Virtually indestructible, cast iron is an old fashioned cooking material that’s porous and delivers a lot of flavors when taken care of properly.
Pros: It’s both affordable and durable. It’s also versatile and can handle high heat, able to go from the stovetop to the oven. It’s known for retaining heat well, which lends itself to cooking foods more evenly.
Cons: It requires a little extra TLC to clean and maintain than some other cooking materials. It’s not ideal for cooking acidic foods, as it can strip the seasoning. It can also rust if it’s not maintained properly.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron has a porcelain coating that prevents rust and makes for easier cleaning. It can also transition from stovetop to oven.
Pros: It has the cooking benefits of cast iron but cleans up easier and doesn’t require seasoning. It’s better for cooking acidic foods, as you don’t have to worry about stripping the seasoning or food reacting with the material.
Cons: It’s pricey. Its nonstick quality isn’t always as strong as that of a well-seasoned regular cast iron pan. It’s also pretty heavy which can make storing it tricky.
Stainless steel is a popular material for cookware, but it’s not all created equal and the higher-end lines deliver better results.
Pros: It’s nonreactive so it won’t affect the taste of your food when cooking with acidic or alkaline ingredients. It heats up quickly. It’s also dishwasher safe — and oven safe as long as the handles are all stainless steel.
Cons: It doesn’t distribute heat as well as some other materials. Though some higher-end lines add an aluminum or copper core to fix this. It’s also tougher to clean, as burnt on foods can really latch on unless you purchase a higher grade of steel.
Carbon steel pans are made of mostly iron and some carbon. It’s durable like cast iron but much thinner.
Pros: Like cast iron, it retains heat well which cooks food evenly and makes it ideal for searing. It delivers that rich, grilled flavor. However, it’s more lightweight than cast iron. As long as it’s seasoned properly, it remains naturally nonstick.
Cons: It requires seasoning to maintain and cleaning isn’t the easiest. It’s not dishwasher safe and you shouldn’t cook with acidic foods when using carbon steel pans.
There are two types of aluminum you’ll find on shelves: regular aluminum and anodized aluminum. Each has its own pros and cons.
Pros: Regular aluminum is lightweight and affordable. It also retains heat well. Anodized aluminum is a bit sturdier, more durable, and more scratch-resistant compared to regular aluminum.
Cons: Regular aluminum has the same downfall that copper does; it reacts with certain foods, which is what makes anodized aluminum the more ideal cooking material. However, anodized aluminum is more expensive.
It’s a go-to cooking material, but it’s had its share of controversy over the years. Yet, there are still advantages to cooking with nonstick pans and pots as long as you keep a few rules in mind.
Pros: The most obvious benefit is in the name: they’re nonstick. The material is easy to clean and requires less oil when cooking because of the smooth coating.
Cons: Once the coating chips, the high heat is believed to expose food to toxic chemicals often used in nonstick cookware (PFOA and PTFE, referred to as Teflon). Whenever possible, buy nonstick pans that don’t use these harmful compounds. However, they’re usually more expensive. The rule “you get what you pay for” especially applies to nonstick pans. Avoid heating without oil and don’t use too high of heat and you’ll get more out of this cooking material.
While it’s often referred to as ceramic nonstick cookware, it’s actually often aluminum with silicone finish that has a ceramic-like texture.
Pros: It’s nonstick, though not as nonstick as regular nonstick pans. It’s free of chemicals like PTFE and PFOA that tend to scare people away from traditional nonstick pans. And it’s thought to be more environmentally friendly.
Cons: The nonstick quality can fade over time. It’s not dishwasher safe, as it can strip the nonstick coating.