When it comes to cookware, there are countless brands and varieties that you can invest in depending on your needs and cooking requirements. But, for a new homeowner or an amatuer cook, this can be quite a daunting task.
Since there are so many different brands and cookware materials in the market, it isn’t easy for new homeowners or home chefs to know exactly what they should purchase for their cooking convenience. Buying the most expensive cookware doesn’t always equal ease of use and maintenance. Without understanding the pros and cons of different cookware, it is extremely difficult to know which you would want to purchase for yourself.
In this article we look at 8 different types of cookware that are most popular in the market. Each variety comes with its own pros and cons and by the time you finish reading this article, you will understand exactly which type of cookware works best for you and fits your budget. You can also read more about cookware vs. bakeware here. Let’s dive in!
Types of Cookware
The different types of cookware include the following:
- Fully-Clad Stainless Steel
- Cast Iron
- Carbon Steel
- Non-Stick (PTFE-Coated)
- Non-Stick (Ceramic-Coated)
- Hard-Anodized Aluminum
Fully-Clad Stainless Steel
This type of cookware is constructed by bonding, or cladding, layers of premium metal together throughout the pan. This is why it is labeled as full-clad, bonded, or multi-clad.
Fully-clad stainless steel typically features three metallic layers which are referred to as 3-ply or tri-ply. These layers consist of a stainless steel surface, followed by a premium aluminum core sheet which is topped with another stainless steel layer, creating a sandwich-like construction. This effectively improves heat conduction and retention as stainless steel on its own is a poor heat conductor, but when combined with aluminum or copper, these pans can conduct and retain heat very well.
This type of cookware is also available in multiple layers (5-ply and even 7-ply), depending on the brand of cookware you choose. The first and the third layers are always stainless steel but the middle core may vary and this can greatly affect the cooking performance.
- Extremely durable thanks to the thick bonded construction.
- It doesn’t easily chip or flake even when used for everyday, demanding cooking.
- It is non-reactive and extremely durable. There are no ingredients that it can’t handle.
- It responds quickly to temperature changes.
- This cookware is compatible with all cooktops.
- It can be used inside an oven and even near a broiler.
- Fully-clad stainless steel cookware can be very pricey.
- It is not naturally slick or nonstick so it can be tough to clean if you don’t grease your pans properly.
- It will require time getting used to if you have never used it before.
What can fully-clad stainless steel cookware be used for?
This type of cookware is extremely versatile and can be used to cook all kinds of recipes, no matter how complex.
It is especially handy when searing or browning meats. Its nonreactive, highly conductive surface makes it perfect to get that delicious sizzle on your steak.
Our Recommendation for Fully-Clad Stainless Steel Cookware
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One of the most durable and sturdy cookware is undoubtedly cast iron. This heavy-duty cookware is made from a single metallic component which is 98% iron and 2% carbon.
Its thick base and walls make this cookware extremely resilient and long-lasting. It also allows effective heat absorption and retention. This is what makes cast iron a superb choice to prepare steaks and sear vegetables.
- Cast iron cookware is extremely versatile, which means that you can use it to cook all kinds of recipes from delicate eggs to medium-rare steaks. It also comes in skillets, frying pans, dutch ovens, griddles, woks, etc.
- It provides excellent heat absorption and retention which keeps your food warm for longer periods of time.
- This type of cookware ensures that your food is perfectly seared and cooked through without any hot or cold spots.
- If properly maintained, cast iron cookware will last you a lifetime. It is virtually indestructible thanks to its thick and sturdy construction.
- Standard cast iron cookware is also more affordable than most other cookware types.
- Once seasoned, cast iron cookware becomes naturally slick and helps with tossing and sauteing foods.
- Cast iron cookware is notoriously heavy and can be difficult to maneuver especially if there is lots of food in the pan. On average, cast iron pans can weigh up to 8 pounds without food inside.
- All standard cast iron cookware requires seasoning to create the naturally slick, nonstick barrier. You will need to regularly season it with fat.
- It does not react well to acidic foods which strip the seasoning and cause the food to stick to the bottom and even burn.
- It cannot be washed with coarse scorching or metal pads as this may damage the surface of the cast iron pan.
- Due to its thick base, cast iron pans can take longer to heat up.
- It may also scratch or damage glass stove tops due to their sheer weight.
What can cast iron cookware be used for?
Cast iron cookware can be used for virtually all kinds of recipes but it is especially handy when searing or browning steaks and vegetables. It can also be used for roasting, braising, frying, and sauce-making.
This cookware can also be used to prepare delicate foods like fried eggs, etc.
Our Recommendation for Cast Iron Cookware
Carbon steel cookware is all the rave with homeowners and even professional chefs as it seamlessly blends the features of stainless steel and cast iron, bringing to you the best of both worlds. It is constructed from 99% iron and 1% carbon, but it stands out for being a lot lighter and more user-friendly than standard cast iron cookware.
