Our Cookware Buying Guide. How To Find Your Perfect Set.

Cookware Buying Guide

Unless you live on takeout or have adopted a raw food diet, cookware is essential kitchen equipment for every household. There are so many different types of cookware available in the market today that it can get a little overwhelming. What’s the difference between a saucepan and a saucier? Do I need a wok when preparing a stirfry or can I just use my saute pan?

Choosing the right kind of cookware is crucial. With this Cookware Buying Guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know to become a cookware pro (I didn’t say a cooking pro…that’s on you!). 

French Oven With Roasted Chickens

Let’s Choose The Right Material

Cookware has been around since ancient times. Originally cookware was made out of clay, stone, wood, bronze, and even bone. Today, the most popular materials are stainless steel, aluminum, copper, and cast iron. Each one offers advantages over the others depending upon the cooking method used and personal preferences. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel

In my opinion, if you can own only one type of cookware, stainless steel is it. You can cook just about anything in these pans. They handle high temperatures like a champ which makes them perfect for browning/searing or popping them under the broiler. They’re incredibly durable since there’s no delicate coating to deal with. Unfortunately, that also means you’ll need to use oil or spray to prevent food from sticking. Since stainless steel doesn’t conduct heat as well as other materials, most brands offer a 3 or 5-ply construction with a sandwich of aluminum or copper.

Pros

  • Very durable
  • Nonreactive
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Great for browning and searing

Cons

  • Isn’t typically nonstick
  • Can be expensive
  • Requires an inner layer of copper or aluminum for good heat distribution
Anodized Aluminum

Anodized Aluminum

The beauty of aluminum is it’s lightweight, strong, and inexpensive. It also conducts heat very well. The downside is, acidic foods can cause some aluminum to leach into the food. In order to prevent this, manufacturers will use anodized aluminum. Anodizing creates a durable coating of aluminum oxide. Another drawback is that pans can potentially warp under high heat. Most aluminum cookware also uses a nonstick coating (see Nonstick below). 

Pros

  • Excellent heat distribution
  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Can warp under high heat
  • Not particularly attractive
Copper

Copper

Like aluminum, copper is excellent at heat distribution and conductivity, but it also can leach into food. This can discolor some foods and add a metallic taste. Copper pots and pans look beautiful hanging above the stove but there are better choices out there for real-world use. Did I mention they require polishing and are expensive?

Pros

  • Excellent heat distribution
  • Beautiful

Cons

  • Can react with food and change taste and color
  • High maintenance
  • Expensive
Cast Iron

Uncoated Cast Iron

Cast iron has been around forever and has a real cult following. It’s very durable but heavy (what do you expect…it’s cast iron!). In order for it to be nonstick it must be seasoned which scares away some people. A good cast iron skillet is a must-have for many chefs. It’s excellent at retaining heat and is perfect for popping into the oven. It needs to be dried thoroughly to prevent rust.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Excellent heat retention
  • Easy to clean, if seasoned
  • Very durable

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Requires seasoning
  • Takes longer to heat
  • Not dishwasher safe
Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled Cast Iron

All of the advantages of regular cast iron with none of the drawbacks (except weight). It’s very popular in the form of dutch ovens. Completely non-reactive, comes in a variety of colors and is easy to clean.

Pros

  • Beautiful
  • Less maintenance than uncoated cast iron
  • Retains heat well
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Potentially expensive
  • Not dishwasher safe
  • Very heavy
  • Heats slowly
Carbon Steel

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is similar to cast iron in several ways. It’s great for searing and browning, it needs to be seasoned to be nonstick, and will last a lifetime if properly cared for. Most carbon steel pans are lighter and thinner than cast iron which makes them a bit easier on the wrists but won’t retain heat quite as well. On the plus side, they are quick to respond to temperature adjustments which can come in handy with certain cooking methods.

Pros

  • Lighter weight than cast iron
  • Heats up quickly
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to clean, if seasoned

Cons

  • Requires seasoning
  • Hand wash only
  • Reacts with acidic foods
Nonstick

Nonstick

The most popular nonstick coatings, by far, are PTFE (Teflon being the most well-known) and ceramic. Both coatings perform well and make cooking and cleanup a breeze. If you cook eggs or fish and want to avoid adding oil or butter (and the additional calories) then a nonstick pan is indispensable. The cookware itself is usually stainless steel or aluminum. On the downside, there have been some health concerns regarding PTFE (see the Safety section later in this article), and ceramic tends to be less durable. 

