Cookware Buying Guide

Purchasing cookware is a difficult chore in today’s technologically advanced, heavily commercialized culture. Walking into a kitchen store may be a confusing experience because there are so many different materials, brands, sizes, and buzzwords available. What you are going to read is the result of extensive study and the expertise of our team of chefs who tested more than 20 brands and 50 different cookware lines.

Owning a few carefully picked pieces will provide you the versatility to cook whatever you want and the performance you need to prepare it better. This is preferable than having cupboards stuffed to the gills with pots and pans of all shapes and sizes. If you’re unsure of what you need, our Cookware Essentials are a fantastic place to start.

What amount should you allocate?
Your budget, how frequently you cook, what you prepare the most, and how diligently you intend to take care of them will all influence how much you spend on pots and pans. We don’t like pre-assembled sets because manufacturers frequently combine less-popular, typically unnecessary pieces with their more widely used, essential pieces. As a result, even if the set is reasonably priced when you add up the prices of the individual pieces, your savings are more of a mirage. Additionally, sets typically consist of just one material, and even if it’s a top-notch tri-ply stainless steel set, we’re great admirers of cast iron.

In conclusion, we advise you to assemble your own collection of top-notch cookware one component at a time. Spending more money up front can ultimately save you money because better cookware will last you a lifetime rather than 2 to 5 years as with lower-quality cookware which will start to warp, scratch, break handles, etc. Le Creuset pieces, for instance, may be amortized over a lifetime and you don’t have to worry about them going out of style since they are still in fashion today, 80 years later, and they are worth more than ever. Additionally, your meals will be prepared better every day, with less swearing in the kitchen and better ingredients.

What are the best materials?

Since various materials have various characteristics that make them useful for various cooking techniques, there are no definitive answers to this subject. Every type of cookware has unique strengths and limitations, so no one type is excellent in every way. This is a list of all the materials used today along with the characteristics that go along with them.

– Non-Stick Coatings

A pan that is 100% nonstick and simple to clean must be appealing, right? We’re about to explain how, though. Even if the history of non-stick technology is extensive, it is important for the environment’s and your health’s sake to give a quick review. Polytetrafluroethylene, usually referred to as “PTFE,” was first discovered in 1938 by Dr. Roy Plunkett at the DuPoint research facilities. He was working with gases linked to Freon refrigerants when he realized that a sample of tetrafluroethylene had spontaneously polymerized into a white, waxy solid to produce PTFE. As with most discoveries, it was an accident. In 1945, PTFE was originally sold under the DuPont Teflon® brand. Teflon is one of the biggest molecules with a molecular weight that can approach 30,000,000.

Today, the scientific advisory board of the US Environmental Protection Agency determined that the chemical ingredient used to create Teflon, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is a “likely carcinogen” (see also: Potential Human Health Effects Associated with PFOA). Residents living close to a DuPont production facility in Ohio and West Virginia filed a lawsuit in 2004 alleging that this chemical was contaminating the groundwater. DuPont resolved the case for $300 million. DuPont’s issue is that, at current time, PFOA is required in order to create PTFE (a.k.a. Teflon). If a finished pan has been properly cured, according to DuPont, there shouldn’t be any detectable amounts of PFOA on it. However, a 2005 FDA research found PFOA in finished PTFE goods, including Teflon or PTFE cookware. The majority of PTFE manufacturers—there are five of them worldwide—have dramatically decreased their usage of PFOA and plan to use none by 2015. It is remain a significant problem until PFOA is completely removed from the PTFE production process. Toxicology Data & Healthy Risks is another resource.

Even if, as claimed by DuPont and other PTFE makers, no PFOA seeps into your non-stick pans, there is still a second concern with PTFE that has come to be known as the “dead bird” problem (for lack of a better term). Most non-stick material packages will state that the pan’s temperature shouldn’t go above 500°F. The pans might release harmful gases when heated above 500°F. If you place a pan directly over a flame for two to five minutes, without anything above it to absorb some of the heat, you may easily reach 500°F, despite what you might think. The condition known as “polymer fume fever” in humans, which resembles the flu, can be brought on by the fumes,includes chest tightness, a slight cough, nausea, and sweating as symptoms. There have been many instances of birds dying in kitchens that utilized non-stick cookware. Because birds lack sophisticated livers and lungs like humans have, the toxicity of PTFE fumes can literally cause a bird to suffocate in a matter of minutes. And to top it all off, PTFE has been identified by the National Toxicology Program as a human carcinogen (see: Tetrafluoroethylene CAS No. 116-14-3). On this subject, nothing more needs to be said.

