Buying Guide to Cookware That Lasts

Buying cookware seems an easy task. Head for a big box store, pick out the color or design that attracts you the most, and “voila!” go home and whip up culinary masterpieces like a Julia Child. Hold on! It’s just not that easy. There’s non-sticking and uncoated pots and pans. Cookware can be aluminum, cast iron, copper, porcelain on carbon steel, stainless steel, or tempered glass. The list of options as well as the pros and cons continues into next week. Step back, answer a few questions, and take the time to learn a bit about buying cookware that lasts.

Begin by answering a few questions regarding your likes, dislikes, and what kind of lifestyle you lead and may lead in the not so distant future. Cheap cookware won’t last. Whether it’s non-stick or thin aluminum they both have flaws that make them questionable when deciding to purchase. Why not spend a bit more and buy pans that have the potential to last a lifetime? Much of the decision in cost will come from the answers to these questions:

1.Do you just love spending time in the kitchen preparing gastronomic wonders for family and friends?

2.Do you feel a rush of adrenaline when you know you’re having six for Saturday night supper?

3.Do you get the cold chills and a sinking feeling when you discover it’s your turn to have the gang over?

4.Do cringe when you have to boil water?

5.Are you a single person living alone or is your home bursting at the seams with people?

If you love to cook or you’re looking forward to learning to cook, then buying high end cookware is probably the best place to start. On the other hand, if you seldom cook or find it excruciating to be in the kitchen, spending alot money on items that will not be used seems silly. Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

Non-Stick Cookware

Most pots and pans fall under two categories, non-stick or uncoated. T-Fal falls under the non-stick category. The basic plus side of non-stick is obvious, food doesn’t stick to the pans making clean up a breeze. The downside is that most non-stick pans should not be used for high heating nor can you use metal utensils for stirring, scraping or flipping. You’ll find most non-stick pans sport a plastic handle which gives the cookware another disadvantage; they cannot go from stove top to an oven beyond 350 degrees. However, the handles don’t get hot while cooking. Non-stick pans and skillets tend to be lighter overall. As non-stick cookware ages the Teflon coating begins to flake and ends up in food and ultimately ingested. As the jury decides the health risks and hazards of Teflon a good approach may be to look elsewhere.

Uncoated Cookware

Aluminum, stainless steel and cast iron fit under the heading of uncoated. Each type of cookware has its pros and cons. The price range varies greatly depending on the gauge of the metal.

Some folks rave about cast iron and stand behind it as the best way to cook. Cast iron may be slow to heat and cool, but conducts heat even and with consistency. This is a huge plus in the cookbook of most chefs. The durability of a well kept cast iron is widely known; they can last forever. Cleaning up cast iron can be as simple as wiping it with a paper towel or soft cloth if the skillet has been seasoned correctly. At the other end of the spectrum lies a skillet that requires a lot of elbow grease and time to clean it up. Some people believe it’s a good idea to have at least one well-seasoned cast iron skillet waiting in the pantry.

Stainless steel and aluminum, both uncoated, are two of the most popular cookware metals. This is the realm of companies such as Calphalon and All-Clad. Commercial level cookware is heavy and lasts, but along with the durability of the product comes a heftier feel and a high end price. Stainless steel and aluminum cookware are the most versatile. Both are dishwasher safe and they hold up to metal utensils. When it comes to browning, aluminum and stainless steel cookware beats most and ties with cast iron, depending on the cook’s preferences.

A good conductor of heat, tempered glass cookware has the ability to go from freezer to oven to table without skipping a beat. An unfortunate disadvantage is that tempered glass breaks easily if dropped or banged.

Cookware Handles

Handles on cookware are as varied as the different types pots used. Again it’s about pros and cons and what appeals to you. Plastic handles should not be used in ovens over 350 degrees, however, the handle doesn’t heat up while cooking. A plastic handle may break which is no small thing when carrying a hot pan of soup. Wooden handles won’t burn your hand since they don’t heat up on the stove, but you should not put cookware with wooden handles into a dishwasher. Solid metal handles get hot requiring a pot holder to carry from one place to the next. On the upside, cookware with solid metal handles can be put in the over or under the broiler with no problem. The dishwasher holds no worry for cookware with metal handles. A metal handle won’t break and in fact, some come riveted giving them added strength. You may find cookware that comes with removable handles that fit into various pieces within the set. The handle doesn’t always fit tightly from one pan to the next.

In Store Hands On

Sets of cookware range in price from a low end of $50, to a middle of the road price of $200, and on up to thousands. Regardless of the cost, before buying cookware that lasts get a feel for what’s out on the store shelves. Hold a skillet in your hand; how does it feel? Is it too heavy? Would you prefer something of a lighter weight? Look at the handle. A riveted handle is the absolute best, you know it’s sturdy enough to last. Turn the pan or skillet over, look at the bottom, is it flat? Can you feel the same gauge metal both inside and outside of the cookware? If you’re not sold yet, try buying one small piece to take home and use before buying a set. Once you’ve decided which way to go, non-stick or uncoated, it’s time to decide what pieces to purchase. Sets are the better bargain. Most sets come with five commonly used pieces which may include: a stockpot with a lid, a 2-3 qt cooking saucepan with lid, 9.5-11 inch fry pan, most have another small omelet skillet and smaller sauce pan. Whether you choose to go the non-stick, less expensive route or if paying more for a durable set that lasts a life time tempts you, having some knowledge before buying cookware that lasts will help you purchase the product that suits you best.

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