If you’re a home cook, you know how important the type of cookware is for your food. Different materials have their own properties that make them suitable for a certain cuisine or application. What is the best cookware material? The answer to this question isn’t exactly black and white. Every cookware material comes with its own set of pros and cons.
For instance, cooking steaks needs something that’s sensitive to temperature changes and brings a nice sear. Similarly, braising or stewing requires materials that retain their temperature even if the stove is turned off.
The best course of action is to accumulate the material types that are the most appropriate for the food you usually cook. That way, you’ll be getting the best results in the kitchen every time.
Some Shopping Tips For Buying the Best Cookware
Now that we’ve established how important your cookware material is for your dishes, let’s take a look at some tips you can follow to buy the best cookware for your needs.
Make a Collection
No matter what kind of cuisine you generally cook, the best practice is to never get everything of the same material or brand. You should mix things up to create a variety in your kitchen.
If you’re setting up a kitchen from scratch, then this approach is even better for you. You won’t have to worry about what you already possess and you’ll be able to choose different-sized pots and pans for their unique applications.
Always Go For The Glass Lid
This tip doesn’t directly affect your shopping experience but is quite essential for cooking. Making any dish is a process where you have to take specific actions at the right time. For instance, adding the veggies when the water just starts to boil or lowering the heat when you start seeing bubbles form.
Visual input plays a key role in determining what you should do next.
Opaque lids on your pots are great and can do the job well. However, you won’t be able to see anything. To do that, you’ll have to remove the lid and allow the heat and pressure to escape. This would delay your cooking and could even affect its quality.
Glass lids are excellent because they don’t come with visual issues. They’ll perform just as well as any other lid but also allow you to see what’s happening inside. So, if you’re in a position to choose between glass or solid lids for your cookware, always go for a glass one.
Confirm All The Details
The final tip is to never base your choice on labels. Simply buying an oven-proof option doesn’t mean that you can chuck the pot anywhere. Always check the technical specifications to confirm the claims.
What’s the highest temperature this cookware can sustain? Can I set my oven at 5000 F while using this? Is the glass tempered? Asking the right questions will save you from any accident in the future and ensure that you’re spending your hard-earned money on the best product.
What is The Best Cookware Material? Best Choices On The Market
What is the best cookware material? The following sections will aim to answer this question and take a look at some of the most common choices on the market.
All of these materials are suited for different kinds of foods and come with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. We’ll briefly go through their qualities so you can make an informed decision based on your needs.
1. Stainless Steel
The first choice in our what is the best cookware material list, stainless steel, is one of the most common materials used in cookware. Stainless steel is made by adding nickel and chromium to regular steel, which gives it corrosion resistance and thermal stability.
Both of these properties are essential for cookware items as you want them to last long and remain free from any kind of impurity.
Another excellent quality that makes stainless steel a suitable material for cooking purposes is its inert nature. In terms of chemistry, cooking is an active process where many acids and bases mix and react with chemical components of food under high temperatures. In this situation, you don’t want your cookware to start a chemical reaction, as well.
With stainless steel, this problem doesn’t exist. It’s generally unreactive at cooking temperatures and works fine with both acidic and alkaline foods. You’ll never find your food having a metallic flavor or any rust while cooking with stainless steel.
You also won’t have to worry about cleaning your SS cookware as stainless steel is safe for dishwashers and general dish soaps.
While stainless steel truly has a lot of advantages for cooking applications, it comes with a major drawback, as well. In its natural form, stainless steel is incapable of conducting heat well enough for cooking applications. That’s why it wasn’t considered for cookware for quite some time.
Modern pots and pans find a way around this huge weakness of stainless steel by combining it with other conductive metals. You’ll often see pans with an internal SS lining and an external body made up of aluminum, copper, and other materials. Such pans are very common nowadays and can handle almost all kinds of cuisines expertly.
This is a perfect solution as it allows you to make use of all the advantages of stainless steel and avoid the characteristic that’s not suitable for cooking.
Copper is one of the most conductive materials you’ll find in the kitchen. It rapidly reaches the target temperature as soon as you turn on the heat and cools down just as quickly. In the culinary world, this quality of cookware is called responsiveness, which is one of the most important factors for selecting any cooking pot.