Beware of being duped by false brands or trade names out there. Just because something isn’t called “Teflon” doesn’t always mean that it wasn’t made in the same manner. Fortunately, there is a pretty good substitute. Many manufacturers, like Green Pan, use a ceramic-based non-stick coating (the brand that we sell). The outcomes are quite good. The Green Pans are more than sufficient, but nothing compares to the PTFE-based pans. Cast iron skillets with a good amount of seasoning are another choice for creating omelettes.To prevent the garlic from burning, simply sauté it until it becomes aromatic and then turn down the heat. A cast iron skillet won’t be as sensitive as one of our stainless steel fry pans (due to the inner aluminum core).

 Enameled Cast Iron

Cast iron that has had an enamel applied to it after burning retains the advantages of plain cast iron while also being fully non-reactive, easier to clean, and decorative. Le Creuset is a colossal brand in the enameled cast iron industry, and they set the bar high for other enameled cast iron products to follow. Both the quality and the cost of enameled cast iron vary widely. Watch out for inexpensive enamels that are brittle (either because the enamel was not applied at high enough temperature, or there is only one or two coats of enamel),can include other undesirable substances, like lead, in the enamel. If you enjoy stewing and braising, you probably enjoy eating everything from head to tail. Nothing else comes close to providing more even, radiating heat than an enameled cast iron dutch oven.

Cast Iron

We love cast iron, and that is an understatement. Simple, non-technically sophisticated cast iron is the best heat conductor and heat storage material; grandma was much ahead of her time.

Cast iron’s capacity to bear high heat and its capacity to retain heat make it ideal for braising meat with even surround heat or searing and grilling steaks to perfection. Contrarily, cast iron has its limitations. You would never use cast iron for sautéing, which calls for a pan to be sensitive, or to act swiftly in response to the heat source.

 -Stainless Steel

The best cookware is made of stainless steel because it is elegant, long-lasting, dishwasher safe, and entirely inert to acidic foods. Stainless steel needs to be combined with a heat conductor like aluminum or copper because it is a poor heat conductor on its own. The heat conductor is sandwiched between layers of stainless steel throughout the piece (also known as “tri-ply” – the standard for high grade cookware) or affixed to the bottom (which produces less expensive pieces). The percentage of chromium and nickel is indicated by the fractions you see, such as 18/10, 18/8, and 18/0. At least 10.5 percent chromium must be present in the composition for it to be considered stainless steel. Therefore, 18/10 stainless steel will have an 18% chromium content and a 10% nickel content.Chromium gives steel its “stainless” designation, whereas nickel primarily controls how polished the steel will be. 18/10 is the current industry norm.

 Aluminum & Anodized Aluminum

Although lightweight, simple to handle, and a superior heat conductor, aluminum reacts with foods that are acidic, sulfurous, or alkaline. Stainless steel cookware frequently has an aluminum core or bottom layer for improved heat conduction. Aluminum that has been electrochemically sealed to create a hard, nonreactive surface is known as anodized aluminum. An aluminum sheet is anodized by submerging it in an acidic solution, which turns the aluminum into the positive anode of a chemical battery and the solution into the negative.

The acid is electrically charged, which causes the aluminum’s surface to oxidize (essentially rust). As the original metal on the surface is replaced, the oxidized aluminum produces a thick covering. The end product is anodized aluminum, which is incredibly tough.

Aluminum that has been anodized can be almost as hard as diamond with the proper anodizing procedure. In areas of modern structures where the metal framework is exposed to the weather, anodized aluminum is frequently used.

High-end cookware, including frying pans and pots, are now frequently made of anodized aluminum, which is also a popular material. An equal distribution of heat during the anodizing process gives anodized aluminum a naturally protective coating. Copper Copper is a fantastic heat conductor and the ideal material for producing responsive heat, in addition to being beautiful pots and pans. A copper pot will nearly immediately heat up and cool down in response to the heat source. The drawbacks of copper include its high cost, difficulty in maintenance, and food reactivity, similar to that of regular cast iron, necessitating the lining of pans.To improve heat conduction, copper is widely used in high-end cookware as a bottom layer or sandwiched between layers of stainless steel. Because copper pans can reach high temperatures that enable fast evaporation and thickening, they have historically been used to produce preserves, jams, and jellies. Even while we adore the way new copper pots appear, maintaining the finish is very impossible, and there isn’t much of a performance difference between copper cookware and high-quality clad (such as tri-ply) cookware.