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Cookware Buying Guide
Great cookware is one of the best investment you will make. There are so many choices and picking the right product can be difficult.
First you should determine what kid of cooking do you do, and how many people do you cook for? Your choice of cookware should be built on choosing basic pieces first and then adding specialty pans as needed.
First think you should look at in purchasing cookware is the type of material they are made from. You need to look at construction of the cookware set. An essential quality you should look for in all cookware is weight. A heavy pot or pan will sit securely on the burner. Just make sure it is easy for you to lift.
Types of Cookware Material
Aluminum: Aluminum is the most popular material in cookware. It is an excellent heat conductor and spreads heat evenly through the pan. Aluminum can be anodized to harden the surface. Hard-anodized cookware is harder than steel and is extremely durable. Plus, it is 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 is prone to staining and reacting with foods. For this reason, we highly recommend aluminum with a non-stick interior, because it is much less likely to discolor or react with foods.
Carbon steel: Caron steel is used in very expensive cookware as well as some of the least expensive cookware. It is maintained like cast iron, but it is much lighter in weight. It 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: Cast iron is very thick and heavy duty. Even though it takes a bit longer to heat up, it retains and distributes heat evenly. If you are browning, braising, stewing, slow cooking and baking, this would be the best choice for you. Cast iron comes in bare iron or with enamel coating.
Bare iron needs to be seasoned before use. The seasoning process will give your pots and pans a nonstick surface that lasts forever. Once seasoned avoid soaking and washing with soap. The best way to clean cast iron is to wipe them with a clean cloth.
Enamel-coated cast iron provides all the benefits of cast iron. The advantage of this type of cast ion is it requires less maintenance and cleaning. However, some foods do not cook well in cast iron. Acidic foods will react with it and will strip off the seasoning. In that case you just have to reason your pan again.
Ceramic: Ceramic cookware is a great insulator, so it does not react quickly to heat. It can usually be found in the form of casserole dish or other shapes that are great for cooking slowly at a constant temperature. It is lighter than cast iron, but also more fragile. There are three categories: porcelain, stoneware and earthenware.
Porcelain is the strongest of all three and it is fired to become very hard and durable. It can usually be used on the stove, in the oven and in the microwave.
Earthenware is less strong and prone to chipping and scratching. This type is usually used as a serveware.
Clad: 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 is easy to maintain. This type of cookware will last you a lifetime. Only downsize of this type of cookware is that it is generally heavy and very expensive.
Copper: Copper is the best conductor of heat. It is 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: Stainless steel is a very good all around general-purpose cookware. It is light weight, durable and easy to clean. It is, however, poor conductor of heat so usually many stainless steel pieces are made with a copper or aluminum disc on the bottom to help distribute heat more evenly. Because of its smooth surface, stainless steel is easy to clean and it is dishwasher safe. It you notice some kind of discoloration, you can use a stainless steel cleanser that restores the natural luster. Metal utensils can be used on stainless steel or aluminum surface.
Nonstick: Nonstick cookware has a coating inside the pan that makes it difficult for food to stick to it. This makes it easy to cook healthy, non-fact foods. Because food does not stick, it is 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 utensils can scratch the pan so it is highly recommended to use bylon silicone utensils.
Now that you know everything about cookware, it is time to go shopping.
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