One thing to keep in mind with all nonstick cookware is these coatings do not last forever so be prepared to replace them eventually. Despite some manufacturer claims, these pans need to be babied. Forget metal utensils and dishwashers. It’s wood or silicone utensils and handwashing if you want them to hold up.

Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Great for cooking delicate foods like eggs or fish
  • Perfect for low-fat cooking
  • Most popular sets are aluminum, which are lightweight and inexpensive

Cons

  • Not dishwasher safe
  • No metal utensils
  • Not durable
  • Low to medium heat only
  • Will need replacing

Time For Anatomy Class – Understanding Each Feature

Cookware comes in many shapes and sizes, but there are some common features that all cookware share. Let’s take a look at each feature so you’ll be familiar with them when shopping.

anatomy

Lids

A lid is used to cover food while cooking. They serve 3 basic functions. Retain heat, retain moisture, and eliminate spatter. 

Lids are usually available in either glass (always look for tempered glass to reduce the chances of shattering) or whatever material the rest of the cookware is using (stainless steel, aluminum, etc). Other materials, such as silicone are available as a separate purchase. Some cooks prefer glass so they can see what’s going on without lifting the lid thus retaining heat and/or moisture. This works in theory but sometimes it’s hard to see with all the condensation collecting on the underside. The advantage of metal is it’s more durable and usually can withstand higher oven temperatures. 

Handles

What to look for when evaluating handles comes down to sturdiness, comfort, and staying cool. Most well-respected brands come with riveted, ergonomically designed handles. Rivets ensure a long-lasting, solid connection with the cookware body. Comfort is a bit more subjective. If you have the opportunity, it’s best to get your hands on the actual product and get a feel for things. Some of these pots and pans can get pretty heavy and tough on the wrists.

Lastly, you want the handle to stay cool. Longer handles can help. Some brands also offer handles coated with polymer or silicone which really help but can limit maximum oven temps.

Cooking Surface

The surface of a pan is the area that comes in contact with the food. Most of the issues were already covered (see the Materials section, above). Once you’ve chosen the main material it really comes down to going uncoated or nonstick.

Body

When someone refers to “stainless steel” or “aluminum” cookware they’re usually referring to what the body of the cookware is made of. Of course, in today’s market, most of the better pots and pans contain several different materials. For example, many pans will have a 3-ply or even 5-ply material where aluminum is sandwiched between 2 layers of stainless steel. This results in a pan with the durability of stainless steel with the great heat distribution of aluminum.

Base

The base, or bottom of the pan is important since it’s what is in contact with your heat source. For most cooking needs you want a thicker base which will provide better, more even heat distribution and prevent warping. For glass-top electric stoves, a flat base is critical since you want as much contact as possible. If you have an induction cooktop, a magnetic base such as cast iron or steel is a must. 

Rim

Here we’re referring to the top edge of the pot or pan. For tossing food such as sauteing vegetables or sliding eggs onto a plate you want a straight edge. The other option is a rolled edge. This allows for easy and dripless pouring. You want a fry pan with a straight edge and a saucepan with a rolled edge.

Safety – Everyone’s #1 Concern

When it comes to cookware safety the only really meaningful characteristic is the cooking surface. Whether your cookware is stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron, etc. all that really matters is what the food is coming into contact with. 

The safest, most non-reactive surface is stainless steel. Cast iron is a close second. The only concern is iron may leach into your food, especially when cooking more acidic ingredients. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for people with iron deficiencies but it’s important to be aware. Aluminum has the same problem and can also affect the taste of the food. Always look for anodized aluminum to eliminate this concern.

The biggest concern for most people revolves around nonstick coatings. The two most common coatings being PTFE and ceramic.

PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), most commonly known as Teflon was developed by Dupont back in 1938. The first safety concern is PTFE can deteriorate and emit a toxic gas when heated over 500°F (flu-like symptoms in humans, lethal to birds). This is rarely an issue with typical use. The other issue that was discovered was PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) which was used in the manufacture of PTFE was determined to be carcinogenic. The use of PFOA was discontinued in 2013 and is no longer a concern. The current generation of PTFE cookware is considered safe as long as the coating remains intact and isn’t overheated.

