There’s a pot for that!
Today I’m sharing an interesting infographic I found at fix.com. There are so many choices for cookware these days, how do you decide which is the right one for you. I’m covering the ones that are most useful for people interested in preparedness and processing food storage. Most of us cannot afford the luxury of having a different cookware set for searing, roasting, frying, braising, and more. Read on for the cookware comparison chart.
With so many options, choosing the right cookware can be confusing. From what cookware material to use, to which types of skillets, baking pans, and casserole dishes to invest in, here is the lowdown on how to stock any kitchen like a pro. As you can see, the decision regarding which cookware is right for the meal you intend to cook is not always as simple as it might seem. Use these tips to take some of the mystery out of the equation and make your meals the best they can be, every time.
Safe for: Stovetop, oven, broiler, grill, and direct fire.
Good for: Searing, stove-to-oven recipes, baking, roasting, and frying.
Cast iron is one of the most versatile cooking materials. It’s durable, conducts heat very well, and can cook almost anywhere – from stove to oven and grill. It gets a bad rap because it is notoriously hard to take care of, but seasoning the cast iron by adding a layer of polymerized oil is pretty easy and protects the surface. The process consists of repeatedly rubbing the cast iron with oil, heating it up, and cooling it down. This process breaks down the oil into a plastic-like substance that bonds to the metal, creating a slick surface that’s perfect for cooking. A well-seasoned cast iron pan will be nearly non-stick.
While iron is a reactive metal, it’s nothing to worry about. Reactive metals can cause off flavors and discoloring when mixed with certain foods, including anything very acidic or alkaline. However, if a cast iron pan is seasoned properly, the occasional run-in with a few tomatoes or a splash of lemon juice shouldn’t hurt, so long as they’re not simmering for hours on end.
How to clean it: After cooling, clean cast iron gently with a bit of soap and water. Gently remove any stuck-on food with a plastic scrub sponge. Do not use steel wool, as this will ruin the seasoning. Immediately dry the pan. After each use, re-season: Place the clean pan over a burner on high. Heat until residual water dries up. Add a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil and rub it around the cooking surface using a paper towel. Heat until the oil starts to smoke. Once smoking, take the pan off the burner and rub the oil around once more. Let the pan cool, and store.
- // Once hot, it stays hot, which is important when searing meat.
- // Extremely versatile; can be used to cook in any medium, from stovetop to fire pit.
- // Can use any type of utensil; metal utensils will not scrape the surface.
- // Durable and inexpensive.
- // Naturally non-stick if seasoned properly.
- // Doesn’t heat very evenly. The best way to ensure an evenly heated pan is to preheat it for about 10 minutes, rotating it a quarter-turn every few minutes. Can also preheat cast iron in a hot oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
- // Can rust, chip, and crack easily if it is not properly cared for. Follow instructions on how to season the pan, and there will be no issues.
- // Reactive – does not take well to acidic foods.
- // Heavy.
- // Takes effort to clean and maintain.
Enameled Cast Iron
Safe for: Stovetop and oven.
Good for: Stew and chili, braising, and baking bread.
Start with a medium to large round or oval pot, also known as a Dutch oven. Four-, six-, and eight-quart options are very popular.
Enameled cast iron offers many of the same benefits of classic cast iron, but without the hassle of seasoning. Plus, it’s much more attractive, and most models come in a wide array of colors. The only downside: enameled cast iron is significantly more expensive. The upside? Because the iron pot is lined with ceramic enamel, these items are non-reactive, meaning that home cooks can simmer tomato sauce without worry.
Enameled cast iron pots are heavy and take a while to heat through, but they do retain heat extremely well. These characteristics make enameled cast iron great for browning and transferring from the stovetop to the oven.
How to clean it: Soap and water should do the trick. For tough spots, soak the pot with some soap and water, and gently rub it away with a plastic scrub brush. Do not use steel wool or other abrasive cleaners or tools. Most often, enameled cast iron is dishwasher safe. However, repeated dishwasher use can wear away at the coating.
- // Non-reactive coating allows for long, slow cooking of acidic and alkaline foods.
- // Doesn’t require seasoning.
- // Excellent heat conduction and retention.
- // Very durable and cooks well over high heat.
- // Visually appealing and comes in many different colors to match any kitchen.
- // Does not have a nonstick coating and, unlike regular cast iron, cannot develop non-stick characteristics through seasoning.
- // Enameled cast iron is very heavy, which can make for tough handling.
- // More expensive than traditional cast iron.
Safe for: Stove, oven, broiler.
Good for: Searing, sautéing, braising, and making sauces. Your best choice for processing food for canning purposes.
A good stainless-steel sauté pan with straight sides is extremely versatile. Look for a pan that’s between two and six quarts. A 10- or 12-inch skillet is also a good choice. If you’re going all out, also consider a three-quart saucier and/or a stainless stockpot or soup pot.
Stainless steel is non-reactive, durable, dishwasher-safe, and resistant to rust, corrosion, scratching, and denting. It’s also pretty easy on the eyes. However, on its own, stainless steel is a terrible heat conductor. The key to finding good stainless-steel cookware is to pick a model that has a core of another type of metal that conducts heat more effectively – most often aluminum or copper.
