Cooking pots and pans are some of the most important items in any kitchen, but every cook, home or professional, will have his or her own ideas about what makes an ideal pot or pan. This is entirely understandable, given the huge variation in type, quality and price that exists in the pots and pans that are currently available for sale in the high street stores. Buying pots and pans, whether singly or in a coordinated set, requires shoppers to make a series of important decisions. Each of these should be given full consideration for the simple reason that such items are meant to give many years of use, even when used on a daily basis.
Non-stick or Traditional
Even before settling on a choice of material for the body of a pot or pan, a shopper needs to decide whether they require the pan to have a non-stick interior. There is not a huge difference in price between plain and non-stick pans; as usual the basic quality of the product dictates the price.
Advantages of Non-stick Pots and Pans
Most cooks find that non-stick pans offer significant advantages over the traditional surfaces used for the interior of cookware. Non-stick coatings make pans much easier and faster to clean and are perfect for Pancake Day. A non-stick interior also makes it possible to cut down on the amount of fats and oils used in food preparation; an important factor in these days of healthy eating. An excess of fat or oil in the pan is partly absorbed into the food being cooked, resulting in extra calories and cholesterol being consumed by whoever eats it.
Disadvantages of Non-stick Pots and Pans
On the other hand, non-stick pots and pans do require some special care. Only wood, plastic, or silicone utensils should be used with such pans as the coating can become scratched from contact with the hard edge of a metal spoon or whisk. Even when such caution is exercised, the non-stick coating may become worn and scratched when the pan is in regular use. This can cause the interior of the pan to become unsightly, and when scratches become so severe that the non-stick material is flaking off into food, it presents a potential health hazard. Many experts advise that badly scratched non-stick cookware should not be used. Another complication when cooking with non-stick pots and pans is the fact that much of the cookware in this category lacks the thick, heavy bottom that is sometimes recommended in recipe books. A thick bottom on a pan allows heat to radiate into the food more evenly and gently; this helps to avoid scorching or even worse the food being burned.
Ceramic Non-stick Pots and Pans
Most non-stick pots and pans are treated with Teflon or some other variation of the chemical polytetrafluoroethylene, however, this is not the only option available. In recent years ceramic-coated cookware has also become a popular choice with cooks. As a bonus, pans with a ceramic coating offer a much greater range of interior colour choices; while Teflon is almost always a greyish-black shade, ceramic coatings may be white or jewel-bright shades of green or blue. A ceramic coating is regarded by many cooks as being preferable to Teflon because it is far more durable. While this may mean that it scratches less easily, the makers of ceramic cookware still recommend that non-metallic utensils be used. Most types of non-stick cookware, whether they are Teflon coated or ceramic, can be washed in a domestic dishwasher with no detrimental effects. Always check the manufacturer’s product specifications to clarify this point before purchase. Tefal pans from Jamie Oliver are Telfon coated for this exact purpose.
Materials Used in Making Pots and Pans
Once a shopper has made a decision whether to buy a conventional pan or one with a non-stick surface, the next important decision involves the choice of the actual material the pan is made of. The most popular types are detailed below.
Metal Pots and Pans
Metal is the most common material used to make pots and pans. Metal pans are generally durable, but each type of metal has its own quirks.
Aluminium is a soft low-density metal that is light in weight, does not tarnish, and conducts heat very well. At first sight this metal would appear to be ideal for use in the manufacture of pots and pans, however, there is a drawback with aluminium pots and pans that are not coated or anodized: they can cause flavour changes in acidic foods. Aluminium cookware is sometimes made from sheet metal that has been alloyed with another metal and then stamped into the shape desired. These are relatively inexpensive items that are readily available. Cast aluminium is more costly, mainly because the casting technique produces a much heavier and thicker pot or pan. Some individuals are now avoiding all aluminium cookware out of fears that exposure to this metal may be a risk factor in the development of degenerative diseases of the brain, such as Alzheimer's. Experts, however, insist that the use of aluminium cookware poses no real risk to human health. Aluminium pans are sometimes coated with enamel; this can make a thin metal pan considerably thicker. It also eases concerns about direct contact between the food and the aluminium.
