Types of Cookware
Stainless Steel Cookware
If you peek into just about any professional kitchen, you'll find stainless steel pots and pans sizzling and bubbling away on just about every burner of every stove. Made from stainless steel wrapped (or "clad") around an aluminum or copper core, this type of cookware heats evenly and does a superior job of browning food. On the downside, it can be more difficult to clean, and you'll need to use more oil or fat to keep some foods from sticking. Getting the best results with stainless steel cookware requires a bit of a learning curve, but avid cooks say once you get it, you'll never go back. Stainless cookware can also scratch or become discolored when heated to temperatures beyond 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nonstick pans are a must-have for every kitchen. They prevent foods from clinging so you can cook with less fat or oil. Nonstick cookware also saves time on clean up and, if you're watching your fat intake, you can cook almost any food in a nonstick pan without using a lot of fat, and without the food sticking to the pan. Nonstick cookware ranges from extremely cheap, thin metal with an obvious coating to higher-quality, more expensive types like anodized aluminum.
Cast Iron Cookware
This is the most versatile cookware around, as it can go from stovetop to oven, to grill, to smoker, to campfire. We would venture to guess that nearly every kitchen has at least one cast iron piece for baking cornbread or stovetop grilling -- and if it doesn't, it should. Cast iron needs to be seasoned and you should go very light on the soap (hint: you don't need to use soap at all), but a well-seasoned cast iron pan will have a naturally stick-resistant surface and can last forever. The drawbacks to cast iron are that it can be very heavy, and, while it holds heat well, it does not heat as quickly as some other types of pans. You also have to allow plenty of cool-down time.
set of cookware costs less than buying individual pieces. Many
experts turn up their noses at cookware sets, saying it's better to buy pans
individually. However, most kitchens are perfectly well-served by buying a
cookware set. If you do buy a set, you'll most likely use some items in your
collection more than others; you also might want to add other, specialty pieces
that aren't typically included, such as a Dutch oven or roasting pan. Many
people also like to purchase an additional, 12-inch skillet since they are so
versatile and can be used as everyday pans for one-pot dishes, or just for
preparing larger batches of food; we cover 12-inch skillets in a separate
for induction/glass cooktops is becoming more common as
manufacturers of electric stoves move away from coil technology and into smooth
cooktops, it's important to be sure you choose cookware that works with your
cooktop. For example, induction cooktops will only work with cookware that has
a layer on the bottom with induction properties. Stainless steel and cast iron
work with induction cooktops, copper and glass will not. Some aluminum pans
will also work, but only if they have a magnetic layer -- the best way to tell
if a pot or pan is induction compatible is to see if a magnet will stick to the
bottom. If it does, it will work with an induction stove. Smooth glass cooktops
that are not induction cooktops will work with any type of cookware, but you
need to be a bit more careful when using heavy pans, like cast iron, as they
may damage the glass cooktop if you scrape the hot pan across the cooktop.
safety and health issues
In recent years there has been a lot of focus on the possible harmful
effects of cookware, particularly those with nonstick coatings. We are not
going to dive into this contentious debate because our research has found that
there are people worried about every single type of cookware out there -- not
just nonstick. Short of cooking over a fire with a stick (which has its own health
and safety issues), there's no way to completely avoid your food touching
something that has been manufactured.
Instead of worrying, do this: Purchase the best cookware you can afford.
Avoid cheap coatings that might decompose, emitting potentially harmful
chemicals into your food or the air. Use the right cookware for the right task.
Do not cook at super high heats in any type of coated cookware; use stainless
steel or, for stir fry, purchase a wok. Do not put your pots and pans in the
dishwasher. If your nonstick cookware is scratched or damaged, replace it. It's
as simple as that.
Finding The Best Cookware
"The Best Cookware Set"
"Best Nonstick Cookware"
Some manufacturers make dedicated cookware sets and you can find a good
number of reviews for them. Others don't make or sell cookware sets, rather,
they package individual pieces into sets, then sell those sets exclusively at
various retail outlets. This is why you can't always compare set to set, but
you can usually compare how the pieces themselves perform individually, and
extrapolate the performance and value of each set from there.
Our top-rated cookware sets are chosen based on cooking performance, ease
of use, durability and appearance. To evaluate cookware performance and ease of
use, we consulted professional tests conducted by TheSweethome.com Cook's
Illustrated, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, ConsumerReports.org, and
Chowhound.com. Then, to gain insight into long-term durability that can't be
measured in a test lab, we analyzed thousands of user reviews from retail sites
such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Macys.com. The result of our research is
the best cookware on the market; one of these is sure to help you release your