Cast iron is a popular choice because of its versatility and durability. Although it is deemed difficult to maintain, if you season your cookware correctly before first use and clean with care, this type of cookware is great to use. Good for long lasting heat distribution and can be used on a variety of cooking sources. Especially good for recipes that need to move from the hob to the oven, and ideal for induction hob use.
Enamel Cast Iron
Enamel cast iron has all the benefits of the cast iron but with the durability of an enamel coating which eliminates the need to season the cookware. As well as the additional benefits of the coating, the enamel also makes the cookware more appealing and can be bought in a range of colours.
Glass cookware items are very resilient and versatile for cooking most dishes. Glass conducts heat very well so ideal for roasting and browning. Glass is also very hardy when it comes to cleaning as it can be soaked for hours without damaging the surface.
Like enamel cookware, the ceramic cookware items can be purchased by colour to suit your collection. Ceramic cookware generates heat slower than other bakeware so ideal for recipes that need slow or long cooking times. The added benefit with Ceramic cookware is that the dish can be presented straight from the oven to the table due to the colours available.
The next thing to think about is the specific features that you want from your cookware. Does it need to be non-stick and dishwasher safe? Find out more below about the most common cookware features.
Non stick cookware is often a preferred option as it can help when it comes to cleaning, as there is no burnt on food to contend with. As a result, many cookware types have a non stick option. Non stick tends to be required more for cookware where food will be cooked at high heat and in direct contact with the cookware item. Frying pans and saute pans therefore commonly have non stick coatings. If you're looking for a saucepan that will be used for boiling pasta, rice, or vegetables then you're less likely to require non stick.
Since 1995, the percentage of UK households who have a dishwasher has risen from 18% to over 49%. There is no doubt that an increasing amount of us like the convenience of our dish washing being done for us. So of course for many of us, selecting cookware items which can be placed in the dishwasher is a high priority. A large number of cookware manufacturers understand this desire and so lots of cookware is now suitable to be placed in the dishwasher. However, it is important to note that many care and use guides will still recommend hand washing to keep your cookware in perfect condition for longer.
Another great way to save on washing up is to use fewer pans. When recipes require food to be cooked first on the hob and then in the oven it can save a lot of hassle if you can simply use the same piece of cookware. Lots of pots and pans can now be used in the oven, so check that they are suitable before purchasing. Where cookware is oven safe, you will want to check out the top temperature that they can be used for.
Not every piece of cookware comes with a lid, and you may not require one. A lid is useful when you are trying to keep heat and/or moisture in the pan, such as when boiling pasta or steaming vegetables. Keeping the lid on lets you get to boiling point quicker, saving time and energy. Although saucepans will often be sold with a lid included, many other items like milkpans, frying pans and woks will not. If a lid is an important feature for you, check that one is included.
The length of guarantee on cookware items can vary considerably. On some products the guarantee may only be a year or two, whereas on others it could be a 25 year or even a lifetime guarantee. You may also need to check as sometimes the guarantee varies between the cookware item and its non stick coating. A longer guarantee can be an indicator of quality, as the manufacturer is confident that their product will be long lasting and, if anything goes wrong before the guarantee period expires, they will put things right.
Care & Use
Once you've got your new cookware, you will want to read through the care and use instructions to make sure you are looking after them properly. Here are some general tips on taking care of your cookware.
When using pots and pans on the hob it is best to try and match the size of the pan to the hob. Heat should be applied directly to the base of the pan and not the sides or handle, so turn the heat down if there are flames licking up the sides! Many pans are also not recommended for use on very high heats. Instead, they are designed to be used on a low to medium temperature - check the care and use instructions for your cookware for more information.
Cookware items will come with manufacturers' advice for care and cleaning and following these guidelines will extend the life of your well invested cookware. Stainless steel, cast iron, hard anodised and enamel all need to be cleaned gently in warm soapy water with a gentle cleaning utensil. For stubborn marks or spoils do not use wire wool as this will only damage the cooking surface. Do not leave items soaking for hours as this will gradually corrode your cookware, except glass and ceramic. Most cookware items are dishwasher safe, however prolonged use will reduce the life of your cookware, so it is often recommended to handwash them whenever possible and time allows.
Pots and pans are generally designed to stack inside one another. Take care not to dent or scratch them when storing. Invest in a set of pan protectors to place between pots and pans (or use a couple of layers of kitchen paper). Try not to over stack cookware, but if you have to then make sure the heaviest items are at the bottom. Pans can be hung from racks too (either from the ceiling or the wall). There are also pot stands for cupboards or free-standing and hanging racks available which are easy to install.