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The Ultimate Guide to Cookware [2021]

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Guide to Cookware

Choosing cookware that suits your kitchen and cooking style is an important decision. Many of us cook in the kitchen at least once a day, so our pots and pans will get used hundreds of times each year. We’ve created a handy cookware guide so that you can find the best cookware for your home.

What to Consider when Buying Cookware

Before buying a cookware set we recommend checking your existing cookware. Do you already have a decent set of pots and pans but need to replace that wok with a rusted base? Forget buying the set and simply replace the damaged piece.

Budget

It is important to establish a maximum spend and then see what you can afford. Don’t put yourself under financial pressure to pay off a kitchen set that is too expensive.

Durability

You’d think everyone would say it is. But is it? If you’re buying for your summer house and the cookware will get used a few times a year, durability doesn’t play such an important role in the decision. Also, if you replace them every year then a long-lasting, high-quality set may not be needed.

Maintenance

Some pans need more love and care than others. A copper or cast iron skillet will provide great benefits when cooking, but will you remember to oil it? If not, a stainless steel set that requires minimal maintenance might be a better option.

Cooking style

Many of us tend to have a method of cooking that gets used frequently: boiling, searing, slow cooking, blanching. If you frequently slow cook casseroles because they’re simple to make, choosing copper pots that are unlined might not be in your best interests. Copper can add an unpleasant bitter flavor when slow cooking. Do you love to fry food? Consider cast iron for evenly distributed heat that results in delicious fried food.

Appearance

Cookware is used every day by most of us so looks count. If you have a large traditional homestead kitchen, then copper that gets hung from hooks has great eye appeal. Are you living in a funky new apartment and want to impress your guests with molecular gastronomy? Add some bright-colored pots to reinforce your creative flare.

Cooktop type

Magnetic cookware is a good choice if you have an induction cooktop.

Types of cookware

Do you know a pot from a pan? How about a saute pan from a saucier? Find out about how different cookware types can be used in your kitchen.

Braiser

Braiser

A shallow-sided, wide pan with a heavy base and a lid that fits securely. An excellent pan for searing substantial pieces of meat. Ideal for steaming (braising) food in the oven at a low temperature as well as frying or even using for casseroles.

Deep Skillet

Deep SkilletA deep skillet is similar to a traditional skillet, only it’s deeper. This pan is ideal for frying, roasting, baking, or stewing. It is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used for most cooking techniques.

Frying Pan

Fry PanOne of the most common pieces of equipment in many homes, frying pans are the go-to tool for many recipes. They are shallow with long handles and are useful for keeping hands a safe distance when frying food in hot oil.

French Skillet

French SkilletA French skillet is best used to saute and brown food rather than frying at a high heat. Although it is similar to a frying pan, the French skillet does a better job of keeping pan liquids from splashing out.

Wok

WokA wok is a large, bowl-shaped pan that originated in China and is now a popular kitchen tool in many parts of the world. It can have a flat bottom or a rounded one which requires a special stand.

Grill Pan

Grill PanA grill pan is a shallow pan with ridges to give your food that outdoor grilled look. The ridges allow the fat to escape so that the meat doesn’t cook in its own juices. This is the optimal tool for an indoor barbecue.

Saucepan

Saucepan

A common pot that most households use. The saucepan has a long handle and is deep with vertical sides – designed for braising, boiling, and making soups or sauces. Be sure to check out our guide to making sauces.

Saucier

SaucierA saucier’s main purpose is reducing sauces, although it’s also good for risotto, porridge, and lots more. It is a saucepan with a wider mouth, walls angling outwards, and a rolled lip. The design of a saucier makes stirring liquids a little easier than a saucepan.

Saute Pan

Saute PanA saute pan has a flat bottom with vertical sides. It is similar to a frying pan but offers more surface area and volume than a similar-sized frying pan.

French Oven

French Oven

A French oven or Dutch oven will offer versatility. It allows the user to cook on a stovetop, then transfer to the oven. Once the dish is ready, it can be transferred straight to the table. French ovens are a useful option for slow-cooking soups, meat, and casseroles.

Stock Pot

Stock PotA stockpot is a large, high walled pot ideal for cooking soup, stock, and broth. They’re designed to heat quickly and transfer heat evenly for prolonged periods when simmering.

Soup Pot

Soup PotA soup pot is very similar to a stockpot; however, its walls are not as high. As the name suggests, it is designed for slowly cooking soups that can then be transferred straight to the table and ladled out to each bowl.

