The kitchen is likely the most visited and used room at home after the bedroom, a place where we are usually found eating and mingling with friends and family. And for enjoyable home dining, a well-equipped kitchen with appliances for preparing and serving is key. One of the basic tools in any kitchen is the cookware.
Cookware is essential and usually the first kitchen tools a buyer gets after basics like a range or refrigerator. Cookware are about the most-used items in your kitchen. There are many quality sets today at what used to be low-end prices, with plenty of high-end choices for more discerning buyers.
Buying a set costs less than buying pieces one by one. Sets are useful for equipping new kitchens or replacing an entire worn collection. Some items get more use than others, and specialty items like Dutch ovens or roast pans aren’t normally included.
- Cast Iron
Stainless cookware “clad” around an aluminum core heats evenly and is superior at browning, but are more difficult to clean. More oils or fats are needed to keep foods from sticking, needs practice to use well, but most professional and serious home cooks like stainless. Stainless items can get scratched or discolored at hot temperatures beyond 500F, though.
Nonstick cookware prevents foods from clinging so one can cook with less fats, and is the most bought by home cooks. Clean up time is minimal and one can cook almost anything without it sticking to the pan. Materials range from very cheap thin metals and coatings to higher-quality types like anodized a luminum.
Cast iron cookware are versatile and can be readily moved from stovetop to oven or grill or outdoor smokers or campfires. Cast iron needs seasoning, and a well-seasoned pan has stick-resistance to its surface. But cast iron can be very heavy and does not heat up fast like other type, it does retain heat well but then you must allow for cool-down time.
Induction-ready cookware is more of a feature available in most other types of cookware which allows use on smooth induction cooktops. Induction cooking only works with pans which bottoms have induction properties. Stainless steel and cast iron will work, but copper and glass won’t, while some aluminum pans have a magnetic layer for this purpose. A way to tell if an item is induction compatible is to check if magnets attach to its bottom. Some smooth glass cooktops are not induction and will work with any cookware, but these types are more easily damaged by heavy types like cast iron.
Even heating. Stainless steel, aluminum core cookware tend to be preferred by professionals and serious home cooks for most jobs. The type heats more evenly, allows for browning, and unlike aluminum doesn’t react with acidic foodstuffs. But fats or oils are needed to prevent foods from sticking. Heavier cookware normally conducts heat better, but such items are less handy for moving around when full.
Non-stick convenience. Nonstick cookware isn’t as flexible, but a few nonstick skillets for cooking sticky foods like eggs can be very useful. But coatings commonly wear off, scratch, and lose effectiveness after a year or two. The chemicals used in manufacturing coatings which eventually degrade and leave questionable residues are a health issue.
Heatproof, easy-to-grip handles. Heat-resistant handles help prevent burns. Riveted handles are sturdier than glued or screwed-on handles. Coated handles are easy to hold but can’t be used at oven temperatures, so these aren’t good for pans going into the oven.
Glass lids. See-through lids are useful to monitor the cooking, and proper-fitting lids keep moisture in.
Things to know
Many sets do have all the pieces one needs. These can be bought separately. The more useful pieces are a 10-inch nonstick skillet, a 12-inch skillet or saute deep pan, a 2-quart saucepan with cover, a deep stockpot, and a Dutch oven. Many cooks like to add another 12-inch skillet as these are versatile enough to be used every day for single-pot dishes or just preparing big batches.
Most cookware is dishwasher-safe, but washing pans by hand will keep them in good condition longer. Cast iron needs seasoning with a little oil before use and hardly any soap is necessary for cleaning.