Ultimate Guide to Cookware

Ultimate Guide To Cookware

No kitchen is complete without a good set of cookware.

While everyone from the beginner to seasoned cook looks to the gleam of stainless steel to cook up that perfect, fail-proof omelet, there are quite a few other options when it comes to cookware.

If you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen game, then this is going to be your guide to cookware that should adorn your kitchen cabinet.

Since each type of cookware comes with its set of strengths and weaknesses, it’s a smart decision to have a rich arsenal of cookware at your disposal so you can unleash your inner Master Chef.

It goes without saying that there are only a few purchases you make in life that can last you a lifetime, and cookware is definitely one of them.

From the dedicated practitioner of the art of cooking to the novice who’s just started on their culinary journey, there’s a reason why cookware is often one of your most prized possessions.

So, long as you choose the right cooking equipment, you’re sure to forge many lasting memories, cooking family recipes, and other gastronomical delicacies during small family get-togethers, holiday parties, and celebrations.

Whether you’re already the proud owner of stainless steel or cast-iron cookware or are planning on joining the ranks, then it is time to celebrate the searing power of essential cookware equipment.

If you’re wondering what your options are, then you’re in good company.

This is going to be the ultimate guide to cookware that no serious cook or weekend warrior can do without.

Choosing Your Cookware Types

Couple Buying Cookware

Whether you just want to eat healthy or are looking for a grown-up kitchen, the different types of cookware options available can make be overwhelming for someone who is just looking for a decent stovetop griddle, wok or cooking pot.

When it comes to cookware types, you’ll soon find that there’s no dearth of options, from copper, carbon steel, cast-iron, stainless steel, aluminum, PTFE cookware, ceramic, clay, and stoneware and non-stick options.

While choosing cookware, price is not the only variable that you need to keep in mind.

You also want to choose cookware that you will actually use and not something that gets kicked to the curb after a few months because you realize you didn’t really need it all that much.

When it comes to picking the right cookware for your kitchen, it all boils down to the materials used in forging the pan, skillet, or cooking pot.

As with all things in life, all cookware is not made equal.

While some cookware materials are great for soups and stews, others are better at preparing stir-fries and deep-frying, while others can be used for both sautéing and frying foods.

When choosing cookware, its best to keep in mind what type of food you are going to be preparing most in your kitchen, and then pick the type of cookware material accordingly.

Cookware By Material

We’ve come a long way when it comes to how we prepare our food and the surfaces we prepare them on.

While back in the day, clay pots were the only option around, nowadays, cookware comes in multiple materials, with some manufacturers even using multiple materials that are added during the manufacturing process to make them more efficient.

With so many options available in cookware materials, making the right choice can be a tough nut to crack for many people.

Also, since buying cookware is going to be a significant investment, the last thing you would want is to make the wrong choice, which will not only waste your money but will also take up space in the kitchen.

To make your search easier, here’s a breakdown of the different types of cookware that’s available in the market today.

Copper

Copper Cookware

Copper cookware enjoys a rich history in the kitchen. It continues to be found in many homes and high-end French restaurants.

As far as cookware goes, copper is also considered to be one of the more expensive options available.

But, despite that, many people still prefer to use copper cooking pots and pans in their kitchen.

It is easy to see why copper has seduced cooks over the centuries. Copper is also the first metal to be worked on by humans, which dates back to 11,000 years.

So, it’s safe to say that copper has been around for a while. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that our relationship with the material is almost as old as agriculture.

Once humans found a way to tame fire, copper was the first metal that was hammered into bowls and used as cookware.

A major reason for copper’s popularity when it comes to cookware is its ability to conduct heat. It is this quality that makes it an efficient cooking metal.

Copper is also the direct opposite of heat-retention and conduction cookware, such as cast-iron.

When compared to cast-iron, copper has the ability to heat foods a lot quicker, and while cast-iron cookware is prone to hot spots, copper provides a more even cooking surface.

Since copper can heat foods quickly and evenly, this makes it the ideal choice for cooking those delicate proteins such as fish, other seafood, and even sauces.

