Splash-out or save on your new cookware set?
Here’s a quick guide to help you choose new cookware, and whether it’s better for go expensive over the cheaper options.
Cookware prices largely reflect the quality of materials and design. The most common are made of copper, aluminium, stainless steel or cast iron; each handles heat differently and all have advantages and drawbacks.
Copper cookware is valued for its superior heat conductivity and lustre, making it ideal for sauteing, but it’s also the most costly. It also tarnishes easily, requiring constant care and cleaning.
Copper is reactive, especially with extremely acidic foods such as vinegar, citrus and tomatoes, and can leach into foods, causing diarrhoea, vomiting or nausea.
For this very reason, unlined copper cookware should be avoided, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Fortunately, most copper cookware is lined with stainless steel, which is durable and safe to use.
Aluminium cookware offers the best heat conduction next to copper, and it’s less expensive. Its major drawback is that it scratches easily and wears down faster than other metal cookware because it is a soft metal.
According to some experts, a small amount of the metal can also leech into foods, particularly if acidic or salty foods are stored in aluminium cookware, or if the cookware is pitted or has deep scratches in it. Aluminium cookware is considered safe to use, however, although you may want to choose a different kind of cookware if you plan to use it frequently.
Anodized aluminium cookware undergoes an electro-chemical process that seals the aluminium with a durable, non-stick surface. It retains the conductivity of regular aluminium cookware, resists scratching, and is far less reactive with salty or acidic foods, thus reducing the chance of leaching.
Stainless Steel Pots and Pans
Stainless steel cookware is a good utilitarian choice based on price, performance and durability. What you’ll pay depends on what’s bonded to the steel to enhance its conductivity.
Some have a copper disc sandwiched between layers of steel; less expensive and less effective is a layer of aluminium.
Stainless steel cookware also frequently has a copper-clad to the bottom exterior to improve heat conductivity. Unbonded steel cookware is cheaper, but it is generally an unwise choice because it conducts heat poorly and can warp with prolonged heat exposure.
Cast iron cookware is a low-cost workhorse that’s also non-reactive with foods. Once it’s seasoned and treated with care, its heat-retaining density delivers results that no other cookware can, especially when it comes to browning.
A big drawback is its weight – you may have to use two hands to heft a large skillet. If not dried thoroughly, it will rust and corrode. Most manufacturers don’t recommend washing with any type of soap or detergent, just hot water and elbow grease.
After it’s been dried diligently, it takes a light coating of cooking oil or spray before being gently stored.
More on Cookware Choices and Safety
Clemson University’s Home and Garden Information Centre conducted a review of these and other kinds of cookware to address health and safety issues. It’s a worthy read if you have concerns about cookware.
Related: Best Pans for an Induction Hob
Weight is extremely important when shopping for cookware.
In general, the thicker the metal, the better the cookware. Handle construction is also important. Look for stainless steel handles that have been bolted or riveted to the side of the cookware; avoid plastic handles that have been glued on, attached with screws or spot welded. Lids, whether made of metal or glass, should fit snugly.
What to Spend
If you plan to cook on a regular basis, or if you want everything from a small saucepan to a large stockpot at your disposal, invest in a set of premium cookware by such respected makers as Salter, Russell Hobbs, Tefal and John Lewis.
If you rarely cook or typically use only one item like a skillet or saucepan, you’re probably better off buying your cookware piece by piece.
Do a little comparison shopping, and you can come away with an all-purpose stainless steel cookware set that includes covered saucepans, skillets and a stockpot for about £100.
With the money you save, you can splurge on some gourmet ingredients and whip up something heavenly in your new cookware. Bon appetit!
Cheap Loose Pot Handles
Safety in the kitchen includes maintaining safe cookware. It’s a good practice to periodically inspect your pots and pans for signs of handle deterioration or loose screws. When your pot is filled to the brim with a simmering soup, is not the best time to notice the handle is loose.
Cookware handles that are attached by screws tend to loosen over time. Leaving them loose is a recipe for disaster and handles should be repaired once this problem is detected.
It’s easy to repair loose handles – a simple clockwise tightening of the screw is usually sufficient. However, these repairs should be done manually with a screwdriver and not with a power driver.
Since it may be difficult to control the speed, too much drive to the screw can cause cheap plastic pot handles to crack under pressure. Acrylic pot handles deteriorate after repeated top stove and oven use and can become quite brittle, increasing the risk of cracking.
Cracked handles create a severe hazard with limited repair options. Never use a pot with a worn or cracked handle – for obvious reasons.
If a handle does ever come off, your manufacturer should be able to provide a replacement or if the pot was cheap, simply replace it with something a bit more premium and expensive so that it will last longer.
So there you have it, the expense of your cookware will be down to the materials that they’re made from, and how they’re put together. Both cheap and expensive cookware will do an equally good job at heating foods, the only difference is that more expensive pots and pans will last a little longer and have a more premium look and feel to them.