Ever since PFOA was labelled as carcinogenic there has been increasing interest in the material used in our cookware and its long term effect on our health.
Cookware materials are very difficult to find because the material has to meet all the criteria like high heat conductivity, affordability, lightweight, even heating, suitability for many different kinds of food etc for it to be considered a good cookware material. Now health concerns are also being taken into consideration while deciding the best cookware.
In this article, we will discuss the major cookware materials that are popular in the market and their suitability. Read along to find out what is the most suitable cookware for your kitchen needs.
Various Materials of Cookware Available in the Market:
Stainless steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. They are preferred for cooking because of their durability and even the distribution of heat. They are highly resistant to corrosion and are non-reactive to both acidic and basic food materials. This makes them safe to cook in.
However, they are poor conductors of heat which makes the cooking uneven and makes them prone to burning. Because they are poor conductors of heat they are generally coated with a thick aluminium or copper bottom, this makes them better at conducting heat.
Aluminium is one of the best conductors of heat which allows them to cook food evenly. Like steel, they are also resistant to corrosion. Their main benefit is that they are inexpensive and can cook food at a consistent temperature for a long time.
However, aluminium is notoriously infamous for staining. They stain very easily and these stains are generally very hard to remove. This is because they react with acidic food to form a grey stain. They are a preferred choice of material for bigger pots and pans as they are lighter than stainless steel or cast iron material.
The quality of the aluminium will determine your cooking experience. A good quality aluminium cookware will be stainless and cook food evenly whereas a low-quality one will stain more and get too hot quickly which might burn your food.
Because aluminium is both inexpensive and a great conductor of heat it makes sense that they are preferred for cookware. To avoid the reaction between aluminium and acidic food, aluminium is anodized. This minimises the staining and makes them safer than plain aluminium. These are generally heavier than regular aluminium.
Cast iron is one of the most popular cookware materials in recent times. This is because they are highly durable and are oven safe which means you can bake in them. The best part about them is that they are very strong and can last a lifetime easily if you take care of them.
However, cast iron cookwares are not rust-proof, to make them rustproof you have to season them. Even if you buy a pre-seasoned or enamel-coated pan you still have to keep it dry and oiled to ensure that it forms no rusting in the long run. They also tend to be expensive due to their durability.
Non-stick cookware came into the market like a storm because of its ability to use less oil to cook food. They were a huge success due to increasing concern regarding the health effects of consuming too much oil.
Non-stick cookware is also very easy to clean which also added to their popularity. They are generally coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) which gives them a waxy and non-stick surface.
This coating has been a cause for concern in recent times. It has been found that the non-stick coating when exposed to high heat (above 300 degrees) releases toxic fumes that are harmful to human life. These fumes have been related to health conditions from small flu to thyroid cancer. They are now being replaced with other safer cookware materials.
Like aluminium, copper is also an excellent conductor of heat. This makes it a great material for cookware. But copper is an expensive material which is why most copper cookware is mixed with other elements such as stainless steel or tin. This is also done to prevent the copper from reacting with acidic food.
The main reason why copper is not as popular as other materials on the list is that it is very expensive and requires high maintenance in order to keep distributing the heat evenly.
Carbon steel is very similar to cast iron and is widely used in professional kitchens because of their high heat conductivity. They are also widely used because they are quite affordable.
However, they are not suitable for all cooking. They are generally used to cook food that requires high heat but short cooking time. Things like eggs or grilling food or sauteing is done in carbon steel cookware. It is not preferred for slow cooking methods.
Clay & stoneware
Clay and stoneware are probably the most traditional and oldest material used in the kitchen. Clay cookware is still very popular in India due to the distinct earthy flavour they add to the dish.
Many restaurants even gave specific dishes that can only be cooked in clay pots. This is because clay cookware can not only handle high heat but is also lightweight and inexpensive. In India, a large number of traditional dishes are made in clay cookware.
Stoneware has slowly decreased in popularity in India mainly due to its heavyweight which is an inconvenience in most kitchens. But recently, some professional kitchens have started using stoneware such as pizza stone etc mainly for sophisticated international cuisines.
Both stoneware and clayware make for great cookware materials as they can handle heat very well and the chances of you burning the food are less.
The kind of cookware you want in your kitchen will depend on the food you cook and the investment you want to make. Materials like cast iron, copper etc are expensive but they last for a long time whereas carbon steel and stainless steel are cheaper but can be easily damaged. You can also mix and match the kind of materials you want in your kitchen to get the maximum benefit of all the cookware materials.