Why Great Cookware Matters
Whoever says the choice of cookware is not important must be an inexperienced cook! Think about this. If your choice of cookware is not going to make any difference, why would there be so many different types of materials used?
Back to the olden days, we only had cast-iron as cookware materials. Slow but steadily, the trend is evolving. Today, we see pans and pots made of stainless steel as common. Lately, we saw the emergence of porcelain enameled stainless steel and tri-ply bonding.
This is not forgetting the suface where cooking takes place. T-fal is probably the ‘mother’ of non-stick pots and pans. Since it was first introduced, the use of non-stick surfaces remain a much debateable controversy. On one hand, it promises more pleasant cooking experience and easier cleaning. On the contrary, many studies have raised concerns about the harmful effects of non-stick surfaces.
Recommendations against using non-stick cookware have been issued over the years.
Instead of saying what is good and what is better, it is better to equip yourself with basic knowledge of each type of cookware material. With such knowledge, you’d be better equipped to decide for yourself what is the best cookware material for your need.
Cast-Iron: The Mythical Material. Why Does it Make the Best Cookware?
A Legend Continues
The use of cast iron to make cookware – pots and pans – dated back all the way to hundreds of years BC. The main reason why cast iron (and not others) was used back then was because it could be produced using minimum technological involvement.
Somewhere between the 19th and 20th century, popularity of cast iron cookware skyrocketed. At one point of time, almost every home in America had at least one cast iron cookware – be it a pan or pot.
Most of us, I believe, are very familiar with those black-colored skillets. Those were the only pans that our mom and grandma used to make tantalizing and mouthwatering dishes found on the dining table every night.
Today, cast iron is no longer the first choice among first-time cookware buyers. Is this because newer materials are better? I doubt so. Aggressive marketing is what I blame for the declining trend.
Cast iron cookware sets with the dark and black appearance is not ‘sexy’ or seen as misfit, especially to those who has opted for modern minimalist design for their kitchen. In fact, it is impressive to think that cast iron remains relevant given the pounding it’s received from other competing materials.
The most often touted benefit of cast iron is its heat retention property. Don’t mistake heat retention with heat distribution! This is the most common confusion made by most cookware buyers.
Heat distribution means you get the same heat throughout. Heat retention means once heated up, the pan or pot will retain the same temperature for longer period.
If Dutch Oven Potatoes, Cobbler or Cornbread are your favorites, you know why cookwares with good heat retention is important.
Over time, there’s been numerous cookware reviews and studies made in attempts to understand the ‘hidden’ effects of cookware on our health. From the studies conducted by various experts and authorities, there seems to be one clear consensus.
To the best of my knowledge, I’ve not seen any report suggesting the health ill-effect of cast-iron. I’d love to hear from you if yours is otherwise.
Instead, food cooked with this material will benefit from the iron leaching into the food. This is especially beneficial to those suffering from Anemia or iron deficiencies. But for those suffering from iron overload (hemochromatosis), the recommendation is to avoid cookwares made of cast iron.
But don’t assume the amount of iron that gets into your food is always the same. It is not! It varies depending on the acidity, water content and duration in which your food is cooked for. Some food leaches in greater amount of iron while others in lesser amount.
If you love cast iron, check out our curated selection of best cast iron cookware.
Care & Maintenance Tips
After getting your brand new cast iron cookware pieces, the first thing you need to work on is the seasoning of your cookwares. Seasoning refers to the process of applying oil coating to your cast iron cookware.
Seasoning is needed for 2 things. First, it guards your cookware against resistance. Second, it creates a non-stick surface.
In the past, seasoning was often left to the buyers to perform after they bring their cast iron pots and pans home. Though it seems simple, not everyone is capable of getting it right with the seasoning process. That’s why these days, most cast iron cookware manufacturers would perform the seasoning prior to selling them.
This will not only ensure seasoning done properly, but also brings much greater convenience to the consumers. With pre-seasoned sets, buyers are able to use their pots and pans as soon as they reached home. No more waiting. Just get down to the action straight!
Proper seasoning alsoe means better cooking experience (non-stick surface) and also higher rust resistance. By making sure that proper seasoning is done, manufacturers are able to ensure better rust resistance to their products. The benefit to the manufacturer is clear. Higher rust resistance implies longer lifespan which translates to better reputation.
The other thing that you have to take note of your cast iron wares is the heating up process. Being a denser material it is, cast iron takes longer time to heat up compared to copper or aluminum. Extra patience is needed if you’re using a cast iron ware.
You’re advised against heating up too quickly. If heated too quickly, you’ll end up with hot spots that will result in uneven cooking. That explains why you end up with the dark circle on your omelet.
Seasoned vs Enameled
If you go through the various cookware set reviews, one reason behind cast iron declining popularity is the ‘cool’ factor. With home and kitchen designs shifting towards modern minimalist approach, black if often a misfit.
How cookware manufacturers have attempted to combat this trend is by introducing enameled cast iron. The result? Naturally non-stick pots and pans plus the gorgeous variety of color options.
Think about Le Creuset Signature Dutch Oven. Le Creuset is probably among the biggest beneficiary of this technology.
But you should know better that no option is perfect. There is a price you need to pay for those beautiful shining enameled cast iron sets. You need to be extra cautious when using enameled compared to seasoned cast iron cookware.
This is because even when you have the best cookware set made of enameled cast iron, the enameled coating will still peel off under harsh use.
In essence, the experience you get with seasoned cast iron cookware will only get better over time. But this is not true for enameled cast iron wares.
The Best Cast-Iron Cookwares Brands
Today, not every cookware maker offers cast iron options as part of their cookware collection. Brands like Lodge, Camp Chef, American Culinary Corporation and John Wright are among the best cookware brands specializing on cast iron produce.
