Kitchen Essentials – Choosing Pots and Pans

By / Magazine / March 2nd, 2009 / Like

With so many different types and manufacturers of pots and pans available on the market today, how will you know which ones are best for you? There are a few tips you should keep in mind as you peruse a store’s selection.

1. Determine your budget. As much as we all might like a brand new set of copper pots and pans, they can be fairly pricey. There are cheaper varieties, of course. But remember, you get what you pay for.

2. Consider what material it’s made from. Stainless steel varieties should have an aluminum or copper core sandwiched in between the layers of steel. By itself, stainless steel is a poor heat conductor. The inner core ensures even cooking without hot spots. Make sure you can pick up the pot or pan before buying it to see how the weight, balance and design feel in your hand. If it’s not comfortable, you won’t enjoy using it. Cast iron offers great heat distribution, and you no longer have to worry about properly seasoning it because manufacturers, like Lodge, now produce pre-seasoned cookware.

3. Check out the handles. They should be welded to the body rather than nailed, screwed or riveted on. Handles absorb a lot of stress during use, so make sure that they’re firmly attached to the base. Some recipes call for food to be sautéed on the stovetop first, then placed in the oven. If the handles are plastic, they might not withstand that intensity of heat, resulting in a bubbly pool of melted sludge on your oven floor.

4. Keep the warranty and customer support in mind, too, as you shop around. You never know how cookware will hold up over time, so it’s nice to have service readily available when you need it.

5. Start with the basics.  For now, pass up those mini pans used for roasting a tablespoon or two of spices. Pick out a couple of frying pans of varying sizes, one small and one medium-sized saucepan and a large pot big enough to make stock or braise meat.

6. Choose non-stick, or not. Teflon-coated cookware is amazing for obvious reasons. But, it typically doesn’t stand up to high heat, nor does it last very long before bits of the non-stick coating start to fleck off. If you’re not keen on Teflon, but you want a non-stick surface, some manufacturers, like Berndes, use spun aluminum to produce cookware with a non-stick surface that doesn’t disintegrate over time.

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