The other nonstick option is ceramic-coated cookware. These pans are generally very safe. There have been reports of some ceramic coatings leaching cadmium and/or lead into the food in other countries but thanks to the FDA (and the European equivalent), this isn’t an issue. Just make sure to buy your cookware from reputable brands.

Will Your Stovetop Play Nice?

When shopping for new cookware it’s important to consider the type of stovetop you’ll be using. For the most part, this isn’t a major concern but there are a few things to keep in mind before buying.

stovetops
Clockwise from top left: induction, ceramic, gas, and electric coil.

Electric Coil

Good ol’ electric coil ranges will work with any cookware material. They’re a pain to clean so be sure to use a pot or pan large enough to avoid boiling over. Here’s our review of some great choices.

Ceramic

Currently, ceramic (AKA smooth top or glass) is the most popular technology for stovetops. Attractive, easy to clean, and affordable. The ceramic top is durable but can scratch if you’re not careful. Between the weight and the somewhat rougher bottom, I would stay away from uncoated cast iron. Also, look for cookware with a smooth, flat base to maximize contact with the heating element.

Gas

Nothing has quick temperature control like gas. That’s one of the main reasons it’s the choice of professional chefs and experienced home cooks. If a quick response is essential, you want to look for cookware with thinner bases. They won’t retain heat as well but will be able to respond quickly.

Induction

Induction ranges are becoming increasingly popular because they are energy efficient. An induction range works by using electromagnetic waves instead of direct heat to transfer heat to the surface of the pan. Because of this, they require cookware with a magnetic base. Most, but not all stainless steel, carbon steel, and cast iron will work. Aluminum and copper won’t unless they have an induction-compatible base. Check with the manufacturer or simply place a magnet on the bottom of the pan. If it sticks you’re good to go.

How Many Pieces Do I Need?

Even though the majority of cookware sets include the most well-known and often used pots and pans, it’s still important to discuss their function, as well as some of the less well-known pieces.

The Essential Pieces For Every Kitchen

Frying Pan

Frying Pan/Skillet

A frying pan is a flat-bottomed pan with sloped sides to allow food to cleanly side out of the pan. Typically available in 8, 10, and 12-inch sizes. Perfect for frying (duh!), sauteing, searing, or scrambling. A real workhorse in every kitchen. FYI, a skillet is identical to a frying pan.

Saute Pan

Saute Pan

A sauté pan is similar to a frying pan except that the sides are straight rather than sloped and include a lid and frequently a helper handle. They also tend to be deeper with more capacity. A sauté pan can do a lot more than just sautéing. They’re also great for stir-frying, poaching, braising, searing, and preparing sauces. This is my go-to when I prepare my Bolognese sauce. A family favorite.

Saucepan

Saucepan

Another essential in every kitchen, the saucepan has tall sides and a narrow base for heating or reducing sauces and soups, boiling noodles, eggs, legumes, etc. Most frequently available in 1, 2, or 3-quart sizes with lids. 

Saucier

Saucier

A saucier looks like a cross between a saute pan and a saucepan. What makes them special is their curved bottom which eliminates any “corners” making stirring or whisking a breeze. Although they really shine when preparing sauces, there’s no reason you can’t use them as a saucepan as well. If you love risotto, you’ve found your new best friend.

Stockpot

Stockpot

The stockpot is generally the largest pot in the kitchen, ranging in size from 6 quarts all the way up to 16 quarts. Most home cooks will find the 8-quart size the most useful. They’re perfect for making large batches of soup or stews, boiling pasta, or simmering stock. Look for stainless steel with a thick, multi-ply base for great heat retention. Stainless steel is non-reactive and great for acidic foods like tomato sauce. A thick base is perfect for long, slow cooking which is what stockpots are all about. Plus, it helps when sauteing onions and garlic for your soups and sauces.

Dutch Oven

Dutch Oven

The Dutch oven, also known as a cocotte or French oven, is another large pot but unlike the stockpot, Dutch ovens are cast iron or enamel-coated cast iron (some are available in other materials but I don’t recommend them). I prefer an enamel-coated design since they’re easier to clean and don’t require seasoning. Available in an even wider size range than stockpots, from a 1-quart perfect for individual side dishes to one big enough to handle an entire turkey.

