Whether you’re stocking your first kitchen or looking for recommendations for your registry, getting the right cookware for your home can make the difference between delicious dishes or the stuff of kitchen nightmares.
If you’re not a professional chef, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer variety of cookware available these days. From beautifully sleek and stylish copper pots to virtually indestructible cast-iron skillets, how can you tell what cookware is worth the investment?
Best cookware materials
Once you’ve identified the cookware you need in your home, it’s time to investigate the materials used to make your pans.
This is more than a vanity point. Different cookware materials will vary on durability, heat distribution, and price. Figuring out your wants and needs for cooking is vital for finding the right materials for your specific needs.
Stainless steel is known for being an excellent heat conductor and the perfect choice for beginner cooks. Because it’s so widely available, stainless-steel cookware tends to be affordable and a bit of a default choice for starter homes who aren’t sure what cookware they want to invest in yet.
Stainless-steel needs an aluminum or copper bottom to be fully clad, and you should avoid using spray oils as these can leave a filmy residue that may cause sticking or burning.
Aluminum is another widely available cookware material and is often used to reinforce other items (for example, stainless-steel pots often have an aluminum core).
Aluminum is a superb heat conductor and is known for evenly heating pans. However, poor-quality aluminum can scratch or even warp if exposed to rapid temperature changes. The thicker the aluminum, the more reliable and durable your pan will be!
Non-stick pans are usually made from aluminum with an engineered non-stick coating such as Teflon. These pans are perfect for low-fat chefs, as you don’t need to add fat to the pan to stop your food from cooking.
Heat conductivity will vary with a non-stick pan, depending on what material has been used. They tend to be reasonably durable as long as you don’t scratch the non-stick surface (nylon cooking utensils are best). They tend to be really easy to clean, but dishwashers can cause damage.
Non-stick cookware is perfect for tasks such as flipping pancakes, frying eggs, or turning sausages. However, there are concerns about whether toxic chemicals used to make the non-stick surface may leach into food.
Cooper cookware tends to be the most expensive option when stocking your kitchen, but nobody can deny the beauty of a copper pan sitting on the stove.
Cooper is an excellent heat conductor and is also super-easy to clean and maintain, which partly adds to the expense. You cannot use a copper pan on an induction plate, so that’s worth being aware of.
Cleaning your copper pan properly is the secret to long-lasting copper cookware. Neglecting the pans is a recipe (see what we did there?) for disaster, as is using metal utensils.
As with most cookware, the thicker the copper, the better the pan. Look for pans with tin or stainless-steel liners, as these will help prevent the copper from leaching into food.
Cast-iron cookware is known for being one of the most durable and best items you can have in your kitchen. Perfect for a wide range of uses, excellent heat conductors, and material that gets better over time, cast iron (like Uno Casa cast iron) is popular in kitchenware for a reason!
Treating cast-iron properly can leave you with a (surprisingly affordable) piece of cookware that can last decades or even generations. Cast-iron is virtually indestructible and capable of being used on the stove or in the oven without stress.
That said, cast-iron does need maintenance by way of “seasoning” to provide a non-stick, rust-resistant coating.
While you might think finding suitable material for your cookware is the entire battle, if you forget about the handle, you’re setting yourself up for failure!
Plastic handles are prone to breaking and should never be used inside the oven above 350’F, as this can cause melting. That said, at lower temperatures, a plastic handle won’t get hot, so you can easily maneuver pots and pans.
Wooden handles are also great for staying cool while cooking, but you must remember never to put wood in the dishwasher.
Although metal handles will heat up, they provide more versatility to your cookware as they’re safe to use (just don’t touch) on the stove, in the boiler, or in the oven. Look for riveted metal for the best durability.
When shopping for cookware, there are a plethora of things to think about. The number of people you’re cooking for, the types of dishes you like to make, and your budget are just three of them!
Don’t waste your time getting cookware just because it’s stylish. Finding the best quality pots and pans for your needs is the only way to ensure your kitchen is precisely the way you want it to be.