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Can the Right Cookware Make You a Better Cook?

We need cookware to cook our food. Your Cookware Helper says the right cookware can actually help you cook better! Here are 4 reasons why cookware matters. Cookware plays an important role in the art and science of cooking.

How Cookware Can Make Us a Better Cook

There are 4 primary reasons why the right cookware can help us to cook better.

  1. The right cookware will heat evenly. 

    All-Clad Stainless Steel D5 Cookware SetOne of the most important attributes of quality cookware is that it heats evenly. Consider all the cookware that is clad with copper and/or aluminum, for the sole purpose of helping the cookware provide even heating. When you use the properly sized cookware for the stove heating element, you expect the pan to provide an even amount of heat throughout the cooking surface. If it does not, the food will need more attention for flipping or stirring, cause food to stick, and possibly even provide food that is not cooked thoroughly.

  2. The right cookware is appropriate for the job. 

    Here is where a little experience goes a long way. Obviously one will use a skillet to fry eggs or chicken, a sauce pan to boil water or heat liquids, and a sauté pan to cook up a bunch of veggies or meats. The appropriately sized cookware for the job is important. When you have multiple choices of cookware to use, choosing the right one can make the cooking process easier, or add a really nice touch to the meal.

    Consider these real life cooking stories. I have an All-Clad stainless steel sauce pan that is clad with aluminum all the way up the sides. I recently used it when I was cooking grits with mushrooms as a side dish for swordfish steaks. During the cooking process, the heat was set to low, and the grits were slowly bubbling in the All-Clad sauce pan. The aluminum up the sides allows the pan to provide an even heat that wraps around the food, not just on the bottom. It was the appropriate cookware for this thicker side dish. Had I used a simpler Farberware sauce pan with aluminum clad just on the bottom, I would have to stir more frequently, and possibly risk having it burn on the bottom. For thinner liquid based dishes, the Farberware would be suitable.

    Staub Grill Pan WideHaving sear marks on certain foods adds that restaurant quality touch to dishes. When making an Orange Chicken dish recently, I slowly baked the chicken in the oven. However, before serving it, I used my Lodge Cast Iron Grill Pan to put sear marks on the chicken before I placed it on the serving dish, where I then drizzled the orange sauce over the top. The presentation was a success.

    Here is another tip to help with a restaurant quality presentation. Consider using Staub Cast Iron Roasting Dishes, preheated in the oven, and place your chicken, steak, or vegetables on the Staub Roasting Dishes to give that sizzling effect, and final cooking, as you bring your dish to the table.

  3. The right cookware is comfortable to use. 

    Comfort is an important variable when selecting cookware. Is the cookware too light or too heavy? Are the handles properly sized for your hands? If it is a heavy piece, does it have a helper handle to allow both hands to pick it up? As a tennis player, I know that a grip that is too small can cause elbow strain. Cookware with handles that are too small can also cause arm strain. Do the handles heat up too quickly? Many pieces today like the KitchenAid Brushed Stainless Steel cookware have handles with silicone inserts for soft, cool handling. Determine what makes cookware comfortable for you. With comfortable cookware, you will use it more, and enjoy handling it. If it is not comfortable, you may not handle it as necessary to get the proper results.

  4. The right cookware gives you confidence in our cooking abilities.

    Consider the folks you find to be good cooks. Do you think they are confident in their abilities? Such confidence starts with the cookware. If you use cookware that heats evenly, the appropriate cookware for the job, and comfortable to use, don’t you think that would add to your own confidence? Of course it would. Confident cooks are not worried about the outcome. They try new things. They are creative. Their cookware is something they don’t have to be concerned with. They know it will perform satisfactorily. It is the right tool for the job just a a plumber or carpenter uses the right tool.

Cookware comes in all shapes and sizes. Using the “right” pieces will help you in your cooking abilities, and build your confidence. Anyone can be a good cook. Cookware is an important part of the cooking process. 