Dutch ovens are perfect for slow cooking, braising, searing, and simmering. Perfect for coq au vin or short ribs. And because they’re right at home in the oven, they’re amazing for baking bread or mac & cheese.

Great Additions To The Basics

Griddle/ Grill Pan

Grill Pan

For starters, the difference between a grill pan and a griddle pan is the surface. A grill pan has raised ridges, perfect for steaks, burgers, veggies, etc. Anything you’d cook on a barbeque. And like a barbecue it will allow the fat to drip, separating it from the meat, while creating those beautiful grill marks. 

A griddle has a flat surface and is superb for grilled cheese sandwiches, eggs, bacon, sausage, french toast, or pancakes. The advantage over a frying pan is it can be big enough to span multiple burners. A typical size would be approximately 12 inches wide by 24 inches long.

Wok

Wok

A wok is a traditional Chinese cooking tool but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to Asian cuisine! Any dish that requires quick cooking, dry heat, and frequent stirring and tossing is made for a wok. All woks have high, flared sides and are made of thin metal. Usually carbon steel or aluminum. 

Traditionally, they have a curved base (you’ll need a wok ring to hold it upright) which works well with a gas burner. If your stovetop is electric, don’t worry, flat bases are available as well. Sesame shrimp stir-fry, anyone?

Roasting Pan

Roasting Pan

For most home cooks the roasting pan only sees daylight during Thanksgiving or other holidays when you need to prepare a turkey or large rib roast. But, if you think outside the box you can find all kinds of uses for it. A roasting pan looks similar to a baking dish but is a bit larger (14 – 18 inches wide, 3 inches deep), made of heavier stainless steel (other materials are available but stick with stainless steel), and has 2 sturdy handles. It also includes a wire rack to keep your roast off the bottom. This permits more thorough cooking and allows any pan drippings to fall through. It can double as a casserole dish for a large lasagna, roasting lots of veggies or potatoes, or even baking large quantities of goodies.

Braiser

Braiser

A braiser is very similar to a Dutch oven. They’re both enamel-coated cast iron with tight-fitting lids and 2 handles. The main difference being a brasier has lower sidewalls and a broader base. Are they interchangeable? Absolutely. But each has its own areas where they shine. A Dutch oven is great for slow-cooking large cuts of meat, soups, and stews. A braiser is better for casseroles, shallow frying, searing, and, of course, braising. They are also easier to handle because of their lighter weight.

Stovetop Pressure Cooker

Stovetop Pressure Cooker

Today, when people think of a pressure cooker they think of an electric pressure cooker such as an Instant Pot. But the OG stovetop version has a few advantages over its electric cousins. They take up less space, are more durable, and cook at higher pressure (15psi vs 11psi) and therefore prepare meals in even less time. Also, they can double as an additional saucepan. The only real disadvantage is a stovetop pressure cooker doesn’t have an auto shut-off. Just use the timer on your microwave! Don’t worry, they won’t explode. Modern versions have pressure relief valves. Bottom line: stovetop versions perform better but are less convenient than electric ones.

Shopping Tips

Existing Cookware Owned

Don’t buy an entire cookware set if you already own a piece or two. Buying a set can sometimes save you a bit of cash over purchasing everything separately but it won’t help if you’re just duplicating pieces you already own. Take an inventory of what you already have (assuming they’re in good shape) and just fill in the gaps. 

What and How You Cook

Are you cooking for a large family or just 1-2 people? Do you entertain or love to experiment in the kitchen? The answers will determine how big a collection of cookware you’ll need. A simple 7-piece set may be perfect for simpler needs. A 10-inch fry pan, 2 qt saucepan, 3 qt saute pan, and a 6 qt stockpot (plus 3 lids) may be all you need, saving you money and much-needed cabinet space. You can always add more pieces as needed. 

Meatballs In Sauce

On the other hand, if you fancy yourself the next Ina Garten or Emeril Lagasse (BAM!) you may need multiple sizes of fry pans and saucepans, etc. This might require a 15-piece set or even building your collection from scratch. Have fun but try not to go overboard, you still have to find room for all that stuff.

If you live your life at 100MPH and need to simplify things you may want to consider going nonstick. What sounds better? Scrubbing pots and pans or catching up on Netflix? I thought so.

