If you dream about buying a full set of expensive pots and pans that will shine on your stove and help you prepare glorious meals, it's time to revise your thinking. Not only is this a major investment, it is not necessarily the best way to stock your kitchen for a lifetime of cooking.
Select a few pieces at a time as you develop your cooking style and learn more about the science of cooking in general.
Here are a few general guidelines to buying cookware:Skillets: 9- and 12-inch skillets, which also are called frying pans and have sloped sides.
1. Different metals and alloys are appropriate for different tasks. Gauge (thickness) makes a difference, too. As a rule, heavy and thick pans are preferable.
2. Durable aluminum heats quickly and evenly and is a great choice for boiling water for pasta and similar preparations. However, it reacts with acidic foods (tomatoes, wine) to impart a metallic flavor.
3. Heavy cast iron heats slowly but holds its heat exceptionally well, even at high heat. Enameled cast iron is good for slow cooking, but non-enameled is great for frying and searing. Wipe non-enameled cast iron dry as soon as you wash it to prevent rusting.
4. Many chefs swear by copper because of its terrific heat conducting capabilities. Copper cookware must be lined with stainless steel or another metal. A good compromise is a copper pan with a stainless steel interior and alloyed-aluminum or aluminum core.
5. Although stainless steel looks nice, it does not conduct heat as well as the already mentioned materials. Its merits are that it does not react with acidic ingredients. The cookware industry has developed some very fine stainless steel cookware with layered alloyed aluminum and aluminum cores, which are excellent heat conductors. Stainless cookware with aluminum bottoms is another good choice. Cladded stainless steel with a carbon core conducts heat quickly and evenly. Much of the high-priced cookware on the market reflects one of these types of engineering.
6. Manufacturers have improved the quality of nonstick cookware dramatically over the years so that today it is a good choice for a lot of cooking. Great for low-fat cooking and for making eggs and rice, it is not a good choice for browning meat and poultry.
7. One high-quality pot will last a lifetime, while several inexpensive ones will warp and dent, heat inefficiently, and end up taking up space in your cupboard.
8. Start with a few essentials and then buy more cookware as you stretch your culinary wings.Idealy every kitchen should have:
Stockpot: 10- to 12-quart capacity, with a tight-fitting lid.
Saucepans: 2- and 3 ¼-quart capacities, with tight-fitting lids
Roasting pan: approximately 10-by-13-inches, with a rack.
Sauté pans: 7- and 9-inch sauté pans, which have straight sides so that food does not bounce out.
9. Other useful items are double boilers, glass or enameled baking dishes, broiling pans, casseroles, and Dutch ovens.
10. Keep your cookware properly cleaned and carefully stored. It will last a lifetime.