Cookware Material Types
Now that you know all about the different kinds of cookware pieces you can choose from, it's time to decide which material will work best for you. An essential quality to look for in all cookware is the weight. A heavy pot or pan will sit securely on the burner, however be sure that it is light enough for you to lift easily.
Aluminum is probably the most popular material in cookware. It's an excellent heat conductor and spreads heat evenly throughout the pan. Even better heat distribution is if aluminum is ticker. Aluminum can be anodized to harden the surface. Hard-anodized cookware is harder then steel and is extremely durable. Plus, it's dishwasher safe. This type of cookware is also very inexpensive compared to other materials. The drawback of it is if the aluminum is untreated, it's more prone to staining and reacting with foods. For this reason, we recommend aluminum with nonstick interior because it's much less likely to discolor or react with foods.
Carbon steel is used in very expensive cookware as well as some of the least expensive cookware. It's maintained like cast iron, but it's much lighter in weight. It's works well for cooking that requires quick heat changes because it maintains its temperature well. The most common pans made out of this material are Woks and Stir-Fry Pans.
Cast iron is very thick and heavy duty. Even though it takes a little bit longer to heat up, it retains and distributes heat evenly. If you are into browning, braising, stewing, slow cooking and baking, this would be the best choice for you. Cast iron comes in Bare Iron or with an Enamel-Coating.
When it comes to the care required for a Cast Iron skillet there are a few things to keep in mind. To start, cast iron skillets should never soak in water, or be unable to dry after washing. This is because cast iron skillets can rust if they are exposed to water for an extended period of time.
To clean a cast iron skillet, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to properly clean it. To start, pour a half cup of kosher salt onto the skillet and then rub it with a paper towel; this removes any dust, or impurities. Once this is done, wash it with hot, soapy water and then dry it immediately. After much use, you may need to oil the pan with vegetable or canola oil, and you may even need to heat the pan in an oven at 450° for 30 minutes until the surface is darker than when it started.
Types of Cast Iron
Bare Cast Iron
Bare Cast Iron needs to be seasoned before it is used. The seasoning process will give your pots and pans a nonstick surface that lasts forever. Once they are seasoned you should avoid soaking and washing them with soap. The best way to clean them is just to wipe them with cloth.
Enamel-Coated Cast Iron
Enamel-Coated Cast Iron provides all the benefits of the cast iron. The advantage of this type of cast iron is it requires less maintenance and cleaning. However, some foods do not cook well in the cast iron. Acidic foods will react with it and will strip off the coating. In that case you just have to season your pan again.
Ceramic cookware is a great insulator, so it does not react quickly to heat. It can usually be found in the form of a casserole dish or other shapes that are great for cooking slowly at a constant temperature. It's lighter than cast iron, but it's also more fragile. There are three categories: Porcelain, Stoneware and Earthenware.
Porcelain is fired to become very hard. Though typically porcelain is considered delicate, it actually can be quite durable. It also can usually be used on the stove, in the oven and in microwaves
. Porcelain is typically white, due to the fact that it helps show more prominence.
Types of Porcelain
Stoneware is also fired to become hard similar to Porcelain. The main differences between the two are that Stoneware uses a different type of clay, and comes in other colors besides white. Stoneware also can come in multiple finishes.
Earthenware is less strong and prone to chipping and scratching. This type is usually used as a serveware instead of a cookware.
Using two types of cookware materials together to get all the benefits of both materials develops clad cookware. Most of the time, stainless steel is clad with aluminum. Aluminum gives you the thickness and excellent heat conductivity and stainless steel prevents it from corrosion and it's easy to maintain. This type of cookware will last you a lifetime. Only downsize of this type of cookware is that is generally heavy and very expensive. If money is no object and you want the best of the best, we would definitely recommend clad cookware.
Copper is the best conductor of heat. It's the best if you are cooking on top of the stove where you have to control the temperature. Copper, however, can react with foods and can be toxic. Therefore, copper pots and pans are usually lined with another material, which is usually stainless steel. The biggest disadvantage of using copper is maintenance. Copper can discolor, so once in a while you need to polish it to remove discoloration. Also, copper tends to dent and scratch easily.
Stainless steel is a very good all around general-purpose cookware. It's lightweight, durable and easy to clean. It is, however, poor conductor of heat so usually many stainless steel pieces are made of the copper or aluminum disc in the bottom to help distribute heat more evenly. Because of its smooth surface, stainless steel is easy to clean and it's dishwasher safe. If you notice some kind of discoloration, you can use stainless steel cleanser that restores natural luster. Metal utensil can be used on stainless steel or aluminum surface.
Nonstick cookware has a coating inside the pan that makes it difficult for food to stick to it. This makes it very easy to cook healthy, non-fat foods. Because food doesn't stick, it's very easy to clean. It can be found in combination with many metals that produce cookware. The disadvantage of this type of cookware is that it can be easily scratched. Stainless steel or other utensil can scratch the pan so it's highly recommended to use nylon silicone utensils.