You don’t have to be a budding sous chef to appreciate a great set of cookware. Anyone who cooks will love a shiny new sous pot or cast-iron pan. The right cookware elevates your kitchen game, making it easy to grill a choice cut of steak, steam your vegetables to perfection, or create an amazing sauce.
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What to consider when choosing cookware
1. What’s your cooking style?
There are different types of cookware. Which type of cookware you choose will depend on the way you like to cook. Cast iron is the way to go for many chefs who like the versatility of pan-to-table because you can put a cast iron pan in the oven. Stainless steel is great for induction ovens, and non-stick is the pan of choice for someone who wants to quickly flip a pancake or cook up an egg. There are also a variety of pots for sauces, stews, and soups.
2. What type of cookware do you already own?
If you’re ready for a whole new set of cookware, you won’t need to take an inventory of your existing pieces. If you already have a great set, you can choose to add to it by upgrading to copper cookware, adding a set of cast iron pots and pans, or choosing a few non-stick frying pans.
3. How much space do you have to store your cookware?
While you may love having a full set of pots, pans, and cookware accessories, you may not have the storage space for it. You can choose stackable cookware sets that take up less space in your cupboards. You can also hang your cookware from your ceiling or on hooks on the wall.
Matching your cookware to your existing cooktop
Just like there are different types of cookware, there are different types of cooktops you can cook with. Choosing the right cookware for your cooktop can help you cook more efficiently.
Glass or ceramic cooktop
The smooth surface of a glass or ceramic cooktop makes it ideal for most types of cookware including non-stick, stainless steel, and heavy cast iron. Because you’re cooking on glass or ceramic, you may not want to choose a glass pot as that could scratch your cooktop.
When you have a gas stovetop, any set of cookware you choose will work. The best cookware recommended for gas cooktops is either stainless steel, aluminum, or copper.
An induction cooktop instantly produces heat when you place a magnetic pot or pan on the surface. Because of the magnetic requirement, when cooking with an induction cooktop you must use cast iron or magnetic stainless steel cookware.
Different types of cookware material
Not all cookware is created from the same material. You can find several choices of cookware material, and each will cook your food in a different way.
1. Stainless steel cookware
Stainless steel is known for being durable. When you choose stainless steel cookware you’ll have a pot or pan with a built-in aluminum layer that distributes heat quickly and evenly.
There are a lot of pros to having stainless steel cookware. It’s a non-reactive type of cookware, so it will not interact with certain kinds of acidic foods like tomatoes. It’s not as expensive as other metal cookware like copper, and it is dishwasher safe too.
You’ll want to keep in mind when purchasing stainless steel cookware that, unless the pot or pan is reinforced by aluminum or copper, the heat conductivity may not be as efficient as with other materials.
2. Non-stick cookware
With non-stick cookware, you have a sheer cooking surface that food will not stick to. This is the ideal pan for making eggs, flipping pancakes, or cooking fish. Home chefs love non-stick cookware because it conducts heat well. It’s also healthier because it lets you cook without oil or fat.
A good tip for using non-stick cookware is to always use plastic utensils or kitchen tools because metal utensils will scratch the non-stick surface. Keep in mind that non-stick cookware can’t be used in the oven because it may break down in high heat.
Are non-stick pots and pans safe to use?
Some non-stick cookware is made with Teflon. To make Teflon, a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is used. When Teflon is placed on pots and pans it makes the surface very smooth, and that smooth surface repels sticking.
Non-stick cookware made with PFOA is non-toxic and safe to cook with, but there are a few cautions to keep in mind. These pans aren’t able to be placed in a high heat oven over 500 ºF as that may cause the pan to begin breaking down. Also, if your non-stick pan is scratched because of use with metal or other heavy-duty utensils, you’ll want to replace it.
If you’re shopping for non-stick cookware, you can also choose types that are heavyweight and PFOA-free.
3. Non-reactive vs reactive cookware
Some types of foods may react to certain types of cookware. When food reacts to your cookware it’s called reactive. Food like tomatoes, lemon juice, or vinegar is reactive when cooked in aluminum, copper, or iron cookware. This type of cookware can release metal atoms into food, resulting in a dish that tastes a bit off.
If you do plan on cooking with these foods, you’ll want to use non-reactive cookware. Non-reactive cookware is made of glass, stainless steel, or enamel glazed. This type of cookware won’t react to or alter the taste or colour of what you’re cooking.
4. Cast iron cookware
With a cast iron pan you can go from oven to table without transferring your food. It’s perfect for baking, roasting, sautéing, frying, and braising your food, and you can make everything from a skillet pie to brownies or the perfect steak in a cast iron pan.
Cooks love cast iron because once it’s hot, it stays hot for longer than a standard pan. It’s versatile enough to use for multiple types of recipes, and it’s durable and long lasting. If you season your pan, meaning you coat it with oil and cook it in the oven for one hour before using, it will be non-stick too.
