Monday, September 24, 2012

Quick Guide to the 4 Best Types of Cookware

Get the low-down on the best ways to use cast iron, aluminum, copper and stainless steel pots and pans.

Copper cookware hanging from hooks.
Copper cookware heats up quickly and evenly.

The world of cooking becomes much more effortless and enjoyable when you simply use the correct tools. Just using the right cookware can result in fewer burned meals (and egos!) and more delicious dishes to share.

Whether you are frying a frittata or simmering seafood chowder, use this guide to choose the best cookware for the task:

1. Cast Iron

Endurable enough to pass it on to your grandchildren. Excellent heat retention, ability to withstand high heats and durability make cast iron cookware a stand-out product. Season your cast iron regularly. Use flaxseed oil for the best nonstick surface.

Cons: Heats up slowly, heavy, high maintenance

Best For: Frying, searing, browning and slow-cooked stews

2. Aluminum

The most versatile cookware; lightweight and inexpensive. It conducts heat well and retains heat better than copper. For longer lasting aluminum cookware, buy pieces labeled as anodized.

Cons: Reacts with acids resulting in metallic-tasting dishes; nonanodized scratches easily

Best For: Everyday use

3. Copper

The choice of chefs. Copper cookware heats up very quickly and evenly. Purchase tin-lined pots and pans to avoid reactions with acidic foods.

Cons: Mediocre heat tolerance, expensive, high maintenance

Best For: Sauces and soups

4. Stainless Steel

Best bang for your buck. Look for pots and pans with copper or aluminum cores to get the easy-to-clean, long-lasting benefits without the uneven cooking of stainless alone.

Cons: Poor heat conduction compared to other metals

Best For: Sauteing, frying and simmered dishes

— Allissa Eiser, MS, dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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