Match Cookware To Stovetop

For the most part, manufacturers have made sure their cookware works with the majority of stovetop types. There are two exceptions:

For glass cooktops, look for pots and pans with flat, smooth bases (not convex or concave). You’re looking to maximize contact for good heat distribution. Smooth bases will prevent scratching the glass. I recommend stainless steel or aluminum.

Induction stovetops are the other exception. For the induction technology to work, cookware must have a base or insert of magnetic iron or steel. Manufacturers that offer induction-compatible cookware usually make it pretty clear on their marketing materials since it’s a selling point. Just to be sure, bring a small magnet with you when shopping. If it sticks to the bottom, you’re all set!

From Stovetop To Oven

If you’re someone who frequently prepares recipes that require going from the stovetop to the oven to finish a dish, then you want to make sure your cookware can handle it. The short answer is to check with the manufacturer. The more detailed answer is, if the pan is made entirely of stainless steel, cast iron, or carbon steel you should have no problem. They can even be placed under the broiler. Nonstick pans or pans with coated handles will have a lower temperature rating. Most are oven safe up to around 450°F but should never be placed under the broiler which is in the 500-550°F range.

Durability

Since this has been discussed several times in this article I’ll keep it short and sweet. It all comes down to whether cookware is coated or uncoated. Uncoated cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel is incredibly durable and can last a lifetime with proper care. Cookware with nonstick coatings, either ceramic or PTFE, will eventually degrade and will need to be replaced. Enamel-coated cast iron is somewhere in the middle. The enamel can crack and chip but will not affect the performance.

Maintenance

Nonstick pans would have to top my list as the lowest-maintenance cookware. Although you should never place them in the dishwasher (also no metal utensils), they are easily wiped clean with a damp sponge. No muss, no fuss.

All uncoated cookware such as stainless steel, carbon steel, copper, etc will need a bit of butter or oil when cooking otherwise you’ll end up having to soak and scrub the pan. Stainless can be placed in the dishwasher but that’s not going to remove more stubborn residue.

At the bottom of the list is uncoated cast iron. These pans need to be seasoned to provide a nonstick coating. This coating is fairly delicate and will not stand up to harsh cleansers. Also, they will rust if not thoroughly dried (I put mine in the oven at low temp). In reality, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Budget

First, don’t run out and buy a full set of cookware if you already have some serviceable pieces. Only buy what you need to fill any gaps.

Shopping For Cookware

Second, expect to pay more for stainless steel or copper cookware than aluminum or cast iron. Also, don’t pay top dollar for nonstick pieces. Unlike stainless steel, nonstick coatings will not last for years and will need to be replaced. 

Lastly, there’s the law of diminishing returns. Would I pay 20% more for a Calphalon Premier 10” fry pan over a “no name” brand? Yes, because in my opinion, it’s probably twice as good. Would I pay 3 times the price of the Calphalon for an All-Clad 10.5” D3 Bonded fry pan? The All-Clad is definitely a better product, but is it 3 times better? Doubtful.

Appearance

I’m a big believer in the saying, form follows function. Cookware is a tool first and eye candy second. Nothing is prettier than copper cookware but I wouldn’t want to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. Narrow your selection based on all the other criteria (material, price, etc.), and then choose whatever strikes your fancy.

Major Brands

With dozens of cookware brands out there, there are a few that stand out as leaders in the market. Let’s take a look at some of them.

All-Clad

When you think of top-of-the-line cookware, All-Clad is the first name that comes to mind. Starting in 1971, All-Clad manufactures all of its products in the USA. Offering a huge selection of not just cookware, but knives, bakeware, appliances, and accessories. The preferred choice for many professional chefs, you can’t go wrong with All-Clad but be prepared to shell out the big bucks!

Made In

Made In has been in the restaurant supply business for over 100 years. Back in 2016, they entered the cookware market with their own line of top-quality cookware and things haven’t been the same since. High-quality construction coupled with a direct-to-consumer business model means Made In products are an incredible value. They offer a full line of stainless steel, carbon steel, cast iron, and nonstick cookware. Most of the pieces are manufactured in the USA with a few select items coming from Italy and France. 

