Choosing cookware - a guide for UK shoppers.
There is a huge choice of cookware on the market today. You can buy cooking sets in a range of materials including:
In addition, you can choose to have a non-stick cooking surface. In this guide, I will discuss the pros and cons of each of the options above.
Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron is a traditional material that has been used to make pots and pans for hundreds of years. Iron is a very good conductor of heat - better than stainless steel. You can either buy the pans enamelled or not enamelled. The enamelled pans are dishwasher safe and will not rust. However, the traditional cast iron pans are harder work to maintain - they cannot be put into a dishwasher and they will need to be "seasoned" with cooking oil in order to create a non-stick surface.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Cookware made from stainless steel is resistant to rusting and easier to clean than cast iron. However, it does not conduct heat as well as cast iron, increasing cooking times. Sometimes manufacturers line stainless steel pans with alumiminium in order to increase cooking times and improve the heat distribution.
Copper cookware is generally less popular than cast iron or stainless steel, but has made something of a renaissance of late. Copper is a great heat conductor. However, copper can react with food, so modern copper pans are lined with stainless steel to avoid this. Specialist unlined copper pans are still available for certain applications, such as jam making.
Non-stick pans are coated with a non-stick material made from PTFE, "polytetrafluorethylene", which helps prevent food from sticking to the surface of the pan. The best known non-stick coating is called Teflon, made by Dupont, but there are other manufacturers also. The coatings are available in different qualities. The better quality pans with have more layers of non-stick coating than the cheaper varieties. Avoid using metal cooking utensils with non-stick pans.