Quality Cookware Designs and Choices
There are many types of cookware to consider. Many methods are used in designing pots and pans in our modern age. Not all cookware is of the same quality, there are several types and combinations of materials used in creating the best pots and pans. That is the subject of this article, and my intention is to explain modern cookware choices.
Celebrity cookware is generally of high-quality design and construction because reputations are necessarily attached to the product. I will recommend ‘Emerilware’ made of enamel-coated heavy gauge cast aluminum. As a second choice ‘Rocco Cookware’ is again made of heavy cast aluminum that is porcelain coated. For mid-range choices in celebrity cookware, I will recommend Martha Stewards ‘ Everyday’ and Wolfgang Puck’s ‘Bistro’ collections, which are intermediate choices. And, because I am an old school type, I’ll also recommend buying good Silicon Cast Iron pots pans and skillets at the lower cost end. I like them because they do have superior heat distribution capabilities and will last a lifetime.
Economy is not the only consideration when choosing the right kitchenware. Celebrity endorsed pots and pans are not always an indicator of quality, we must also consider construction methods and the materials used. The pleasing appearance of cookware is not always a guarantee of a quality cooking experience. You should also give consideration to the things which follow:
Even Distribution And Conduction Of Heat
Many types of materials are used in the construction of pots and pans. The ability to conduct and distribute heat are important qualities. This ability is directly related to the construction materials used in the manufacture of the cookware.
Copper is the best conductor and distributor of heat. It’s used for both the primary (all copper) or the secondary (bottom only) construction material. Pots and Pans made entirely of copper are usually very expensive. All pure copper cookware is commonly lined with stainless steel, or porcelain/enamel. However, copper-clad options perform very well in conduction and heat distribution tests.
Here are several rules that can be applied in determining whether a cookware construction is of a quality type:
- Aesthetic appearance. Is the cookware pleasing to the eye and would you be proud to own it and have it seen in your kitchen.
- Do the lids fit tightly and is there a separate lid for each item. There are several ways to measure this. A lid for every item is my choice, however, lids that are designed to be shared and that fit tightly will require less storage space.
- Is the cookware made of quality metal products as I have discussed below.
- If the cookware is clad, what method is used to attach dissimilar metals together? Spot welding is not a good choice, but casting in a metal pour is great. Casting is done when a copper disk is shallow drawn on a hydraulic press, that base piece is then joined by placing it in the casting mold at the base and a new pour of molten stainless or cast aluminum is deposited. This creates the overall pot or pan, which has the ability to transfer heat better because the two metals are very closely bonded together.
- How thick is the base of the pot or pan? Thicker is better, 3/8″ to 1/2″ is best.
- How are the handles attached to each item? (Weld brackets and fasteners are best)
- Are the pots and pans designed to be stacked together to provide for easy storage?
- If enamel coated, is the enamel a good quality low porosity type.
- If porcelain-coated is the porcelain of high quality and low porosity also.
Here are some best options to follow:
- Copper-clad surgical stainless steel with a non-stick cooking surface. I prefer a textured non-stick cooking surface for personal reasons. A textured surface allows you to saute, fry or steam foods using less oils or water. Food browns easily because heat distribution is even throughout the cooking surface.
- Cast aluminum cookware with a copper-clad bottom is the second best option in cookware. For appearance reasons, this type of cookware is coated with tough enamel. Enamel can be interior or exterior. Some designs offer both interior and exterior coatings. Fully coated cookware is the best because aluminum oxides have an ability to add undesirable flavor to delicate foods. Heat distribution is excellent with this type of construction. This enamel coating is commonly available in many colors and patterns allowing you to choose something that pleases you. These will always look good on your table or stove too.
- Heavy-duty cast aluminum cookware, that is coated with low porosity porcelain is the next choice. These have superior heat conduction and distribution ability. Both enamel and porcelain have a tight-grained surface characteristic offering less porosity in the cooking surface. But not all porcelain/enamel is equal. Like other products, the quality is related to the manufacturer of the cookware. The less porous the surface, the less it will allow foods to stick. Much like Teflon, these surfaces are great, assuring a smooth cooking experience and easy cleanup afterward.
Surgical Stainless Steel Waterless Cookware
Surgical stainless steel waterless cookware is another option as a healthy food choice. These are made entirely of surgical stainless steel and have tight-fitting lids. These lids are designed for stack cooking on the stove-top or inside an oven. It also allows for easy storage in the kitchen cabinets and cupboards. Waterless cookware offers many benefits and a few drawbacks:
- This method of cooking cuts down on the need for water, oils, and grease. For a loved one who has health considerations such as HDL/LDL cholesterol, this method of food preparation is a worthy and healthful solution.
- Vegetables are always more tasteful and healthy when steamed. This waterless method allows you to use little or no water. You can effectively cook using foods natural water content. Food cooked in this way also keeps it’s natural and appealing color. We usually eat what appeals to the eye, so this speaks for itself. The natural vitamins and minerals are retained also, adding another healthful reason to buy this type of cookware.
- This type of cookware is also designed for stack cooking. The bottom of the cookware is made to fit inside the other pots or pans tightly. Once you start an item cooking on the bottom, you can stack another item on top to use heat from the lower cooking process. This works well when planned out properly. In some situations, the entire meal can be cooked on a single stove burner. This can help defray the cost of purchase, and save money throughout the lifetime of the cookware.
- Baking on the stove-top is also possible with this cookware design.
It is always best to clean these lids by hand. However, stainless cookware is very easy to clean as it also offers a tight-grained cooking surface.
Waterless stainless steel cookware is not for everyone. It is very different from the cooking methods we usually use. But, if healthy foods are a necessity for you or a loved one, this method of cooking is a good solution.
You do give up some flavors derived from the cooking methods we normally use. The loss occurs because this process negates the flavors that are derived from frying in oils, saute of vegetables and searing of meats. The cooking process is low heat 450 degrees, and the surface does not do well with higher heat frying or stir fry procedures. This is fundamentally a low heat cooking method.
Another drawback is the expense, though there are some economical aspects to using this method, those savings do not come at the time of purchase, but over time itself.
The Old Fashioned Way Of Cooking
Growing up, our family used “Cast Iron Cookware”. When I married we bought and used this type of kitchenware and stand by it today. The problem is breaking in the new pots and pans, which are unseasoned upon purchase from the store.
There is a process you must use in seasoning this cookware properly. You must not clean them in soap and water. Simply wash them under lukewarm water with a mild abrasive scrubber, just enough to get the food off. The wash should occur when the pans are hot off the stove-top. You must then dry them on the stove-top flame or electric element. Once dry, you oil them lightly to keep them from rusting.
If the economy is a consideration, this is the solution. Once cured and seasoned, these pans will last hundreds of years. When seasoned properly, they don’t stick either. I have cooked in these for many years, and have had no problems with eggs or meats sticking to them when properly seasoned and cured. Cast iron cookware has a very even heat distribution and browns foods well, giving a very appealing finish to your foods.
I hope you have learned something from my article. Cooking is a wonderful way to share time with the family. Children love to get involved, and they love it when dad cooks special meals for them. Sharing in this way brings a very special experience for you and the kids, and, your wife will be happy you are doing all the work for her from time to time. My father used to cook chili beans, sourdough bread, make pickles and cook full meals every Saturday. Those were special days for all of us kids. I remembered them when I married, and I shared the same experiences with my children. Believe me, kids love it when dad cooks for them. Give it a try, and you’ll see what I mean.