Pots and Pans Buying Guide

Shopping for cookware can be confusing and complicated. Do you buy the best priced pots and pans or do you go with the top brand? Neither is the right solution; you should buy the best pots and pans for your needs. This article will describe the different types of cookware, what to look for, and the highest quality brands to try.

Types of Pots and Pans

Copper

Used for thousands of years, copper is a great heat conductor, making cookware made from this material great for even cooking or roasting. Copper is also an antibacterial material, as germs and bacteria cannot survive on its surface. However, copper pots and pans have to be cared for gently, as they are scratch-sensitive and are prone to tarnishing. If you do not know how to care for copper and do not want to take the time to learn, it is best to leave this type of cookware to the experts.

Anodized Aluminum

Especially useful for back-country cooking, hard-alonized aluminum is easy to clean with a non-stick coating, lightweight, and a great heat conductor. However, you have to be careful how you wash these pots and pans. You cannot use an abrasive scratch pad on this material because it will wear off the non-stick coating. Also, it is highly recommended that you use only wood or plastic utensils while cooking with hard-anodized aluminum, and even then, not scrape against the inside of the pot or pan.

Stainless Steel

This material is non-reactive, meaning you can cook any kind of food you like in it. This cannot be said for the other materials, which have various types of food they cannot cook. Stainless steel is also durable and dishwasher-safe for long-lasting, easy to clean cookware. However, it is one of the heavier materials for cookware and can get quite pricey for the better quality, especially if the inner core is copper or aluminum, both of which would make the stainless steel pots and pans more conductive.

Cast Iron

Pots and pans made from cast iron are naturally durable and non-stick as long as seasoned properly. This material distributes the heat evenly and is great at retaining heat. It is an excellent choice if you plan to simmer or brown the food. However, cast iron is the heaviest material for pots and pans to be made from and takes a longer time to heat up and cool down. It also needs to be seasoned properly from time to time to maintain its non-stick ability and its durability.

Pay Attention to

Size

Pots and pans come in a huge range of sizes, from a skillet for one egg to a 60-quart stock pot. Consider what you plan to cook in your pots and pans and buy the sizes best suited to your needs. The average family will likely need a ten-inch skillet, a two-quart sauce pan, and a three- or four-quart sauce pan, as well as a Dutch oven or six- or eight-quart stock pot. You will also probably want a large-sized cookie sheet, a 9x13x2 inch baking dish, and a twelve-cup muffin pan. The additional pieces you get depend on the type and amount of food you plan to cook. For example, if you have a family of six and cook Cajun dishes, you will likely want a 16-quart stock pot.

Care instructions

Depending on the material your pots and pans are made from, they will have particular care instructions to follow. Cast iron, for instance, has to be seasoned after approximately six to ten uses or at least once every other month. Copper, on the other hand, has to be cleaned very carefully because it is scratch-sensitive. It also must be stored in a dry location lest it tarnish. Aluminum cannot be washed with abrasive liquids or pads because of the non-stick coating and prefers to have a barrier when stacked, such as a towel, to prevent scratching. Stainless steel is the only material that does not have special care instructions, as it is dishwasher safe. However, it is recommended that when there is stuck-on food, you use a baking soda and bleach paste to coat the food for easy removal.

Lid material

Pot lids come in two varieties: glass and metal. If you have small children, you are likely to reconsider the glass lids because they break easily due to not being tempered. Metal lids, on the other hand, can be crashed and banged to children's delight and will not break. You may, however, prefer glass lids if you like to watch the food cook without removing the lid. Obviously, metal lids will not give you this option.

Warranty

Sometimes pots and pans need to be repaired or replaced. It is just a fact of life. It is important, then, to look into what type of warranty comes with your cookware. The lower a warranty is the lower quality the cookware is likely to be. Some people, having bought pots and pans in the sixties, still have their pots and pans because of the lifetime warranty that will repair or replace any defective or worn pieces.

Top Brands and Product Lines

All-Clad

This company is one of the highest priced cookware makers. They produce mainly stainless steel pots and pots with copper cores. You will not find these pots in department stores; they are distributed only to upscale and specialty shops. Their cookware is heat very evenly, hold up quite well to repeated washings, and have a comfortable feel with just the right weight. The top product line is the copper core, which are stainless steel pots with layers of aluminum and copper. This line has the best of both worlds, being able to distribute heat as evenly as a copper pot, but being durable and easy to clean because of the stainless steel exterior. The most popular line of cookware for All-Clad, however, is the stainless steel line. These pots are stainless steel with aluminum cores, making them less expensive than their copper core counterparts, but maintaining the All-Clad quality.

Cuisinart

A high- to mid-priced brand, Cuisinart has pots and pans in hard-anodized aluminum, stainless steel, and multi-clad materials. They can be found for sale in specialty stores, and many online retailers. One of their product lines is the Chef's Classic line. These pots are stainless steel with an aluminum-encapsulated base. This provides an even distribution of heat and good conductivity.

Wearever

Producing stainless steel pots and pans, Wearever is a low-end brand. The Pure Living product line is made up of stainless steel cookware with aluminum cores for high heat retention and evenly distributed heat. These pots are also scratch-resistant, though it is still not recommended to use abrasive liquids or pads on them.