The good news is that you don’t need to be a cookware expert to buy a great set of pots and pans. I started this website to help ordinary people find the best cookware set for them.
What Makes the Best Cookware?
Most people start their search for cookware expecting it to be an easy task. After all, how complicated can pots and pans be? Unfortunately however, upon closer inspection, the answer becomes clear; surprisingly complicated.
You probably started your search looking for something both new and non stick. But then the questions start. Should you go by price? Or should you go by brand? And what exactly does hard anodized mean?
Before you know it, you’ve got a list of criteria, a list of questions, and you can’t really make heads nor tails of either. The purpose of this site is to guide you through the confusion of cookware shopping.
I’ll start with the key factors to consider when selecting cookware.
First off, we have heat conductivity. The more conductive your cookware is, the more evenly your food will cook. High levels of heat conductivity also ensure that your cookware responds almost immediately to temperature changes on your hob.
Unfortunately, some materials do a better job of this than others.
Another important factor to consider is reactivity. Certain cookware materials have a nasty habit of reacting with certain foods. For example, fry some tomatoes into an aluminium pan and the resulting dish will taste surprisingly acidic.
Chemical reactivity doesn’t just affect the taste of your food either. In some cases, it can lead to trace amounts of your cookware actually being absorbed into the food that you eat. And it doesn’t take a food scientist to realise that this may pose a health risk.
If, like me, you’re a little on the lazy side, don’t ignore maintenance needs when choosing cookware. Some materials, such as stainless steel, require nothing more than regular cleaning. Other materials, such as copper, require a little more elbow grease.
If you consider housework more of a chore, than a hobby, try to choose cookware that requires as little maintenance as possible.
Have you ever noticed that some types of cookware seem to last forever whereas others begin to lose their shine within a matter of months? Contrary to popular belief, this is rarely the fault of the manufacturer, but rather the fault of the actual cookware material.
Finally, we have price, in case you haven’t noticed, the best cookware sets can certainly get a little pricy. If you’ve got the cash, high quality cookware can make for an excellent investment.
If you’re on a tight budget however, there are quite a few cookware sets that will stand the test of time despite being a little less flashy. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re serious about your food, it’s well worth spending as much as you can afford.
The Best Cookware Materials
If there’s one thing that you don’t want to get wrong when choosing cookware, it’s your choice of material.
Stainless Steel Cookware
- Pros: Long lasting, non reactive to all foods, widely available, wide range of prices, with/without non stick coating, many sets are induction ready.
- Cons: Poor heat conduction unless combined with another material.
- Best Brands: Cuisinart, Chefs Essentials, Demeyere. You can learn more about the best stainless steel cookware here.
- Pros: Best heat conductor on the market, responds almost instantly to temperature changes.
- Cons: Highly expensive, reactive to most foods unless lined with another material, often requires extensive polishing, may discolour over high heats, unsuitable for induction.
- Best Brands: Mauviel
- Pros: Heats evenly, retains heat well, aesthetically appealing, stain and odour resistant provided it’s coated in glaze or enamel.
- Cons: Expensive, takes a while to heat up, not widely available, will break if dropped.
- Best Brands: Revol, Emile Henry. You can learn more about the best ceramic cookware here.
- Pros: Excellent heat conductor, lightweight, wide range of prices, comes both with and without a non stick coating.
- Cons: Reactive to acidic foods if uncoated, especially lightweight pots may warp when heated, unsuitable for induction.
- Best Brands: Tramontina
Hard Anodized Aluminium Cookware
- Pros: Excellent heat conductor, highly durable, corrosion resistant, non reactive, usually suitable for induction.
- Cons: Hand wash only, usually very dark and therefore unappealing to some.
- Best Brands: Cuisinart, Calphalon, Mauviel
Cast Aluminium Cookware
- Pros: Excellent heat conductor, stronger and thicker than regular aluminium, usually suitable for induction.
- Cons: More expensive, reactive if uncoated, some users report hot spots, sometimes hand wash only.
- Best Brands: Scanpan, Swiss Diamond.
Carbon Steel Cookware
- Pros: Perfect for high heat cooking such as stir-fry’s, very good heat conduction, highly durable, almost non stick when correctly seasoned.
- Cons: Needs to be seasoned, must be washed by hand, must be dried to prevent rust, reactive to acidic foods.
- Best Brands: Lodge, Mauviel.
Cast Iron Cookware
- Pros: Most durable cookware on the market, well known for being passed down from one generation to another, surprisingly affordable, heats evenly(albeit slowly), good heat retention, non stick when seasoned, ideal for high heat cooking, often used outdoors.
- Cons: Very heavy, hand wash only, may rust if not carefully dried, reactive to acidic foods.
- Best Brands: Lodge
Enamelled Cast Iron Cookware
- Pros: Heats evenly (albeit slowly), good heat retention, naturally non stick, often lighter than regular cast iron, suitable for induction.
- Cons: Needs to be seasoned, reactive with acidic foods, usually hand wash only, may rust if not carefully dried.
- Best Brands: De Buyer, Lodge
Types of Cookware
Saucepan: Probably the most common type of cookware, a saucepan is simply a heavy pan with tall sides and a flat base. Saucepans are typically used for any form of cooking that requires a large amount of water. The most popular sizes are three and four quarts.
Fry Pan: A fry pan, also known as a skillet, is a lighter pan with a flat base and low sides that flare outwards. Fry pans are designed to allow maximum air circulation and easy flipping/turning. They are typically used for frying, searing and browning. The most popular sizes are eight to twelve inches in diameter.
Sauté Pan: Often confused with a fry pan, a sauté pan has a flat bottom and moderately tall vertical sides. Typically measuring around four quarts, sauté pans are ideal for any kind of cooking that requires frequent tossing, shaking or stirring.
Dutch Oven: A large pot, typically made from cast iron whose vertical sides are almost as long as its diameter. Designed for long, slow cooking, Dutch ovens are ideal for preparing meals such as stews, roasts and casseroles. The most popular sizes are five and seven quarts and the best manufacturer would have to be Le Creuset.
Grill Pan: A light, rectangular pan with a ridged cooking surface. Grill pans are designed to replicate the grates found on outdoor grills. They are primarily used for high temperature tasks such as grilling and searing.