your hardest-working and most-frequently-used kitchen tools
If yours is a typical family, you likely cook something at least once a
day, using at least one pot or pan. Most people probably cook even more often
or use multiple pans to prepare a meal. This makes cookware among the most often-used
items in your home. The good news is that in the past few years manufacturers
have started making high-quality cookware sets without the high-end prices you
used to have to pay. Of course, there's still pricey options like All-Clad, but
there are also plenty of choices that give All-Clad cookware a run for its (or
set of cookware costs less than buying individual pieces. Cookware
sets are great for initially equipping a kitchen, or to replace a set that's
outlived its useful life. 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 report.
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.
Types of Cookware
Stainless Steel Cookware
This type is what most professional chefs use, and it's a popular option for the home cook as well. Stainless cookware wrapped around an aluminum core (or "clad") 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. It also has 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.
These pans are a must 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.
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.
One big problem with some of the hype surrounding the safety, or
perceived lack thereof, of all these types of cookware is that some "experts"
are using questionable science as a platform to sell their own
"safer" products. We find that to be a particularly ubiquitous issue
with ceramic pans; we do not recommend any ceramic cookware in this report
because they get dismal feedback in user reviews and in unbiased professional
tests. The same holds true for so-called "green" or "healthy" cookware pieces as
they often get very poor reviews for performance and many of the claims of these
being healthier options have been debunked, or simply have not been proved
satisfactorily. One example is the heavily-promoted (Est. $22),
which we review as part of our coverage.
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; there is no reason to do so unless you're making a
stir fry, in which case we recommend 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 Skillet "
Some manufactures 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 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 Cook's Illustrated, the Good
Housekeeping Research Institute, ConsumerReports.org, TheSweethome.com 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 inner