You love to cook and are ready to invest in some quality cookware, but with so many options out there, how do you choose what’s right for you? Whether you’re a novice home cook just getting started or an experienced chef looking to upgrade your tools, selecting cookware that suits your specific needs and cooking style is key. In this article, we’ll walk you through the different types of cookware materials and help determine what’s essential for your kitchen.
By the end, you’ll feel confident finding pots and pans that match how you cook and what you cook. The right cookware is an investment that can make cooking more enjoyable and help you create memorable meals for years to come. Read on to discover how simple it can be to choose wisely.
Stainless Steel Cookware: Durable and Versatile
Stainless steel cookware is a classic choice that will serve you well for years to come. Stainless steel is durable, scratch-resistant, and dishwasher safe. It heats evenly and browns food nicely. The downside is that stainless steel alone isn’t the best heat conductor, but many brands now offer stainless steel cookware with an aluminum or copper core to improve heat distribution.
Stainless steel works on all stovetops, including induction, and can handle high heat for searing and browning. It’s also oven and broiler safe, so you can start on the stovetop and finish in the oven. Stainless steel won’t react with acidic foods, so it’s great for making tomato sauce or lemon chicken.
With proper care, stainless steel cookware will last a lifetime. To prevent sticking, heat some oil in the pan before adding food. Deglaze the pan with a liquid like wine or broth while cooking to loosen browned bits. For stuck-on messes, make a paste from baking soda and water and scrub with the paste using a soft sponge or nylon scrubber.
For the most versatility, choose a stainless steel set that includes:
- A large skillet (10 to 12 inches) – perfect for searing, sauteing, and pan-frying.
- A saucepan (2 to 3 quarts) – ideal for making rice, oatmeal, and sauces.
- A stockpot (6 to 8 quarts) – essential for making stocks, soups, and stews.
- A saute pan (3 to 4 quarts) – features deep, straight sides good for braising and pan-roasting.
- Optional extras: grill pan, griddle, Dutch oven.
With a set of high-quality stainless steel cookware and the right care, you’ll be cooking amazing meals for years to come. Happy cooking!
Nonstick Cookware: Easy Clean Up and Low Fat Cooking
Nonstick cookware makes cooking and cleanup a breeze. The nonstick coating prevents foods from sticking as you cook, so you can use less oil and butter. And when you’re done, stuck-on messes wipe right off.
For frying eggs or sautéing veggies, a nonstick skillet is ideal. Look for a heavy-bottomed pan for even heating. Ceramic or titanium coatings are PFOA-free alternatives to traditional Teflon. Some brands like GreenPan or Swiss Diamond specialize in nontoxic nonstick cookware.
For saucepans, nonstick interiors also make it easier to stir creamy dishes like mac and cheese or risotto without anything sticking or scorching. And nonstick stockpots are great for blanching vegetables or cooking pasta – you can just drain the pot without worrying about stuck-on bits.
However, nonstick cookware does have some downsides to consider:
- It can’t handle very high heat or it may start to break down. Avoid broiling or searing at extremely high temperatures.
- Metal utensils can scratch the coating, so stick to wood, nylon or silicone tools.
- Nonstick coatings may release chemicals as they break down over time or at very high heat. Look for PTFE- and PFOA-free options for safety.
- Nonstick alone usually isn’t very durable. Look for anodized aluminum or stainless steel cookware with a nonstick coating for longer lifespan.
- Nonstick hand wash only. Dishwashers can damage the coating.
With the right care and temperature control, nonstick cookware is a useful addition to your kitchen arsenal. But for high-heat searing or browning, you may still want bare stainless steel or cast iron cookware to produce those delicious sear marks and rich flavors. By combining different types, you’ll have the ideal set for all your cooking needs.
Cast Iron Cookware: Nearly Indestructible and Great for Searing
Cast iron cookware is a kitchen workhorse that lasts a lifetime. Once properly seasoned, cast iron develops a natural non-stick patina and is virtually indestructible. It’s ideal for high-heat searing and browning and works on all stove types, including induction.