Misen

Another newcomer, Misen got started in 2015 via Kickstarter and has proven itself to be a real powerhouse. Like Made In, they sell directly to consumers and offer a lot of “bang for the buck”. Focusing solely on the home market, they offer a wide range of cookware, knives, and accessories designed for the home chef. In order to keep prices down all Misen products are manufactured in China.

Calphalon

If you’ve ever bought any kitchen gear you know the name, Calphalon. They are a juggernaut in the cookware market selling anything and everything involved in cooking. With the exception of a few select product lines, everything is made in China and aimed at the home cook. They are best known for their super popular lines of nonstick, anodized aluminum cookware. 

Le Creuset

Beautiful, even fashionable, enameled cast iron cookware, that’s what Le Creuset is all about. Handcrafted in France since 1925, their high-quality cookware is available in 24 colors (last time I checked). They’re definitely on the expensive side but if you’re looking for a dutch oven that’s nice enough to go from kitchen-to-table at your next dinner party, the answer is Le Creuset. 

Lodge

In many ways, Lodge is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Le Creuset. They specialize in uncoated cast iron at value pricing. Everything is made in the USA and has been for 125 years. Lodge is possibly the biggest name in uncoated cast iron and has a huge fanbase all over the world. 

T-Fal

T-Fal (or Tefal) is another big company that built its reputation on nonstick, hard-anodized aluminum cookware. Started in 1956, this French company has since expanded its line to include ceramic and stainless steel cookware, small appliances, and accessories. Like Calphalon, T-Fal is focused on the home market with mid-market pricing. Products are made in either France or China depending on the product line.

GreenPan

Started in 2007, this Belgian company was among the first to develop a ceramic-based nonstick coating. Their Thermolon™ coating is PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium free. Their focus is all about non-toxic, sustainable cookware, and has built a customer base of health-conscious consumers.

TV Brands

“As Seen On TV” brands such as Gotham Steel, Red Copper, Copper Chef, and Granitestone all occupy the same marketing space, low priced, “indestructible” nonstick cookware. Are they really indestructible? Of course not. Many people think it’s crazy to buy expensive nonstick cookware if the coating isn’t going to last. Why not buy cheap, disposable pans and just buy replacements as needed? That’s a valid strategy although it’s not environmentally friendly.

Still Have Questions? Fire Away.

Are any brands made in the USA?

Because of lower labor rates, most manufacturers have moved production overseas, typically China. However, there are some great brands still made in America such as Made In, All Clad, and Lodge. Here’s a full list

What cookware works on induction cooktops?

Only cookware that is ferromagnetic (magnetic) will function on an induction cooktop because induction cooktops employ electromagnetic energy to directly heat the cookware. This includes several types of aluminum (with a layer of magnetic material in the base), stainless steel with high ferrous content, enameled cast iron, and cast iron. Glass and copper cookware are incompatible with induction cooktops.

Induction Base

To test if a pot or pan is compatible with an induction cooktop, try attaching a magnet to the bottom of the cookware. If the magnet sticks, the cookware should work.

It is important to keep in mind that not all stainless steel cookware may be used with an induction cooktop. Some stainless steel has a low ferrous content and won’t work. Look for cookware that is expressly marked as being appropriate for use on induction cooktops to be sure it’s compatible.

Which cookware is safest?

The safest cookware materials are going to be stainless steel, ceramic, enamel-coated cast iron, and glass. These materials are completely inert and non-toxic. 

Next up we have uncoated cast iron, copper, and aluminum cookware. Potentially, these materials can leach into your food. In the case of cast iron, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you have an iron deficiency. Always make sure your aluminum cookware is anodized to prevent leaching. 

At the bottom of the list are the nonstick pots and pans. To be fair, today’s nonstick coatings are safe if you treat them properly. Overheating PTFE (i.e. Teflon) can release toxic fumes. Scratched or chipped surfaces of both PTFE and ceramic-coated pans can expose things like cadmium and lead. Not good.

How many pots and pans do you need?

The number of pots and pans that you need will depend on your cooking habits and the type of meals that you like to prepare. Here are a few basics that every kitchen needs.

Frying pan or skillet

A frying pan or skillet is a versatile pan that can be used for a wide range of cooking tasks, including sautéing, frying, and searing. It’s a good idea to have at least one medium-sized frying pan, about 8-10 inches in diameter.