Copper is among the most highly sought-after cookware materials among professional cooks who need to make precise dishes quickly. The most prized copper pans are developed from high gauge metal which is thicker than regular cookware.
Despite being an excellent choice for cookware, you’ll hardly find copper pots in regular homes. The main reason behind this is the price. Copper is counted as a precious metal and is quite expensive to buy.
The precise results it produces are great for a professional environment but home cooks generally make simple dishes that don’t require these professional types of cookware.
Another drawback copper has is its reactive nature. At high temperatures, it can react with natural minerals and acids in the food. The chemicals produced are quite harmless from a health perspective but can leave a yellow shade and a certain metallic taste in the food at very high temperatures.
To counter this, most copper pans come with internal linings of a non-reactive metal. Stainless steel is a popular choice but you’ll find some pans with tin linings, as well. Stainless steel linings last a very long time without needing any repairs or processes. Tin, on the other hand, deteriorates with time and must be re-applied.
If you use an induction stove, then copper pots are not a suitable choice for you. As a non-magnetic metal, copper won’t perform well with induction ranges and will affect your cooking. These pots are also not suitable for dishwashers. Simply clean them regularly and occasionally apply a copper polish to maintain their shine.
Aluminum is the most abundant element in Earth’s crust and has numerous industrial applications. In the culinary world, it holds importance because of its high responsiveness.
Aluminum is almost as conductive as copper but is available at a fraction of the price. So, you’ll expect it to have all the traditional advantages of copper without any compromise on the price.
One of the biggest drawbacks Aluminum has is its reactive nature. Aluminum is high on the reactivity series but counters its reactiveness by creating an oxide layer on its surface. In the presence of acids and reactants at high temperatures, that oxide layer can break down and react with the food, leaving a dull metallic taste.
To overcome this shortcoming, most aluminum pans come with a non-reactive inner lining. Non-stick coatings are a popular choice with aluminum pans because of their compatibility and color combination.
Another common process that aluminum pans go through is anodization. This process significantly hardens the surface and makes it more durable and easier to clean.
Since aluminum is both abundant and cheap, you’ll find it in many homes. Its performance is very similar to copper and accurate enough for home cooks. Aluminum is also used by professional chefs but its application is a little different.
Since Aluminum is lightweight, you’ll find large cooking pans and woks made of Aluminum in the professional environment. Chefs compromise a little on conductivity and responsiveness by prioritizing convenient handling. Larger copper pans also become too expensive, which is another reason behind aluminum’s popularity.
4. Carbon Steel
The next listing, carbon steel, is another popular choice in specialty applications like Woks, skillets, pans, and pots. Carbon steel is highly conductive, durable, and versatile. It’s mainly used for Asian cuisine but can also perform well in some western dishes.
Unlike the previous material that doesn’t deteriorate with time and may last in the kitchen for years, carbon steel starts to rust if you don’t take care of it properly. For a long-lasting experience, you must season your carbon steel cookware regularly. This process develops a non-stick layer on the top that’s both inert and doesn’t rust.
Carbon steel generally works with all kinds of heat sources, but its performance is a bit weaker with glass stovetops. Other than that, you should check the thickness of any carbon steel cookware before buying. It shouldn’t be too thick as it may become hard to handle.
Similarly, you shouldn’t use a pan that’s too thin. It will heat unevenly and may have some hot spots.
5. Cast Iron
When it comes to what is the best cookware material, Cast iron cookware is a perfect example of how slow and steady wins the race. The material is a bad conductor of heat and has one of the lowest responsiveness for the material you’ll find in a kitchen. However, this characteristic is not its weakness.
Cast iron skillets are famous because of their capability to retain heat and regulate their temperature.
Generally, you’ll find cast iron being used in skillets, dutch ovens, and other similar cookware. While buying cast iron cookware, you’ll have the choice between enamel coating or its natural state. Enamel coating lasts long and doesn’t require any processing or maintenance.
Natural cast iron, however, can be seasoned like carbon steel and prepared for future use.
Most recently, enamel-coated cast iron pans have become popular in the market. One of the primary reasons behind this sudden interest is aesthetics. Modern cast iron pans are extremely attractive. Moreover, they’re quite affordable when compared with other options, so people buy them for novelty.
