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What to Look for in Cookware

Cookware Buyer's Guide

Heavy Metal’s Sour Notes

It is an undisputed fact that the quality of materials used to cook a meal can have an effect on the food’s taste and that should give any home chef pause, even if boiling an egg represents the upper band of the skill curve.

Cooking doesn’t always come easy and people shouldn’t have to face a built-in obstacle before the burners even come on. The easiest way to ensure that the best possible flavor can be achieved is to use high-quality cookware. Skill can be taught, but it’s impossible to teach a frying pan to not make food taste like metal … or worse.

Food-Prep Fundamentals

The quickest way to jumpstart a kitchen is with a cookware set. A set usually includes a few different-sized pots and pans, but some sets can rival the collection of a seasoned gourmand. A seven-piece set that includes a frying pan and three lidded pots is a great starter, but some people won’t feel complete unless they have a 30-piece set that definitively services every cookware need.

A modest and reliable set can be bought for well under $100 and should at least include these items:

  •   • A skillet / frying pan
  •   • A lidded sauce pan / sauté pan
  •   • A lidded stew pot or casserole pot

A set containing these items will allow anyone to prepare a very wide range of dishes and can be used to great effect by amateurs and professionals alike.

Friends of Flavor

There are a finite number of materials that treat food with respect when heated and those include cast iron, aluminum, stainless steel, porcelain, Terracotta and copper. Things to consider when choosing which materials are best include:

  •   • Weight
  •   • Durability
  •   • Performance
  •   • Heat distribution
  •   • Cost

Aluminum is very light, but not as durable as cast iron. Stainless steel is very durable, but foods will stick to it if left unattended. Copper-clad cookware has excellent heat distribution, but is more expensive … and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer for what’s best – if there were there wouldn’t be so many different kinds. The best thing to do is to shop according to need and desire. If the need is slight, first consider cost. If the desire is to excel in food preparation, think about performance first.

Dutch Ovens Wok Funny

Some cookware items have cultural roots that influence their design and use.

Dutch ovens are thought to have been designed by the Dutch and are known to have been used regularly by them for cooking stews and other dishes that require long cook times at low heat under a tight seal. Woks, on the other hand, are Asian in origin and are designed for cooking quickly at high heat.

Both of these cooking methods can be replicated using a casserole pot and a frying pan, respectively, but culinary experts are able to tease more flavors out of foods using these specially designed tools. Budget-conscious individuals who don’t spend much time in the kitchen may therefore want to stick to the basics, while those with a passion for cooking may want to explore these items.

Extra! Extra!

Then of course there are all the little things (and not so little things) that make a kitchen complete like roasting pans, pressure cookers, griddles and other goodies. Using these items don’t exactly require advanced knowledge – only a desire to branch out from the usual habit of turning on a burner and setting a pan on top of it.

Of course, all these wonderful contraptions are not guaranteed to make anyone’s food taste better, but it could be fairly said that it won’t make anything taste worse, especially with a little practice.

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