Roasting Pan

Roaster PanA roasting pan is designed to fit large cuts of meat for roasting in the oven. They often come with a rack that allows the meat fat to drip through.

Double Boiler

Double BoilerA double boiler (Bain-Marie) has two pots: the lower is filled with water and boiled over the stovetop. An upper pot contains food that can be heated with less harsh heat. It is great for melting chocolate!

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Kitchen Quote

What is the Best Cookware Material?

Choosing the right material for your pots and pans is one of the biggest decisions you need to make. Check out our comparison guide of copper, cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel, glass, non-stick, enamel, and silicone cooking sets.

Copper

Let’s start our review of cookware material with the best. Nothing beats copper in the looks department, and it will demand a prominent position in your kitchen.

Copper cookware isn’t just about appearance though. It is excellent for conducting heat and if you’re serious about cooking, you should put this option on the shortlist.

Some people consider copper as dangerous to use when cooking due to toxicity. But most modern copper pots and pans are lined with food-safe metals such as tin so you don’t have to worry.

Copper Pot

What you should consider

Price Factor: Very high
Safe for: Oven and stovetop

The Good

  • Amazing at conducting heat
  • Looks stunning in the kitchen
  • Minimal pre-heating required

Potential pitfalls

  • High maintenance to keep the shine
  • Expensive for those on a budget
  • Not compatible with induction cooktops

Cast Iron

Cast iron cookware is versatile. It’s at home on a stovetop, in the oven, or even thrust over a harsh open fire. Nothing phases cast iron, so long as it is maintained regularly.

A big complaint about cast iron is that it rusts and chips over time. However, a little oil rubbing followed by some heat will create a layer of protection that’ll keep your cookware in top shape. A well-maintained cast iron pan will provide its owner with a trouble-free cooking surface.

Tip: Enameled cast iron is a good option if you want a solid type of pan that doesn’t require maintenance.

Cast Iron

What you should consider

Price Factor: Relatively cheap, excellent value.
Safe for: Oven, stovetop, fire, grill.

The Good

  • Can be used anywhere – from stove to fire
  • Tough and hard to damage
  • Once seasoned it is non-stick
  • Excellent for searing meat

Potential pitfalls

  • Can crack or develop rust without maintenance
  • Requires effort to heat pans evenly
  • Not dishwasher-safe
  • Acidic foods can react with cast iron

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel cookware is a solid contender in the kitchen. It is durable and will allow you to sear, blanch, and fry for decades if treated well.

An important feature to look for is whether your pots and pans will have an encapsulated base. This offers a layer of other material between two sheets of stainless steel. An encapsulated surface conducts heat much better and will improve your cooking. The heat conductivity of an all stainless steel set won’t be as effective and they are usually the cheapest option for good reason.

Stainless steel looks good and doesn’t require the regular oiling that some other cooking sets require. If you want quality cookware without any tedious maintenance then it’s a good option.

stainless steel pots

What you should consider

Price Factor: From cheap to mid-range
Safe for: Oven or stovetop

The Good

  • Cheaper than copper
  • Non-reactive material
  • Tough and easy maintenance
  • Rust resistant

Potential pitfalls

  • Doesn’t conduct heat as well as copper
  • Doesn’t cope well frying some food like eggs
  • Sets without an encapsulated base can lack quality

Carbon Steel

Like a good wine, carbon steel tends to get better with age. Seasoning your pans with oil regularly will bring out the best in them.

Carbon steel is a lot like cast iron, except that they’re lighter and usually have a non-stick coating. This is because carbon steel is made up of approximately 99% iron and 1% steel. A good combination for making excellent cookware.

The extra benefits offered by carbon steel do come with a price tag though. Expect to pay up to double the price of cast iron cookware.

Carbon steel pot

What you should consider

Price Factor: Mid-range
Safe for: Oven and stovetop

The Good

  • Lighter than cast iron
  • Can take high heat
  • An efficient heat conductor
  • Durable, long-lasting

Potential pitfalls

  • Requires maintenance
  • Can develop rust and chips
  • Can react to highly acidic and alkaline food

Glass

Glass is a handy type of material for those cooks who enjoy oven baking. Pies and casseroles are the ideal matches for glass bakeware. The beauty of cooking with glass is that you can see the layers of food, making it easier to decide when the meal is cooked.

Dishes made from glass take a little longer to heat up than metal. On the flip side, they take longer to cool down so your meal will stay warm for longer.