Copper is also efficient in cooking and gives you complete control when you’re using it in the kitchen. Simply removing the copper pan from the flame can reduce the temperature rapidly, which helps avoid overcooking meals.

Why Buy It?

Copper Frying Pan

A well-made copper frying pan can be a thing of beauty in the kitchen.

Copper cookware is also highly functional. For instance, food that sticks to the surface is often the result of hot spots.

Copper cookware solves that problem since copper is a highly sensitive element that is a great conductor of heat, which results in even heat distribution throughout the surface.

This considerably minimizes the chances of your food getting stuck while using copper cookware.

Cookware made from copper is also one of the most energy-efficient options you can invest in.

This means your copper cookware can end up saving you money.

Cookware made of copper is an ideal choice if you normally find yourself sautéing meals or preparing multiple dishes at the same time.

When it comes to cookware in general, the thicker the material, the better it is considered to be.

Copper Cookware Thickness

As a rule of thumb, when choosing copper cookware, anything below 1.5mm thick is too thin and will not make the copper cookware as efficient as the thicker options.

The ideal thickness of copper cookware is between 2mm to 2.5mm thick, which will make them more efficient for cooking various meals.

You should also steer clear of any copper cookware that features a rolled edge.

This is because of the fact that if any metal is thin enough to roll, it is far too thin to serve as a viable cooking option.

Hammered vs. Smooth Finish

When it comes to appearance, copper cookware is available in two finishes – hammered and smooth.

While most manufacturers prefer to go with the smooth finish copper cookware, you can find plenty of copper cookware that sports the hammered appearance.

However, the choice you make when it comes to copper cookware is all going to come down to your personal aesthetic preferences.

PROS CONS
– Unlined cookware can pose a health hazard
– Loses heat fast

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel Cookware

Stainless steel has got to be one of the most versatile cookware materials you could use in your kitchen.

Not only does the glossy finish of stainless steel look good, but its tensile strength keeps it safe from dents or warping out of shape.

When it comes to its cooking prowess, stainless steel pans are much more effective in providing consistent results as compared to the non-stick variety.

These are just some of the reasons why stainless steel cookware is used religiously in many households and even professional chefs.

Since pure stainless steel cookware is not as efficient in cooking meals equally, this is the reason why manufacturers also include other metals such as copper and aluminum along with stainless steel during the manufacturing process.

The added copper and aluminum are used to forge the base and the walls of the pan, which improves its heat conductivity.

This helps the pan retain more heat and cook foods quicker.

Stainless Steel Cookware Grade

The manufacturers of stainless steel cookware normally mention the quality of the materials used during the manufacturing process.

This is why it is advised to purchase 18/10 stainless cookware to ensure that you get the best quality stainless steel cookware.

Stainless steel cookware that comes with an 18/10 rating basically means that the cookware contains 18% of chromium and 10% of nickel, which is considered to be very durable and efficient when it comes to heating.

The inclusion of the metal chromium protects the stainless steel, keeping it from rusting or staining.

Nickel is added to the mix to enhance the maintenance capabilities of chromium and is also responsible for giving stainless steel cookware its familiar shine.

While 18/10 stainless steel is the way to go when getting stainless steel cookware, the higher the number is, the more corrosion-resistant and durable the stainless steel cookware is going to be ensuring that you are able to get the most bang for your buck.

Other quality markings to look out for when purchasing stainless steel cookware is the stamp “300 Series” or “400 Series” which is usually a grade that’s located at the bottom of the stainless steel cookware.

Premium quality stainless steel cookware is stamped with ‘300 Series’ to indicate their durability and corrosion resistance.

Pots and pans that fall under the 300 Series are also labeled as 304 and 316. As mentioned, the higher the numbers, the higher the durability and corrosion resistance of the stainless steel cookware.

316-grade stainless steel cookware contains a small percentage of titanium or molybdenum.

While the inclusion of these metals into the mix makes the stainless steel cookware more corrosion resistant, it also results in a fancy price tag. 316-grade stainless steel is also commonly called marine stainless steel and is better at resisting corrosion caused by saltwater.

Stainless steel cookware from the 400 Series is mainly used for kitchen utensils and mixing bowls, and low-priced stockpots.