One important thing to note is that cast iron is usually quite heavy. Large pans can weigh several pounds and may become too difficult to handle. If you add the lid or go for dutch ovens, the weight becomes even more difficult to handle and may create several problems for you.
6. Clay and Stone Cookware
Clay and stoneware have a long history of being used as cookware. They have the unique ability to repair their internal structure and gain more strength with use. Even today, clay pots and stone cookware are not obsolete and are being practically used in many cultures.
Across America, you’ll easily find stone cookware with a glazed exterior for baking applications. Casseroles, mac n cheese, and other famous dishes can be easily baked in stone cookware.
They’re also safe to use in a dishwasher and can also be kept in a freezer. Stone cookware will often be as sturdy as any metal if you carefully use them and avoid any sudden temperature changes.
A common characteristic of stone cookware that increases its popularity in the market is the plethora of different colors. You have many color and shape options that can enhance the overall look of your dinner table. The best part is you won’t have to make any compromise on the functionality and overall looks.
Clay cookware is another common choice that has continued for generations. We still have clay ovens, pots, and other essential cookware being used in many areas. Particularly famous cuisine that relies on clay cookware for dishes is the Indian cuisine. You’ll find many vegan and non-vegan dishes that are still traditionally cooked in clay pots.
While both stone and clay cookware remain unreactive, you’ll find that dishes cooked in these pots will retain a certain earthy taste that enhances the overall flavor. Additionally, dishes cooked in traditional cookware have an old-fashioned appeal. Many restaurants use this tactic to attract more customers by delivering a unique experience.
For clay especially, you’ll have to spend a lot of time on maintenance. Proper usage and ensuring that there are no drastic temperature differences can make the pot last longer than average.
You can also buy them for a very reasonable rate. However, we always recommend selecting a quality brand. Both clay and stone cookware traditionally used lead. Modern research has revealed how dangerous lead is for our health and brain development.
So, you should ensure that the clay or stone cookware you’re purchasing is 100% lead-free, even if you have to pay a little extra for that, it’s definitely worth it in the long run.
7. Non-Stick Material
It’s extremely hard to find a home that doesn’t use any non-stick material in the kitchen today. They’re a popular material choice because they’re easier to clean, don’t react with the food, and last for a very long time.
Usually, non-stick cookware consists of a light external metal that acts as a frame while the internal lining is of any non-stick material. The cookware is suitable for the dishwasher but needs you to be a little careful if you want the material to last.
Another reason why non-stick material is famous is the growing aversion to oil. More and more people are now looking for alternatives that don’t have cholesterol or any adverse health effects. Non-stick cookware allows you to enjoy fried dishes without using too much oil.
You can use an extremely little amount or none at all, and still cook your food without any issues.
One of the most important pieces of advice anyone using non-stick cookware would give you is to never use metal utensils. Use a plastic or silicone spatula instead. The non-stick layer usually gets damaged by the spoon and stops working properly.
Technically, ceramics are a type of non-stick coating, but it’s marketed as a separate material for cookware. This material is relatively new in the culinary world but has grown significantly popular in a very short time.
Generally, the advantages and weaknesses of ceramic cookware are the same as any regular non-stick cookware. The main difference is the aesthetic. Naturally, ceramic pots look more beautiful and are available in many colors, as well.
One thing you’ll have to remember while using ceramic cookware is to always clean the residual oil. After cooking, leaving oil in the pot results in a build-up that can affect the overall non-stick properties of your pot. Ceramic cookware is more recent and costs a lot. So, you need to be careful about your cookware’s longevity.
9. Other Cookware Materials
There’s another trend to use some other unusual materials like titanium, silicone, nano-tech, and other uncommon materials in cookware and other kitchen utensils. While all of them have their own strength, talking about them isn’t beneficial.
Materials like titanium are quite expensive and can’t be used for regular cookware in both professional and domestic settings. They’re mostly used for novelty purposes and have little to no functional uses in the real world.
What is the best cookware material? Many beginners ask this question once they understand how significantly the cookware can change your cooking experience. It’s important to understand that a single answer to this question doesn’t exist.
All cookware materials come with their strengths and weaknesses that determine their best applications.
This article went through some of the most common materials you’ll encounter in any complete kitchen. We hope that this was helpful for you and you’ll now be able to make a more informed decision regarding the best cookware material for you.