure the cookware set has pieces that are really usable and aren’t duplicates. A good basic set might consist of a large saute pan or skillet, a 2 quart and 3-quart saucepan with lids and a stockpot with a lid that will fit the skillet. If you want to see how the cooking is going think about glass top lids. Can the cookware withstand high oven temperatures? Do the handles stay cool? Are the pans heavy enough to resist denting but light enough to comfortable pick up? Are the handles attached securely? Do the lids have knobs that are large and easy to grip? Can the cookware be cleaned in the dishwasher?
Types of Cookware
Hard-anodized and Hard-anodized non-stick is harder than stainless steel, The electrochemical process of anodizing transforms aluminum into a nonreactive, scratch- and stick-resistant surface. Hard-anodizing is a process that transforms aluminum into a durable, abrasion and corrosion-resistant cookware. Hard-anodizing non-stick cookware is made the same way but coated with non-stick products. It does not brown well. Should not go in the dishwasher, however, it cleans easily by hand.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless Steel cookware is available in two-ply to seven-ply constructed pans that are smooth, hard, warp and scratch-resistant, non-porous and usually will last a long, long time. Chromium, nickel and steel alloys may be added to the stainless that will form a film that protects the surface from rust, pitting, chipping and tarnishing. The higher-grade stainless steel products will clean easier and retain their beautiful shiny finish. Stainless is not a good heat conductor so be sure the piece you buy has an aluminum core or a thick, aluminum or copper disk at the bottom of the pan.
Cast Iron Cookware
Cast Iron has been around for years. Most of our grandmothers used at least one skillet of cast iron for cooking. Cast iron has changed over the years and what’s available today is thinner and lighter weight skillets, dutch ovens and grills. Cast iron is slower in heating but it has better heat distribution and maintains a steady temperature for browning, slow cooking or baking. Some of the newer cast iron has a nonstick coating which is easier to take care of but doesn’t allow the wonderful browning of the original cast iron.
Copper is the best heat conductor but impractical for most household uses. It’s heavy, expensive, soft so it will dent and it tarnishes. The cooking surfaces must be lined with a coating of stainless steel or nonstick to prevent toxicity that can be caused by a reaction to certain foods. It can be considered as an investment to buy copper cookware so make sure to only choose from the trusted brand.
Enamelware is coated complete-inside and out-with porcelain enamel. It is also possible to apply the coating to steel, stainless steel and cast iron or aluminum which produced porcelain enamel cookware. In normal use, these pans are not affected by aging, heat (to 400), humidity or food acids. And we can use them for cooking, baking, roasting, serving and storing. Less-expensive enamelware is often used for outdoor cooking and may chip or scratch easily.
Beware of High Temperatures
Cooking at a high heat will release fumes toxic to birds and it will also be harmful to humans! Fats, butter, or cooking oil will begin to scorch and smoke at about 400°F (204°C). When we reach high temperatures above 500°F the food will likely burn and cause smoke to reach unacceptable and toxic levels. If we leave an empty skillet or saucepan on a hot burner or in an oven the temperature could reach 600°F or 316°C within minutes.
- The boiling temperature of water is 212°F (100°C).
- Normal temperatures for frying meat range from about 400°F (204°C) to 470°F (243°C).
- The highest temperature for baking – such as roasting poultry or vegetables – is about 450°F (232°C).
- Cookies or cakes are typically baked at temperatures ranging from 325°F (163°C) to 400°F (204°C).
- Temperatures of 500°F (260°C) to 550°F (288°C) are typically used for broiling. Do not use nonstick coated cookware at those temperatures.
- Most cookware manufactures suggest cooking at a medium to medium-high heat to cook evenly and prolong the life of your cookware.
- If your browning meat or waiting for water to boil in a small saucepan…DON’T leave the kitchen. Too many accidents are caused by the cook leaving the area… and forgetting food was left cooking on the stove.
- Use cast iron for “blackened” food and turn on the fan since you’ll be cooking at a higher temperature.
- Don’t put a hot piece of cookware under or in cold water. You may just warp it.
It really does pay to buy the very best cookware you can afford. You can get good cookware without “breaking” your budget… shop carefully and watch for specials. You are going to have your cookware for years, it’s an investment and if you choose wisely you won’t regret spending a bit extra for quality cookware.
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