It is not advised to use cookware from the 400 Series since they are easily corrosive and contain no nickel, and are therefore not efficient when it comes to cooking.

Why Buy It?

Cooking With Stainless Steel

There are many reasons why you would want to invest in good quality stainless steel cookware.

One of the main reasons for using stainless steel cookware is its efficiency when it comes to equal distribution of heat in the cooking area.

Another major reason to invest in stainless steel cookware for your kitchen is that they are extremely versatile, making it possible for you to prepare an assortment of delicacies without having to change the type of cookware you’re using.

You can use stainless steel cookware to prepare various types of foods, from cooking to baking, steaming, barbecuing, steaming, grilling, and sautéing.

The options are endless when you’re working with stainless steel cookware.

Stainless steel cookware is also known to be extremely durable. Apart from being rust-proof, stainless steel cookware is also highly durable and will not peel or chip.

They also tend to last longer as compared to other types of cookware, such as ceramic or aluminum cookware.

Stainless steel cookware is also free from non-stick coatings such as PTFE or PFOA, which are both bad for our health.

PROS CONS
– Durable and lightweight
– Stable metals reduce concerns of leaching
– Does not stain or corrode
– Compatible with ovens and electric stovetops 
– Dishwasher safe
– Foods are prone to sticking
– Doesn’t distribute heat evenly across the surface

Ceramic

Blue Ceramic Cooking Cookware

Ceramic cookware is the name that comes to mind when thinking about a healthier alternative to the traditional non-stick pans.

Ceramic cookware has a long history that even predates copper.

The ability to store away food in ceramic vessels and then cook the food was a key feature of ceramic cookware used in ancient times and was still being used by the Australian Aborigines as recently as the 1950s.

Modern ceramic cookware, however, has come a long way from its primitive predecessor.

While other more durable and functional cookware materials such as copper, bronze, and cast-iron have become popular around the kitchen, ceramic cookware has still managed to stick around and is still used for cooking purposes.

Ceramic cookware is especially useful for cooking applications that require more time to heat.

A major benefit of using ceramic cookware is that it’s able to hold the heat for quite a while once it reaches a certain temperature.

Another advantage of using ceramic cookware is that it can be sculpted according to your requirements, making it far more efficient for specialized cooking purposes.

This versatility of ceramic cookware, makings it the ideal choice whether you’re cooking tandoori chicken, a meaty stew, or a delicious biryani.

Advancements in technology have also made it possible to apply a thin coating of ceramic to other cookware.

While we are already familiar with the glass-coated enamel cookware, now you can do the same by replacing glass with ceramic.

This can result in a non-stick surface that’s healthier and easier to clean as compared to the more traditional non-stick options.

While you can purchase pure ceramic cookware, there are also hybrid options available where other types of metal have been coated with a thin ceramic layer.

This gets you the temperature control of copper and the durability of cast-iron steel, along with the non-stick properties of ceramic.

Another major advantage while using ceramic cookware is that they are non-reactive, which means, if used properly, ceramic cookware will never degrade.

Why Buy It?

Cooking In Ceramic Cookware

When purchasing any type of cookware, one of the main concerns is safety, as in, is the cookware safe to cook in?

When it comes to ceramic cookware, you get to skip the part where you’re concerned about the safety issues surrounding Teflon-type non-stick cookware.

This is because ceramic cookware is known to be the safest type of cookware you can use, which is why it is the top choice for those who are looking to live a healthier lifestyle.

Since the traditional coating on non-stick pans is denser, that results in a heavier design and can bump up their price as well.

On the other hand, ceramic cookware does not require any special non-stick coating since that is the property of the material itself.

This results in cookware that not only offers you with the same non-stick properties of Teflon-type cookware but is also extremely lightweight.

Ceramic cookware is easy-to-use, lightweight and durable, and an absolute must-have for those who cook dishes that take longer to prepare.

The sturdy build quality of ceramic cookware that’s available in the market today means that your ceramic cookware will last you for years to come.