Carbon steel is also resistant to high temperatures and you can purchase this cookware as skillets, pans, pots, roasters, and woks, etc. These are easier to handle and carry due to their lightweight and thin base.
- Carbon steel cookware provides the benefits of both stainless steel and cast iron.
- It is excellent for searing meats and preparing all kinds of recipes.
- This cookware is easy to carry as it is lightweight and takes very little strength to transfer your food to the plate.
- It can be used to make a variety of dishes including steaks, vegetables, eggs, roast chicken, etc.
- It is safe to put in the oven or under the broiler.
- Carbon steel cookware is extremely durable and will not break or crack even if you drop it or smack it against another pot or pan.
- It is also more affordable than other cookware.
- It conducts heat quicker than cast iron thanks to its thinner base.
- Carbon steel cookware requires seasoning to create the naturally slick coating that makes cooking easier.
- If not seasoned properly, this cookware may form rust or show signs of discoloration which makes it far less aesthetically pleasing than its competitors.
- It is not dishwasher friendly, which means you will need to spend extra time to clean or wash it by hand.
- Acidic ingredients might negatively react with carbon steel pans and cut through the seasoning.
What can carbon steel cookware be used for?
Carbon steel cookware is best used to brown, broil, sear, or deglaze. It can also be used to crisp your food as it can handle up to 1200*F of heat in the oven.
Our Recommendation for Carbon Steel Cookware
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Copper cookware isn’t the best choice for amatuer cooks as it can be quite difficult to maintain and cook with if you are not familiar with its care instructions. It is also the most expensive cookware in the market, primarily for its outstanding heat conduction.
It features very high thermal conductivity, beating even other strong metals like aluminum. It also cools down just as quickly, which is why it requires a certain level of skill to cook with.
Many brands offer copper exterior cookware, while others use it as a core conductive metal layer in fully-clad stainless steel cookware. Whichever type of cookware you pick, you will need to ensure that it is frequently polished to maintain the copper’s original gleam.
- Copper cookware conducts heat extremely well compared to most conductive metals. This ensures fast and even cooking.
- It cools down just as quickly and its responsiveness to heat is what gives you greater control over the cooking process.
- Copper cookware stands out for its stunning looks and ability to accentuate your kitchen interior.
- It is rust-resistant.
- This type of cookware is also easy to clean.
- Copper cookware is notoriously expensive as its raw material and manufacturing process requires a lot of attention and premium goods.
- It requires routine maintenance to work well and cook your foods without hassle.
- It can be hard to work with if you have never used copper cookware before.
- It reacts poorly to acidic foods which may release a metallic taste in your food.
What can copper cookware be used for?
This cookware is excellent when shallow or deep frying, sauteing, and even simmering. Meals that require specific temperature settings are perfect to cook in copper cookware. This includes a variety of sauces, meats, syrups, and caramel.
Our Recommendation for Copper Cookware
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Nonstick (PTFE-coated) cookware, otherwise known as Teflon coated cookware is constructed with polytetrafluoroethylene coating which is a blend of synthetic materials and chemicals that keep your food from gluing to the base of the pan. It also allows for easy and quick cleanup.
PTFE-coated cookware base may vary depending on different brands but it is commonly made of aluminum, fully clad stainless steel, or hard anodized aluminum. While it makes cooking a lot easier, it does come with some serious health concerns.
- It ensures that your food bits never stick to the bottom of the pan, making it a lot easier to wipe clean instead of scrubbing with coarse materials.
- It is easy to clean and maintain and all you need is a damp cloth and dish soap to wipe away grease and food remains.
- Nonstick PTFE-coated cookware is traditionally very light in weight and can be easily carried or maneuvered in the kitchen.
- This cookware can be used to prepare a range of cuisines.
- It is also incredibly affordable compared to other types of cookware.
- While it may be durable in its own right, this cookware does not compare to the durability of cast iron or stainless steel.
- Nonstick PTFE-coated cookware is also prone to warping if used on high heat. It can have similar effects if you put it under cold water while it is still piping hot.
- It features synthetic PTFE coating which is generally safe but it can release harmful chemicals if your pan is exposed to heat over 500*F and this may cause flu-like symptoms.
What can Nonstick (PTFE-coated) cookware be used for?
It is best used to cook delicate foods that may crumble or fall apart easily. It is also a good choice for foods that do not require high heat to cook such as most vegetables, eggs, fish, crepes, pancakes, sauces, etc.
Our Recommendation for the Best Nonstick (PTFE-coated) Cookware
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Nonstick ceramic coated cookware has become more and more popular in recent years thanks to its eco-friendly cooking as well as manufacturing process. Its cooking surface is constructed with natural sand-derived silicone through the sol-gel process. So, although it is not technically made from pure ceramic, it is labeled as such due to its looks and glossy appeal.