If you want help learning how to cook, I recommend my very own Home Cooking Academy. It offers structured online cooking classes that teach busy home cooks how to consistently make attractive, aromatic, and delicious meals.

Happy cooking!

 

9 Tips Before You Buy Cookware

Scanpan CTX SkilletBefore you buy cookware, there are several things you need to know to save time, money, and a bad cooking experience. There are some tricks to selecting the proper cookware. Here are 9 tips on how to buy cookware that is right for you. These will help you save money and get the best cookware, for you, at the best price.

Buy Cookware Right for You

1) Understand the “Type of Cook” you are buying for

Whether buying for yourself or someone else, choosing the most suitable cookware materials is directly related to how much it will get used. If someone wants dishwasher safe cookware, and you get them something that requires hand washing, well, you get the point. Your Cookware Helper has a unique and exclusive article called “Matching Cookware Materials To The Cook.”

2) Follow the simple 3-step process

Before you buy cookware, first pick your cookware material(s). Second, pick your brand(s). Third, get the best price. Very important – I recommend you not concern yourself with price first. Virtually all materials can be found in the full price spectrum. If budget is your primary concern, the Cookware Brands page has a chart of relative prices by cookware brands. Read the complete article about the 3-step process.

3) Quality lasts longer

Like fine cutlery, it is recommended to buy the best individual pieces you can afford. A long lasting and customized cookware set may include different materials and brands. Match your cookware pieces to what you cook and how you cook.

4) Read the care and use instructions

Most quality products will only support their warranty if proper use and care are evident. Most recommend hand washing in warm sudsy water with a nylon type scrub pad. Automatic dishwashers are very tough on cookware with the high drying heat and harsh cleaning chemicals. Today, there are some top quality brands offering dishwasher safe products, but time will prove how good they are.

5) Low to medium heat

Quality cookware, especially those clad with aluminum or copper, can perfectly and safely cook your food using low or medium heat. The use of medium high and high heat can cause damage with warping, discoloration, and fumes that can kill birds. Yes, that really is a warning for non stick products!

6) Watch your acidic foods and salts

Acidic foods can react with certain materials. It is best to remove foods soon after they are cooked. When adding salt to a dish, make sure to add it to a liquid first, and not directly on heated cookware. The salt can pit the cookware, damaging the surface and make foods stick to the pan.

7) Be “clad” you have layers

 To improve the heat distribution of certain cookware materials, manufacturers will clad or layer high heat distribution materials like aluminum or copper between or underneath the lesser heat quality materials. This is often done with stainless steel, where 3, 5, 7, or even 9 ply layers are used to improve the quality of the product. Of course, the more layers, the higher cost. Another factor with multi-clad products is where there are layered. Bottom layered products offers help where it needs it most. Fully clad products are layered on the walls also providing a far superior heat distribution throughout the cookware.

8) Handles and lids

Do not underestimate the worth of handles and lids. If the cookware item can be placed in the oven, what is the max temperature the handle can withstand? If you are looking at a large skillet, what is the size of the handle? As a tennis player, I know the value of having an appropriate sized grip. Handles that are too small can cause muscle strain. And if the skillet is extra heavy with food, will it wobble as you carry it across the kitchen? Helper handles to grip both sides of a pan come in very handy.

Lids need to seal properly. If the cookware is advertised as “waterless”, the seal has to be extra tight. If the lid is glass, is it tempered to reduce the risk of breakage, or protected with stainless steel?

9) Real-life user reviews and opinions

A lot can be learned from the experiences of others. Cookware reviews are an essential way to determine if a product is good at the start and over the long-term. Through-out this site, you will see we include a fair sampling of reviews for the given cookware

Before you buy cookware, be sure to consider all these factors. How you will use the cookware and what to look out for will help you buy the right cookware for your particular needs.

Happy Cooking!

 

Why Food Sticks to Cookware

There are 4 primary reasons why food sticks to cookware. When food sticks to cookware, it can damage the presentation of the dish, and make cleanup more difficult. Food sticking to cookware introduced a whole industry within the cookware market for nonstick cookware. However, regardless of the cookware materials you use, there are some simple steps to help avoid food sticking to cookware.