PROS CONS
– Heats evenly
– High heat conductivity retains heat well
– Highly durable
– Lightweight design
– Dishwasher friendly
– Tends to be more fragile
– May contain traces of lead

Cast Iron

Cast Iron Cookware

If you’re looking for sturdy cookware, then going old-school with cast-iron pots and skillets is the way to go.

The earliest evidence we can find on casting metal dates back to the fourth century BC in ancient China.

Engineers back then noticed that iron could be used to make weapons.

But, it was not until 1707 that we would see the world’s first cast-iron skillet thanks to an Englishman by the name of Abraham Darby, who patented a method of casting iron into thin pots and kettles.

As the manufacturing efficiency improved through the years, cast iron cookware became more and more common around the kitchens in houses and commercial restaurants.

Today, cast-iron is used for the manufacturing of everything from skillets, woks, and wedge pans to griddles, pots, grill pans, and Dutch ovens.

What makes cast-iron cookware even more attractive to many people is that proper seasoning can make your cast-iron skillet virtually non-stick as well, which gives you all the same benefits of a regular non-stick pan.

Cast-iron cookware offers a versatile design that allows users to prepare a variety of foods on-the-fly.

A cast-iron skillet can be used for reheating food, slow-cooking, stewing, baking, frying and searing, which makes it a highly versatile piece of cookware that’s essential in any home or commercial kitchen.

Enameled vs. Bare Cast Iron

The cast-iron cookware that’s available today comes in two variations – enameled cast iron and bare cast-iron.

The following is a quick breakdown of the two types of cast-iron cookware that’s available in the market.

  • Bare Cast-Iron – As the name implies, bare cast-iron needs to be seasoned to avoid rusting. The rough metal needs to be coated with a polymerized layer of fat, which creates a smooth, non-stick cooking surface. When it comes to maintaining bare cast-iron cookware, the key is to keep it away from soap and other cleaners which contain harsh chemicals that could remove the seasoning. Since bare cast-iron cookware is also prone to rust, It is advised not to keep any liquids in the pan for too long.
  • Enameled Cast-Iron – This is a variation of the classic cast-iron cookware, and features a thin and hard enameled coating. Enameled cast-iron cookware is non-reactive and also does not need seasoning. That said, the enamel coating is fragile and can be easily removed, which is why it is recommended not to scrub the enameled coating too hard or else it could start to crack or chip away. The enamel also tends to crack if overheated, which does not make it as efficient as bare cast-iron skillets.

Why Buy It?

Burgers In Skillet

Cast-iron cookware is extremely reliable and versatile, along with being long-lasting.

While other metals may be more efficient when it comes to conducting heat, cast-iron cookware easily outranks all other types of cookware materials when it comes to temperature retention, as in, its ability to keep food warm for longer.

Another major advantage of using cast-iron cookware is its ability of low and slow cooking, which makes it a great alternative to ceramic cookware.

Needless to say, cast-iron cookware isn’t just great when it comes to maintaining heat, it is also extremely durable as compared to ceramic or any other cookware materials that are available in the market today.

PROS CONS
– Solid build quality
– Distributes heat evenly
– Great for simmering and browning
– Longer heat retention
– Extremely versatile
– Cheaper than enameled cast-iron
– Iron may leach from the pan
– Prone to rust
– Not dishwasher safe
– Needs to be seasoned

Granite Cookware

Granite Cookware

Granite cookware is a type of enamelware that’s made of thin carbon steel.

This is then covered with a thin layer of porcelain enamel, which protects the cookware from harmful chemicals.

Contrary to popular belief, despite its name, this type of cookware does not contain any granite.

It should be noted that granite cookware is only safe as long as this thin coating of enamel is not removed or damaged.

When it comes to purchasing cookware, one of the first things that come to mind is its non-stick capabilities.

The good news is, the enamel coating on granite cookware does a pretty decent job of not letting food stick to the surface while cooking.

But, this is only if you have invested in a premium quality brand.

Since granite cookware is non-stick, this also makes them easy to clean as compared to other cookware options.

This makes granite cookware easy to clean and maintain so that it can last for longer.

Another major advantage of using granite cookware is its ability to give you healthier meals.

Unlike the ceramic coating of other cookware where its safety is debatable, the same health concerns do not surround porcelain coating cookware, which also includes granite cookware as well, which makes it one of the more safest options in cookware that’s available in the market.

