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(Experiment 200) How to buy cookware

Just like the knife post, I decided to do a 101 on cookware. Probably the best tip I can offer you is to NOT buy a set. Those sets always contain “filler”, those odd pots and pans you will never use. Instead, buy a single piece of equipment you will actually use. 

Basic kit  :
-10″ or 12″ Frypan
-4 qt pot stainless steel
-8 qt pot stainless steel

Extra :
-10″ or 12″ Saute pan or additional fry pan
-Even larger stockpot if you cook a large batch
-If you have gas, a wok (also note I hate you as I cannot get gas here)

 Non-Stick 

-Teflon: Generally safe to use, if heated too much they emit toxic fumes, also, when the surface is scratched you can eat some of the coating and depending on your source, this may be harmless or give cancer
-Ceramic: Considered safer and more green, the ceramic coating is even more non-stick than Teflon. The disadvantage is that after some time food will stick ( 1-2 years of usage), the price has come down drastically

Ceramic coating is often blue or white

I switched to ceramic several years ago and happy with them. If you look for sales (sometimes up to 70% off) you can get them for a nice price, for example  zwilling pan ,

Teflon or ceramic, I recommend you always use those over medium heat, never on high.

Stainless Steel 

Stainless. Beautiful stainless. If you ever bought a cheap stainless pan then you likely enjoyed how bad those are. Food will stick, it’s impossible to clean, etc. The general rule of thumb is you should pay about ~100$ for a stainless steel frying pan. Unless you have gas, you should avoid copper or 5-7 ply pans. Your bottleneck will be your range anyway. Those 5-7ply or copper cookware will be very expensive and generally speaking, they are a waste of cash. What? 

When talking about stainless cookware it comes down to a couple of factors :
-Is it reactive or non-reactive?

Aluminum, copper, and iron are all reactive to acidic food( ex tomatoes ) and can give an off-taste. Stainless is non-reactive and will not react to any food 
-Is it a good conductor or heat?

The ability for a material to transmit heat. Copper is king here being the best at conducting heat, aluminum comes in second place. followed by Stainless steel. Cast iron is the worst

-Is it heat reactive?
This is the ability for the material to respond quickly to a change in heat. For instance, if you use cast iron and it’s hot, even if you close the burner, it will remain hot for 20minutes. It can be a good thing but also a bad one. Copper on the other hand will respond quickly and drop or gain temperature very quickly. 

This is why you have the concept of ply. You basically combine 2 or 3(up to 7) materials in layers to make use of each best property. The most common one is to combine stainless steel with aluminum. Aluminum is a better conductor of heat but reacts to food, so by layering it with stainless you have the best of both worlds. Stainless is also super durable and easier to maintain & clean.

A safe choice is All-Clad 3 ply, made in the USA ( I heard they now make some in China and would avoid those), not cheap but affordable and of decent quality. I have owned my all-clad for ~15 years and they are still as good. 

If you do opt for this option, make sure to track pricing. You could pay 100$ or 300$ for the same All-Clad cookware, so you need to look out when there is a sale. 

Fun fact: My most expensive pan (5 ply) warped within the first year of use.  

Cast Iron

The top choice for searing a piece of meat. Those pans are heavy and thick so they take a long while to accumulate heat. When you drop a piece of meat, even if its cold, the pan is so hot that it won’t decrease its temperature too much; that’s a pro but be wary that if you remove the pan from the burner it will remain hot for a while and keep cooking your food. Ideal for slow cooking

You will need to season it every now and then  

Copper

Copper 😍
It’s so pretty. For over 10 years I have been looking at them and drooling yet I still don’t own one. Why? Many reasons

Price: Copper is super expensive, expect to pay at least 300$ for a 10″ pan
Maintenance: High maintenance, copper tarnish and you constantly need to clean it
Usage: Copper is not super useful on an electric range, if you have gas it’s a different story. So spending that much money on something where you won’t be able to actually benefit from its superior heat conductivity is such a turn-off (again I have an electric range).

Conclusion

If you spend a decent amount of money on cookware it should last you a lifetime. Spending a lot of money doesn’t guarantee you the best results. 

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