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A Panoply of Pans- Your Guide to Metal Cookware

So you’ve decided to buy professional-grade cookware for your kitchen. That’s great! But don’t think for a minute that all metal pots and pans are created equal. Here’s a brief overview of the four main types of metal cookware available on the market today, and their pros and cons.

Aluminum- Approximately 50% of all cookware is constructed of aluminum, and for good reason. The lightweight, affordable metal cookware is an excellent conductor of heat. On the negative side, though, aluminum does not play well with acidic or alkaline foods; cooking certain foods in aluminum pots and pans results in nasty black stains on the inside. Also, aluminum scratches easily and tends to warp in extreme heat, thanks to its lightweight properties, so try to find anodized aluminum, which is specially treated to be harder and more durable than regular aluminum.

Copper- If you’re the type of person who pays attention to kitchen design trends, you will already know that copper is totally in right now. The beautifully-hued metal now shows up with some regularity in cabinetry accents, such as handles and drawer pulls, so purchasing matching copper cookware may seem like the next logical step to the fashion-forward chef. Not so fast, though- while copper is undeniably gorgeous and has an excellent ability to heat quickly and evenly, copper is an almost prohibitively-expensive metal for cookware. Not only that, but it is very high-maintenance and requires frequent polishing to keep its signature color and gleam. Like aluminum, copper reacts poorly to acidic or alkaline foods and can leave nasty gray streaks on light-colored foods. Purchasing copper cookware with a stainless steel lining can eliminate this problem while still preserving the superb thermal conductivity of the pots and pans.

Stainless Steel- A no-fuss, low-maintenance metal, stainless steel is a popular cookware material, thanks to its versatility, affordability, and durability. Stainless steel is nonreactive, which means it does not react with acidic or alkaline foods like aluminum and copper do, and as if that wasn’t enough, it is dishwasher-safe! Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to stainless steel, including its less-than-stellar ability to transfer and distribute heat. Also, stainless steel cookware can be very heavy, which can be a consideration for some home chefs. Buying stainless steel cookware with an inner core made from aluminum or copper, while more expensive than traditional stainless steel, can help with the heat distribution and thermal conductivity, allowing you to cook food evenly.

Cast Iron- The most durable and affordable option of all is cast iron. With good heat distribution and retention properties, cast iron cookware works especially well for simmering and browning, and is naturally non-stick when properly seasoned. On the downside, cast iron is extremely heavy and heats slowly, not to mention harder to clean than other cookware materials. If you like cast iron but want an easier cleanup, try porcelain-enameled cast iron cookware.

What kind of cookware do you own? What kind of cookware is in your dream kitchen? Let us know in the comments section!

What kind of cookware do you own? What kind of cookware is in your dream kitchen?

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