Aluminum-core pots and pans are more affordable than copper-core. However, copper is a slightly better conductor of heat compared to aluminum, which explains the price difference. Copper-core pans react more quickly to temperature changes, giving the cook more control over the cooking process.
It’s also possible to find stainless steel baking pans, but unless they are reinforced with another type of metal that conducts heat more efficiently, opt for other materials.
How to clean it: Gently scrub with soap and water. When faced with tough burnt-on stains or debris, try this method: Fill the burned pot with water and boil for 15-20 minutes. Once loosened, scrape up stuck-on spots with a wooden spoon. Pour out the water, and wash the pot as normal.5 (For even tougher stains, coat the bottom of the pan with baking soda or a stainless-steel cleaner – such as Bar Keeper’s Friend – and scrub.)
- // Non-reactive.
- // Durable.
- // Less expensive than other options, such as copper.
- // Dishwasher-safe.
- // Poor heat conductivity relative to other materials unless reinforced with aluminum or copper.
- // Can be expensive, especially with copper core.
Think of carbon steel pans as a cross between cast iron and stainless steel. They are typically about half the cost of stainless steel and twice the price of cast iron.6 Like cast iron, carbon steel pans need to be seasoned and get better with age. They should never be left sitting in water or put in the dishwasher.
Copper is a fantastic heat conductor, which is one of the reasons that copper cookware is more expensive than its competitors. Copper heats and reacts to temperature changes quickly, giving the cook more control and making it easy to cook food evenly. Because copper is a reactive metal, it must be lined with another material, such as stainless steel or tin. There are some non-lined copper cookware pieces on the market, but these are specifically meant for sugar cookery, in which reactiveness is not an issue.8 While copper is not ideal for high-heat cooking, this is not a huge downfall. Because it’s so good at retaining and distributing heat, there is generally no need for a high flame.9
Aluminum is not suitable for processing tomatoes for canning. Because raw aluminum is an extremely soft and reactive metal, it must be processed in certain ways before it’s used as cookware. Anodized aluminum – which makes up the majority of the aluminum cookware out there – has been treated with a chemical process to harden the metal and make it non-reactive. You need to decide if that chemical is something you want to subject your family to. Certainly older cookware should be avoided.
Aluminum is also a popular material for bakeware, but it is almost always paired with another type of metal to increase durability. Aluminized steel baking pans and sheets are very popular among professional bakers thanks to their durability, great heat transfer, and corrosion-resistance.12
While non-stick pans are not ideal for all jobs, they do have their place. They allow cooking with less fat and are also much easier to clean compared to other non-lined metal cookware.
Non-stick pans can be made from the same types of metal as other cookware – stainless steel, aluminum, and copper, for instance. The only difference is that the cooking surface is coated with a non-stick compound. The most common metal for non-stick pans is anodized aluminum because it is lightweight, affordable, rust-resistant, and a good heat conductor, which means that it reacts quickly to changes in cooking temperature. Teflon, a nonstick coating made from food-grade PTFE, a.k.a. polytetraflouroethylene, is the most commonly found non-stick coating, though other more eco-friendly options have gained popularity in the last few years. While nonstick coatings, specifically Teflon, have gotten a bad rap because of safety concerns, the majority of research on the subject says that non-stick pans are safe as long as they’re not overheated. (When overheated, the coating may begin to break down, releasing toxic particles and gasses, some of which are considered carcinogens.) Over time, the coating on non-stick pans can begin to flake off. When this happens, it is time to replace the pan. However, while it may be a bit disconcerting to know you may have consumed a few flakes of chemical coating, no research has shown that it can cause you harm.
Glass baking dishes are versatile and make a great addition to any kitchen. Glass is non-reactive and conducts heat very well, which allows for great browning. While this is a desirable feature for savory casseroles where the browning of cheese or noodles is key or for pies where browning the crust is important, sugar-heavy dishes can over-caramelize in glass baking dishes. Glass baking dishes also work just fine for roasting vegetables or meats.19
Ceramic baking dishes come in many shapes and sizes. Ceramic heats up gradually, so it is ideal for dishes that need slow, even cooking (think custards or baked noodle dishes such as lasagna).20 Ceramic is also non-reactive, so it is perfect for cooking acidic and alkaline foods, as well as storing food after baking. Ceramic baking dishes are also visually appealing, making them a great option for oven-to-table serving.
In recent years, all sorts of silicone baking products have hit the market, from pan liners to muffin “tins” and cake pans. The one must-have silicone oven product is the pan liner or mat. These liners allow cookies, galettes, and pizzas to slide right off without sticking. Outside of the oven, these mats are great for rolling out dough without excess flour to prevent sticking. Silicone muffin pans or other silicone molds are also helpful for no-bake treats, such as chocolate mousse bombs. Though silicone bake ware is generally nonstick, it can sometimes be hard to un-mold certain recipes, and they can be a pain to wash clean. Avoid products with waffled or textured interiors. The more textured the surface is, the harder it will be to clean.
— Read the full article with in-depth information on each type of cookware at fix.com – From Cast Iron to Stainless Steel A Comprehensive Comparison of Cookware Materials