Navigating the online marketplace can be a bit difficult. There’s so much information it can be tricky to know where to look and which brands to trust. On top of that, with so many industries becoming super-saturated and hyper-competitive it isn’t always clear which features need to be weighted more heavily than others when doing research. This can certainly be the case when it comes to cookware. With so many options from so many different brands all flooding the market, it can be dizzying to try and pick out a new pot and pan set.
You can’t let the waterfall of information and brand-advertising overwhelm you though, or worse yet, let it convince you to settle for using old worn-out pots and pans that offer a poor cooking experience and are manufactured with outdated processes or materials.
Why Cookware Materials Matter
There are several reasons that the materials comprising a set of pots and pans are so important. First and foremost they dictate nearly everything functionality wise about the cookware. Additionally though, different materials require different levels of attention, care, and maintenance in extending the lifespan to its full potential.
There are four main materials with which pots and pans are manufactured today. These materials are; aluminum, cast iron, ceramic, and copper. Each material has a series of unique attributes which influence the cooking experience, design, function, and necessary maintenance of the cookware. Knowing and understanding these differences will help you in selecting the set of pots and pans that’s right for you and your individual cooking needs.
Learning the Differences
Cast iron is one of the most versatile cooking materials that manufacturers use. Because of its durability and high-heat-retention, cast-iron is compatible with stove-top cooking, in-oven cooking, grills, and even direct-flame. This makes a piece of cast-iron cookware an excellent addition to any kitchen, especially one that’s already outfitted with a set of general purpose pots and pans.
Ceramic is another unique style of cookware material. It offers a non-stick surface without the use of a toxic-chemical anywhere in the manufacturing process. Because it’s a sand-derivative, the designs are also modern, sleek, and unique. Ceramic cookware will certainly add a pinch of personality into any chef's kitchen.
Aluminum and copper are very similar in the way that they’re utilized in cookware. These similarities stretch across both design and manufacturing. The main differences between aluminum and copper based cookware come to the surface under heat. Copper is a better heat conductor than aluminum which means it performs better when it comes to heat sensitivity, retention, and distribution. This creates a more evenly heated pot or pan and a better cooking experience. In addition, the high-heat-sensitivity means that copper-based-cookware offers the chef a more controlled cooking experience when it comes to temperature.
The main selling-point with aluminum-based cookware is that it offers similar, albeit worse, heat conduction properties, while coming in at a fraction of the price. This puts dollars back in the wallets of home-chefs and professionals alike.
A final note to make about cookware material is that it also factors into heat-durability. For example, because copper is such a strong conductor, it’s typically suggested that copper-based cookware only be used with medium-heat.
Care and Maintenance Factor Into Play
The materials with which cookware is designed and manufactured also influences the necessary care and maintenance that will extend the lifespan of your pots and pans to its potential. While maintaining pots and pans typically doesn’t take too much work, it can be the straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back at the end of a hard day or a long week. Cast-iron pots and pans, for instance, have to be seasoned before every use. This by itself adds a whole step into the cooking process, and can make cast-iron an inconvenient choice for everyday cooking.
Many modern day stainless steel pots and pans are considered to be dishwasher safe by the manufacturers standards, making them a go-to option for many busy consumers. Though, some experts still suggest hand-washing and hand-drying as the optimal cleaning-solutions to extend the lifespan of stainless steel pots and pans.
The Modern-Day Non-Stick Pots and Pans
As technology advances, so do our everyday household products. Where non-stick pots and pans used to have a poor reputation based on their manufacturing process that included the use of a potentially harmful chemical, new-aged non-stick pots and pans are completely teflon-free and consumer-safe.
As such most modern day pots and pans are manufactured to be hybrids. Popular examples are cookware sets that utilize stainless steel finishes with magnetic aluminum cores and patches of new-aged-non-stick material that all work in concert to create an elegant cooking experience and an easy clean-up process. Utilizing magnetic aluminum over copper allows for higher-heat-durability up to 500 degrees fahrenheit and compatibility with induction cooking, truly making these pots and pans jacks of all trades.