Granite cookware is also free from other harmful chemicals such as lead, PTFE, and PFOA, which are all hazardous to one’s health.

Why Buy It?

Cooking In Granite Cookware

Durability is another major concern for those who are looking to invest in cookware.

Since all cookware, regardless of their type, is going to be a significant investment, you will want to make sure that the cookware you choose is able to go the distance.

The good news when using granite cookware is that they are very similar in terms of durability to ceramic cookware.

This means, while dropping them might lead to chipping and scratching on the surface, they are usually fairly sturdy and can last a long time.

While speaking of their durability, it should also be noted that prolonged exposure to high temperatures could destroy the coating and crack its surface.

PROS CONS
– Is rust-proof
– Comes with a smooth, glossy surface
– Safely cook acidic ingredients without damaging the pan
– Heats up quickly
– Easy to clean
– Very thin
– Fragile build quality
– Not suitable for glass stovetops
– Enamel coating tends to chip away over time

Cookware By Coating Material

Cleaning Nonstick Pan

As technology continues to improve, so does our cookware.

In fact, you would be surprised to know the different types of non-stick coating that’s used in cookware today.

If you’re in the market for non-stick cookware, then this is going to be a breakdown of the different types of cookware that you can choose:

  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) Coating – This is the oldest type of non-stick coating and was first introduced back in 1938. Both PTFE and PFOA have been found to be dangerous to health.
  • Ceramic Coating – This was introduced in the 60s as an alternative to the PTFE coating. Ceramic coating is made from a mixture of clay or silica, which is then hardened and reinforced with chemicals.
  • Superhydrophobic Coating – While not as common, this coating is still used by some manufacturers. The superhydrophobic coating is made from various metals, such as manganese oxide polystyrene, zinc oxide polystyrene, and carbon nano-tube substances.
  • Silicone Non-Stick Coating – The silicone that’s extracted from silica is able to produce a non-stick coating that is more commonly used in bakeware and utensils.
  • Enameled Coating – This coating is more commonly applied to cast-iron skillets and is made with a mixture of powdered glass that’s poured over the cookware and heated at high temperatures to create a smooth, non-stick surface.
  • Anodized Aluminum Coating – Anodized aluminum coating is made by mixing aluminum in an acid, which creates aluminum oxide, which is a smooth non-stick coating used in low-priced cookware.

Cookware By Purpose

Buying the perfect cookware for the type of cooking you will be doing can feel overwhelming at times, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The good news is, you will have multiple options to choose from in cookware that’s going to be compatible with the type of cooking you will be doing.

Induction Cookware: Explained

Induction Cookware

Induction cooking might seem complicated, but it’s actually not that difficult.

Induction cooking utilizes the transfer of magnetic energy instead of flames or an electric element to heat food.

Since induction cooking can quickly reach high temperatures, it makes cooking a lot faster as compared to traditional cooking methods.

What makes induction cooking a unique process is that unlike other forms of cooking where the cooking surface is heated significantly, in induction cooking, the cooking surface remains cool even during the cooking process.

This makes induction cooking extremely safe as compared to other cooking methods.

When using induction cooktops, you will need cookware that’s compatible with induction cooking.

Since induction technology uses magnetism to prepare food, the cookware you choose needs to be magnetic, as in, is able to support a magnetic field.

Some of the best cookware options that are compatible with induction cooktops include cookware made from materials such as stainless steel and cast-iron cookware.

How to Check if the Cookware is Induction-Ready?

As mentioned, the best way to find out whether or not the cookware is induction-ready is by simply placing a magnet near the cookware.

If the magnet sticks to the cookware, you’re good to go; if it doesn’t, keep looking for compatible cookware.

Conclusion

By following this guide on the different types of cookware, you can feel good about preparing meals for your family at home or cooking up delicacies for your customers at your restaurant.

Whether you’re a novice or seasoned chef, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed if you find that you need multiple pieces of cookware for your kitchen (because you probably will).

This guide to cookware will make sure that you make a more informed decision when it’s time to invest in cookware.

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