The quick and easy guide to buying cookware
If you’re serious about your food and you love to cook, then quality cookware is an essential investment. Provided you buy the right cookware, you could find that it serves you reliably well for years to come.
But it is worth taking some important factors into account before you buy your kitchenware. In this handy buying guide, we’ll explore some of the key considerations you need to remember when buying cookware for your kitchen.
Cookware comes in a wide variety of different materials, types and sizes. Not all cookware items are suitable for use on certain types of hob and with certain kinds of food.
The two main considerations you therefore need to bear in mind are a) whether the cookware is compatible with your hob or cooker, and b) whether it is adequate for the kind of meals you’ll want to prepare. Once you have this in mind, the process of finding the pans you need should be much simpler.
But what types of cookware are compatible with which types of hob?
Cookware and hob types
You must ensure, before buying any pots, pans or trays, that they are suitable for their intended purposes. Here is a concise overview of what types of cookware are best suited for different types of hob:
- Gas: Any type of cookware can be used on a gas hob. However, when using saucepans on gas you must take care to regulate the flame carefully: if you don’t, the flame will lick beyond the edge of the pan and potentially damage its handle.
- Induction: Made from ceramic glass, induction hobs generate heat from a magnetic induction coil, transferring heat and light upwards and thereby heating the cookware without doing the same to the cooking surface. For these hobs, you’ll need cookware made from magnetisable metal like steel or cast iron, rather than copper or aluminium.
- Ceramic: Ceramic hobs with heat elements sealed underneath the ceramic glass work best with cookware that has a flat base. Take care when removing your pans from a ceramic hob – make sure you lift it rather than slide it.
- Electric: Also suitable for almost all types of cookware, electric hobs are increasingly common and popular in home kitchens. These come in different types, however. For example, any type of cookware can be used with radiant spiral fittings, while for solid plate hobs, cookware with a flat base is best as this should help to ensure that the heat is distributed evenly.
- Solid hotplates: As with flat electric hobs, solid hotplates are best suited to cookware with flat bases for even distribution of heat. However, because solid hotplates – found, for example, on Aga range cookers – tend to generate such intense heat, it’s important to choose cookware that’s suitably thick and heavy, and can withstand such temperatures.
You can find a range of pan sets here.
Types of cookware material
As we’ve already touched on, certain types of cookware material are more suited to use with particular hobs than others. They also have various other properties that you need to take into account before you make a purchase.
Here are the main types of cookware materials to consider:
- Stainless steel: The main advantages of stainless steel cookware are that it’s durable, suitable for use on any type of hob and easy to look after. It’s made from various metals including iron, and its durability makes it a popular choice. There is one main downside, though – it’s not particularly effective at conducting heat, and so is often complemented with aluminium or copper layering.
- Cast iron: Renowned for its properties of heat retention, cast iron cookware is suitable for use both on the hob and in the oven. It takes a while longer to heat up than other types of cookware, but once it has warmed up it is able to hold onto that heat for longer. To make it easier to look after, cast iron cookware may also have non-stick, ceramic or enamel coatings.
- Aluminium: There are two main types of aluminium cookware: standard aluminium and hard-anodised aluminium. The former has a number of properties that make it particularly suitable for this use, in particular its effectiveness as a heat conductor, its low cost and its lightweight composition. Hard-anodised aluminium, on the other hand, is hardened via an electrochemical process. Because of this, this cookware is usually non-stick and also more resistant to nicks, scratches and peels. It is heavier than standard aluminium.
- Copper: Perhaps the most effective of all cookware materials as a heat conductor, copper cookware also tends to be somewhat more expensive than others. It also takes more looking after than other cookware materials. Unless it’s cleaned regularly, copper cookware will start to tarnish. If looked after properly, however, it will provide effective and long-lasting service.
How to look after your cookware
You should think of your cookware as a long-term investment. But in order for that investment to pay off over time, you’ll need to make the effort to look after your cookware properly.
If you do, you’ll reap the rewards. Here are a few key tips to bear in mind.
- Make sure your pans are around the same size (or slightly larger) than the hob. Not only does this waste heat, but pans that are too small for the hob are more susceptible to sustaining damage to their handles.
- Read the product instructions carefully before using your cookware. Different materials and surfaces will require specific kinds of care. Whatever you choose, the product instructions should contain all the information you need to look after your cookware properly.
- In particular, always check whether your cookware is dishwasher safe prior to cleaning it. While dishwashers save a lot of time and effort, not all cookware items are suitable for dishwasher cleaning and will need to be washed by hand instead.
- Don’t put hot pans straight into cold water. This can result in warping at the base of the pan, which can ruin it. Allow time for the pans to cool down before attempting to wash them, and make sure you use warm, soapy water when doing so.
- Don’t let pans overheat, as this can again cause serious damage to them. If your pan is empty, don’t leave it on the hob – there’s a risk that this could warp it, as well as wasting energy.
- Always make sure you use the proper accessories and utensils. Don’t use steel scouring pads or metallic utensils on non-stick pans, as this can damage the coating and result in scratches.
Now that you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s time to take a look through our extensive range of cookware and baking accessories.