What factors entered into your last cookware procurement? Price is always a consideration. But were you influenced by the color, or that neat little glass lid that allows you to see inside? Or maybe the free utensils that came with it tempted you.
Much to the delight of purveyors, emotional inclinations and aesthetic trappings produce impulse purchases. How many of us recognize this kid of justification?
I just had to have that red, (my favorite color), tea kettle, even though I own a perfectly functional stainless steel one. Not that there is anything wrong with these yearnings. We are human and indulging our passions makes us feel good. But if you’re a serious cook, you will need much more than your desires to guide you toward the proper equipment.
The primary consideration in choosing cookware is the material it is constructed from. Copper is the most expensive but also the best heat conductor. Superior heat conduction allows for even cooking.
Some manufacturers combine different materials into one pot, taking advantage of each metals’ strengths. For example, you will find pans on the market made from stainless steel (a fair conductor but non-reactive) with a thick reinforced bottom containing aluminum (reactive but a better conductor).
The problem here is the heat conduction is not evenly dispersed throughout the pan and the bottom of your food will cook at an unacceptably disproportionate rate. You cannot braise food efficiently in such a pan. A pan with thorough and even heat conduction also eliminates “hot spots”.
You’re probably realizing at this point that there is no perfect pan. So which material can give us most of the qualities we desire with no glaring deficits? Stainless Steel is the ultimate compromise. It provides the mid range in price and heat conduction, is durable, easy to clean, and non-reactive. But wait, we can push the perfection curve even further.
To increase stainless steel’s heat conduction, aluminum is often sandwiched between an internal and external layer of stainless steel. In a high quality pan, this layer extends all the way up the sides, not just across the bottom. Now we have a pan that embraces everything with one exception: price. You can’t have it all, but when you do, you have to pay for it.
If you want the ultimate quality, and are willing to spend the money on a cookware set that will literally last a lifetime, than I would recommend All-Clad. No, I do not get free cookware from them for promoting their products. I am simply steering you toward the best cookware on the market.
I would recommend their stainless steel with aluminum interior. It’s heavy gauge stainless steel with good conductivity and top-notch construction. But you will pay over $500 for a set.
If you are not concerned with buying a matching set, it is possible to pick up a nice piece of All-Clad or pan of similar quality at stores such as TJMaxx, SteinMart, Tuesday Morning and Marshall’s. I don’t know about places like Big Lots, but that might be worth a look, as well.
Yes, the pan might have a slight ding or a scratch in it, but at a savings of generally at least 50%, you might be willing to overlook a small defect.
The bottom line is better cookware will cook your food better. The degree of your culinary zealousness, the type of cooking you do, and your wallet will determine your final choice. I suggest you acquire the best stainless steel set you can afford plus a few specialty pieces, (non-stick, cast iron, copper, etc.), for unique items best suited to these materials. Get the full information here.
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