Cookware Overview – What is Right for You?
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In the past few years, people have become much more concerned about living a healthy lifestyle. Obesity has become one of the greatest threats to our health. Fast food, prepackaged food, and ready to eat food have all contributed to this unhealthy lifestyle. As a result, people have begun to eat healthier and have gone back to having home cooked meals. People have begun to see that they can cook a home cooked meal in the time it takes to go pick up fast food.
Cooking shows have become all the rage. There are many celebrity chefs with their own cooking shows and many of them have endorsed cookware. Be careful not to get caught up in watching these cooking shows and running out to purchase every piece of cookware or kitchen gadget used by the professionals. Most homeowners do not need a lot of what a professional chef uses to cook.
By the 17th century most kitchens contained a variety of skillets, pots, and pans as well as cutlery and tea kettles and posts as “standard” kitchenware. Most of these items were made of iron. In the 19th and 20th centuries cookware companies have developed cookware made from copper, steel, stainless steel, and aluminum.
With all of the cookware on the market today, purchasing new cookware can be a daunting task if you are not well informed. You need to be informed regarding price, features, materials, and your own individual needs. Cookware consists of many types of pots and pans that can be used for general or specific purposes. They come in many sizes and in several different types of material.
Considerations Before Buying
The following items should be carefully considered when selecting new cookware:
- Price – You need to consider how much you can spend on the cookware and have a budget in mind when you go to make your purchase. You want the best quality of cookware you can get for your money. Don’t purchase something just because it is cheap or you will be replacing it soon. Cookware can be bought in sets or in individual pieces.
- How will it be used – Consider the type of meals you normally prepare. Do you need the typical pots, pans, and skillets or will you also need a roasting pan and maybe a stir-fry pan.
- Size of cookware – The number of people you cook for is another consideration. If you are only cooking for a small family you need smaller pieces. If you have a large family or entertain a lot you will need to purchase larger pieces to accommodate your needs.
- Material of cookware – These days cookware comes in several types of materials. The pros and cons of stainless steel vs nonstick vs ceramic are a never ending battle as to say which material is the best for cooking both as a home chef or a professional. You want to choose a material that is non-reactive, heats evenly, and is easy to clean.
Cookware comes in several types of materials and everyone has their own favorite. There are differences in each that should be considered before making a purchase.
Aluminum is a lightweight metal but still fairly strong. It is a good conductor of heat that does not rust or easily distort when used over high temperatures. Aluminum is inexpensive and works well for frying or sautéing foods because of its ability to withstand high heat. However, aluminum does wear down quickly and tends to react with acidic and alkaline foods, which can affect the taste of the food. Aluminum can be coated with stainless steel or an anodized coating to protect the food.
• Anodized Aluminum
– Anodized is an aluminum that has been coated with a finish to protect it from corrosion. Anodized aluminum is a good conductor of heat. The anodized finish makes it stick-resistant. This is a good choice for most any type of cooking. However, be aware that it cannot be cleaned in the dishwasher.
Copper cookware conducts heat evenly and is very responsive to heat. It is the best choice for frying and sautéing because of the even heating. It also heats up quickly and cools down quickly. It does interact with everything from the moisture in the air to the foods you are cooking. Copper cookware is often lined with a stainless steel or tin lining, which means, it must be polished regularly. Copper is one of the most expensive types of cookware.
Non-stick pans have a Teflon or Teflon type coating applied to them that helps to prevent foods from sticking to their surface. The non-stick surface makes clean up of the cookware easier. Because of the non-stick surface, the amount of fat required for cooking is reduced. However, it is harder to brown foods using a non-stick skillet. Be aware that high temperatures (over 500 degrees) can cause Teflon to create fumes. These fumes are especially dangerous to birds. There is a lot of debate over whether it is harmful to humans.
• Stainless Steel
Experts typically recommend stainless steel cookware because it is very sturdy and does not react with other foods. Metal utensils can be used on stainless steel finishes without causing damage. Foods do tend to stick to stainless steel. Uncoated cookware can go in the oven which is a plus for dishes that you start out cooking on the stove top but then put into your oven to finish.
Clean up is easier because they can be put into your dishwasher but they do tend to discolor. There are many name brand companies that sell stainless steel cookware and offer a lifetime warranty. To see a comparison of cuisinart and calphalon cooking sets, check this out.
• Porcelain Enamel
This is a coating applied to pots and pans made of aluminum or cast iron. The porcelain enamel finish prevents the cookware from reacting with the foods being cooked. This type of cookware is not intended for frying or sautéing but does have the advantage of being oven safe.
Glass cookware comes in a tempered glass. Tempered glass cookware is available in flameproof and ovenproof glass. The flameproof glassware generally holds it heat well and can be used on the stovetop or in the microwave. It does heat unevenly though and foods tend to stick to the glassware. Ovenproof glass can be used in the oven and microwave but not on the stovetop.
Caring For Your Cookware
Because cookware comes in many types of materials, there are several clean up considerations. Some of your cookware can be washed in the automatic dishwasher but most do best being washed in hot sudsy water using a nylon scrubber. Hard water tends to darken the aluminum finishes. Use a paste of water and cream of tarter to remove these dark spots. To avoid scratching the finish on the anodized aluminum, do not use an abrasive cleaner.
Wiping with a clean paper towel best cleans cast iron cookware.
You can run hot water over stuck on food but then it should be dried completely. If left wet, cast iron will rust. To prevent it from rusting, set the cookware piece on the stove over high heat until all moisture is evaporated and then coat with oil before storing.
Use a copper polish to keep copper cookware from tarnishing and to prevent white spots. There are stainless steel cleaners that can be used on the stainless steel cookware to remove stains and restore the shine.
Tips For Using Your Cookware
The following are general tips for using your cookware:
- To remove discoloration on your cookware, make a paste of water and cream of tarter. Use two to three tablespoons of cream of tarter to each quart of water.
- To test as to whether a dish is microwave safe, fill a 1-cup glass measuring cup with water and place it next to the dish inside your microwave. Run the microwave on high for one minute. After a minute, check the water and the container you are testing. The water should be hot but if the container is also hot, it is not microwave safe.
- Be sure all lids fit snuggly on your cookware.
- Before putting a piece of cookware into your oven, check to see if the handles are ovenproof. Remember, the handles will be hot when they come out of the oven.