Saucepan

A saucepan is ideal for boiling, simmering, and making sauces. You may want to have at least one small saucepan, about 1-2 quarts in size, as well as a larger one, about 3-4 quarts in size, for tasks like cooking pasta or grains.

Stockpot

A stockpot is a must for making soups, stews, and large batches of broth. You may want to have a stockpot that is about 6-8 quarts in size.

Roasting Pan

A roasting pan is a large, shallow pan with a raised rim and 2 handles. It’s perfect for roasting meats and vegetables. You’ll want to have a roasting pan that is about 14-16 inches in size.

Baking Sheet

A baking sheet is a flat, rectangular pan with raised sides. It’s great for baking cookies, roasting vegetables, and broiling meats. Look for one that is about 13×18 inches.

Ultimately, the size and variety of pots and pans that you need will change over time. It’s a good idea to start with a few basic pieces and then add more as needed.

What cookware has PFAS?

A class of man-made compounds known as PFAS has been utilized in several types of cookware. Because of its well-known non-stick qualities, PFAS are beneficial for keeping food from sticking to pots and pans. Certain PFAS types, however, may be detrimental to human health, according to certain research, especially if they are subjected to very high temperatures or in contact with specific foods.

It’s worth noting that the use of PFAS in cookware has been restricted or banned in some countries due to concerns about their potential health effects. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of certain types of PFAS in cookware, but others are still permitted.

To avoid cookware that may contain PFAS, you can look for pots and pans that are labeled as being “PFAS-free” or “PFOA-free.” It’s a good idea to use low to medium heat when cooking and to avoid overheating your cookware, as this can potentially release PFAS into the air or your food.

What’s the difference between coating and cladding?

The terms “coating” and “cladding” are often confused. Here is a brief overview of the differences between the two:

A coating is a thin layer of material that is applied to the surface of the cookware. It can be made from a variety of materials, including non-stick substances like Teflon, ceramic, or silicone, as well as metals like stainless steel or aluminum. Coatings are typically applied to the cooking surface to improve its non-stick properties and make cleaning easier.

Cladding is a process in which an outer layer of one material is bonded to the core of another material. In the case of cookware, cladding is often used to combine two different types of metal, such as stainless steel and aluminum, to create a pan with the benefits of both materials. For example, a stainless steel pan with an aluminum core will have the durability and corrosion resistance of stainless steel, as well as the excellent heat conductivity of aluminum.

How much should I spend?

The amount of money you should spend on cookware will depend on your budget, the type and number of pieces you need, and the level of quality you are looking for.

The first thing to consider is how much you are willing to spend. Determine a budget that works for you, and then stick to it. The cost of cookware can vary widely. For example, a basic set of pots and pans made from stainless steel may cost less than a set of high-end pots and pans made from copper or enameled cast iron. Don’t be seduced into buying a large set of cookware thinking you’ll save money. You won’t save that much, especially if you’re stuck with pieces you don’t need. 

The quality of cookware can also affect its price. Higher-quality cookware is generally made from better materials, has a longer lifespan, and performs better than lower-quality cookware. It may be worth investing in quality cookware if you plan on using it frequently or if you are looking for durable, long-lasting pieces. It’s a good idea to shop around and compare prices to find the best value for your money.

What’s the difference between a skillet and a frying pan?

In general, the terms “skillet”, “fry pan, and “frying pan” can be used interchangeably to refer to a shallow pan with a flat bottom and sloping sides that is used for cooking on the stovetop. 

Final Thoughts

So, that’s about it, everything you ever wanted to know about cookware. Hopefully, it wasn’t too overwhelming. The key is choosing what’s right for YOU. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend buying each piece separately, selecting the best item for each job, and building your collection over time. Enjoy the journey!

Isabella Hsu

Isabella Hsu

Isabella is a freelance writer specializing in all things food related. She has a background in classical liberal arts and grew up in a family of restaurateurs. For the first few years of her life, she practically lived in restaurant kitchens. Isabella started cooking at an early age and hasn’t stopped. She’s worked in many sectors within the food industry including wine, beer, and even traditional Japanese cuisine. She loves to share her knowledge and passion with anyone who will listen (and even some who won’t). When not writing, cooking, or eating, you can find Isabella hiking on the nearest mountain or rock climbing at the gym.

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