How to Choose Quality Cookware

My senior year of college I purchased a very expensive set of pots and pans. I was getting ready to graduate and was coerced into buying them when a china sales representative visited our campus. The deal was if you purchased a set of china, you would receive the cookware for free (although after they tacked on interest and other fees, it surely wasn’t free). The sales rep was adamant that these were by far the best pots and pans on the market. Early in my marriage when I only cooked sparingly, this set of cookware was adequate. They were also quite durable because they lasted well over a decade. Nonetheless, once I became serious about cooking, I knew I needed more. I watched several cookware demonstrations on QVC and the Home Shopping Network, and did quite a bit of research on line. I also considered what I thought were my needs and concluded that the best cookware would have the following characteristics:

Coating/Non-Coating:
Cookware with non-stick coatings is quite popular. They are said to be a healthier choice because you need to use much less grease/oils when cooking. Nevertheless, many question the safety of the materials used in the coatings. And even quality coated cookware can become scratched or damaged in everyday use, leaving you with some flaking and thus some consumption of the materials.

Best Cookware Materials:
Cast Iron – My grandmother first introduced me to cast iron cookware. These skillets were especially popular for cooks in the south, and are still a favorite amongst campers. On several occasions I’d tried to make my grandma’s delicious hot-water cornbread. I never seemed to be able to get the texture of the bread just right. That is until my husband reminded me that both my grandmother and his grandmother had prepared the bread in a cast iron skillet. One day while he was out he picked me up a skillet. I’ve been making that delicious bread, with just the right texture ever since. Cast iron skillets are not very attractive but they are great to use. You can purchase them pre-seasoned or not. Note that if your cookware is not pre-seasoned, you’ll need to season it before you use it. The downside is that this cookware is not very easy to clean. Clean it with hot water and a soft sponge/towel, but no soap/detergents as this can affect the seasoning. The great part is you can be assured that your cast iron cookware will probably last your lifetime and the life of your children. Also, this skillet can go from the stovetop to the oven, and the seasoning gives the food excellent flavor.
Copper With Stainless Steel Lining – In addition to cast iron cookware, I also have cookware that is copper with a stainless steel lining. In addition to being very attractive, because of the copper, this cookware distributes heat very efficiently. Consequently, you’ll never have to use high heat when cooking.
Stainless Steel – This can be a very cost-effective option. It’s very durable, is usually dishwasher safe and cleans up quite easily. Nonetheless, all stainless steel is not the same. Choose cookware that has aluminum incorporated on the bottom for better heat distribution.

Other:
Sturdy and well attached handles.
Handles should be heat resistant.
Look for cookware with handles made out of stainless steel or cast iron.

Must Have Pieces:
small/medium sauce pan with cover
small/medium frying pan/skillet
small/medium saut�© pan with cover
casserole dish
stockpot with cover
round cake pan
square cake pan

Optional Pieces:
wok
muffin pan
pasta pot
roaster

You can purchase an already put together set or build your own.

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