Pots and pans are the number one essential in any kitchen. Having the right ones can change your whole experience in the kitchen. There are several construction factors that affect the overall performance of these products. What they are made of can make all the difference.
There are five main materials used for making pots/pans:
Copper, Aluminium, Cast Iron, Carbon steel, Stainless Steel
These materials all have different qualities that affect the performance and make them ideal for certain types of cooking.
The best heat conductor. Copper diffuses heat evenly and quickly: not only on the bottom, but also on the sides of the pan, allowing for the food to be cooked evenly. This is ideal for delicate cooking like sauces, for general reduction cooking and more. This material is often chosen because it is so visually appealing.
However, it is a heavy metal that will bend and dent easily. Another big concern is that it can react chemically with some foods to create poisonous compounds, so copper cookware is mostly lined with another type of metal, for example stainless steel. It does require maintenance to keep it looking good. Copper is not typically induction friendly and does tend to be the most expensive cookware option.
Be careful of “copper” pots & pans that have a thin veneer of copper and possess none of the real culinary qualities. Du Buyer for example guarantees quality cooking with a material composed of 90% copper and 10% stainless steel.
This cookware is an excellent heat conductor, as well as reasonably durable and lightweight. It is, however, prone to discolouration and can discolour light coloured foods and sauces which can make them taste bitter. As a countermeasure, anodized aluminium is coated to prevent such side effects. Anodizing is an electrochemical process that converts the metal surface into a durable and corrosion-resistant finish. A well- designed aluminium pan will spread the heat across the whole pan for even cooking.
AMT is hand cast and has a solid makeup with its patented layers. They also retain the heat beautifully, see our range here
Cast iron cookware is a good heat conductor and maintains temperatures well due to the density of the metal. It is durable but heavy. Because they are thicker they tend to heat more evenly than carbon steel pans. However, they will rust quickly if not kept conditioned and dried at all times. Cast iron cookware requires seasoning to maintain a non-stick surface. Cast Iron normally contains 97-98% iron and 2-3% carbon. The extra carbon makes it more brittle. However, the performance of cast iron and carbon steel pans is similar.
To season a frying pan means to treat it with oil so as to create a non-stick coating. This is usually done to cast iron & carbon steel pans. The oil fills any microscopic holes in the metal and then dries like a shellac, sealing the surface making them almost similar to non-stick. Since Teflon coated and hard-anodized aluminium pans are already non-stick, there is no need to season them.
A decent heat conductor. Carbon steel normally contains 99% iron & 1% carbon. They are stronger, lighter and more pliable. They retain heat nearly just as well as cast iron and once they get hot they stay hot. They are great for searing steaks or crisping chicken skin etc. It is stamped or spun from sheets of metal, not cast like cast iron, which gives it a smooth surface. This also means that a perfectly seasoned carbon steel pan will have better non-stick properties than a perfectly seasoned cast iron pan.
The De Buyer Iron pan, typically known as a French pan is a thin pan made of sheet iron pressed into form and used mainly for sauteing foods quickly over high heat, see our range here
This is an iron based material has an in-built chromium oxide layer, which is not present in carbon steel. Carbon steel can corrode whereas stainless steel is protected from corrosion. However, the downside is Stainless Steel has lower thermal conductivity than Carbon steel. Stainless Steel has the advantage of being very durable while not reacting with foods or discolouring them. Since it is a poor heat conductor and prone to hot spots and scorching, stainless steel cookware sometimes features a multi-ply construction where a disc of conductive metal is attached to the bottom of the pan to aid in heat conduction and distribution. See our range here
Thickness of pan
The thickness is something to consider, it does, unfortunately, make the pan more expensive, heavier & take longer to heat up but is also sturdier, less likely to dent or warp, holds the heat better for searing and provides more even heating.
Too Hot to Handle?
There are three types of handles: riveted, welded or screwed on. Riveted is the strongest type and is also a sign of a good quality pan. Good quality pans will feature metal handles that stay relatively cool when the pan is on the stove because the handle is made from metals that are poor heat conductors. Plastic and wooden handles also stay cool, however they are not ovenproof and tend to get brittle and break over time.
Just for some thought, below are the thermal conductivity levels of the different metals used in pot and pan manufacturing. Thermal conductivity a measure of the ability of a material to transfer heat.
At Metelerkamps we will always give you the best advice and when you are buying new items or replacing old ones, you will be able to make an informed decision and will be happy with your purchase from us!