American Culinary Corporation is now home to the cast iron pioneers – Griswold and Wagner. Lodge, on the other hand, is probably the last cookware manufacturer that has their foot still firmly rooted here in USA.
How are the Cookware Reviews for Stainless Steel Cookware Set?
Good and Bad
Taking over the popularity baton from cast iron is stainless steel material. As home and kitchen design shifts towards modern minimalist touch, those black pots and pans made out of cast iron appear to be less sexy. To most people, the image of black cookwares reminds them of the good old-fashioned days of their grandmas.
Style aside, one aspect of stainless steel that makes it particularly appealing is its high corrosion resistance nature. Unlike cast iron, stainless steel wares do not require seasoning. You can use your brand new stainless steel pots and pans the moment you get them out of the box.
The non-reactive properties of stainless steel to alkaline and acidic food is often cited as one of the biggest
Stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat. If pure stainless steel were to be used, it might take you a long time before the heat gets distributed evenly and your cooking can start.
This is why you don’t see any cookware made of pure steel. Instead, you’d usually find the base to be cladded with aluminum to enssure quicker and more even heat distribution.
If you through the cookware ratings awarded to stainless steel sets, don’t be too surprised if you run into overly negative reviews. Keep in mind that there are different grades of steel and the handle insulation design makes the whole world of a difference.
The Best Stainless Steel Cookware Brands
Every line of product will surely has its own group of elites. When talking about the best stainless steel cookware sets, that name belong to All-Clad.
Most stainless steel cookware makers, even the likes of Cuisinart, rely on triple-ply construction for the base of their pots and pans. While such construction makes up the basic line-up of All-Clad cookwares, their flagship is the d5 construction.
For triple-ply construction, the aluminum core is cladded in-between two layers of stainless steel. One for the interior and the second for the exterior.
In the d5 construction, stainless steel core is used instead. Stainless steel is harder than aluminum. Naturally, a cookware made of d5 construction are harder and improved resistance against warping.
Why Non-Stick Cookware Reviews are Highly Divided?
Popularization of Non-Stick Coated Cookwares
The use of non-stick pans has been recorded as early as few thousands years back. But Teflon is probably the first non-stick technology that’s been used in making commercial and home cookware.
Teflon, as the key coating technology behind non-stick, is hated as much as it is loved. The chemical PTFE used in Teflon coating is found to release PFOA when heated beyond 660 degrees Farenheit.
If inhaled, PFOA may lead to polymer fume fever. Symptoms include headaches, fever, chest tightness and mild cough.
The Demise of Teflon?
Recently, we’ve seen an alternative to Teflon emerging. Some label it as green pans while others label it as ceramic coating. Essentially, they are referring to the same thing.
But keep in mind that different quality of ceramic coating may have been used. That will give you different nons-stick performance.
The most often touted benefit of ceramic coating is PFOA-free. But let’s think about this for a moment.
How You Take Care of Your Cookware is Important!
Instead of blaming Teflon as the bad guy and claiming ceramic coating as the safest cookware, the better question to ask is how often do you need to cook using temperature of 660 Farenheit and above?
If you need to make the perfect steak, Tim Ferris’ Sexy Time Steak is my favorite. After rounds of experimentation, I found the ideal temperature of my skillet to be no more than 250°F.
Another line of attack against Teflon is it does not last. But again, don’t simply believe what people tell you. If you pick any 2 Teflon users randomly, I’m sure you’ll get 2 different answers.
The longevity of any non-stick surface coating very much depends on how you take care of it. The better you care for it, the longer it will stick with you.
For example, use of wooden utensils is a friendlier option as compared to metal utensils. How you wash and how often you wash your non-stick pans are also important factors to consider.
I know of some people who refused to ever wash their non-stick pans for fear of peeling off the coating. What they do is simply wipe the surface clean with paper and clothes.
Make Your Hunt Fun & Easy with the Best Cookware Reviews
Before you turn up the excitement and sieve through tonnes and tonnes of cookware reviews, keep in mind that the hunt for the best cookware sets can easily get you overwhelm.
If a friend ask, my recommendation would be to first look inward. Understand what you truly need.
For example, if you’re looking for cheap and yet proven cookware materials, the best cast iron cookware sets would be what you want to be looking out for.
But if stylish looking option is what you’re looking for, you can skip the cast iron set altogether. The best cookware sets for you will definitely not be a cast iron.
If style matters more than anything else and you have a country style kitchen, enameled cast iron sets would be where you want to focus your search on.
If you have a big budget to blow, Le Creuset Signature collection is the ultimate. IMHO, they are not only the classiest cookware but also the best cookware for gas stove.
If you have a minimalist kitchen design, you can narrow down your cookware reviews right from the beginning and focus only on the those cookware set that are made out of stainless steel.
Non-stick pans definitely have their own appeal. There are increasing numbers of new infomercial cookware brands such as Orgreenic. You’d be forgiven if after watching their infomercial, you’d be all ecsatic about making your purchase.
Keep an open mind. Maintain a healthy level of skepticism. Don’t simply believe what they’ve told and shown you. Make sure you don’t leave out traditionally reputable brands such as T-fal when you’re looking for the best non-stick cookware sets.
What’s the Best Celebrity-Endorsed Cookware Sets?
On a last note, having great cookware is as important as having good recipes. The various cooking shows such as Rachael Ray Show, Paula’s Home Cooking and Emeril Live have been my source of inspirations. They’ve released their line of cookware.
Their shows are no doubt entertaining and inspiring. But does this automatically qualify their cookware as being great?
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