In comparison to other pans, a cast iron pan is a bit more challenging to clean. You’ll also want to keep in mind that these pans are heavy and they don’t cook as evenly as other types of pans.
5. Enameled cast iron
You know those gorgeous cast iron Dutch ovens and roasting pans you’ve seen on Pinterest? That type of cookware is known as enameled cast iron, and these colourful pieces are known for their flexibility in moving from stove, oven, table, and storage. You can stew, roast, slow cook, and more in these pans, and they look great on your shelf when you are between uses.
Enameled cast iron tends to heat slowly and evenly, and they retain heat well so you can keep your food hot once placed on the table. The enameled coating isn’t reactive, and they are oven safe and dishwasher safe. The only drawbacks to enameled cast iron are that they tend to be heavy, and on occasion, the enamel can chip.
6. Copper cookware
Copper cookware is eye candy for your kitchen. These gleaming, gorgeous pots and pans are coveted among gourmet cooks, and not just because they look great. Copper cookware is the best heat conductor available because they heat very quickly and are perfect for steaming, braising, or sautéing your food.
Copper cookware will not work on induction cooktops, and you’ll want to give them a good polish to keep them looking their best.
7. Hard anodized cookware
You may not have heard of hard anodized cookware, but once you choose this type of cookware you’ll wonder why you waited. It’s made of an aluminum base that’s treated with an electrochemical process so it’s durable, oven-proof, and non-stick. Hard anodized cookware is very easy to clean and it has great heat conduction for faster boil and cook times.
Hard anodized cookware is heavy, and because it contains aluminum, it may react with acidic food. Unlike cast iron pans that can go from oven to table and the fridge as a container to store your food, you can’t store food in hard anodized cookware. You also can’t place this type of cookware in the dishwasher as the chemical detergent may damage the coating.
8. Aluminum cookware
Aluminum cookware is a lightweight, affordable option that has excellent heat conductivity. It will also resist any sort of rust or erosion from use. When using aluminum cookware, you’ll want to keep in mind that it can have reactivity to some types of food. Because this type of cookware is made from a very soft metal it may scratch easily, so it’s not as durable or long lasting as other types.
Types of cookware you can choose
You don’t have to commit to one type of cookware. You can mix, match, and add a new pot or pan whenever you’d like to experiment with a recipe or try something new.
1. Cookware sets
The best cookware sets come with everything you’ll need to set up your kitchen. From stockpots to skillet pans and saucepans, you’ll find it all in one box. You can find complete cookware sets from your favourite brands including Paderno, Cuisinart, and Lagostina.
2. Frying pans and skillets
Every kitchen needs a frying pan or skillet, and these flat-bottomed pans are great for searing, frying, and cooking with oils. Normally sold without a lid, you’ll find frying pans in all types of different sizes.
3. Cast iron skillets
A cast iron skillet is similar to a frying pan, but it tends to be deeper and a lot heavier. You’ll find cast iron skillets in standard cast iron black or enamel cast iron colours.
A saucepan is usually one of the first pans you add to your kitchen. This versatile piece of cookware has tall, straight sides so you can boil water, slow-cook sauce, or reheat food quickly and easily. Saucepans come with lids and are available in a variety of sizes.
5. Sauté pans
A sauté pan is for sautéing, and although it’s similar to a frying pan, it has straight sides to contain the food as you move it around the pan. You can use a sauté pan for sautéing foods, but you can also use it for deep-frying or making sauces. These types of pans generally come with a lid.
6. Roasting pans
Roasting pans are used in the oven for roasting. You can cook up a turkey, small chicken, or a portion of beef while adding vegetables and broth, all in one pot. You can find roasting pans in enamelled cast iron or clad in aluminum, and they are generally oven-safe even at high temperatures.
7. Dutch ovens
For casseroles, stews, and pasta, a Dutch oven is a must-have. They can be used on the stove or in the oven, and they usually include a lid. Because they are made from cast iron, these pots can be quite heavy.
Cooking in large quantiies is easy when you have a stockpot. You can sauté, brown, or make large portions of pasta or stew. Because they are tall, wide, and have lids, they’re also great for jobs like canning.
9. Pressure cookers or Instant Pots
There are a few styles of pressure cookers including stovetop pressure cookers and electric pressure cookers, and they offer even heat distribution while cooking your food 70% faster. The cooking process also retains more vital nutrients and vitamins than cooking on the stove.
A wok is a pan that’s designed for cooking stir fry or similar dishes. This type of pan has high sides so food stays in the pan while you stir it. Woks are generally non-stick so food won’t adhere to the surface.
11. Cookware accessories and lids
There are different types of cookware accessories you can choose from. If your cookware set or pots don’t include lids you can find compatible lids for every size of the pan. There are also cookware accessories like roasting racks, egg poachers, and lid lifters.
Take the next step
Adding a new set of cookware or just a new pot or pan is simple, fun, and can really elevate your cooking game. Take a look at all of the cookware available at Best Buy and level up your culinary skills in the kitchen.