The 4 Reasons Why Food Sticks to Cookware

1) Cooking with heat set too high

In our microwave society where we can’t wait a full minute for water to boil, it is common for cooks to jack up the heat on a fry pan to medium high or high for everyday cooking. With the exception of high heat cooking like saute or browning, quality cookware manufacturers recommend low to medium heat for most cooking. When cookware is clad with aluminum or copper, those materials are such great conductors of heat that low to medium settings provide a heat level equivalent of medium to high on poorer quality cookware.

2) Placing frozen or very cold food into a hot pan

Once again, in a society where speed matters, we often toss frozen food right into a hot pan to get it cooking faster. That temperature differential will cause sticking. Quality cookware manufacturers recommend dethawing food or setting food out for 10 to 15 minutes so it can adjust to room temperature. Temperature differential is an important concept to understand. Cookware can warp if frozen foods are placed in a hot pan. If a hot pan is placed in a freezer for food storage is another cause of cookware warping. If you pay attention to temperature differentials, you can help avoid food sticking and cookware warping.

3) Poor quality cookware

No one wants to pay more than what they need to for cookware, nor throw out cookware before it needs to be. But let’s be honest. How many of you have at least one piece of non stick cookware that you know is beyond its time? Perhaps it lost its non stick qualities, or the non stick coating is scratched, chipped, or flaking off. If you have to add butter or oil to a non stick pan just like you would with a pan not coated with a non stick surface, there’s your sign it is time for it to go. When cookware has hot spots, that is a sign of genuinely poor quality cookware. Hot spots allow one part of the pan to get hotter than another part and the food sticks on those hot spots.

4) Improper cleaning methods

Yes, how you clean your cookware also affects the sticking properties of cookware. Stainless Steel Cookware manufacturers never recommend using rough or abrasive cleaning pads or chemicals. Doing so may scratch or damage the cooking surface. If the cooking surface gets scratched or nicked, those scratches or nicks can provide places where food can cling to and cause sticking. Nonstick cooking requires a properly cleaned and maintained cooking surface. Automatic dishwashers use very tough cleaning chemicals and high heat to clean dishes. That cleaning environment is very tough on shiny cookware exteriors and smooth interior surfaces. Most anodized aluminum cookware warranties are voided if the cookware is placed in an automatic dishwasher. Non-enameled cast iron cookware needs to be cleaned with just hot water and a cast iron cleaning brush. Using soap will remove the natural non stick coating that builds with use. Be sure to check your cookware care and use instructions.

When Food Sticking is Needed

Chefs know there are times when you want food to stick. Nothing beats a great sauce that was prepared with food particles stuck, deglazed, or caramelized on a pan. After searing some beef, chicken, pork, or lamb in a pan and having those leftovers stuck in the pan can be the beginning of a great sauce. Saute pans are made for the purpose of higher heat cooking where vegetables and meats cook fairly rapidly and the remains in the pan can be used for glazes or sauces.

Using the Same Cookware for a Nonstick and a Sticking Surface

Food sticks for 4 reasonsSo how can the same cookware provide a nonstick surface when you don’t want it to stick, yet stick when you want it to stick? Easy. The answer is to learn the proper cooking techniques for the cookware material you are using. Most nonstick surface manufacturers do not recommend high heat. If you need to sear or brown a food, use cast iron, anodized aluminum, or stainless steel. Those same surfaces can be used both for sticking and nonsticking when the proper heat is used, and the cookware is cleaned according to manufacturer specifications.

No one likes it when food stick to cookware when it is not intended. When you know why food sticks, you can take measures to prevent it. Know that too high of a heat, temperature differential, poor quality cookware, and cleaning methods are all known causes of why food sticks to cookware. I hope this information helps you to understand the nature of cookware and how its proper use can make your cookware last longer.

Happy Cooking!