Copper pots and pans are usually made from a thick sheet of the metal impressed over a layer of tin. Copper provides exceptionally good heat conductivity, which means that the food in a copper pan will cook through very evenly. Copper pots and pans are generally lined with tin to prevent reactions with foods containing acids. This is essential since the products of such a reaction are toxic. Unlined copper pans are available for making non-acidic specialty products such as foams and meringues. Copper itself is expensive, hence the pots and pans made from the metal are considerably more expensive than those made from other metals. Modern copper pans are sometimes coated to prevent tarnishing, but vintage copper types may need regular polishing to remove tarnish. Expensive pots made of other metals sometimes have copper interiors to help with heat conduction.
Cast iron pots and pans, such as those made by Le Creuset, heat up slowly but hold the heat well. Many types of pots and pans can only be put in the oven at relatively low temperatures, but a pot or pan made completely of cast iron can withstand virtually any oven temperature; they can even be used for broiling. Cast iron pans have the thick, heavy bottom that is often recommended by chefs for some types of cooking. Cast iron pans must be seasoned with oil before use and must have the seasoning periodically renewed. This procedure helps to seal the pan against water, which is essential since otherwise, cast iron will rust and look unsightly. Like copper, cast iron can react with acidic foods. Cast iron pans are sometimes available coated with enamel, which eliminates the potential problem with rusting.
Steel pots and pans come in two basic varieties: stainless steel and carbon steel. Stainless steel resists scratching, is non-reactive, and looks beautiful. Stainless steel cookware usually has a core of aluminium or copper to aid with heat conduction. Carbon steel is like cast iron in that it requires seasoning to prevent rust; it is used in specialty cookware such as paella pans, because its poor heat conductivity can actually be an advantage when one part of a pan needs to be kept at a lower temperature than the rest.
Other Choices of Material
Pots and pans are also available in several non-metal materials. The most prominent of these is glass, which allows cooks to see the food being prepared without lifting the lid and losing steam and heat. While metal-based pans can be damaged, they are rarely destroyed completely. Glass, in contrast, will shatter when dropped on a hard surface. Glass pots and pans may not last as long as their metal counterparts for this reason. Other materials used in pots and pans are generally incorporated as coatings or liners over glass or metal. Hence ceramic pans are actually glass or metal pans with a ceramic outer coating.
Find Pots and Pans On eBay
Many items on eBay belong to only a single category. Pots and pans, on the other hand, actually reside in several different categories related to food preparation. To find professional cooking equipment on eBay, choose Business, Office, & Industrial from the Categories drop down arrow located directly beneath the eBay logo on the site's home page. This will load a new page listing dozens of sub-categories. Under Restaurant & Catering, choose Cookware/ Cutlery/ Utensils, and from the page that loads, check the tick box for Cookware located in the upper portion of the left-hand pane. This will load the first page of current listings for the category. To see more pots and pans listed in the category, scroll down to the very bottom of the page where there is a list of numbers. These are page numbers. Clicking on them will cause the eBay system to load new listings while keeping the viewer in the same category. While professional-grade pots and pans are certainly appropriate for use in ordinary homes, eBay has another category that home cooks may find to be more useful. It generally contains a much more extensive listing of choices. To find pots and pans intended primarily for non-commercial uses, start over at the categories listing and choose Home & Garden from the drop down list. From Furniture & Living, choose Cookware, Dining & Bar, and then click on Pots & Pans from the left-hand pane. Another good place to look for pots and pans on eBay is in the Collectables category. The best way to reach it is to select Collectables from the category drop down list, then choose Cookware under the Kitchenalia heading. This will bring up a listing with a variety of types of cookware, some of which will be highly traditional styles of pots and pans. Since these pots and pans are listed under Collectables, a significant percentage of them may be previously owned goods. The left hand pane contains tick boxes that will allow users to filter for used goods only or eliminate those listings in favour of displaying only new items.
No kitchen is complete without a selection of pots and pans for use on the hob, and in the oven. Shoppers looking for pots and pans online at eBay should find that sourcing a suitable product, at a good price, is very easy. The site offers a huge selection of most of the everyday types of pots and pans as well as many specialty types, such as antique styles that are no longer in common use.