How to buy cookware
Choosing cookware should be very simple, but people that make and sell cookware make it very confusing. Why? Because if it seems confusing then you will buy from them if they can convince you that they have what you need. Marketing 101.
At Cook Culture, we like to keep it very simple and believe that the best cooking materials are the simplest. We believe that nothing is better than cast iron, carbon steel, and stainless steel, and that there’s no space in our kitchen for coated cookware.
What is basic cookware?
- Fry pan
- Sauté pan
- Stock Pot
The ‘buying cookware golden rule’
Many people don’t like this rule but it is what it is: buy heavy cookware. Nothing is better than weight when it comes to quality cooking. All the best brands in the world are heavy and the better quality lines of the best brands are their heaviest. You will compromise quality when you buy lightweight cookware. Due to this, you do not need to spend a lot of money on cookware. Don’t shop by price, shop by weight!
The other ‘buying cookware golden rule’
Do not buy coated cookware, ever, for any reason, unless you don’t care about your health, your family’s health, and our environment.
Sets are fine, most of the time.
If the cookware in a set works well for you then it’s the right choice. If you think you will not use all the pieces then inquire about bundled pricing on 5 or more pieces. Sometimes you will get exactly what you want for a great price.
What to choose?
Cast Iron makes an excellent cooking material, and it’s our first overall choice. Some people are so in love with cast iron that they will not cook with another material. This is fine, however larger pieces of cast iron can be heavy and cumbersome. This is why people will use Stainless Steel with aluminum and/or copper core
The lesser known perfect cookware. Carbon steel actually has a higher content of iron than cast iron and can be molded into shapes using a large hydraulic press. The material is dense and makes an excellent conductor for even cooking. The advantage of this material is that its pans are more splayed than square and usually they have longer handles. Many people prefer the shape of our de Buyer fry pans due to these design factors.
Enameled Cast Iron
It’s very common to find enameled cast iron and some of the best known cast iron brands come this way. Enameling is a rock hard surface that protects the raw cast iron and adds an aesthetic. More about the differences of enameled and raw cast iron here:
Stainless Steel Cookware
This is the bulk of all cookware on the market and probably the most confusing of all cookware.
It’s called stainless steel because that is what you see. Pretty, shiny pots and pans, however it’s what is on the inside that matters.
First. There are 2 methods to making cookware.
Clad. This is best known due to All-Clad, the best known clad cookware in the world. It’s been a dominant brand for over 45 years and was once the best and highest quality all American cookware. Now-a-days, there are many high quality brands that are as good, or better than All-Clad. Cladding is layering the cookware, in sheets. Try-Clad, for example, is the first layer stainless steel, then aluminum, and then stainless steel. They create a flat sheet of the three metals and then press them into shape, like a pan or a pot. They then drill holes in the side and attach a handle. That is clad cookware. Clad cookware can come with many layers to build weight to hold heat. Remember from above? Weight is good.
- Encapsulated. This is the simplest and mostly the cheapest way to build cookware. A 100% stainless vessel is pressed into shape, much like the clad, but only 1 layer of one material. The conduction comes from a disk that is glued to the bottom of the pan. This can be as simple as a raw aluminum disk, or can be as complex as our Demeyere Atlantis cookware that builds copper and silver into their base! Crazy.
Stainless steel cookware can be super cheap or can be one of the most expensive types of cookware in the market. How do you tell what is good? The #1 way is weight. You will always do well with heavier cookware, no matter what. From there it gets somewhat harder to tell, mostly because the conductive material is buried in the cookware! Basic guidelines for buying stainless steel cookware:
- Buy for weight
- For clad: Buy 5 plys or more. Over the years, most 3 ply cookware brands have skimped on weight to cut costs.
- If you aren't trying to keep up with the Jones, then try heavyweight encapsulated. You usually get more for your money
- Stainless steel fry pans do not season very easily so consider buying cast iron or carbon steel for your skillet/fry pans.
- Use Bar Keepers’ Friend to polish when they get marked.
Buy specialty cookware
To us, specialty cookware is anything that is not on the ‘basic cookware’ list. An example of these are:
- Oven - Round and Oval
These items should be considered on a case by case and we highly recommend to not worry about these matching your primary cookware, as the best items for your needs may not be from the same brand.
Why Cast Iron?
Cast Iron is the most versatile cookware made. It’s important to buy well known brands that are made in first world countries as there can be high concentrations of lead in cookware from countries like China and India. We recommend cast iron cookware from the USA or Europe.
Cast iron is not perfect for all applications, however, it works very well as a replacement for nonstick fry pans as the cast iron can be seasoned to become as non stick as any coated pan.
How do you season? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hbe8N4x_0E&t
Care for cookware
Overcooking food, and especially oil, will discolour and cook food onto your cookware. The best way to maintain your cookware is to not cook at too high a heat. Try to stay at ⅔ for the highest temp and always keep an eye on what you’ve got on the stove!
When you do need some help, we suggest using a chain mail scrubber. This is an invaluable tool for cleaning all cookware but it’s especially good for cast iron, as it will protect your seasoned surface.
Regular dish soap should suffice but if you have oil cooked onto stainless steel you will need something stronger. We recommend Bar Keepers’ Friend.