When you have the right cookware, whipping up a dish – or a feast – is a little easier. Our guide can help you get just what you need. We’ll walk through the different cookware materials, the features and benefits of each, and how different types of pots and pans are used.
Which Cookware Material is Right for You?
Cookware can be made from a variety of materials, each with its own characteristics. Our looks at five of the most common cookware types and breaks down the pros and cons of each. Let’s take a look…
Pros: This popular choice is durable and dishwasher-safe. Bare stainless steel is great for searing and browning and won’t react with acidic foods. Many of these pots and pans are magnetic, which means they’ll work with induction cooktops.
Cons: Stainless steel on its own isn’t the best heat conductor of the bunch. For that reason, cookware often has an aluminum or copper core. (These metals are better heat conductors.) Also, food can stick more easily on uncoated stainless steel, especially if you’re cooking without fats or added oils. Look for nonstick options if that’s a concern.
Pros: Aluminum cookware is usually inexpensive, and it conducts heat very well, so it’ll warm up quickly. It’s also lightweight, durable, and dishwasher-safe. Aluminum typically includes a nonstick or enameled interior so turning that burger over in one piece will be a snap.
Cons: This material can react with acidic ingredients, causing a metallic taste, and it can potentially discolor foods. Look for hard-anodized aluminum to avoid these issues. Also note that aluminum-only cookware won’t work with induction stovetops. Some pieces incorporate steel to add induction compatibility.
Pros: Chic-looking cookware has grown in popularity recently, including pans and bakeware. has excellent , and it heats up and cools down very quickly, allowing for precise cooking.
Cons: Copper-only cookware can react with acidic foods. To avoid that by preventing direct contact with food, copper pots and pans often have a stainless steel or anodized aluminum interior coating. Copper also requires more effort when it comes to care. Hand washing is recommended, it dents easily, and you’ll need to polish it. Note that copper by itself isn’t magnetic, so it won’t work with induction cooktops. Look for copper/stainless steel combos if you cook via induction.
Pros: Cast is incredibly and one of the few cookware choices where it’s to use . With the right care, these can be handed down to the next generation. They’re also great for browning foods, and seasoned pans are inherently nonstick. Cast pans are also ideal for -to-oven transfers. Plus this material is induction compatible and holds , so you can keep food warmer longer.
Cons: Cast iron is heavy-duty and also, well, heavy. You’ll also want to avoid the dishwasher and hand wash these pans. For proper seasoning, a cast iron skillet requires a layer of oil to be applied regularly.
Pros: This type of cookware has the even-heating, heavy-duty, heat-retention advantages of bare cast iron, but the care is a bit easier. Hand-washing is usually recommended, but you typically won’t need to season these pots and pans.
Cons: The enamel can chip, so it’s wise to use plastic, silicon, or wooden cooking . It’s best to these pans by hand in to protect the enamel .
Types of Pots & Pans
There are many different types of cookware to choose from, but which ones do you really need? We’ll walk through the characteristics and uses of the most common pots and pans to help you decide what you need.
If you’re starting from scratch, a cookware set is a smart way to get everything you need without breaking the bank. If you want just a few essentials or are adding to your collection, you can also buy pieces separately.
A skillet pan has a wide, flat bottom and shallow, flared sides. It’s a workhorse that’s great for many tasks, and it’s particularly good for that require a lot of turning and stirring, like browning ground meats or sautéing veggies.
Another kitchen staple, the tall sides on this pot make it perfect for sauces (hence the name). A is used for everything from heating up soup to boiling potatoes.
Also called a chefs pan, this one’s similar to a frying pan with one key difference: The sides on a sauté pan are straight up and down. That means it can handle sloshy recipes, and there’s also more flat surface area, so you can squeeze in one more chicken breast, for instance.
A stock pot is simply a big, deep pot. It’s perfect for cooking up a double batch of chili or enough spaghetti noodles for a crowd. A stock pot is a great staple for any to have in the kitchen.
Usually rectangular, these pans have low and might come with a roasting rack to hold foods above the floor of the pan. Many roasting pans have a that makes up simple. They’re built for a high and for roasting larger cuts of meat like a Thanksgiving turkey.
A large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. This is a deep pot, though the sides aren’t as tall as those on a stock pot. Dutch ovens are often made of cast iron and are great for making stews, braising meats, and more.
Griddles offer a wide, flat surface area with no or short sides for easy access to flip or turn foods. Double-burner versions are great for cooking up pancakes (or bacon, grilled cheese, etc.) for a big group. Grill pans are similar to griddles, except that they have ridges on the bottom surface. The ridges make those familiar grill marks on steaks and more.
These pans come in a variety of shapes, and they usually come with a lid and are made of a heavier material. True to their name, casserole are great for baking casseroles in the oven and can withstand a range of cooking temperatures.
Ready to get cooking? Whether you need a basic skillet set with a non-stick coating or a specialty pan that makes it easy to go from stovetop to oven, we hope this cookware buying guide has helped narrow the choices in your search for the perfect pots, pans, and kitchen essentials.