SELECT CLASSIFICATIONS OF COOKWARE YOU NEED:
SELECT THE BEST FABRICATION FOR EACH
1. IDENTIFY RAW MATERIALS:
Copper, aluminum, stainless steel, tin, cast iron, stoneware, porcelain, terra cotta and borosilicate cook and bakeware each have benefits and drawbacks such as reactions to foods and/or stove-top or oven heat. Some of these materials are more reactive than others. Pan weight contributes to success; expert chefs recommend pans as heavy as you can handle.
Sandwiched plies of metal and heavy gauge metals have the added benefit of not warping. Decide which materials are best for the foods you cook and select the pots, pans, casseroles and other functional shapes and sizes you need.
2. PRODUCTION METHODS:
Globally, cookware is mass-produced and with little exception, production is both labor and capital intensive. Production photographs not only illustrate how diverse shapes are formed; they support the necessary labor and capital manufacturing costs borne by the retail prices of good quality cook wares.
Carefully examine each product: e.g. lids must fit tightly, handles must be securely riveted, the weight or multi-ply construction must be sufficiently heavy so the pan will not warp.
Consider each of the following technical elements to assess if standards of production quality are well executed.
MATERIALS: metal, clay, glass:
Just because cookware looks good when new—doesn’t mean it is good. Be sure the generic name of each metal or clay or glass content is properly labeled. Benefits and drawbacks are discussed in my previous cookware post: THE RAW MATERIALS OF COOKWARE.
Avoid manufacturer’s ‘set-enticements’ to save money because cookware sets usually do not result in the best pan for each cooking task. You may end up with shapes and sizes you don’t need.
Handles must feel balanced and be securely bolted or riveted through the wall of the pan. Look inside to determine if the rivets are well soldered and smooth to avoid clinging food. Handles made of a different metal than the pan slow down the transfer of heat and provide a natural heat breaker although pot holders may still be necessary.
Handle lengths vary with the size and function of the pan but must be easy for you to maneuver. Some handles are made of materials that can be placed in the oven. Wood or plastic handles provide heat-breaking properties but cannot be placed in the oven.
Lids must fit tightly to allow succulent juices to constantly rise to the lid and drain back over the food to maximize flavor. Be sure you can lift the lid handle easily to direct it away to avoid steam. Some cookware brands have tempered glass lids; using them is like looking through the glass window of an oven.
Sizes and Shapes:
Pans sizes and shapes vary greatly. Buy what you need, considering the foods and recipes you most often prepare —as well as the number of people for whom you usually cook.
There is a relationship of metal gauge-to-weight-to-performance. Expert chefs recommend using pans as heavy as you can comfortably handle. Pans must be balanced so they won’t tip.
Light weight pans (a thin gauge or single ply of aluminum or stainless steel) easily warp or bulge in the center, leaving liquids or oil around the edge. Sandwiched plies of metal or heavy gauge metals usually do not warp.
I selected hand-hammered copper pans for my mother
but they were too heavy for her to lift, so I bought lighter,
but sufficiently heavy gauge, copper pans with tin linings.
They perform very well and still look wonderful, but I prefer
copper lined with nickel or stainless steel —to avoid having
to reline the tin.
Good copper pans are quite expensive. Rather than compromise by buying light-weight copper,it’s better to choose 3 or 4 ply heavy aluminum pans with stainless interiors.
Care and cleaning of cookware:
- Cleaning is easier if pots and pans are made of a metal that distributes heat well. This lessens sticking.
- Some pans (as cast iron) require seasoning before use.
- Follow each manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.
Each metal may require different care.
- For all cookware, avoid abrasive cleaners.
GOOD QUALITY IS SO MUCH MORE THAN
BRAND, STYLE AND PRICE.
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
MY NEXT POST IS: JUDGING VINTAGE COOKWARE