On our Best Cookware Guide front page we touched on the different materials that cookware are made of, but in this article we dive deeper into what is the best cookware material!
What is the best cookware material?
People looking to buy new cookware have several options to choose from when it comes to thematerial that the cookware is made of. They can choose between stainless steel, aluminum, copper and cast iron pots and pans, or they can choose pots and pans that are a combination of materials. While many people choose cookware for its looks or price, it is important for people to consider the pros and cons of each material so they can choose the option that is the best cookware material for their family’s unique cooking needs and preferences.
The most common of cookware materials, stainless steel can be found in most kitchens. Stainless steel is inexpensive and durable. It resists scratches so it will stay shiny for years. It does not react with foods and it does not warp easily. It is also dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning up after dinner a breeze.
On the other hand, stainless steel is a poor heat conductor. It causes hot and cool spots and cooks food unevenly. Many cookware makers get around this problem by making stainless steel pots and pans with aluminum or copper cores, so the pans have the advantages of both materials. Quality pots and pans made out of a combination of stainless steel and aluminum or copper can last a lifetime.
Aluminum is another popular cookware choice as it is inexpensive, lightweight and an excellent conductor of heat. In fact, approximately 50 percent of cookware is currently made with aluminum.
Aluminum is not perfect, however. Because it is a soft metal, it has the tendency to become scratched or dented easily. It also warps easily at high heats. Aluminum is highly reactive with some foods, meaning that many acidic foods, especially those containing tomatoes, will absorb some of the metal, causing the pan to discolor and the food to develop a metallic taste.
Many cookware manufacturers have found a way to improve basic aluminum cookware, however. When aluminum is treated with a process called anodization, the surface of the pot or pan is coated in an aluminum oxide layer. This layer prevents the cookware from reacting with foods, and it makes the cookware less likely to scratch or dent. Anodization does make aluminum cookware take longer to heat up, but it also makes the pots and pans safer for long-term use.
Pots and pans are also commonly coated with a nonstick layer so foods cooked in aluminum pots and pans do not burn and stick to the pan as easily.
Like aluminum, copper is an excellent heat conductor. Copper cookware is a favorite among professional chefs, but its cost generally keeps it out of most home kitchens. Copper cookware heats evenly and reacts to changes in temperature quickly, so it takes little time to heat.
While copper is a great choice for professional chefs who believe it to be the best cookware material, many homeowners do not choose copper cookware for good reason. Copper is reactive with some foods, which means that some foods should not be cooked in copper pots or they can develop a metallic taste or grey streaking. Copper is also expensive and high-maintenance, as it requires regular polishing to keep it looking nice. When copper is coated with a thin layer of stainless steel to reduce reactivity and maintenance, however, copper is an excellent choice for cookware.
Cast iron is a cookware material that has been around for hundreds of years and definitely a contender for the best cookware material. It is extremely durable, so it is not uncommon for cast iron cookware to be handed down to multiple generations. Cast iron is relatively inexpensive, it is naturally non-stick if cared for properly and it has good heat retention. While it does filter some iron into the foods cooked in it, many people need more iron in their diets anyway, so the extra iron is beneficial.
Some people may not care for cast iron because of its required maintenance. Cast iron cookware must be seasoned properly and regularly, or it will respond poorly to acidic foods or rust. Cast iron is also quite heavy, and it can be difficult to clean. While cast iron holds onto heat well, it also takes a long time to heat up, which is not good for cooks who want dinner ready quickly.
Another option for people who want the benefits of raw cast iron without all of the work is enameled cast iron. Enameled cast iron is raw cast iron covered in a layer of porcelain enamel. Enameled cast iron is easy to clean, it does not react with foods and it is very attractive.
The Final Word
We hope this article helps you to choose the best cookware material for your new cookware set. Which material do you prefer and think is the best cookware material? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts with the rest of us!
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