\n\n### Nearly Indestructible
Cast iron cookware will last for generations. It’s durable enough to withstand extremely high heat without damage and the seasoning protects the iron from rust. With proper care and maintenance, you’ll be passing your cast iron down to your grandchildren. If it does become damaged, it’s easy to re-season.
\n\n### Great for Searing
The excellent heat retention and distribution of cast iron makes it ideal for searing meats and vegetables. You can get a deep, golden brown sear in cast iron that’s hard to achieve with other materials. Searing locks in juices and adds lots of flavor to meats and cast iron is the king of searing.
\n\n### Safe and Natural
Cast iron cookware does not leach chemicals into foods like some non-stick coatings can. Once properly seasoned, the iron develops a natural non-stick patina. As you continue to cook in it, the seasoning builds up and prevents foods from sticking. Some people believe cooking in cast iron can add small amounts of dietary iron, though research on this is limited. Either way, cast iron is a very safe and natural material for cookware.
\n\n### Easy to Care For
While cast iron does require some maintenance to keep the seasoning intact, it’s really quite easy to care for. Simply hand wash with hot water, scrub off any stuck bits with coarse salt, dry immediately and apply a thin coat of oil before storing. Avoid harsh detergents which can strip the seasoning. With regular use and proper care, cast iron will become increasingly non-stick and naturally blackened. For stuck-on messes, simmer a little water in the pan to loosen the debris, then scrub and re-season as needed.
In summary, cast iron cookware is a timeless classic that lasts forever, sears and browns beautifully, is all-natural and easy to care for. While not as lightweight as some other options, its durability and performance are unmatched. For the serious home cook, cast iron is a must-have.
Enameled Cast Iron Cookware: Stylish and Non-Reactive
Enameled cast iron cookware offers the best of both worlds: the heat retention and distribution of cast iron, with an enamel coating that prevents reactions with acidic foods and is easy to clean.
\n\n### Heat Distribution
Cast iron is unmatched in its ability to distribute heat evenly. The enamel coating won’t impact this, so your enameled cast iron pan will produce evenly browned and cooked results every time. The cast iron also retains heat well, so it’s useful for keeping foods warm after cooking.
\n\n###Non-Reactive and Easy to Clean
The enamel coating prevents the iron from reacting with acidic ingredients like tomato sauce, wine, and citrus. Your food won’t end up with a metallic taste. Enameled cast iron is also very easy to clean since the smooth enamel surface won’t stick to foods. Usually all you need is hot water and a soft sponge or nylon scrubber. No seasoning required!
\n\n###Stylish and Functional
Enameled cast iron cookware comes in a variety of bright colors to match your kitchen decor. Brands like Le Creuset and Staub are known for their enamel cast iron in shades of red, blue, yellow and orange. The cookware also transitions seamlessly from stovetop to oven to table, so you can serve and enjoy your meal in the same dish you cooked it in.
\n\n###Expensive Yet Durable
The downside to enameled cast iron is the price, as high-quality brands can be quite expensive, often over $200 per piece. However, with proper care, enameled cast iron can last a lifetime. The enamel coating is very durable and resistant to chips and cracks. The underlying cast iron is nearly indestructible. With regular use, enameled cast iron develops a natural patina but will not change the cooking performance.
Enameled cast iron may cost more upfront, but can be a worthwhile investment for any home cook looking for cookware that will last. For its combination of heat retention, non-reactivity, and easy cleanup, enameled cast iron is hard to beat.
So there you have it, some tips to help you choose the right cookware for how and what you like to cook. Making the effort to select pots and pans suited to your needs will make cooking so much more enjoyable and help you create delicious meals.
Take your time to think about how often and what you cook, then invest in a few high-quality pieces that will last for years. With the right tools for the job, cooking at home can be an absolute pleasure. Who knows, you might even discover a new passion for whipping up gourmet meals to impress your friends! Happy cooking and bon appetit!