Keep in mind that most glass cookware doesn’t handle extreme heat well and is prone to cracking if you boil water in it.

glass casserole dish

What you should consider

Price Factor: Low-Medium
Safe for: Oven

The Good

  • Excellent heat conduction
  • Doesn’t react with any foods
  • Cook and store directly in fridge
  • Low cost
  • Transparent – can see food easily

Potential pitfalls

  • Not recommended for high temperatures
  • Not suitable for broiling
  • Temperature doesn’t distribute well
  • Relatively easy to break

Non-Stick

Hard-anodized nonstick pots and pans are a brilliant option thanks to their price, durability, and anti-stick surface. Even foods that are notorious for sticking, like eggs, slide off effortlessly.

When cooking stir-fries and other dishes cooked on a high heat, watch that you don’t damage the coating. Some brands don’t handle excessive heat well. Check the manual to work out what your new cookware can handle.

Non stick fry pan

What you should consider

Price Factor: Low-mid range
Safe for: Stovetop and some pans are suitable for ovens.

The Good

  • Easy to wash
  • Even the stickiest foods don’t stick
  • Cook with less fat
  • Doesn’t react with certain foods

Potential pitfalls

  • Can’t use metal utensils when cooking
  • High heat can damage the non-stick coating
  • Cheap pans tend to have a short lifespan

Enamel

Although enamel cookware may not provide the luxurious look that copper offers, it is still a popular option in many households. Depending on the brand, enamel often comes in a wide array of colors and designs. Whether your kitchen has an old-fashioned homestead look to it, bohemian or Hollywood glam, there’s a set that’ll fit your look.

Enamel cookware offers the benefits of cast iron, only you don’t have to worry about the maintenance. If you love slow cooking with tomato bases then enamel is a good option as it doesn’t react with acidic ingredients.

Enamel Pot

What you should consider

Price Factor: Mid-range
Safe for: Oven and stovetop

The Good

  • Maintenance such as seasoning isn’t required
  • Durable – you’ll get years out of your purchase
  • Looks impressive – color coordinate your kitchen!
  • The coating is non-reactive

Potential pitfalls

  • Doesn’t have a non-stick coating
  • More expensive than cast iron

Silicone

Silicone is an excellent option when baking food like cakes, muffins, and bread. This material is flexible, making it easy to turn out baked items onto a wire rack without a lot of headaches. Savory dishes like meatloaf are also perfect for cooking in silicone molds.

Silicone bakeware comes in a wide range of colors so finding a design that suits your kitchen shouldn’t be difficult.

Keep in mind that molds with intricate patterns can be time-consuming to clean. You’re best to stick with simple cake and muffin shapes if this is something you want to avoid.

Silicone baking

What you should consider

Price Factor: Low
Safe for: Oven

The Good

  • Easy to turn our baked food without it sticking
  • Lightweight and simple to store
  • Relatively low cost

Potential pitfalls

  • Not overly durable
  • Can be fiddly to clean

Cookware brands

Best cookware brands

You’ll discover there is a fantastic range of cookware on the market, but it can be daunting trying to pick the right set. We’ve narrowed it down to our 6 top brands. They are experienced manufacturers of cookware and have built a reputation for producing products that deliver.

Cuisinart

Cuisinart Logo

 

 

Price: Middle of the road
Best for: Ceramic, stainless steel, nonstick

Circulon logo

 

 

Price: Middle of the road
Best for: Non-stick

Calphalon logo

 

 

Price: Mid-high
Best for: Ceramic, non-stick, and enamel

Anolon Logo

 

 

 

Price: High
Best for: Stainless steel, copper, non-stick.

Faberware logo

 

 

Price: Low
Best for: Non-stick, stainless steel

KitchenAid logo

 

 

Price: Mid-high
Best for: Cast iron, stainless steel, non-stick, enamel

Summing up

If it has been several years since you last invested in a new cookware set, you may be in for a surprise. Innovation has led to some impressive technology that provides lightweight, easy to clean, non-stick pots and pans.

There are still traditional options like copper and cast iron that have stood the test of time. Remember to keep them maintained and you won’t be disappointed.

For most of us, cookware is equipment that will get used regularly. Like a quality knife set or stand mixer, paying extra for the best pots and pans sounds like a big up-front cost. But with this investment comes the benefit of quality cookware that will serve you for many years and will help make better food.

Good luck with your search for the best cookware. If you’ve stumbled onto an amazing new product get in contact and let us know.

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