Its base material may vary as in case of PTFE-coated cookware, but it is usually aluminum. This cookware is also naturally slick and requires very little fat to cook with.
- This cookware is completely free of harmful toxins that you may otherwise find in non-stick cookware. Thus, there is no risk of cadmium, lead, or other chemicals from leaching into your food.
- It is naturally slick and nonstick.
- Ceramic based cookware is also extremely eco-friendly to use and to produce. Notable brands like Caraway claim that their ceramic cookware produces 60% less CO2 than ordinary nonstick cookware.
- It is affordable.
- It comes in a variety of color options that enhance its aesthetic appeal.
- It lacks durability and will most likely last for a year or two, losing its non-stick ability and showing cracks, chips, and peels. Its paint may also begin to discolor.
- Ceramic cookware scratches much more easily than other cookware, therefore you should avoid using metal utensils when cooking in it.
- Some ceramic cookware doesn't heat evenly and this may lead to improper cooking and cold spots.
What can ceramic cookware be used for?
Ceramic cookware is also a terrific choice for delicate foods such as eggs, pancakes, stir fry, etc. It does not react to acidic foods so you can use wine sauces, lemon, tomatoes, and other citrus ingredients.
Our Recommendation for Best Ceramic Cookware
Most cookware brands will have some shape or form of aluminum in their pots and pans as it is used as a core of stainless steel and a base in nonstick cookware, thanks to its highly conductive features.
While it is a very common feature in most cookware, it does react with acidic foods which is why most cookware with aluminum is coated with nonstick materials. Either that, or they use anodized aluminum.
- Aluminum is conductive so this means that aluminum cookware features excellent heat conduction and retention which helps in fast and even cooking.
- This cookware is also very affordable.
- It is versatile as it is used in a variety of different cookware.
- Aluminum cookware reacts to acidic foods.
- It lacks durability compared to other cookware so you will need to replace it after a year or less.
- Aluminum pans are also prone to warping when subjected to high heat.
What can aluminum cookware be used for?
This type of cookware is best for stir frying vegetables, making curries, eggs, pancakes, etc. It is not the best for searing meat.
Our Recommendation for Best Aluminum Cookware
Hard anodized cookware is aluminum that has undergone an electrolyte process, creating an oxidized layer on the cooking surface. This type of cookware is praised for its incredible durability, but it can be quite pricey.
This electrolyte process hardens standard aluminum, increasing its durability and resistance to corrosion. It is also better at conducting heat than standard aluminum.
It is coated with nonstick material or sometimes used as the core base for fully clad stainless steel cookware. It lasts longer and is worth the price.
- This cookware comes with exceptional durability and will last you for years. It is also well constructed and warp resistant.
- It conducts heat better than standard aluminum and your food heats up quicker and all the way through, leaving no hot or cold spots behind.
- Anodized aluminum cookware is scratch resistant.
- It does not leach metals into your food as the non-stick layer is nonreactive.
- Hard anodized aluminum cookware may be cheaper than pure stainless steel but far more expensive than other types of cookware, especially standard aluminum cookware.
- It can be quite heavy to carry and maneuver when cooking with meats or vegetables.
What can aluminum cookware be used for?
As most hard anodized aluminum cookware is coated with PTFE nonstick surface, it makes it a great pick for cooking eggs, pancakes, grilled cheese, etc.
Our Recommendation for Best Hard Anodized Cookware
What determines the best cookware?
The best cookware entirely depends on your cooking needs, budget, available space, and culinary experience. But, there are still some factors to consider when purchasing the right cookware for your kitchen. This includes price, construction and design, stove compatibility, heat conduction and retention, aesthetics, etc.
Are nonstick pots and pans dangerous?
Modern varieties of nonstick pots and pans are generally safe to use as they exclude harmful materials such as PFOA, PTFE, lead, and cadmium from their nonstick surface.
However, Teflon cookware is notorious for the harmful fumes it generates when exposed to high levels of heat. This can cause severe coughing, difficulty breathing, skin irritation, headaches, etc.
The American Cancer Society states that modern nonstick cookware does not pose any great risks to human health as it is PFOA-free.
Are stainless steel pans better than copper pans?
Stainless steel and copper cookware both have their own set of pros and cons. However, the former is more popular in terms of affordability. It is also more durable and low maintenance.
On the other hand, copper cookware can be hard to use if you don’t have past experience with it. It is excellent for searing meats thanks to its brilliant heat conductivity, but it requires routine polishing to retain its heat.
Can cast iron pans be used in the oven?
Yes, cast iron pots and pans are oven friendly and can withstand high levels of heat. However, it is not as heat-resistant as carbon steel cookware which can withstand up to 1200*F in the oven and even under the broiler.
But, cast iron pans are more affordable and can be use to bake a variety of recipes.